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Free Software Sentry – watching and reporting maneuvers of those threatened by software freedom
Updated: 10 min 32 sec ago

The European Patent Office Goes Down a Very Slippery Slope by Promoting and Defending Patents on Life/Nature in Defiance of Parliament and the EPC

9 hours 53 min ago

Dangerous path that will cost many people their life

Summary: The reluctance to obey the law at the EPO is very much noteworthy; things have gotten so bad that nature and life itself become ‘corporate property’ or monopoly

EARLIER THIS month and last month we wrote many articles about the European Patent Office (EPO) granting patents on life — something that António Campinos has no qualms about (the same goes for software patents in Europe, as we've just explained). Quality and adherence to the rule of law do not count. Back in December the Office sort of overturned (snubbed) directions from the Council and the Parliament. So where are we now?

“Quality and adherence to the rule of law do not count.”Is the EPO finally recognising that if it keeps granting ridiculous patents on seeds, plants and animals (even people!), then people are going to be up in arms and call for this whole system’s abolishment?

Nope, not quite. Not yet anyway. Here is what the EPO wrote two days ago: (warning: epo.org link)

In the meeting of the Committee on Patent Law, the Office and the representatives of the 38 EPO Contracting States, together with the European Commission as observer, had a first exchange of views on possible next steps following the recent decision T 1063/18 of an EPO Board of Appeal on plant patentability. The Committee addressed different potential options for the way forward and particularly supported measures to obtain an opinion from the Enlarged Board of Appeal on the matter. The need for legal certainty in the interest of the users of the European patent system and the general public was strongly underlined in the debate. Discussions will continue with the intention to find a solution in the short term.

This came at around the same time Rose Hughes wrote about the subject. Are life and nature becoming monopolies of few corporations? Here’s what Hughes said:

The IPKat recently reported on the EPO board of appeal decision on the patentability of plant products produced by essentially biological processes, a decision mired in political controversy. The Board ruled that Rule 28(2) EPC, excluding plant products produced by essentially biological processes from patentability was void in view of the Enlarged Board of Appeal (EBA) decision in Broccoli/Tomatoes II (G2/12 and G2/13) (IPKat post here). Rule 28(2) EPC was introduced by the EPO Administrative Council (AC) following a Notice from the EU commission that plant products produced by essentially biological processes are not patentable under the Biotech Directive (Directive 98/44/EC) (IPKat post here).

The written decision of the technical board of appeal (TBA) has now been issued – here. Minutes of the oral proceedings – here.

The technical board of appeal (TBA)’s position is unequivocal: the AC does not have the power to amend the EPC using the Rules. The Enlarged Board of Appeal (EBA)’s interpretation of the Articles is binding on Board of Appeals (BA), unless the BA has reason to refer the issue again to the EBA. Here is a brief summary of some interesting points covered in the decision.

[...]

The TBA also considered the third party submissions to proceedings regarding the negative effects of plant patents on the interests of plant breeders. However, the TBA noted that such considerations are for the legislative body and “cannot play a role in the legal assessment of the issues raised in the present case”.

The Board set aside the appealed decision and remitted the case back to the Examining Division.

The TBA decision makes it clear that the Board did not feel it necessary to refer the question back to the EBA at this stage. It seems we can expect future boards to follow the TBAs approach in this case. How will the EPO now respond? The IPKat will keep you updated with developments.

It didn’t take long for Jim Robertson to comment on what it would take to stop the EPO violating the EPC by granting loads of patents on nature and life. To quote: “The BoA on this case was 3.3.04, and they are also hearing the appeal on EP2825024, so no prizes for guessing how that one will be decided. Yes, the AC are competent under Art. 33(1)(b) EPC to amend “Parts II to VIII and Part X of this Convention, to bring them into line with an international treaty relating to patents or European Community legislation relating to patents;”, and Art 53 EPC is in Part II of the Convention. However, as the article notes, “The Board roundly dismissed the Notice from the EU Commission on the interpretation of the Biotech directive as providing any reason for referring the question to the EBA, given that it lacked any legal authority.” So there’s no basis under Art. 33(1)(b) EPC to amend the EPC itself. Also, Art 35(3) EPC states that amendment of the EPC under Art 33(1)(b) requires unanimity of the Contracting States, requires all of them to be represented, and Art 35(4) says (effectively) no abstentions. So as things currently stand, the AC has no way to re-introduce this. The only way that the AC will be able to try this again would seem to be if the CJEU makes a decision on the interpretation of the Biotech Directive in line with Rule 28(2) EPC.”

“Back in December the Office sort of overturned (snubbed) directions from the Council and the Parliament.”Someone called Peter then said: “Thanks for the clear explanation, also the connection with Art 35(3). The AC can amend Art. 53(b), with unanimity in the AC, and with the 12 month period for any Contracting State to protest (Art. 35(3) last sentence); furthermore provided that the amendment is to bring the EPC into line with EU legislation on patents (or an international treaty). However, without a need for ratification by the Contracting States, so no parliamentary procedures. However the EPO news item of today suggests that the plan is “measures to obtain an opinion from the Enlarged Board of Appeal on the matter”.”

“Is the EPO listening?”Public protests on this matter go a long way back (at least a decade). The author, Rose Hughes, later said in the comments: “News update from the EPO” (taking note of the followup, in a sense).

Is the EPO listening? Will it return to that overnight trashing of all patents on “plants obtained by essentially biological processes” (to use its own words)? It should. One day it should do the same to all software patents.

Meanwhile, however, retweeted by EPO was this nonsense yesterday: “@EPOorg International Cooperation Administrator Nicholas Koernig notes that the integration of quality #patent data provides greater access for industry and examiners, improving legal certainty for EU and Southeast Asian enterprises…”

“Days ago it was confirmed that the EPO too (even management!) understands that it abandoned patent quality (and wasted a quarter billion euros in the process, excepting the cost to the European public).”It also retweeted this: “@EPOorg IT Coordinator for International Cooperation Nikolaos Chardalias demonstrates new features on Espacenet, the premier online public #patent database used by industry, commercial providers, researchers and #IP offices worldwide…”

When they speak of “quality” they allude to the quality of data (Espacenet), not patents. When EPO management speaks of “quality” it also typically means quality of service (as measured in terms of speed), not patent quality. This is a problem. Days ago it was confirmed that the EPO too (even management!) understands that it abandoned patent quality (and wasted a quarter billion euros in the process, excepting the cost to the European public).

Software Patents Are in a Freefall in Courts Worldwide, But the EPO Keeps Granting and Promoting These

10 hours 33 min ago

A couple of days ago: How Long Can the EPO Bend the Rules Before the Avalanche of Invalid Software Patents?

Summary: Courts are tearing down abstract patents, but this has neither deterred nor discouraged António Campinos from coming up with new buzzwords and acronyms by which to promote these and grant these to applicants

THE subject of software patents in Europe truly re-emerged when António Campinos took over the EPO because under his leadership the EPO constantly promotes these (even more so than Battistelli). This is troubling as it shows that when it comes to patent scope the sheer disregard for the law is prevalent if not growing

.

We try hard not to invest any more time covering US affairs, knowing that software patents are more or less demolished there. Benjamin Henrion has just noted: “The USPTO’s “restore software patents” examination guidelines which they request comments does not even mention the Alice decision…”

The USPTO merely “disgraces itself,” I’ve told him, and this “will upset US judges. Iancu is to the USPTO what Trump is to the Constitution and Ajit Pai is to FCC.”

No matter what Iancu (or the Office does), the Federal Circuit does not agree with him and there’s a growing number of inter partes reviews (IPRs) at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), typically invaliding software patents at an alarming rate (thousands per year perhaps; almost as many as annual patent lawsuits). American patent maximalists continue to cherry-pick decisions on mere patent applications as if these are triumphs. The latest example is this: “Visa Finally Wins One. The PTAB Reversed an Examiner’s 101 Rejection of Claims for an Authentication Analysis System…”

It merely “won” a patent, but courts have not even actually decided on it yet. What matters is what the courts — not the Office — decide. The Office is no jackpot.

There’s meanwhile this rumour about a court that tolerates software patents and trolls: “Apple to close all (2) of its stores in the Eastern District of Texas, allegedly to avoid being sued there for #patent infringement; #SupremeCourt recently limited venue to districts where US companies incorporate or have a “regular and established place of business”…”

This is exactly what we’ve said, many times in fact, would eventually happen. There’s another new outcome related to this when it comes to Google, but we no longer cover patent cases in the US (it’s too time-consuming a thing).

It’s also noteworthy, as per this paper and new blog post from Kevin E. Noonan (Patent Docs, hardly active anymore) that the former chief patent counsel of GlaxoSmithKline now blasts SCOTUS over 35 U.S.C. § 101 (Mayo/Alice). She made millions of dollars attacking generics and such; now she attacks judges/courts. Stay classy, Sherry..

In Noonan’s words: “Sherry Knowles, former chief patent counsel of GlaxoSmithKline, and Dr. Anthony Prosser, a member of her team at Knowles Intellectual Strategies LLC, have written an article recently published in The John Marshall Review of Intellectual Property Law entitled “Unconstitutional Application of 35 U.S.C. 101 by the U.S. Supreme Court.” The authors’ thesis is stark: that the Supreme Court has improperly (and unconstitutionally) arrogated to itself a definition of patent eligibility that is inconsistent with over 200 years of statutory law enacted by Congress under its Article I powers.”

At least her affiliation has given away her bias. We’ll cover patents on life in the next post, as the EPO continues to promote these. But how long before we have a ‘European Alice’ and ‘European Mayo’?

That brings us back to the EPO’s approach towards software patents. It has just promoted software patents yet again, but it paints these as “medical” and “for SMEs” (the usual). This is the fourth such tweet in about a week. The patterns are more or less the same. At least it has quit the “AI”, “blockchain” and “4IR” buzzwords/buzz-phrases/acronyms for a few days (different/misunderstood terms, just like “CII”, dodging controversial terms like “software patents”).

Team UPC Excited Over Nothing, President Campinos Rarely Even Mentions UPC Anymore

11 hours 10 min ago

Summary: President Campinos started his term with UPC advocacy, but he has barely even mentioned the acronym since then. In fact, it seems increasingly unlikely that UPC can ever materialise with just month left before Brexit

IT IS very much clear and evident that António Campinos wants software patents in Europe. Since he took over back in July the EPO has been tweeting things to that effect every single day — a subject we’ll address in a later post.

Courts in Europe generally reject software patents; they also reject the EPO’s misleading (maybe maliciously wrong) interpretations of the EPC, so the EPO wants to bypass these courts and replace these by a court led by a French president, potentially Battistelli (as the rumours go).

The EPO understands that UPC is not coming. It more or less accepts that UPC is dead, at least in its current form. The day before yesterday it tweeted: “The “Jurisdiction of European courts in patent disputes” manual provides an overview and a guide, including scenarios, to the jurisdiction of European courts concerning patent infringement and revocation disputes.”

Over at Mondaq, José Santacroce from Moeller IP Advisors (Argentina) wrote about the EPO’s President Campinos signaling that he would better serve patent trolls from another continent, harming Europe for the sake of these thugs. Watch this list of who Campinos chose to meet in the US (nothing to do with technology, only litigation):

During his mission to the United States President Campinos also met with Andrei Iancu, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), and they agreed that their offices would investigate possible new measures for further enhancing bilateral co-operation.

Both Heads of Office addressed topics of mutual interest, such as the respective strategic plans of their offices and the rising importance of artificial intelligence, both in the patent granting process and as the subject-matter of patent applications. Their talks also covered ongoing activities in the Trilateral co-operation between the EPO, Japan Patent Office, and USPTO as well as the co-operation within the IP5 (the five largest intellectual property offices in the world), and the close co-operation in classification via the Cooperative Patent Classification.

[...]

During the visit, President Campinos also engaged with many key US partners and stakeholders, including the Association of Corporate Patent Counsel (ACPC) and the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA). In these meetings the EPO President provided insights into the Office’s strategic plan and vision for the coming years, and invited patent system users to contribute to the EPO’s corresponding public consultation.

With friends like these, no wonder EPO examiners are running out of patience. This former banker who now manages them has prioritised law firms over science and technology. We wrote many articles to highlight this. Campinos has no background in science and technology, so just like Battistelli he would rather avoid engaging with scientists and technologists. Sadly for Battistelli, he also has no understanding/grasp of the law. This guy is more like a Mafioso than a manager. His management style upset the staff representatives within months if not a few years since his appointment in 2010. We posted some documents to that effect, showing his dictatorial/autocratic tendencies. It’s absolutely phenomenal that such a thug would even be considered as a head judge or president of a court like UPC. Worry not, however, as the UPC isn’t coming.

Judging by this new page, it’s possible that a decision will be reached some time later this year.

Team UPC wrote: “No surprise – German UPC constitutional complaint on Court’s to do list for 2019. The only thing this means is that the case was not decided in 2018. Same goes for complaints re judicial character of EPO boards of appeal.”

“The only funny thing is,” I told him, is that Bristows “made it look like some big news, even wrote a long post about it…”

So did other members of Team UPC, who spoke among themselves (“Still well placed for @Robinson_IP’s ‘what comes first’ face off between Germany killing the #UPC and #Brexit.”).

Alan Johnson’s blog post, “German constitutional complaint against UPC legislation on Court’s 2019 case list,” does not say anything surprising. We’re watching closely to see if their potential ‘mole’ in the court [1, 2] has been getting involved. They’re accustomed to such mischief. There are sometimes updates on this page.

Battistelli’s Bodyguard Has Been Arrested, But Battistelli Should Join Him

11 hours 40 min ago

Summary: Alexandre Benalla and Vincent Crase end up in prison; will French investigators bother checking Benalla’s past with Battistelli as well as other Battistelli scandals (incidents of law-breaking and of corruption)?

ABOUT a week ago we argued that the EPO‘s President, António Campinos, should hold accountable the person who gave him this job, in light of some recent developments, including:

We think it is extremely unlikely that Campinos will audit what Battistelli did, let alone hold him accountable. Had that ICC judge been put in charge, things would be different, but Battistelli rigged the election/selection process in favour of Campinos, installing an obedient compatriot and longtime friend while swapping seats with him in CEIPI. This is just the hallmark of corruption, but this kind of corruption is ‘small potatoes’ compared to other things Battistelli did. He keeps getting away with it.

Battistelli enjoys a circle of enablers, immoral/amoral opportunists like a bunch of fish joining the shark, staying in its vicinity for leftovers of prey (or EPO money in the case of Battistelli).

“Battistelli enjoys a circle of enablers, immoral/amoral opportunists like a bunch of fish joining the shark, staying in its vicinity for leftovers of prey (or EPO money in the case of Battistelli).”Yesterday we saw a Battistelli entertainer, James Nurton, suddenly contributing to Watchtroll, a site of patent extremists. He now has this author page, aligning with extremists (albeit his first article, “EU Reaches Copyright Reform Agreement But Opposition Remains,” is not about patents). Nurton had done several puff pieces with and about Battistelli in Managing IP.

We have meanwhile also noticed IPPro Magazine mentioning Battistelli, who as expected (or scheduled) rears his ugly head again. IPPro Magazine mentioned this upcoming event beforehand (we wrote about it at the time) and now again we see the outcome.

The International Trademark Association and CEIPO give this thug a platform in which to spread his lies about “quality” — a subject we shall touch later today. Later on the same/following day it was picked up by SUEPO (some time on Thursday), which probably pointed this out for Battistelli having the audacity to still talk about “quality” even when his system is being abandoned. The key part:

He said that during his time at the EPO, as well at the French National Industrial Property Institute (INPI) he wanted to focus on quality and efficiency.

Battistelli explained that he had instructed both offices to develop tools “which allow[ed] us to increase the quality”.

He did exactly the opposite, but this is not a crime. His crimes, however, are other things. We wrote a lot about those. Will he ever be arrested? These public appearances are an opportunity to detain and investigate.

We have meanwhile been contacted by a reader, who wrote about Benalla being in prison. “Do I need to remind that Benalla might have once said the truth when he declared to be a great admirer of Benoit Battistelli? Obviously Mr Benalla had the wrong friends. Morality: there are limits to the immunity and impunity. Guess who’s next?”

“…Battistelli strictly refuses to even comment (in any way) about his relationship with Benalla and that underworld (to which he funneled a lot of EPO funds).”Techrights will be publishing another series of articles about Benalla and Battistelli (and others whose infamy may result in additional arrests in the coming days). Might they share a prison cell one day?

Here is a related article in English and another in French, with a translation below:

Mediapart sends Alexandre Benalla and Vincent Crase to prison

The judges in charge of the case considered that by meeting on 26 July the two former Elysée employees had violated their judicial control. The online media site Mediapart had revealed audio recordings of their conversation on 31 January.

Alexandre Benalla has just spent his first night in the Santé prison. He was remanded in custody on Tuesday evening, 19 February. The former Elysée head of mission allegedly did not comply with the conditions of his judicial control in the investigation of the violence of 1 May. His judicial review prohibited him from contacting Vincent Crase, a former employee of La République en Marche. The latter was also imprisoned on Tuesday evening in the Bois d’Arcy prison. Clandestine recordings broadcasted by Mediapart on 31 January prove that the two men had met and talked to each other. Their lawyers will appeal.

A violation of their judicial control
They entered the Paris courthouse free on Tuesday morning and left in handcuffs in the evening, with a warrant of arrest, heading for the prison. The decision was taken by the freedom and detention judge, referred to him by the investigating judges in charge of the case. The judges considered that there was a violation of their judicial control. While the mystery remains as to the conditions under which the conversation was recorded, the content certainly weighed on the judges’ decision. Mediapart had handed over seven audio recordings to the courts.

A contract worth more than €6 million between Benalla and China
We don’t know more at the moment but the editor-in-chief of Valeurs Actuelles, Louis de Raguenel, announced on LCI on Tuesday evening, 19 February, that his newspaper would reveal in a few days the existence of a contract about more than 6 million Euros between Alexandre Benalla and China.

To be continued …

We shall post another articles index at the end (to bind it all together). It’s possible that there will be more arrests. As the links at the top indicate, based on press reports, Battistelli strictly refuses to even comment (in any way) about his relationship with Benalla and that underworld (to which he funneled a lot of EPO funds).

Links 22/2/2019: GNOME 3.32 Beta 2 Released and Fedora 30 Flicker-Free Boot

12 hours 29 min ago

Contents GNU/Linux
  • Desktop
  • Server
    • Buildah: Build containers fast and easy without Docker

      Linux containers are gaining an ever stronger foothold in the IT of modern companies. For this reason, developers need a simple way of creating containerized applications. Buildah makes it easy to build containers without the need for the overhead required by Docker.
      Linux containers are an efficient means of developing and deploying new applications. Container technologies package and isolate apps together with the entire runtime environment. As a result, the containers are quickly ready for operation and even more portable than traditional applications since they contain the entire application environment.

      There are two aspects of the container environment that are very important: On the one hand, Linux containers are undergoing continued development; in particular, the Open Container Initiative (OCI) is a key driver for innovation. On the other hand, several misunderstandings regarding the Linux container architecture persist. The following needs to be made clear: Containers do not run on Docker. Containers are processes that run on the Linux kernel. Therefore, containers are Linux. Moreover, Docker daemon is only one of many user space tools and libraries that communicate with the Linux kernel in order to create containers.

      Buildah is an excellent example of these two aspects: when creating containers and for innovative ongoing refinement. Buildah makes it possible to create containers without using Docker, which means that users can implement Docker- and OCI-compliant container images with Buildah without the need for executing a container runtime daemon.

    • Awards roll call: Red Hat awards, November 2018 – February 2019

      With the new year comes new excitement, including Red Hat winning new industry award accolades. Since our last award round up, Red Hat has been honored with over twenty-five new award wins across our organization. Our latest roll call includes recognition in categories from our unique culture and why it is a special place to work, to the design and creative strategies behind Open Source Stories, and the depth of our product portfolio.

    • Musings on Hybrid Cloud

      I believe working with a Hybrid/Cross cloud tools like OpenShift gives customers the best tools to prevent lock-in to any of the big cloud vendors. OpenShift will allow users to move workloads between the big cloud vendors, their private data centers and the specialty clouds. The best of local retail along with the commodity retail. Run your application where it makes sense and protect it against vendor lock-in.

    • Arm Takes On Intel With Neoverse Platforms For Edge, Cloud And 5G
    • What are good command line HTTP clients?

      The whole is greater than the sum of its parts is a very famous quote from Aristotle, a Greek philosopher and scientist. This quote is particularly pertinent to Linux. In my view, one of Linux’s biggest strengths is its synergy. The usefulness of Linux doesn’t derive only from the huge raft of open source (command line) utilities. Instead, it’s the synergy generated by using them together, sometimes in conjunction with larger applications.

      The Unix philosophy spawned a “software tools” movement which focused on developing concise, basic, clear, modular and extensible code that can be used for other projects.

      This philosophy remains an important element for many Linux projects.

      Good open source developers writing utilities seek to make sure the utility does its job as well as possible, and work well with other utilities. The goal is that users have a handful of tools, each of which seeks to excel at one thing. Some utilities work well independently.

      This article looks at 4 open source command line HTTP clients. These clients let you download files over the internet from the command line. But they can also be used for many more interesting purposes such as testing, debugging and interacting with HTTP servers and web applications. Working with HTTP from the command-line is a worthwhile skill for HTTP architects and API designers. If you need to play around with an API, HTTPie and curl will be invaluable.

    • Microsoft publishes security alert on IIS bug that causes 100% CPU usage spikes

      The Microsoft Security Response Center published yesterday a security advisory about a denial of service (DOS) issue impacting IIS (Internet Information Services), Microsoft’s web server technology.

    • 5 things to master to be a DevOps engineer

      There’s an increasing global demand for DevOps professionals, IT pros who are skilled in software development and operations. In fact, the Linux Foundation’s Open Source Jobs Report ranked DevOps as the most in-demand skill, and DevOps career opportunities are thriving worldwide.

      The main focus of DevOps is bridging the gap between development and operations teams by reducing painful handoffs and increasing collaboration. This is not accomplished by making developers work on operations tasks nor by making system administrators work on development tasks. Instead, both of these roles are replaced by a single role, DevOps, that works on tasks within a cooperative team. As Dave Zwieback wrote in DevOps Hiring, “organizations that have embraced DevOps need people who would naturally resist organization silos.”

    • Kubernetes and the Cloud

      One of the questions I get asked quite often by people who are just starting or are simply not used to the “new” way things are done in IT is, “What is the cloud?” This, I think, is something you get many different answers to depending on who you ask. I like to think of it this way: The cloud is a grouping of resources (compute, storage, network) that are available to be used in a manner that makes them both highly available and scalable, either up or down, as needed. If I have an issue with a resource, I need to be able to replace that resource quickly — and this is where containers come in. They are lightweight, can be started quickly, and allow us to focus a container on a single job. Containers are also replaceable. If I have a DB container, for instance, there can’t be anything about it that makes it “special” so that when it is replaced, I do not lose operational capability.

  • Audiocasts/Shows
    • Old Machine Revival | BSD Now 286

      Adding glue to a desktop environment, flashing the BIOS on a PC Engine, revive a Cisco IDS into a capable OpenBSD computer, An OpenBSD WindowMaker desktop, RealTime data compression, the love for pipes, and more.

    • Episode 55 | This Week in Linux

      On this episode of This Week in Linux, we check out some App News for the upcoming OBS Studio 23.0 and the recent release of Taskbook 0.3. We’ll cover some Distro News with Ubuntu 18.04.2, Debian 9.8 and MX Linux 18.1. Then we’ll look at some rather interesting news like a surprise release of Compiz 0.9, Windows Explorer gaining support to access Linux Files, and an electron app that lets you experience what it was like to use Windows 95. We also got some great news for Linux Gaming like Ethan Lee’s Crowdfunding Campaign for improving SDL, Steam Play may be getting support for Easy Anti-Cheat, and Rocket League is about to release a game changing new feature. Later we’ll also cover some rather unfortunate news for users of Docker and LinuxTracker. All that and much more!

    • The Linux Link Tech Show Episode 796
  • Kernel Space
    • Concurrency management in BPF

      In the beginning, programs run on the in-kernel BPF virtual machine had no persistent internal state and no data that was shared with any other part of the system. The arrival of eBPF and, in particular, its maps functionality, has changed that situation, though, since a map can be shared between two or more BPF programs as well as with processes running in user space. That sharing naturally leads to concurrency problems, so the BPF developers have found themselves needing to add primitives to manage concurrency (the “exchange and add” or XADD instruction, for example). The next step is the addition of a spinlock mechanism to protect data structures, which has also led to some wider discussions on what the BPF memory model should look like.

      A BPF map can be thought of as a sort of array or hash-table data structure. The actual data stored in a map can be of an arbitrary type, including structures. If a complex structure is read from a map while it is being modified, the result may be internally inconsistent, with surprising (and probably unwelcome) results. In an attempt to prevent such problems, Alexei Starovoitov introduced BPF spinlocks in mid-January; after a number of quick review cycles, version 7 of the patch set was applied on February 1. If all goes well, this feature will be included in the 5.1 kernel.

    • Some Incredible Stories Around Tux: Our Lovable Linux Mascot!

      Chances are you might have already heard about its origins. But in this article exclusively dedicated to Tux, we are jotting down some interesting stories around the cute little fella with some info that might have gone unknown!

      The first discussion about a mascot goes back to the early days of the Linux release, when Linus Torvalds shared his thoughts about choosing one that would gracefully be the torch-bearer of our beloved OS. That’s when many people dived in to contribute with their suggestions for the same.

      The first email that cites the discussion of bringing in a Mascot goes back to 1996. It started with a hot debate about choosing creatures such as sharks or eagles which stopped the moment Linus mentioned that he was rather fond of penguins!

    • D-Bus Broker 18 Released While BUS1 In-Kernel IPC Remains Stalled

      Version 18 of D-Bus Broker has been released, the D-Bus message bus implementation designed for high performance and better reliability compared to the D-Bus reference implementation while sticking to compatibility with the original specification.

      D-Bus Broker 18 isn’t the most exciting release but just has two main changes for improving its compatibility launcher. As of D-Bus Broker 18, configuration parsing errors for this launcher are handled in the same manner as dbus-daemon. Also, the compatibility launcher is no longer isolated in its own network namespace to deal with SELinux API requirements.

    • Preliminary Support Allows Linux KVM To Boot Xen HVM Guests

      As one of the most interesting patch series sent over by an Oracle developer in quite a while at least on the virtualization front, a “request for comments” series was sent out on Wednesday that would enable the Linux Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM) to be able to boot Xen HVM guests.

      The 39 patches touching surprisingly just over three thousand lines of code allow for Linux’s KVM to run unmodified Xen HVM images as well as development/testing of Xen guests and Xen para-virtualized drivers. This approach is different from other efforts in the past of tighter Xen+KVM integration.

    • Linux Foundation
      • MEDIA ADVISORY: The Linux Foundation to Participate in Mobile World Congress 2019

        The Linux Foundation, the nonprofit organization enabling mass innovation through open source, will be onsite at Mobile World Congress 2019, February 25-28, in Barcelona, Spain.

      • Ericsson Joins Linux Foundation Deep Learning Group As Premier Member

        The LF Deep Learning Foundation (LF DL), a Linux Foundation that supports and sustains open source innovation in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and deep learning (DL), announces Ericsson has become the newest Premier Member. Ericsson, a global leader in delivering ICT solutions, has been at the forefront of communications technology for 140 years.

        Ericsson has already begun contributing to the LF Deep Learning Foundation through the Acumos project, working with partners like AT&T, Orange and the broader community to solve complex problems surrounding 5G and IoT through AI and ML.

        In addition to participating in LF DL, Ericsson is also a member of LF Networking, DPDK, the Cloud Native Computing Foundation and LF Edge Foundation. Ericsson is strongly committed to these future-forward technologies, and to that end the company has built a Global AI Accelerator focused on tackling the complex business problems of today and tomorrow.

      • The Calico cloud

        Calico, which is now a Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) project, can be used on many clouds. It supports such common cloud APIs as Container Network Interface (CNI), OpenStack Neutron, and libnetwork. Besides Kubernetes, it can also be used with Docker, Mesos, and Rkt. You can natively deploy Calico on Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Compute Engine, and the IBM Cloud. You can’t use Calico directly on Azure, but you can use Calico policies with the right network setup.

        You can get started with Calico today. If you need help and support to get Calico into production, Tigera, Calico’s corporate backer, offers service level agreements (SLAs).

      • Linux Foundation launches ELISA, an open source project for building safety-critical systems

        Machines have a trust problem — particularly autonomous machines deployed in safety-critical scenarios, like industrial robots and driverless cars. In a pair of surveys published by the American Automobile Association last January and by Gallup in May, 63 percent of people reported feeling afraid to ride in a fully self-driving vehicle and more than half said they’d never choose to ride in one. Moreover, in a report published by analysts at Pew in 2017, 70 percent of Americans said they were concerned about robots performing tasks currently handled by humans.

        In an effort to allay those fears, the Linux Foundation today launched Enabling Linux in Safety Applications (ELISA), an open source project comprising tools intended to help companies build and certify Linux-based systems whose failure could result in loss of human life, significant property damage, or environmental damage. In partnership with British chip designer Arm, BMW, autonomous platforms company Kuka, Linutronix, and Toyota, ELISA will work with certification and standardization bodies in “multiple industries” to establish ways Linux can form the foundation of safety-critical systems across industries.

        ELISA’s launch follows last year’s rollout of Automotive Grade Linux (AGL) 5.0, the newest version of a Linux Foundation project aimed at bringing open source technology to the automotive industry. Previous releases focused mainly on infotainment systems, but 5.0 introduced telematics and mapping solutions that allow OEMs to share mapping data generated by autonomous cars, in addition to offering improved security and a functional safety platform. Toyota and Amazon expressed early support; the former is using AGL in its 2018 Camry.

      • Linux Foundation Launches ELISA, an Open Source Project For Building Safety-Critical Systems
      • The Linux Foundation Launches ELISA Project Enabling Linux In Safety-Critical Systems

        The Linux Foundation today launched the Enabling Linux in Safety Applications (ELISA) open source project to create a shared set of tools and processes to help companies build and certify Linux-based safety-critical applications and systems whose failure could result in loss of human life, significant property damage or environmental damage. Building off the work being done by SIL2LinuxMP project and Real-Time Linux project, ELISA will make it easier for companies to build safety-critical systems such as robotic devices, medical devices, smart factories, transportation systems and autonomous driving using Linux. Founding members of ELISA include Arm, BMW Car IT GmbH, KUKA, Linutronix, and Toyota.

        To be trusted, safety-critical systems must meet functional safety objectives for the overall safety of the system, including how it responds to actions such as user errors, hardware failures, and environmental changes. Companies must demonstrate that their software meets strict demands for reliability, quality assurance, risk management, development process, and documentation. Because there is no clear method for certifying Linux, it can be difficult for a company to demonstrate that their Linux-based system meets these safety objectives.

        “All major industries, including energy, medical and automotive, want to use Linux for safety-critical applications because it can enable them to bring products to market faster and reduce the risk of critical design errors. The challenge has been the lack of the clear documentation and tools needed to demonstrate that a Linux-based system meets the necessary safety requirements for certification,” said Kate Stewart, Senior Director of Strategic Programs at The Linux Foundation. “Past attempts at solving this have lacked the critical mass needed to establish a widely discussed and accepted methodology, but with the formation of ELISA, we will be able to leverage the infrastructure and support of the broader Linux Foundation community that is needed to make this initiative successful.”

        ELISA will work with certification authorities and standardization bodies in multiple industries to establish how Linux can be used as a component in safety-critical systems. The project will also define and maintain a common set of elements, processes and tools that can be incorporated into Linux-based, safety-critical systems amenable to safety certification.

    • Graphics Stack
      • Intel Ready To Add Their Experimental “Iris” Gallium3D Driver To Mesa

        For just over the past year Intel open-source driver developers have been developing a new Gallium3D-based OpenGL driver for Linux systems as the eventual replacement to their long-standing “i965 classic” Mesa driver. The Intel developers are now confident enough in the state of this new driver dubbed Iris that they are looking to merge the driver into mainline Mesa proper.

        The Iris Gallium3D driver has now matured enough that Kenneth Graunke, the Intel OTC developer who originally started Iris in late 2017, is looking to merge the driver into the mainline code-base of Mesa. The driver isn’t yet complete but it’s already in good enough shape that he’s looking for it to be merged albeit marked experimental.

      • AMDGPU Has Late Fixes For Linux 5.0: Golden Register Update For Vega 20, Display Fixes

        There are some last minute changes to the AMDGPU Direct Rendering Manager (DRM) driver for the upcoming Linux 5.0 kernel release.

        Being past RC7, it’s quite late in the cycle but some work has materialized that AMD is seeking to get in ahead of the stable release for improving the Radeon open-source GPU support.

      • Mesa 19.1 Panfrost Driver Gets Pantrace & Pandecode Support To Help Reverse Engineering

        Since being added to Mesa 19.1 at the start of this month, the Panfrost driver has continued speeding along with bringing up this ARM Mali T600/T700/T860 open-source graphics driver support. The latest batch of code was merged overnight, including support for some reverse-engineering helpers.

      • Intel’s Shiny Vulkan Overlay Layer Lands In Mesa 19.1 – Provides A HUD With Driver Stats

        As some more exciting open-source Intel Linux graphics news this week besides their new merge request to mainline the Iris Gallium3D driver, over in the Vulkan space they have merged today their overlay layer that provides a heads-up display of sorts for their Linux “ANV” driver.

        Last month we reported on Intel developing a Vulkan “heads-up display” for their driver to display various statistics to help the driver developers themselves as well as application/game developers. This is akin to Gallium HUD but suited for Vulkan usage rather than OpenGL.

      • Intel Iris Gallium3D Driver Merged To Mainline Mesa 19.1

        Well that sure didn’t take long… Less than 24 hours after the merge request to mainline the Intel “Iris” Gallium3D driver was sent out, it’s now been merged into the mainline code-base! The Intel Gallium3D driver is now in Mesa Git for easy testing of their next-generation OpenGL Linux driver.

        Making the day even more exciting for Intel Linux users is this driver’s landing comes just minutes after the Vulkan overlay layer HUD was merged for Intel’s ANV open-source driver.

    • Benchmarks
      • Early Intel i965 vs. Iris Gallium3D OpenGL Benchmarks On UHD Graphics 620 With Mesa 19.1

        With yesterday’s somewhat of a surprise announcement that Intel is ready to mainline their experimental Iris Gallium3D driver as their “modern” Linux OpenGL driver with numerous design advantages over their long-standing “classic” i965 Mesa driver, here are some fresh benchmarks of that latest driver compared to the current state of their OpenGL driver in Mesa 19.1.

  • Applications
  • Desktop Environments/WMs
    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt
      • Qt Creator 4.9 Beta released

        We are happy to announce the release of Qt Creator 4.9 Beta!

        There are many improvements and fixes included in Qt Creator 4.9. I’ll just mention some highlights in this blog post. Please refer to our change log for a more thorough overview.

      • Qt Creator 4.9 Beta Brings Expanded LSP Support, Perf Profiling, C++ Improvements

        The Qt Company has today issued their first public beta/test release of the upcoming Qt Creator 4.9 integrated development environment.

        Qt Creator 4.9 Beta builds upon the Language Server Protocol (LSP) support introduced in Qt Creator 4.8 to offer better generic programming language support. The Qt Creator 4.9 LSP support includes the ability to handle document outlines, find usages, and other features of this language-agnostic protocol for improving programming language integration in IDEs.

      • [Slackware] Python3 update in -current results in rebuilt Plasma5 packages in ktown

        Pat decided to update the Python 3 to version 3.7.2. This update from 3.6 to 3.7 broke binary compatibility and a lot of packages needed to be rebuilt in -current. But you all saw the ChangeLog.txt entry of course.

        In my ‘ktown’ repository with Plasma5 packages, the same needed to happen. I have uploaded a set of recompiled packages already, so you can safely upgrade to the latest -current as long as you also upgrade to the latest ‘ktown’. Kudos to Pat for giving me advance warning so I could already start recompiling my own stuff before he uploaded his packages.

      • Alternatives to rioting

        The KDE Community has just announced the wider integration of Matrix instant messaging into its communications infrastructure. There are instructions on the KDE Community Wiki as well.

        So what’s the state of modern chat with KDE-FreeBSD?

        The web client works pretty well in Falkon, the default browser in a KDE Plasma session on FreeBSD. I don’t like leaving browsers open for long periods of time, so I looked at the available desktop clients. Porting Quaternion to FreeBSD was dead simple. No compile warnings, nothing, just an hour of doing some boilerplate-ish things, figuring out which Qt components are needed, and doing a bunch of test builds. So that client is now available from official FreeBSD ports. The GTK-based client Fractal was already ported, so there’s choices available for native-desktop applications over the browser or Electron experience.

      • Ready to test [Kdenlive]?

        If you followed Kdenlive’s activity these last years, you know that we dedicated all our energy into a major code refactoring. During this period, which is not the most exciting since our first goal was to simply restore all the stable version’s features, we were extremely lucky to see new people joining the core team, and investing a lot of time in the project.
        We are now considering to release the updated version in April, with KDE Applications 19.04. There are still a few rough edges and missing features (with many new ones added as well), but we think it now reached the point where it is possible to start working with it.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK
      • GNOME 3.32 Desktop Environment Gets a Second Beta Release, RC Lands March 6th

        The GNOME 3.32 beta 2 release is here two weeks after the first beta version to add even more improvements and squash as many bugs as possible before the final release hits the streets next month. The second beta release of the GNOME 3.32 desktop environment also marks the beginning of the String Freeze development stage.

      • GNOME 3.32 Beta 2 Released

        Released earlier this month was the GNOME 3.32 beta which also marked the feature/UI/API freeze. Out today is the second beta for the upcoming GNOME 3.32 and now the string freeze is also in effect.

      • GNOME 3.31.91 released

        Hi developers and testers,

        GNOME 3.31.91 is now available. This is our second beta for the GNOME
        3.32 release cycle. It also marks the beginning of the string freeze.
        From now on, we are concentrating on fixing bugs and updating
        translations to ensure a great 3.32 stable release.

        If you want to compile GNOME 3.31.90, you can use the official
        BuildStream project snapshot. Thanks to BuildStream’s build sandbox, it
        should build reliably for you regardless of your host system:

        https://download.gnome.org/teams/releng/3.31.91/gnome-3.31.91.tar.xz

        The list of updated modules and changes is available here:

        https://download.gnome.org/core/3.31/3.31.91/NEWS

        The source packages are available here:

        https://download.gnome.org/core/3.31/3.31.91/sources/

        WARNING!
        ——–
        This release is a snapshot of development code. Although it is
        buildable and usable, it is primarily intended for testing and hacking
        purposes. GNOME uses odd minor version numbers to indicate development
        status.

        For more information about 3.31, including the full schedule, please
        see our 3.31 wiki page:

        https://www.gnome.org/start/unstable

      • GNOME 3.31.91 Beta Released, Cisco’s Duo Security Launching a Beta of Its CRXcavator Tool to Find Risky Chrome Extensions, Fedora 30 Now Has Flicker Free Boot, Qt Creator 4.9 Beta Now Available and Four New openSUSE Tumbleweed Snapshots

        GNOME 3.31.91 beta was released this morning. This is the second beta of the 3.32 release cycle and also the start of the string freeze. See the list of all the changes and updates here. The BuildStream project snapshot is here, or you can get the source packages from here.

      • Adam Williamson: Wifi display (Miracast) support on Linux

        I was really pleased to see this blog post today, because I was looking for exactly this a few weeks ago and was sad to find it didn’t exist. Now it does!

        Displaying on an external screen via wifi is a really handy thing that is increasingly commonly available. Lately I’m finding most TVs I run across – including hotel room TVs! – have the feature available. For whatever reason I don’t really see many people using or talking about it, but it’s great – you can watch videos from your phone or laptop without having to carry an HDMI cable around everywhere and hope the inputs aren’t blocked or full on the TV.

  • Distributions
    • Best Linux Distros for Beginners

      Best Linux Distros for Beginners. Some of you may disagree, others may have other distros they feel are better suited for newcomers and Linux beginners. That said, these four distros are my top picks based on factors such as ease of use, it’s reliable and hardware detection is solid.

      Do you have other distros that you feel are better suited for new Linux users? Hit the comments below (YouTube or Patreon), tell me what you’re thinking makes a better choice and why.

      Support the Patreon, now with new Just Ask Matt support options.

    • Clear Linux Has A Goal To Get 3x More Upstream Components In Their Distro

      For those concerned that running Clear Linux means less available packages/bundles than the likes of Debian, Arch Linux, and Fedora with their immense collection of packaged software, Clear has a goal this year of increasing their upstream components available on the distribution by three times.

      Intel Fellow Arjan van de Ven provided an update on their bundling state/changes for the distribution. In this update he shared that the Clear Linux team at Intel established a goal this year to have “three times more upstream components in the distro. That’s a steep growth, and we want to do that with some basic direction and without reducing quality/etc. We have some folks figuring out what things are the most desired that we lack, so we can add those with most priority… but this is where again we more than welcome feedback.”

    • The results from our past three Linux distro polls

      You might think this annual poll would be fairly similar from year to year, from what distros we list to how people answer, but the results are wildly different from year to year.
      (At the time of the creation of each poll, we pull the top 15 distributions according to DistroWatch over the past 12 months.)

      Last year, the total votes tallied in at 15,574! And the winner was PCLinuxOS with Ubuntu a close second. Another interesting point is that in 2018, there were 950 votes for “other” and 122 comments compared to this year with only 367 votes for “other” and 69 comments.

    • Screenshots/Screencasts
    • OpenSUSE/SUSE
      • Blacklisting insecure filesystems in openSUSE

        The Linux kernel supports a wide variety of filesystem types, many of which have not seen significant use — or maintenance — in many years. Developers in the openSUSE project have concluded that many of these filesystem types are, at this point, more useful to attackers than to openSUSE users and are proposing to blacklist many of them by default. Such changes can be controversial, but it’s probably still fair to say that few people expected the massive discussion that resulted, covering everything from the number of OS/2 users to how openSUSE fits into the distribution marketplace.
        On January 30, Martin Wilck started the discussion with a proposal to add a blacklist preventing the automatic loading of a set of kernel modules implementing (mostly) old filesystems. These include filesystems like JFS, Minix, cramfs, AFFS, and F2FS. For most of these, the logic is that the filesystems are essentially unused and the modules implementing them have seen little maintenance in recent decades. But those modules can still be automatically loaded if a user inserts a removable drive containing one of those filesystem types. There are a number of fuzz-testing efforts underway in the kernel community, but it seems relatively unlikely that any of them are targeting, say, FreeVxFS filesystem images. So it is not unreasonable to suspect that there just might be exploitable bugs in those modules. Preventing modules for ancient, unmaintained filesystems from automatically loading may thus protect some users against flash-drive attacks.

        If there were to be a fight over a proposal like this, one would ordinarily expect it to be concerned with the specific list of unwelcome modules. But there was relatively little of that. One possible exception is F2FS, the presence of which raised some eyebrows since it is under active development, having received 44 changes in the 5.0 development cycle, for example. Interestingly, it turns out that openSUSE stopped shipping F2FS in September. While the filesystem is being actively developed, it seems that, with rare exceptions, nobody is actively backporting fixes, and the filesystem also lacks a mechanism to prevent an old F2FS implementation from being confused by a filesystem created by a newer version. Rather than deal with these issues, openSUSE decided to just drop the filesystem altogether. As it happens, the blacklist proposal looks likely to allow F2FS to return to the distribution since it can be blacklisted by default.

      • Tumbleweed Snapshots Are Steadily Rolling

        The latest snapshot of the week, 20190219, had more than a dozen packages updated. A new Kerberos database module using the Lightning Memory-Mapped Database library (LMDB) has was added with the krb5 1.17 package, which brought some major changes for the administration experience for the network authentication protocol Kerberos. The permissions package update 20190212 removed several old entries and the kernel-space and user-space code package tgt 1.0.74 fixed builds with the newer glibc. A couple xf86 packages were updated. The 1.4.0 version of xf86-video-chips was a bug fix release for X.Org Server. There was an X Server crash bug with the version 1.3 affecting devices older than the HiQVideo generation. The change log said the code may not compile against X Server 1.20 since it no longer supports 24-bit color. A few other YaST packages were updated in the snapshot like yast2-installation 4.1.36, which had an update that saves the used repositories at the end of installation so as not to offer the driver packages again.

        The 20190217 snapshot had just three packages updated. The keyboard management library libgnomekbd 3.26.1 fixed a build with new GLib and updated translations. VMcore extraction tool makedumpfile 1.6.5 added some patches, bug fixes and improved support for arm64 systems with Kernel Address Space Layout Randomization (KASLR). The jump in the release of yast2-storage-ng from 4.1.53 to 4.1.59 provided quite a few changes like allowing the partitioner to create block cache (bcache) devices without a caching set and the newest version limits bcache support to x86_64.

      • A Mile High In Denver

        The OpenStack Foundation have just released the session agenda for the inaugural Open Infrastructure Summit, which will be taking place in May in Denver, Colorado. As you’ll no doubt already know, the OpenStack Summits are no more, so we’ll instead be getting together to talk about all the different open infrastructure components that businesses are using to build their infrastructures.

        Whether you’re a die-hard OpenStack fan, if Kubernetes is more your bag, maybe Kata Containers floats your boat or if Ceph is more your bag, then there’s something for you in the Mile High City this May.

      • iSCSI made easy with SUSE Enterprise Storage

        As your data needs continue to expand, it’s important to have a storage solution that’s both scalable and easy to manage. That’s particularly true when you’re managing common gateway resources like iSCSI that provide interfaces to storage pools built in Ceph. In this white paper, you’ll see how to use the SUSE Enterprise Storage openATTIC management console to create RADOS block devices (RBDs), pools and iSCSI interfaces for use with Linux, Windows and VMware systems.

      • Useful Resources for deploying SAP Workloads on SUSE in Azure [Ed: SUSE never truly quit being a slave of Microsoft. It's paid to remain a slave.]

        SAP applications are a crucial part of your customer’s digital transformation, but with SAP’s move to SAP S/4HANA, this can also present a challenge.

    • Fedora
      • Fedora 30 Flicker Free boot is now fully testable

        Fedora 30 now contains all changes changes for a fully Flicker Free Boot. Last week a new version of plymouth landed which implements the new theme for this and also includes a much improved offline-updates experience, following this design.

      • Fedora 30′s Slick Boot Process Is Ready To Go
      • Fedora Strategy FAQ Part 3: What does this mean for Fedora releases?

        Fedora operating system releases are (largely) time-based activity where a new base operating system (kernel, libraries, compilers) is built and tested against our Editions for functionality. This provides a new source for solutions to be built on. The base operating systems may continue to be maintained on the current 13 month life cycle — or services that extend that period may be provided in the future. A solution is never obligated to build against all currently maintained bases.

    • Debian Family
  • Devices/Embedded
Free Software/Open Source
  • gitgeist: a git-based social network proof of concept

    Are you tired of not owning the data or the platform you use for social postings? I know I am.

    It’s hard to say when I “first” used a social network. I’ve been on email for about 30 years and one of the early ad-hoc forms of social networks were chain emails. Over the years I was asked to join all sorts of “social” things such as IRC, ICQ, Skype, MSN Messenger, etc. and eventually things like Orkut, MySpace, Facebook, etc. I’ll readily admit that I’m not the type of person that happily jumps onto every new social bandwagon that appears on the Internet. I often prefer preserving the quietness of my own thoughts. That, though, hasn’t stopped me from finding some meaningfulness participating in Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and more recently Google+. Twitter was in fact the first social network that I truly embraced. And it would’ve remained my primary social network had they not killed their own community by culling the swell of independently-developed Twitter clients that existed. That and their increased control of their API effectively made me look for something else. Right around that time Google+ was being introduced and many in the open source community started participating in that, in some ways to find a fresh place where techies can aggregate away from the noise and sometimes over-the-top nature of Facebook. Eventually I took to that too and started using G+ as my primary social network. That is, until Google recently decided to pull the plug on G+.

    While Google+ might not have represented a success for Google, it had become a good place for sharing information among the technically-inclined. As such, I found it quite useful for learning and hearing about new things in my field. Soon-to-be-former users of G+ have gone in all sorts of directions. Some have adopted a “c’mon guys, get over it, Facebook is the spot” attitude, others have adopted things like Mastodon, others have fallen back to their existing IDs on Twitter, and yet others, like me, are still looking.

  • France enters the Matrix

    Matrix is an open platform for secure, decentralized, realtime communication. Matthew Hodgson, the Matrix project leader, came to FOSDEM to describe Matrix and report on its progress. Attendees learned that it was within days of having a 1.0 release and found out how it got there. He also shed some light on what happened when the French reached out to them to see if Matrix could meet the internal messaging requirements of an entire national government.

    From a client’s viewpoint, Matrix is a thin set of HTTP APIs for publish-subscribe (pub/sub) data synchronization; from a server’s viewpoint, it’s a rich set of HTTP APIs for data replication and identity services. On top of these APIs, application servers can provide any service that benefits from running on Matrix. Principally, that has meant interoperable chat, but Hodgson noted that any kind of JSON data could be passed, including voice over IP (VoIP), virtual or augmented reality communications, and IoT messaging. That said, Matrix is independent of the transport used; although current Matrix-hosted services are built around HTTP and JSON, more exotic transports and data formats can be used and, at least in the laboratory, have been.

    Because Matrix is inherently decentralized, no single server “owns” the conversations; all traffic is replicated across all of the involved servers. If you are using your server to talk to someone on, say, a gouv.fr server, and your server goes down, then because their server also has the whole conversation history, when your server comes back up, it will resync so that the conversation can continue. This is because the “first-class citizen” in Matrix is not the message, but the conversation history of the room. That history is stored in a big data structure that is replicated across a number of participants; in that respect, said Hodgson, Matrix is more like Git than XMPP, SIP, IRC, or many other traditional communication protocols.

  • Launchpad news, July 2018 – January 2019
  • BMW Volleys Open-Source “RAMSES” Distributed 3D Rendering System

    For those interested in distributed 3D rendering, the developers at BMW recently received clearance to open-source RAMSES, a 3D rendering system optimized for bandwidth and resource efficiency.

    RAMSES is a distributed rendering engine that’s designed for embedded use-cases and thus a heavy emphasis on efficiency, after all it comes out of BMW. RAMSES allows for different processes on different devices connected via a network to provide/consume 3D content and form a unison of cohesive displays.

  • 8 Best Kodi Builds For 2019 That Every Kodi User Must Install

    or Kodi users, it’s always a task to find and install new addons to enjoy live tv, movies, documentaries, and tv shows. To get the Kodi media center up and running, you need to install different Kodi addons which is a time-consuming task. If you want to cut short the amount of time and effort required to install various addons and best Kodi repositories, you must use a Kodi Build.

  • Events
    • Hallo Nürnberg!

      Collabora is headed to Nuremberg, Germany next week to take part in the 2019 edition of Embedded World, “the leading international fair for embedded systems”. Following a successful first attendance in 2018, we are very much looking forward to our second visit! If you are planning on attending, please come say hello in Hall 4, booth 4-280!

      This year, we will be showcasing a state-of-the-art infrastructure for end-to-end, embedded software production. From the birth of a software platform, to reproducible continuous builds, to automated testing on hardware, get a firsthand look at our platform building expertise and see how we use continuous integration to increase productivity and quality control in embedded Linux.

    • LibrePlanet 2019: Coming to Cambridge, MA

      On March 23rd and 24th, 2019, the free software community will come together at the Stata Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to learn, exchange ideas, catch up with friends, and plan the future of the movement at the LibrePlanet 2019 conference.
      Registration is open, and we hope you’ll join us!

      Hundreds of people from across the globe will join us at LibrePlanet 2019 in Cambridge, Massachusetts to explore this year’s theme, “Trailblazing Free Software.” With a new and growing generation of free software enthusiasts, we can take this conference as an opportunity to discuss both the present and the future of the free software movement. Using the Four Freedoms as a litmus test for ethical computing, we ask, “How will free software continue to bring to life trailblazing, principled new technologies and new approaches to the world?”

  • Web Browsers
    • Surf Internet Like It’s 1990: CERN Redesigns World’s 1st Web Browser

      CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, has redesigned the world’s first web browser WorldWideWeb to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the original browser.

      Sir Tim Berners-Lee brought the first proposal for a global hypertext system in 1989, which later came to be known as the World Wide Web that he designed on a NeXT machine in 1990. Internet wasn’t as easy to use as it is today. The primitive version of the internet required users to double click on hyperlinks to open them.

    • CERN 2019 WorldWideWeb Rebuild

      In February 2019, in celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of the development of WorldWideWeb, a group of developers and designers convened at CERN to rebuild the original browser within a contemporary browser, allowing users around the world to experience the rather humble origins of this transformative technology.

    • CERN has made the original 1990s web browser available to play with

      CERN has rebuilt the original 1990 browser – called, appropriately enough WorldWideWeb – as a browser-within-a-browser, like a sort of Inception situation, but with fewer cat gifs.

      What’s really striking here is the simplicity – no pictures, no stupid fonts (even Comic Sans isn’t represented) and the home page hasn’t even been spellchecked properly, giving a rustic charm, married with an OCD nightmare.

    • Mozilla
      • These Weeks in Firefox: Issue 53
      • Mozilla Future Releases Blog: Enhanced Tracking Protection Testing: Protecting users’ privacy by default

        Over the past couple of months since we announced that we would broaden our approach to anti-tracking we’ve been experimenting and testing Enhanced Tracking Protection, a feature that blocks cookies and storage access from third-party trackers. Recently, we published a set of policies that define which tracking practices will be blocked in Firefox, and a new set of redesigned controls for the Content Blocking section where users can choose their desired level of privacy protection. As the next step in our path to enable Enhanced Tracking Protection by default, this week we launched a study to observe how enabling this functionality for a group of Firefox users in our Release Channel would impact the online experience.

      • Secure File Sharing Tool OnionShare 2 Adds Anonymous Dropboxes

        OnionShare 2 has been released after nearly a year of work, adding support for anonymous dropboxes, next generation V3 onion services, and more.

        OnionShare is an open source GUI tool to securely and anonymously send and receive files of any size using the Tor onion services. It’s available for Windows, macOS and Linux.

        The application starts a web server on your computer, for which it assigns an unguessable Tor web address which can be used by others to download files from your computer, or upload files to your computer (with OnionShare 2), using end-to-end encryption. This is done without signing up for an account or using a third-party file-sharing service (the files are hosted on your computer).

        Downloading files shared with OnionShare, or sending files to someone running OnionShare in receiver mode requires Tor Browser.

      • They fixed it

        Henri Sivonen solved on January 12, a 15 years old bug! When parsing an HTML document (string), the browser creates a DOM tree with nodes nested into each others. As you can imagine, all browsers have a limit on the depth of the tree to avoid bad memory overflows and crashes. On webcompat.com, we got some reports that some sites were missing content compared to Chrome for example. These sites were reaching the nesting limits of Firefox. The limit has been increased.

      • Mozilla VR Blog: Building an In-Game Editor

        Jingle Smash is a WebVR game where you shoot ornaments at blocks to knock them over. It has multiple levels, each which is custom designed with blocks to form the puzzle. Since you play in a first person perspective 3D, the levels must carefully designed for this unique view point. To make the design proess easier I created a simple in-game 3D editor.

        While Jingle Smash is similar in concept to Angry Birds there is a big difference. The player sees the level head on from a 3D perspective instead of a side view. This means the player can’t see the whole level at once, requiring completely custom designed levels. Rovio is facing this challenge as well with their upcoming VR version of Angry Birds. The difficult part of editing a 3D game on a desktop is that you don’t really experience the levels the same way they will actually be played.

        At first I went back and forth from 2D view to my VR headset every time I made a change to a level, even just sliding a few blocks around. As you can imagine this grew very tedious. The ideal tool would let me move objects around in the same mode where I play with them. I needed an in-game editor. So that’s what I built, and I created a minimal UI toolkit in the process.

      • Mozilla Localization (L10N): L10n report: February edition

        We’ve added a new page ahead of the Firefox 66 release. Check in Pontoon and look for firefox/whatsnew_66.lang. To be part of the release, make sure to complete it by March 6. The demo URL is not ready at the moment. We will update you as soon as it becomes available.

        A small but an important update is in the privacy/index.lang file. The change is urgent so please localize the string as soon as possible.

        Have you taken a look of the newly designed navigation bar? It was recently rolled out with quite a bit of content to localize. Make it a high priority if it is not localized yet.

  • Databases
    • Firebird 4.0 Beta 1 release is available for testing

      Firebird Project announces the first Beta release of Firebird 4.0, the next major version of the Firebird relational database, which is now available for testing.

      This Beta release arrives with features and improvements already implemented by the Firebird development team, as well as with countless bugfixes. Our users are appreciated giving it a try and providing feedback to the development mailing list. Apparent bugs can be reported directly to the bugtracker.

      Beta releases are not encouraged for production usage or any other goals that require a stable system. They are, however, recommended for those users who want to help in identifying issues and bottlenecks thus allowing to progress faster through the Beta/RC stages towards the final release.

  • LibreOffice
    • Hack Week – Browsersync integration for Online

      Recently my LibreOffice work is mostly focused on the Online. It’s nice to see how it is growing with new features and has better UI. But when I was working on improving toolbars (eg. folding menubar or reorganization of items) I noticed one annoying thing from the developer perspective. After every small change, I had to restart the server to provide updated content for the browser. It takes few seconds for switching windows, killing old server then running new one which requires some tests to be passed.

      Last week during the Hack Week funded by Collabora Productivity I was able to work on my own projects. It was a good opportunity for me to try to improve the process mentioned above.

      I’ve heard previously about browsersync so I decided to try it out. It is a tool which can automatically reload used .css and .js files in all browser sessions after change detection. To make it work browsersync can start proxy server watching files on the original server and sending events to the browser clients if needed.

    • My hack week at Collabora: btLr text direction in Writer

      If you work with tables in Word, it’s very easy to create this writing direction: the context menu in a table cell has a menu item to set the direction of the text, where you can rotate the text by 90 degrees counter-clockwise or clockwise. The counter-clockwise btLr direction is the problematic one. Support for tbRl was fine already, since that is needed typically for Chinese/Japanese scripts as well.

  • BSD
    • GhostBSD: A Solid Linux-Like Open Source Alternative

      Overall, aside from the system tools and the installation process, I did not see much not to like in running this BSD operating system. I experienced some annoyance when things failed to work just right, but I felt no frustrations that led me to give up on trying to use GhostBSD or find solutions to mishaps. I could provide a litany of Linux distros that did not measure up that well.

      Some lingering problems for which I am still seeking workarounds are why my USB storage drives intermittently are not recognized and fail to mount. Another issue is why some of the preinstalled applications do not fully load. They either do not respond to launching at all, or crash before fully displaying anything beyond a white application window.

  • Licensing/Legal
    • Avoiding the coming IoT dystopia

      Bradley Kuhn works for the Software Freedom Conservancy (SFC) and part of what that organization does is to think about the problems that software freedom may encounter in the future. SFC worries about what will happen with the four freedoms as things change in the world. One of those changes is already upon us: the Internet of Things (IoT) has become quite popular, but it has many dangers, he said. Copyleft can help; his talk is meant to show how.

      It is still an open question in his mind whether the IoT is beneficial or not. But the “deep trouble” that we are in from IoT can be mitigated to some extent by copyleft licenses that are “regularly and fairly enforced”. Copyleft is not the solution to all of the problems, all of the time—no idea, no matter how great, can be—but it can help with the dangers of IoT. That is what he hoped to convince attendees with his talk.

      A joke that he had seen at least three times at the conference (and certainly before that as well) is that the “S” in IoT stands for security. As everyone knows by now, the IoT is not about security. He pointed to some recent incidents, including IoT baby monitors that were compromised by attackers in order to verbally threaten the parents. This is “scary stuff”, he said.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration
    • Open Data
      • How open data and tools can save lives during a disaster

        If you’ve lived through a major, natural disaster, you know that during the first few days you’ll probably have to rely on a mental map, instead of using a smartphone as an extension of your brain. Where’s the closest hospital with disaster care? What about shelters? Gas stations? And how many soft story buildings—with their propensity to collapse—will you have to zig-zag around to get there?

        Trying to answer these questions after moving back to earthquake-prone San Francisco is why I started the Resiliency Maps project. The idea is to store information about assets, resources, and hazards in a given geographical area in a map that you can download and print out. The project contributes to and is powered by OpenStreetMap (OSM), and the project’s entire toolkit is open source, ensuring that the maps will be available to anyone who wants to use them.

  • Programming/Development
    • QMacTouchBar has landed

      This is a welcome addition since Apple is not making interfacing with its system components from C++ particularly easy. This requires code written in Objective-C, one of Apple’s favorite programming languages, to interface with the built-in Cocoa libraries, as well as the necessary glue code written in C++ to make the touchbar appear as a perfectly ordinary Qt widget to Qt applications.

    • Create the enemy-player overlapping detection mechanism

      In the previous article we have finished creating the player boundary detection mechanism and in this article, we will create a simple enemy player overlapping detection mechanism which we will then further modify it in the next article. Before we start, below are the game plans.

    • PyCharm 2019.1 EAP 5
    • PyBites: Code Challenge 61 – Build a URL Shortener
    • Find the Bitcoin exchange rate for a few more currencies
    • Python Tensorflow Tutorial
    • PHP version 7.2.16RC1 and 7.3.3RC1
    • A brief comparison of Java IDE’s: NetBeans Vs Eclipse

      Thinking about entering the world of programming? What better way to enter than through Java and joining a community of over 10 million developers worldwide? Java is one of the most popular programming languages right now. It is an interpreted, object-oriented programming language which is directly supported by major operating systems like Apple, Linux, Windows, Sun etc. Java is a portable programming language meaning a program can be written on one platform and can run on all platforms. Java supports networking (you can use TCP and UDP sockets) and access remote data using a variety of protocols. It also provides the feature of multithreading, which can utilize multiple processors and one of the prime features of Java is garbage collection. In many languages, the programmer is responsible for deallocating memory and it can become a hassle resulting in errors and segmentation faults. Java, on the other hand, has a garbage collector which manages the memory and frees up the memory by destroying objects not in use.
      To start coding in Java you need to have Java installed, the latest version of Java is 11 but Java 8 is still supported so having any one of these installed will be enough to get you started. Writing a program and compiling it would take some effort as you will have to write the code in a text file and then save it in .java and then have to compile it using terminal, or you can use an IDE and save yourself the time and effort used in this process and get a slew of interesting features.

      An Integrated Development Environment or IDE for short, is a software application which helps the user to write and compile code easily by providing features like text editing, debugging plugins etc. while providing compilation by the click of one button. Java has many IDEs but two of the most popular ones are NetBeans and Eclipse.

    • Pyro Probabilistic Programming Language Becomes Newest LF Deep Learning Project

      The LF Deep Learning Foundation (LF DL), a Linux Foundation project that supports and sustains open source innovation in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and deep learning (DL), announces the Pyro project, started by Uber, as its newest incubation project. Built on top of the PyTorch framework, Pyro is a deep probabilistic programming framework that facilitates large-scale exploration of AI models, making deep learning model development and testing quicker and more seamless. This is the second project LF DL has voted in from Uber, following last December’s Horovod announcement.
      Pyro is used by large companies like Siemens, IBM, and Uber, and startups like Noodle.AI, in addition to Harvard University, MIT, Stanford University, University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, and The Broad Institute. At Uber, Pyro solves a range of problems including sensor fusion, time series forecasting, ad campaign optimization and data augmentation for deep image understanding.

    • Converting Python Scripts to Executable Files

      In this tutorial, we will explore the conversion of Python scripts to Windows executable files in four simple steps. Although there are many ways to do it, we’ll be covering, according to popular opinion, the simplest one so far.

      This tutorial has been designed after reviewing many common errors that people face while performing this task, and hence contains detailed information to install and set up all the dependencies as well. Feel free to skip any step, if you already have those dependencies installed. Without any further ado, let’s start.

    • Python Performance Optimization

      Resources are never sufficient to meet growing needs in most industries, and now especially in technology as it carves its way deeper into our lives. Technology makes life easier and more convenient and it is able to evolve and become better over time.

      This increased reliance on technology has come at the expense of the computing resources available. As a result, more powerful computers are being developed and the optimization of code has never been more crucial.

      Application performance requirements are rising more than our hardware can keep up with. To combat this, people have come up with many strategies to utilize resources more efficiently – Containerizing, Reactive (Asynchronous) Applications, etc.

    • Webinar Recording: “Demystifying Python’s async and await Keywords” with Michael Kennedy

      Yesterday we hosted a webinar with Michael Kennedy from Talk Python To Me podcasts and training presenting Demystifying Python’s async and await Keywords. Turned out to be the highest-rated webinar in 7 years of JetBrains’ webinars. Thanks Michael! The webinar recording is now available, as well as a repository with the Python code he showed and the slides he used.

    • Skipping tests depending on the Python version

      Sometimes we want to run certain tests only on a specific version of Python.

      Suppose you are migrating a large project from Python 2 to Python 3 and you know in advance that certain tests won’t run under Python 3.

      Chances are that during the migration you are already using the six library. The six libraries have two boolean properties which are initialised to True depending on the Python version which is being used: PY2 when running under Python 2 and PY3 when running under Python 3.

Leftovers
  • We must fight to preserve digital information

    But knowledge looks different today than it did several millennia ago. And an open society needs access to its store of records. Archival practice has its origins in the administration of governments, keeping tabs on such mundane but vital information as property records, tax and import-export details. Even in the ancient world it was recognised that access to these records was important for a healthy state administration. Today information is the lifeblood of government, business and personal life.

    The growth of digital records has made preservation ever more important. For the state, it is essential to ensure democratic accountability and good governance. Yet it has become highly precarious as well.

  • Wild photos show Zion Williamson’s shoe after it exploded and he injured his knee

    Williamson tried to cut with the basketball and when he planted his left foot, the shoe exploded.
    The Duke freshman sensation immediately grabbed his left knee as he fell to the floor and left the game with an undisclosed injury.

  • Size Matters: the Demise of the Airbus A380

    The aircraft business has always been a dear affair. More than other forms of transport, it remains susceptible to oscillating costs (materials, fuel), ever at the mercy of the uncontrollable. The Airbus A380 was meant to be a giant’s contribution to aviation. In time, its makers came to the conclusion that the bird had already flown.

    In the solemn words of outgoing Airbus chief executive Tom Enders, “We have no sustainable A380 backlog and hence no basis to sustain production, despite all our sales efforts with other airlines in recent years.”

    As much as it was a “technical wonder” (an “outstanding engineering and industrial achievement” boasted Enders), the A380 simply did not have the momentum financially to carry the company. To a large extent, this may have been embedded in the mission itself: to outperform, at quite literally all cost, the Boeing 747, the super mega jet dream born in 1988 when Airbus engineers went to work on designing an ultra-high-capacity-airliner (UHCA). This would entail the guzzling addition of four jet engines, and an ongoing headache to the accountants.

    The consequences of this vain if admired project have been more than head-ache inducing. Carriers who have gone for purchases of the divine beast have underperformed on the revenue side of things. Such large entities, to make matters viable, need orders covering up to four-fifths of the seats. This leads to incentives to discount prices and seek promotions. In the penny-pinching world of air travel, this is a tall order.

    And big it is. The A380 was advertised for its breezy size and proportions – 73 metres in length, 80 metres wide, able to ferry 550 to 800 passengers, depending on type, on two complete decks. Floor space was increased dramatically (some 49 percent), with additional seating being a mere 35 percent from the previous largest aircraft. The comfort factor was enhanced: more passenger room, and less noise. In a machine sense, it made many in the aeronautical side of things salivate: modern computerised systems; powerful Rolls-Royce reactors. A truly big toy.

  • Health/Nutrition
    • Singapore HIV data leak shakes a vulnerable community

      As required by law, Joyce’s HIV status was added to a national database. The HIV registry was set up in 1985 by the Ministry of Health to keep track of the infection situation and trace potential cases.

      It was this database – with the names and addresses of 14,200 people – that authorities say was leaked earlier this year.

      The government has pinned the blame on Mikhy Farrera-Brochez, a US citizen who moved to Singapore in 2008. They say he obtained the data from his partner, Singaporean doctor Ler Teck Siang, whose job granted him rare access to the confidential registry.

    • With Monsanto and Glyphosate on the Run AAAS Revokes Award to Scientists Whose Studies Led to Ban on Weedkiller in Sri Lanka and Other Countries

      The popular weedkiller glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, is on the run.
      Congresswoman and Presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) last week called for a ban.

      “We need to ban all products containing glyphosate, including Roundup,” Gabbard tweeted on February 16. “It’s poisoning our people, butterflies and other insects, the land and the water.”

      And then again today, Gabbard tweeted: “Monsanto proves they’ll do anything to pad their pockets, including manufacturing ‘scientific studies’ to influence the EPA while destroying small farmers. They unleashed the scourge of Roundup on us and should be held accountable for the consequences.”

      Also last week the Guardian reported on a broad new scientific analysis showing that people with high exposures to the popular pesticides have a 41% increased risk of developing a type of cancer called non-Hodgkin lymphoma.”

      Last August, a jury in San Francisco awarded $289 million to a former school groundskeeper who said Monsanto’s Roundup left him dying of cancer.

      But now comes the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

    • “Heavy Drinking” and the NYT’s Offensive Obit on Herbert Fingarette

      Toward the end of 2018, the New York Times published a lengthy obituary with the headline: “Herbert Fingarette, Contrarian Philosopher on Alcoholism, Dies at 97.” By labeling Fingarette as a mere contrarian philosopher and by otherwise subtly demeaning him, the NYT cozied up to the $35 billion per year addiction-treatment industry. The reality is that Fingarette exposed unscientific notions about alcoholism and standard disease-model treatment, and his conclusions have been repeatedly confirmed in the scientific literature.

      In a deeper sense, Fingarette pointed out the damage done by authoritarian one-size-fits-all standardized treatment. There is a long list of famous rehab failures, and there are many more non-famous substance abusers who have not been helped by the standard disease-model treatment and 12-Step approach of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Fingarette’s Heavy Drinking: The Myth of Alcoholism as a Disease (1988) provided a refreshing alternative.

      Many problem drinkers are already self-loathing because of the effects of their alcohol abuse on themselves and others, but after discovering Heavy Drinking, they did not compound this misery with “treatment failure” self-condemnations. Examining standard disease-model/AA treatment effectiveness, Fingarette pointed out: “The very label treatment. . . seems a deceptive misnomer. . . . Indeed, it has not been clearly demonstrated that such programs add anything at all to the improvement that could be expected in the natural course of affairs without a drinker’s having received any professional help whatsoever.” Yet, as Forbes reported in 2015, “The vast majority of addiction treatment is based either partially or entirely on the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).”

    • New Jersey Said 10 Years Ago It Would Rank Its Most Contaminated Sites. It Never Did.

      For decades, New Jersey’s chemical plants, textile mills and metal factories helped power America.

      That came at a price.

      Byproducts like dioxin from the manufacture of the herbicide Agent Orange fouled the Passaic River, making fish and crab toxic. Dye and paint companies dumped waste in illegal landfills in Toms River, polluting the groundwater for decades. Carcinogenic vapors migrated to homes from Pompton Lakes factories making war ammunition and nonstick pans.

      New Jersey eventually passed some of the strongest environmental laws in the country, including the precursor to the federal Superfund law, and the state has made strides in cleaning up contamination.

      But don’t ask what the state’s priorities are.

    • Behind the Pennsylvania Prison Lockdown: Public Health Crisis or Powerplay?

      Patricia Marshall Vickers still remembers the week in late August 2018 when she stopped hearing from her son. Incarcerated in Pennsylvania since he was 17 years old, Vickers’s son faithfully called his mother from prison at least every other day—until suddenly, he didn’t. Vickers learned that other family members were also experiencing a communication blackout from their incarcerated loved ones. Still, she said, “It was scary because nobody knew what was going on.”

      In a rare move, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PA DOC) had decided to place all 46,768 people held in its 25 state prisons on lockdown. As Vickers later learned, they were effectively subjected to 12 days of solitary confinement, locked in their cells for up to 24 hours a day, without access to work, programming, exercise, group meals, family visits, or even mail delivery.

      And the barriers to communication did not end when the lockdown was lifted. In September, the PA DOC quickly instituted a set of new security policies and procedures that will cost the state a total of $15 million. All mail sent to people incarcerated in Pennsylvania is now being re-routed through the private company Smart Communications in Florida, which scans everything—including letters, cards, children’s drawings and family photographs—and transmits the scans to prisons, where they are printed out and delivered. The department is also installing airport-style body scanners for visitors.

    • Sackler Embraced Plan to Conceal OxyContin’s Strength From Doctors, Sealed Testimony Shows

      In May 1997, the year after Purdue Pharma launched OxyContin, its head of sales and marketing sought input on a key decision from Dr. Richard Sackler, a member of the billionaire family that founded and controls the company. Michael Friedman told Sackler that he didn’t want to correct the false impression among doctors that OxyContin was weaker than morphine, because the myth was boosting prescriptions — and sales.

      “It would be extremely dangerous at this early stage in the life of the product,” Friedman wrote to Sackler, “to make physicians think the drug is stronger or equal to morphine….We are well aware of the view held by many physicians that oxycodone [the active ingredient in OxyContin] is weaker than morphine. I do not plan to do anything about that.”

      “I agree with you,” Sackler responded. “Is there a general agreement, or are there some holdouts?”

      Ten years later, Purdue pleaded guilty in federal court to understating the risk of addiction to OxyContin, including failing to alert doctors that it was a stronger painkiller than morphine, and agreed to pay $600 million in fines and penalties. But Sackler’s support of the decision to conceal OxyContin’s strength from doctors — in email exchanges both with Friedman and another company executive — was not made public.

    • What You Should Know About Richard Sackler’s Long-Sought Deposition

      The son of a Purdue co-founder, Sackler began working at the company in 1971 and has been at various times its president and co-chairman of the board. The Sackler family controls Purdue and has received billions of dollars from OxyContin sales.

      [...]

      As part of the settlement, the Kentucky attorney general agreed to destroy its copies of 17 million pages of documents produced during the eight-year legal battle with Purdue. But some of the same documents remained in a sealed file in a rural eastern Kentucky courthouse. STAT filed a motion in 2016 asking the judge in that case to make the documents public, and he ordered the unsealing of those documents, including the Sackler deposition.

      “The court sees no higher value than the public (via the media) having access to these discovery materials so that the public can see the facts for themselves,” Pike Circuit Court Judge Steven Combs ruled in May 2016.

      Purdue appealed the ruling to the Kentucky Court of Appeals, which upheld it in December 2018. The company then asked the state Supreme Court to review that decision.

  • Security
    • KASAN Spots Another Kernel Vulnerability From Early Linux 2.6 Through 4.20

      The Kernel Address Sanitizer (KASAN) that detects dynamic memory errors within the Linux kernel code has just picked up another win with uncovering a use-after-free vulnerability that’s been around since the early Linux 2.6 kernels.

      KASAN (along with the other sanitizers) have already proven quite valuable in spotting various coding mistakes hopefully before they are exploited in the real-world. The Kernel Address Sanitizer picked up another feather in its hat with being responsible for the CVE-2019-8912 discovery.

    • io_uring, SCM_RIGHTS, and reference-count cycles

      The io_uring mechanism that was described here in January has been through a number of revisions since then; those changes have generally been fixing implementation issues rather than changing the user-space API. In particular, this patch set seems to have received more than the usual amount of security-related review, which can only be a good thing. Security concerns became a bit of an obstacle for io_uring, though, when virtual filesystem (VFS) maintainer Al Viro threatened to veto the merging of the whole thing. It turns out that there were some reference-counting issues that required his unique experience to straighten out.
      The VFS layer is a complicated beast; it must manage the complexities of the filesystem namespace in a way that provides the highest possible performance while maintaining security and correctness. Achieving that requires making use of almost all of the locking and concurrency-management mechanisms that the kernel offers, plus a couple more implemented internally. It is fair to say that the number of kernel developers who thoroughly understand how it works is extremely small; indeed, sometimes it seems like Viro is the only one with the full picture.

      In keeping with time-honored kernel tradition, little of this complexity is documented, so when Viro gets a moment to write down how some of it works, it’s worth paying attention. In a long “brain dump”, Viro described how file reference counts are managed, how reference-count cycles can come about, and what the kernel does to break them. For those with the time to beat their brains against it for a while, Viro’s explanation (along with a few corrections) is well worth reading. For the rest of us, a lighter version follows.

    • Your Password Manager Has A Severe Flaw — But You Should Still Use One [Ed: Yet worse: 1) people putting password managers on platforms with back doors from Apple and Microsoft. 2) people putting all their password "in the cloud".]

      If you are an avid user of password managers, you might just be in for a surprise. A recent study by researchers at the Independent Security Evaluators found that a number of popular password managers were storing master passwords as plain text within the main memory of devices.

      To an expert hacker, this vulnerability is equivalent to getting the keys to multiple accounts as a text document on your computer. The master key of any password manager can be used to gain access to all usernames and passwords being managed by it.

    • Security updates for Thursday
    • Fun Little Tidbits in a Howling Storm (Re: Intel Security Holes)

      Some kernel developers recently have been trying to work around the massive, horrifying, long-term security holes that have recently been discovered in Intel hardware. In the course of doing so, there were some interesting comments about coding practices.

      Christoph Hellwig and Jesper Dangaard Brouer were working on mitigating some of the giant speed sacrifices needed to avoid Intel’s gaping security holes. And, Christoph said that one such patch would increase the networking throughput from 7.5 million packets per second to 9.5 million—a 25% speedup.

      To do this, the patch would check the kernel’s “fast path” for any instances of dma_direct_ops and replace them with a simple direct call.

      Linus Torvalds liked the code, but he noticed that Jesper and Christoph’s code sometimes would perform certain tests before testing the fast path. But if the kernel actually were taking the fast path, those tests would not be needed. Linus said, “you made the fast case unnecessarily slow.”

    • 5 Antivirus for Android Devices That You Should Have in 2019
    • Duo Security Digs Into Chrome Extension Security With CRXcavator
    • How I could have hacked lakhs of IRCTC accounts and get access to all your private info including easily cancelling booked tickets
    • Major Flaw Allows Attackers To Cancel Tickets On IRCTC Website

      The website of the Indian Railways has been a subject of ridicule owing to the various security flaws that have been discovered in its website over the years. When it comes to protecting user data, the website has been lacking in many ways.

      The website was previously hacked in 2016 when the details of over 1 crore users were leaked. Last year, Kanishk Sanjani, an ethical hacker had ordered food from the IRCTC website for Rs 7. This vulnerability remained unpatched for well over 7 months even after informing concerned authorities.

    • Web Application Security [Ed: a bit spammy]

      Common targets for web application attacks are content management systems (e.g., WordPress), database administration tools (e.g., phpMyAdmin) and SaaS applications.

    • This 19-Year-Old WinRAR Flaw Lets Hackers Load Malware To PCs

      he popular windows file archival tool WinRAR has been in use for over two decades now. The software is used to view, create, pack and unpack archives in both ZIP and RAR formats. A recent report by The Register has revealed that the tool has a bug that has remained undetected since 2005.

    • WinRAR Has Serious Flaw That Can Load Malware to PCs

      The popular file archiving tool WinRAR has had a bug for at least 14 years that can be exploited to take over your PC.

      The bug can pave the way for archive files that can trigger WinRAR to actually install whatever malware is secretly inside, according to the security firm Check Point, which discovered the software flaw.

      “The exploit works by just extracting an archive, and puts over 500 million users at risk,” the company said in a detailed report published on Wednesday.

    • Millions of websites threatened by highly critical code-execution bug in Drupal

      Drupal is the third most-widely used CMS behind WordPress and Joomla. With an estimated 3 percent to 4 percent of the world’s billion-plus websites, that means Drupal runs tens of millions of sites. Critical flaws in any CMS are popular with hackers, because the vulnerabilities can be unleashed against large numbers of sites with a single, often-easy-to-write script.

  • Defence/Aggression
    • Kyiv’s Maidan, five years later: A photo essay

      On February 21, 2014, former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich left Kyiv for Kharkiv and fled from there to Russia. At the time, Ukraine was in the throes of the largest social crisis in the country’s modern history. Anti-government protests had been ongoing in Kyiv since the previous November, and at the Maidan, or Independence Square, more than one hundred people were killed during clashes with the police. The consequences of that crisis included a burst of Russian interference, the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, the ongoing war in the Donbass region, and a major rupture in Russian-Ukrainian relations. In this photo essay, Meduza recalls the events that rocked Kyiv in the winter of 2013 – 2014.

    • Journalist claims killers of three Russian reporters in Africa came from separatist Donbass region in Eastern Ukraine

      Pyotr Verzilov, the publisher of the investigative news site Mediazona and a member of the activist group Pussy Riot, made an announcement today regarding his investigation of the murders of three Russian journalists in the Central African Republic. Verzilov said those who killed Orkhan Dzhemal, Alexander Rastorguyev, and Kirill Radchenko on July 30 while the three were collecting footage on Russian mercenaries may have traveled to the Central African Republic from the Donbass region of Ukraine.

      A separatist war has been ongoing in the Donbass since the spring of 2014. Pro-Russian groups there have declared soveriegnty as the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, and extensive reports have testified to covert Russian military intervention in the region.

    • ‘Willing Pawns in Trump-Orchestrated Coup’: CODEPINK Disrupts Venezuela’s Illegitimate ‘US Ambassador’

      Anti-war activists disrupted an event in Washington, DC featuring Carlos Vecchio, the illegitimate “US ambassador” appointed by Venezuela’s right-wing coup regime and its Trump-selected leader Juan Guaidó.

      CODEPINK co-founder Medea Benjamin walked on stage at the February 21 event and grabbed the mic: “These people are a fraud. They don’t represent the Venezuelan people. They are representing the US-orchestrated coup,” she said.

      “These people here want to take Venezuela to a path of civil war and US intervention,” Benjamin continued.

    • The U.S.-Venezuela Aid Convoy Story Is Clearly Bogus, but No One Wants to Say It

      No one actually thinks the same Donald Trump who kicked off his run for the White House by calling Mexicans rapists, and subsequently, as president, left Puerto Rico for dead after Hurricane Maria, cares at all about the Venezuelan poor. No one actually thinks the murderers row of Cold Warriors—led by two of the most extreme right-wingers in American politics, Venezuela envoy Elliott Abrams and national security adviser John Bolton—cares at all about the starving people in Venezuela or their plight. No one reading this, whether they be right, left, center, libertarian or communist, actually buys the prevailing narrative that the U.S. is sending “aid” to Venezuela as a humanitarian gesture.

      So why is everyone pretending otherwise?

      There are a number of reasons why these superficial narratives take hold, but I’d like to speculate on two of them.

      First, the crisis in Venezuela is very real and very daunting. Without litigating who’s responsible for what, whether U.S.-led sanctions and economic sabotage are more to blame or the economic policies of Nicolás Maduro, one simple fact is true: The status quo is untenable. Perhaps, then, the instinct to “do something” is understandable. But as with previous crises, both organic and contrived, what that “something” is remains unclear. Liberals—as they did in the build-up to the invasions of Iraq and Libya—are easily pressured into this “do something” posture.

    • Tracing the Threads in Venezuela: Humanitarian Aid

      Last week, humanitarian aid was at the center of discussion of the Venezuela crisis in the US, and evidently at the center of Juan Guaidó’s plans to challenge the Maduro government’s hold on power in the country.

    • Trump Is Making a Mockery of ‘Humanitarian Aid’ in Venezuela

      As U.S. planes carrying unspecified “aid” for Venezuela land in Colombia, it is timely to examine the Trump administration’s approach to economic sanctions and humanitarian aid in general, two of the principal tools it employs to achieve the United States’ foreign policy goals.

      The Trump approach is quite consistent with previous administrations, starting with a clear separation of words and deeds. Trump told Saudi Arabia in 2017 that the United States would not “seek to impose our way of life on others,” despite largely continuing the interventionist policies of his predecessors. Trump’s cozy relationship with strongman Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi are examples that indicate a willingness to ignore human rights violations in order to cultivate closer bilateral relations with U.S. allies.

      This discrepancy—turning a blind eye to human rights violations by allies while criticizing the alleged human rights crimes of their political foes—is also consistent with previous U.S. presidents, from Reagan to Obama.

    • US Media Erase Years of Chavismo’s Gains

      Under Chávez, poverty in Venezuela was cut by more than a third, and extreme poverty by 57 percent (CEPR, 3/7/13). (These declines were even steeper if measured from the depths of the opposition-led oil strike, designed to force Chávez out by wrecking the economy.)

      In June 2013, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) included Venezuela in a group of 18 nations that that had cut their number of hungry people by half in the preceding 20 years, 14 of which were governed by Chavismo: The FAO said that Venezuela reduced the number of people suffering from malnutrition from 13.5 percent of the population in 1990–92 to less than 5 percent of the population in 2010–12; the FAO credited government-run supermarket networks and nutrition programs created by Chávez.

      Three months later, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said that it “welcomes the social development measures, programs and plans that include indigenous peoples and people of African descent, which have helped to combat structural racial discrimination” in the country.

    • Should the U.S. Government Abide by the International Law It Has Created and Claims to Uphold?

      The Trump administration’s campaign to topple the government of Venezuela raises the issue of whether the U.S. government is willing to adhere to the same rules of behavior it expects other nations to follow.

      During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, U.S. foreign policy was characterized by repeated acts of U.S. military intervention in Latin American nations. But it began to shift in the late 1920s, as what became known as the Good Neighbor Policy was formulated. Starting in 1933, the U.S. government, responding to Latin American nations’ complaints about U.S. meddling in their internal affairs, used the occasion of Pan-American conferences to proclaim a nonintervention policy. This policy was reiterated by the Organization of American States (OAS), founded in 1948 and headquartered in Washington, DC.

      Article 19 of the OAS Charter states clearly: “No State or group of States has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other State.” To be sure, the Charter, in Article 2(b), declares that one of the essential purposes of the OAS is “to promote and consolidate representative democracy.” But this section continues, in the same sentence, to note that such activity should be conducted “with due respect for the principle of nonintervention.” The U.S. government, of course, is an active member of the OAS and voted to approve the Charter. It is also legally bound by the Charter, which is part of international law.

    • US ‘Hypocrisy’ Decried as Report Shows Same Trump Team Attacking Iran Deal Pushed to Give Saudis Nuclear Secrets

      Iran’s foreign minister denounced on Wednesday what he framed as “U.S. hypocrisy” following a report from House Democrats accusing the Trump administration of pushing to build—while skirting federal law, ethics concerns, and Congressional review—dozens of nuclear reactors across Saudi Arabia.

      Javad Zarif, a key figure in achieving the historic nuclear deal, wrote in a tweet that the alleged push to sell the kingdom nuclear technology, as well as the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, made it increasingly clear that “neither human rights nor a nuclear program have been the real concern of the U.S.”

    • Warning of US Military Intervention in Venezuela, Cuban Foreign Minister Denounces ‘Failed Imperialist Coup’

      Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez on Tuesday reiterated his government’s previous warnings that the Trump administration’s push to deliver humanitarian aid to Venezuela is just a cover to advance ongoing U.S.-backed efforts to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.

      Cuba has been a key ally of the Venezuelan government for the past two decades and has stood by Maduro in recent weeks as President Donald Trump and others have thrown their support behind Juan Guaidó—the head of Venezuela’s National Assembly who claims Maduro’s latest election was a sham and has declared himself “interim president.”

      At a press conference in Havana, Rodríguez denounced Venezuela’s current political crisis as “a failed imperialist coup… fabricated in Washington,” according to Reuters. He also denied claims by the Trump administration that his country has troops on the ground in Venezuela or is controlling its military, “adding all of the some 20,000 Cubans in Venezuela were civilians, most health professionals.”

    • With Trump Beating War Drums, Coalition Calls on Congress to Oppose Sanctions, Back Diplomacy With Iran

      Amid rampant warnings that “the drums of war are beating” since President Donald Trump ditched the Iran nuclear deal last year, more than 50 pro-democracy groups representing millions of Americans are calling on members of Congress to rein in the Trump administration’s hawkish policy toward Iran—which has included crippling economic sanctions—and instead push for diplomacy.

      “The Iran deal blocked Iran’s paths to a nuclear bomb. It’s good for U.S. security and for our allies,” charged CREDO Action, one of the groups backing the call. Iran maintains that it does not plan to pursue a nuclear weapons program and, according to the U.N. watchdog, has remained complaint with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—the official name of the agreement negotiated and signed by the Obama administration—while working with European leaders to salvage the deal.

    • The ‘Viscerally Terrifying’ Lockdown a Mom Experienced in a Classroom of 4-Year-Olds: ‘I’d Never Witnessed the Real Thing. And, Oh God, This Was the Real Thing.’

      Just minutes before a lockdown had been announced at the elementary school where I’d been working with a teacher. The two of us had flown to the classroom after hearing the announcement, herding the preschoolers into the bathroom.

      Students from the neighboring classroom had filed wide-eyed into the next bathroom over. They seemed to grasp the gravity of the situation more than the 4-year-olds I was with, but then, they were older and more familiar with this; they were 6 years old, after all, and had more experience with these things.

      Years before I’d done lockdown drills with my own students, but I’d never witnessed the real thing. And, oh God, this was the real thing.

      The teacher began softly reading a picture book to try to keep the kids occupied. I tried to text my husband and family, feeling overdramatic at first and then reasoning I would rather come off as overdramatic than, well, it was just better to text them.

      And there we all were, the preschoolers, their teachers and me, listening to the story and listening for gunshots. I certainly was, and I felt like I was going to jump out of my skin. What was happening out there? What was taking so long? Surely this was a false alarm.

      But I knew the statistics. And I knew why these kids knew exactly what to do the second the word “lockdown” was spoken — because in so many other places on so many other days it was completely real. And it could be real here, too, now, on the other side of these few inches of wood I was leaning against, the only thing separating us from whatever was going on outside.

    • IHCHR: 11,800 Civilians Killed In US-Led Air Strikes in Syria, Iraq

      IHCHR spokesman Dr. Ali A. Al-Bayati said on Saturday that “about 11,800 civilians, including 2,300 children and 1,130 women, were killed in addition to 8,000 wounded by the bombing of the coalition in Iraq and Syria.”

      There have been more than 30,000 U.S.-led air strikes in Iraq and Syria since former president Barack Obama launched Operation Inherent Resolve, the anti-Islamic State (IS) campaign, in June 2014. The vast majority of these bombings have been carried out by US warplanes. Britain, France, Australia, the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Canada, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain and Turkey have also conducted thousands of air strikes. So has Russia, which is fighting in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

      While Al-Bayati said IHCHR “appreciates the efforts” of the U.S.-led coalition “in helping Iraq in its fight against terrorism,” he lamented that the 11,800 deaths he reported “are much more than the official numbers published by the international coalition.” The US military estimated in December that “at least 1,139 civilians have been unintentionally killed by coalition strikes since the start of Operation Inherent Resolve.”

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting
    • Australian youth defend WikiLeaks and support demonstrations to free Julian Assange

      Australian students and youth have voiced support for rallies next month demanding that the government take immediate action to secure the return of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange to Australia, with a guarantee against extradition to the US.
      Students at university orientation week events have expressed their appreciation for WikiLeaks’s role in educating them about the criminality of US-led wars in the Middle East, and alerting them to mass intelligence agency surveillance and daily diplomatic intrigues. Many have noted WikiLeaks’ contribution to the politicisation of their generation.

    • California Sheriff’s Dept. Tells Journalists It Will Cost $350,000 To Process 48 Use Of Force Cases

      It doesn’t seem likely the state’s courts are going to side with law enforcement agencies and their desire to whitewash their pasts. The legal battles will continue until every avenue of appeal has been exhausted, but until there’s a definitive, unified ruling on the issue, agencies will continue to play keepaway with public records.

      With their dirty pasts in jeopardy of being exposed, law enforcement agencies are turning to another favorite dirty trick: pricing records requesters out of the market.

      Sara Libby of the Voice of San Diego says the San Diego Sheriff’s Department wants $246,759.32 to process past use of force records. Comparatively, it’s a bargain. There’s a $100,000 markup on the request filed by KPBS, which is seeking the same records from the agency.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature
    • ‘Kicking Ass for Her Generation’: Applause for 16-Year-Old Greta Thunberg as EU Chief Pledges $1 Trillion to Curb Climate Threat

      Sixteen-year-old climate action leader Greta Thunberg stood alongside European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker Thursday in Brussels as he indicated—after weeks of climate strikes around the world inspired by the Swedish teenager—that the European Union has heard the demands of young people and pledged more than $1 trillion over the next seven years to address the crisis of a rapidly heating planet.

      In the financial period beginning in 2021, Juncker said, the EU will devote a quarter of its budget to solving the crisis.

      “Every fourth euro spent within the EU budget will go towards action to mitigate climate change,” Juncker said. The plan will amount to about €1 trillion (or $1.13 trillion) spent over seven years, according to Reuters.

      Juncker’s comments came at the Civil Society for rEUnaissance event in Brussels, where Thunberg doubled down on her consistent message that politicians must take serious strides to stop the climate crisis and protect the Earth for future generations—and that the EU must double its target of cutting greenhouse gases by 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2030.

    • Trump Admin Hands Win to Kochs, Stops Clean Car Negotiations With California

      The Trump administration just took a big step closer to handing the Koch network one of it biggest wins yet under this presidency. Bloomberg has reported that there will be no deal between the Trump administration and California on fuel efficiency and emissions standards for cars and light vehicles.

      This move sets the stage for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to attempt to revoke California’s special waiver under the Clean Air Act, which allows the state to set its owns standards that are more stringent than federal standards.

    • Who Is Refusing to Back the Green New Deal? Follow the Fossil Fuel Money

      With advocates in the midst of a nationwide blitz to pressure lawmakers to commit fully to the vision of a Green New Deal, a new analysis shows that if you want to see where members of the U.S. Senate stand on the issue the best place to start might just be their campaign finance records.

    • It’s Possible to Face Climate Horrors and Still Find Hope

      For decades, the climate movement has suffered from a debilitating self-inflicted wound: the assumption that “we can’t tell the public the truth” about the urgency of the crisis, or the scale and speed of the necessary solution. Many climate scientists joined forces with professional “climate communicators” and corporate philanthropies to decree: Fear doesn’t work as a motivator! Only hope “works,” so let’s keep things positive and promote gradualist policies like carbon pricing! This counterproductive mentality is finally changing — and author David Wallace-Wells is a major part of the reason why.

      In July 2017, David Wallace-Wells broke through the iron curtain of euphemism, optimism and gradualism, pulled no punches and told the truth with the publication of his article “The Uninhabitable Earth” in New York Magazine. Wallace-Wells explored some of the worst-case scenarios of climate change in detail, making the potential nightmare of civilizational collapse and total destruction of our life-support system vivid and real for readers. No false optimism, only rigorous journalistic inquiry and true horror. Its publication caused an uproar amongst “climate communicators” — “You aren’t supposed to tell the whole truth,” they exclaimed — “it turns people off!” And yet people were not turned off. “The Uninhabitable Earth” became the most-read New York Magazine article in history, and was a key inflection point for the climate movement.

      In his brand new book released this week, The Uninhabitable Earth; Life After Warming, Wallace-Wells has a chance to again transform, and critically, expand this conversation.

      In his book, unlike his article, Wallace-Wells looks at the most likely outcomes. For example, Wallace-Wells describes how even the best-case scenarios for climate change will involve millions of deaths, and tens or hundreds of millions of refugees. We are looking at a “best-case outcome … death and suffering at the scale of twenty-five Holocausts.” The book is grim but gripping; an encyclopedic but also narratively compelling exploration of the many ways that climate change will displace, flood, kill, starve, dehydrate and impoverish billions, while enabling the rise of “Climate Leviathan” authoritarian governments.

    • Physicist William Happer, the ‘Unmoored’ Climate Science Denier Heading a White House Climate Probe

      In 2016, retired Princeton physicist Professor Will Happer accepted an invitation from conspiracy theorist G. Edward Griffin to give a keynote at his conference to talk about the “positive effects of CO2.”

      Griffin thinks the science behind global warming is a scam. He also thinks there is “no such thing” as the HIV virus and that some plane contrails are part of a political plot to spray the population with poisons.

      In an interview at the conference, Happer repeated his well-oiled mantra that “CO2 will be good for the Earth” and how it was “pretty clear we are not going to see dangerous climate change.”

      Under normal circumstances, you might think that Happer’s association with a notorious anti-science conspiracy theorist might not look good on your résumè for a government science committee. However, these are not normal times.

    • As Cleanup Dispute Looms, Peabody-Linked Group Pushes Navajo Nation to Buy West’s Largest Coal Plant

      In September 2018, two prospective buyers announced they were dropping out of negotiations to purchase the Navajo Generating Station (NGS), the American West’s largest coal-fired power plant.

      Avenue Capital Group and Middle River Power had sought to keep the aging coal plant in business, but “said they could not get anyone to commit to buying power from the plant, delaying the start of an environmental review,” the Associated Press reported. The plant, located in northern Arizona near the Utah border, is currently scheduled to shut down in December, after its current owners concluded in 2017 that its power was too costly to be competitive.

      The two firms had progressed further in talks with the coal power plant’s owners than any of the 15 others identified as potential buyers by a consulting firm hired by Peabody Energy, which for decades has mined the coal burned at the plant.

      A think tank that’s been backed by Peabody Energy is pushing the sale of the ailing plant and coal mine – and is now finding an audience in the Navajo Nation with the help of a Heritage Institute policy advisor.

    • Climate Change Claims Its First Mammal Extinction

      It’s official: Climate change has claimed its first mammal extinction.

      This week the Australian government declared the extinction of a tiny rodent called Bramble Cay melomys (also known as the Bramble Cay mosaic-tailed rat, Melomys rubicola). The quiet announcement was buried in a press release about enacting stronger protections for other endangered species. It comes three years after a more detailed declaration by the state government of Queensland, which itself followed an exhaustive search of the cay seeking any evidence of the species’ existence.

      The Bramble Cay melomys lived in just a single habitat, a small reef island at the northern tip of the Great Barrier Reef, near Papua New Guinea. The sandy cay — which only measures about 1,100 feet by 500 feet and rises just three feet above sea level — has in recent years been buffeted by storm surges from extreme weather events. The heavy waters have reportedly wiped out about 97 percent of the land mass’s vegetation — the melomys’s only source of food.

    • Southward shift faces US climate by 2100

      If the world continues to burn ever-increasing levels of fossil fuels, then life will change predictably for millions of American city dwellers as the US climate heats up. They will find conditions that will make it seem as if they have shifted south by as much as 850 kilometres.

      New Yorkers will find themselves experiencing temperature and rainfall conditions appropriate to a small town in Arkansas. People from Los Angeles will discover what it is like to live, right now, on the southernmost tip of the Baja peninsula, Mexico. People in Abilene, Texas will find that it is as if they had crossed their own frontier, deep into Salinas, Mexico.

      The lawmakers in Washington will have consigned themselves to conditions appropriate to Greenwood, Mississippi. Columbus, Ohio, will enjoy the climate of Jonesboro, Arkansas. Folk of Anchorage, Alaska, will find out what it feels like to live on Vancouver Sound. People of Vancouver, meanwhile, will feel as if they had crossed the border into Seattle, Washington.

      This exercise in precision forecasting, published in the journal Nature Communications, has been tested in computer simulations for approximately 250 million US and Canadian citizens in 540 cities.

    • Answering the Attacks on the Green New Deal

      It’s become a common trope of the Trump era for columnists and commentators to attack the lunacy of the far right at the same time as castigating the “loony left.”

      These pundits, who usually place themselves in a comfortable “moderate” position, adopt a tone of consummate reasonableness. The president is certainly an idiot, they say, but it would be a mistake to respond with comparable insanity from the other side of the political spectrum.

      Much of this pox-on-both-houses commentary focuses its criticism on individuals: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (for being naïve), Rep. Ilhan Omar (for being anti-Semitic), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (for being fast and loose with the facts of her own background), Sen. Bernie Sanders (for being, well, Bernie).

      These ad hominem attacks are irritating, but the false even-handedness has been especially disturbing at the level of policy. For instance, the so-called moderates let loose a volley against Trump’s power move to declare a national emergency in order to build his wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Then they turn around and blast the progressive vision of a Green New Deal (GND). On the very same opinions page of The Washington Post last week, Max Boot called the GND the “left-wing version of Trump’s farcical promise that he would build a border wall and make Mexico pay for it,” while George Will opined that “President Trump has his wall, the left has its GND.”

      Really? Really?!

    • Resisting Trump Is Not Enough: 20,000 Activists Ask Democratic Candidates Where They Stand on Bold Agenda

      The Green New Deal has been swept onto the national debate by the dynamic grass-roots Sunrise Movement and by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and colleagues in Congress. With new urgency, sponsors call for massive public investment to retool our economy to stop global warming and create the next generation of good jobs.

      Perhaps because of the huge public support for these big ideas, Donald Trump has tried to tar them with the old Cold War scare word: Socialism. This is likely to backfire – just as the Southern racists’ attacks on civil rights workers as “Communist agitators” just helped spread the movement. SNCC organizers were greeted at Mississippi doorsteps with “We are so glad you Communists have come to help us vote.”

      Some cautious Democrats have greeted these big ideas with a warning about the dangers of going too far. “Stick to attacking Trump and his policies,” they lecture, “that’s what helped us win in the Congressional campaigns 2018.”

      But over 90 well-known veterans of the successful 2018 campaign have signed a bold new Pledge to Fight for Good Jobs, Sustainable Prosperity and Economic Justice. And these initiators (including myself) have now been joined by 20,000 (and growing) grass-roots activists. Our message is “Yes, fight Trump – but Americans also want to hear big solutions to the large economic problem our country faces.”

    • This Historical Moment Demands Transformation of Our Institutions. The Green New Deal Won’t Do That

      The Green New Deal now taking shape in Washington will aim to address climate change through economic policies. While many of the potential policies being discussed, including a more steeply progressive income tax, would in themselves be positive developments, none of them would reduce greenhouse emissions as deeply as is required. To understand why, we should first look back at the economic foundations of the Depression-era New Deal, which is serving as inspiration for the Green New Deal (GND).

      The original New Deal attempted to solve what were the particular manifestations of capitalism’s contradictions that surfaced in the 1930s. In simplistic terms, overproduction, a common problem of industrial capitalism, resulted in massive unemployment and a multiplying effect that eventually created 25% unemployment by 1933. The New Deal firmly established the role of government in stabilizing an otherwise unstable system. It also institutionalized a much needed social welfare foundation to underpin a system which could not be relied on to consistently provide people with income.

      The New Deal was given theoretical support by the Keynesian revolution, which provided a different perspective on the role of government in managing the problems of an advanced capitalist economy. Despite the rise of neoliberalism, the institutional fabric that we function with today is still of that New Deal/Keynesian ilk.

    • Is Drilling and Fracking Waste on Your Sidewalk or in Your Pool?

      They’ve spread it on roads. They’ve irrigated almond farms and fruit groves with it. The oil and gas industry’s liquid waste has been used for a variety of commercial and industrial purposes over the years. But never has the “beneficial use” of this waste stream been so grossly applied, or so close to home, as it is today.

      Meet Eureka Resources and Nature’s Own Source. Both of these companies have attracted attention by processing liquid waste from oil and gas operations and creating commercial products for use in pools and on roads, sidewalks, patios, stairs or anywhere else a consumer may put it.

    • Climate Denier to Head New Trump Panel Despite Once Comparing Climate Scientists to Nazis

      The White House is reportedly organizing a new committee to examine whether climate change poses a threat to national security, to be led by notorious climate change denier, Princeton University professor emeritus William Happer. Observers say his involvement in the “Presidential Committee on Climate Security” indicates the Trump administration wants to undermine findings within the national security community that climate change poses a severe threat to human safety. William Happer is a National Security Council senior director who has long claimed increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will actually benefit humans. He has compared the fight against climate change to the Holocaust, saying, “The demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler.” We speak with journalist David Wallace-Wells, deputy editor and climate columnist for New York magazine. His new book is titled “The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming.”

    • E-Scooters Are Giving Cities Headaches—and Worse

      Electric scooters, while a delight to some, are disrupting cities in tech-centric California, as a battle rages over where they belong.

      The rollout of the e-scooters—and the problems they have generated—caught city officials by surprise. Those who consider them intrusive complain that riders aren’t being mindful of the problems they cause by stepping into arenas where there are no existing regulations under the umbrella of “innovation” and by thumbing their noses at attempts to rein them in.

      The rent-by-the-minute scooters, emblazoned with user-friendly brand names like Bird and Scoot, can reach speeds up to 15 mph. A prospective rider simply takes any free-standing scooter and uses an app to unlock it. Unlike rental bikes or car services, scooters don’t require a docking or designated parking station.

  • Finance
    • Russian anti-corruption leader says a murderous family is plundering Karachay-Cherkessia

      A handful of powerful families control virtually all the resources allocated to Russia’s Karachay-Cherkess Republic, according to a report from Alexey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK). The organization’s new research focuses on the Kaitov family, who Navalny says wield the same level of influence as the Arashukovs. (In late January, Senator Rauf Arashukov was arrested for his alleged role in two homicides. His father and nephew — top executives at Gazprom Mezhregiongaz — were later charged with large-scale fraud.)

    • So How’s Your Tax Refund? Thanks to GOP Tax Scam, Big Banks Made Extra $28 Billion Last Year

      As was said by critics of the new tax law at the time, the rich and corporations were given an “early Christmas gift” when the bill was signed, but according to new figures from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) it is a gift that continues to give to the nation’s banking industry.

      Citing the FDIC’s latest quarterly profile of the 5,406 banks it insures, The Hill reports that yearly profits for those institutions—which made nearly $237 in profit overall—”increased increased $72. 4 billion from 2017, and the rise includes $28.8 billion more than banks would have kept under the previous tax regime. Bank profits in the fourth quarter of 2018 rose to $59 billion, an $8.1 billion increase from the same period in 2017.”

      As one Twitter user, Bobby Reyes, put it: “So, let me get this straight… We can’t give ppl healthcare, affordable housing, rent stabilization but we can afford to give banks this?”

      Banks reaping the rewards of the Republican tax plan while working class Americans continue to face the uncertainty of their 2018 tax liabilities and struggle to make ends meet, struck Warren Gunnels, staff director for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), as a stark contrast.

    • Meet Tatyana Bakalchuk, half of Russia’s woman-billionaire population

      Tatyana and Vyacheslav Bakalchuk got into online trading to earn money for their infant son. Within three years, they were industry leaders.

      In the spring of 2004, school teacher Tatyana Bakalchuk and her husband Vyacheslav, a radiophysicist, realized they weren’t earning enough money to provide for their infant son. So they decided to launch an online clothing store. In the beginning, they ordered and resold Otto and Quelle catalog products from the German retailer Otto Group. A few years prior, the German company had tried and failed to enter the Russian market, finding that the country simply lacked an online purchasing culture. Russia’s postal service also lagged far behind Western systems.

      Fond of brightly colored clothes, Tatyana Bakalchuk named her business “Wildberries.” She was the company’s first customer, and she used public transit to bring the shipment home to her apartment, which simultaneously became her warehouse. Later in the year, the couple started getting help from Sergey Anufriev, a friend from Vyacheslav’s gym. The three continue to manage Wildberries to this day, but 100 percent of the company belongs to Tatyana Bakalchuk.

    • The VA Is Paying for a Top Official’s Cross-Country Commute

      The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs paid $13,000 over a three-month period for a senior official’s biweekly commute to Washington from his home in California, according to expense reports obtained by ProPublica.

      The official, Darin Selnick, is a senior adviser to VA Secretary Robert Wilkie and has played a key role in developing the administration’s controversial new rules on referring veterans to private doctors. The proposal, announced last month, has drawn opposition from some lawmakers and veterans groups.

      Selnick lived in Washington during a previous stint in the Trump administration, from January 2017 until March or April 2018, earning a $165,000 salary. He rejoined the VA in late October 2018 and started flying to Washington from California for two weeks out of every month, at taxpayer expense.

    • The Fed Is Finally Seeing the Light on Quantitative Easing

      “Quantitative easing” was supposed to be an emergency measure, but the Federal Reserve is now taking a surprising new approach toward the policy. The Fed “eased” shrinkage in the money supply due to the 2008-09 credit crisis by pumping out trillions of dollars in new bank reserves. After the crisis, the presumption was the Fed would “normalize” conditions by sopping up the excess reserves through “quantitative tightening” (QT)—raising interest rates and selling the securities it had bought with new reserves back into the market.

      The Fed relentlessly pushed on with quantitative tightening through 2018, despite a severe market correction in the fall. In December, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said QT would be on “autopilot,” meaning the Fed would continue to raise interest rates and sell $50 billion monthly in securities until it hit its target. But the market protested loudly to this move, with the Nasdaq composite index dropping 22 percent from its late-summer high.

      Worse, defaults on consumer loans were rising. December 2018 was the first time in two years that all loan types and all major metropolitan statistical areas showed a higher default rate month over month. Consumer debt—including auto, student and credit card debt—is typically bundled and sold as asset-backed securities similar to the risky mortgage-backed securities that brought down the market in 2008 after the Fed had progressively raised interest rates.

    • Immigrants Aren’t the Emergency—Unchecked Capitalism Is

      Midland, Michigan, where my husband and I are raising our two young children, is a small town surrounded by rural communities. Many of us living here have seen, generation-by-generation, that we’re falling behind.
      Our anxiety is real, but we wholeheartedly reject attempts by those in power to blame immigrant families who have their own struggles, or to suggest that a made up “national emergency” is any kind of solution. We know better.
      One of my friends and her husband both work full time and each have separate health insurance through their jobs — but their three children aren’t insured. Their income is too high for the kids to qualify for the MIChild insurance the state offers children of working families. But their income isn’t high enough to allow them buy coverage independently.
      Their third child was born just a few months ago. She doesn’t have paid maternity leave, so even though she should’ve recovered at least six weeks after a necessary C-section, she went back to work after three weeks.
      “We shouldn’t have to just get by each month,” she said to me. “We should be able to get ahead like our parents did. But we can’t, and now we are just kinda living here — where one unplanned $20 expense means you can’t buy groceries, and you’ve lost hope of ever paying your bills.”
      Her family is falling through the cracks. Like so many Michigan small town and rural families, they’re working hard, doing all the right things, and just barely getting by. Forty percent of our households in Michigan struggle to afford the basic necessities, like housing, food, and health care.

    • The Bill and Melinda Gates’ Fair Taxation Scaremongering Tour

      Billionaire philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates, appearing recently on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, said a number of things that made Colbert’s liberal audience squeal with delight.

      When told that the very existence of billionaires was a signal that capitalism doesn’t work for the many, and that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had mused that America could do without billionaires, the Gates laughed politely and talked vaguely and approvingly of raising taxes on the ultra-wealthy. To those who are given much, much is expected, Melinda Gates said.

      Then, after those platitudes were exhausted and the TV audience had slipped into a warm coma of semi-consciousness, the Gates’ let show their true colors and uttered a good old-fashioned Trumpism.

      Melinda Gates started by criticizing European countries that have higher tax rates than the U.S., and claimed such rates stifle innovation. “In fact there have been many times when you’re in France and they’ll say, ‘Gosh, we wish we could have a Bill Gates, we wish we could have such a vibrant tech sector,’” Gates said. “But the taxes have been done there in such a way that it doesn’t actually stimulate good growth. So we believe in a good tax system that should tax the wealthy more than low-income people for sure.”

    • American investment manager Michael Calvey is being jailed in Moscow on fraud charges. One of his cellmates is charged with attempted murder.

      Human rights officials have identified procedural violations in the pretrial detention of Michael Calvey, the American investment manager arrested last week on controversial fraud charges. According to Ivan Melnikov, the executive secretary of Moscow’s Public Monitoring Commission, Calvey is being held in an eight-bunk cell that also includes a man who allegedly tried to murder a judge, despite the fact that Russian penitentiary regulations require the separate housing of potentially violent offenders and economic crimes suspects. Philippe Delpal, another Baring Vostok partner and foreign citizen arrested in the same case, is being held in a four-bunk jail cell.

    • New York, New York: a Resounding Victory for New York Over Amazon

      When Amazon announced in September 2017 that it was accepting bids from cities across North America for a place to build another headquarters after Seattle, a bidding war ensued. Many major cities in the U.S. and Canada jumped in with offers. Two hundred proposals were whittled down to 20 finalists.

      And for good reason. “We expect HQ2 to be a full equal to our Seattle headquarters,” CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement. “Amazon HQ2 will bring billions of dollars in up-front and ongoing investments, and tens of thousands of high-paying jobs. We’re excited to find a second home.”

      When the winning bid was announced in November, New York was chosen, obviously. Where else could Amazon go? “King of the hill, Top of the heap…top of the list…A number one…” And what a deal. Amazon promised to build a $2.5 billion campus in Long Island City, Queens, employ at least 25,000 people and generate $27 billion in tax money for the City and State over the next 25 years.New York offered considerable incentives to the tune of up to $1.7 billion in grants and tax breaks provided by the State and $1.3 billion by the City.

      A perfect marriage between the world’s most valued listed company (estimated at $1 trillion), the world’s richest man (estimated worth $136 billion) and the Big Apple (“We’re number one, baby”).

      But just as Bezos is in divorce proceedings with his wife, Amazon and New York are splitting up. Last week, Amazon pulled out of the deal. “New York is in a unique position to stand up and draw a line, because Amazon is not bigger than New York,” said Michael Gianaris, the Democrat state senator from Long Island City and a leader of the opposition. “We have the ability to set the tone for the nation.”

    • Oakland Teachers Strike, Joining #RedforEd Movement on Picket Lines

      Today, teachers in Oakland, California, are joining their #RedforEd counterparts in Los Angeles and across the nation in striking for better working conditions and fully funded schools. The city’s schools remain open as substitutes teach more than 36,000 students across 87 Oakland Unified School District schools.

      The strike comes on the heels of West Virginia teachers’ second strike since they walked out of their classrooms a year ago this month. Teachers there demanded that lawmakers immediately kill an education bill the West Virginia Education Association and other unions oppose. Despite the Republican-led House moving to table the bill Tuesday, teachers remained on the picket lines Wednesday, holding out against any chance there could be further developments with the legislation.

      In Oakland, the city’s teachers’ union has been unable to reach an agreement with Oakland Unified after more than two years of negotiations. The Oakland Education Association’s 3,000 members have been without a contract since July 2017, and overwhelmingly approved a strike authorization vote earlier this month.

      Today’s strike is Oakland teachers’ first since 2010, and comes after hundreds of the city’s teachers called out sick in January in a wildcat “sickout” action to rally and march for school funding.

      LA teachers’ successful six-day strike has reverberated loudly in the Bay Area, where educators face many of the same issues, including ballooning class sizes and meager support staff. The union is asking the district for more support staff, smaller classes and a 12 percent raise over three years for educators living in one of the most expensive areas in the country.

      Oakland educators are the lowest paid in the Bay Area, where rents have risen 40 to 50 percent since 2012. The skyrocketing costs of housing has caused more than 18 percent of teachers to leave the district each year, according to a fact-finding report released Friday.

      Also, as in LA, the district has faced years of billionaire-backed schemes seeking to eliminate traditional public schools and replace them with charters, which often operate with public funds but are privately run as either for-profits or nonprofits, and are subject to fewer rules, regulations and statutes than traditional public schools.

    • Oakland Teachers to Start Strike Thursday

      Teachers in Oakland, California, plan to raise picket signs Thursday in the country’s latest strike by educators over classroom conditions and pay.

      The city’s 3,000 teachers are demanding a 12 percent retroactive raise covering 2017 to 2020 to compensate for what they say are among the lowest salaries for public school teachers in the exorbitantly expensive San Francisco Bay Area.

    • Why Oakland Teachers Are Going to Strike

      Oakland teachers make their way into Taylor Memorial Methodist Church in Oakland on Monday to discuss the possibility of a strike Thursday, Feb. 21. The vote was to strike. (

    • Latest to Join Nationwide Uprising, Oakland Teachers Strike to Defend Public Education

      Nearly 3,000 teachers and other school staffers in Oakland, California are joining the nationwide wave of #RedForEd strikes on Thursday, demanding greater investment in the district’s public schools, students, and teachers—instead of a continuation of the recent unregulated growth of charter schools in the area.

      As Oakland Education Association (OEA) president Keith Brown explained in the San Francisco Chronicle on Wednesday, the union is demanding an end to school closures in favor of pouring money into charter schools, enough school nurses and counselors to adequately serve the district’s 86 schools, raises for teachers, and smaller class sizes.

      “Oakland can’t afford any more years of neglected, underfunded schools. If we stand idly by while the leadership of the Oakland Unified School District closes 24 out of 86 public schools, then students and families will pay the price for generations,” Brown wrote.

      On picket lines in front of schools throughout the district, teachers carried signs reading, “Fund Our Future” and chanting, “On strike, shut it down, Oakland is a union town!”

    • Arts Organizing Lifts Oakland Teachers Strike

      Surrounded by a hundred teachers and supporters painting banners, screen printing fabric picket flags, and learning strike songs, Oakland teachers union president Keith Brown held a press conference announced that Oakland teachers would hold a strike vote. Every square inch of the union hall offices and parking garage was filled with people making art and singing strike songs. This is one key part of how Oakland teachers built momentum and got ready to strike. The victorious Los Angeles teachers strike last month held a similar pre-strike arts mobilization. Teacher and union arts organizer Joe Brusky says, “the art created for L.A. played a major role in winning a victory.”

      For the last two months a massive #strike-ready art-making collaboration between the Oakland Education Association, local artists and a team of arts organizers has been building momentum, participation and created thousands of pieces of hand made art that has been used in public actions leading up to the strike and will be seen on the picket lines.

      San Francisco Bay Area socially engaged artists Favianna Rodriguez, Micah Bazant, Miriam Stahl, Eric Norbert, Melanie Cervantes and Jesus Baraza, Kim Cosier, Emory Douglas, Claudio Martinez, Jeanette Arellano and Paul Kjelland all contributed designs to support the teachers, and teachers and students also contributed designs.

    • Ocasio-Cortez Hits Back After Right-Wingers Drop Big Cash on ‘Wack’ Times Square Billboard Blaming Her for Amazon Taking Its Ball and Going Home

      After a right-wing lobby group unveiled a billboard in New York City’s Time Square on Wednesday blaming Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez alone for the decision by retail and technology giant Amazon to “take its ball and go home” by pulling the plug on its planned HQ2 project in nearby Long Island City, it was pretty clear what was going to happen next.

      As political pundits who oppose the common good like Laura Ingraham began championing the billboard, Ocasio-Cortez didn’t demure.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics
    • A Conversation With EU Parliament Member Marietje Schaake About Digital Platforms And Regulation, Part II
    • Howard’s End

      America is the only place in the world where any citizen over the age of 35 can run for president. No experience in government necessary. No support from a political party necessary. You don’t even have to have any ideas or policy proposals.

      Take Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks whose most notable achievement to date has been the Mocha Frappucinno.

      Last Tuesday, CNN made Schultz a Serious Presidential Candidate by giving him an hour-long “town hall” in which he fielded questions from an audience.

      Why did CNN do this? Because Schultz is worth over $3.6 billion.

      In today’s America, someone with this much money can buy so much advertising and self-promotion that he automatically becomes a SPC just by virtue of wanting the job and having the capacity to self-finance a campaign.

    • What Happened to the Struggle for Socialism in Latin America?

      Throughout the 1990s, a newly confident neoliberalism imposed its domination across Latin America. The anodyne phrase “structural adjustment” concealed a devastating process of globalization that had begun as the Berlin Wall fell. Under the rules now imposed by the World Trade Organization (WTO) for the global market, all forms of state intervention in the economy were forbidden. This meant state subsidies — to farmers or transport, for example — welfare spending of any kind, and so on. These all fell under the definition “restraint of trade” that described anything that interfered with the pursuit of profit. The first sign of things to come was the “Caracazo” uprising of the poor districts across Venezuela in February 1989, which began with a hike in the price of public transport. The Zapatista uprising in Mexico in January 1994, which coincided with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), was a reaction to the removal of subsidies to maize farmers to allow the giant U.S.-based monopolies free rein. For the farmers, it meant ruin.

      The weakened states at best stood by and did nothing as the living standards of the masses collapsed. At worst, they sent in their repressive forces to deal with the rising protests. In Venezuela, the Caracazo was put down, leaving a toll of 3,000 dead. The local states collaborated with global capital, acting as its agent; there were rich rewards, of course, for the loyalty of the minority who profited from these arrangements.

      The election of [Hugo] Chávez was an expression of the gathering discontent — though still in the formal framework of elections. In Cochabamba, Bolivia, however, the new militancy from below produced a direct confrontation over the privatization of the local water company. In Ecuador, the Indigenous movement that had created a national organization (CONAIE) in 1990 also mobilized against the new economic regime – in Ecuador’s case expressed in the “dollarization” of the economy. And in Argentina, the collapse of the economy produced in December 2001 an extraordinary movement under the slogan, “Que se vayan todos” – Let’s get rid of them all (“them” being the political class). Here, too, the movement embraced labor unions, militant movements of the unemployed, community organizations, occupied factories, students and others.

    • Israel, Venezuela and Nationalism In The Neoliberal Era

      What is a nation in the era of neoliberalism? Is community, under any umbrella, possible? Margaret Thatcher was perhaps more influential l in shaping the modern times than anyone outside of Ronald Reagan. Thatcher famously asserted that there was no such thing as society—there were only individuals. This logic is still being carried out, as evidenced by the United States’ response to situations in Israel and Venezuela.

      Ilhan Omar pointed out a simple and undeniable truth. The politicians in the United States supports Israel’s apartheid state because they are getting payed to do so by lobbying interests, such as AIPAC. This was soon seen as anti-Semitic because of stereotypes of Jewish people being rich and running the world in a secret way.

      Omar though actually created a possibility for a shift away from anti-Semitism. What she said actually created a way out for the Jewish people of Israel. To less educated people, particularly less educated Muslims, one could look at the state of Israel—which massacres people simply for being brown and Muslim—as a state that operates on the logic of Jewish supremacy. Omar paints a more complicated picture: Western money, with the interests of imperialism, capitalist exploitation and white Christian supremacy, also play a role.

      The United States establishment demonstrated its unwillingness to take anti-Semitism seriously when it sidestepped Omar’s critique of their own corrupt politicians. It instead, once again, chose to blame Israel’s apartheid state on Jewish people. Anyone with any knowledge of Israel’s human rights abuses will blame it on something. Either you choose to blame it on capitalism or on Jewish people. Unable to confront capitalism, the Jewish people become the scapegoat.

      Jewish people play the function of white women in our Christian white supremacist patriarchal society. Donald Trump justifies his turn to a whites-only state based on the assumption that he is protecting white women by splitting up brown families. His announcement speech for President came with the warning that immigrants are raping “our” women—with the implication that there is no such thing as white rape simply because white men own everything.

      Likewise, the elites in Israel are given the green light to slaughter brown Muslims as long as they claim it is in the interest of Judaism. Judaism can only be seen by our Christian nation as our wife. To a conservative Christian, Jewish people can be tolerated because they are also generally white Europeans. Just as women must to some degree be tolerated in these conservative societies because they grew up in the same neighborhood and know the same rules as the men. However, with Jewish people there is always a lacking, and they will never be accepted as full Christians. What they lack is the belief in Christ. Similarly, women will never be accepted by MAGA American men, even if they are given a roof over their heads. What they lack is not Christ, but a penis. The phallic image of the cross is significant in this parallel, but for the sake of all of us, let’s look no closer.

    • Despite Trump’s Tough Talk About Migrant Smugglers, He’s Undercut Efforts to Stop Them

      In his quest to build a border wall, President Donald Trump has warned of jobs stolen from American workers, suburbs terrorized by criminal aliens, and desperate migrant caravans headed north. Lately, though, he has found a favorite new target in the “ruthless coyotes” and “vicious cartels” that smuggle migrants into the United States. “Tolerance for illegal immigration is not compassionate — it is actually very cruel,” Trump said in his State of the Union speech. “Smugglers use migrant children as human pawns to exploit our laws and gain access to our country.”

    • To Counter GOP’s Attack on Democracy, Indivisible Unveils 50-State Plan to Thwart Trump Agenda

      As the 2020 presidential election grabs headlines with Democrats lining up to challenge President Donald Trump, the grassroots organization Indivisible on Thursday unveiled its new plan to fight the Republican’s anti-democratic agenda in all 50 states over the next year and a half.

      The Indivisible Initiative will be aimed at thwarting Trump’s and the GOP’s efforts to roll back voting rights and other key elements of democracy in state houses across the country, as well as building on the successes of progressives in the 2018 midterm elections.

      “We’re rolling out new strategies and support to remake our democracy and circumvent Trump’s agenda, state by state—all 50 of them,” said the Indivisible Team, headed by former congressional staffers Ezra Levin and Leah Greenberg, in a letter to supporters and in a video posted to Twitter.

    • Clinton Democrats Struggle To Move On From 2016 As Bernie Sanders Announces 2020 Campaign

      Senator Bernie Sanders announced he was running for president in 2020, and on February 19, a switch was flipped. In 24 hours, nearly $6 million was raised through a grassroots machine which he largely built during the 2016 presidential election when he challenged Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party’s nomination.

      But for those who backed Clinton and believe Sanders bears some responsibility for her loss to President Donald Trump, they were quick to display their resentment. Some of them even dusted off opposition research they had lying around and deployed it.

      Philippe Reines, a political consultant and former Clinton adviser, appeared on MSNBC. He claimed Sanders had not reached out to any of the 17 million, who did not vote for him in 2016. This is false. Sanders visited several states in the south in April 2018, including South Carolina, to make inroads with black voters.

      He fueled the notion that Sanders has not done enough to convince his supporters that Clinton beat him fair and square, even though there is a lot of evidence that the Democratic Party rigged the primary to make it easier for Clinton to win.

      Reines said Sanders has “diminished the role of Russia’s interference,” which also is not true. He has said Russia interfered in the 2016 election to benefit Trump. But what Reines means is that he has not generated panic over Russia like most Democrats, so that should count against him.

      “It seems like there’s an arrogance among Sanders supporters,” Reines added.

    • New Election Ordered in Disputed North Carolina House Race

      North Carolina’s elections board Thursday ordered a new election in the nation’s last undecided congressional race after the Republican candidate conceded his lead was tainted by evidence of ballot-tampering by political operatives working for him.

      The State Board of Elections voted 5-0 in favor of a do-over in the mostly rural 9th Congressional District but did not immediately set a date.

      In moving to order a new election, board chairman Bob Cordle cited “the corruption, the absolute mess with the absentee ballots.”

      The board action came after GOP candidate Mark Harris, in a surprising turn, dropped his bid to be declared the winner and instead called for a new election. He reversed course on the fourth day of a board hearing at which investigators and witnesses detailed evidence of ballot fraud by operatives on his payroll.

    • How Will the Courts Handle the Trump Emoluments Cases?

      Americans should know whether they’re voting for someone who is putting their own wallet ahead of the national interest.

    • It’s Hard to Sue a President. Can Trump Be Defeated in Court?

      Early in 2018, Democrats offered Donald Trump $25 billion for “border security” measures which included “the construction of physical barriers” in the text of the legislation. Trump turned it down flat after the Freedom Caucus and vivid fascist Stephen Miller got in his ear, and the government was shut down.

      After the 2018 midterm elections changed the math, Democrats offered $1.6 billion and no wall, a substantially poorer offer for Trump. He rejected that one as well and shut down the government again, this time for 35 days. When the threat of airplanes falling out of the sky became manifest, Trump finally accepted a deal for $1.3 billion — $300 million less than he would have gotten before the most recent shutdown and some $23.7 billion less than he would have gotten in January 2018 – before announcing his preposterous emergency declaration in a Rose Garden performance that is now the worldwide gold standard for publicly spewed nonsense.

      That, right there, is political weakness personified. The negotiation skills of this self-anointed master dealmaker would get laughed out of a high school Model U.N. conference. Between this profoundly unpopular emergency declaration fiasco and the gallons of blood in the water from the ongoing Mueller investigation, the president’s political standing is shrinking like a snowman in the Sahara.

    • Following the Foreign-Policy Money Trail in Washington

      The 2016 elections awakened Americans to a startling reality: the country’s political system is ripe for foreign interference. The Russians took full advantage of social media with bot armies and through unregistered foreign agents. While their influence garnered considerable attention and has led to increased enforcement of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), one area has remained largely off the congressional and media radar screens. Yet it remains a vital part of the way other governments try to influence policy in this country: the foreign funding of think tanks.

      Most Americans undoubtedly have little idea what a think tank actually does. Having worked at two of them myself, it’s fair to say that even those of us who have labored inside these basic building blocks for policymaking in Washington are often still trying to figure out just what many of them do. Still, whether you know it or not, you’ve certainly seen think-tank employees on cable news, heard them on the radio, or read their op-ed pieces.

      After all, think tanks are homes for so many of the “experts” who are the go-to sources for media coverage of foreign and domestic policy topics on just about any day — and are often key go-to sources for those making policy in Washington, too). You know, the former Department of Defense official you caught on NBC News discussing Iran or the Middle Eastern expert you saw quoted in Newsweek critiquing the Trump administration’s policies there. Outside the public eye, members of Congress and executive branch officials rely heavily on think tanks for expertise on a wide range of issues, for key congressional testimony, and even for quite literally helping craft public policy.

  • Censorship/Free Speech
    • A Supreme Court Milestone for Students’ Free Speech Rights

      In 1969, a group of public school students protesting the Vietnam War made First Amendment history that stands strong to this day.
      This month marks 50 years since the landmark Supreme Court ruling that cemented students’ rights to free speech in public schools, Tinker v. Des Moines. We’re inspired to see that students still take advantage of their First Amendment rights and speak out on political issues today.

      We grew up in Iowa, where our father was a Methodist minister. Believing that faith should be put into action, our parents involved all of us kids in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, and later with the Quakers. We never could have imagined that this family tradition of civic engagement would make us central players in one of the most consequential Supreme Court cases about students and free speech ever brought by the ACLU.

      When we were teenagers in 1965, we started to see horrific news about the escalating war in Vietnam, thanks to the brave journalists reporting there. And we knew that young people in Des Moines were being to be sent to war, and some were coming home in coffins.

      A small group of students wanted to do something about it. We decided to wear black armbands to school to send a message of mourning for the dead in Vietnam on both sides and support for a Christmas truce. The school suspended five of us for wearing the armbands.

    • Catholic School Teen’s Lawyers File $250M Defamation Suit Against The Washington Post; Fail To List Any Actual Defamation

      Lawsuits were threatened after students from a Kentucky Catholic school were portrayed as engaging in racist behavior during an anti-abortion march at the nation’s capital. An edited video swiftly circulated the internet, showing student Nick Sandmann facing off with a Native American protester while wearing a seemingly-smug file on his face and a Make America Great Again hat on his head.

      More footage of the incident appeared later providing a bit more context, making the obvious racism seem less obvious. But the Twitter ship had sailed and there was little hope of turning it around. Lessons could have been learned from rushing to judgment, but Nick Sandmann and his family’s lawyers have decided this lessons should be taught via libel lawsuits. They’ve got an uphill battle as nearly everything said about Sandmann and the incident was protected opinion, but a lack of credible arguments has never prevented lawsuits from being filed.

  • Privacy/Surveillance
    • Facebook Ups Surveillance Of Users To Keep Tabs On People Who Don’t Like Facebook

      Tech companies are becoming far more than useful repositories of third party records. They’re becoming far more active in terms of surveillance, pivoting from platform providers to private sector Big Brothers, weaponizing their data collection capabilities to keep tabs on customers and users.

      Facebook has decided to start scanning its platform for threats. Not threats against the many nations it serves or threats targeting other users, but rather threats against Facebook itself.

    • Google Fesses Up To Hidden Microphone In Nest Home Security Platform

      On its face, this is certainly a welcome upgrade. Especially given the fact that we live in an era where the opposite often occurs, and companies have a habit of removing basic product functionality post sale, leaving you with less of a product, or in a few select instances no product at all. As such, that the Nest keypad for a home alarm system actually was upgraded to do more than users original thought is a good thing, at least superficially.
      The problem: more privacy-conscious Nest owners weren’t aware that the Nest home security base stations had a microphone in the first place, raising questions about whether Google was using the microphone for data collection and monetization in some capacity. Given the fact that we can’t go more than twenty minutes before another major privacy scandal breaks, and the general regulatory and government response to most of these scandals has been a collective ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, the concerns are understandable.

    • China Uses DNA to Track Its People, With the Help of American Expertise

      The authorities called it a free health check. Tahir Imin had his doubts.

      They drew blood from the 38-year-old Muslim, scanned his face, recorded his voice and took his fingerprints. They didn’t bother to check his heart or kidneys, and they rebuffed his request to see the results.

      “They said, ‘You don’t have the right to ask about this,’” Mr. Imin said. “‘If you want to ask more,’ they said, ‘you can go to the police.’”

      Mr. Imin was one of millions of people caught up in a vast Chinese campaign of surveillance and oppression. To give it teeth, the Chinese authorities are collecting DNA — and they got unlikely corporate and academic help from the United States to do it.

      China wants to make the country’s Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group, more subservient to the Communist Party. It has detained up to a million people in what China calls “re-education” camps, drawing condemnation from human rights groups and a threat of sanctions from the Trump administration.

    • Aadhaar Operator’s Biometrics Stolen & Misused, UIDAI Documents Prove

      If you go by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI)’s record of each time Vikram Sheokhand pressed his thumb down on a biometric reader for an Aadhaar-enabled transaction, on November 12 2018 he was at a Ratnakar Bank branch, a Yes Bank branch, a State Bank of India branch in Haryana where he lives, and also at the Madhya Pradesh State Electronics Development Corporation, headquartered in Arera Hills in Bhopal — each transaction separated by a few hours.

      Yet on that day Sheokhand insists, and eyewitnesses concur, he spent the day at Uchana village, in Jind district, where he worked seven hour shifts as an Aadhaar enrollment operator at the local State Bank of India office.

      But if Sheokhand was in Uchana, how were his fingerprints used in Aadhaar transactions in places separated by hundreds of kilometres?

      “I am not a ghost who can travel from Jind to Madhya Pradesh in less than a second and simultaneously work in SBI’s branch in Uchana,” Sheokhand told HuffPost India in an interview last week.

      Tech-support emails accessed by HuffPost India show the UIDAI has confirmed that Sheokhand’s credentials were used in multiple places in a single day, on at least one other day, November 8 2018. For this reason, on Nov 13 2018, the UIDAI barred Sheokhand from working as an enrolment operator for five years. Yet strangers continue to try to use his digital fingerprints in different banks across the country.

    • Another Aadhaar Breach: Aadhaar Operator’s Credentials Stolen And Misused

      It seems like India’s unique identity number Aadhaar has become habitual of occasional security lapses as another security breach case is raising more questions regarding the security of users’ data.

      According to a report by HuffPost India, an Aadhaar operator named Vikram Sheokhand has fallen prey to unauthorized access of his biometrics which has been misused several times. Vikram is an Aadhaar operator at State Bank of India (SBI) in Haryana.

    • Microsoft Edge lets Facebook run Flash code behind users’ backs

      Microsoft’s Edge browser contains a secret whitelist that lets Facebook run Adobe Flash code behind users’ backs.

      The whitelist allows Facebook Flash content to bypass Edge security features such as the click-to-play policy that normally prevents websites from running Flash code without user approval beforehand.

      Prior to February 2019, the secret Flash whitelist contained 58 entries, including domains and subdomains for Microsoft’s main site, the MSN portal, music streaming service Deezer, Yahoo, and Chinese social network QQ, just to name the biggest names on the list.

    • Mark Zuckerberg Thinks Facebook Is An “Innovator In Privacy”

      He did admit that Facebook’s status as an “innovator in privacy” is “certainly not the mainstream view” — which is quite frankly an understatement considering its history of scandals and data leak.

      “Thinking about Facebook as an innovator in privacy is certainly not the mainstream view,” said Zuckerberg in the taped conversation, which was released publicly on Wednesday.

      [...]

      On other occasions, the company chose to conduct data harvesting activities through its Onavo app which posed as a VPN. It even went to the extent of paying teenagers to install Onavo-like app to harvest their data.

      One of the biggest Facebook controversies to date, the Cambridge Analytica scandal, happened just because the social media giant allowed app makers to harvest millions of users’ data without their knowledge or consent.

    • What’s the Emergency? Keeping International Requests for Law Enforcement Access Secure and Safe for Internet Users

      Law enforcement access to data is in the middle of a profound shake-up across the globe. States are pushing to get quicker, deeper, and more invasive access to personal data stored on the global Internet, and are looking to water down the international safeguards around privacy and due process in the name of “speed” and “modernization.”

      One part of that push is concentrated on the Council of Europe’s Cybercrime Convention (also known as the “Budapest Convention”) — an international instrument, ratified by the United States and over 60 countries around the world, that spells out the procedures, checks and balances when law enforcement from another nation needs to comply with when requesting digital data held in another jurisdiction.

      The Council of Europe’s Cybercrime Convention Committee (T-CY) is currently drafting an update in the form of a second additional protocol to the Convention. There’s lots that could go right, and plenty that could go wrong in the drafting of this new protocol. The slow and sometimes confusing mutual legal assistance treaties (MLAT) process could be reformed to better match the speed of the Internet while still protecting civil liberties and due process. But it could be an opportunity for over-eager States to create new, unprotected methods for law enforcement to pull data from big tech companies, without oversight, notification or ways for affected users to challenge the process.

      The latest part of that process is a consultation on the rules governing fast-track emergency access to data in the context of mutual legal assistance. EFF, EDRI, and a number of global civil society organizations have responded. In our submission, we welcome the fact that the definition of emergency include both the words significant and imminent in order to limit the use of emergency powers to relevant situations and when the emergency is close in time. Safety means a threat that would result in serious bodily harm or injury of a natural person.

      We believe that Emergency MLAs provides a mechanism for countries to access the results of the request in foreign countries necessary to prevent a situation in which there is a significant and imminent risk to the life or safety of any natural person, but also provide an opportunity to create strong legal safeguards for this process.

    • I am up to no good.

      am a user of “the darknet”. I use Tor to secure my communications from curious eyes. At the latest since Edward Snowden’s leaks we know, that this might be a good idea. There are many other valid, legal use-cases for using Tor. Circumventing censorship is one of them.

      But German state secretary Günter Krings (49, CDU) believes something else. Certainly he “understand[s], that the darknet may have a use in autocratic systems, but in my opinion there is no legitimate use for it in a free, open democracy. Whoever uses the darknet is usually up to no good.”

      [...]

      Instead of trying to ban our democratic people from using tor, we should celebrate the fact that we are a democracy that can afford having citizens who can avoid surveillance and that have access to uncensored information.

    • Purism’s CEO Todd Weaver Testifies at California Congressional Privacy Commission

      My name is Todd Weaver, and I think you’ll find I’m an unusual witness here today, while I may be sitting side-by-side with impressive privacy protection groups, I am here as the CEO of a rapidly growing technology company based in California.

      I am here calling for much stronger consumer privacy protections – starting with giving consumers the power to opt IN rather than opt OUT of sharing their personal data.

      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.

      I am not here to tell you AB 375 (or stronger) protections are tough to implement, history is filled with wrongdoers complaining that doing right will put them out of business only to comply and thrive later. Incidentally, this same tech industry complained about Europe’s GDPR that certainly did not put them out of business.

      I am here to tell you the new law (or stronger) is easy to technically comply with – if we companies simply begin to honor our customer’s privacy rights and design our services to be privacy-protecting rather than privacy-exploiting.

    • When Kids Realize Their Whole Life Is Already Online

      Like most other modern kids, Cara grew up immersed in social media. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube were all founded before she was born; Instagram has been around since she was a toddler. While many kids may not yet have accounts themselves, their parents, schools, sports teams, and organizations have been curating an online presence for them since birth. The shock of realizing that details about your life—or, in some cases, an entire narrative of it—have been shared online without your consent or knowledge has become a pivotal experience in the lives of many young teens and tweens.

    • Privacy vs “I have nothing to hide”

      Private text messages aside, who really cares about data privacy, right? If your photos, contacts, calendar, email, browsing history, search history, musical tastes, files, thousands of status updates, likes, shares and physical movements are all in the cloud, who really cares?

      Please read that last paragraph again and let it sink in – that is probably more data than your nearest and dearest have about you. Yet generally speaking, people don’t seem to be concerned that such volumes of data are out there and being used without our consent.

    • NATO study experimented with using social media to influence soldiers

      Researchers said they attempted to influence soldiers by creating fake accounts, befriending the troops on social platforms and creating fake pages and groups where they could advertise to them. They could not disclose their exact methods “due to operation security.”

  • Civil Rights/Policing
    • ‘Time for Acosta to Resign’: Judge Rules Labor Secretary’s Plea Deal for Billionaire Sex Offender Broke Federal Law

      A U.S. District judge ruled Thursday that U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta committed a crime in 2007 when, as a U.S. prosecutor at the time, secretly gave a lenient plea deal to a politically-connected billionaire accused of sex trafficking underage girls.

      In a case brought by victims of billionaire and Trump associate Jeffrey Epstein, Judge Kenneth Marra found that Acosta and other federal prosecutors violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act by brokering a plea deal with Epstein, allowing him to serve only 13 months in a county jail for his crimes, and then sealing the agreement.

      The ruling came nearly three months after the Miami Herald’s explosive report on the plea deal, which prompted the Justice Department to begin investigation into the prosecutors’ conduct.

      Marra’s decision led to renewed calls for Acosta—who was appointed by President Donald Trump and who as head of the Labor Department is responsible for combating sex trafficking—to resign.

    • Cook County Takes Steps to Erase Its Regional Gang Database

      The sheriff’s office would be prohibited from using or sharing its Regional Gang Intelligence Database — and required to ultimately destroy it — under a new ordinance set to be enacted by the county board Thursday.

      The new law will also ban the sheriff’s office from feeding information into any other gang database maintained by outside agencies. And within 90 days, county officials will be required to hold a public hearing on how the regional gang database has been used.

    • Iranian morality police fire warning shots after crowd prevents arrest of women without hijab
    • Muslim Group Seeks Congressional Probe on Terror Watchlist

      A Muslim civil rights group called for a congressional investigation Wednesday after its lawsuit revealed that the U.S. government has shared its terrorist watchlist with more than 1,400 private entities, including hospitals and universities.

      The Council on American-Islamic Relations said Congress should look into why the FBI has given such wide access to the list, which CAIR believes is riddled with errors. Broad dissemination of the names makes life more difficult for those who are wrongly included, CAIR says. Many on the list are believed to be Muslim.

      “This is a wholesale profiling of a religious minority community,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. “To share private information of citizens and non-citizens with corporations is illegal and outrageous.”

    • Their Worst Instincts: Alabama Newspaper Calls For the KKK To Ride Again

      Because so much winning, another good ole bigot – alarmingly, a newspaper editor with an actual bully pulpit – has crawled out of his cave to call for the Ku Klux Klan “to night ride again” to hang Democrats and their ilk with, intriguingly, “hemp ropes” to “clean out D.C.” The editorial was written by one Goodloe Sutton, 80, longtime publisher of the Democrat-Reporter in Linden, AL, a small poor town that’s about evenly split between black and white residents. Angered by mysterious forces in power “plotting to raise taxes in Alabama,” Goodsoe wrote the KKK “would be welcome to raid the gated communities in D.C.” When the Montgomery Advertiser, an evidently less crazed Alabama paper, contacted him to question his call, Goodloe doubled down on the batshit gibberish, suggesting, “We’ll get the hemp ropes out, loop them over a tall limb and hang all of them.” He added that, besides, newly freed slaves used to borrow their former masters’ Klan robes to frighten or kill bad people “but so what,” and he’s not “calling for the lynchings of Americans – these are socialist-communists we’re talking about.” Finally, asked if he viewed the KKK as racist and violent, he likened it to the NAACP and offered the defense, “Well, they didn’t kill but a few people.”

    • A Russian bill would ban election observers from traveling to regions outside their own. It’s a very bad idea.

      Russian Duma deputy Mikhail Romanov has announced that the legislative body plans to introduce new limits on election observers under which observers would only be permitted to monitor elections within their own regions. Central Election Commission Deputy Chair Nikolai Bulaev agreed that limiting the observation of regional elections to people who are eligible to vote in a given region would be a good idea. Meduza asked Grigory Melkonyants, the co-chair of the “Golos” (“Voice”) movement, to explain why observers travel to elections in regions outside their own and what dangers the new Duma bill might bring about.

    • ‘Illegal Boondoggle’: US Government Rebuked for Giving 1,400 Private Companies Access to Dubious Terrorism Watchlist

      Denouncing the database as “an illegal boondoggle,” a civil rights organization on Wednesday is calling for a congressional probe after the FBI admitted it lied for years when it insisted federal authorities do not share the so-called terrorist watchlist with private entities.

      In fact, as the Associated Press first reported, the federal government has shared the controversial Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB) with 1,441 private entities including universities, detention facilities, and hospitals.

      The list, created in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, may contain as many as a million names and, according to civil rights groups, the names are placed there on dubious grounds.

    • 2020 Democrat Pete Buttigieg Wins Applause for Making ‘Pack the Courts’ Argument

      At a book event promoting his new memoir in Philadelphia, Buttigieg was asked by an audience member whether he would be open to adding four seats to the nation’s highest court and expanding the size of lower courts to combat the Republican Party’s recent success in assembly a right-wing judiciary branch.

      “Many progressives, myself included, feel like the Supreme Court has been stolen—from the Gorsuch seat that should have been ours to the controversial Kavanaugh confirmation,” the audience member said.

      Buttigieg raised his eyebrows at the question, but said it was unwise to dismiss the proposal, which he called “no more a shattering of norms than what’s already been done to get the judiciary to where it is today.”

    • Remembering Harris Wofford, Who Dreamed of a ‘United States of the World’

      “Count no man happy until he dies,” declared Sophocles 24 long centuries ago, in the immortal final line of Oedipus Rex. The sages of ancient Greece understood that the purpose, the meaning, the verdict on a life couldn’t be rendered until after it had run its course — and perhaps not until decades or centuries later.

      The obituaries in The New York Times and The Washington Post for Harris Wofford Jr., who died on January 21 at 92, focused mostly on his work as an aide to candidate and President John F. Kennedy, and then later as a U.S. senator from Pennsylvania. But it may turn out, in the very long run, that his greatest legacy was what Harris told me was “his first love in the world of ideas,” and the first great cause of his life.

      Because in 1942, during the darkest days of the Second World War, teenage Harris Wofford founded a nationwide youth movement which proclaimed that after the end of that war the human race could abolish war, by creating a “United States of the World.”

    • Listen to Tucker Carlson Flip Out After Being Exposed by Dutch Historian

      If you’re still unfamiliar with Rutger Bregman, you likely won’t be for long. Last month, the Dutch historian went instantly viral after imploring the world’s financial elite to pay their fair share in taxes during a panel discussion at Davos. “We can’t talk for a very long time about all these stupid philanthropy schemes,” he said at the time. “But come on, we’ve got to be talking about taxes. That’s it, taxes, taxes, taxes. All the rest is bullshit in my opinion.”

      The screed earned him an invitation to “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” but his segment with the eponymous Fox News host and darling of the alt-right never aired. Now we know why. In new audio released by Now This, Carlson can be heard telling his guest that he has a “tiny brain” and that he should go “fuck himself”—this for pointing out that the television personality is, in Bregman’s words, “a millionaire funded by billionaires.”

      “I hope this gets picked up because you’re a moron,” Carlson bleats. “I tried to give you a hearing, but you were too fucking annoying. …”

      The interview begins innocently enough. Carlson tips his proverbial cap to Bregman for challenging the audience at Davos, chuckling at the hypocrisy of those who feign concern about climate change and economic inequality while flying private jets and hiding their money in offshore accounts. But the mood quickly changes when Bregman prods the television host about his network’s willingness to scapegoat immigrants and people of color.

      “I’m glad you’re finally raising the issue,” he says, “but that’s what’s been happening for the last couple of years.”

    • Interview Tucker Carlson Doesn’t Want You To See Shows ‘How Angry Elites Get’ When Their Corruption Is Challenged

      Weeks after footage of him slamming the rich at the World Economic Summit at Davos became one of the most watched online videos of the past year, Dutch historian Rutger Bregman joined Tucker Carlson for a discussion on the subject, only to have the right-wing Fox News host lose his cool in epic fashion when called out for being a “millionaire who works for billionaires,” yelled obscenities at his guest, and pulled the plug on the interview.

      Carlson evidently expected a friendly discussion of Bregman’s viral Davos appearance—where the historian had told attendees, “Come on, we’ve got to be talking about taxes…All the rest is bullshit in my opinion.”—but it did not go as planned.

      Instead, Carlson became incensed when the historian repeated his “tax the rich” message and began yelling at Bregman. While Carlson and Fox killed the interview, Bregman explained that he decided to share the footage “because I think we should keep talking about the corrupting influence of money in politics. It also shows how angry elites can get if you do that.”

    • Taking the “User” out of Design

      As a designer, I’ve never been totally comfortable with referring to people as “users”. I find the term unethical as it minimizes the idea that people have any individuality or sense of agency, and I believe the term is obsolete as it is rooted in a past when the connection between a person using a computer and the computer itself was clear, which is no longer the case in the modern age.

      Labelling people as “users” is inherently dehumanizing and reductive, it denies that people have complexity and instead reduces them to a group of quasi-automatons whose only purpose is to “use” the product in front of them, as if the utilization the product is the ultimate goal. It makes us lazy as designers and we fall into the habit of seeing people as only consumers of a product—as endpoints of interaction—and we must force ourselves into seeing the context and circumstances of people’s lives as well.

    • New details emerge on reported torture of Jehovah’s Witnesses

      Following mass searches and arrests near the Siberian city of Surgut earlier this month, several Jehovah’s Witnesses being held in the city said they had been tortured by law enforcement officers. On February 20, seven adherents of the religious group, which is banned in Russia, reported that officers caused them prolonged pain in an effort to discover where the group met and who attended meetings as well as the identities of local elders.

    • Mitchel Cohen Takes on Global and Local Goliaths: Profile of a Lifelong Multi-Movement Organizer

      If there are leaders who stand out in a disciplined crowd or an unruly mob, there also those who are led, sometimes in a sheep-like way, until they bolt for The Dark Side, whether it’s outright Fascist or Trump Republican. Sad to say, the American Left is littered with radicals who became anti-communists, Cold Warriors, armchair liberals and cynical Yuppies, though strikers, sit-in protesters and street fighting men and women also remain true to youthful ideals.

      There are also individuals – “citizens” French revolutionaries would say—who fall somewhere between charismatic leaders and those who follow them. They aren’t flamboyant figures like Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda, but they’re not anonymous, either. No movement can do without their labor, energy, doggedness and loyalty.

      Mitchel Cohen’s real life experiences lend themselves to a film about a “rank-and-file” fighter for social and economic justice, though Cohen himself would not encourage a documentary that would depict his active participation in five decades of protesting.

      He’s currently the coordinator for the “No Spray Coalition” in New York City that aims to keep corporate manufactured poison away from people and people away from poison. Not long ago, he sued the authorities in New York to stop the “indiscriminate spraying of toxic pesticides.”

    • The Government Cannot Force E-mail Companies to Copy and Save Your Account ‘Just in Case’

      Police are issuing warrantless preservation demands to force email providers to seize users’ private communications.
      Paper letters have a final resting stop — whomever they are addressed to. From a practical standpoint, and a legal one, that feature of regular mail made understanding and applying privacy protections relatively straightforward. But as our communication technologies have changed, courts have struggled to grant a similar degree of privacy protection to communications in the modern era.

      Digital communications present new problems. For example, your email does not live in your letterbox but in an online repository operated by a private company. And as digital communications like email and social media become more ubiquitous in society, investigators increasingly rely on them as important sources of evidence.

      Making sure that email gets proper Fourth Amendment protection is one of the ACLU’s priorities. So on Tuesday, we filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that calls attention to a little-known statute that appears to be giving law enforcement an unconstitutional loophole to exploit in its pursuit of digital evidence. The case involves the warrantless use of law enforcement preservation demands to force email providers to copy and keep an individual’s private communications for up to half a year — without ever asking a judge or meeting a standard of suspicion.

    • Another California Court Rules Against Law Enforcement Secrecy, Says Agencies Must Release Old Misconduct Files

      If an appeals court doesn’t step in within the next few days, California law enforcement agencies will have to start handing out police misconduct records to records requesters.

      Since the new transparency law went into effect at the beginning of this year, California police unions have been rushing to stop it from having any meaningful effect. The unions are hoping courts will side with their take on the law — a take that allows law enforcement agencies to memory-hole misconduct and use of force files predating the law’s effective date.

      The author of the law, Senator Nancy Skinner, made it clear the new law applies retroactively. The state attorney general, Xavier Becerra, chose to ignore the clarification sent directly to his office by the Senator, and claimed the issue of retroactivity was still open.

      The issue isn’t as open as Becerra and a few dozen police unions think it is. One court has already said the law should apply retroactively, lifting its temporary injunction pending an appeal. Now another court has sided with the public and greater accountability, stating that the new law can reach old misconduct files.

    • Coast Guard Lieutenant Compiled Hit List of Lawmakers, Feds Say

      A Coast Guard lieutenant who was arrested last week is a “domestic terrorist” who drafted an email discussing biological attacks and had what appeared to be a hit list that included prominent Democrats and media figures, prosecutors said in court papers.

    • The Triumphant Homecoming of Angela Davis

      “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” Martin Luther King Jr. wrote in his Letter From Birmingham Jail on April 16, 1963. King was arrested there for his role in organizing nonviolent protests against segregation, which were being led by the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth. “Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States,” King also wrote in that famous letter. Civil-rights campaigners were so frequently targeted with bombs by the Ku Klux Klan that the city was often called “Bombingham.” Five months after King’s letter, one of those bombs went off at Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church, killing four little girls. Today, across the street from that church sits the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI), which for more than a quarter century has educated and inspired millions of visitors.

      Last October, the BCRI announced it would bestow its 2018 Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award on Angela Y. Davis, the legendary civil-rights activist, prison abolition advocate and scholar. Angela Davis is a Birmingham native, and grew up amidst segregation. Her neighborhood suffered so many Klan bombings that it was nicknamed “Dynamite Hill.” The daughter of civil-rights activists, she went on to become a prominent member of the Communist Party USA and a leader in the Black Panther Party. As a result, like so many activists in that era (MLK included), she was targeted by the FBI. She was charged as a conspirator in the shooting death of a judge. She faced three death sentences in a trial that became an international cause celebre. She was ultimately acquitted of all the charges.

      The BCRI’s decision to honor Angela Davis made perfect sense. She has gained renown for her tireless work on behalf of prisoners and to abolish the U.S. prison-industrial complex. Integral to her life’s work, she has long expressed unflinching support for the rights of Palestinian people. In a recently published collection of essays and speeches titled “Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement,” she writes, reflecting on the life of Nelson Mandela and the successful campaign to eliminate South African apartheid, “We are now confronted with the task of assisting our sisters and brothers in Palestine as they battle against Israeli apartheid.”

    • After massive Moscow fight, FSB detains Muslim blogger for terrorism under strange circumstances

      Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) has accused the blogger Alibek Mirzekhanov of participating in terrorism after Mirzekhanov was arrested following an enormous fight in the Moscow café Neolit. The FSB claims Mirzekhanov recruited fighters for the ongoing war in Syria. He was charged under two different statutes: one that regulates participation in terrorist organizations and can carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years along with a statute that penalizes the recruitment of terrorists and carries a sentence of up to 15 years.

      Mirzekhanov is from Dagestan, a Russian republic in the Northern Caucasus. His Instagram account has approximately 120,000 followers. There, he posts videos that focus primarily on Muslim traditions, verses from the Koran, and instructions for Muslim believers. Mirzekhanov also provides paid lessons to subscribers in which he gives lectures on topics such as “how to defend your children from the evil eye and djins” or “how to spot a wizard.”

    • Report: In 2018, Hate Groups Are More Popular Than Ever

      In 2018, 11 people were killed at a synagogue. Two in a Kroger supermarket. Others at a yoga studio. And that was just one week in a year where extremist violence was at its highest in decades.

      This year, the number of active hate groups rose for the fourth year in a row, to 1,020 according to a new report from The Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that tracks extremism in the United States. Hate crime murders, at least 40 in 2018, according to the SPLC, have more than doubled since 2017.

      As Liam Stack writes in The New York Times’ coverage of the SPLC report, “That broadly echoes other worrying developments, including a 30 percent increase in the number of hate crimes reported to the F.B.I. from 2015 through 2017.”

    • As Hate Crimes Soar Under Trump, White Nationalist Allegedly Had Plan to Kill ‘Innocent Civilians on Scale Rarely Seen’ in US

      Just as a new report was released showing the continued rise of hate groups in the United States, federal authorities say they have thwarted a plan by a white nationalist “domestic terrorist” to begin widespread, violent attacks on President Donald Trump’s perceived political opponents with the aim of establishing “a white homeland.”

      U.S. Coast Guard Lieutenant Christopher Paul Hasson was arrested late last week, the Washington Post reported Wednesday, after investigators accused him of stockpiling weapons to carry out his plans. Hasson had compiled a long list of targets including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), MSNBC anchor Joe Scarborough, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) as well as other politicians and journalists.

      In court documents, the U.S. government wrote, “The defendant intends to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country.”

    • Are You Black, White or Human?

      And so I introduce you to Lowell Thompson, artist — indeed, psycho-realist, as he calls himself — recovering ad man and “colored person.” He’s also, you might say, the king of irreverence and political incorrectness, but this is only because he’s also a dragon slayer. The dragon is racism. There’s no way to engage with race politely, but there’s a way to yank the seriousness out of it.

      What race are you? What color are you? Race is the American divide, a border wall deeper and more profound than the one Donald Trump wants to build. Cultures merge and evolve, but race — “color” — remains impenetrable, a line more fundamental, it would appear, than humanity itself.

    • Ending the Punishment of Poverty: Supreme Court Rules Against High Fines & Civil Asset Forfeiture

      In a major victory for civil liberties advocates, the Supreme Court has unanimously ruled to limit the practice of civil asset forfeiture—a controversial practice where police seize property that belongs to people suspected of crimes, even if they are never convicted. On Wednesday, the court ruled the Eighth Amendment protects people from state and local authorities imposing onerous fines, fees and forfeitures to generate money. The case centered on an Indiana man named Tyson Timbs, whose Land Rover was seized when he was arrested for selling drugs. The vehicle was worth $42,000—more than four times the $10,000 maximum fine Timbs could receive for his drug conviction under state law. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Timbs’s favor. Writing on behalf of the justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, “The historical and logical case for concluding that the 14th Amendment incorporates the Excessive Fines Clause is overwhelming.” We speak with Lisa Foster, co-director of the Fines and Fees Justice Center. Her organization filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court case. Foster is a retired California judge. She served in the Justice Department during the Obama administration and led the department’s efforts to address excessive fines and fees.

    • Progressives Should Support Open Borders—With No Apology

      When President Donald Trump claimed in his State of the Union Address that “wealthy politicians and donors push for open borders, while living their lives behind walls and gates and guards,” it was his latest of countless efforts to accuse Democrats and liberals of being “soft” on migration.

      Like the entirety of Trump’s speech, this claim was misleading and outright false on many levels.

      The notion, for example, that “liberal elites” support open borders while a billionaire president defends the working class from the migrant “threat” is outrageous. Among the many problems with the argument is that it ignores — or rather, intentionally obscures — the fact that the U.S. working class itself is composed in significant part by millions of migrants.

      Far from immigrants being outsiders who endanger the working class of this country, they are part of its fabric — far more so than Donald Trump, who was born wealthy, ever was.

      But Trump’s main argument, that there are those on the liberal end of Washington’s political class who advocate for free migration across borders, is simply a lie.

    • New penalties for crime bosses receive unanimous approval in first Duma vote

      A new bill introduced by Russian President Vladimir Putin to the country’s State Duma has passed its first reading and been accepted for consideration with a vote of 406 – 0. The bill would officially criminalize holding a high rank in the hierarchy of a criminal organization, an act that currently merits no special punishment in Russian criminal law.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality
    • Putin explains why Russia ‘needs’ Internet-isolation legislation

      Vladimir Putin said on February 20 that Russia must defend itself against the threat of foreign powers trying to disable the country’s access to the global Internet. In effect, the president endorsed legislation now working its way through parliament that would authorize the state to control the exchange points connecting Russia’s Internet resources to the outside world’s. On February 12, the State Duma adopted the first reading of this “Internet-isolation” bill.

    • The Public Deserves a Return to the 2015 Open Internet Order

      Congress is actively debating how to fix the FCC’s repeal of the net neutrality rules. But the first bills offered (H.R. 1101 (Walden), H.R. 1006 (Latta), and H.R. 1096 (McMorris Rodgers) focus narrowly on the “bright line” rules of no blocking, no throttling, and no paid prioritization. A major problem with this approach is that the public supported the 2015 Open Internet Order and a huge array of parties (with the exception of basically just AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon) supported Title II reclassification because of what else was protected. Privacy, competition, and public safety are all worse off when all you do is ban three basic tactics.

      Restoring the entirety of the 2015 Open Internet Order means protecting the vital components to keeping the Internet a free and open platform. If Congress decides to act, it should not shortchange the American public. Unfortunately, that appears to be where the House of Representatives is heading right now.

    • Industry Claims That Cord Cutting Would Be A Fad Aren’t Looking So Hot

      Remember when the cable industry used to pretend that cord cutting wasn’t real? Or perhaps you remember that once the industry was actually willing to admit it was a real trend, they’d claim it was only something being done by losers living in their parents’ basement? Or perhaps you’ll remember the cable and broadcast industry claims that cord cutting was just a temporary phenomenon that would go away once the housing markets stabilized and Millennials started procreating? Or how companies like ESPN routinely claimed that warnings about the trend were an unimportant fiction that should be ignored?

      Good times.

      While there are still a few sector analysts and executives here and there who’ll bizarrely try to downplay one of the biggest trends in TV industry history, the numbers keep making it harder and harder to keep ones’ head buried a foot below ground. Last year, for example, once again saw one of the highest defection rates of traditional TV subscribers in recent memory.

  • Intellectual Monopolies
    • PTAB cancels 16 of 17 claims for widely asserted Smart Authentication (Dominion Harbor) patent

      On February 20, 2019, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) issued a final written decision in Unified Patents Inc. v. Smart Authentication IP, LLC, IPR2017-02047 invalidating claims 1-10 and 12-17 of U.S. Patent 8,082,213 owned and asserted by Smart Authentication IP, LLC, a Dominion Harbor subsidiary and a well-known NPE. The ’213 patent, directed to a user authentication system, has been asserted in multiple litigations against such companies as MongoDB, Slack Technologies, Evernote, Etsy, Discover and USAA.

    • Patently absurd: did you know Qualcomm charges a 5% wireless patent royalty on iPhone repairs?

      Qualcomm wants a 5% patent royalty (with a $400 cap for the royalty base) on smartphones. 3.25% of that relates to standard-essential patents, though I haven’t seen Qualcomm successfully enforce even one of those SEPs in all those years. The related dollar amount will be illusory the moment its wireless SEPs must be licensed at the chipset level. Another 1.75% relates to non-standard-essential patents, and after almost two years of non-SEP infringement litigaton against Apple, Qualcomm has no real leverage. News cycles aren’t leverage.

      So there’s a problem with what they charge, but until I read this pretrial brief, I was unaware of there being another problem with the wide net they cast when actually collecting their royalties.

      Apple and its contract manufacturers complain that when Qualcomm performs audits, it insists on getting its 5% on whatever Apple pays to a company like Foxconn: not only the device, but also any services, including repairs. I’ll use Foxconn as the example here because I’ve been able to find articles on its iPhone repair capacity. Quite often, devices are repaired right at an Apple Store (such as an iPhone 7 Plus I took there a few months ago to get a new screen and battery). In that case, Qualcomm probably can’t charge patent royalties because it doesn’t have a direct agreement with Apple. But some devices are sent to China to be repaired there at a lower cost. And in that case, Qualcomm collects 5% of whatever a company like Foxconn charges Apple (click on the image to enlarge; this post continues below the image with the related text passage and further commentary)

    • Britannia Rules on SEPs – But is it FRAND?

      As the debate continues as to whether the UK courts have taken command of global FRAND determinations or whether it is all storm in a teacup, Michael Burdon (Simmons & Simmons) has some critical analysis to share as to the role of the English courts in FRAND determinations in the absence of a dispute resolution mechanisms in SSOs and what that means moving forward. Over to Michael:

      The English High Court has established itself as one of, if not, the leading forum for resolving international FRAND licensing disputes. All a standard essential patent (SEP) owner needs is a UK SEP and an implementer which operates in the UK and they can force the implementer into taking a global portfolio licence with FRAND terms set by the UK court. The Court probably doesn’t see it this way, jurisprudentially, but that it is how it is working out in practice. In two recent decisions (“Unwired Planet” and “Conversant”) (Unwired Planet v Huawei [2018] EWCA Civ 2344, IPKat post here; Huawei v Conversant [2019] EWCA Civ 38, IPKat post here), the English Court of Appeal has endorsed this practice.

    • High Court Scrutinizing Gov’t Use Of AIA Reviews

      On Feb. 19, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in Return Mail Inc. v. U.S. Postal Service. The question before the court was whether the government is a “person”…

    • Trademarks
      • The Latest In Trademark Abuse Is Registering Marks To Obtain Ownership Of Instagram Accounts

        When one thinks about an Instagram account being taken over by a malicious actor, one usually imagines some kind of hack or social engineering resulting in the theft of an account password. The refrain “It wasn’t me, I was hacked!” that you hear from some whose social media profiles are the subject of social scrutiny relies on this impression.

        But there are many different ways to hack a cat. The latest in Instagram account takeovers appears to be done through the avenue of trademark law, interestingly enough. Motherboard has a fascinating write-up detailing an entire ecosystem of malicious actors who are abusing trademarks to convince Instagram to hand over access to accounts.

      • Justices focus on quality control in SCOTUS case on TM licensing

        The US Supreme Court heard arguments in a trademark case on Wednesday with the justices focusing on the statutory issue of Congressional intent and the practical issue of quality control in licensing

        On February 20, the court heard arguments in Mission Product Holdings v Tempnology. The transcript is available here.

      • Cancelling a TM License via Bankruptcy

        This week the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Mission Product Holdings v. Tempnology. The setup for the case involves a trademark licensor who filed for bankruptcy. The basic question is whether that license is an executory contract that can be rejected by the bankruptcy trustee. And, if it is rejected, does the licensee retain any rights to use the mark — is the rejection equivalent to termination of the license?

        11 U.S.C. § 365, indicates plainly that “the [bankruptcy] trustee, subject to the court’s approval, may assume or reject any executory contract or unexpired lease of the debtor.” In the 1985 Lubrizol decision, the 4th Circuit held that a “technology license” fit within § 365 and thus could be rejected by the Trustee — leaving a former licensee with no right to continued use of the technology. Congress then legislatively overruled Lubrizol — effectively allowing “intellectual property” licensees to retain license rights even after a rejection by the trustee. The problem for trademark holders is that the statute specifically defines “intellectual property” to include patents, copyrights, and trade secrets — but not trademarks. 11 U.S.C. § 101. Without the express protection of § 365(n), the trademark licensee has to fall-back on more basic licensing principles and the meaning of “rejection” under the Bankruptcy Code.

    • Copyrights
      • Facebook found liable for hosting links to unlicensed content

        For the first time under Italian law a platform (Facebook) has been found liable for hosting third-party links to unlicensed content.

        The decision was issued by the Rome Court of First Instance a few days ago: it is Tribunale di Roma, sentenza 3512/2019.

        The judgment is both interesting and important, also considering the YouTube referral (C-682/18) currently pending before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) [Katpost here].

        Let’s see more in detail what happened and how the Rome court reasoned.

      • One Person’s Unsettling Experience With A $20k Higbee Copyright Troll Demand Letter

        One of my favorite fandoms of all time is The X-Files. As a kid, I wanted to grow up to be as dreamy and mysterious as Fox Mulder himself. Of course I now have a lifelong affection for conspiracy theories, cerebral redheads, and aliens. I just finished writing a science fiction novel that features all three elements.

        Back when dial-up modems were a thing, I loved The X-Files so much I used to list my physical address on social media as Fox Mulder’s fictional apartment in The X-Files: 2360 Hegal Place Apt #42 in Alexandria, VA 23242. To this day, my physical address on Facebook is listed as Mulder’s address—something I do intentionally to confuse Facebook’s greedy algorithm. (This will all become relevant later.)

        I never expected that the show which brought me so much happiness in my youth would become responsible for grief and terror at age thirty-four.

        In 2016, Fox released The X-Files season 10 and broke my heart with its retconning of the series’ central mystery. I wrote a fraught review about it on my personal blog, as I am wont to do whenever a fandom lets me down. Writing stuffy, literary critiques of pop culture on my blog, usually about science fiction movies or TV shows (e.g., “A Feminist Reading of Grindhouse” or “Mr. Robot is Cyberpunk for the Masses”), is about the only hobby I have time for outside of freelancing.

        In both my web design work and scifi review-writing hobby, I’m rather meticulous about my IP research. I always source photography that accompanies my articles via Creative Commons-licensed or license-free photography on Flickr. I even check the “commercial use allowed” option just to be safe. That’s thanks to interesting coursework on intellectual property I took during my Masters in Writing & Publishing from Emerson College. There I learned about the copyleft movement. Larry Lessig is someone I admire. In fact, all of my website’s original content, including my blog posts, are licensed Creative Commons because I believe in its mission. As a web developer I work frequently with open source software. My very own WordPress boilerplate—for which my livelihood depends on as a web developer—is licensed open source.

      • Teen Musician Turns Down $3 Million Record Deal: No Need For A Label Thanks To The Internet

        Just last week we were talking about how many independent artists are embracing the internet to avoid the legacy gatekeepers.

        Meanwhile, bureaucrats and recording industry lobbyists keep insisting that the EU needs Article 13 because the internet is unfair to artists? They’re saying that there’s a “value gap” because of YouTube? Maybe, just maybe, Article 13 has a lot more to do with the fact that the labels are losing relevance. When an artist like Choppa can retain his rights, build a massive audience, and make a ton of money thanks to internet platforms and does not need a label or all the downsides of a label deal, it certainly suggests that the “problem” Article 13 is claiming to solve might not be an actual problem. Indeed, the real “problem” that Article 13 seems to solve is the fact that the labels aren’t needed as much any more. And that’s not actually a problem for anyone who isn’t, you know, a record label.

      • Announcing Plays Well With Others, a new podcast about the Art and Science of Collaboration

        I’m thrilled to share the first episode of our podcast, Plays Well with Others, with our community. It’s about the art, science, and mechanics of collaboration.

        Ask yourself: How often have you walked into a room where you were about to work with colleagues, friends, or even strangers, and thought, “I’m going to focus on being a great collaborator today”? We spend so much time on leadership, and hardly any time on helping each other do great work together.

        We hope to change that, in our own small way, with Plays Well with Others.

        I couldn’t be more excited about this project — I’ve always wanted to produce radio journalism. I love interviewing people and helping them tell the best version of their stories. And it’s been a joy to work with my colleague and collaborator Eric Steuer on the podcast’s design and development. I’ve loved the opportunity to do creative work, and to work directly on something like this that is close to my heart, and that I feel is really good. We’re incredibly proud of how it’s turned out, and we hope you’ll enjoy it and learn something along the way.

      • One Of The People Suing Fortnite Over ‘Stolen’ Dance Steps Gets His Dance Rejected By The US Copyright Office

        A handful of semi-famous people rang in the New Year by bringing copyright infringement lawsuits against online gaming juggernaut, Fortnite. The plaintiffs all accused Fortnite’s developers of swiping their dances to use as sellable “emotes” for players’ avatars.

        There were several problems with these lawsuits, not the least of which were the claims Fortnite infringed on uncopyrightable dance steps. While the copyright office is willing to extend protection to choreographed dances with sufficiently complex steps, the dances at the center of these lawsuits hardly met the bar for protected creativity.

        That leads to one of the other problems: while statutory damages were threatened in the lawsuits, none of the plaintiffs appeared to have secured copyright protection for their dance steps before filing their lawsuits. The one filed by Alfonso Ribeiro — targeting Fortnite’s use of the “Carlton Dance” — mentioned he had filed a registration for his dance but hadn’t actually been granted any protection yet.

Links 20/2/2019: digiKam 6.0.0, Cockpit 188, Mesa 19.0 RC5

Wednesday 20th of February 2019 11:57:34 PM

Contents GNU/Linux
  • Desktop
  • Server
    • Open Outlook: Middleware (part 1)

      Middleware, both as a term and as a concept, has been around for decades. As a term, like other terms in the Darwinian world of IT jargon, it has followed a typical fashion lifecycle and is perhaps somewhat past its apogee of vogue. As a concept, however, middleware is more relevant than ever, and while a memetic new label hasn’t quite displaced the traditional term, the capabilities themselves are still very much at the heart of enterprise application development.

      Middleware is about making both developers and operators more productive. Analogous to standardized, widely-used, proven subassemblies in the manufacture of physical goods such as cars, middleware relieves developers from “reinventing the wheel” so that they can compose and innovate at higher levels of abstraction. For the staff responsible for operating applications in production, at scale, with high reliability and performance, the more such applications use standardized middleware components and services, the more efficient and reliable the running of the application can be.

    • Implementing Dstat with Performance Co-Pilot

      Dstat is a beloved tool by many, and a staple when diagnosing system performance issues. However, the original dstat is no longer actively developed. This poses an immediate problem for distributions like Fedora moving to a Python 3 stack, as it lacks a Python 3 implementation (both the tool itself, and its many plugins). It is also problematic in that the plugin system was relatively simplistic and in need of a significant redesign and rewrite to add new desired features.

    • Re-Imagining Virtualization with Kubernetes and KubeVirt – Part II

      KubeVirt exposes a VirtualMachine entity in Kubernetes. This entity is persistent and defines the configuration of a virtual machine. This allows one to create, edit, start, stop, and start again a virtual machine (which one cannot do with a Kubernetes Pod). When the virtual machine is started, a VirtualMachineInstance is created, manifesting in Pod and Container in which the virtual machine runs.

      The VirtualMachine entity allows one to define virtual machines “the way you would expect it” from a virtualization expert’s perspective. You can name them, describe the virtual hardware devices, define multiple disks and networks.

      Expect to find your regular virtualization features here: CPU, memory, NUMA, CPU pinning, hugepages, CPU model selection, virtio-rng, memory overcommit, custom SMBIOS, cloud-init, boot order, serial console, graphical (VNC) console, custom PCI addresses for virtio devices, I/O threads, guest agent integration, and more being worked on.

    • Why agile integration is key for open banking

      Many banks are striving to be more agile in their operations, their business practices, and even in their ability to innovate to deliver new products and services. With greater agility, banks can better meet the demands of today’s digital-savvy customers and excel in an increasingly competitive market. Initiatives like open banking can help facilitate that agility.

      Open banking uses open application programming interfaces (APIs) for third party developers, gives users greater transparency, and provides a model for the use of open source to build out solutions. We think that agile integration – bringing together containers, distributed integration, and APIs – is the best path to deliver open banking.

    • OpenShift 4: A NoOps Platform

      In the previous post I described the goals that helped shape the OpenShift 4 vision. We want to make the day to day of software operations effortless – for operations teams and for developers. How do we make that goal – a NoOps platform for operations – a reality? What does “NoOps” mean in this context?

      At a ten thousand foot level, “Serverless” or “NoOps” for developers is characterized by tools and services that hide or minimize the operational burden from the developer.

      [...]

      That is why I am happy to announce the Developer Preview of OpenShift 4 is now available for public trial. This is a sneak peek of the next version of OpenShift, with an easy to use installer for starting a cluster on AWS on top of Red Hat CoreOS. The preview requires only credentials to an AWS account to provision infrastructure and a set of credentials to access the images for the preview.

    • The Linux Foundation Announces the 2019 Open Networking Summit North America Speaking Schedule

      The Linux Foundation, the nonprofit organization enabling mass innovation through open source, has announced the keynote speakers and session line-up for Open Networking Summit North America (ONS), taking place April 3-5 in San Jose, Calif.

      The full lineup of sessions can be viewed here, and features speakers from AT&T, China Mobile, Ericsson, Google, Huawei, Intel, KPMG, Nokia, Red Hat, Target, and more.

      “The Open Networking Summit is a chance to bring together the entire open networking community – from telco providers to cloud providers – to share best practices and discuss how we can work together to advance networking technology,” said Arpit Joshipura, General Manager, Networking, Edge & IoT, the Linux Foundation. “Gathering the industry’s foremost innovators and technologists, ONS is a must-attend event for collaboration and knowledge sharing.”

    • 6 Must-Attend Talks at Cloud Foundry Summit on Serverless, Knative, Microservices

      That’s a lot of technical content, so make sure to also get your ideal ratio of business impact content and check out the User Stories track.

    • Cockpit 188

      Cockpit is the modern Linux admin interface. We release regularly. Here are the release notes from version 188.

    • Good news: Business automation is not about SOA

      This is not an article about service-oriented architecture (SOA); neither is it a business process management (BPM) article. This article is about how business automation can change the way you create software.

      At a first, developers and architects tend to associate the use of BPM suites (or business-oriented architecture) with SOA. This behavior immediately leads to an incorrect bias about the subject.

      C-suite executives understand: Transform—or be suppressed by new, disruptive, technology-driven startups. In 2019, business automation is a key transformation that executives will seek in order to improve business performance and lower costs. However, some technology teams are not very open to it. Why?

    • Is Kubernetes Serverless?

      If you take a look at where the IT industry is going, you will start to see a trend: a layer of complexity added to the relationship between applications and infrastructure. No longer can you draw a straight line from the application to the machine it runs on. Developers have been trying to get away from having to manage infrastructure for years. It’s no fun having to provision, manage, and patch a multitude of disparate servers, new and old.

      As a result, that layer of abstraction between the application and the underlying infrastructure has led to the invention of a number of technologies, one of them being Kubernetes. Not only can we ensure our application is going to run on a consistent Docker container image, no matter what environment, but we don’t have to manage the containers and keep track of where and how many are running at all times.

  • Audiocasts/Shows
  • Kernel Space
    • Linux 4.20.11

      I’m announcing the release of the 4.20.11 kernel.

      All users of the 4.20 kernel series must upgrade.

      The updated 4.20.y git tree can be found at:
      git://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/linux/kernel/git/stable/linux-stable.git linux-4.20.y
      and can be browsed at the normal kernel.org git web browser:

      http://git.kernel.org/?p=linux/kernel/git/stable/linux-st…

    • Linux 4.19.24
    • Linux 4.14.102
    • Linux 4.9.159
    • Linux 4.4.175
    • Linux 3.18.135
    • Intel Preparing The Linux Kernel For Cascade Lake AP Multi-Die Support

      Intel developers have begun posting their Linux kernel patches for enabling multi-die/package topology support to the Linux kernel as part of their Cascade Lake AP upbringing.

      Cascade Lake “Advanced Performance” is a multi-chip package of multiple Cascade Lake dies, expected to be up to 48 cores / 96 threads per package and twelve DDR4 memory channels. Cascade Lake SP and Cascade Lake X Linux support already has been in order — or at least appears to be based upon previous commit activity — while Cascade Lake AP is taking some additional work due to the new multi-die design. Cascade Lake dies are connected via Ultra Path Interconnect (UPI) links.

    • Linux Seeing Support For The HyperBus

      The Linux kernel is in the process of receiving support for the HyperBus, a high performance DDR bus interface used for connecting the processor/controller/ASIC to “HyperFlash” flash memory or “HyperRAM” DRAM.

      HyperBus is a specification by Cypress Semiconductor for high-speed, low-pin-count memory products primarily for industrial/IoT/automotive products for connecting controls to memory and other peripherals in as little as 12 pins. HyperBus is designed to have 70% less pins and up to 77% smaller footprint than competing solutions.

    • Linux Foundation
      • The Future of Artificial Intelligence at Scale

        For this week’s episode of the The New Stack Analysts podcast, TNS editorial director Libby Clark and TNS London correspondent Jennifer Riggins sat down (via Zoom) with futurist Martin Ford, author of “Architects of Intelligence: The truth about AI from the people building it,” and Ofer Hermoni, chair of the technical advisory council for The Linux Foundation’s Deep Learning Foundation projects, to talk about the current state of AI, how it will scale, and its consequences.

    • Graphics Stack
      • Wayland 1.17 & Weston 6.0 Reach Alpha, Officially Releasing Next Month

        Out today are the first alpha releases for Wayland 1.17 and the Weston 6.0 reference compositor. This alpha release is about two weeks behind schedule but the developers have updated their plans to now ship the beta releases on 5 March, release candidates begin on 12 March, and potentially releasing the stable versions of Wayland 1.17.0 and Weston 6.0.0 on 19 March.

        The Wayland 1.17 Alpha release adds to the protocol support for expressing an internal server error message as well as an updated wl_seat protocol. There are also memory leak fixes for the Wayland scanner and various test updates. Details on the 1.17 alpha via wayland-devel.

        Also out today is the Weston 6.0 Alpha. On the Weston compositor front they have shifted to using the Meson build system while deprecating Autotools, XDG-Shell stable support, FreeRDP 2.0 updates, IVI shell improvements, and many other changes.

      • RadeonSI Gets NIR Improvements, Enabled By Default For Civilization VI

        The RadeonSI NIR back-end as an alternative to its longstanding TGSI usage continues to be improved upon as a prerequisite for supporting OpenGL 4.6 with SPIR-V ingestion. A fresh batch of RadeonSI NIR work was merged today, including to enable it by default for one Linux game.

        Several developers landed the latest NIR code into Mesa 19.1 Git on Monday, including Marek Olšák who added a radeonsi_enable_nir option to DriConf for allowing the NIR usage to be flipped on a per-game/per-executable basis. Up to now users had to manually set R600_DEBUG=nir (or now, AMD_DEBUG=nir as the other syntax now supported in recent days with Mesa 19.1). But now with this DriConf option, it can “whitelist” games as needed.

      • mesa 19.0.0-rc5

        Hi List,

        Hot off the press is mesa 19.0-rc5. Due to a number of still opened bugs in the
        release tracker this will not be the final release, and I predict at least one
        more release candidate before the final release happens.

        Just an FYI, I will not be working Thursday or Friday this week, so if I don’t
        respond to nominations after tommorrow don’t be surprised

        Anyway, in the rc5 release we have a little bit of everything, but not too much
        of any one thing:

        – nir
        – radv
        – v3d
        – intel
        – swr
        – anv
        – spirv
        – meson
        – radeonsi

        Dylan

      • Mesa 19.0-RC5 Released As The Cycle Drags Into Overtime

        Mesa 19.0-RC5 was issued a short time ago as the latest release candidate for Mesa 19.0. Due to blocker bugs remaining, at least one more release candidate is likely next week before seeing the official release.

        The 19.0 bug tracker still shows more than a half dozen bugs blocking the release. These blocker bugs range from 1~2% performance regressions in Unigine benchmarks with Skylake graphics to other random performance regressions and also some test case failures on the Intel side.

      • AMD Hiring Ten More People For Their Open-Source/Linux Driver Team

        If you are passionate about Linux/open-source and experienced with the 3D graphics programming and/or compute shaders, AMD is looking to expand their open-source/Linux driver team by about ten people.

        AMD is in the process of ramping up their AMD Linux open-source team to work on their Linux kernel contributions, Mesa (OpenGL) driver, Mesa multimedia stack, LLVM compiler back-end, and around Linux containers.

        This is quite exciting as it’s the single largest effort we’ve heard from AMD to expand their Linux graphics team; normally from time to time we see job postings looking for just a candidate or two at a time.

      • TuxClocker: Another GPU Overclocking GUI For Linux

        Adding to the list of third-party GPU overclocking utilities for Linux is TuxClocker, a Qt5-based user-interface currently with support for NVIDIA graphics cards and experimental support for AMD GPUs.

        TuxClocker is a Qt5 overclocking tool that supports adjusting not only the memory/core frequencies but also the power limit, fan speed, and other tunables based upon the GPU/driver in use. There is also graph monitors to show the power and temperature limit, where supported, among other features.

        TuxClocker offers similar functionality to other third-party, open-source Linux GPU overclocking software though where as most utilities focus just on NVIDIA or AMD hardware, TuxClocker is pursuing both. Currently their stable release supports just NVIDIA GPUs but the development code has AMD Radeon support in the works.

      • Intel Wires VK_EXT_depth_clip_enable Into Their Vulkan Driver, Helping DXVK

        Intel’s open-source ANV Vulkan driver now supports the VK_EXT_depth_clip_enable that was designed in part to help the DXVK project for mapping Direct3D atop of the Vulkan API.

    • Benchmarks
      • Extensive Benchmarks Looking At AMD Znver1 GCC 9 Performance, EPYC Compiler Tuning

        With the GCC 9 compiler due to be officially released as stable in the next month or two, we’ve been running benchmarks of this near-final state to the GNU Compiler Collection on a diverse range of processors. In recent weeks that has included extensive compiler benchmarks on a dozen x86_64 systems, POWER9 compiler testing on the Talos II, and also the AArch64 compiler performance on recent releases of GCC and LLVM Clang. In this latest installment of our GCC 9 compiler benchmarking is an extensive look at the AMD EPYC Znver1 performance on various releases of the GCC compiler as well as looking at various optimization levels under this new compiler on the Znver1 processor.

  • Applications
  • Desktop Environments/WMs
    • Color profile support for Xfce

      In order to enable people to set up color management I decided to start with the frontend. In theory you can already get a working setup in Xfce by relying on cupsd (for printers), saned (for scanners) and xiccd (for displays) and handling colord through the colormgr commandline tool.

      What we managed at FOSDEM was still pretty rough but I took a few days (read: nights) and polished the dialog so it became more and more user friendly and the final product can be seen in the screenshot above.

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt
      • digiKam 6.0.0 is released

        Dear digiKam fans and users, following the long stage of integrating a lots of work from students during the Summer of Code, and after 2 years of intensive developement, we hare proud to announce the new digiKam 6.0.0.

      • digiKam 6.0.0 released

        The digiKam team has announced the release of digiKam 6.0.0. New features include full support of video files management working as photos; an integration of all import/export web-service tools in LightTable, Image editor, and Showfoto; raw file decoding engine supporting new cameras; similarity data is now stored in a separate file; simplified web-service authentication using OAuth protocol; and more.

      • DigiKam 6.0 Released With Video File Management, New Export/Import Options

        DigiKam 6.0 is now available as the Qt/KDE aligned open-source image organizer and with this new release has full support for video file management too.

        The DigiKam 6.0 release delivers support for video file management in the same manner as photo management, integration of import/export web-service tools in LightTable and Showfoto, expanded RAW image handling for more digital cameras, new tools for exporting to Pinterest / OneDrive / Box, and the ability to re-organize the icon-view contents manually.

      • KDE Plasma 5.15 Desktop Gets First Point Release with over 35 Improvements

        The KDE Plasma 5.15 desktop environment was released last week on February 12th with numerous new features and improvements, including a much-improved Discover package manager, improved integration with third-party technologies and apps like Firefox, refinements to the configuration interfaces, new options for complex network configurations, as well as redesigned icons.

        The KDE Plasma 5.15.1 point release is a maintenance update addressing various issues in an attempt to offer users a more stable and reliable KDE Plasma 5.15 desktop environment. Highlights include restoring of legacy sessions, improvements to the Kickoff applications menu to return to the Favorites page after running a search, improved firmware update in Discover, and better comics support.

      • Plasma 5.15.1 arrives in Cosmic backports PPA

        We are pleased to announce that the 1st bugfix release of Plasma 5.15, 5.15.1, is now available in our backports PPA for Cosmic 18.10.

        The release announcement detailing the new features and improvements in Plasma 5.15 can be found here, while the full 5.15.1 bugfix changelog can be found here.

        Released along with this new version of Plasma is an update to KDE Frameworks 5.54. (5.55 is currently in testing in Disco 19.04 and may follow in the next few weeks.)

      • KDE is adding Matrix to its instant messaging infrastructure

        KDE has been looking for a better way of chatting and live-sharing information for several years now. IRC has been a good solution for a long time, but it has centralized servers KDE cannot control. It is also insecure and lacks features users have come to expect from more modern IM services. Other alternatives, such as Telegram, Slack and Discord, although feature-rich, are centralized and built around closed-source technologies and offer even less control than IRC. This flies in the face of KDE’s principles that require we use and support technologies based on Free software.

        However, our search for a better solution has finally come to an end: as of today we are officially using Matrix for collaboration within KDE! Matrix is an open protocol and network for decentralised communication, backed by an open standard and open source reference implementations for servers, clients, client SDKs, bridges, bots and more. It provides all the features you’d expect from a modern chat system: infinite scrollback, file transfer, typing notifications, read receipts, presence, search, push notifications, stickers, VoIP calling and conferencing, etc. It even provides end-to-end encryption (based on Signal’s double ratchet algorithm) for when you want some privacy.

      • KDE To Support Matrix Decentralized Instant Messaging

        The GNOME project has been working on integration with the Matrix federated real-time communication protocol for a while, which can bridge to other platforms like IRC, WhatsApp, XMPP, and Telegram. KDE is also now backing Matrix and will be supporting it by its instant messaging framework.

        KDE intends to support Matrix as an alternative to IRC for instant messaging. Besides supporting it by their software frameworks, they are now also running their own community-managed instance of Matrix.

      • KDE Adding Matrix to Its Instant Messaging Infrastructure, E3D Launches New 3D Printing Slicer, digiKam Announces Major 6.0.0 Release, Google to Acquire Alooma and KDE Plasma Bugfix Update 5.15.1 Is Out

        KDE announces it’s adding Matrix to its instant messaging infrastructure. Matrix “is an open protocol and network for decentralised communication, backed by an open standard and open source reference implementations for servers, clients, client SDKs, bridges, bots and more. It provides all the features you’d expect from a modern chat system: infinite scrollback, file transfer, typing notifications, read receipts, presence, search, push notifications, stickers, VoIP calling and conferencing, etc. It even provides end-to-end encryption (based on Signal’s double ratchet algorithm) for when you want some privacy.” For more information and how to get started, see the wiki page.

      • Essential System Tools: QDirStat – Excellent Qt-based directory statistics

        This is the latest in our series of articles highlighting essential system tools. These are small, indispensable utilities, useful for system administrators as well as regular users of Linux based systems. The series examines both graphical and text based open source utilities. For this article, we’ll look at QDirStat, a graphical application to show what’s devouring your disk space and help you tidy up the disorder. For details of all tools in this series, please check the table at the summary page of this article.

        QDirStat is a continuation of the KDirStat utility. QDirStat is based on the latest Qt 5, and doesn’t need any KDE libraries or infrastructure.

        If you come from a Windows background you’ve probably tried WinDirStat, a Windows port of KDirStat, the predecessor of QDirStat.

      • DigiKam 6.0 Released with Support for Video Files Management

        DigiKam photo manager released new major version 6.0 recently with many great new feature including video files management support as photo.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK
      • Geary 0.13 Released, Here’s How to Install it on Ubuntu

        A major new release of Geary, the open-source desktop email client for Linux, is available to download.

        Geary 0.13 makes the nimble mail client faster and more stable in day-to-day use. It also improves the process of adding and managing email accounts.

  • Distributions
    • Do Linux distributions still matter with containers?

      Some people say Linux distributions no longer matter with containers. Alternative approaches, like distroless and scratch containers, seem to be all the rage. It appears we are considering and making technology decisions based more on fashion sense and immediate emotional gratification than thinking through the secondary effects of our choices. We should be asking questions like: How will these choices affect maintenance six months down the road? What are the engineering tradeoffs? How does this paradigm shift affect our build systems at scale?

      It’s frustrating to watch. If we forget that engineering is a zero-sum game with measurable tradeoffs—advantages and disadvantages, with costs and benefits of different approaches— we do ourselves a disservice, we do our employers a disservice, and we do our colleagues who will eventually maintain our code a disservice. Finally, we do all of the maintainers (hail the maintainers!) a disservice by not appreciating the work they do.

    • 5 of the Best Linux Distros for Developers and Programmers

      One of the reasons Linux is great is because of how flexible it is. For example, it can run on everything from servers to your old laptop to a Raspberry Pi. For this reason, it’s also a fantastic platform for developers.

      Whether you’re a seasoned developer or just using Linux to learn to program, you still have to choose a distribution. You could just choose Ubuntu and run with it, but there are plenty of “other options available to you.”

    • Reviews
      • Using Clear Linux As A Desktop Linux Distribution – It Works Well But With Some “Papercuts”

        While I am a big fan of Intel’s Clear Linux distribution for its raw performance on x86_64 hardware that for most workloads goes unsurpassed by any other Linux platform out-of-the-box, there has been a lot of Phoronix readers wondering how well it could function as a standard desktop Linux distribution. With upgrading my main production system earlier this month, I decided to try out Clear Linux and now with 200+ hours into using it as the OS on my main production system, I figured it’d be good to share my initial thoughts.

        While we’ve been benchmarking with Clear Linux for years, only over the past year or two have they really beefed up their bundles around the desktop and make it more appealing for desktop use along with support for Flatpaks, supporting the other DRM/Mesa drivers besides just Intel graphics, delivering a great GNOME Shell experience where as originally they defaulted to Xfce, and overall improving the experience for more use-cases. And, yes, it’s even possible to run Steam on Clear Linux.

    • New Releases
      • Kali Linux 2019.1 Security OS Released With An Updated Version Of Metasploit And Wider Support For ARM Devices

        Offensive Security yesterday announced its first release of 2019, Kali Linux 2019.1. This Kali release brings kernel up to version 4.19.13, fixes numerous bugs, and includes many updated packages.

        For those unaware, Kali Linux is one of the best Linux distros for hackers, pen-tester, and security researchers due to the fact that most of the hacking tools that are available online are built-in this Linux Distro.

      • Kali Linux 2019.1 with Metasploit 5.0 available for download

        The first release for 2019 of the Debian-based Linux distro Kali Linux is now available for download. Kali Linux 2019.1 sees the kernel moving up to version 4.19.13, and it also includes Metasploit 5.0.

        Offensive Security’s penetration testing distro is much-loved by the infosec community, and this latest release includes ARM improvements, a range of bug fixes and package updates.

      • Google Makes Revisions to Avoid Breaking Ad-Blocking Extensions in Chrome, Kali Linux 2019.1 Released, New Version of Cutelyst Is Out, Ubuntu Posts Security Notice for systemd Vulnerability and Applications Open for Outreachy Summer 2019 Internships

        Kali Linux 2019.1 was released yesterday. This is the first release of 2019, bringing the kernel to version 4.19.13. This release fixes many bugs and includes several updated packages. The release announcement notes that “the big marquee update of this release is the update of Metasploit to version 5.0, which is their first major release since version 4.0 came out in 2011.” You can download Kali Linux from here.

      • Kali Linux 2019.1 Released

        The favorite Linux distro of Mr. Robot gets the first update of 2019.

        Kali Linux is a distribution that shows up on Mr. Robot quite a bit. It’s one of the best penetration testing and hacking tools out there. Ahead of the next season of Mr. Robot, the Kali Linux project has announced the first release of 2019, to package more tools for both Elliot and his sister Darlene.

        Kali Linux 2019.1, updates the Linux kernel to version 4.19.13, fixes bugs, and includes many updated packages.

        According to the project, “the big marquee update of this release is the update of Metasploit to version 5.0, which is their first major release since version 4.0 came out in 2011.”

      • Download Kali Linux 2019.1 now! – This is the first major update for Kali Linux ever since version 4.0 was released in 2011.

        Metasploit 5.0 is a huge update introducing several new features and improvements in the penetration testing framework for instance: New search engine, New evasion modules, Integrated web services, Support for writing shellcode in C and a new JSON -RPC daemon.

        This is the first major update ever since version 4.0 was released in 2011. To view the full list of changes, updates, fixes, and additions, you can check out the Kali Changelog.

    • PCLinuxOS/Mageia/Mandriva Family
      • Community release: PCLinuxOS LXQt 2019.02 ISO

        First of all, it is the fourth release with LXQt 0.14. As experimental are some locales as default installed. To set the languages use pcc>system>Manage localization for your system.
        Log out/in to display your favorite language. It’s use the Kernel 4.20.10, and UEFI Support. Applications include falcon, qmplay2, phototonic, pavucontrol-qt, grub-customizer, qpdfview, featherpad, brasero, file-roller and much more inside…

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE
      • A Linux Noob Reviews: The openSUSE Leap 15.0 Installer

        Welcome to a regular series here at Forbes that zeroes in on your very first experience with a desktop Linux operating system: the installer. This time around I’m escaping my comfort zone and leaving Ubuntu-based distributions behind with openSUSE Leap 15.0.

      • Leap 15.1 entering Beta phase

        Leap 15.1 entered the Beta phase with build 416.2 that reached the
        mirrors yesterday. Everyone is encouraged to download¹ the current
        builds and help testing. There are also live images to e.g. check
        hardware compatibility without installation.

        The Beta phase will last until mid April. Planned release is before
        the conference in May.

        Issues found need to be filed in Bugzilla². There is also a test
        plan³ to help coordinate the efforts. Feel free to fill in what you
        tested so we get an overview of what was covered already.

        Note that Leap 15.1 did not automatically sync with package versions
        in Factory. That is intentional as 15.1 is meant to be a minor
        update. Please submit any necessary bigger version updates the next
        two weeks to still have time for thorough testing. Please contact
        the release team⁴ in case of questions.

        Users of 42.3 please be aware that 42.3 reaches end of life a few
        weeks after the release of 15.1. In general an update to 15.1
        directly is possible. It’s recommended to participate in beta
        testing to make sure your specific workload or use case still works
        after an upgrade.

        cu
        Ludwig

      • OpenSUSE Leap 15.1 Reaches Beta Milestone
    • Fedora
      • Flatpak’s Flathub Seeing Infrastructure Improvements, Finally Support For Beta Releases

        Flatpak’s Flathub finally supports the notion of application beta releases for application maintainers wanting to offer up early-access/testing versions of applications.

        Alexander Larsson and others at Red Hat have been working on a big update to the Flathub infrastructure for where Flatpak packages are available. They have introduced a new repo manager micro-service written in Rust, further improved the GitHub integration, a new publishing workflow, and support for issuing beta software releases on Flathub.

      • Jonathan Dieter: You can now download zchunk metadata in Rawhide

        It’s been a year since I first started working on zchunk, and I’m excited that we’ve finally managed to get it fully integrated into Fedora’s metadata. I’d like to take the opportunity to express my appreciation to Daniel Mach, Jaroslav Mracek and the rest of the DNF team for reviewing and merging my (quite invasive) patches, Michael Schroeder for extensive critiques and improvements on the zchunk format, Igor Gnatenko for help early on, and, finally, Neal Gompa for working behind the scenes to keep things moving.

      • Bodhi 3.13.2 released
      • It Soon May Be Easier Building Debian Packages On Fedora

        While Fedora is deeply rooted around RPMs, the necessary components for building Debian binary packages may soon end up in the Fedora repository — they’re currently undergoing the package review process. Developer Dridi Boukelmoune was fed up with the current situation and took to improving the Debian packaging options for Fedora to make it easier spinning Debian packages there without resorting to VMs or other avenues. This can be useful in cases of commercial/internal software and other practices where you may be needing to build both RPMs and Debs and desire to do so from a single stack.

      • Ditch RPM in favor of DPKG

        I know how important RPM is to the Fedora Project, but it breaks everything downstream and we’d be better off using DPKG as we should have from day one. I’m calling this initiative fedpkg: Fedora Embraces DPKG. A bit of background here: I build both RPMs and DEBs for $DAYJOB and until recently my workflow was quite painful because I needed extra steps between git checkout and git push that involves a VM, because what we ship as apt is in reality apt-rpm. It finally got enough on my nerves to locally build the things I needed and after a month I have already amortized my efforts with the time I save not having to deal with needless extra hoops. In order to successfully build debs on Fedora I needed 4 packages that I’m now submitting for review: https://bugzilla.redhat.com/show_bug.cgi?id=gnu-config https://bugzilla.redhat.com/show_bug.cgi?id=strip-nondeterminism https://bugzilla.redhat.com/show_bug.cgi?id=sbuild https://bugzilla.redhat.com/show_bug.cgi?id=apt I need more than reviews here. Three of those packages are heavy on Perl code, and I’m not a Perl Monk. I tried to CC perl-sig as per the guidelines [1] (also tried with the mailing list address) but bugzilla replied kindly: CC: perl-sig did not match anything Apt is a mix of C, Perl and C++ code, so I would be reassured if I could have a C++ co-maintainer too. I’m only a C developer so if something goes wrong outside of the C realm that would be helpful. Two of those packages should be runtime dependencies of debhelper. The current apt package should be renamed to apt-rpm, I will look up the procedure for that to happen. I understand that when someone sees they should run “apt-get install foo” somewhere on the web it’s helpful for non-savvy users that this JustWorks(tm) [2], but apt-rpm is dead upstream and it shouldn’t be advertised as apt. I hope I CC’d everyone that should get this heads up, and hope to find help for the reviews and co-maintainership. The packaging does nothing fancy, there are quirks here and there but overall it was rather easy to put together. And of course I would be happy to help with reviews too in exchange. And thanks again to the mock developers, its design is so much better than either sbuild or pdebuild that I barely have pain points left when it comes to RPM packaging. Thanks, Dridi

      • Fedora will be at CLT 2019

        The Fedora Project will be at the Chemnitzer Linux Tage 2019. So far, Robert Scheck and I will make it happen. As we pretty much did it for the last 10 years.

    • Debian Family
      • Derivatives
        • Canonical/Ubuntu
          • Ubuntu 18.04.2 refreshes this long-term support Linux distro

            Do you want the best compromise between the latest and greatest open-source software and the stability of an established Linux? If that’s you, and you’re an Ubuntu user, then you want Ubuntu 18.04.2.

            This latest version of Ubuntu 18.04, the Long-Term Support (LTS) edition, will be supported until April 2028. If you’re using Ubuntu in business, this is the one you want.

            Why? For starters, Ubuntu 18.04.2 has upgraded its Linux kernel from 4.15 to the 4.18 Linux kernel. This kernel comes with Spectre and Meltdown security patches and improved hardware drivers.

          • Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS supports Raspberry Pi 3

            Following on from the announcement and release of the latest Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS operating system for desktop, server, and cloud. Raspberry Pi enthusiasts may be interested to know that the latest release with long-term support and updates every six months will support the latest Raspberry Pi 3 mini PC.

            The Raspberry Pi 3 has a supported image target for Ubuntu Server and the existing Raspberry Pi 2 image support will also continue to be available. The latest LTS release of Ubuntu will also support the other flavours of Ubuntu, which include Kubuntu, Lubuntu, Ubuntu Budgie, Ubuntu Kylin, Ubuntu MATE, and Xubuntu.

          • Canonical Is Planning Some Awesome New Content For The Snap Store

            There I was, thoughtfully drafting an article titled “3 Things Canonical Can Do To Improve The Snap Ecosystem,” when I jumped on the phone with Evan Dandrea, an Engineering Manager who just so happens to be responsible for the Snapcraft ecosystem at Canonical. As it turns out, that headline will need a slight edit. One less number. That’s because I’ve just learned Canonical has some ambitious plans for the future of the Snap Store.

  • Devices/Embedded
Free Software/Open Source
  • Vincent Sanders: A very productive weekend

    I just hosted a NetSurf Developer weekend which is an opportunity for us to meet up and make use of all the benefits of working together. We find the ability to plan work and discuss solutions without loosing the nuances of body language generally results in better outcomes for the project.

    [...]

    We rounded the Saturday off by going out for a very pleasant meal with some mutual friends. Sunday started by adding a bunch of additional topics to consider and we made good progress addressing these.

    We performed a bug triage and managed to close several issues and commit to fixing a few more. We even managed to create a statement of work of things we would like to get done before the next meetup.

    My main achievement on the Sunday was to add WEBP image support. This uses the Google libwebp library to do all the heavy lifting and adding a new image content handler to NetSurf is pretty straightforward.

  • Software Code’s “Wayback Machine” Gets a Boost

    Call it the Wayback Machine of code: a searchable open archive of software source code across iterations; from buggy beta versions, to sophisticated contemporary release.

    Software Heritage is a non-profit initiative developed and hosted by the French Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation.

    Officially created in 2015, the project has been growing over the years. It now spans 5.6 billion source files from more than 88 million projects.

    Software Heritage is itself built on open-source code. It gathers source files by trawling through repositories that developers uses to create and share code, such as Github, Gitlab, GoogleCode, Debian, GNU and the Python Package Index, with users able to trace detailed revision history of all the codebase versions that it stores.

  • CAST links arms with Software Heritage to tease out your open-source ancestry

    Paris-based code botherer CAST Software said today it would buddy up with Software Heritage to tackle the sometimes tricky task of identifying the provenance of open-source code in modern projects.

    The Register spoke to CAST Software CEO Vincent Delaroche, who told us the aim of the collaboration was to create a “Provenance Index” on code that has been collected in the Software Heritage archive. Essentially, users of its products can fling their source at CAST and be given a list of all components used in the code and, importantly, the original “ancestor” of that component.

    “At-risk” components are then automatically flagged and suggestions made on what to do, giving users an opportunity to head off potential legal, IP and compliance nasties before the code seeps out into the hands of users and lawyers.

    Behind the Provenance Index is a hookup between CAST Highlight, the company’s SaaS platform, which inspects code for iffy practices and vulnerabilities, and the curator of the Software Heritage, which is attempting to collect all publicly available source code along with its development history.

    Software Heritage’s archive has already “ingested” code from the likes of GitHub, GitLab and the old Google Code archive. Source code archaeologists currently have 5.7 billion source files over 88.3 million projects to cast their eyes over.

  • CAST partners with ‘world’s largest source code archive’ to give businesses better software insight

    Software Heritage is a non-profit organisation working to build a universal archive of all source code, similar to the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine but for software rather than web pages.

    The archive, sponsored by tech giants such as Intel, Google and Microsoft, already contains more than 5.6 billion source files and continues to grow.

    As part of the partnership, unique indexing technology has been developed to allow users to search through these files more efficiently. Connected with CAST’s Highlight application, which provides software insights and analysis in areas such as cloud readiness, software health and data privacy, users will be able to identify the original use of a source file and see where else it has been used before.

    “We are thrilled to welcome CAST as a key partner, joining us in our endeavour to collect, structure and preserve the precious knowledge embedded in source code and make it broadly accessible,” Roberto Di Cosmo, Founder and CEO of Software Heritage, said.

  • Events
    • Networking in Berlin: Qt World Summit 2018

      At our little booth we showcased Plasma running on a variety of devices, ranging from a Nexus 5X running Plasma Mobile through two ARM laptops to the powerful KDE Slimbook. Plasma was praised for its performance and reliability and since the focus of the event was mostly on embedded systems, we could easily demonstrate with our selection of devices that Plasma and the KDE Frameworks are a viable option for an endeavor in this area, too.

      It was very interesting to see the diverse set of people presenting their products and roaming the stalls, to see where Qt is in use today without you even realizing. We were approached by several companies evaluating using KDE Frameworks in their products and also tried to lay a foundation for an eventual partnership. And then there was Daimler who just parked an A-Class in the hallway, whose MBUX infotainment system is also powered by Qt.

  • Web Browsers
    • WWW = Woeful, er, winternet wendering? CERN browser rebuilt after 30 years barely recognizes modern web

      In preparation for next month’s 30th anniversary of the proposal that gave us the world wide web, boffins at the behest of CERN have recreated the world’s first web browser, and made it accessible as a modern web page.

      Created by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the ur-browser, first called WorldWideWeb, and later Nexus, was built from Objective-C in 1990 on a NeXT workstation to display its maker’s HyperText Markup Language.

      The browser’s resurrection – click here to try it out – follows five days of hacking by an international team of nine developers, reunited after a previous effort to revive the original Line Mode Browser in 2013.

    • Mozilla
      • This Week in Rust 274
      • How to speed up the Rust compiler in 2018

        18 months ago I wrote about some work I did to speed up the Rust compiler (rustc). I’ve recently taken this work up again. Also, in the meantime rustc’s build system has been replaced and its benchmark suite has been overhauled. So it’s a good time for an update.

      • TenFourFox FPR13b1 available (now with WebP and AppleScript)

        TenFourFox Feature Parity Release 13 beta 1 is now available (downloads, hashes, release notes). I took a different tack on this release because I still don’t have good solutions for the missing JavaScript features currently affecting Citibank, Github and a few other sites, so I’ve chosen to push out some side projects I’ve been working on in order not to make this a wasted release. Those features are support for WebP images and support for AppleScript automation.

        WebP images are an up-and-coming format based on the WebM VP8 codec, another way Google will consume the Web from the inside out, but they do have image size advantages and Firefox now supports them in Firefox 65. Google has two demonstration WebP galleries you can use to view some samples, and there are colour-managed examples in the Skia test suite. TenFourFox’s WebP support currently can display lossy, lossless, transparent and colour-managed images, and will properly use any embedded colour profile. However, it is not currently AltiVec-accelerated (we do have some AltiVec VP8 code, so this should be possible at some point), and it does not yet support animated WebP images, which will appear blank. For this reason we don’t pass an Accept: header indicating we accept WebP images like mainline Firefox and certain other browsers, though we will naturally try to display it if we get one. If you encounter issues related to WebP, you can try setting image.webp.enabled to false, but I’m planning to ship this support in FPR13 final, so it defaults to true.

      • Mozilla Future Releases Blog: Keeping Add-Ons Safe for our Users

        We’ve seen many changes in the tech landscape since we launched addons.mozilla.org (AMO) in 2005. A few add-ons have millions of users, while there are many add-ons that have smaller audiences with specific needs. One add-on I really like is AddToAny, which lets me share on social networks. It is similar to a feature we used to have in Firefox that we removed due to lack of use, and I’m sure the 5,000 Firefox users of AddToAny are happy to have it. Unfortunately, the same system that allows privacy and security extensions to work can also make people vulnerable to data mining and malicious activity. While our users love how they can make Firefox theirs, they also look to us to maintain their safety and privacy on the web.

        Now more than ever, we need to deliver on the trust our users place in us and the expectations we place on our users to understand the choices they make with regards to the software they install. In many ways, we’ve mitigated risks by adopting WebExtensions as our means for extending Firefox, but as more and more functionality migrates to the cloud, policing this ecosystem through code review and policy is impractical.

      • ArcticFox has working DevTools again

        The past release of 27.9.15 ArcticFox has the Developer Tools working again, they were broken previously because of excessive work on Private browsing.

      • Web Design Survey Findings and Next Steps

        Now we need your help again! The main takeaway from the first survey was that developers and designers of every experience level want to better understand CSS issues like unexpected scrollbars and sizing. We’ve started researching and prototyping potential tool ideas for investigating specific types of CSS bugs, but we need your feedback to guide our work.

        Please take a moment with our quick single-page CSS Layout Debugging survey and help us rank the most time-consuming bugs. Your feedback will be immensely helpful in clarifying our plans in 2019 and beyond.

  • LibreOffice
    • FOSDEM 2019 video presentations are online

      LibreOffice developers and other community members were present at FOSDEM 2019, the biggest European meetup of free and open source software developers. Check out the talks that they gave! Click a link to find out more and watch the videos…

    • First LibreOffice Asia Conference to Take Place May 25-26, 2019 in Tokyo, Japan

      The Document Foundation published today more information on when and where the first ever LibreOffice Asia Conference event will take place this year.

      LibreOffice Asia Conference 2019 will be the project’s first conference event to take place in a country in the Asia region where the free and open source software movement is rapidly growing. The Document Foundation decided it’s time to put together a conference in Asia after the massive success of the LibreOffice Conference Indonesia 2018 event.

      “It’s a real leap of faith,” says Franklin Weng, an Asian member in the Board of Directors of The Document Foundation. “Asia is a rapidly growing area in adoptions of ODF and LibreOffice, but our ecosystem for LibreOffice and FOSS has not been good enough yet. In this conference, we’re not only trying to make the FOSS ecosystem in Asia more healthy but also to encourage Asian community members to show their potential.”

    • How donations helped LibreOffice and TDF in 2018

      Donations to The Document Foundation, the non-profity entity behind LibreOffice, help us to grow our community, share knowledge about the software (and its development), maintain our infrastructure, organise events and much more. The image below shows what was made possible in 2018, thanks to your generous donations – click for a larger version!

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)
  • Funding
    • The battle between real open source vs. faux open source heats up

      On February 19, Redis Labs, the home of Redis, the popular open-source in-memory data structure store, announced it has raised $60 million in new financing. Redis Labs CEO Ofer Bengal told Ars Technica that one reason for this was its new “open-source” Common Clause license. “The community now understands that the original concept of open source has to be fixed because it isn’t suitable anymore to the modern era where cloud companies use their monopoly power to adopt any successful open-source project without contributing anything to it,” Bengal said.

    • After new licensing sparked a huge open-source debate, database vendor Redis Labs raises $60M

      But in 2018, Redis was perhaps best known as one of the first companies to change the parameters of its open-source activity in response to the growing pressures on open-source projects brought on by the cloud computing era. A small but growing number of enterprise startups are very concerned about the ability of cloud providers to take open-source projects and offer them as revenue-generating cloud services without contributing anything — financial or otherwise — to the development and maintenance of that project.

      “As you know, the initial reaction was mixed,” Bengal said, in a bit of an understatement. “Over time, I think people realize that something needs to be done. And that was definitely strengthened by the fact that a few other companies (MongoDB and Confluent) followed us,” he said.

  • BSD
    • NomadBSD 1.2-RC2 released!

      The second release candidate of NomadBSD 1.2 is now available! We would like to thank all the RC1 testers who sent us feedback and bug reports. If you notice any problems, please let us know.

  • Licensing/Legal
    • Mi 9 kernel source code available on launch day

      Xiaomi literally declared war against Samsung by setting the launch date of Mi 9 on the same day with Galaxy S10. The Chinese launch event by Xiaomi completed just now – Mi 9, Mi 9 Transparent Edition and Mi 9 SE are now official.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration
    • Bell Labs, Skunk Works, and the Crowd Sourcing of Innovation

      I’ve noticed that we hear a lot less from corporate research labs than we used to. They still exist, though. Sure, Bell Labs is owned by Nokia and there is still some hot research at IBM even though they quit publication of the fabled IBM Technical Disclosure Bulletin in 1998. But today innovation is more likely to come from a small company attracting venture capital than from an established company investing in research. Why is that? And should it be that way?

  • Programming/Development
    • Creating a cryptocurrency user interface project with python
    • RenPyWeb – Ren’Py in your HTML5 web browser

      I like the Ren’Py project, a popular game engine aimed at Visual Novels – that can also be used as a portable Python environment.

      One limitation was that it required downloading games, while nowadays people are used to Flash- or HTML5- based games that play in-browser without having to (de)install.

      Can this fixed? While maintaining compatibility with Ren’Py’s several DSLs? And without rewriting everything in JavaScript?
      Can Emscripten help? While this is a Python/Cython project?
      After lots of experimenting, and full-stack patching/contributing, it turns out the answer is yes!

    • OpenCL 2.2-10 Released With Fixes

      While “OpenCL-Next” will hopefully be on track for releasing later this year as the next big update to OpenCL, OpenCL 2.2-10 was released today by The Khronos Group as the latest maintenance update to the nearly two year old OpenCL 2.2 specification.

      OpenCL-Next can’t come soon enough to hopefully bolster OpenCL GPU programming adoption and OpenCL 2.2 showing its age with the provisional specification for it approaching three years old. With today’s OpenCL 2.2-10 update there are various fixes to community reported problems. Also, the KHR OpenCL extensions have been folded into the extensions specification.

    • SPEED TEST: x86 vs. ARM for Web Crawling in Python

      Can you imagine if your job was to trawl competitor websites and jot prices down by hand, again and again and again? You’d burn your whole office down by lunchtime.

      So, little wonder web crawlers are huge these days. They can keep track of customer sentiment and trending topics, monitor job openings, real estate transactions, UFC results, all sorts of stuff.

      For those of a certain bent, this is fascinating stuff. Which is how I found myself playing around with Scrapy, an open source web crawling framework written in Python.

    • The hard part in becoming a command line wizard
    • How to Parse Hidden HTML With Selenium Headless Mode and Deploy it to Heroku
    • PyCoder’s Weekly: Issue #356 (Feb. 19, 2019)
    • PyCon 2019 Tutorial Schedule! [Ed: OK, but it is already compromised. It took a bribe from Microsoft (the top sponsor) and posted Azure ads in its site in exchange. Appalling trend.]
    • OpenJDK

      OpenJDK is a free, open-source version of the Java Development Kit for the Java Platform, Standard Edition (Java SE). OpenJDK, which stands for Open Java Development Kit, originated from an effort initiated by Sun Microsystems in 2006 and is now sponsored and led by Oracle. The project is licensed under the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL) version 2 with a linking exception. Without the linking exception, components that linked to the Java class library would be subject to the terms of the GPL license.

      Since the release of Java SE version 7, OpenJDK has been the official reference implementation. A few notable components that fall under the OpenJDK project include the Java class library, the Java compiler, the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) and the Java virtual machine (JVM). Unlike other JDK release projects, which focused on releasing one feature at a time before terminating, OpenJDK is a long-term, ongoing project. OpenJDK follows a strict, time-based model that is split into development branches and will release new features every six months.

    • Pandas Tutorial in Python

      According to the Pandas homepage: pandas is an open source, BSD-licensed library providing high-performance, easy-to-use data structures and data analysis tools for the Python programming language.

      One of the coolest things about Pandas is that it makes reading data from common data formats like CSV, SQL etc. very easy which makes it equally usable in production grade applications or just some demo applications.

    • New Course: Learn Data Cleaning with Python and Pandas
    • Adjust the boy sprite animation

      Hello, and welcome back, we are almost done coding the player animation mechanism after we have finished the player boundary detection mechanism in the last article but before we can go to the next stage we need to tidy up the player animation mechanism first by introducing the standstill image of the boy when the boy is not moving and that image will either face left or right or up or down based on the direction of the boy at the time he stops moving. In order to achieve this we only need to edit two files.

      The first file we need to edit is the main file where we will include the keyup event so we can set the x different or y different to zero when the boy who is moving in either x or y-direction suddenly stop moving.

    • Retrieving the cryptocurrency market’s data
    • PyCharm 2018.3.5 RC
    • Coding in Python 07 – Additional String Methods
    • Coding in Python 08 – The Help Function
    • Coding in Python 09 – Writing Scripts
    • Packaging PyQt5 apps with fbs

      fbs is a cross-platform PyQt5 packaging system which supports building desktop applications for Windows, Mac and Linux (Ubuntu, Fedora and Arch). Built on top of PyInstaller it wraps some of the rough edges and defines a standard project structure which allows the build process to be entirely automated. The included resource API is particularly useful, simplifying the handling of external data files, images or third-party libraries — a common pain point when bundling apps.

    • Infrastructure monitoring: Defense against surprise downtime

      There are a number of tools available that can build a viable and strong monitoring system. The only decision to make is which to use; your answer lies in what you want to achieve with monitoring as well as various financial and business factors you must consider.

      While some monitoring tools are proprietary, many open source tools, either unmanaged or community-managed software, will do the job even better than the closed source options.

      In this article, I will focus on open source tools and how to use them to create a strong monitoring architecture.

    • GSlice considerations and possible improvements

      The paper Mesh: Compacting Memory Management for C/C++ Applications is about moving memory allocations for compaction, even though the memory pointers are exposed. The idea is to merge allocation blocks from different pages that are not overlapping at page offsets, and then letting multiple virtual page pointers point to the same physical page. Some have asked about the applicability to the GSlice allocator.

    • plprofiler – Getting a Handy Tool for Profiling Your PL/pgSQL Code
    • Reading and Writing Files in Python (Guide)
    • Today is a Good Day to Learn Python
Leftovers
  • System failure borks rail ticket machines across the UK

    “Due to a nationwide system failure, advanced tickets cannot be collected at this time, a notice on one of the borked machines reads. “Staff are being advised to permit you to travel by showing your collection e-mail/text message.”

  • Rail firms say pre-paid ticket issue ‘now resolved’

    A spokesman from the Rail Delivery Group said one of the suppliers of the ticket machines had been experiencing problems receiving information from computer servers.

  • How a rural preschool teacher became the star of Ukrainian rap

    In October of 2018, the rapper Alyona Alyona posted a nine-minute video on YouTube. The satirical clip, entitled “Ribki 2” (“Fishies 2”), begins as a parody of a rural children’s television show but quickly merges into a burst of impressively energetic, lightning-fast Ukrainian rap. The video went viral, and Alyona Alyona has published four equally popular music videos since. Each has received no less than a million views along with dozens of Russian-language comments declaring that the emerging Ukrainian artist already has the entire Russian hip hop world beat. However, what makes this story truly special is that 27-year-old Alyona Savranenko worked until very recently as a preschool teacher in the town of Baryshevka near Kyiv, and her day-to-day life there plays a prominent role in her videos. Meduza asked Savranenko about stardom, childhood, and body positivity.

  • Health/Nutrition
    • Trojan Horse Legislation Could Derail Single-Payer in Massachusetts

      A devious piece of legislation quietly introduced in Massachusetts on January 18 appears on its surface to usher forward the fight for single-payer health care in the state, but in reality, undermines the struggle by placing health industry lobbyists in charge of a study of single-payer’s implementation.

      Here’s a scenario that is now possible: A constituent in the Third Middlesex State House district in Massachusetts calls his or her elected representative in the State Legislature and demands action on single-payer. On the phone, Rep. Kate Hogan (a Democrat) can truthfully tell the caller that she has done so. In fact, she can boast that she introduced a single-payer bill that would create a commission to study the policy. Likewise, her cosponsors can do the same if pressed on the issue by constituents or journalists. The constituent hangs up the phone, happy to know her representative is on top of the issue.

      Here is the problem. The constituent may not be aware that the study Hogan introduced in the Massachusetts Legislature (HD. 3448), which establishes “a special commission to study the implementation of single-payer health care in the Commonwealth,” is quietly designed to derail the policy rather than study it impartially. It is Trojan horse legislation that gives tremendous power to the lobbies representing the very industries that profit off the multipayer system, enabling them to help craft the study.

      The bill calls for a commission with “a representative of the Massachusetts Health and Hospital Association, a representative of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, a representative of the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans, a representative of Health Care for All; and two persons who shall be appointed by the governor.”

    • To end the HIV epidemic, addressing poverty and inequities one of most important treatments

      In his State of the Union speech, President Trump called for ending the HIV epidemic in the United States within 10 years. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and senior public health officials stated that the government plans to focus on highly impacted areas and getting drugs to people at risk.

      I am a social scientist with over 10 years of expertise in the area of health disparities. My research interests include understanding and addressing disparities in HIV and cancer outcomes, particularly among immigrant and minority populations, using a social determinants of health framework.

      While remarkable progress has been made in the fight against HIV/AIDS, ending the epidemic will likely take longer than 10 years and will take more than drugs. That’s because the main driver of the disease has more to do with social inequity than with the virus alone.

      The overall annual number of new HIV diagnoses has remained stable in recent years in the U.S., but this has not been the case for all groups. In fact, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that major racial, ethnic, socioeconomic and even geographical inequities still exist. These inequities exist at every step in the HIV care continuum, from testing to mortality.

      This means that there are gaps along the continuum and these individuals are being lost at each step, including HIV testing and diagnosis, linkage to appropriate HIV care, support while in care, access to antiretroviral treatment, and support while on treatment. These gaps exist due to barriers such as poor access to services, poverty, food insecurity and homelessness, and stigma and discrimination.

    • How Has the “Crack Cocaine of Gambling” Affected Illinois? The State Hasn’t Bothered to Check.

      Orville Dash sits in a recliner with a clipboard. Tall and broad-shouldered, with wispy white hair where a pompadour once rose, the former statistical engineer for Caterpillar removes a sheet of paper, clicks on the flashlight he uses for reading and goes over his numbers.

      One spin every six seconds. Ten spins a minute. Six hundred spins an hour.

      The 81-year-old widower estimates that, at his worst, in 2015 and 2016, he spent about $2,400 a week on video slot machines, which he played at a hotel and a handful of restaurants and bars around his hometown of Maroa, a farming community of close to 1,700 people north of Decatur in central Illinois.

      Looking over his handwritten calculations, Dash figures he lost more than $25,000 in that time.

      “It hurts to lose that money,” he said. “I’m addicted to these machines, and I’ve been working hard to understand why for a long time.”

      In the 6 ½ years since video gambling went live in September 2012, some 30,000 video slot and poker machines have been installed at 6,800 locations around Illinois, more than in any other state. Gamblers here have lost over $5 billion playing the algorithm-driven machines, which have been described as “electronic morphine” and “the crack cocaine of gambling.”

    • An “Exciting But Dangerous Moment” for Medicare for All

      Dr. Adam Gaffney is the brand new president of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), the national, Medicare for All advocacy group of medical professionals and others committed to single-payer—universal healthcare “provided equitably as a public service rather than bought and sold as a commodity.”

      In the announcement of his election, Dr. Gaffney said, “We’ve been so successful in popularizing the idea of ‘Medicare for all’ that everybody wants in on the slogan—even if they have something completely different in mind, like a public option. But tweaks won’t solve the fundamental problems of American health care: persistently high uninsurance, rising underinsurance, unaffordable drugs, narrow provider networks, and the growing corporate domination of health care that prioritizes profits over patients.”

      Adam Gaffney is a pulmonary specialist at Cambridge Health Alliance in Massachusetts who earned his bachelor’s and medical degrees from New York University and a master’s in public health from Harvard. He’s been active in the single-payer movement for several years, writing numerous articles and research papers and co-chairing a working group that developed PNHP’s “Physicians’ Proposal for Single-Payer Health Care Reform.”

      We spoke recently while he was in New York for a meeting of the commission on public policy and health in the Trump era, a group brought together by the medical journal The Lancet. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

    • Finding Reparations in an Unlikely Industry

      A decade ago, Adrian Wayman was waiting for a bus in a Decatur, Georgia, park when he was approached by police.

      “I’m not sure what prompted the search,” he said. “A bunch of Black teenagers hanging out at the park?”

      They found a small amount of marijuana in his backpack and hauled him down to the jail where they booked him, fingerprinted him, and charged him with a misdemeanor.

      How times have changed. Seven years after moving to Portland, Oregon, Wayman was awarded a $30,000 grant from the city to help bolster his marijuana delivery business, Green Box. It is part of a new program to help small cannabis businesses run by entrepreneurs from communities negatively affected by the war on drugs.

      In a country where some form of marijuana is legal in 33 states, the grants make Portland the first jurisdiction to dole out cannabis tax money to this targeted community. It’s intended as a sort of reparation, an effort to level the playing field as the industry emerges. Oregonians voted to legalize recreational cannabis in 2014, and the city sees this grant program as a possible model for the rest of the country.

    • Warren Proposal Would Use Tax on Ultra-Rich to Help Fund Universal Childcare Plan

      Doubling down on her assertion that the richest Americans can and must contribute to the larger economy and the greater good with just a tiny fraction of their massive wealth, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Tuesday unveiled a plan to use her proposed Ultra-Millionaires Tax to fund a universal childcare program.

      Offering what she calls a “big structural change” to provide families with a “fundamental right,” the 2020 presidential candidate’s proposal would make high-quality childcare free or inexpensive for every American family. The government would partner with local providers “to create a network of child care options that will be available to every family,” Warren said.

      “We can provide affordable and high-quality child care and early learning options for every American just by asking people with more than $50 million to pay their fair share,” Warren said in an emailed statement sent to her supporters. “We can do this—and we must. We’re the richest country on the planet. We shouldn’t be denying our kids the high-quality early education they need. And we shouldn’t be letting millions of families drown under rising child care costs.”

    • Beyond Beltway’s ‘Medicare-For-All’ Talk, Democrats In States Push New Health Laws

      Sandra Yamileth Lopez works at one of San Francisco’s most celebrated bakeries, Tartine. She fled horrific violence in Honduras and applied for asylum in California. She can work legally but, as for many new immigrants, it will be years before she becomes eligible for Medicaid or federal health insurance subsidies.
      In the meantime, she enrolled in Healthy San Francisco, a pioneering program that guarantees health care to any uninsured city resident. Lopez can live her life again, she said.

      “I had a lot of recurring dreams about what had been happening,” said Lopez. “I was also not able to relax. So, doctors gave me medication to help me sleep and to help me relax with my anxiety.”

      Healthy San Francisco launched in 2007, under then-Mayor Gavin Newsom, years before the Affordable Care Act and at a time when universal coverage was an audacious — and radically liberal — goal.

  • Security
    • RHEL AUDITD
    • Security updates for Tuesday
    • Millions of Swedish Health Hotline Calls Exposed Online in a Massive Case of Data Breach [Ed: When the state puts back doors in everything, as a matter of law]

      Data breach is becoming quite a nightmare for a lot of people with new breaches coming every now and then. In a recent data breach, millions of calls that were made by the Swedish residents have been exposed online. The Swedes were seeking medical advice through a national health telephone service in order to know more about symptoms and medications.

      According to reports, about 2.7 million conversations amounting to more than 170,000 hours are available online. The data in the conversation is extremely private with people talking about their diseases, symptoms, illness, and giving out their social security numbers. This breach has left the Swedish authorities bewildered as they investigate the whole thing.

      Data of the calls dates back to 2013 and is available for anyone to download and listen. Security expert Mikko Hypponen says that the audio calls were saved as Wav files. These files were left open on an unsecured server. This allowed any person to listen or download the 2.7 million conversations of the Swedish people. No encryption or authentication was required to crack the data making it easily available on the internet.

    • How Easy Is It To Spy On Armies Using Social Media? Uh, Very

      Recently, a NATO research group published a study on just how easy it is to target soldiers online and squeeze them for military intelligence. Posing as the enemy, the group was tasked with finding out as much as they could about an upcoming military exercise using nothing more than social media. Posting targeted Facebook ads as bait, they managed to lure dozens of soldiers into fake Facebook groups.

      While impostor accounts squeezed them for info, other researchers simply used Facebook’s “Suggest Friends” feature to get information on their entire units. Having their names and details, the group could track them over other social platforms and mine for dirt — like how one soldier was happily married on Facebook, but single and ready to mingle on several dating apps.

    • The Internet of Dongs remains a security dumpster-fire — UPDATED

      Update: Internet of Dongs has produced its own supplementary assessments that delve into more nuance on these devices, they make a good case that Mozilla’s criteria are too coarse to assess smart sex toys.

    • Don’t Get Your Valentine an Internet-Connected Sex Toy

      “At the end of the day, this can be serious,” Caltrider says. “These [devices] exist in the world, they’re likely to be gifts, and so we wanted to get people to sit back and think, What are the privacy implications?”

    • Aadhaar data leak: Gas company Indane leaves data of 6.7mn customers exposed on its website

      The exposed data was brought to notice by a security expert who wants to remain anonymous. French security researcher Robert Baptiste who goes by the Twitter handle Elliot Alderson used a custom-built Python script to scrape this database and was able to customer data for 11,000 dealers. This data included the name and addresses of customers as well as their Aadhaar numbers. According to Baptiste, he was able to get details of 5.7 mn Indane customers before his script was blocked.

    • Wi-Fi ‘Hiding’ Inside USB Cable: A New Security Threat On The Rise?

      Today, the world has become heavily reliant on computers owing to the various advantages they offer. It has thus become imperative that we, as users, remain updated about the various threats that can compromise the security of our data and privacy.

      A recent report published by Hackaday details a new threat that might just compromise the integrity of devices. At first glance, the O.MG cable (Offensive MG Kit) looks like any other USB cable available in the market. It is what lurks within that is a cause for concern.

    • WiFi Hides Inside a USB Cable [Ed: There are far worse things, like USB devices that send a high-voltage payload to burn your whole motherboard. Do not use/insert untrusted devices from dodgy people.]
    • The Insights into Linux Security You May Be Surprised About

      Linux has a strong reputation for being the most secure operating system on the market. It’s been like that for many years, and it doesn’t seem like Windows or macOS are going to overtake it anytime soon. And while the operating system’s reputation is well-deserved, it can also be harmless experienced users.

      The problem is that some seem to put too much trust in the capabilities of Linux by default. As a result, they often don’t pay enough attention to the manual aspect of their security. Linux can help you automate your workflow to a large extent, but it still requires a manual touch to keep things going well. This is even truer when it comes to security.

    • One Identity Bolsters Unix Security with New Release of Authentication Services

      Unix systems (including Linux and Mac OS), by their very nature, have distinct challenges when it comes to security and administration. Because native Unix-based systems are not linked to one another, each server or OS instance requires its own source of authentication and authorization.

    • Book Review – Linux Basics for Hackers

      With countless job openings and growth with no end in sight, InfoSec is the place to be. Many pose the question, “Where do I start?” Over his years of training hackers and eventual security experts across a wide array of industries and occupations, the author ascertains that one of the biggest hurdles that many up-and-coming professional hackers face is the lack of a foundational knowledge or experience with Linux. In an effort to help new practitioners grow, he made the decision to pen a basic ‘How To’ manual, of sorts, to introduce foundational concepts, commands and tricks in order to provide instruction to ease their transition into the world of Linux. Out of this effort, “Linux Basics for Hackers” was born.

    • Security updates for Wednesday
  • Defence/Aggression
    • It’s Not Enough to Declare “No First Use”

      On January 30, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and House Armed Services Chair Adam Smith introduced a bill declaring that, “It is the policy of the United States to not use nuclear weapons first.”

      This is a good thing, but standing alone is likely to have little impact on the actual dangers posed by nuclear weapons. Unless the nature of U.S. strategic forces and the plans for modernizing them change, a declaratory “no first use” policy is unlikely to stave off an accelerating arms race among the nuclear-armed states.

      Those who make decisions about military policy in nuclear-armed states evaluate the intentions of their adversaries more according to their capabilities than their words. If the kinds of weapons a country deploys appear particularly suited for offensive purposes, their adversaries are likely to assume that those weapons may be used first. For example, highly accurate long-range missiles with powerful nuclear warheads will be seen as providing a strong option of first use of nuclear weapons in a war crisis. These weapons could be used in a preemptive attack to destroy an adversary’s hardened command posts and nuclear missile silos before their attack could be launched.

      The U.S. nuclear weapons establishment has long sought to justify the development and deployment of such weapons as necessary for defensive “damage limitation,” arguing that they could be used to disrupt an attack and to destroy an adversary’s nuclear forces before they could be used. From an adversary’s perspective, however, paper arguments and declaratory policies do little to reduce the perceived threat. Further, the ability of the United States military to threaten other nuclear-armed countries with a preemptive strike has grown as it has developed an array of more accurate, powerful long-range conventional arms, missile defenses and modes of electronic warfare.

    • Mapping the American War on Terror

      In September 2001, the Bush administration launched the “Global War on Terror.” Though “global” has long since been dropped from the name, as it turns out, they weren’t kidding.

      When I first set out to map all the places in the world where the United States is still fighting terrorism so many years later, I didn’t think it would be that hard to do. This was before the 2017 incident in Niger in which four American soldiers were killed on a counterterror mission and Americans were given an inkling of how far-reaching the war on terrorism might really be. I imagined a map that would highlight Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Syria — the places many Americans automatically think of in association with the war on terror — as well as perhaps a dozen less-noticed countries like the Philippines and Somalia. I had no idea that I was embarking on a research odyssey that would, in its second annual update, map U.S. counterterror missions in 80 countries in 2017 and 2018, or 40% of the nations on this planet (a map first featured in Smithsonian magazine).

      As co-director of the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, I’m all too aware of the costs that accompany such a sprawling overseas presence. Our project’s research shows that, since 2001, the U.S. war on terror has resulted in the loss — conservatively estimated — of almost half a million lives in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan alone. By the end of 2019, we also estimate that Washington’s global war will cost American taxpayers no less than $5.9 trillion already spent and in commitments to caring for veterans of the war throughout their lifetimes.

      In general, the American public has largely ignored these post-9/11 wars and their costs. But the vastness of Washington’s counterterror activities suggests, now more than ever, that it’s time to pay attention. Recently, the Trump administration has been talking of withdrawing from Syria and negotiating peace with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Yet, unbeknownst to many Americans, the war on terror reaches far beyond such lands and under Trump is actually ramping up in a number of places. That our counterterror missions are so extensive and their costs so staggeringly high should prompt Americans to demand answers to a few obvious and urgent questions: Is this global war truly making Americans safer? Is it reducing violence against civilians in the U.S. and other places? If, as I believe, the answer to both those questions is no, then isn’t there a more effective way to accomplish such goals?

    • Venezuela in Crisis: As U.S. Pushes Regime Change, Fear Grows of Civil War & Famine

      President Trump called for regime change in Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua on Monday, in a major speech urging the Venezuelan military to abandon its support for President Nicolás Maduro and to support self-proclaimed Venezuelan president Juan Guaidó. During the speech, Trump said the U.S. seeks a peaceful transition of power in Venezuela, but that all options remain on the table. This comes as a new book out by former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe reveals Trump privately discussed going to war with Venezuela in 2017. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro responded to Trump’s speech in Miami by accusing him of engaging in Nazi-like discourse. We speak with Venezuelan economist Francisco Rodríguez, who headed the Venezuelan National Assembly’s Economic and Financial Advisory Office under Hugo Chávez. We also speak with Vijay Prashad, director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research and chief editor of LeftWord Books. He is the author of several books, including “The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South.”

    • Accusing Richard Branson of Playing Into Regime Change Plot, Roger Waters Warns Against ‘Live Aid-ish’ Concert Near Venezuela Border

      Calling on the global community to allow the people of Venezuela “to exercise their legal right to self determination,” activist and Pink Floyd founding member Roger Waters slammed billionaire Richard Branson for his planned “Live Aid-ish” concert in neighboring Colombia scheduled for later this week.

      Billed by Branson as a relief concert for struggling Venezuelans, Waters argues that the concert “has nothing to nothing to do with humanitarian aid at all,” but instead only furthers the narrative—promoted by the Trump administration—that President Nicolas Maduro should be overthrown.

      Allowing political posturing like Branson’s upcoming concert to go forward, Waters warns in a two-minute video posted to Twitter, could lead Venezuela “down a garden path that ends in regime change.”

      “Do we really want Venezuela to turn into another Iraq or Syria or Libya?” he asks. “I don’t, and neither do the Venezuelan people.”

    • U.S. Brinksmanship in Venezuela is Dangerous

      In 1995 William Blum wrote a masterful book in which he chronicled U.S. involvement in fifty-five regime change operations around the world, from China (1945-1960s) to Haiti (1986-1994).

      Since 1995, the U.S. has been involved in twelve more regime change operations—Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti, Somalia, Honduras, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Yemen, Iran, Nicaragua. Venezuela makes it thirteen. Judging from the miserable U.S. record at coercing change in other countries’ governments, U.S. interference in Venezuela threatens to turn a crisis into a catastrophe.

      The U.S. government has been opposed to Venezuela’s socialist revolution since Hugo Chavez was first elected in 1998, and it supported the unsuccessful 2002 coup. Chavez was well loved by poor and working class Venezuelans for his extraordinary array of social programs that lifted millions out of poverty. Between 1996 and 2010, the level of extreme poverty plummeted from 40 percent to 7 percent. The government also substantially improved healthcare and education, cutting infant mortality by half, reducing the malnutrition rate from 21% to 5%, and eliminating illiteracy.

    • After enormous fight in Moscow café, Chechen and Azerbaijani officials suspect foul play

      Adam Delimkhanov, a deputy in Russia’s federal State Duma from the Republic of Chechnya, met with Azerbaijan’s Ambassador to Russia Polad Bülbüloğlu after a massive armed attack on the southeast Moscow café Neolit, Vestnik Kavkaza reported. During the Valentine’s Day attack, dozens of men entered the café and began shooting, sparking a physical conflict. No one in the facility was seriously injured. The establishment’s owner suspected that a grudge between Chechens and Azerbaijanis in Russia’s capital might have been behind the attack.

    • Everyone Has Fallen for the Lies About Venezuela

      This is why it was so very shocking last week when members of the Trump administration admitted they were backing a coup attempt in order to essentially steal the natural resources (oil) of another country.

      That country is Venezuela. I’ll get back to this in a moment.

      Let’s take a second to go over the big three. There are three things that seem to provoke the ornery United States into overthrowing or bringing down a foreign government, no matter how many innocent civilians may die in the process. (If enough die, the perpetrators often get nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.) If your country has one of these things, the U.S. might screw with you. If your country has two of these things, the U.S. will definitely screw with you.

    • How the U.S. Is Strangling Haiti as It Attempts Regime Change in Venezuela

      Last year, in October, Haitians followed two Twitter hashtags that went viral—#PetrocaribeChallenge and #KotKobPetwoKaribea. If you are not Haitian and do not follow Haitian politics carefully, you can be forgiven for not noticing this development. The complaint on Twitter—and soon on the streets—was simple: what has happened to the billions of U.S. dollars that was in the Venezuelan-financed Petrocaribe program?

      In 2005, when oil prices began to creep upwards and when the Bolivarian socialists led by Hugo Chávez were at their peak, 14 countries from the Caribbean met in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela, to launch the Petrocaribe scheme. The idea was elegant. Venezuela, with one of the world’s largest oil reserves, would sell oil to the struggling Caribbean islands through a very lucrative deal. Part of the oil price was paid up front, and the rest was to be paid back over the years at a ridiculously low interest rate (1 percent).

      Island nations of the Caribbean, who had struggled with debt and high import prices for energy, now found relief. Haiti and Nicaragua, which were not part of the 14 original members, joined Petrocaribe in 2007. “The Caribbean shouldn’t have problem this century and beyond,” said a buoyant Chávez.

    • Kenn Burrows, Neal Gorenflo, and Michael Morey

      Kenn Burrows of San Francisco State University returns to the program to talk about SFSU’s annual Gandhi-King Season of Nonviolence. Then Neal Gorenflo of Shareable.net explains how his website aims to facilitate cooperative problem-solving around the world. Finally, historian Michael Morey introduces his new biography of David Fagen, the buffalo soldier who in 1898 switched sides and joined the Philippine war for independence.

    • Trump Pleads With Venezuela’s Military to Back Guaido

      President Donald Trump on Monday pleaded with Venezuela’s military to support opposition leader Juan Guaido and issued a dire warning if they continue to stand with President Nicolas Maduro’s government.

      “You will find no safe harbor, no easy exit and no way out. You will lose everything,” Trump said in a speech at Florida International University in Miami before large American and Venezuelan flags.

      Trump added: “We seek a peaceful transition of power, but all options are open.”

      The Venezuelan military could play a decisive role in the stalemate but has largely remained loyal to Maduro.

    • UK urged to remove carbon from gas

      To remove carbon from gas, which is used in vast quantities across Europe for heating and cooking, is one of the great technical difficulties that must be overcome to save the planet from dangerous overheating.

      Gas distributed across thousands of miles of pipes has been put forward by oil companies as a necessary interim fuel while governments move away from coal as a power source, replacing it with renewables. But a new report says gas use must also be curtailed, and quickly.

      Now come claims that work must start immediately to cut carbon emissions from the gas network if targets are to be met to keep carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to acceptable levels.

    • Revealed: How the Tobacco and Fossil Fuel Industries Fund Disinformation Campaigns Around the World

      Fossil fuel companies have a long history of adopting public relations strategies straight from the tobacco industry’s playbook. But a new analysis shows the two industries’ relationship goes much deeper — right down to funding the same organisations to do their dirty work.

      MIT Associate Professor David Hsu analyzed organisations in DeSmog’s disinformation database and the Guardian’s tobacco database and found 35 thinktanks based in the US, UK, Australia, and New Zealand that promote both the tobacco and fossil fuel industries’ interests.

      Of these organisations, DeSmog can reveal that 32 have taken direct donations from the tobacco industry, 29 have taken donations from the fossil fuel industry, and 28 have received money from both. Two key networks, based around the Koch brothers and Atlas Network, are involved in coordinating or funding many of the thinktanks.

    • Putin says Russia’s new hypersonic rocketry is as historic as the launch of Sputnik

      In his annual address to the Federal Assembly (a speech similar to the U.S. president’s State of the Union Address), Russian President Vladimir Putin compared contemporary Russian breakthroughs in military rocketry to the 1957 launch of Sputnik, the planet’s first artificial satellite. Putin says both Sputnik and Russia’s new Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle raise the country’s defensive capabilities and national security, and strengthen Russian science’s potential, “forming unique technological capacities.”

    • War With China? It’s Already Under Way

      In his highly acclaimed 2017 book, Destined for War, Harvard professor Graham Allison assessed the likelihood that the United States and China would one day find themselves at war. Comparing the U.S.-Chinese relationship to great-power rivalries all the way back to the Peloponnesian War of the fifth century BC, he concluded that the future risk of a conflagration was substantial. Like much current analysis of U.S.-Chinese relations, however, he missed a crucial point: for all intents and purposes, the United States and China are already at war with one another. Even if their present slow-burn conflict may not produce the immediate devastation of a conventional hot war, its long-term consequences could prove no less dire.

      To suggest this means reassessing our understanding of what constitutes war. From Allison’s perspective (and that of so many others in Washington and elsewhere), “peace” and “war” stand as polar opposites. One day, our soldiers are in their garrisons being trained and cleaning their weapons; the next, they are called into action and sent onto a battlefield. War, in this model, begins when the first shots are fired.

      Well, think again in this new era of growing great-power struggle and competition. Today, war means so much more than military combat and can take place even as the leaders of the warring powers meet to negotiate and share dry-aged steak and whipped potatoes (as Donald Trump and Xi Jinping did at Mar-a-Lago in 2017). That is exactly where we are when it comes to Sino-American relations. Consider it war by another name, or perhaps, to bring back a long-retired term, a burning new version of a cold war.

      Even before Donald Trump entered the Oval Office, the U.S. military and other branches of government were already gearing up for a long-term quasi-war, involving both growing economic and diplomatic pressure on China and a buildup of military forces along that country’s periphery. Since his arrival, such initiatives have escalated into Cold War-style combat by another name, with his administration committed to defeating China in a struggle for global economic, technological, and military supremacy.

    • The Arms Trade Is Intensifying Under Trump

      The revolving door between public officials and defense contractors has long distorted U.S. foreign policy to serve war profiteers at the expense of the public interest and basic humanitarian norms. From U.S. weaponry ending up in the hands of ISIS, to supplying arms fueling civil conflict and therefore contributing to the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen, the lack of oversight on arms deals has enabled human rights atrocities.

      The global arms trade is experiencing its greatest boom since the Cold War, fueled by horrific wars in the Middle East and revitalized power rivalries among China, Russia and the United States. In their most recent report, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute revealed a 44 percent increase in arms sales from 2002 to 2017. The United States is the world’s biggest arms exporter by far, holding 34 percent of total market share — a 58 percent lead on Russia, its closest competitor. From 2017 to 2018, U.S. arms sales to foreign governments increased 33 percent, in part due to the Trump administration’s diminished legal restraints on supplying foreign militias.

      “[T]he people that are making these deals for the government, they should never be allowed to go to work for these companies,” President Trump said during an interview with “Fox News Sunday” in December 2016. “You, know, they make a deal like that and then a year later, or two years later, or three years later you see them working for these big companies that made the deal.”

    • Withdrawal Pains and Syrian Civil War: An Analysis of U.S. Media Discourse

      President Donald Trump’s announced withdrawal of 2,000 U.S. combat troops from Syria is being met with strong criticism from the U.S. military establishment. [1] The attacks on withdrawal are reiterated in U.S. mass media outlets as well. Nowhere is this clearer than in the editorials of the paper of national record – the New York Times. The paper devoted serious attention to the Syrian civil war in 2018, echoing the sustained attention U.S. leaders have devoted toward the conflict. To better understand how this conflict has played out in elite American media discourse, I undertook a systematic analysis of all the New York Times’ editorials that emphasized the Syria question in 2018. [2]

      Few political communication scholars are interested in the issue of media propaganda and how it is disseminated in “free” and “democratic” western societies – those that do not rely on official government censorship of the press. [3] The notion that journalists are complicit in reinforcing official narratives and agendas is too radical for most scholars; most prefer limited definitions of propaganda as something that othernations, presses, and leaders do. But my review of the Times’ coverage of Syria suggests that a different type of propaganda is at work compared to the clumsier versions embraced by dictatorial governments and handed down to consumers via state-run media. With U.S. media propaganda, official motives are assumed to be pure and altruistic, but their embrace flows from journalists who legally operate independently from government censorship and control. Furthermore, substantive criticisms of U.S. policy do appear, but are so infrequent that they may as well be omitted from commentary altogether. Incorporating a sliver of dissent allows for more effective propaganda, since journalists can claim that alternative views are aired, even if they are essentially invisible, practically speaking.

      The essence of U.S. media propaganda is evident not only in the frameworks that dominate the Times’ editorials, but in the unstated assumptions that are left out of popular discourse. By tailoring media debates to a narrow range of views expressed by the major political parties, journalists implicitly reinforce those views, setting the parameters for what perspectives are acceptable and ignored in foreign policy debates. As media critic Noam Chomsky notes, “presupposition” of a debate between limited alternatives is the essence of a media propaganda system that operates outside the formal bounds of government control. [4]

    • Putin Sternly Warns U.S. Against Putting Missiles in Europe

      Russian President Vladimir Putin sternly warned the United States against deploying new missiles in Europe, saying Wednesday that Russia will retaliate by fielding new weapons that will take just as little time to reach their targets.

      While the Russian leader didn’t say what specific new weapons Moscow could deploy, his statement further raised the ante in tense relations with Washington.

      Speaking in his state-of-the-nation address, Putin charged that the U.S. has abandoned a key arms control pact to free up its hands to build new missiles and tried to shift the blame for the move to Russia.

      “Our American partners should have honestly said it instead of making unfounded accusations against Russia to justify their withdrawal from the treaty,” Putin said.

      The U.S. has accused Russia of breaching the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty by deploying a cruise missile that violates its limits — the accusations Moscow has rejected.

    • Missing Pieces: The Human Impact of Drone Strikes

      Afghanistan’s Khaama Press recently reported on coalition drone strikes against alleged ISIS-Khorasan (ISIS-K) fighters, a branch of ISIS (also known as Daesh) operating in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The fighters were reportedly killed in two districts of Nangarhar Province in eastern Afghanistan. The U.S.- and British-trained Afghan military claimed that eight ISIS-K members were killed in the operation, with no civilian casualties. With no other reporters on the ground, the apparent lack of civilian deaths cannot be verified. The report serves as a reminder that drone strikes are continuing across the Middle East and Central Asia and are continuing to take lives.

      The corporate media have covered the lack of congressional oversight concerning President Trump’s expansion of both the military and civilian drone program. For example, in 2017, NBC reported that Trump was relaxing the rules on drone strikes, which would mean “tolerating more civilian casualties.” A year later, The Atlantic reported on Trump’s progress in this respect. But both articles, as is typical of mainstream reporting, omitted what explosive devices fired from drones actually do to human beings. This makes empathizing with victims more difficult.

      A report by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom notes that many drone strikes occur in remote regions. It says that “media reports from these locations are extremely rare. This creates in the minds of many the idea that drone strikes are clean, safe and victimless.” The report also notes that, for many, life under the drones is one of constant stress and the fear of being annihilated at any second.

      As I document in my new book, Manufacturing Terrorism (2018, Clairview Books), it is typical of mainstream media to simply omit the graphic and heartrending details of what happens to innocent civilians — so-called collateral damage — when a missile fired from a drone hits them. There is a danger of sensationalizing the horror of drone attacks and turning gore into exploitation. But not reporting the facts also dissociates U.S. and European readers from the reality of what their governments are doing to civilians abroad. If people knew the details of what happens to bodies when they are hit by missiles, more people might protest war and advocate for peace.

    • Missing Pieces: The Human Impact of Drone Strikes

      Afghanistan’s Khaama Press recently reported on coalition drone strikes against alleged ISIS-Khorasan (ISIS-K) fighters, a branch of ISIS (also known as Daesh) operating in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The fighters were reportedly killed in two districts of Nangarhar Province in eastern Afghanistan. The U.S.- and British-trained Afghan military claimed that eight ISIS-K members were killed in the operation, with no civilian casualties. With no other reporters on the ground, the apparent lack of civilian deaths cannot be verified. The report serves as a reminder that drone strikes are continuing across the Middle East and Central Asia and are continuing to take lives.

      The corporate media have covered the lack of congressional oversight concerning President Trump’s expansion of both the military and civilian drone program. For example, in 2017, NBC reported that Trump was relaxing the rules on drone strikes, which would mean “tolerating more civilian casualties.” A year later, The Atlantic reported on Trump’s progress in this respect. But both articles, as is typical of mainstream reporting, omitted what explosive devices fired from drones actually do to human beings. This makes empathizing with victims more difficult.

      A report by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom notes that many drone strikes occur in remote regions. It says that “media reports from these locations are extremely rare. This creates in the minds of many the idea that drone strikes are clean, safe and victimless.” The report also notes that, for many, life under the drones is one of constant stress and the fear of being annihilated at any second.

      As I document in my new book, Manufacturing Terrorism (2018, Clairview Books), it is typical of mainstream media to simply omit the graphic and heartrending details of what happens to innocent civilians — so-called collateral damage — when a missile fired from a drone hits them. There is a danger of sensationalizing the horror of drone attacks and turning gore into exploitation. But not reporting the facts also dissociates U.S. and European readers from the reality of what their governments are doing to civilians abroad. If people knew the details of what happens to bodies when they are hit by missiles, more people might protest war and advocate for peace.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature
    • Bill McKibben: Climate Change Is Scary—Not the Green New Deal

      Myron Ebell of the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute, the man who led the drive to pull America out of the Paris climate accords, said the other day that the Green New Deal was a “back-to-the-dark-ages manifesto.” That’s language worth thinking about, coming from perhaps the Right’s most influential spokesman on climate change.

      Ebell’s complaint (and that of the rest of the Right) is that the set of proposals to address climate change and economic inequality put forth last week by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey would do too much, and cost too much. Indeed, he describes the Green New Deal this way: “It calls for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in 10 years, ‘upgrading all existing buildings’, and replacing our vehicle fleet with electric cars and more mass transit. And turning our energy economy upside down must be accomplished while ending historic income inequities and oppression of disadvantaged groups.” All of which sounds good not just to me, but to most people: Polling for the Green New Deal is through the roof, especially among young people so ably organized by the Sunrise Movement.

      But even if ending historic oppression doesn’t catch your fancy, it’s not a return to the Dark Ages.

      A return to the Dark Ages is what happened in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit: Survivors dying in the convention center of a modern American city, locals organizing a makeshift “navy” to try to pluck people from rooftops after levees collapsed.

      A return to the Dark Ages is what happened in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, when most of the island was literally dark for months as workers struggled to rebuild power lines.

    • When a Climate Scientist Resisted the Trump Administration’s Censorship

      Caffrey’s contract expires on Friday. Park service officials told her last year that they would hire her for a new project. But they notified her today that no funding is available for the work.

      Caffrey said she asked her supervisor at the park service, “Is this because of the climate change stuff?” She said he told her, “I don’t want to answer that.” Park service officials did not respond to questions from Reveal about why Caffrey wasn’t rehired. But spokesman Jeremy Barnum said it was not because she spoke out against the editing of the climate report.

    • The People’s Publisher Who Changed My Life Forever

      It’s 1970. In my VW bug, I pull up in front of the Durant Hotel on the edge of the UC Berkeley campus and sit. I’m waiting for Betty Ballantine, and all I know is that she’s a big-time New York publisher. So, of course, I imagine her appearing in sleek suit, high heels, and full-on makeup. But soon, approaching my car with a smile is a slightly graying gal in sneakers and flowered cotton pants. Her warmth immediately puts me at ease.

      Little did I know that this person, who passed away February 12th, would set the course of my life. Her obituary appeared today in the New York Times.

      Betty had asked if she could meet with me on her way to Stanford to talk with Paul Ehrlich about his recent book The Population Bomb. Wow, I’d thought. He was already famous, and me? I’d had never published even so much as a letter to the editor, and, truth be told, I’d gotten a D on my first college English paper.

      [...]

      Betty was pure heart, no hard sell. After meeting Betty, the warnings of the other publishing house seemed highly implausible, even ridiculous. So, my choice had been easy, and soon I was under contract with Ballantine for a 1971 release. It was Betty’s brilliant idea to add recipes illustrative of my lessons about the personal and planet-advantages of a plant-centered diet. And soon I was at work with gram scales in my kitchen weighing ingredients for the best balance of protein sources and then enlisting friends to test my results.

      Jump forward to a few years ago, and I’m on way from Boston to visit Betty at her long-time residence in Bearsville, New York. I’d not seen her in decades, but we’d stayed in touch as the book continued to sell, ultimately millions in multiple languages and three editions. I’d decided it was high time for a formal expression of gratitude, so I brought along a bouquet and carefully pondered my words of thanks.

    • U.S. Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Hawai`i Clean Water Act Case
    • Labor Unrest Is Erupting on Honduran Plantations—And Rattling the Global Supply Chain

      Long before Hondurans were demonized by Trump for “bringing chaos” to the southern border, U.S. consumers welcomed truckloads of Honduran-grown fruit, which have for years streamed through regional trade networks dominated by multinational agribusiness. At the same time, agribusiness has helped drive the poverty and social turmoil in farmworker communities, worsening the misery that so many are fleeing en masse.

      But in the past few months, a surge of political action has erupted in Honduran plantations, as workers battle for union rights and rattle the global agricultural supply chain.

      Melon farmworkers had been pushing for a union contract with the Irish agribusiness Fyffes for more than two years, after the establishment of STAS (El Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Agroindustria y Similares), a branch of the labor federation FESTAGRO. In partnership with the global labor advocacy group International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF), the union demanded full compliance with both domestic and international labor laws, accusing the company of systematic minimum-wage violations and denial of social insurance benefits. The campaign was met with fierce resistance from bosses, including blacklisting and retaliatory firing of union organizers.

      Then last month, Fyffes appeared to relent, agreeing, at least on paper, to begin collective-bargaining negotiations with STAS. Labor activists had hoped that the talks would pave the way for a broad collective bargaining agreement to cover several thousand farmworkers and other staff and contractors at all of Fyffes’s subsidiaries. However, as the February deadline for the start of talks approached, ILRF accused Fyffes of stalling and lagging on a promise to reinstate unfairly dismissed workers. On February 12, ILRF reported that the company had “completely reneged on the agreement” and failed to respond to the workers’ grievances.

    • Entergy Poised to Get Green Light for Gas Plant Despite Role in Paying Actors in Astroturf Campaign

      Sparks flew at a New Orleans City Council’s utility committee meeting on Valentine’s Day, compelling the committee to delay voting on a resolution that would scrap plans to rescind the permit for Entergy’s proposed $210 million natural gas power plant in exchange for a $5 million fine.

      The contentious permit was awarded to Entergy, which provides power to the city, on March 18, 2018, but the city council’s third-party investigation of Entergy found the allegations that the company took part in an astroturf campaign to influence the vote for its proposed New Orleans East gas plant to be true. The investigation concluded that the company was responsible for hiring paid actors, who were wearing t-shirts supporting the plant, to fill council chambers and speak in support of the project.

    • Trump Admin’s Secretive Talks to Sell Saudi Arabia Nuclear Technology Spark New Fear of Arms Race

      House Democrats are accusing the Trump administration of moving toward transferring highly sensitive nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia in potential violation of U.S. law. Critics say the deal could endanger national security while enriching close allies of President Trump. Saudi Arabia is considering building as many as 16 nuclear power plants by 2030, but many critics fear the kingdom could use the technology to develop nuclear weapons and trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. We speak with Democratic Congressmember Ro Khanna of California and Isaac Arnsdorf, a reporter with ProPublica. Arnsdorf first wrote about the intense and secretive lobbying effort to give nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia in 2017. His reporting was cited in the House report.

    • House Panel Probes Trump Advisers’ Push for Saudi Nuclear Deal

      The Trump administration has continued pursuing a proposed nuclear power deal with Saudi Arabia despite warnings from ethics lawyers and security experts, according to a congressional oversight committee.

      The proposal gained traction in the early days of the administration because of then-national security adviser Michael Flynn and presidential confidant Tom Barrack, who had potential financial stakes in the plan, the House Committee on Oversight and Reform said in initial findings released on Tuesday.

      “Further investigation is needed to determine whether the actions being pursued by the Trump Administration are in the national security interest of the United States or, rather, serve those who stand to gain financially as a result of this potential change in U.S. foreign policy,” the oversight committee said in its report on Tuesday.

      The committee’s report confirms details in a ProPublica article from November 2017 and cites another article from earlier this month.

    • White House Officials Pushed to Share Nuclear Tech With Saudis

      Senior White House officials pushed a project to share nuclear power technology with Saudi Arabia despite the objections of ethics and national security officials, according to a new congressional report citing whistleblowers within the Trump administration.

      Lawmakers from both parties have expressed concerns that Saudi Arabia could develop nuclear weapons if the U.S. technology were transferred without proper safeguards.

      The Democratic-led House oversight committee opened an investigation Tuesday into the claims by several unnamed whistleblowers who said they witnessed “abnormal acts” in the White House regarding the proposal to build dozens of nuclear reactors across the Middle Eastern kingdom.

      The report raises concerns about whether some in a White House marked by “chaos, dysfunction and backbiting” sought to circumvent national security procedures to push a Saudi deal that could financially benefit close supporters of the president.

    • When Saudi Arabia Gets the Bomb

      On Tuesday, the House Oversight and Reform Committee revealed that, based on the testimony of “multiple” whistleblowers, the Trump Administration has been attempting to rush through a transfer of “highly sensitive U.S. nuclear technology” to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia without Congressional approval in violation of federal law.

      Before the Committee’s revelation on Tuesday, we knew that since 2017, the Trump Administration has been in negotiations with the kingdom over a “123 agreement” which would allow American corporations such as Westinghouse to transfer technology to the Saudis for the construction of two nuclear power plants.[1] These agreements are permitted under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, subject to Congressional approval.

    • Green MEPs arrested for protesting nuclear weapons

      Molly Scott Cato, Green Party MEP for the South West, is one of three MEPs arrested after breaking into a Belgian military airbase to protest against its stockpiling of American B61 nuclear bombs.

      The MEPs scaled the perimeter fence and blocked the runway holding a large banner which read: “Europe free of nuclear weapons.”

      [...]

      “Our action is intended to challenge EU countries to remove US nuclear weapons from European soil. Each B61 bomb is 23 times more powerful than the bomb that devastated Hiroshima. These apocalyptic weapons should find no home in Europe.

      “We demand that Europe’s nuclear nations immediately sign up to the landmark global Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and begin the process of decommissioning their nuclear arsenals.

      “Nuclear weapons are obsolete in an era of asymmetric warfare and cyber warfare and have no place in a European defence policy for the 21st century. Britain and France have ignored their obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons for far too long.”

  • Finance
    • Tax the Rich? Most Americans Think It’s a Great Idea

      A poll this month by the New York Times and Survey Monkey showed that most Americans from across the political spectrum support “tax the rich” proposals like the ones put forward by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), with nearly two-thirds of Americans saying that the current economic system—in which the richest 0.00025 percent of the population now owns more wealth than the bottom 60 percent—is immoral.

    • 16 States File Suit Over ‘Fake Emergency Declaration’ to Block Trump ‘From Unilaterally Robbing Taxpayer Funds’

      As people took to the streets in hundreds of communities across the United States on Monday to protest President Donald Trump’s “constitutionally illegitimate” national emergency declaration, 16 state attorneys general filed suit to challenge Trump’s latest move to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

      “Today, on Presidents Day, we take President Trump to court to block his misuse of presidential power. We’re suing President Trump to stop him from unilaterally robbing taxpayer funds lawfully set aside by Congress for the people of our states,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a Democrat who is leading the coalition, declared in a statement late Monday.

      “President Trump treats the rule of law with utter contempt. He knows there is no border crisis, he knows his emergency declaration is unwarranted, and he admits that he will likely lose this case in court. He is willing to manipulate the Office of the Presidency to engage in unconstitutional theatre performed to convince his audience that he is committed to his ‘beautiful’ border wall,” Becerra added. “For most of us, the Office of the Presidency is not a place for theatre.”

    • Amazon’s Defeat in NYC Galvanizes Movement to End Billion-Dollar Corporate Welfare

      New York City is still reeling since Amazon announced last week that it was scrapping plans to build a major office facility in Queens. The decision came under mounting pressure from grassroots activists and local politicians who opposed the deal. Amazon had announced the project in November after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio offered Amazon nearly $3 billion in tax subsidies to come to the city. But local politicians and community organizers rallied against the tech giant and won. The lawmakers who took down Amazon say their victory is just the beginning of a major fight against tax subsidies for huge companies—which they call “corporate welfare.” We speak with New York State Assemblymember Ron Kim, who helped fight Amazon and introduced the End of Corporate Welfare Act to the state Legislature earlier this month.

    • Five business associations ask Russia’s top investigator to move American investment manager to house arrest

      Five business associations have appealed directly to Russian Federal Investigative Committee Director Alexander Bastrykin, asking him to transfer American investment manager Michael Calvey from pretrial detention to house arrest, according to the magazine RBC.

      Calvey, the founder of the Baring Vostok investment firm, was detained last week and formally arrested over the weekend. The letter to Bastrykin bears the signatures of the leaders of the American Chamber of Commerce in Russia, the German-Russian Chamber of Foreign Trade, the Association of European Businesses, the Franco-Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs.

    • Illinois Workers Celebrate as ‘Life-Changing’ $15 Per Hour Minimum Wage Signed Into Law

      “Fifteen dollars an hour will be life-changing for me. I can barely afford the basic needs for my two sons on my minimum-wage salary. Simple things like whether to buy school supplies for my older boy or formula and diapers for my little one become agonizing choices,” said Fight for $15 member Ieshia Townsend, who works a McDonald’s in Chicago.

      Reflecting on the past six years of grassroots organizing to raise wages across the state, Townsend shared that “as a single mom and a Black woman on the south side of Chicago, I felt invisible before I joined the Fight for $15 and a union. But by coming togethe and speaking out, our voices have been heard.” While welcoming the victory on Tuesday, she vowed to continue the fight for a union.

    • My Mother Has Been Homeless for 45 Years. Why Isn’t Housing a Right?

      Not long ago, I received a letter from my mother. It said, “I am homeless, again. I may be dead before you are released from prison. Love mom.”

      It felt like some cruel force punched through my chest and tore out my heart, then stomped on it. My mother did not write that letter to simply provide me with an update on how her life continues to unravel. My mother wrote that letter because it is nearly impossible to survive deep poverty on one’s own.

      Even though I am incarcerated, my mother views my release as her best chance to acquire stable housing. Most of our family members are too poor, troubled or addicted to lend help, or simply do not know how. For the life of me, I do not understand: Why isn’t housing a basic right for all Americans?

      My mother has been either homeless or near homeless off and on for the past 45 years. I do not know all the details of how this began — only that while she was growing up, her father, my grandfather, used to get drunk every day after work and physically take out his frustrations on my mother and her four siblings. When my mother was 12, she could no longer endure the daily regimen of abuse, so she ran away from home. She fell in with a small group of runaways surviving on the streets of Detroit. To say she was living hand-to-mouth would be a gross understatement. The abuse she had attempted to escape continued in new ways on the streets. And in less than a year, she was pregnant with me.

      After my mother gave birth to me at age 14, two women from the Department of Social Services were there to take me into state custody. My mother would tell me years later that me being pried from her arms hurt more than any blow she suffered during her father’s drunken attacks. A couple of days later, the same two Social Services employees were back at the hospital to take my mother into state custody as well. She tells of how they conveyed her to a state facility for “neglected and unwanted girls.” That night, only three or four nights after giving birth to me, my mother was initiated into the facility with blows inflicted by bars of soap. The bars were wrapped tightly in towels so that when the other girls hit her with them they would not leave bruises visible to the eye. The next morning, my mother escaped from the facility and was back on the street with only her body to fend with.

    • Organizers Oust Amazon HQ2 From New York

      Amazon offered New Yorkers the best possible Valentine’s Day gift — a breakup. The union-busting, deportation-aiding company announced it wouldn’t go forward with plans to build a new headquarters in Queens, financed in part by tax breaks and capital grants, thanks to the sustained organizing efforts from New York grassroots groups.

      The announcement was welcome news to the coalition of organizers who demanded the city invest in its communities instead of trying to woo the richest man in the world. The coalition was made up of local community organizations, including groups like New York Communities for Change and Queens Neighborhoods United, tenants unions, immigrant groups like Desis Rising Up and Moving and Make the Road NY, and more.

      They sprang into action soon after Amazon announced it would build two new home bases in New York and Virginia. “We won by standing firm with our stance on no concessions and united with other organizations and groups across the city with this message,” Shrima Pandey, an organizer with Queens Neighborhoods United, told Inequality.org in an email. “We made sure that our electeds knew we were not looking to make deals because we know you can’t make a deal with the devil.”

      “We also won by rallying our people, by making sure everyone was informed of the disastrous impacts that HQ2 could have had in our borough and our city,” Pandey said. “We won by being committed to this campaign – we took early morning calls, and day-long meetings, and hit the streets in the bitter cold even though QNU is an all-volunteer group and our members bear many other responsibilities.”

      The reaction to the Amazon deal was immediate as questions popped up over the incentives package proposed by New York officials. Why offer hefty tax subsidies when the city is failing to address record-high homelessness? Why offer to “assist in securing access to a helipad” (a real thing promised by the city to Amazon) while the public transit system was melting down? And why offer all these perks and incentives under a shroud of secrecy, without community input?

    • Flooding State Capitol, West Virginia Teachers Save Public Education From Privatization Scheme

      A year after sparking a nationwide movement of educator uprisings, teachers from across West Virginia flooded the state capitol building in Charleston on Tuesday to fight a bill they warn would drain money away from public schools and seriously harm students.

      Despite the inclusion of the very pay increases they fought last year to win, the teachers are calling on state lawmakers to reject an education reform bill (S.B. 451) because it also includes funding for charter schools and voucher programs which the state teachers union says would pull much-needed funding from public schools.

      “By striking, we’re basically saying, ‘We refuse to take your pay raise under these conditions because we realize how bad privatization will be for our students and our schools,’” Jay O’Neal, a teacher in Charleston, told Jacobin.

    • Trump Wants California to Pay Back Billions for Bullet Train

      The Trump administration said Tuesday that it plans to cancel $929 million awarded to California’s high-speed rail project and wants the state to return an additional $2.5 billion that it has already spent.

      The U.S. Department of Transportation announcement follows through on President Donald Trump’s threats to claw back $3.5 billion that the federal government gave to California to build a bullet train between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

      Gov. Gavin Newsom vowed a fight to keep the money and said the move was in response to California again suing the administration , this time over Trump’s emergency declaration to pay for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

    • New Documentary Chronicles the Challenges of New York’s Supported Housing Program for People With Mental Illness

      Thousands of New Yorkers with severe mental illnesses won the chance to live independently in supported housing, following a 2014 federal court order. Frontline and ProPublica investigate what’s happened to people moved from adult homes into apartments and find more than two dozen cases in which the system failed, sometimes with deadly consequences.

    • Modern Monetary Theory and Taxing the Rich

      I don’t consider myself an MMTer, but there is a basic Keynesian concept which has been associated with MMT, which is both true and important. For the federal government, taxes are not about raising revenue, taxes are about reducing consumption to prevent inflation.

      The point is that the federal government does not need taxes for revenue, since it can just print money. It instead taxes to create the room in the economy for government spending. This view is sometimes wrongly taken as a “get of jail free” card, where the government can spend whatever it wants without worrying about raising revenue.

      That could be true in a deep downturn. However, if the economy is near its full employment level of output, where additional demand will lead to rising inflation, we are pretty much back in the world where we need taxes to offset spending. Any major increase in government spending will lead to higher inflation, unless we have higher taxes or have some other mechanism to reduce demand in the economy.

      We can of course argue about how close the economy is to its full employment level of output. This is not easy to determine and the mainstream of the economics profession has badly erred on the high side in arguing that we were near full employment, when in fact the unemployment rate could (and did) go much lower.

      But leaving the argument about where we hit full employment aside, we still have the basic truth that when we are near full employment, we do need higher taxes to offset additional spending. A small qualifier is worth adding here. We have a $20 trillion economy. We don’t have to worry about inflation because we spend another $2 billion or $5 billion a year on some program we think is important. (That would be 0.01 percent to 0.0025 percent of GDP.) We do have to worry about inflation if we want to spend another $200 billion a year on a big education or health care program.

    • Behind the Scenes, Health Insurers Use Cash and Gifts to Sway Which Benefits Employers Choose

      “Set sail for Bermuda,” says insurance giant Cigna, offering top-selling brokers five days at one of the island’s luxury resorts.

      Health Net of California’s pitch is not subtle: A smiling woman in a business suit rides a giant $100 bill like it’s a surfboard. “Sell more, enroll more, get paid more!” In some cases, its ad says, a broker can “power up” the bonus to $150,000 per employer group.

      Not to be outdone, New York’s EmblemHealth promises top-selling brokers “the chance of a lifetime”: going to bat against the retired legendary New York Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera. In another offer, the company, which bills itself as the state’s largest nonprofit plan, focuses on cash: “The more subscribers you enroll … the bigger the payout.” Bonuses, it says, top out at $100,000 per group, and “there’s no limit to the number of bonuses you can earn.

      Such incentives sound like typical business tactics, until you understand who ends up paying for them: the employers who sign up with the insurers — and, of course, their employees.

      Human resource directors often rely on independent health insurance brokers to guide them through the thicket of costly and confusing benefit options offered by insurance companies. But what many don’t fully realize is how the health insurance industry steers the process through lucrative financial incentives and commissions. Those enticements, critics say, don’t reward brokers for finding their clients the most cost-effective options.

      Here’s how it typically works: Insurers pay brokers a commission for the employers they sign up. That fee is usually a healthy 3 to 6 percent of the total premium. That could be about $50,000 a year on the premiums of a company with 100 people, payable for as long as the plan is in place. That’s $50,000 a year for a single client. And as the client pays more in premiums, the broker’s commission increases.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics
    • When India Tries to Regulate Amazon, US Media Qualms About Monopoly Disappear

      The “breakthrough idea” heralded by the New York Times (9/7/18)–that antitrust should be about power, not just prices–was nowhere to be seen when US media reported on India’s attempt to regulate Amazon.

      Last September, the New York Times (9/7/18) ran a remarkable profile on a law student who had, as the Times characterized it, “rocked the antitrust establishment” with a “runaway bestseller” essay in the Yale Law Journal (1/17). In her manuscript, Lina Khan called into question the prevailing approach to regulating retail monopolies, focusing on a potential offender that stands heads above the rest: Amazon.com, Inc.

      Khan’s work and criticism of Amazon have been covered by corporate acolytes like CNBC (4/3/18), Bloomberg (7/9/18) and Forbes (1/28/19). Now an academic fellow at Columbia Law School, she argues that the current paradigm of gauging anticompetitive practices in the retail sector according to consumer welfare is “unequipped to capture the architecture of market power in the modern economy.”

      “Because online platforms serve as critical intermediaries,” she writes, “integrating across business lines positions these platforms to control the essential infrastructure on which their rivals depend.”

    • Putin’s 2019 State of the Nation address, in a nutshell

      Russia’s birth rate is falling, thanks to losses in the Second World War and in the 1990s. The country needs to be growing its population again by 2023. Russia must establish the principle of “more children, lower taxes.” The state knows where to find the money for these goals.

    • ‘Hardcore Russophobia’ New first-person shooter gives players a ‘Decommunization’ award for destroying a monument to Lenin

      On February 15, the first-person shooter for PC, PS4, and Xbox One Metro Exodus went on the market. The game was developed by the Ukrainian studio 4A Games and published by Deep Silver, a subsidiary of the German-Austrian company Koch Media. The game depicts fictional events that take place in Russia following a nuclear war, and its plot is based on the Metro fantasy series by the Russian writer Dmitry Glukhovsky. Glukhovsky worked with 4A Games developers to write the screenplay for Exodus.

      Several days after the game’s release, players noticed an achievement titled “Decommunization.” Gamers can receive the achievement after destroying a monument to Vladimir Lenin by knocking off the statue’s arms, legs, or head. Dozens of videos soon appeared on social media that depicted players beating the monument or shooting at it.

    • Touché. ‘Crazy Bernie’ Calls Trump ‘A Racist, a Sexist, a Xenophobe and a Fraud’

      A day after Bernie Sanders officially announced his 2020 presidential bid, he offered President Donald Trump a taste of how he might handle the insulter-in-chief on Wednesday morning after the president referred to the senator as “Crazy Bernie”—not the first time he’s used the pejorative nickname.

      “Crazy Bernie has just entered the race,” Trump tweeted. “I wish him well!”

      In response, the Sanders campaign responded by saying the only thing “crazy” in this historical moment is “that we have a president who is a racist, a sexist, a xenophobe and a fraud. We are going to bring people together and not only defeat Trump but transform the economic and political life of this country.”

    • ‘Operation Divide the Left’: Analysis Shows 2020 Online Disinformation Campaign Already Well Underway

      “It looks like the 2020 presidential primary is going to be the next battleground to divide and confuse Americans,” warned Guardians.ai co-founder Brett Horvath. “As it relates to information warfare in the 2020 cycle, we’re not on the verge of it—we’re already in the third inning.”

      The firm’s research revealed that over a recent month-long period, a small group of suspicious Twitter accounts generated much of the conversation about those four candidates on the platform—commentary that was amplified by a larger collection of accounts.

      From the analysis, Horvath told Politico, “we can conclusively state that a large group of suspicious accounts that were active in one of the largest influence operations of the 2018 cycle is now engaged in sustained and ongoing activity for the 2020 cycle.”

    • Green Party announces Sian Berry as London Mayor candidate

      The Green Party has announced Sian Berry [1] as its candidate for London Mayor and pledged to give Londoners control over the land in their city.

      In a speech today (Thursday 14 February) [2] Berry, who will run for Mayor in the 2020 London elections, unveiled plans to create a People’s Land Bank to empower communities to find empty buildings and land and choose how to bring it back into use.

      Berry, who is a Camden councillor and came third in the 2016 London Mayor race when she was elected to the London Assembly, said that planning the homes London needs should be put in the hands of Londoners.

      Pointing to the Green Party’s track record of getting results for London, Berry said the Greens are the “only party Londoners can trust to deliver on their promises” to tackle the housing crisis.

      Last year Berry fulfilled a manifesto pledge to win ballots for residents on estates facing demolitions. [3] Since election in 2016 she has also exposed that 4,000 of London’s social homes have been demolished and not replaced in recent years, with more than 7,000 set to be lost in plans approved by the Mayor.

    • 2020 Vision: A Strategy of Courage

      The presidential election season is upon us.

      Although it has often been said in the past, this time around, the argument could truly be made that this a pivotal election.

      Yet in order to make that claim more real, the democratic opposition must have the courage that well argued reason and clear vision can provide.

      If the democrats settle for corporate business as usual they will most surely fail.

      The power of “retrotopia” is arguably too great to be defeated precisely because it does offer a powerful vision of going forward by going backward.

      In order to effectively counter the nostalgia politics of Trump, much more than electoral platitudes and fresh faces will be needed by the democrats.

      For once, the opposition should have the courage to make the arguments that count: climate change, income inequality, and high tech manufacturing and infrastructure can be beautifully interlinked in a powerful Green vision of change.

    • ‘Unprecedented’: Bernie Sanders Campaign Says It Raised $6 Million From 225,000 Donors in First 24 Hours

      According to a statement by the campaign, exactly 223,047 individuals contributed $5,925,771—putting the total raised over the $6 million mark with an average donation of just under $27. Since putting it online early Tuesday morning, the campaign said the senator’s launch video has been viewed more than 8.3 million times across social media platforms, including 5.3 million views on Twitter alone.

    • How a federal free meal program affected school poverty stats

      This new “community eligibility” option was a policy change by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which administers the school lunch program, and was intended to reduce paperwork and make it easier for schools to feed hungry kids. But counting kids who qualify for free or reduced price lunches had also been the way we tracked student poverty. There was some concern that school districts could mistakenly be reclassified as 100 percent low income overnight. New York City, for example, began offering its 1 million public school students free breakfast and lunch in 2017. More than 60 percent of the city’s students met the public assistance criteria but the children of relatively wealthy parents also attend public schools. Some school buildings don’t have many poor kids in them.

    • So much for the deep-state coup: Andrew McCabe told Congress he was investigating Trump

      I wrote about former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe’s new book “Threat” last week after CBS News first teased its big interview with McCabe that aired last Sunday. At the time it seemed as if the big news coming from the book was a rehash of last fall’s story about Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein suggesting that he wear a wire into the Oval Office and about the supposed talk within the Department of Justice about invoking the 25th Amendment to declare President Trump unable to fulfill his duties.

      When asked about it by CBS News’ Scott Pelley in the interview, McCabe confirmed that it happened, which made Trump have a nuclear Twitter meltdown and caused the right-wing media to start screeching about “Deep State coups” and suggesting that McCabe should immediately be arrested and that he and former FBI director James Comey should be waterboarded to spill everything they know. Presumably by CIA director Gina Haspel and former Vice President Dick Cheney. Because that’s their specialty.

      As it turns out, that wasn’t in McCabe’s book at all. He answered the question when asked but told Anderson Cooper on CNN Tuesday night that he didn’t put it in the book because that episode hadn’t been revealed when he wrote it and he thought it would be a huge distraction if he did. He was right. An anecdote that wasn’t in his book has received far more attention than it should.

    • Build a Border Wall? Here’s an Idea That’s Better for Communities and the Climate

      President Trump has declared a national emergency to fund a wall along our nation’s southern border. The border wall issue has bitterly divided people across the United States, becoming a vivid symbol of political deadlock.

      But for many of us who actually live along the U.S.-Mexico border, the wall is simply beside the point. We know that a wall can’t fix the problems that straddle the boundary between our nations; nor will it build on our shared strengths. So a group of us — ranchers, farmers, conservationists, chefs, carpenters, small business owners and public-health professionals from both sides of the border — have come up with a better idea. We call it the Mesquite Manifesto.

      Our plan would tackle the root causes of problems that affect border communities on both sides. While the media have fixated on the difficult conditions in Mexico (and other Central American nations) that propel immigrants northward, there are real problems on the U.S. side too. The poverty rate in this region is twice as high as for the nation as a whole, and joblessness drives many into the lucrative drug trade. Poor diets and inadequate healthcare contribute to high rates of disease: Nearly one-third of those who live along the border suffer from diabetes. And a rapidly growing population, along with rising demand from industry and agriculture, is stressing the region’s limited water supply — a problem made worse by the changing climate.

      To address these problems and build a sustainable future for the region as a whole, we look to mesquite, the iconic native tree that grows in every county and municipio along the border. Its gnarly branches have provided food, fuel, medicine, shade and shelter to indigenous communities in the borderlands for more than eight millennia.

    • Something New and Something Old: a Story Still Being Told

      The patently cynical declaration of a national state of emergency by *45 offers a teachable moment on history, politics and empire. The lies and fear-mongering of those in power, the propaganda to legitimize violating the sovereignty of other nations, the use of fake manufactured crises and old war criminals to promote new atrocities – these are all time-tested tactics of the politics of the USA. The naked psychological shortcomings of the current head of state leading to undisciplined statements which reveal truth is new, offering a unique opportunity for people to ask the right questions and learn the right lessons.

    • Trump’s fake national emergency moves America closer to an autocracy

      President Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency in order to fund his border wall triggers a crisis for our Constitution and our democracy.

      This is no longer about the shameless lies, exaggerations and slanders that the president has trotted out to justify his silly campaign promise to build a wall (that he promised Mexico would pay for). It’s no longer about wasting billions of dollars, of shutting down much of the government for weeks or squandering the time and attention of the Congress and the American people for an inane campaign promise.

    • When is a British Person Not British?

      The attitude to immigrants which is betrayed by the stripping of citizenship from Shamima Begum is truly appalling. A British citizen, born in the UK, is deemed to be a citizen of another country they have never seen, because their immigrant parents came from there. To refuse to accept first generation Britons are Britons, as in Windrush, was bad enough. To claim that second generation Britons are not British, but rather citizens of where their ancestors “came from”, is racism pure and simple.

      Begum is not a sympathetic figure. Savid Javid could not have found an easier target for his macho display of vindictiveness, guaranteed to win plaudits from the bigots whose votes Javid needs for his looming Tory leadership bid. Javid knows full well his decision will eventually be overturned by the courts, but he has already achieved his political objective of personal self-aggrandisement.

      I do not know everything Begum has personally been doing in Syria and to what extent she has been culpable in any of the crimes of the Saudi backed jihadist group Daesh, originally launched by the CIA as a counterweight to Shia influence in Iraq. Begum, as with other members of the ISIS community in Syria, ought initially to be subject to any legal proceedings by the Syrian authorities on behalf of the Syrian people against whom such dreadful crimes were committed. If of no interest to the Syrian justice system or once any sentence has been completed, she should be returned to the UK and then subject to investigation as to whether any UK crimes were committed. All these processes need to take into account that she arrived in Syria as a minor, has been subject to indoctrination, and may well have severe mental health issues.

    • The Martin Ennals and Victorian Prize Winners Contrast with Australia’s Policies against Human Dignity

      Anglo-Saxon countries like the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia have historically been open to receiving refugees. My grandparents entered the United States with no passports via New York’s Ellis Island at the end of the 19thcentury. Brexit and Trump supporters’ chants of “Build That Wall” show how that openness has changed.

    • “Electability” is Real (Unless Married with the Junk Science of Ideological Spectrum Analysis)

      If electability were dependent on how moderate a candidate is, or is perceived to be, Jimmy Carter would likely have won a second term. We also likely would have had Presidents Mondale, Kerry, McCain, Romney and President Hillary Clinton. Maybe also President Gore.

      Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi is disgusted with the way “electability” was used to shout down Sanders in 2016 and has already been deployed against Elizabeth Warren. Taibbi wants to deem the whole enterprise “alchemy and a crock.”

      But this is the wrong take. Far more effective are the four simple words that drive PUMA people over the edge: Bernie would have won. Not only is it true that Bernie Sanders would have won, as even the most grudging pro-Clinton data people had to eventually admit, but it is also true that a proper look at the data showed that Sanders would likely win, where Clinton would struggle against Trump, way back in the spring of 2016, well before the conventions.

      For those who have not previously followed my work, I have been writing on polling, elections data, and politics for the last three years here at CounterPunch, using my #10at10 model to analyze and forecast elections. I made the case that Sanders was more electable in May 2016 in an article entitled “Electoral Votes Matter: Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders vs. Donald Trump.” Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan as well as Minnesota and several other states were vulnerable to a Clinton loss to Trump at that time while Sanders was comfortably ahead by 10% or more in the average of polling in those four states, as well as in Arizona. He was ahead by 5% or more in enough states to go well over 300 electoral votes. Princeton’s Sam Wang, extending Christopher Wlezien and Robert Erikson’s work, ran the math showing that polling is fairly predictive in the spring of an election year, becomes more wobbly in the summer, and returns to form after Labour Day. (Wang had to issue a correction after wrongly calculating what that truth meant for Clinton’s electability at the time.)

    • A Conversation With EU Parliament Member Marietje Schaake About Digital Platforms And Regulation, Part I

      Marietje Schaake is a leading and influential voice in Europe on digital platforms and the digital economy. She is the founder of the European Parliament Intergroup on the Digital Agenda for Europe and has been a member of the European Parliament since 2009 representing the Dutch party D66 that is part of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) political group. Schaake is spokesperson for the center/right group in the European Parliament on transatlantic trade and digital trade, and she is Vice-President of the European Parliament’s US Delegation. She has for some time advocated more regulation and accountability of the digital platforms.

    • The Only Hope for Bernie 2020 Is a Progressive Grassroots Uprising

      Presidential candidate Kamala Harris began this week in the nation’s first primary state by proclaiming what she isn’t. “The people of New Hampshire will tell me what’s required to compete in New Hampshire,” she said, “but I will tell you I am not a democratic socialist.”

      Harris continued: “I believe that what voters do want is they want to know that whoever is going to lead, understands that in America today, not everyone has an equal opportunity and access to a path to success, and that has been building up over decades and we’ve got to correct course.”

      Last summer, another senator now running for the Democratic presidential nomination, Elizabeth Warren, went out of her way to proclaim what she is. Speaking to the New England Council on July 16, she commented: “I am a capitalist to my bones.”

      A week later, Warren elaborated in a CNBC interview: “I am a capitalist. Come on. I believe in markets. What I don’t believe in is theft, what I don’t believe in is cheating. That’s where the difference is. I love what markets can do, I love what functioning economies can do. They are what make us rich, they are what create opportunity. But only fair markets, markets with rules. Markets without rules is about the rich take it all, it’s about the powerful get all of it. And that’s what’s gone wrong in America.”

    • Bernie Sanders Announces Run for President in 2020

      Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose insurgent 2016 presidential campaign reshaped Democratic politics, announced Tuesday that he is running for president in 2020.

      “Our campaign is not only about defeating Donald Trump,” the 77-year-old self-described democratic socialist said in an email to supporters. “Our campaign is about transforming our country and creating a government based on the principles of economic, social, racial and environmental justice.”

    • The Progressive Hope for a Sanders’ Presidency

      Bernie Sanders has announced he is running again for President – though this time with considerably more fanfare. Unlike the last time he is no longer an afterthought or a spoiler. He is now a frontrunner who must be taken seriously as a legitimate threat to win both the nomination and the general election. For this reason, he has raised new hopes for fundamental progressive change to US politics both at home and abroad.

      Regardless of what ultimately happens, Sanders to a certain extent has already won. His last run for the nation’s highest office dramatically changed the country’s political landscape. It revealed a thirst for a leftwing alternative that could effectively take on the power of oligarchs and return it to the people. At the very least, he helped break through the once thought impenetrable walls of the free market “Washington consensus” that have infested both parties.

    • United States Gifted With 33rd National Emergency By President Who Says It’s Not Really An Emergency

      This is a thing presidents can do. And they’ve been doing it since 1979 when President Carter responded to a hostage situation in Iran by declaring a national emergency. We’ve spent four decades in perpetual emergency mode. With Trump’s announcement, this makes American subject to 33 concurrent national emergencies, all of which grant the president a bunch of extra (and surprising!) powers, and encourage the government to start clawing back rights and privileges from the American people.

      The declaration on the White House website is at least mostly coherent. It says there’s a national security/humanitarian crisis at the southern border because, um, immigrants are still trying to migrate to the United States.

    • National Emergency? Constitutional Experts Have Concerns

      “So we’re going to be signing today, and registering, national emergency and it’s a great thing to do, because we have an invasion of drugs, invasion of gangs, invasion of people and it’s unacceptable,” Trump said in a Rose Garden address.

      In a statement, Rep. Tom O’Halleran, D-Flagstaff, said this action would divert resources from the Department of Defense and law enforcement programs to fund a border wall.The statement also said that $3.5 billion from the Pentagon’s military construction fund, $2.5 billion from the Pentagon’s drug interdiction initiative and $600 million from the Department of the Treasury’s drug forfeiture program will be shuffled to fund the construction of the border wall.

      Although the National Emergencies Act of 1976 grants the president broad authority to declare a state of national emergency, there is debate as to whether any federal laws grant the president the authority to redirect funds to the border wall construction and to instruct the military to build the wall.

      The Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University Law School, a law and public policy center that specializes in constitutional issues, compiled a list of federal laws and the powers they grant to presidents that can be used in a time of war and during national emergencies.

      The exact statutory powers that President Trump plans to use aren’t yet known because the emergency text has not yet been made public.

    • Bernie is Back

      It’s easy to forget the condescension and amusement that greeted him when he announced his first campaign for president, on May 26, 2015.

      How, it was asked, could a rumpled, 73-year-old, self-described Democratic Socialist – a junior senator from tiny Vermont, who was born in Brooklyn, Jewish, hadn’t even been a Democrat for most of his political career, and eschewed money from super PACs – possibly triumph against Hillary Clinton?

      In the end, he didn’t. But he triumphed in other ways.

      [...]

      The conventional view is Bernie helped move the Democratic Party to the “left.”

      Wrong. Even before his primary campaign, American politics was moving away from the old right-left spectrum that had distinguished “small-government” conservatives from “big-government” liberals.

      Bernie helped reveal a new and deeper political divide in America – between oligarchy and democracy.

      Rather than the size of government, he raised the more central question of who government is for.

      Donald Trump rode a similar wave of populist anger at a political elite too cozy with big business and too concerned about its own survival to pay attention to average working people. But, as has become clear, Trump was a Trojan horse for the same oligarchy he condemned.

    • ‘Not Surprising’ But ‘So Shameful’: Ousted by Ocasio-Cortez, Joe Crowley Heads to K Street Lobbying Firm

      After losing a primary race against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) in what’s been called last year’s biggest political upset, former Congressman Joe Crowley is headed to one of K Street’s largest law and lobbying firms—surprising no one, but garnering a fresh wave of criticism nonetheless.

      Responding to the news on Twitter, Former New York attorney general candidate Zephyr Teachout declared: “No, it is not surprising. But it is so shameful. Joe Crowley is selling twenty years of the goodwill of his constituents to the wealthy clients of Squire Patton Boggs.”

    • Elizabeth Warren Unveils Plan to Fund Universal Child Care

      As Bloomberg reported last year, Americans spend almost as much on child care as they do on rent. Now, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has become the first 2020 presidential contender to unveil a plan to address those rising costs.

      HuffPost reporter Jonathan Cohn observes that “child care has rarely gotten serious attention in American politics.” The World War II-era Latham Act, which provided child care for women working in wartime factories, was phased out when the war ended. In the 1960s, anti-poverty legislation resulted in Head Start centers that provided early child care and education for low income families, but, as Cohn points out, the prospects for more and better child care legislation are dim now “given Republican control of the Senate and the White House and the GOP’s skepticism of large-scale government spending programs.”

      Warren’s plan would provide free child care to families with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, which is approximately $51,000 annually for a family of four. All other families would pay only up to 7 percent of their income, no matter their number of children.

      The 7 percent figure, Cohn explains, doesn’t come “out of thin air.” It’s the amount the Department of Health and Human Services currently defines as affordable child care. “But these days,” he writes, “care costs a lot more than that for large numbers of families across the country”—an average of 11 percent for married couples and a whopping 37 percent for single parents, according to data from Child Care Aware of America, a research and advocacy organization.

    • Democracy and the Corrupt Seven

      It is apparently unthinkable and deeply wrong that Corbyn’s standard German style social democracy – which is routinely labeled “hard left” and “communist” – should be proffered to voters for them to support, or not.

      [...]

      Corbyn has compromised already to a huge extent, even accepting that a Labour government will retain massive WMDs, in deference both to the imperialist pretensions of the Blairites and the personal greed of the demented Strangeloves who comprise the membership of the GMB Union. Labour’s pro-Trident stance will persist, until such time as enough Blairites join this forced march, or rather chauffeur driven drive, across their personal caviar and champagne strewn desert to their promised land of media contracts, massively remunerated charity executive jobs, and non-executive directorships.

      Democracy is a strange thing. This episode has revealed that it is apparently a democratic necessity that we have another referendum on Brexit, while being a democratic necessity not to have another referendum on Scottish Independence, while the notion that the MPs, who now have abandoned the party and manifesto on which they stood, might face their electorates again, is so disregarded that none of the fawning MSM journalists are asking about it. In rejecting this option, the Corrupt Seven are managing the incredible feat of being less honorable than Tory MPs defecting to UKIP, who did have the basic decency to resign and fight again on their new prospectus.

    • German Politician Thinks Gmail Constituent Messages Are All Faked By Google

      Christopher Clay alerts us to the latest Google Derangement Syndrome from an EU Bureaucrat. Last year, we noted that various EU politicians kept insisting that all of the complaints about their awful plan were due to Google lobbying and astroturfing — when the reality showed that nearly all of the lobbying came from legacy copyright players.

      However, German MEP Sven Schulze must have thought he was really on to something in claiming he had real proof of Google astroturfing. In a tweet (in German) he claimed that because all of the complaints he’s getting seem to come from people with Gmail addresses, it’s proof of fakery.

    • Bernie Sanders Raises Over $3.3 Million From 120,000 Small Donors in Just 10 Hours

      After an out-of-the-gate fundraising spree following the initial announcement early Tuesday morning (see below), sources from within the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign report that in just 10 hours—as of 5:00 PM ET—it was able to raise $3.3 million from approximately 120,000 donors.

      The resulting donation average might sound familiar to those who remember the number Sanders turned into a catchphrase during his 2016 campaign: $27.

    • Rahm Emanuel Wants You to Forget He’s a Corrupt Failure

      As his tenure as Chicago’s mayor comes to a close, Rahm Emanuel is attempting a public relations metamorphosis. Last year, Emanuel announced that he would not seek a third term just days before the trial of former police officer Jason Van Dyke, who murdered 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in 2015, was set to begin. Full of bravado in his early days as mayor, Emanuel has spent recent months legacy shopping and attempting to shore up his next act. The timing of Emanuel’s decision not to seek a third term, coupled with the legal consequences of McDonald’s death playing out in the final days of his administration, makes for a pretty damning narrative. But in politics, narratives are often composed of reshuffled parts, assembled by pundits in order to tell a more appealing or strategic story — and it appears that Emanuel just might escape the checkered legacy of his administration by crafting himself a new role in the world of punditry.

      From the second-degree murder conviction of Van Dyke, to Emanuel’s sacrificial dismissal of Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy after the cover-up of McDonald’s murder was exposed, Emanuel’s administration has been marked by high profile acts of state violence. In 2015, Emanuel defended police practices at Chicago’s now-infamous Homan Square facility, despite The Guardian’s findings that “no contemporaneous public record of someone’s presence at Homan Square is known to exist,” meaning that a person jailed at Homan Square is effectively “disappeared” into the system — a practice that significantly increased under the Emanuel administration.

      In 2014, after hearing from a delegation of Black Chicago youth and studying a shadow report presented by Chicago youth, which activists described as revealing “the disturbing and intolerable truth that [Chicago] police officers regularly engage in torture,” the United Nations Committee Against Torture expressed “deep concern at the frequent and recurrent [Chicago] police shootings or fatal pursuits of unarmed black individuals,” stating that, “In this regard, the committee notes the alleged difficulties to hold police officers and their employers accountable for abuses.”

    • Why Nation Owes Bernie Sanders Our Enduring Gratitude

      Bernie won a surprising 46 percent of the pledged delegates to the Democratic National Convention. His primary campaign whipped up a storm of enthusiasm among young people and grass-roots activists. He garnered over a million individual donations, including $20 million in January 2016 alone ($5 million more than Clinton), with an average individual donation of $27.

      Most importantly, he showed Democrats they could run successfully on policies like Medicare for all, free public higher education, and higher taxes on the wealthy – instead of the cautious “New Democrat” centrism of Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, and Barack Obama.

      Bernie Sanders put “progressive” back into the Democratic Party of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

      Now, ironically, his success four years ago may impede his second candidacy. Not only is he four years older, Bernie is no longer the only progressive in town.

      Senators Elizabeth Warren and Sharrod Brown are pushing many of the same themes and drawing enthusiasm from many of the same quarters.

    • WHO WILL BE THE NEXT PRESIDENT? The presidential primaries will…

      The presidential primaries will soon be heating up, and the betting has already begun over which Democrat has the “money advantage,” who’s sufficiently “moderate,” and who can “beat Trump” (assuming he’ll be running again).

      Pardon me, but if you want to know who will be the next president, these are exactly the wrong criteria.

      First: raising money from big donors is far less important than it used to be. In recent campaigns, Democratic challengers have drawn in millions from small donors — just look at Bernie Sanders in 2016 and Beto O’Rourke and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in 2018.

      Grassroots activism has also become critical to getting out the vote.

      The next president will be the candidate best able to inspire such activism. After years of Trump, voters will be especially inspired by someone with the character and temperament to lead the nation – a person of modesty, honesty and integrity, who puts the country’s interests above his or her own, and above the interests of Wall Street and big corporations. Someone who will honor and protect our democracy, who will restore America’s moral authority in the world.

    • Why Protest Trump When We Can Impeach Him?

      While I commend efforts to turn Presidents’ Day into a display of outrage over the non-emergency declaration rather than a celebration of non-existent presidential grandeur, I would much rather impeach Trump than protest him.

      I was on the fence on the merits of pushing impeachment before the long-awaited arrival of the Mueller report, but the cogent essay published in The Atlantic thoroughly convinced me that beginning the impeachment process immediately is the way to go. I don’t see the utility in waiting if there is no guarantee the public will ever see Mueller’s findings—thus averting further outrage that could force the hand of Senate Republicans. Moreover, the argument that the Democrats shouldn’t try to impeach because they would lose is not only contrary to the goal of attempting to enforce the rule of law but is also cowardly. One could easily reduce this argument to if you can’t win, then don’t play. This lose-first mentality has been a fixture of the Democratic strategy for far too long. The Democratic party must move beyond compromise with an uncompromising opponent if it wants to win in 2019, 2020, and beyond.

    • The Fourth Hypothesis: the Present Juncture of the Trump Clarification and the Watershed Moment on the Washington Mall

      Prelude. The terms I have used to discuss the overall phenomenon of Trump’s campaign and presidency and attendant phenomenon are “experiment,” “disruption,” and “clarification.” As I write at the end of January 2019, it appears that the “full court press” against Trump, aimed at removing Trump from the White House, is taking shape. It may be the case that, even now, the Trump experiment and disruption is essentially over—curtailed to the point of non-existence. This is a very bad thing, in my view, and I hope that the disruption, at least, has a few more rounds to go. Not least terrible regarding the establishment restoration to come is the fact that we now have a “resistance” and a “left” that is all for this restoration. What I hope will remain is the Clarification.

      The Clarification has to do with what is fully inside of the neoliberal globalist finance-capital order, what is not inside this order, and what might be a point, or set of points, on the edge of the order, something that is close enough to the limit of what the system can encompass that it creates a disruption and an opening.

      Just to clarify the Clarification in advance of proposing a hypothesis on the workings of this disruptive edge: In my view, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that is to be found in the Democratic Party (from the Clintons to the DSA and the supposed “fresh faces” of November 2018) and in the Left as currently constituted (including its supposedly-more militant wings, such as Antifa or Marxist parties employing the terminologies of fascism and socialism), that contributes anything positive or worthwhile to this situation. Everything there, wittingly or unwittingly, only contributes to the system’s extraordinary and brilliantly-evil assimilative powers. (However, having used the words “absolutely” and “everything,” I do offer one small, but significant, concession on this point in section 4.)

    • Trump Inauguration Chief Tom Barrack’s “Rules for Success” — “Trump, Inc.” Podcast

      Last year, our “Trump, Inc.” podcast with WNYC explored the mystery of how Donald Trump’s inaugural managed to raise and spend $107 million. A lot has happened since then.

      We now know the inaugural committee is the subject of a wide-ranging criminal investigation. And we at “Trump, Inc.” broke the news that some of the inaugural money went to Trump’s own business — and that Ivanka Trump played a role in the negotiations. That could violate tax law. (A spokesman for Ivanka said she simply wanted a “fair market rate.”)

    • Unconstitutional Power Grabs

      It’s President’s Day and boy could we use a new president. In his off-the-rails declaration of a national emergency so he can use funds Congress appropriated for other purposes to build some version of his phony border wall, Donald Trump has crossed the line on separation of powers and the constitutional authority of the president. The question now for the American people is who exactly do our elected members of Congress represent — their constituents and their oath to uphold the Constitution, or the wannabe dictator in the White House?

      Make no mistake, the Constitution is very clear about who has the power and duty to appropriate funds for the operation of government — and it is not the president. Montana’s Sen. Steve Daines and Congressman Greg Gianforte, both Republicans and Trump puppets, took the same oath of office as all elected federal officials to uphold the Constitution. Yet both are violating that oath by supporting Trump’s unconstitutional power grab to shift billions of taxpayer dollars to his wall rather than the purposes for which Congress appropriated those funds.

      It’s not much of a surprise that their continuing blind loyalty to the Republican president has clouded the judgment of Daines and Gianforte. But Trump did not vote for or elect Daines or Gianforte — Montanans did, and they expect our congressional members to represent Montanans and their very real and pressing needs, of which there are many.

    • The Real Emergency Isn’t About the Wall, It’s About the Separation of Powers

      US president Donald Trump recently declared a “national emergency” under which he intends to divert money from the US Department of Defense’s budget and use it to build a wall on the US-Mexico border.

      No biggie, Trump said as he announced the “emergency.” Happens all the time (59 other times since 1976, to be exact). Purely routine.

      But it’s not routine at all. It is, in fact, a declaration of presidential dictatorship that shreds the US Constitution’s separation of powers requirements.

      Most presidential emergency declarations have been either on matters supposedly requiring immediate action which Congress could be expected to subsequently approve (for example, George W. Bush’s 2001 declaration of emergency in the wake of 9/11), or pursuant to policies already approved by Congress (for example, specific sanctions on countries already condemned by Congress to general treatment of that type).

      Trump’s declaration is different — but there is applicable precedent to consider. We’ve been down this road before, just not quite so far.

      In 2013, Republicans in Congress flirted with refusal to raise the “debt ceiling” — a limit on how much money the federal government allows itself to borrow.

      As a deadline approached after which the US government would be in default to its creditors, House Democrats urged president Barack Obama to ignore Congress and raise the debt ceiling by emergency decree.

      How are the two situations alike?

    • Thanks Bernie

      Senator Bernie Sanders, Democratic Socialist of Vermont, just announced that he is running for President in 2020. Give Bernie credit. He may not make it to the promised land, but he led a new generation of progressives with his amazing, nearly victorious primary campaign in 2016, changing the face of the Democratic Party and the future course of American politics.

      Socialism—which, thanks to Bernie’s primary bid, was the most-Googled word of 2015—is quickly becoming a defining theme of the next presidential election. Donald Trump can’t stop talking about it, repeatedly declaring that the United States will “never be a socialist country.”

      Trump is reacting to progressive rock star and Green New Deal sponsor Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, who picked up where Bernie left off, becoming a hero to a generation of young voters who couldn’t care less about creaky, Cold War-era warnings that progressive taxation and regulation on polluting industry will impinge on American freedom. These voters are more concerned about runaway corporate profits and yawning income inequality, deregulation that is accelerating a climate crisis, politicians who refuse to address spiraling college debt, and a lack of access to health care that is a scandal in the richest nation on Earth.

      Sanders helped shine a light on all of these issues, creating a progressive platform and moving it from the margins to the mainstream.

      Thanks to him, Elizabeth Warren was plowing fertile ground in her announcement when she declared, “America’s middle-class is under attack. How did we get here? Billionaires and big corporations decided they wanted more of the pie, and they enlisted politicians to cut them a fatter slice.”

    • The End of the American Republic

      Last week, after much back-and-forth about a second government shutdown, America’s mostly useless Congress managed to pass a funding bill, which the president reluctantly signed. Still at issue was the question of funds for his long-promised (and largely imaginary) wall along the Mexican border. The bill included some face-saving funds for border barriers, and you can easily intuit congressional negotiators’ futile hope: Democrats could go home and claim the money would buy nothing more than a bit of insubstantial fencing, and Republicans could claim the president got what he wanted. Trump himself could have claimed as much, but he is a man constitutionally incapable of leaving well enough alone.

      Instead, he did what he’d been threatening to do during the kayfabe of budget negotiations: He declared a state of national emergency and said he was going to take a few billion out of the bottomless billions already allocated to the American military to build at least a few miles of defensive fortifications against the barbarian invasions he and his party conjure up when they talk about the Southern border. He then gave a rambling press conference during which he casually but explicitly stated that his emergency was not an emergency.

      In part because our Romanophile founders deliberately copied the institutional architecture of the Roman Republic, and in part because the United States is the preeminent global power of its day, ruling not just a continental empire, but a global archipelago of military outposts and client states, we often imagine our history in explicitly Roman terms—our social and economic crises as analogs for the fall of Rome. Donald Trump himself conjures the comparison when he prattles on about immigration, inevitably raising the specter of great tides of warlike foreign tribes raping and pillaging their way to the besieged but still-gleaming capital.

      The actual fall of Rome was not, of course, a singular moment of catastrophe, but a series of retreats and retrenchments; of both border wars and peaceful migrations; of centrifugal forces slowly pulling away the periphery over decades and generations, often imperceptibly to much of the population. And the allure of the analogy is also a product, at least in part, of our narcissism: There are few fantasies as self-centered as imagining oneself to be part of the last enlightened generation before a dark age.

      A better and more accurate metaphor for our current moment of unrest may be the more decisive transition of Rome from republic to empire—the anarchic period between the final defeat of Carthage and the Augustan settlements that would transform Rome into an autocratic imperium that stretched from the Scottish border to the Persian Gulf.

  • Censorship/Free Speech
    • Formal Internet Censorship: BBFC pornography blocking

      The Open Rights Group is particularly concerned that the BBFC, as the age verification regulator, has been given a general administrative power to blockpornographic websites where those sites do not employ an approved age verification mechanism. We doubt that it is in a good position to judge the proportionality of blocking; it is simply not set up to make such assessments. Its expertise is in content classification, rather than free expression and fundamental rights assessments. [1]

      In any case, state powers’ censorship should always be restrained by the need to seek an independent decision. This provides accountability and oversight of particular decisions, and allows the law to develop a picture of necessity and proportionality.

      The BBFC’s blocking powers are not aimed at content but the lack of age verification (AV) in some circumstances. Thus they are a sanction, rather than a protective measure. The BBFC does not seek to prevent the availability of pornography to people under 18, but rather to reduce the revenues to site operators in order to persuade them to comply with UK legislative requirements.

    • Formal Internet Censorship: Copyright blocking injunctions

      Copyright-blocking injunctions have one major advantage over every other system except for defamation. They require a legal process to take place before they are imposed. This affords some accountability and that necessity and proportionality are considered before restrictions are put in place.

      However, as currently configured, copyright injunctions leave room for problems. We are confident that court processes will be able to resolve many of these. Further advantages of a process led by legal experts are that they are likely to want to ensure that rights of all parties are respected, and appeals processes in higher courts and the application of human rights instruments can ensure that problems are dealt with over time.

      A process led by legal experts offers further advantages, including that it will be likely to ensure that rights of all parties are respected and that appeals processes in higher courts and the application of human rights instruments will ensure that problems are dealt with over time.

    • FOSTA Co-Sponsor Richard Blumenthal Tells Court FOSTA Didn’t Change CDA 230 & That It Was Written To Violate 1st Amendment

      Last week, the Wisconsin Supreme Court heard the Armslist case that we’ve written about a few times. This is the case where victims of a shooting are trying to sue the website Armslist that had hosted the ad for the gun that the shooter bought to use in the crime (likely legally). Most cases that have interpreted CDA 230 over the past twenty-odd years have agreed that the language of that law is clear that websites cannot be held liable for the actions of their users, but last year a Wisconsin appeals court decided otherwise. The Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed to revisit this decision, and last month we filed another amicus brief to explain the important issues at stake for the internet and free speech.

      A number of other amicus briefs were filed as well — including a stunning one on behalf of Senator Richard Blumenthal and some retired members of Congress, which first wrongly insisted that CDA 230 did not apply to the web platform being sued for actions of its users, and then went on to make some truly astonishing claims about FOSTA, a bill that Blumenthal was a key co-sponsor for.

      It should be noted that Blumenthal and CDA 230 have a long history — one that goes back to a time long before he was in the Senate. Back when he was merely a grandstanding Attorney General in Connecticut, Blumenthal regularly would threaten internet companies for the actions of their users, ignoring the fact that CDA 230 prevented Blumenthal from taking this action against them. He went after MySpace because some sexual predators used the site. He went after Facebook for the same thing. Oh, and how could we forget his years-long crusade against Craigslist. Basically, as Attorney General, every few months, Blumenthal would generate splashy headlines by grandstanding to the press about some evil thing that people had done on the internet — and incorrectly blaming the tools and services that those had people used to do it.

    • Pro-Kremlin protesters interrupt discussion of World War II comedy at leading human rights organization

      On February 20, the Moscow office of the major human rights research and advocacy organization Memorial International held a discussion of the recent comedy film Holiday, which offers a controversial take on the Siege of Leningrad that caused hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties during World War II. According to social media posts by Memorial representatives, a group of people interrupted the discussion shortly after it began. Many of them were wearing the Ribbon of Saint George, a symbol that memorializes Soviet participation in World War II but has also been adopted by Russian nationalists and Kremlin loyalists.

    • Justice Thomas Is Apparently Serious About Completely Upturning Over 50 Years Of 1st Amendment Law

      It appears that Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has decided to drop quite a First Amendment bombshell this morning — suggesting that over half of a century of “settled” First Amendment law might not be so settled.

      But, first, back during the 2016 campaign, then candidate Donald Trump uttered his famous “big idea” to “open up” libel laws in response to his displeasure that some of the media was criticizing much of his usual nonsense. This was, quite clearly, an attack on the 1st Amendment — and it was those strong 1st amendment protections for free speech that have actually helped protect Trump himself from multiple lawsuits.

      However, when discussing Trump’s original promise to “open up” libel laws, many people pointed out that there really wasn’t very much he could do. The 1st Amendment is the 1st Amendment — not something that Trump can easily change. And specific defamation laws are from each state, not the federal government (and must be bounded by what the 1st Amendment allows). We did note that there were some ways that Trump could create free speech problems, but it was generally agreed upon that it was unlikely to happen in the courts. In 2016, Ken “Popehat” White had a detailed post on how it was exceedingly unlikely that the courts would change the key aspects of 1st Amendment law, with a particular focus on New York Times v. Sullivan, which is the seminal 1964 Supreme Court ruling credited with creating a “re-birth of the 1st Amendment.”

  • Privacy/Surveillance
    • Deputies Sued After False ALPR Hit Leads To Guns-Out Traffic Stop Of California Privacy Activist

      Law enforcement agencies love their automatic license plate readers. ALPRs do what cops physically can’t: scan millions of plates a year and run them against a number of shared databases. The systems are black boxes. The public is often given little information about how many plate images databases store or for how long. Law enforcement agencies rarely audit the data, providing zero insight on the number of false positives ALPRs return. Non-hit photos are sometimes held indefinitely, creating databases of people’s movements.

      All of these negatives are supposed to be outweighed by the fact that cops sometimes catch criminals with ALPRs. How often this happens is anyone’s guess. Officials will tout the tech’s ability to track down criminals, but these anecdotes are usually only provided when government officials start asking questions about the tech — questions they should have asked during the approval process.

      Getting tagged as a hit by an ALPR is a frightening experience for innocent drivers. The tech tells cops they have a potentially dangerous criminal on their hands and they react accordingly. Drivers are somehow supposed to prove a negative at gunpoint and their inability to do only ratchets up the tension.

    • Google says the built-in microphone it never told Nest users about was ‘never supposed to be a secret’
    • India’s state gas company leaks millions of Aadhaar numbers

      Another security lapse has exposed millions of Aadhaar numbers.

      This time, India’s state-owned gas company Indane left exposed a part of its website for dealers and distributors, even though it’s only supposed to be accessible with a valid username and password. But the part of the site was indexed in Google, allowing anyone to bypass the login page altogether and gain unfettered access to the dealer database.

      The data was found by a security researcher who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution from the Indian authorities. Aadhaar’s regulator, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), is known to quickly dismiss reports of data breaches or exposures, calling critical news articles “fake news,” and threatening legal action and filing police complaints against journalists.

    • Indian Gas Company Leaked Over 6 Million Aadhaar Numbers

      The part of the website which Indane left exposed could only be accessed by logging in with a username and password. However, as the page was indexed by Google, anyone could bypass the login page and gain unrestricted access to their user information.

    • 2.7 million private medical calls were stored on a server with no password protection

      And nothing is exactly what the Swedish Healthcare Guide service used to protect 2.7 million recordings of phone calls to its 1177 phone number, according to an explosive report from ComputerSweden’s Lars Dobos. The recordings go all the way back to 2013, and amount to a massive 170,000 hours of audio with no protection – and 57,000 of them with phone numbers right there in the file name.

      As if leaking recordings of callers private medical problems being candidly discussed wasn’t enough, many of the calls also include social security numbers – so you can add the possibility of identity theft into the mix, too. Yikes.

    • How did the police know you were near a crime scene? Google told them

      Knowing the Silicon Valley giant held a trove of consumer mobile phone location data, investigators got a Hennepin County judge to sign a “reverse location” search warrant ordering Google to identify the locations of cellphones that had been near the crime scene in Eden Prairie, and near two food markets the victims owned in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

      The scope of the warrant was so expansive in time and geography that it had the potential to gather data on tens of thousands of Minnesotans.

  • Civil Rights/Policing
    • Alabama newspaper editor calls on KKK to lynch Democrats

      The editor and publisher of a local paper in Alabama is under fire for penning an editorial calling for mass lynchings by the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).

      The opinion piece ran in his print-only newspaper, the Democrat-Reporter, last Thursday, Goodloe Sutton confirmed on Tuesday.

    • Lauri Love loses legal battle to retrieve seized computers

      On Tuesday, Westminster Magistrates’ Court ruled against Love, who had argued that the Act highlights “the right to privacy and respect for private property” and that the NCA had “failed to respect” his rights by seizing his equipment.

      The Court said it found “no legitimate purpose” for his seized equipment to be returned, noting that “it would clearly not be in the public interest for him to have any of it.”

    • They Took My House, They Took My Life, They Took Everything.

      Israeli police forcibly expelled a Palestinian family from their home in the occupied East Jerusalem’s Old City on Sunday and promptly turned it over to right-wing Jewish settlers, who raised the Israeli flag over it as family members wept. The culmination of a long legal fight, the eviction came with no warning after an Israeli Supreme Court ruling based on a deeply racist, convoluted law that declares Jewish residents of any pre-1948 property its “rightful owners” – a privilege pointedly not extended to Palestinians. The Abu Asab family, which had already been displaced during the Nakba, has lived in the house for 67 years. “They destroyed my life. They took everything,” cried matriarch Rania Abu Asab. “They’re in my house, and I’m in the street.”

      After police threw out the seven adults and three children of the Abu Asab family – and refused to allow any of them to collect their belongings – for good measure they also arrested patriarch Hatem Abu Asab and his son, and assaulted other relatives. The eviction is one of a growing number of such actions in Jerusalem’s Old City, where Israel and settlement organizations are intent on tightening their control under the guise of a tourist-oriented “Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter.” In truth, they are determinedly “imposing a nationalistic Israeli character” on a once-multi-cultural city, another step in the Occupation’s decades-old ethnic cleansing project aimed at erasing Palestinians.

    • From Stalin’s camps to Putin’s laws How ‘the Russian mafia’ came to be

      On February 14, Russian President Vladimir Putin introduced a bill into the State Duma that aims to combat the country’s unofficial criminal hierarchy. Among other measures, the proposal includes new penalties for those who are known in Russia as vory v zakone (VOR-ee v za-KON-ye), a term for powerful organized criminals that translates literally as “thieves in the law.” Putin’s bill describes them as “individuals who hold a high rank in the criminal hierarchy.” The proposal would also penalize participation in “gatherings of organizers, leaders, or other representatives of criminal organizations,” more commonly known as skhodki in the criminal community. Under the new bill, “criminal authorities” deemed to be the direct leaders of a group of organized lawbreakers could face a life sentence.
      Most Russians have likely heard a variety of legends about the criminal hierarchy in that country, but even they may have difficulty telling fact from fiction in those tales. Meduza asked journalist Tatiana Zverintseva, who worked on the organized crime beat for many years, to answer a few basic questions.

    • A Wisconsin School District Shrugged After High School Coaches Body-Shamed Cheerleaders

      Parents say staff are subjecting students to pervasive gender discrimination in the Kenosha Unified School District.
      The cheerleaders at Tremper High School in Kenosha, Wisconsin, looked forward to the annual spring banquet as a time to celebrate their hard work in the company of over 100 friends and family members. What they never expected was for the banquet to become a humiliating exercise in body shaming.

      In the banquet hall of a Kenosha restaurant in March 2018, the cheer coaches presented some squad members with “most improved” and “hardest worker” awards as the crowd applauded and snapped photos. Yet not all of the awards celebrated the cheerleaders’ hard work and athleticism.

      The coaches also presented a “Big Booty Judy” award to the cheerleader with the largest buttocks, “Big Boobie Strube” award to the cheerleader with the largest breasts, and “String Bean” award to the thinnest cheerleader. In video footage obtained by the ACLU, the coaches proclaimed, “We love her butt. Everybody loves her butt” as the recipient of the Big Booty Judy award made her way to the front of the crowded room.

    • Probe Sought on Force-Feeding of Immigrants by ICE

      Nearly 50 Democratic lawmakers called for a watchdog investigation of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Tuesday after the agency confirmed it had been force-feeding immigrant detainees on a hunger strike.

      Reporting by The Associated Press revealed late last month that nine Indian men who were refusing food at a Texas detention facility were being force-fed through nasal tubes against their will.

      On Thursday, all force-feeding at the detention center near the El Paso airport abruptly stopped after a U.S. district judge said the government had to stop involuntarily feeding two of the detained immigrants.

      The 49 lawmakers are calling for the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General to investigate on-site conditions of ICE facilities and the policies surrounding the involuntary force-feeding of immigrant detainees. Earlier this month, the Geneva-based United National human rights office said that the United States could be violating the U.N. Convention Against Torture.

    • Fatal Houston PD Drug Raid Apparently Predicated On Drugs A Cop Had Stashed In His Car

      The ugly Houston PD drug raid that resulted in four injured officers and two dead “suspects” just keeps getting uglier.

      Officers swore a confidential informant purchased heroin from 59-year-old Dennis Tuttle in the house he shared with his wife of 21 years, Rhogena Nicholas. They swore the CI told them the house was filled with heroin packaged for purchase.

      On the strength of this confidential informant’s claims, officers obtained a no-knock warrant and raided Tuttle’s house. The officers claimed Tuttle opened fire on them and that his wife tried to grab a shotgun from a downed officer. This was the supposed reason for SWAT team’s killing of Tuttle and Nicholas.

      This was the narrative everyone was given. Not a single officer was wearing a body cam, despite the department possessing dozens of them. The only footage that survived — captured by a neighbor’s security camera — was confiscated by the Houston PD.

      Even in this vacuum of information, the PD’s narrative quickly fell apart. No large amounts of heroin were found during the raid — just personal use quantities of heroin and marijuana. The inventory also included a few guns, which the PD has treated as inherent evidence of criminality despite the fact both Tuttle and his wife could legally own the weapons found in the house. The only criminal history either of them had was an old misdemeanor charge for a bad check.

      Now that the PD’s investigation into this raid is underway, it’s becoming clear the official narrative — a daring no-knock raid that took out dangerous heroin dealers — isn’t going to survive. The new narrative already includes multiple lies by police officers and a lot of supporting evidence.

      [...]

      This is absolutely terrifying. Investigators can’t seem to locate the informant both officers claimed was a reliable source of intel, which suggests this person — relied on in other Houston PD investigations — doesn’t even exist. None of the CIs interviewed by Houston investigators said they’d made the purchase detailed in the warrant affidavit.

      How do citizens protect themselves against police officers willing to fabricate every aspect of an investigation in order to perform armed raids of their houses? Legally owning weapons means nothing when cops (and many courts) consider homeowners defending themselves from armed intruders a crime in and of itself.

    • HPD Chief Acevedo says narcotics cop committed likely crime by lying in affidavit for deadly raid

      An internal Houston police investigation has uncovered alarming deficiencies in the department’s narcotics division that led to an allegedly falsified search warrant used to justify a southeast Houston drug raid last month that killed two Pecan Park residents and injured five officers, according to documents obtained Friday by the Houston Chronicle.

      In a hastily called press conference, Police Chief Art Acevedo said Gerald Goines, the veteran narcotics case agent at the center of the controversy, will likely face criminal charges. The internal investigation revealed he allegedly lied about using a confidential informant to conduct an undercover buy at the residence on Harding Street. The buy led to a raid and a fatal gunfight at the house the next day, killing Dennis Tuttle, 59, and Rhogena Nicholas, 58, and injuring five Houston Police Department officers.

    • We’ve Sleepwalked Into a Constitutional Crisis

      From Trump’s very inauguration day speech, written for him by the fascist gadfly Steve Bannon and man still without a prom date Stephen Miller, it was apparent that the 45th president was a constitutional crisis waiting to happen.

      And now, without our realizing it for the most part, the constitutional crisis is here.

      The Constitution gives Congress the right to spend money and to designate how it may be spent. Republicans used that authority to stop the Obama administration from closing the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp, denying the president the funds necessary to shut it down.

      Having the power of the purse lie with the legislature goes back to British parliamentary practice of the late medieval and early modern period. Making the king go to parliament for permission to institute a new tax for some new royal enterprise is a feature of the Magna Carta, the ‘Great Charter’ imposed on the king by the barons in 1215.

    • Two Worlds

      There are only two worlds now: the Included and the Excluded; and there are only two kinds of people: those who care about it, and those who don’t.

      The Included World hastens to fortify its walls, gunmen, and accountants enclosing its select archipelago of oases defining its territory of secure consuming obliviousness, against the straining pressure of the rising flood from bursting Exclusion, compressed against its own outflow by Inclusion’s higher thicker dams holding back that impoundment of anguish swelling with frigid impoverishment and churning into boiling panicked stampedes toward the fabled cervixes of Inclusion, like turbulent torrents of delirious sperm racing up narrow clogged fallopian tubes, hurling themselves toward feverish beatific visions of higher bountiful fruition, while all around everywhere those exhausted in body, mind and spirit by the blind rush for survival fall out unseen to stagnate in the worlds’ gutters littered with the failures of luck and the refuse of compassionless inattention, to wither in the open, waste away in the dark, and be picked off by soulless scavengers.

      Beyond the age of three, unless they thereafter ferociously resist the dissolution of their personal integrity by the ambient mass psychosis, the potentially Included increasing devolve into zombies absorbed into generic personal fogs of indoctrinated illusions roboticizing them to mesh into enslaving gear trains of unconscious commercialized self-absorption as redundant units in the anthill pyramids of petty-minded potentates contending for greater leadership in Inclusion’s assault on the future. The waste heat of Included thoughtless excess rains down a desiccating coldness of heart onto the Excluded whose wellsprings of vitality are parasitically sucked out by remote greed, inundating the castaways with a desolation of uncaring, and garrotting them by the concentration of their bombarded fecundity.

      Day after day the buoyant Included step with practiced ignorance over the unnoticed corpses of expired Excluded, fallen in their parallel isolation from within the descending crowd, across the pathways of Inclusion’s unrelenting drives of politicked ascendancy toward higher rungs of privilege and prestige, toward ampler harvests of enriching sales, toward wider presences of blaring advertisement in the electronic fields of automated rent-seeking, and toward grander delusions of self-worth measured by volumes of automated vapid exaltation, and looted cash.

    • The Atlantic Coast Pipeline: Another Boondoggle in Virginia

      Two pipelines– the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP)—earmarked for construction in Virginia have been the source of massive controversy.

      In a previous CounterPunch article I discussed the MVP, saving the equally controversial ACP for this article.

      The ACP is a 42-inch fracked-natural gas pipeline that would run about 600 miles/970 km from West Virginia through Virginia before terminating in eastern North Carolina.

      The ACP is a joint-venture between Duke Energy, Dominion Energy, and Southern Company Gas.

    • Citizens Arrested Calling Out Manchin on Rockwool

      More than 30 West Virginians gathered in the Senate office of Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) this past week demanding a meeting and demanding that Manchin stop dragging his feet and take a stand on the Rockwool industrial facility planned for Jefferson County.

      Manchin staff said he was in meetings. Citizens said they would wait. Citizens spoke. Citizens sang. For more than two hours. Still no Senator Manchin.

      Citizens refused to leave until Senator Manchin showed up. After months of meeting with citizens and getting information briefings, the citizens wanted an answer — yes or no on Rockwool?

      They refused to leave until they got an answer. Manchin never showed. And eleven citizens were arrested. (See video of protest here.)

      Why did it come to this?

      Any West Virginian who has interacted with Manchin can tell you how it works. He’s friendly. He’s kind. He’ll take a photo with you. He’ll make you seem like you are important and have important things to say. He might even sound as if he agrees with you.

    • Saudi Scholar: My Father Faces the Death Penalty in Saudi Arabia for Supporting Human Rights

      While the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in October sparked international outrage, far less attention has been paid to the ongoing Saudi repression at home. We speak with Abdullah Alaoudh, whose father has been locked up in solitary confinement in Saudi Arabia for his political activism since September 2017. Prior to his arrest, prominent Islamic scholar Salman Alodah had been a vocal critic of the Saudi monarchy who had called for elections with 14 million Twitter followers. But for the past 17 months, Salman Alodah has been silenced. He was one of dozens of religious figures, writers, journalists, academics and civic activists arrested as part of a crackdown on dissent in 2017 overseen by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. We speak with Alodah’s son Abdullah Alaoudh. He is a senior fellow at Georgetown University in the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.

    • Moscow students petition rector to defend classmate repeatedly arrested as part of crackdown on anarchists

      The student council of the Department of Mechanics and Mathematics at Moscow State University has publicly petitioned the university’s rector, Viktor Sadovnichy, to step into the case surrounding graduate student Azat Miftakhov. Miftakhov, who is allegedly involved in the anarchist movement “The People’s Self-Defense,” has been arrested repeatedly since the beginning of this month. He was first accused of preparing an explosive device that was later found to be fake and then detained in a case surrounding the vandalism of an office belonging to United Russia, Russia’s ruling political party. Student activists have repeatedly demanded his release.

      In today’s petition, students in Miftakhov’s department requested that Sadovnichy contact Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), Investigative Committee, Prosecutor General, and Ministry of Internal Affairs to demand a “fair and objective investigation.” They also asked the rector to request that the identities of the officers who tortured Miftakhov after his arrest be revealed.

    • Trump’s ‘Emergency’ Declaration Is Illegal

      The Constitution assigns Congress the power of the purse. Members of Congress fight to secure funding for national priorities and their constituents’ needs during the yearly budget battles that dominate Washington for months.

      The system is far from perfect, but it’s the way it works in our democracy. If Congress doesn’t give him what he wants, the president can’t do an end run by diverting public money for a campaign promise for which he has failed to secure funding.

      Congress has granted the president limited power to spend federal funds without a congressional authorization if the president declares a national emergency. But it only allows the president to spend taxpayer money on military construction projects, like overseas air bases in wartime, “that are necessary to support such (emergency) use of the armed forces.”

      That’s clearly not what’s happening here. Besides the fact that there isn’t actually an emergency, Trump’s declaration doesn’t say how a diversion of military construction funds is necessary to support the armed forces. No president has ever tried to use emergency powers to fund a massive and permanent domestic project like this.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality
    • Sprint, T-Mobile Execs Continue To Hallucinate Competitors In Their Post-Merger Dreamscape

      Except if you spend a few minutes looking at the factual reality under the hood, you’ll find that’s not actually true.

      For example, longtime Wall Street telecom analyst Jeff Kagan circulated a research note with investors last week (hat tip, Stop The Cap) indirectly acknowledging that neither company is likely to become a serious competitor in the wireless space. The real goal is just to nudge their existing “triple play” (fixed line broadband, TV, and digital phone) customers into an additional “sticky bundle” that includes a wireless offering. These companies don’t even market these services to users unless they’re already paying for cable TV, broadband, and phone.

  • Intellectual Monopolies
    • Huaweiphobia is over the top, but San Francisco jury must and will hear Samsung’s allegations of FRAND breach by Chinese device maker

      There was a time when the high-end smartphone market was considered a “two-horse race” between Apple and Samsung. A duopoly is better than a monopoly, but I’m glad there’s now a lot more competition in that segment. One company that has made and continues to make a particularly important competitive impact is China’s Huawei. For my app development company, I’ve bought comparable numbers of phones and tablets from each of the three aforementioned device makers.

      It’s an undeniable fact that the Chinese government’s influence over local companies is huge, though there have also been stories of U.S. intelligence agencies requiring backdoors, and of countries like China being comfortable with U.S. software products such as Microsoft Windows only after they are at least given the opportunity to inspect source code.

      Recently there’s been a whole lot of newscycles involving Huawei and whether the West can trust them in the slightest. The most absurd story will probably be told again and again in the months or even years ahead: that Huawei was the FTC’s “star witness” in the recent Qualcomm trial and that the FTC’s antitrust enforcement activities, which actually benefit American companies and especially American consumers, would compromise national security by stregthening Huawei at Qualcomm’s expense, with implications for 5G. At least the Qualcomm-aligned Internet trolls who said so chose to make me part of their other conspiracy theory, which is that the FTC is in Apple’s pocket, and not to Huawei, in which case they’d have labeled me as a walking-talking security threat to the United States…

    • Patent case: Entdeckung biologischer Zusammenhänge, Germany

      If a patent only provides the skilled person with a general scientific explanation as to why the procedure disclosed therein is suitable for the purpose in question and does not disclose a new technical teaching in relation to this purpose, but merely a discovery of biological correlations, then this is insufficient to acknowledge novelty (continuation of BGH, judgment of 9 June 2011 – X ZR 68/08, GRUR 2011, 999 marginal 44 – Memantine).

    • Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument in Return Mail v. U.S. Postal Service

      Earlier today, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in Return Mail, Inc. v. U.S. Postal Service, which presented the simple question whether the federal government is a “person” entitled to petition for post-grant review under the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (“AIA”). While the issue may rarely arise, it poses a significant threat to the careful balance of the CBM, PGR, and IPR proceedings created by the AIA.

    • Return Mail: We start from the baseline that the government is not a person

      Today, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the business method review case of Return Mail Inc. v. U.S. Postal Service. The basic question in the case is whether the United States government (here the USPS) counts as “a person who is not the owner of a patent.” If the US is a person, then it has standing to file a petition for inter partes review, post grant review, covered business method review. See 35 U.S. Code § 321

    • All challenged claims cancelled, Motion to Amend denied for Location Based Services patent

      On February 15, 2019, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) issued a final written decision in Unified Patents Inc. v. Location Based Services, LLC, IPR2017-01965 invalidating claims 1-4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 13 and 14 of U.S. Patent 7,860,648 owned and asserted by Location Based Services, LLC, a Leigh Rothschild entity and NPE. The ’648 patent, directed to a mapping display system and method, was originally obtained by Intellectual Ventures (Invention Science Fund I LLC) and then transferred to Rothschild. It belongs to a broader patent family that has been asserted against several carriers including Verizon, as well as Rand McNally, Garmin, Niantic, and Trimble.

    • Enforcement of German injunctions forces Huawei to take MPEG LA’s AVC Patent Portfolio License

      Qualcomm’s enforcement of a likely invalid and most likely not infringed patent against Apple in Germany is a Pyrrhic victory that generates limited incremental chip sales but exacerbates its antitrust problems (instead of forcing Apple into a global settlement). But in another case, two German patent injunctions have brought about the desired result: MPEG LA, a patent pool company, “announced today that Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd., Huawei Device Co., Ltd and Huawei Device (Shenzhen) Co., Ltd (‘Huawei’) have become Licensees to MPEG LA’s AVC Patent Portfolio License (‘AVC License’). As a result of this agreement, all legal disputes related to patent enforcement actions brought by patent holders in MPEG LA’s AVC License against Huawei have been resolved.”

      In November, MPEG LA announced that the Dusseldorf Regional Court (“Landgericht Düsseldorf” in Geman) ruled that Huawei and ZTE infringed patents of two contributors to its pool. In late December, MPEG LA announced that the Dusseldorf Higher Regional Court (“Oberlandesgericht Düsseldorf”) denied Huawei’s and ZTE’s motions to stay the enforcement of injunctions over EP1773067 in Huawei’s case and EP1750451 in ZTE’s case. Both patents were filed for by Panasonic. But MPEG LA may have litigated over other patents as well (which would explain why they claimed that patents belonging to two pool contributors were enforced).

    • Using Insurance to Deter Lawsuits

      The conventional wisdom (my anecdotal experience, anyway) is that the availability of insurance fuels lawsuits. People that otherwise might not sue would use litigation to access insurance funds. I’m sure there’s a literature on this. But most insurance covers both defense and indemnity – that is, litigation costs and settlements. But what if the insurance covered the defense and not any settlement costs? Would that serve as a disincentive to bring suit? It surely would change the litigation dynamic.

      In The Effect of Patent Litigation Insurance: Theory and Evidence from NPEs, Bernhard Ganglmair (University of Mannheim – Economics), Christian Helmers (Santa Clara – Economics), Brian J. Love (Santa Clara – Law) explore this question with respect to NPE patent litigation insurance.

    • Blackbird Grounded—For Now

      Almost two years ago, I wrote about a new non-practicing entity (NPE)—Blackbird Technologies. It claimed to be helping innovators, but the main innovation it helped promote was its own—having the lawyers own the patents on which Blackbird was suing.

      When I first wrote about Blackbird, it had just sued Cloudflare over the ‘335 patent, which Blackbird had effectively interpreted as covering any system which modified electronic communications in transit. Now, two years later, after a district court decision, an appeal, and plenty of legal fees, the courts have made clear that Blackbird’s patent never should have issued in the first place. In particular, the district court held that Blackbird’s patent was directed to the abstract idea of monitoring a data stream and modifying it when a specific condition is identified and was thus invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 101.

    • Trademarks
      • USPTO rule change on foreign TM applicants is logical: lawyers

        The USPTO issued its notice of proposed rulemaking on February 15, saying that only US attorneys should have the right to act for trademark applicants and registrants based outside the country.

      • David Assman Invalidates Canadian Government’s Reason For Refusing Him His Name-Based Vanity License Plate

        It’s been a source of confusion for me over the past few years how there can possibly be so much conflict in the realm of vanity license plates. While I can understand the need for something in the way of rules when it comes to government-mandated plates, it’s still the case that such plates are a form of expression and, given the government mandate, one would think the government would tread lightly when it comes to overly restrictive rules for them. And, yet, stories about agencies disallowing Star Trek references because ignorant people think they’re racist, about police being unable to have a plate that reads “O1NK”, and about governments somehow thinking IT-related terms are sexual abound.

        At first glance, one man’s request for a vanity plate that reads “ASSMAN” might appear to be outside of these types of cases. After all, even the vulgar among us might understand a government worker disapproving of such a request out of concern for the purity of all the other drivers out there. On the other hand, when the denial for an “ASSMAN” vanity plate leaves the Canadian government offices in an envelope addressed to David Assman, it seems we’re right back in the territory of the prudishly absurd.

      • SCOTUS hears case on interplay between bankruptcy and TM law

        The US Supreme Court is today hearing arguments in a case about what happens to a trademark licensee’s rights when the licensor is undergoing bankruptcy proceedings and rejects the parties’ contract

        It concerns whether, under Section 365 of the Bankruptcy Code, a debtor-licensor’s rejection of a licence agreement—which constitutes a breach of contract—terminates the licensee’s rights that would survive the licensor’s breach under non-bankruptcy law. The case is Mission Product Holdings v Tempnology….

    • Copyrights
      • 79 more votes are needed in the European Parliament to defend user-generated content against upload filters: EU Copyright Directive

        verything one can read on Twitter points to the EU Council being hell-bent to approve the proposed EU Copyright Directive (see Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda’s tweet). There was a glimmer of hope that Merkel’s junior coalition partner, the Social Democratic Party of Germany, could prevent the German government from supporting the proposal in today’s meeting of Member States’ diplomats. But the resistance they staged (after the delivery of 4.7 million online signatures) was too little, too late. Merkel imposed her will, and she owes some media companies big-time (in a recently uncovered scandal, a journalist who wrote articles for leading newsweekly Der Spiegel and won multiple awards had fabricated key parts of his stories, with a representative example being that he wrote Merkel appeared in “refugee” children’s dreams). In order to prevent Article 13 from being adopted, the social demoracts would have had to be prepared to leave the coalition, and they would have had a legitimate basis as the coalition agreement speaks out against upload filters. While the bill doesn’t say “upload filter,” there’s no way to implement its worst element, Article 13, without such filters, and everyone with a modicum of technical knowledge realizes that no filtering technology available today can make a fair-use determination…

        So what does this mean in practice? It’s not realistic to assume that the formal Council vote (which must be held at least at the level of the ministers–or, theoretically, by the heads of state or government–and will likely take place within about a week) would go differently. Again, if Germany’s SPD threatened to leave the government coalition, then anything would be possible. There are signs of them looking for an exit from Merkel’s unpopular coalition government, but their plans appear to center on a mid-term view scheduled for later this year.

        The European Parliament will hold its second-reading vote in late March. Recognizing that many people take an interest in EU procedures for the first time because of the controversial and partly crazy EU Copyright Directive, here’s an explanation of how high the hurdle is:

        At the first-reading stage, where the Parliament’s vote is irrelevant unless the Council (= Member States) agrees anyway, a simple majority is sufficient to reject a bill (not a final rejection at that stage, just a political statement) or to pass an amendment that modifies or deletes a passage.

      • As EU Politicians Insist That It’s All Just ‘Bots’ And ‘Astroturf’ Tons Of People Showing Up In Real Life To Protest

        One of the more obnoxious elements of the EU politicians brushing off the concerns of the public concerning the EU Copyright Directive, is their repeated, insulting and incorrect, claim that there really isn’t a public upswell against Articles 11 and 13 and that it’s all just manufactured by Google and “bots” and “astroturfing.” We’ve already pointed out that nearly 5 million people have signed the Change.org petition protesting Article 13 — making it the largest petition on that site ever. And those are real people signing on.

      • Hollywood tries to cripple several alleged pirate TV services in one lawsuit

        The studios last week filed a copyright infringement suit against Omniverse One World Television Inc., which provides streaming video to several online TV services. Omniverse claims to have legal rights to the content, but the studios say it doesn’t.

      • Hollywood Uses ‘False Whois’ Domain Suspensions as Anti-Piracy Tool

        Hollywood’s Motion Picture Association has a voluntary agreement with the Indian domain registry NIXI to suspend pirate sites that use false Whois data. This is seen as an effective anti-piracy tool on top of site blocking. In addition, rightsholders also praise India’s Cyber Digital Crime Unit, which helped to suspend more than 200 pirate domains.

      • 93 Students At One University Suspended From Web for Pirate Downloads

        Downloading and sharing copyrighted content is illegal in the UK but is rarely associated with serious consequences. However, it’s now been revealed that 93 students at a single university had their Internet access suspended following allegations of piracy.

      • 10 Best Cloud Torrent Service Providers

        The cloud is getting a lot of traffic these days and you will be surprised to know that virtually anything you can do locally can be done in the cloud too; a good example is torrenting.

        We took a look at streaming awesomeness in our Popcorn Time and WebTorrent Desktop articles, and I’m sure you’re familiar with apps like Vuze, Transmission, BitTorrent, etc. But what if you don’t want to download torrents to your local machine?

        Cloud torrenting enables users to download torrent files directly from host websites to their preferred cloud service like Google Drive, Mega, Dropbox, etc. without the need for a torrent client.

        While there are many websites that offer this service these days, not all platforms are created equal and as usual, you can trust FossMint to bring you a list of the best options you have.

      • Court Awards $15,000 for Linguine Car Wash Massacre

        Two years later – December 2017, Boffoli discovered the use of his images and then sued for copyright infringement in 2018. I’ll note that naming-the-wrong-artist itself is not copyright infringement, but may have triggered Boffoli enough to sue.

      • Digitized images of works in the public domain: what rights vest in them? Analysis of the recent BGH Reiss-Engelhorn judgment – Part 1

        The German Federal Court of Justice recently published the full version of its highly-anticipated decision on the publication of photographs of paintings held by a group of German museums on Wikimedia Commons. The case had raised several unresolved questions of German copyright law with regard to works in the public domain.

        The courts of first and second instance had given favourable decisions to the claimant group of museums. The Federal Court’s judgment confirms these decisions and seems to strengthen the legal position of the owners of paintings in the public domain. But as it refuses to address the most controversial aspect of the decision in appeal, the decision seems to leave the door wide open for future reconsideration of the latter.

      • Digitized images of works in the public domain: what rights vest in them? Analysis of the recent BGH Reiss-Engelhorn judgment – Part 2

        From the perspective of the Wikimedia Movement, the most disappointing aspects of the judgment are its treatment of § 72 UrhG, putting additional means of control over public domain works in the hands of those cultural heritage institutions, that regard control as an integral part of their public mission. As mentioned by Tobias here, it is highly questionable whether publicly funded museums should even consider using injunctions to go after digital copies of public domain works they hold in their collections.

        If private owners of artworks are involved, there might be an argument for control on behalf of such private interests, in order to get the respective works into museums and before the public’s eye in the first place. But to limit the visibility of publicly owned works of art in any way, to leverage related rights in photographic depictions even with public domain works, can hardly be anything but a gross misunderstanding of the role and mission public cultural heritage institutions have. Such institutions must do anything within their power to hold as much of our cultural heritage in the public’s awareness, including on the internet, and therefore must not hide or withdraw public domain works from the public’s conscious perception.

        But the present judgment does more. It drives an illogical interpretation of the German Copyright Code further into an argumentative dead end, and puts an interpretative burden back onto courts that the law in question was actually meant to relieve them of. It does so by badly handling a procedural glitch that nobody had seen coming, one that will haunt all future proceedings dealing with photography.

      • German government may oppose Article 13 of EU Copyright Directive in tomorrow’s COREPER vote, according to tweet by MEP from coalition party

        Only if there is no blocking minority in place, a bill is adopted, so there are two bites at the apple: either get 13 countries or get fewer countries as long as they account for more than 35% of the total EU population. In the context of the EU Copyright Directive, a blocking minority based on the second criterion would be in place if the countries that previously opposed the bill hadn’t changed their position (and there’s no reason why they should) and Germany joined them: in that case the opposing countries would represent more than 35% of the total EU population. In fact, the total population size of Poland, Italy, Luxemburg, Malta, Slovakia, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden and Germany would be approximately 43%. They could threaten to vote against unless Article 13 is thrown out. That’s how it often works in the Council.

        [...]

        But this suggests that they, too, have an inside track. In my experience, information often leaks from those diplomatic circles. COREPER, the committee of permanent representatives (= the Members States’ ambassadors to the EU), doesn’t meet in public, but there’s always a number of people in Brussels who know where the other Member States stand. That’s the idea of having permanent representatives in Brussels: they constantly communicate regarding these processes.

        Tomorrow (Wednesday), there’ll be a COREPER vote unless the latest developments result in a postponement, which would be more than just a crack in the shell for the directive.

        COREPER votes aren’t final: the decisive votes have to be cast by the heads of state and government at a European Council meeting, or by ministers (or the state secretaries representing them) at an EU Council of Ministers meeting. But COREPER votes are meant to prepare the formal votes, and as long as a bill doesn’t have a qualified COREPER majority, there’s normally no point in putting it to a vote in a formal Council meeting (absent some new backroom agreement between countries that would change everything, but even then they’d normally hold another COREPER vote first).

        Should the bill fail to get a qualified majority (= a majority so solid that there’s no blocking minority of any kind) in the Council, the European Parliament’s JURI committee will probably have to postpone its own vote (scheduled for next Tuesday, and meant to prepare a plenary vote in late March). If the Council does adopt the bill, but without Article 13, JURI could speak out in favor of the Council’s new version. It would be irrational for JURI not to do so: no other article in the bill depends on Article 13.

        Theoretically, the EU could later try to amend the directive to the effect of reintroducing Article 13. However, the next European Parliament will be structurally different from the current one, with more anti-establishment MEPs than ever.

How Long Can the EPO Bend the Rules Before the Avalanche of Invalid Software Patents?

Wednesday 20th of February 2019 10:07:53 AM

The epidemic of patent trolls in Germany is becoming ever more visible

Summary: A 35 U.S.C. § 101/SCOTUS moment in Europe will likely squash loads of abstract European Patents granted by the EPO; shouldn’t the EPO foresee this and immediately cease granting such obviously bogus patents, whose main beneficiary is a bunch of patent trolls?

THE European Patent Office (EPO) belatedly admits severe patent quality problems [1, 2, 3]. It has said nothing publicly, only internally, so surely António Campinos is aware (but chooses to keep silent, as usual).

We predict that in the coming days, maybe late on a Friday as usual, EPO management will push something into the media (or its site) to control/change the narrative; we also imagine, as we explained earlier this week, that one day a lot of abstract European Patents will perish in bulk (like many on biological processes a couple of years ago).

“We predict that in the coming days, maybe late on a Friday as usual, EPO management will push something into the media (or its site) to control/change the narrative…”Why has the EPO taken such a suicidal path? It’s devaluing hundreds of thousands of existing European Patents and stakeholders won’t be happy about it. Only lawyers benefit from this legal barbwire.

Charles Russell Speechlys LLP’s Mary Bagnall, in a new and paid Lexology ‘article’ (self-promotional ads is what these sites boil down to), has just put out something titled “Brexit: Implications for Intellectual Property” [sic] — an ‘article’ like many before it which covers UPC and other things lawyers want for litigation invoicing. They want as many lawsuits as possible and they worry that Brexit puts that at risk/peril.

“They want as many lawsuits as possible and they worry that Brexit puts that at risk/peril.”Another law firm, Withers & Rogers, has just hijacked a publication to promote illegal software patents in Europe (under the guise of “AI”). Harry Strange and Stuart Latham, partner and patent attorney at Withers & Rogers, put out something titled “A guide to protecting AI and machine learning inventions” in so-called ‘media’ (marketing) and it’s all about the EPO:

As well as there being evidence of more global patent filings, the AI and machine learning technologies featured in these applications have become increasingly sophisticated. To illustrate this, a recently published patent highlights technology capable of generating audio using a convolutional neural network. Preliminary examination of the patent carried out by the EPO indicates that the invention does indeed meet the described patentability criteria. The ‘technical effect’ produced by the patented invention is considered to be a reduction in the computational requirement to generate waveform data compared to existing methods. This should be reassuring for both innovators and practitioners, as it clearly shows that the guidelines are being followed by the examiners at the EPO.

These are all just algorithms. Why does the EPO still welcome patents on algorithms? Surely it knows that courts have repeatedly rejected this, citing the EPC. Surely it also knows what happened in 2005 in Parliament. Surely it can see that national patent policy have barred such patents. Why is the EPO actively promoting illegal patents under the guise of “CII” or “AI”? So frequently in fact, to the point of banality…

Yesterday the EPO wrote: “What are the best IP strategies when it comes to your computer-implemented inventions in #MedTech? Find out at this event…”

“Why is the EPO actively promoting illegal patents under the guise of “CII” or “AI”? So frequently in fact, to the point of banality…”This is the third such tweet in little over a week (the first one did not have the “CII” part, which was only included in the cited page).

These patents are definitely not benign; there’s plenty of trolling with software patents in Germany. Some of this has been measured and it’s a fast-growing trend. As recently as half a day ago we saw a report titled “Enforcement of German injunctions forces Huawei to take MPEG LA’s AVC Patent Portfolio License” (MPEG-LA is technically a troll) and it makes Germany resemble the worst districts in the US. It’s bad enough that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) granted something like a million or two software patents. Thankfully, owing to Alice and expiries few of these are worth anything anymore. There are some caveats, sure, but trolls mostly rely on subjective courts in particular districts (litigation venue does matter).

“It’s understandable that people who make a living from litigation just want more and more and more patents.”A couple of days ago we saw David Lisch at Watchtroll with the title “The Newest Patent ‘Rocket-Docket’: Waco, Texas” (around the centre of Texas, if not a tad to the east albeit not Eastern Texas or notorious EDTX/TXED). So maybe the trolls can be their new Branch Davidians? That would not vibe well with about 120,000 locals. Being a litigation capital won’t do any good for the town’s reputation.

It’s understandable that people who make a living from litigation just want more and more and more patents. Consider Gene Quinn’s “Mitigating ‘Justified Paranoia’ via Provisional Patent Applications” (at Watchtroll, same day as above) and loads of similarly-misleading calls for patenting, such as the above from Withers & Rogers. But it’s malignant and corrosive to the real economy. Shouldn't Europe learn from the mistakes of the United States? Instead of repeating these? There’s no lack of cautionary tales. Last night, for example, Unified Patents spoke of a rather infamous patent troll, Leigh Rothschild, who suffers a blow in the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) after an inter partes review (IPR). Josh Landau (CCIA) has also just brought up Blackbird (another notorious troll) in the context of the Federal Circuit‘s decision on Berkheimer.

“The EPO is mostly enabling trolls by granting such bogus patents, knowing that courts might never get around to scrutinising these.”“These changes represent serious threats to the tools that have been developed to combat low-quality, invalid patents,” he argued. “Those patents, as I wrote earlier this week, do more than threaten to take money out of the pockets of large companies. They also threaten the existence of small companies—the exact companies who most need the kind of quick, inexpensive processes for fighting a patent that Berkheimer deters.”

Thankfully, however, a lot of patent trolls who rely on software patents are worthless and penniless now; some get disbanded. If they target small companies there’s little chance of a day in court (to challenge the underlying patents or infringement thereof), so these patents must never exist in the first place. The EPO is mostly enabling trolls by granting such bogus patents, knowing that courts might never get around to scrutinising these. In the case of MPEG-LA, such patents get leveraged in bulk to make legal challenges extremely long and expensive.

Battistelli Trashed 223 Millions (of Stakeholders’ Euros) on a System That Destroyed the European Patent Office and Made Few Private Corporations a Lot Richer

Wednesday 20th of February 2019 01:54:14 AM

…Before, on his final weeks on the job, passing millions of euros to his other employer

Summary: A quarter of a billion euros later the EPO finally admits in private that this was a massive failure

READERS can find above “EPO’s IT – Yet another crack in Battistelli’s “excellence” bubble”.” Sources tell us this appeared in SUEPO’s site (non-public), having been published a fortnight ago, on 05/02/2019. As we showed yesterday, there’s less than a fortnight left before key components of this system get abandoned. What a waste of money.

As SUEPO put it: “Will Mr Campinos hold the managers, appointed by Mr Battistelli, accountable for these disasters?”

Of course not. From the above:

The eDossier programme has not been fully realised and is largely delayed. This seems to be amongst others due to the fact that the two releases, stock management/annotation and search workflow, are developed in parallel, but are based on different architecture and technology stack. The parallel development of the two releases turns out to be highly inefficient and not long-term sustainable. The audit recommends an immediate stop of all effort on one release and the work on the other release should be temporarily suspended.
As in all previous staff surveys, and the only positive statement in the audit, a strong individual commitment and team spirit among the IT staff is shown. Nevertheless, overall staff engagement is rather low. In particular, the pride, satisfaction and sense of purpose are relatively weak in comparison to benchmarks. Furthermore, the management style is perceived as too top-down and non-collaborative while appreciation of individual opinions is considered to be relatively low.

Conclusions:

- The audit clearly reveals that Mr Battistelli either lied to all the EPO stakeholders or was completely misinformed by his management about the state of affairs of the EPO’s IT.
- Fact is that 223 million Euros are spent on an IT project and there seems to be no tangible results coming from it. Mr Campinos and Ms Simon await an enormous task to repair the EPO’s IT organisation, infrastructure and IT staff motivation.
- The production rise of the last years can only be the result of the extreme hard work of the EPO staff and certainly not by the badly designed, wrongly developed or incomplete applications.
- Losing 223 million Euros is clearly not in line with the sustainability mantra of the EPO administration. Sustainability is an “approach aiming to create long-term stakeholder value through the implementation of a business strategy that focuses on the ethical, social, environmental, cultural, and economic dimensions of doing business. The strategies created are intended to foster longevity, transparency and proper employee development within business organizations”. It definitely does not mean for EPO employees to produce more and work harder in order to cover losses made by EPO managers.

Are the next cracks in Battistelli’s “excellence” bubble going to be: the patent quality, the reformed EPO legal system, the reformed social democracy and/or the ill conceived HR policies ?

How will Mr Campinos deal with the fact that the EPO is not the “excellent” model organisation his predecessor always claimed it to be?

Will Mr Campinos hold the managers, appointed by Mr Battistelli, accountable for these disasters?

SUEPO

We now live in a Europe with lots of dubious European Patents. In Lexology, for instance, Weickmann & Weickmann’s Stephan Jellbauer has just written about those fruity EPO patents that are laughable satires. See how Battistelli attempted to justify these. FRKelly has meanwhile written in the same site on “Patent enforcement through the courts in the European Union”; it should increasingly be accepted and broadly realised that many courts do not (not often anyway) tolerate patents granted by EPO. In order to fake numbers Battistelli allowed a lot of bogus patents to be granted; it may take decades before these go away (expiry). Who pays? The public.

Links 19/2/2019: Mesa 18.3.4, Cutelyst 2.7.0, Plasma Pass 1.0.0

Tuesday 19th of February 2019 03:29:26 PM

Contents GNU/Linux
  • How Linux testing has changed and what matters today

    If you’ve ever wondered how your Linux computer stacks up against other Linux, Windows, and MacOS machines or searched for reviews of Linux-compatible hardware, you’re probably familiar with Phoronix. Along with its website, which attracts more than 250 million visitors a year to its Linux reviews and news, the company also offers the Phoronix Test Suite, an open source hardware benchmarking tool, and OpenBenchmarking.org, where test result data is stored.

    According to Michael Larabel, who started Phoronix in 2004, the site “is frequently cited as being the leading source for those interested in computer hardware and Linux. It offers insights regarding the development of the Linux kernel, product reviews, interviews, and news regarding free and open source software.”

  • Desktop
  • Server
    • Video: Container Mythbusters

      Michael Jennings has been a UNIX/Linux sysadmin and software engineer for over 20 years. He has been the author of or a contributor to numerous open source software projects, including Charliecloud, Mezzanine, Eterm, RPM, Warewulf/PERCEUS, and TORQUE. Additionally, he co-founded the Caos Foundation, creators of CentOS, and has been the lead developer on 3 separate Linux distributions. He currently serves as the Platforms Team Lead in the HPC Systems group at Los Alamos National Laboratory, responsible for managing some of our nation’s most powerful supercomputers and is the primary author/maintainer for the LBNL Node Health Check (NHC) project. He is also the Vice President of HPCXXL, the extreme-scale HPC Users group.

    • Assessing App Portfolios for Onboarding to OpenShift

      Most professionals who’ve spent enough time in the IT industry have seen organizational silos in action. The classic silos are the ones created by Development and Operations organizations; silos we aim to break down through DevOps-style collaboration. But how many organizations pursuing digital transformation are continuing that siloed thinking when it comes to evaluating the application portfolio for cloud migration and modernization?

      Application Development, Database Operations, Infrastructure, and the various lines of business have portions of the application portfolio for which they take responsibility. When organizations think about modernization, they need to deemphasize the silos and develop a comprehensive approach that evaluates the entire portfolio, and the teams that support those applications. Otherwise, they’re leaving money on the table in the form of missed opportunities for cost savings and application improvements that generate revenue and increase customer engagement.

      A comprehensive approach takes into account the full range of workloads supported by the IT organization and starts making tough decisions about: which workloads can/should be modernized, which should be rehosted to take advantage of more efficient cloud platforms, and which should be left as is or even retired because they’re outlived their usefulness.

    • Big Blue Finally Brings IBM i To Its Own Public Cloud

      Well, that took quite a long time. After what seems like eons of nudging and cajoling and pushing, IBM is making the IBM i operating system and its integrated database management system, as well as the application development tools and other systems software, available on its self-branded IBM Cloud public cloud.

      Big Blue previewed its plans to bring both IBM i and AIX to the IBM Cloud at its annual Think conference in Las Vegas, on scale out machines aimed at small and medium businesses as well as to customers who want to run clusters of machines, and on scale up systems that have NUMA electronics that more tightly cluster them into shared memory systems.

    • Linux Professional Institute (LPI) transforming to a membership-based organisation

      LPI’s goals over the years has been to help steer careers and entrepreneurship by proving the skills of practitioners working with open source software. Its focus has been on Linux distribution neutrality, training methods, and promoting open source.

      Under the new arrangement, certification holders will soon be able to become LPI members, which means they will have the ability to elect the LPI Board of Directors and steer the direction of the organisation.

  • Audiocasts/Shows
    • LHS Episode #272: The Weekender XXIV

      Good grief! It’s the latest edition of the Weekender! In this episode, the hosts put together a list of amateur radio contests and special events, upcoming open source conferences and a hefty does of hedonism that blends together and goes down like a luxurious sippin’ whiskey. Thank you for tuning in and we hope you have an amazing upcoming fortnight.

    • Destination Linux EP108 – Ubuntu Studio Amped Up

      On this episode of Destination Linux, we discuss some news for Makulu Linux, GNOME 3.32, IPFire 2.21 and more. We’ll also check out a cool new system deployment tool that could change how multi-booting is done. Then we’ll check out a new desktop offering from ZaReason as well as an overclocking tool for Team Green users. Later in the show we’ll talk about some Linux Gaming news and much more including our Tips, Tricks and Software Spotlight picks!

    • Replacing OneNote or Evernote with open alternative ways to take notes
    • Linux vs. Windows The Fundamental Differences
  • Kernel Space
    • Debian 9.8 Released, Kernel 5.0-rc7 Is Out, Creative Commons Update on the EU Copyright Changes, Slax 9.8 Available and Mozilla Testing Picture-in-Picture Mode in Firefox

      Linux kernel 5.0-rc7 was released yesterday. Linus writes “A nice and calm week, with statistics looking normal. Just under half drivers (gpu, networking, input, md, block, sound, …), with the rest being architecture fixes (arm64, arm, x86, kvm), networking and misc (filesystem etc). Nothing particularly odd stands out, and everything is pretty small. Just the way I like it.”

    • FS-VERITY Updated For Read-Only, File-Based Authenticity Protection On EXT4/F2FS

      Since November we haven’t heard much about Google’s effort around FS-VERITY as transparent integrity / authenticity support for read-only files on a writable file-system. Fortunately, the effort didn’t stop and new patches are pending for this implementation that complements DM-VERITY.

      FS-VERITY offers read-only, file-based authenticity protection on a per-file basis that can reside on a read-write file-system, like DM-VERITY being at the block level. FS-VERITY is being implemented as its own framework akin to fs-crypt for file-system encryption. The initial Linux file-systems that Google cares about for hooking into FS-VERITY are EXT4 and F2FS, both of which are used by Android devices.

    • XFS Copy-On-Write Support Being Improved, Always CoW Option

      One of the recent XFS innovations under work and maturing with time has been Copy on Write (CoW) support for this mature Linux file-systems. The XFS CoW support continues to be improved upon and an “always CoW” option is being prepared to always force this behavior.

      Christoph Hellwig has been among the XFS developers working on the copy-on-write improvements as well as adding an always_cow sysfs option. The latest XFS CoW patches were sent out on Monday for review.

    • ACPI 6.3 Support Coming With The Linux 5.1 Kernel

      Version 6.3 of the Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) was just recently published by the UEFI Forum and support for this latest ACPI revision is on the way with the Linux 5.1 kernel.

      There are many changes lining up for Linux 5.1 and now ACPI 6.3 support is the latest to tack on that list. ACPI 6.3 is the latest major annual update to this specification and was just released days ago.

    • Graphics Stack
      • Chamferwm: A Vulkan-Powered X11 Window Manager

        While we have talked about the possibilities of writing a Vulkan Wayland compositor and there was even a short-lived Vulkan renderer for KDE’s KWin, it’s also possible to write a X11 window manager around the Vulkan interfaces.

        Chamferwm is a new tiling X11 window manager that features a Vulkan compositor. Chamferwm doesn’t support Wayland at this point but is written using Vulkan and XCB for the X11 bits. This tiling window manager already supports a lot of standard window management functionality, all rendering is done with Vulkan and there is support for user-supplied shaders for decorations/borders, and support as well for using an external compositor.

      • mesa 18.3.4

        Mesa 18.3.4 is now available.

        In this release we have:

        A fix in the XvMC state-tracker, which was causing some video attributes to
        not take affect. On the video front the VAAPI state tracker has seen
        improvements with VP9 streams while the amdgpu driver advertises all available
        profiles.

        On Intel side we have compiler fixes and extra PCI IDs for Coffee Lake and
        Ice Lake parts. In the Broadcom drivers a couple of memory leaks were
        addressed and the NEON assembly should compile properly on armhf.

        Other drivers such as radeonsi, nouveau and freedreno have also seen some
        love. The RADV driver has seen addressed to compile correctly with GCC9
        amongst other changes.

        The Xlib based libGL have been addressed to work with X servers, which lacks
        the MIT-SHM extension such as XMing.

        To top it up we have a few fixes to the meson build system.

      • Mesa 18.3.4 Brings VA-API VP9 Improvements, More Coffeelake/Icelake IDs For Intel

        For those sticking to the Mesa 18.3 series until the Mesa 19.0 release is officially out and sufficiently matured, Mesa 18.3.4 is now available as the latest point release for these open-source 3D drivers.

        Mesa 18.3.4 adds some missing PCI IDs for Coffeelake and Icelake parts to the Intel driver code, VA-API Gallium state tracker improvements for VP9 video streams, memory leak fixes to the VC4 driver, several RADV Radeon Vulkan driver fixes, and even a fix for the old XvMC state tracker so it correctly handles video attributes.

      • Intel Confirms their Discrete Graphics Card in latest Linux Patches
      • Intel Already Adding Linux Kernel Support For 2020 Dedicated GPU Releases
      • Intel releases patches to add Linux Kernel support for upcoming dedicated GPU releases
      • Intel rolls out discrete GPU patches preparing Linux for Intel Xe graphics cards
      • Intel prepares for new graphics cards with driver updates

        Intel recently released new updates for its Linux graphics driver to prepare the system for its upcoming discrete graphics cards, Phoronix reported.

        The updates reportedly introduce memory region support to Linux graphics driver, which is required for discrete graphics cards that have dedicated VRAM.

        This feature was previously not necessary for Intel’s graphics drivers, as the company’s integrated graphics share memory with the CPU.

        At the end of 2018, Intel confirmed it was working on discrete graphics cards and it was set to launch its GPU products in 2020.

    • Benchmarks
      • Linux 5.0 I/O Scheduler Benchmarks On Laptop & Desktop Hardware

        Our past tests have shown that while most Linux distributions default to “none” for their I/O scheduler on NVMe solid-state storage, that isn’t necessarily the best scheduler decision in all cases. Here are tests using the Linux 5.0 Git kernel using laptop and desktop hardware while evaluating no I/O scheduler, mq-deadline, Kyber, and BFQ scheduler options.

        Out today is the latest installment of our routine I/O scheduler kernel benchmarks. For this round of testing using a Linux 5.0 Git kernel atop Ubuntu 18.04 LTS, tests were done on an AMD Ryzen 5 2400G desktop and Intel Core i7 8550U laptop. The Ryzen 5 2400G had a Corsair Force MP500 120GB NVMe SSD. The laptop was a Dell XPS 9370 with Samsung PM961 solid-state drive. EXT4 was the file-system in use on both systems and with the default mount options.

  • Applications
  • Desktop Environments/WMs
    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt
      • Cutelyst 2.7.0 released, async is back!

        Cutelyst a Qt/C++ Web Framework just got a new version. This time bringing back proper async support.

        Perl Catalyst Framework was conceived as a sync/blocking framework, due that the Mojolicious framework was created, NodeJS and a few other web frameworks have pushed the async programming to the web. Performance wise being async doesn’t mean you get faster response times, rather the opposite, the need to unroll stack and make extra calls makes a CPU bound application slower.

        But depending on the problem to solve it allows you to serve more users at the same time, using the same CPU cores. A typical modern application might receive a request from a Phone App then do a REST API call to an external API which might take 2ms or 200ms for the reply. While waiting for the response, typical sync/blocking applications can’t process more requests, or have to spawn more threads increasing RAM consumption and leveraging concurrency to the OS scheduler. On an Async web application, you can process another request while you wait for the previous request, thus possibly making the first request reply to be sent back to the user at a later time than if there was a dedicated process just waiting for his reply.

        So, both ways have pros and cons and IMHO I’d like to support them both. When I started Cutelyst I thought that if I ever need async I could have a local QEventLoop to wait for the reply and would be able to deal with async requests, not recently I found out that supporting QEventLoop was causing stack overflow due it being used in pipelined scenarios, after that I removed it’s usage and performance improved in PlainText tests of TechEmpower, so I advised against using it and marked Cutelyst as not async.

      • Plasma Pass 1.0.0

        Last year I wrote about Plasma Pass, a Plasma applet for the Pass password manager. Over the couple last months I got some emails from packagers from various distributions asking for a proper release so they can package it…so here it is, proudly announcing Plasma Pass 1.0.0.

  • Distributions
    • Top 20 Parrot OS Tools

      Parrot Security OS is an Open source lightweight distro based on Debian Testing and also it doesn’t have mere Pentesting tools but it contains everything that Security researchers, security developers or privacy aware people might need. Unlike Kali Linux, it also has anonymity, cryptography and development tools with a loot of cool features. Here we’ll review some famous tools of Parrot Security OS which make it a preferable distribution among others.

    • Linspire Cloud Edition 8.0 Office 365 Officially Released, Here’s What’s New [Ed: Linspire works for Microsoft]

      The Linspire team informs Softpedia about the availability of the Cloud Edition (CE) Office 365 of the latest Linspire 8.0 operating system release.

      Targeted at corporate and education users, the Linspire Cloud Edition 8.0 Office 365 operating system brings together the security and stability of the GNU/Linux technologies and the standard Microsoft Office online platform called Office 365 into a single, affordable package that can be easily installed on a personal computer or deployed across a network in offices and classrooms.

    • New Releases
      • Arne Exton’s Six-in-One MultiBootCD Updated with Latest GNU/Linux Releases

        EXTON Linux MultiBootCD 6-OS is a live, bootable ISO image that consists of six popular and minimalist GNU/Linux distributions, including Gparted Live, 4MLinux, Tiny Core Linux, Porteus Linux, PuppEX Slack64, and SliTaz Linux. The latest version, build 190215, is here to update several of these bundled OSes.

        As such, EXTON Linux MultiBootCD 6-OS Build 190215 ships with 4MLinux 28.0, Porteus 4.0, Tiny Core Linux 10.0, SliTaz 5.0, and PuppEX Slack64 160822, a GNU/Linux distribution based on the popular Puppy Linux operating system. Also included is the older GParted Live 0.26.1-5 distribution.

      • Kali Linux 2019.1 Release

        Welcome to our first release of 2019, Kali Linux 2019.1, which is available for immediate download. This release brings our kernel up to version 4.19.13, fixes numerous bugs, and includes many updated packages.

      • Kali Linux Ethical Hacking OS Kicks Off 2019 with Metasploit 5.0 and ARM Updates

        Offensive Security announced today the general availability of the Kali Linux 2019.1, the first update of the popular ethical hacking and penetration testing operating system in 2019.

        Kali Linux 2019.1 kicks off the new year in style for fans of the penetration testing GNU/Linux distribution, which is based on the Debian GNU/Linux operating system, as it’s the first release to ship with the latest, greatest, and widely used Metasploit 5.0 penetration testing framework.

        Metasploit 5.0 is a major update that introduces numerous new features and improvements to the penetration testing framework, among which we can mention a new search engine, new evasion modules, integrated web services, support for writing shellcode in C, as well as a new json-rpc daemon.

      • Kali Linux 2019.1 Launched With Metasploit 5.0

        Offensive Security has announced the launch of Kali Linux 2019.1, the go-to operating system for penetration testers and cyber security enthusiasts.

        The Debian GNU/Linux based OS has been launched with Metasploit 5.0, which is considered to be among the best pen-testing frameworks available in the market today.

    • Fedora
      • Fedora 30 Will Have Firefox Wayland By Default But Could Be Reverted If Too B

        The plan to use the Wayland-native version of Firefox by default for Fedora Workstation 30 atop GNOME has been tentatively approved by the Fedora Engineering and Steering Committee (FESCo).

        At this morning’s FESCo meeting, the Fedora stakeholders approved of this late change to ship the Wayland-enabled version of Firefox by default, after they’ve been carrying this spin of Firefox in their package repository for several cycles but haven’t made use of it out-of-the-box. This Firefox Wayland version will be used by Fedora 30 straight-away when running on the GNOME Shell Wayland session.

      • Bodhi 3.13.1 released
      • Install ImageMagick (Image Manipulation) Tool on RHEL/CentOS and Fedora

        ImageMagick is a free open source simple software suite for any kind of image manipulation that is used for creating, editing, converting, displaying image files.

        It can able to read and write over 200 image files such as JPEG, GIF, PNG, TIFF, and Photo CD image formats and it is also used for thumbnail or captcha generation. It also includes command line options for creating transparent or animated gif image formats and many more feature like resize, sharpen, rotate or add special effects to an image.

        To use ImageMagick tool with PHP or Perl programming language, you will need to install ImageMagick with Imagick PHP extension for PHP and ImageMagick-Perl extension for Perl.

      • Changes in Flathub land

        Flathub uses buildbot to to manage the builds, and we have updated and customized the UI a bit to be nicer for maintainers. For example, we now have a page listing all the apps ever built, with links to per-app pages showing builds of that app.

        We also integrated GitHub authentication so that maintainers of individual applications automatically have authority to do operations on their own apps and builds. For example, the home and per-app pages have buttons that let you start builds, which anyone with write permissions to the corresponding GitHub repository can use. Also, similarly they can cancel or retry the builds of their own apps. Previously you had to ask a Flathub administrator to restart or cancel a build, but no more!

      • How to write an Ansible playbook
      • Stephen Smoogen: 503′s.. the cliffnotes version
    • Debian Family
      • Debian 9.8 released

        The Debian project has announced the eighth update of Debian 9 “stretch”. As a stable point release, this version mainly adds bugfixes for security issues and other serious problems. Click below for a list of changes.

      • Debian GNU/Linux 9.8 “Stretch” Live & Installable ISOs Now Available to Download

        The Debian Project released live and installable ISO images of their latest Debian GNU/Linux 9.8 “Stretch” operating system, which is now available to download for all supported architectures.

        Debian GNU/Linux 9.8 is the eighth point release of the Debian GNU/Linux 9 “Stretch” operating system series, adding no less than 186 updated packages that include security and bug fixes. As of today, the Debian GNU/Linux 9.8 “Stretch” installable and live images are now available to download from the project’s homepage or via our free software portal.

      • Raphaël Hertzog: Freexian’s report about Debian Long Term Support, January 2019

        Like each month, here comes a report about the work of paid contributors to Debian LTS.

      • User discovers bug in debian stable kernel upgrade; armmp package affected

        2 min read
        Last week, Jürgen Löb, a Debian user, discovered a bug in the linux-image-4.9.0-8-armmp-lpae package of the Debian system. The version of the system affected is 4.9.144-3.

        The user states that he updated his Lamobo R1 board with apt update; apt upgrade. However, after the update, uboot was struck at “Starting kernel” with no further output after the same.

      • Reproducible Builds: Weekly report #199

        strip-nondeterminism is our tool that post-processes files to remove known non-deterministic output. This week, Chris Lamb adjusted its behaviour to deduplicate hardlinks via stat(2) before processing to avoid issues when handling files in parallel; as the per-filetype handlers are yet currently guaranteed to be atomic, one process could temporarily truncate a file which can cause errors in other processes operating on the “same” file under a different pathname. This was thus causing package build failures in packages that de-duplicate hardlinks in their build process such as the Debian Administrator’s Handbook (#922168).

      • Derivatives
        • Canonical/Ubuntu
          • Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS now available to download

            The development team responsible for the Ubuntu Linux operating system have this week announced the availability and release of Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS (Long-Term Support) for its Desktop, Server, and Cloud products, as well as other flavours of Ubuntu with long-term support. For those unfamiliar with Ubuntu, takes the form of a Linux based open source software operating system that runs from the desktop, to the cloud, offering a solution all your internet connected things, says it’s developers.

          • Ubuntu 18.04.2 LTS released and here is how to upgrade it

            he Canonical LTD has released an updated version of its long term support (LTS) Linux distribution Ubuntu Linux 18.04.02. You must upgrade to get corrections for security problem as this version made a few adjustments for the severe issue found in Ubuntu version 18.04.02. The Ubuntu LTS enablement (also called HWE or Hardware Enablement) stacks provide newer kernel and X support for existing Ubuntu LTS releases. These enablement stacks can be installed manually but are also available when installing with Ubuntu LTS point release media. These newer enablement stacks are meant for desktop and server and even recommended for cloud or virtual images.

          • It’s Still Undecided Whether Ubuntu 20.04 LTS Will Support 32-bit x86 (i386)

            Ubuntu 17.10 dropped its i386 / 32-bit x86 installer image while the i386 port has remained part of the package archive. Other Ubuntu derivatives over the past year have also moved to drop their 32-bit installer images and with Lubuntu/Xubuntu now ending their ISOs for that port, it’s hitting the end of the road. Now for Ubuntu 20.04 LTS, there might not even be the i386 port.

            Canonical’s Steve Langasek has restarted the discussion about whether to include i386 for next year’s Ubuntu 20.04 Long-Term Support release. Langasek commented today, “The real question is whether i386 is still supportable (and justifiable) as a release architecture at all in the 20.04 timeframe. There are significant technical concerns raised about whether we can continue to provide the expected security support for i386 over the lifetime of Ubuntu 20.04.”

          • Ubuntu Weekly Newsletter Issue 566
  • Devices/Embedded
Free Software/Open Source
  • Outreachy Summer 2019 Applications Open With Expanded Eligibility

    But beginning this round, they are also opening the application process to “anyone who faces systemic bias or discrimination in the technology industry of their country is invited to apply.” For evaluating the systemic bias or discrimination, an essay question was added to the application process about what discrimination they may have faced or otherwise think they could face in seeking employment.

    Also different beginning this round is only students (update: for non-student participants, this restriction does not apply) from the Northern Hemisphere can apply to this May to August round while the Southern Hemisphere round is being deemed the December to March round moving forward.

  • 5 Good Open Source Speech Recognition/Speech-to-Text Systems

    A speech-to-text (STT) system is as its name implies; A way of transforming the spoken words via sound into textual files that can be used later for any purpose.

    Speech-to-text technology is extremely useful. It can be used for a lot of applications such as a automation of transcription, writing books/texts using your own sound only, enabling complicated analyses on information using the generated textual files and a lot of other things.

    In the past, the speech-to-text technology was dominated by proprietary software and libraries; Open source alternatives didn’t exist or existed with extreme limitations and no community around. This is changing, today there are a lot of open source speech-to-text tools and libraries that you can use right now.

    Here we list 5 of them.

  • Events
    • VkRunner at FOSDEM

      I attended FOSDEM again this year thanks to funding from Igalia. This time I gave a talk about VkRunner in the graphics dev room. It’s now available on Igalia’s YouTube channel below:

      I thought this might be a good opportunity to give a small status update of what has happened since my last blog post nearly a year ago.

    • DevConf.CZ 2019

      Last month I attended DevConf CZ for the third time. The conference has been growing a lot in the last years and it has been attracting a wider variety of people. It is a free-admission conference in the lovely Brno, Czech Republic, the place that I now call home. If you haven’t attended it yet, you should definitely consider it for next year.

      This year I had a talk titled “Running virtual machines in the Flatpak sandbox”, where I described the process of Flatpaking GNOME Boxes. There’s a video available on YouTube.

  • LibreOffice
    • LibreOffice-Based Collabora Online 4.0 Adds New Look, Numerous Improvements

      Collabora Online 4.0 comes almost a year after the previous release with a new look that refreshes the toolbar icons, colors, and layout, adds a new icon to let users hide the menu bar, as well as various other smaller tweaks to simplify the user interface while giving users a more enjoyable and productive LibreOffice Online experience.

    • First LibreOffice Asia Conference

      The First LibreOffice Asia Conference Will Be Held On May 25-26, 2019 In Nihonbashi, Tokyo, Japan

      This is the first ever LibreOffice conference covering Asia, a rapidly-growing area for free and open source software. The call for papers will be launched soon.

      Berlin, February 18, 2019 – After the huge success of the LibreOffice Conference Indonesia in 2018, members of the Asian communities have decided to raise the bar in 2019 with the first ever LibreOffice Asia Conference in Nihonbashi – the very center of Tokyo, Japan – on May 25-26.

      One of the main organizers, Naruhiko Ogasawara, a member of the Japanese LibreOffice community and The Document Foundation, can’t hide his excitement: “When we launched the LibreOffice Mini Conference Japan in 2013 as a local event, we knew little about communities in other parts of Asia. In recent years we have attended the LibreOffice Conference and other Asian events like OpenSUSE Asia, COSCUP etc. We have realized that many of our colleagues are active and that our community should learn a lot from them. We are proud to be able to hold the first Asia Conference with our colleagues to further strengthen that partnership.”

  • Microsoft/Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)
    • Down productivity tools: Microsoft Teams takes a Monday tumble

      Microsoft’s collaborative Slack-alike, Teams, is having a difficult start to the week, with users unable to log in to share their hopes, dreams and Word documents with their co-workers.

      Problems started at around 13:00 UTC, as users found themselves presented with connection errors as they attempted to hook up to the service. Naturally, they took to Twitter to share their experience.

    • Microsoft is going all-in on ‘Inner Source’ [Ed: Microsoft's de facto PR person at CBS on how Microsoft will keep giving malicious software with NSA back doors while calling it "open". Dr. Glyn Moody, to his credit, warned about it over a decade ago in Linux Journal when he said Microsoft would bamboozle nontechnical people/officials by claiming it itself is its competition and is "open source" (even when it's proprietary, with back doors).]
    • After Open Source, Microsoft Wants “Inner Source” For A Better Future [Ed: Having bribed OSI and others, Microsoft is now trying to redefine and totally control FOSS (all products proprietary but with openwashing for marketing purposes). Remember "Shared Source"? Microsoft keeps rebranding. Microsoft: we’re sort of kind of like “open”. We bought some things. BP: we’re sort of green. We changed our logo and mentioned words like “climate”.]
  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration
    • Open Access/Content
      • How our non-profit works openly to make education accessible

        I’m lucky to work with a team of impressive students at Duke University who are leaders in their classrooms and beyond. As members of CSbyUs, a non-profit and student-run organization based at Duke, we connect university students to middle school students, mostly from title I schools across North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park. Our mission is to fuel future change agents from under-resourced learning environments by fostering critical technology skills for thriving in the digital age.

  • Programming/Development
    • Monte Carlo Simulation with Python

      There are many sophisticated models people can build for solving a forecasting problem. However, they frequently stick to simple Excel models based on average historical values, intuition and some high level domain-specific heuristics. This approach may be precise enough for the problem at hand but there are alternatives that can add more information to the prediction with a reasonable amount of additional effort.

      One approach that can produce a better understanding of the range of potential outcomes and help avoid the “flaw of averages” is a Monte Carlo simulation. The rest of this article will describe how to use python with pandas and numpy to build a Monte Carlo simulation to predict the range of potential values for a sales compensation budget. This approach is meant to be simple enough that it can be used for other problems you might encounter but also powerful enough to provide insights that a basic “gut-feel” model can not provide on its own.

    • PyCon 2019 Tutorial Schedule!
    • PHP HTML Tidy ironically doesn’t tidy up after itself
    • Multi-Stage Dockerfiles and Python Virtualenvs
    • Made With Mu: A Steady Hand and Heart

      I first met Les at PyCon UK back in 2013. I was coordinating the education track where we had around 40 teachers and 100 kids turn up over two days. This was an impossible endeavour for a single person to take on. Happily, the founding principle of the education track was to bring together, without prejudice, a collaborative and open community of people involved or interested in Python in education. Les was one of several folks who selflessly contributed for the benefit of the whole community: be it moving furniture to turn meeting rooms into classrooms, setting up and configuring equipment, helping out as a teaching assistant or participating in conversations and debates around Python in education, Les was making positive contributions. He was a role model who showed he was open, welcoming and helpful to anyone who turned up.

    • Podcast.__init__: Unpacking The Python Toolkit For Chaos Engineering

      Chaos engineering is the practice of injecting failures into your production systems in a controlled manner to identify weaknesses in your applications. In order to build, run, and report on chaos experiments Sylvain Hellegouarch created the Chaos Toolkit. In this episode he explains his motivation for creating the toolkit, how to use it for improving the resiliency of your systems, and his plans for the future. He also discusses best practices for building, running, and learning from your own experiments.

    • Answering Python questions from readers

      Every so often, I’ve asked readers of my free, weekly “Better developers” newsletter to send me their Python problems. And every so often, I get a chance to answer their questions, going through their Python problems and trying to solve them.

    • Final touch up for the boy boundary detection mechanism

      Sorry for not posting yesterday as I am terribly sick, although I am still sick today mine condition is a lot more better now. After the previous article we have basically developed a boundary detection mechanism for the player object and in this article, we will do the final touch up for that mechanism. Here are the final rules that we need to apply in order to complete the boundary detection mechanism for the boy.

    • PyCon 2020-2021 Location
    • Register Transfer Language for CRuby

      For the last two years, I have been trying to improve CRuby performance. I have been working simultaneously on two major fronts: introducing register transfer language (RTL) for the CRuby virtual machine (VM) and just-in-time (JIT) compilation. For background on the goal of having Ruby 3 be 3 times faster than version 2 (3X3), see my previous article, “Towards the Ruby 3×3 Performance Goal“.

      The JIT project (MJIT) is advancing successfully. The JIT approach and engine I proposed and implemented has been adopted by the CRuby community. Takashi Kokubun hardened the code and adapted it to the current CRuby stack machine and recently MJIT became an experimental feature of the CRuby 2.6 release.

      Introducing a Register Transfer Language (RTL) to the CRuby VM turned out to be an even harder task than introducing the initial JIT compiler. The required changes to the VM are far more invasive than the ones needed for the JIT compiler.

    • Template meta-programming: Some testing and debugging tricks

      There are only a few things more fun in this world than doing template meta-programming (TMP) and reading all those long poems that the compiler writes out when we make even the smallest mistake.

      While we don’t usually welcome these messages, there are ways to make them useful.

      One of the main causes of errors in TMP code are unexpected types – types that the compiler is deducing instead of the types that we expect it to deduce.

      This results in error messages occurring in seemingly random places in our code.

    • Open Science, Open Source and R

      Psychology changed forever on the August 27, 2015. For the previous four years, the 270 psychologists of the Open Science Collaboration had been quietly re-running 100 published psychology experiments. Now, finally, they were ready to share their findings. The results were shocking. Less than half of the re-run experiments had worked.

      When someone tries to re-run an experiment, and it doesn’t work, we call this a failure to replicate. Scientists had known about failures to replicate for a while, but it was only quite recently that the extent of the problem became apparent. Now, an almost existential crisis loomed. That crisis even gained a name: the Replication Crisis. Soon, people started asking the same questions about other areas of science. Often, they got similar answers. Only half of results in economics replicated. In pre-clinical cancer studies, it was worse; only 11% replicated.

    • Qt Design Studio 1.1 released

      We are happy to announce the release of Qt Design Studio 1.1 !

      Qt Design Studio is a UI design and development tool that enables designers and developers to rapidly prototype and develop complex UIs. Both designers and developers use Qt Design Studio and this makes collaboration between the two a lot simpler and more streamlined. To get an impression, you should watch this video.

      Since the Qt Design Studio 1.0 release last year we worked hard on bug fixes and new features.

    • Sublime Text and Language Server Protocol

      LSP – protocol for interactions between IDE and language server. The latter provides such means like autocompletion, goto implementation and etc. When IDE needs to show autocomplete choices on, for example, python language – it sends a request to the special server. And it responds with the necessary data. The cool part here is that it is an initiative of a big company – Microsoft.

    • C Programming Tutorial Part 5 – Character variables
Leftovers
  • Pakistan’s flag is Google’s top result for ‘the best toilet paper in the world.’ Here’s why

    A similar glitch [sic] in Google’s search algorithm popped up last summer, when President Donald Trump’s face appeared as the top result for the word “idiot.” The British were partly to blame after using the Green Day song “American Idiot” to protest Trump’s visit to their country.

  • Health/Nutrition
    • Public “Medicare for All” Saves U.S. Taxpayers 1.5 Trillion Dollars

      Contrary to Michael Bloomberg and former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, potential 2020 Presidential candidates, a completely public health care program could save taxpayers 1.5 trillion dollars, says Prof. Robert Pollin of PERI at UMass, Amherst and Adam Gaffney, President of Physicians for a National Health Program

    • The Key to Cheap Drugs: Pay Research Costs Upfront

      We face a bizarre situation where policy experts, advocacy groups, and politicians struggle to find ways to bring down drug prices. The situation is bizarre because drug prices would be low in a free market; it is only government policy that makes them expensive.

      It is the government-granted patent monopolies that create the problem of high drug prices, not the market. The government gives drug companies patent monopolies that make it illegal for competitors to sell the same drug. These patent monopolies allow companies to charge prices that are a hundred or even a thousand times the free market price.

      Drugs are almost invariably cheap to manufacture. But, if a drug company has a monopoly on a drug that can save a person from cancer or some other deadly or debilitating disease, it will be able to charge a very high price for it. Patients or their families will pay hundreds of thousands of dollars, or more typically, get an insurance company or the government to pick up most of the bill. While there are instances where companies producing generic drugs can gain monopoly power and jack up their prices, this is a relatively small part of the story of high drug prices.

      Drugs produced by the brand drug sector account for roughly 75 percent of drug costs, even though they are just 11 percent of sales. This means that generic drugs account for only one-quarter of drug spending despite being almost 90 percent of sales. Even these numbers understate the role of patent and related protections. Some generic drugs also benefit from government-imposed protections, such as a six-month period of exclusivity for the first generic to enter a market.

      We are on a path to spend more than $450 billion (2.2 percent of GDP) on prescription drugs this year. We would likely be spending less than $80 billion, a savings of $370 billion annually, if all drugs were sold in a free market without patents or related protections.

    • WTO IP Council: Praise For Public-Private Partnerships, Use Of Competition Law To Fight High Drug Prices

      At the World Trade Organization Council for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) – which met on 13 February and finished in one day – discussions on IP and innovation, and IP and the public interest delineated points of views but also provided concrete examples of successful use of public-private partnerships, and use of competition law to prevent excessive pricing.

  • Security
    • USN-3891-1: systemd vulnerability
    • CVE-2019-6454: systemd (PID1) crash with specially crafted D-Bus message
    • 5 Best antivirus Solutions for Linux Malware in 2019 [Ed: Better solution: stop downloading malware. With Microsoft Windows you're not in control. The OS itself has literally become malware and sports deliberate back doors. GNU/Linux is a different paradigm.]
    • Week in review: RunC, Snapd flaws, Zero Trust browsing, 5 years of NIST Cybersecurity Framework
    • Firefox Monitor: Mozilla Firefox’s New Safety Feature Will Show You Notifications When You Visit Breached Sites

      Mozilla recently launched Firefox Monitor, a service that allows users to find out if their account has been been part of a data breach and has been compromised. Firefox Monitor provides data from the popular service Have I Been Pwned. Mozilla has been working hard day and night to improve the Firefox browser and as a part of security improvements, comes Firefox Monitors’s integration with the Firefox desktop browsers.

      Back in November last year, Mozilla announced in a blog post that the Firefox Monitor service was being integrated with the Firefox desktop browser to warn users with a notification when visiting sites that were known to be involved in a data breach. The company said that the update was going to be rolled out to all Firefox users in the coming weeks. According to Techdows, as of February 18, 2019, all the Firefox desktop users have received the Firefox Monitor integration update.

    • Vulnerability Scanning – Roadmap to Securing Your Infrastructure
    • 92 Million Accounts Put Up For Sale on the Dark Web by Well Known Hacker Group

      Gnosticplayers has been on fire recently, having put 620 million accounts for sale and then followed it up by another 127 million accounts. The asking price for the first round of data hack was about $20,000 while for the second round it was around $14,500.

    • Security updates for Monday
    • Nest is locking customers out of accounts until they fix their security

      Emails were sent last night to all users that may have been affected by recent [breaches], with a new password being mandatory, as it tries to avoid the “I’ll do it later” attitude that means that often vulnerable passwords remain in use for months or years.

    • A Moment of Truth for Cyber Insurance

      Mondelez’s claim represents just a fraction of the billions of dollars in collateral damage caused by NotPetya, a destructive, indiscriminate cyberattack of unprecedented scale, widely suspected to have been launched by Russia with the aim of hurting Ukraine and its business partners. A compromised piece of Ukrainian accounting software allowed NotPetya to spread rapidly around the world, disrupting business operations and causing permanent damage to property of Mondelez and many others. According to reports, Zurich apparently rejected Mondelez’s claim on the grounds that NotPetya was an act of war and, therefore, excluded from coverage under its policy agreement. If the question of whether and how war risk exemptions apply is left to the courts to decide on a case-by-case basis, this creates a profound source of uncertainty for policyholders about the coverage they obtain.

    • A Deep Dive on the Recent Widespread DNS Hijacking Attacks

      The U.S. government — along with a number of leading security companies — recently warned about a series of highly complex and widespread attacks that allowed suspected Iranian hackers to siphon huge volumes of email passwords and other sensitive data from multiple governments and private companies. But to date, the specifics of exactly how that attack went down and who was hit have remained shrouded in secrecy.

      This post seeks to document the extent of those attacks, and traces the origins of this overwhelmingly successful cyber espionage campaign back to a cascading series of breaches at key Internet infrastructure providers.

    • With elections weeks away, someone “sophisticated” [cracked] Australia’s politicians

      With elections just three months away, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on February 18 that the networks of the three major national political parties had been breached by what Australian security officials described as a “sophisticated state actor.”

    • Australia’s major political parties [cracked] in ‘sophisticated’ attack ahead of election

      Sources are describing the level of sophistication as “unprecedented” but are unable to say yet which foreign government is behind the attack.

    • Parliament attackers appear to have used Web shells

      Attackers who infiltrated the Australian Parliament network and also the systems of the Liberal, National and Labor Parties appear to have used Web shells – scripts that can be uploaded to a Web server to enable remote administration of a machine.

    • How to install Sophos Antivirus for Linux [Ed: Installing proprietary software on GNU/Linux would likely cause security issues and/or add back doors, not improve real security]

      Seeing the Ubuntu popularity between both Desktops and serves, here we are using Ubuntu to show how to install Sophos Antivirus for Linux.

  • Defence/Aggression
    • War With China?

      In his highly acclaimed 2017 book, Destined for War, Harvard professor Graham Allison assessed the likelihood that the United States and China would one day find themselves at war. Comparing the U.S.-Chinese relationship to great-power rivalries all the way back to the Peloponnesian War of the fifth century BC, he concluded that the future risk of a conflagration was substantial. Like much current analysis of U.S.-Chinese relations, however, he missed a crucial point: for all intents and purposes, the United States and China are already at war with one another. Even if their present slow-burn conflict may not produce the immediate devastation of a conventional hot war, its long-term consequences could prove no less dire.

      To suggest this means reassessing our understanding of what constitutes war. From Allison’s perspective (and that of so many others in Washington and elsewhere), “peace” and “war” stand as polar opposites. One day, our soldiers are in their garrisons being trained and cleaning their weapons; the next, they are called into action and sent onto a battlefield. War, in this model, begins when the first shots are fired.

      Well, think again in this new era of growing great-power struggle and competition. Today, war means so much more than military combat and can take place even as the leaders of the warring powers meet to negotiate and share dry-aged steak and whipped potatoes (as Donald Trump and Xi Jinping did at Mar-a-Lago in 2017). That is exactly where we are when it comes to Sino-American relations. Consider it war by another name, or perhaps, to bring back a long-retired term, a burning new version of a cold war.

      [...]

      The media and many politicians continue to focus on U.S.-Russian relations, in large part because of revelations of Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 American presidential election and the ongoing Mueller investigation. Behind the scenes, however, most senior military and foreign policy officials in Washington view China, not Russia, as the country’s principal adversary. In eastern Ukraine, the Balkans, Syria, cyberspace, and in the area of nuclear weaponry, Russia does indeed pose a variety of threats to Washington’s goals and desires. Still, as an economically hobbled petro-state, it lacks the kind of might that would allow it to truly challenge this country’s status as the world’s dominant power. China is another story altogether. With its vast economy, growing technological prowess, intercontinental “Belt and Road” infrastructure project, and rapidly modernizing military, an emboldened China could someday match or even exceed U.S. power on a global scale, an outcome American elites are determined to prevent at any cost.

    • Top 5 Reasons Trump should not get the Nobel Peace Prize

      Rumors are swirling that the Trump administration, i.e. Donald Trump himself, requested from Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe that he nominate Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize. Trump no doubt thinks to himself that Obama got this prize and it is completely unfair that Trump hasn’t been awarded it, especially since Trump is at least half American whereas Obama was Kenyan. (Yes, I know it doesn’t matter where you’re from, and also Obama is from Hawaii, I’m just trying to understand the squirrels running around in Trump’s brain case).

    • Trump’s Withdrawal From the Iran Nuclear Deal Invites Disaster (Video)

      In the latest episode of “On Contact,” Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges examines the dangers of President Donald Trump’s decision to dismantle the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the Iran nuclear deal. Hedges is joined by fellow Truthdig contributor and former weapons inspector for the United Nations in Iraq Scott Ritter, who accuses former CIA director and current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of a “dereliction of duty.”

      “This is another example of the United States using intelligence information to sell a lie,” says Ritter of the Trump administration’s insistence that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. “And Pompeo as director of the CIA willfully went along with this. … One of the greatest insults you can level at an intelligence professional is to be part and parcel of selling a manufactured lie that you know is a lie, or are in a position to determine is a lie.”

    • Israeli Leaders’ Nazi Remarks Scuttle Summit With Europeans

      Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s off-hand comment in Warsaw about Poland and the Holocaust set in motion a diplomatic crisis that on Monday scuttled this week’s summit of central European leaders in Israel.

      Poland’s abrupt decision to cancel its participation in the planned Visegrad conference in protest blew up the gathering, which Netanyahu has touted as a major milestone in his outreach to emerging democracies in eastern Europe and his broader goal of countering the criticism Israel typically faces in international forums.

      The crisis was sparked last week when Netanyahu told reporters that “Poles cooperated with the Nazis.” The seemingly innocuous comment infuriated his Polish hosts, who reject suggestions that their country collaborated with Hitler.

    • Angela Davis Returns to Birmingham, Reflecting on Palestinian Rights & Fight for Freedom Everywhere
    • Despite ‘War Crimes’ Concerns in Yemen, Raytheon Nabs $1.6 Billion Arms Deal With UAE

      “The ongoing carnage against civilians in Yemen—including at the hands of the Saudi Arabia and UAE-led coalition and the militias it backs—should give serious pause to all states supplying arms,” said Patrick Wilcken, arms control and human rights researcher at Amnesty International. “Emirati forces receive billions of dollars’ worth of arms from Western states and others, only to siphon them off to militias in Yemen that answer to no-one and are known to be committing war crimes.”

      The human rights group, which is calling for a stop to all arms transfers to the Saudi- and UAE-led coalition, also notes that the “the UAE has steered the ground offensive” in the conflict, which broke out in 2015 and has, by some estimates, killed over 60,000 Yemenis, uprooted millions, and left millions more on the brink of famine.

      “American fingerprints are all over the air war in Yemen,” as the New York Times recently reported, noting the nation’s key arms sales and intelligence. But given the accusations of war crimes committed by all parties during the conflict, mounting civilian casualties, and devastated infrastructure, new legislation is hoping to halt U.S. support for the war. Raytheon International CEO John Harris, for his part, though, has brushed off criticism his industry is facing, telling CNBC this weekend, “we don’t make policy.”

    • China Is Flooding the Middle East With Cheap Drones

      The appearance of the Rainbow CH-4 — the driving force of Chinese combat drones — is almost identical to the notorious Reaper drone of the U.S. arms manufacturer General Atomics. While the CH-4 lags behind the Reaper in most performance parameters, it can keep up with or even outperform its competitor in some of them. Also, the CH-4’s weaponry, the AKD-10 warhead, is almost identical to the Reaper’s Hellfire missiles.

      The striking similarity follows a strategy of Chinese engineering well-known from cell phones or cars: the look of a world-famous Western branded product is copied with an inferior but sufficiently good quality compared to that of the original — but at significantly less cost. Chinese drones are 50 to 75 percent cheaper than the originals from the U.S.

      A late 2015 article published in the Asia Times suggests that this copying of U.S. technology is likely rooted in Beijing’s data theft. According to records by world-famous NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, by 2010 alone “Chinese hackers had conducted more than 30,000 cyber attacks” on Pentagon computer networks and other U.S. military agencies in order to “exfiltrate [data on] sensitive military technology.” Although there is no final proof that data on drones were skimmed off too, Asia Times quotes then NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander, who suggests that it is highly likely that the Reaper blueprints were part of the Chinese data hack, while military experts and analysts largely share this view.

      With the latest model — the CH-7, which is still in the development phase — China could possibly pull ahead the U.S. for the first time, military journal Defense One explains. The CH-7 “will be the sole option for buyers wanting to field stealth combat drones,” it predicts. “The United States had a decade-plus head start on [drone] technology,” says military expert Paul Scharre, “and has unfortunately squandered that lead.”

    • Interview With Christina Schiavoni On Food Shortages And The Politics Of Food In Venezuela

      Hosts Rania Khalek and Kevin Gosztola are joined by Christina Schiavoni, who is a food sovereignty activist and doctoral researcher at the International Institute of Social Studies in The Hague. She has engaged in solidarity work in Venezuela and focuses on food issues, and she lived in a working class community in Caracas from early 2016 to 2018.

      Schiavoni describes how she became involved in activism around food sovereignty in Venezuela. She addresses the issues of food shortages and who owns most of the major food companies. She also grapples with the lack of diversification in Venezuela’s economy.

    • Haitians Seek Water, Food as Businesses Reopen After Protest

      Businesses and government offices slowly reopened across Haiti on Monday after more than a week of violent demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of protesters demanding the resignation of President Jovenel Moise over skyrocketing prices that have more than doubled for basic goods amid allegations of government corruption.

      Public transportation resumed in the capital, Port-au-Prince, where people began lining up to buy food, water and gasoline as crews cleared streets of barricades thrown up during the protests.

      Moise has refused to step down, though his prime minister, Jean-Henry Ceant, said over the weekend that he has agreed to reduce certain government budgets by 30 percent, limit travel of government officials and remove all non-essential privileges they enjoy, including phone cards. Ceant also vowed to investigate alleged misspending tied to a Venezuelan program that provided Haiti with subsidized oil and said he has requested that a court audit all state-owned enterprises. He also said he would increase the minimum wage and lower the prices of basic goods, although he did not provide specifics.

    • With Trump Pushing Regime Change in Venezuela, Critics Warn News Outlets Failing US Viewers Once Again

      Leading the charge is journalist Adam Johnson, a contributor to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) and host of the Citations Needed podcast, who recently warned that the “same U.S. media outlets that have expressly fundraised and run ad campaigns on their image as anti-Trump truth-tellers have mysteriously taken at face value everything the Trump White House and its neoconservative allies have said in their campaign to overthrow the government of Venezuela.”

      According to Johnson, “The self-aggrandizing ‘factchecking’ brigade that emerged to confront the Trump administration is suddenly nonexistent as it rolls out a transparent, cynical PR strategy to delegitimize a Latin American government it’s trying to overthrow.”

      Last week, Johnson specifically analyzed the coverage by MSNBC and found that its coverage of Venezuela “ranged from outright support” of Maduro’s overthrow “to virtual silence” on the critical issues and context that surround the situation. “Based on a search of MSNBC’s website,” only a 5-five minute segment by anchor Chris Hayes could be described as critical of regime change, he reported, and “these were the only five of the cable channel’s 30,240 on-air minutes since Trump’s coup was launched three weeks ago that were dedicated to criticizing it, and these did so only mildly.”

      To counteract such a trend, FAIR called on viewers to contact MSNBC to “urge the network to balance its pro-coup coverage of Venezuela.”

    • Sir Richard Branson’s Venezuelan-Border PR Stunt

      Isn’t it amazing how the billionaires of the world seem to think they can meddle in anything and everything? “We Are the World!” they appear to assume, picking up on that “humanitarian” song from thirty years ago. I guess all that champagne consumed at Davos and elsewhere goes directly to their egos, inspiring new heights of arrogance and intrigue.

      On February 15th Sir Richard Branson (whose net worth is estimated at about $4 billion) announced plans for a “Venezuela Aid Live” concert to be held on February 22 in the Colombian city of Cucuta and also live-streamed on the Internet, to raise $100 million for food aid.

      Founder of the Virgin Group (400+ companies), Sir Branson is setting up the concert “at the request of” Juan Guaido (who declared himself interim president on Jan. 23) “and jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez to draw attention to the crisis in Venezuela. ‘Our goal is to raise $100 million dollars in 60 days and reopen Venezuela’s border so humanitarian aid can finally reach those millions who need it the most,’ said Branson.” [1]

      There’s a lot to unpack in that one paragraph, so let’s start there and save the list of performers for later.

      [...]

      Cucuta, Colombia (where the concert will take place) is the main entrance for Venezuelans migrating to Colombia. According to Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers, “Curcuta has a high presence of Colombian paramilitaries and smuggling mafias and is where those who attempted to assassinate [President] Nicolas Maduro last year were trained.” [4] So for those who want to establish a Trojan Horse “humanitarian corridor” into Venezuela, the Colombian city of Cucuta is a logical choice.

      On Saturday, February 16, a U.S. military transport plane carrying tons of aid landed in Cucuta. It was the first of three such U.S. military flights scheduled to arrive this week. According to The Guardian (UK), “The acting US defence secretary, Patrick Shanahan, said on Saturday the US used military aircraft to send aid to the Venezuelan border in Colombia because of the urgency of the humanitarian needs. ‘It’s a message to Venezuela that we are supporting their humanitarian needs,’ Shanahan said, adding the aid was being transported by three C-17 aircraft.” [5]

      At the Saturday news conference in Cucuta, a representative for Juan Guaido told Reuters that “millions of Venezuelans” will be traveling to Cucuta by Feb. 23 to “safeguard arriving aid”. He said: “We are going to have the accompaniment of people, of hundreds of thousands, of millions of Venezuelans that our president, Juan Guaido, has called upon, who we have asked to go to the border dressed in white as a sign of peace.” [6]

    • Troublesome Possibilities: The Left and Tulsi Gabbard

      Tulsi Gabbard’s candidacy for president has raised more problematic questions than answers for people on the Left. Many anti-war leftists call her a breath of fresh air in resisting the military industrial complex and the dangerous war duopoly. After she supported a diplomatic solution to Syria and supported Bernie Sanders for president in 2016, she made a name for herself in the left wing of the Democratic Party.

      Since she has announced her candidacy however, a number of serious, complicated and important questions have been raised: What is her position on Syrian human rights? What does it mean that right wingers such as Steve Bannon and David Duke sing her praises? Is she actually a peace candidate or a hawk, especially when it comes to foreign policy matters that impact Muslims? What are her positions on key social issues? Is she Islamophobic and homophobic? And what is her affiliation with Narenda Modi all about?

      In this interview, Professor Richard Falk breaks down the potential for Gabbard, and suggests that while the questioning and analyzing of her flaws are important, it might also be helpful to allow her candidacy time to develop and to see if her evolutions politically can adequately translate to governing effectively and progressively.

    • She Didn’t Start the Fire: Why Attack the ISIS Bride?

      A tidal wave of hypocrisy has greeted the discovery of the Bethnal Green schoolgirl and Isis bride Shamima Begum in a refugee camp in eastern Syria. Grandstanding politicians like Sajid Javid, the home secretary, say they will do everything to stop her coming back to the UK and might seek to put her on trial as a terrorist if she did return.

      It is a symptom of the parochialism of British political life that debate rages over the fate of Begum and her possible complicity in Isis crimes. But there is scarcely a word of well-informed discussion about the role of the British and other western governments in creating the circumstances in which Isis was able to create a powerful de facto state in the heart of the Middle East.

      The role of foreign fighters in Isis was important but tends to be exaggerated because of understandable public fascination with people who would leave London or Paris to go to fight for a murderous and bizarre jihadi cult in Syria and Iraq.

      I was once in touch with a former Isis fighter, himself a Syrian, who had talked to foreign volunteers of whom he was highly critical, saying that they were ill-informed about Islam and local customs. He thought that many had come to Syria because of unhappy home lives or simple boredom and were not much use for anything except propaganda – showing that Isis was a global movement – or as suicide bombers.

    • Politics of Jammu and Kashmir: The Only Viable Way is Forward

      Whatever solution South Asia analysts and policy makers may have in mind post the Pulwama terror attack, they shall have to test it with this yardstick—whether it will ensure Indo-Pak peace and harmony, and whether it can give peace to the 12 million people of Jammu and Kashmir.

      In the current situation, the local community in Jammu and Kashmir is unable to exercise any clout and is unable to think constructively about structural change. Politics is an abstract notion for the young people in the state, and not a concrete method to bring about long-term reforms, which younger generations could build on.

      The translation of a political vision into reality requires diligence and hard work at the grass-roots level, rebuilding of ideological structures and mass movements, which would produce dynamic indigenous politics.

      You cannot achieve peace if your objective is not to make political accommodations, unmindful of the fact that the attitude of inflexibility and intransigence contributes conflict in the subcontinent. You do not then give first priority to peace but to hold on to what you have got in your possession by any means. It is because of this that it is incumbent on South Asia analysts and policy makers to clearly fix their objective before you they deliberate upon the problem before them.

      If we are all agreed upon the objective, then I have no doubt in my mind that there will be no difficulty in finding a way out. But, if we are doubtful in our objective, then our deliberations will not yield any results.

    • On the Outside Looking In: an American in Vietnam

      I have spent over 40 percent of my adult life outside of my home country, never content with having my soul controlled by geography, to paraphrase George Santayana. I carry a U.S. passport but it doesn’t define me. I am a U.S. ex-patriot and global citizen who calls Vietnam home.

      It was during my first visit to Hanoi 23 years ago this month that this country – with its tragic yet inspirational millennia-long history – cast its spell on me. After moving here in 2005, I joined a select group of expats – an estimated 100,000 of them, according to official sources – who live in the midst of 97 million Vietnamese.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature
    • Who Else Might Like Medicare for All? Retired Coal Miners Who Just Had Their Health Benefits Ripped Away

      As the Casper Star-Tribune in Wyoming reported over the weekend, retired union members who worked at the local Kemmerer coal mine in Lincoln Country, Wyoming “likely lost their company health benefits” after Judge David R. Jones of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Houston ruled that the Westmoreland Coal Co.—now up for auction under bankruptcy proceedings—could eliminate retirement health care and a union contract in order to sell the mine.

    • Women’s Critical Role in Saving the Environment

      Women’s critical role in saving the environment took a new twist when on February 7, 2019, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Democrat-New York) introduced a new climate change resolution which intends to push the U.S. to take the lead role in reducing carbon emissions to the environment. The proposal, “Recognizing the Duty of the Federal Government to Create a Green New Deal,” strives for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.

      According to this proposal, the U.S. economy would shift from fossil fuels such as oil and coal, and replace them with renewable resources such as wind and solar power. Republicans have called the plan a pipedream that would ravage the economy and lead to a huge tax increase. President Trump said that it sounds like “a high-school term paper that got a low mark.”

    • The Night of Terror: Wyoming Game and Fish’s Latest Attempt to Close the Book on the Mark Uptain Tragedy

      On January 22nd, Wyoming Game and Fish released its second official report on the tragic death of hunting guide Mark Uptain in the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Mark was killed on September 14th, 2018, after being attacked by an adult sow grizzly and her year-and-a-half old male cub. The first official report was filed by WYGF not quite a month after Uptain was killed. As one might expect, because this report was released relatively early in the investigation, it was premature at best. This most recent iteration, however, attempts to backfill many of the holes created by the first report as well as to bolster at least some of WYGF’s original conclusions. One of the report’s handful of reliable proofs is that the bears they “removed” were indeed the two bears involved in the attack, which was determined through the analysis of DNA evidence. However, while this determination may allay some concerns, this finding seems almost insignificant when compared to other, more troubling aspects of WYGF’s handling of the investigation. Equally troubling is that no one in the mainstream press seems especially interested in asking WYGF some of the more baffling questions raised by their reports. Case closed in fatal griz attack, one headline reads. Despite what this headline would have us believe, however, this case is only just getting started.

      As someone who has been following Mark Uptain’s story since it broke, I’ve read pretty much everything that has been published on the subject, including articles, official reports, and comment threads. Not surprisingly, they represent a wide array of perspectives, theories, and ideas, most of which seek to make some sense of what, from the point of view of many, was a senseless tragedy. But I also came across a number of ideas that do not serve this end, the most insidious of which is the “Monday quarterback” fallacy, or the notion that because we weren’t there we have no business speculating about what happened or second-guessing the decisions and actions of those involved. This attempt to silence people who are, for the most part, just trying to understand what happened and why, sounds an awful lot like the “shoot, shovel, and shut up” mentality we hear so much about here in the West. I for one am deeply suspicious of anyone who advises against asking questions; offering contrary, plausible explanations; and advancing different theories of what happened and why.

      [...]

      Although I disagree with WYGF’s characterization of the bear’s behavior as abnormal, no investigator worth his salt is going to hang his hat on a single piece of evidence. It’s only when evidence for a particular conclusion starts piling up that a case is made. I admit I’ve been troubled by WYGF’s handling of the Uptain investigation since The Jackson Hole Daily’s Mike Koshmrl originally reported on it. After talking with Koshmrl, and like other people who care about humans and wildlife, I had hoped that future reporting would be more critical and answer other, equally important questions raised by the investigation. Unfortunately for everyone involved, those questions not only remain unanswered, but have become even more urgent now that WYGF seems intent on putting the Uptain tragedy behind them. Oddly, one question that has notcome up in the reporting may well be the most important question of all: Why did the SAR team consisting of two SAR personnel and one game warden leave the scene before determining whether or not Mark Uptain was dead? The report attempts to answer this question in a number of explicit and implicit ways, but if I were Mark Uptain or a member of his family, I would not be heartened or persuaded by a single one them. The first piece of information (I won’t call it a reason) that may have informed, but by no means determined,the SAR team’s decision to leave before locating Uptain was Chubon’s belief that Uptain likely hadn’t survived the attack. But one would have to be very cynical indeed to conclude that Chubon’s belief that Uptain was dead was a factor, which is why I mention it only in passing. The second and third pieces of information, which I wouldcall reasons, are found in one of the supplemental reports. The report indicates that after extracting Chubon from the mountain, the SAR helicopter “needed to refuel and headed back to forward Ops.” As a result, “Daylight ran out and IC suspended the mission until the following day.”

      For the record, I tried contacting two separate SAR Teams, one here in Utah and one in the Jackson Hole area, to ask for their thoughts on this information. But I don’t think one has to be a trained SAR team member or game warden to see why this information would be alarming. That is, wouldn’t one assume that the SAR helicopter would have never left the hangar without enough fuel to stay out as long as needed to complete the mission? Although I was unable to reach anyone from SAR, I was able to ask former and longtime National Park Service employee Bob Jackson about this apparent misstep. Jackson was a backcountry park ranger for Yellowstone National Park, and over the course of his 30-year career was both directly and indirectly involved with a number of SAR operations, including a handful of grizzly bear attacks. “There is no way they had so little fuel they could not have at least landed and let a couple people out,” he told me. “I have been around a fair number of helicopter operations in the Park. From these I know helicopters don’t go out on anything unless there is enough fuel to cover variables.” Another obvious variable that the SAR team responding to the Uptain attack seems not to have prepared for was nightfall. On this point, Jackson was even more emphatic: “I never, ever heard of a Park Service case where somebody was left for the night when there were bear-human incidents. They had to have had everything with them ready to spend the night. Never do you leave the scene of something like this incident. They had no idea of whether the mauled victim was alive or dead. You don’t leave a possibly live human for a night of terror.”

    • Biggest animals face extinction for food

      The world’s biggest animals – the largest birds, the bigger mammals and even reptiles, sharks and amphibians – are in increasing danger of extinction. Climate change, habitat loss and pollution may all be part of the problem, but the biggest and most direct threat is a simple one.

      They are being hunted to death. They are being killed for meat, for trophies such as horns and tusks, and for body parts used in Asian medicine.

      The findings, reported in the journal Conservation Letters, are stark. Of 362 mammals, sharks and rays larger than 100 kilograms and birds and reptiles larger than 40kg, 200 species or more were in decline and more than 150 could become extinct. And when the researchers composed a catalogue of hazards to species survival, they found that hunting was for most large animals the biggest danger.

      “Our results suggest we’re in the process of eating megafauna to extinction,” said William Ripple, an ecologist at the Oregon State University school of forestry in the US.

  • Finance
    • China Accuses U.S. of Trying to Block its Tech Development

      China’s government on Monday accused the United States of trying to block the country’s industrial development by alleging that Chinese mobile network gear poses a cybersecurity threat to countries rolling out new internet systems.

      And in a potential blow to the U.S.’s effort to rally its allies on the issue, British media reported that U.K. intelligence agencies found it’s possible to limit the security risks of using Chinese equipment in so-called 5G networks.

      The U.S. argues that Beijing might use Chinese tech companies to gather intelligence about foreign countries. The Trump administration has pressured allies to shun networks supplied by Huawei Technologies, threatening the company’s access to markets for next-generation wireless gear.

    • Google Secretly Expands Tech Empire Across the U.S., Getting Millions in Tax Breaks

      Amazon spent much of the last three months in the media spotlight, with its search for a second headquarters outside Seattle leading both to bidding wars between cities fighting for its affections, and extensive backlash from residents and elected officials in New York City, one of the winning locations. The protests against the new development were loud enough to cause Amazon to cancel the deal last week.

      While Amazon received both suitors and scrutiny, another tech behemoth was quietly expanding its footprint across the United States. At the end of 2018, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced expansion plans leading to a presence in 24 out of 50 states. The Verge reported in December that “So far, most of Google’s facility development plans in the US have been met with little opposition outside of the Bay Area.” According to a new report in The Washington Post, however, that might be because the public wasn’t aware of them.

      Post Reporter Elizabeth Dwoskin writes that Google’s “development spree has often been shrouded in secrecy, making it nearly impossible for some communities to know, let alone protest or debate, who is using their land, their resources and their tax dollars until after the fact.”

    • ‘A Nameless Ghost’: One Mother’s Reflection on Life Cleaning Houses on Minimum Wage

      Although the relationship wasn’t supposed to last, it wasn’t supposed to end the way it did. Stephanie Land was 28. She and her boyfriend were working in cafes in Port Townsend, Ore., living together and saving up until they could part ways to fulfill separate dreams. She planned to move to Montana to study creative writing. Then she got pregnant, the boyfriend got abusive, and she left him. “My daughter learned to walk in a homeless shelter,” Land writes of what happened next, in “Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive.”

      “Maid” is a memoir of Land’s years as a single mother, working as a housecleaner on minimum wage, moving from shelters to Section 8 housing, struggling to support her daughter and herself. It’s also a study of just how expensive it is to be poor in America, and how the government punishes people who apply for assistance, demanding time and effort Land couldn’t spare as she scrubbed floors and toilets, and took care of her daughter.

      “I’d become a nameless ghost,” Land writes of her relationship with many of her housekeeping clients. “My job was to wipe away dust, dirt, to make clean lines in carpets, to leave without a trace.” But while she was an apparition in her clients’ homes, she was conspicuous and judged in public. Strangers criticized her purchases in the grocery store checkout line. A friend even said Land should thank her for paying taxes that contributed to the programs Land depended on for basic survival.

      Now a journalist in Montana, Land spoke to Truthdig shortly after “Maid’s” release, about what people get wrong about poverty in America, the reaction to the book and what she hopes readers learn from her story.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics
    • Alibaba is the force behind hit Chinese Communist Party app: sources

      “Xuexi Qiangguo”, which literally translates as ‘Study to make China strong’ and is a play on the government propaganda theme of applying President Xi Jinping’s thoughts, overtook Tik Tok’s Chinese version Douyin and WeChat to become the county’s most popular app on Apple’s China app store last week.

      It was developed by a largely unknown special projects team at Alibaba known as the “Y Projects Business Unit”, which takes on development projects outside the company, said the people.

    • Trump Rails Against ‘SNL,’ Again, And Suggests ‘Retribution’ for NBC

      President Trump once again took aim at “Saturday Night Live,” suggesting that there should be a price to pay by TV networks for delivering such scathing satire.

    • Kremlin seeks more control over [Internet] in Russia

      The bill would require that all internet traffic move through servers physically based in Russia. And it will expand the state-run communications office to oversee that routing.

      In a separate move, the Kremlin has also announced that it is planning to build its own version of the Domain Name System (DNS), the records systems used for the internet to direct users to specific domains for websites.

    • Facebook accused of acting like ‘digital gangsters’ in a devastating report by lawmakers

      The comments come in a devastating report on fake news by British Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, made up of cross-party UK politicians and led by Conservative MP Damian Collins.

      Facebook deliberately flouted privacy and competition laws and should be subject to new regulation, the committee wrote.

    • Facebook is a law-breaking “digital gangster,” UK government report says

      Committee Chair Damian Collins, a member of Parliament from the Conservative Party, said that Facebook did not fully cooperate with the investigation.

    • British lawmakers slam Facebook for violating UK laws, recommend stiffer regulation

      The report on fake news and disinformation on social media sites followed an 18-month investigation. The parliamentary committee that prepared the report says social media sites should have to follow a mandatory code of ethics overseen by an independent regulator to better control harmful or illegal content.

    • N. Carolina Elections Head Says Ballots Handled Illegally

      A Republican operative conducted an illegal and well-funded ballot-harvesting operation, North Carolina’s elections director said Monday, but the first session of a days-long hearing produced scant evidence that the GOP congressional candidate he worked for knew about it or even benefited.

      The director’s testimony came at the opening of a state elections board hearing into whether mail-in ballots were tampered with in the race for the state’s 9th congressional district seat that saw Republican Mark Harris narrowly defeat Democrat Dan McCready.

      The race wasn’t certified, leaving the country’s only congressional election without a declared winner. The elections board is expected to either declare a winner or order a new election after the hearing.

    • Confirmation of William Barr Escalates War on Immigrants

      As the country reels from the longest government shutdown in history, we are facing a national emergency declaration and a deal rife with so-called “border security” measures that only serve to further militarize our borders. It’s the latest episode in the long-running “crisis” that President Trump has manufactured to criminalize and attack migrants, refugees and asylum seekers.

      Now Trump will gain another powerful ally to support his extremist vision with the Senate confirmation of William Barr as attorney general. While the Republicans have positioned Barr as a seasoned former attorney general and the Democrats are focused on whether he will interfere in the Mueller investigation, it is Barr’s prior experience that reveals what kind of attorney general we should expect when it comes to the president’s views on immigration.

      Throughout Barr’s career, he has consistently promoted anti-immigrant and racist policies that overwhelmingly criminalize people of color. As attorney general under George H. W. Bush, Barr tried to take away due process rights for all immigrants with criminal convictions by proposing unconstitutional “summary deportation proceedings” and justified sending 12,000 Haitian refugees to prison at Guantánamo Bay simply because some were HIV positive.

      But Barr’s extremist world views didn’t stop in the 1990s. In 2018, he wrote in The Washington Post applauding Jeff Sessions’s work at the Department of Justice (DOJ), which included the implementation of the “zero-tolerance” policy and attempted prosecution and imprisonment of all migrants (including those with children) arrested after crossing the border. Barr saluted the expansion of Operation Streamline, a program that establishes an altogether separate and unequal court, devoid of due process and equal protection, designed to facilitate the mass prosecution and imprisonment of immigrants for crossing the border — an act that equates legally to a misdemeanor traffic violation. Across the southern border, the U.S. government packs people into freezing cells, deprives them of food and water, and forces them to sleep on the floor for days. They then parade dozens of immigrants, shackled at their hands and ankles, through assembly line hearings that one former San Diego judge referred to as a “fast food process that sullies centuries of judicial tradition.”

    • The US Not Immune to a Fascist Takeover by a Demagogue

      We speak with world-renowned educator, author and public intellectual Henry Giroux, the author of American Nightmare: Facing the Challenge of Fascism, who joins us to discuss his article at Truthout, “Resisting the Weaponization of Ignorance in the Age of Trump.” We discuss how democracies in Poland, Hungary, India, Turkey and recently Brazil have succumbed to fascist takeovers by demagogues, and how the United States is not immune to the same forces of malicious ignorance and arrogant anti-intellectualism led by our own Donald Trump.

    • 260+ ‘Fake Emergency’ Protests Take Place in 47 States Today; Tens of Thousands are Expected to Join
    • Waking Up on President’s Day During the Reign of Donald Trump

      I rise refreshed on this holiday. Thanking dead presidents for my extra three hours of sleep. Sipping my coffee slowly, savoring the foreign flavors, I think maybe we’ll put our differences aside, at least for the morning: Washington’s slave mountain, Jefferson’s hemming and hawing, Jackson’s death marches, Lincoln’s foot dragging on the question of basic human equality. I file them away, at least until noon, grateful for the day off, with pay. And for the shortened work week ahead that is the delightful flip side of what already feels like a blessing.

      To many, I guess, Columbus Day is scarcely different. A chance to catch one’s breath, to catch up on sleep. To go shopping.

      How can the raping and pillaging of European marauders, the laying waste to a dozens of native tribes, the arrogance of Christian conquerors whose crosses doubled as pikes, the slave taking, the scalping, the dismembering of natives for the failure to pay an impossible tax in gold dust…How can any of this ‘ancient history’ compete with the sweet redemption of a three-day weekend?

      Exhausted, maxed out on sleep debt, my students have trouble criticizing the legacy of someone who has bestowed upon them a holiday, a chance to rest up. It’s not that they can’t see Columbus’s crimes—colonialism’s crimes; with a little help from Howard Zinn’s People’s History at least, they can. (Though, of course, the crimes of American Presidents are more difficult for many to admit.) But, above all, they are afraid of losing a much needed chance to sleep in. And, perhaps, afraid that even if the holiday stays put, a critical consciousness may make it a bit harder to sleep soundly, even on those rare occasions when they are allotted the time to do so.

      Can you really blame them? Most weeks, I’m exhausted myself. How can we not feel grateful today for the “Founding Fathers,” in body, if not in my mind?

      Rhetorically speaking, it might go better for us radicals if we argued for *more* holidays, rather than fewer. (The changing of Columbus Day to some version of Remembrance Day or Indigenous People’s Day being here a relevant half-measure.) In addition to Labor Day and Martin Luther King Day, let us have a Monday off for Geronimo, for Nat Turner, and John Brown. A Friday free for Frederick Douglass, a Wednesday off for Rosa Parks.) Let us all sleep in and dream of liberation, and its slaughtered loss. Let us drown our overseers in ecstasies of sleep, like slaves after a weeklong festival of Jubilee. Let us lay in bed in memory of those who were worked such long hours as never to ever get enough sleep, who were reduced to zombies and died brutally (according to some estimates) on average only about six years after having been put to work in the rice fields, the sugar fields, the coffee plantations. Let us sleep and rejuvenate ourselves in the memory of those who were forced into eternal sleep before their time, so that their “betters” could party long into the night, rising when and if they wanted to, counting coin and making plans for more.

      Let us take a few days off to remember that the masses of people can make history too. That the servants make the masters’ beds, as well as their own.

    • As UK Lawmakers Call Out Facebook Execs as ‘Digital Gangsters,’ New Zealand Moves to Tax Tech Giants

      New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern revealed the decision in a press conference following a cabinet meeting on Monday, telling reporters that “our current tax system is not fair in the way it treats individual tax payers, and how it treats multinationals.”

      “Highly digitalized companies, such as those offering social media networks, trading platforms, and online advertising, currently earn a significant income from New Zealand consumers without being liable for income tax. That is not fair, and we are determined to do something about it,” Finance Minister Grant Robertson said in a statement.

      Revenue Minister Stuart Nash explained that the government is working with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) “to find an internationally agreed solution for including the digital economy within tax frameworks.” However, he added, “we believe we need to move ahead with our own work so that we can proceed with our own form of a digital services tax, as an interim measure, until the OECD reaches agreement.”

      The news out of New Zealand came as the U.K. Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee put out a report outlining the results of an 18-month probe of “disinformation and fake news” on Facebook—which found that the company “intentionally and knowingly violated both data privacy and anti-competition laws,” as Tory MP and committee chairman Damian Collins summarized in a statement.

    • Nationwide Rallies Denounce #FakeTrumpEmergency and President’s Anti-Immigrant Agenda

      The ACLU was swift in its announcement of intent to sue, doing so on Friday. “Let’s get something straight upfront,” wrote the organization’s deputy legal director, Cecillia Wang. “There is no emergency. Members of Congress from both parties, security experts, and Americans who live at the border have all said so. What the president is doing is yet another illegal and dangerous power grab in service of his anti-immigrant agenda.”

      In addition to the rights group, environmental advocacy organizations as well as a number of states have vowed legal challenges to the emergency declaration.

    • White House Indicates Trump to Veto Disapproval of Emergency

      President Donald Trump is prepared to issue the first veto of his term if Congress votes to disapprove his declaration of a national emergency along the U.S.-Mexico border, a top White House adviser said on Sunday.

      White House senior adviser Stephen Miller told “Fox News Sunday” that “the president is going to protect his national emergency declaration.” Asked if that meant Trump was ready to veto a resolution of disapproval, Miller added, “He’s going to protect his national emergency declaration, guaranteed.”

      The West Wing is digging in for fights on multiple fronts as the president’s effort to go around Congress to fund his long-promised border wall faces bipartisan criticism and multiple legal challenges. After lawmakers in both parties blocked his requests for billions of dollars to fulfill his signature campaign pledge, Trump’s declared national emergency Friday shifts billions of federal dollars earmarked for military construction to the border.

    • Something New and Something Old – A Story Still Being Told

      The patently cynical declaration of a national state of emergency by President Donald Trump (aka *45) offers a teachable moment on history, politics and empire. The lies and fear-mongering of those in power, the propaganda to legitimize violating the sovereignty of other nations, the use of fake manufactured crises and old war criminals to promote new atrocities—these are all time-tested tactics of the politics of the USA.

      The naked psychological shortcomings of the current head of state leading to undisciplined statements which reveal truth is new, offering a unique opportunity for people to ask the right questions and learn the right lessons.

      New too is Congress invoking the 1973 War Powers Resolution as a check against executive overreach. Yet this was driven by the loose tongue of *45 putting a dollar value on life following the Saudi murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The rot of empire begins from within. Concern for human rights in Yemen didn’t animate Congress, but rather exposed money-mad policy undermining US soft-power.

    • Presidents’ Day Can Kiss My Ass

      On this Presidents’ Day, let us all take a moment to gaze in awe at the ever-expanding field of 2020 candidates, which now officially includes California Sen. Kamala Harris, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former New Jersey Rep. John Delaney, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and, of course, President Donald Trump.

      The list of as-yet-undeclared Hot Maybes includes former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder; former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld; Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper; Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke; Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown; former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz; former New York Mayor and current billionaire Michael Bloomberg; Miramar, Florida Mayor Wayne Messam; former Vice President Joe Biden; California Rep. Eric Swalwell; former Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet; Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders; Washington Gov. Jay Inslee; Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton; Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan; Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley; Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe; and probably the surviving cast members from Ben-Hur, I Am Spartacus and Gone With the Wind before all is said and done.

      As there are fully 624 days until the aforementioned 2020 presidential election, please allow me to invite the entire concept of “Presidents’ Day” to take a flying copulation at a rolling doughnut in a gravel driveway. Enough already with the presidents and with our obsession with that high and highly corrupted office. Here at Truthout, we observe our own holiday today: Native Sovereignty Day, recognizing the civil rights, human rights and humanity of the many peoples who were damn well here first. Doing so, we acknowledge that in a world without colonial displacement and genocide, the very concept of a “U.S. president” would not, in fact, exist.

    • In New Hampshire, Kamala Harris Makes Clear She Is Not With the Democratic Socialists

      Distancing herself from the label that more progressive lawmakers such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have embraced in recent election cycles in the United States, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) made it clear during a campaign stop in New Hampshire on Monday that she does not consider herself a democratic socialist.

      “The people of New Hampshire will tell me what’s required to compete in New Hampshire, but I will tell you I am not a democratic socialist,” Harris said in response to a question from a FOX News reporter while at a stop in Concord.

      “I believe that what voters do want,” she continued, “is they want to know that whoever is going to lead, understands that in America today, not everyone has an equal opportunity and access to a path to success, and that has been building up over decades and we’ve got to correct course.”

    • To Defeat Trump With People-Powered Political Revolution, Bernie Sanders Announces 2020 Run

      With an interview with Vermont Public Radio that aired early Tuesday morning, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) officially announced his candidancy for president in 2020, telling listeners in his home state he is determined to defeat President Donald Trump while building a grassroots-style campaign—with a network of “at least a million people”—designed to win Medicare for All, a national $15 minimum wage, reduced student debt, bold climate action, criminal justice and immigration reform, and create a political and economic system that works for the many and not just the few.

  • Censorship/Free Speech
    • Chinese Newspapers Fold Amid Growing Censorship, Falling Incomes

      At least 13 newspapers that rely on advertising revenue but are still subject to the government’s strict censorship regime have folded, including the Beijing Morning Post, the Beijing Suburban Daily and the Heilongjiang Morning News, official party newspaper The People’s Daily reported.

      The Anyang Evening News and Zhangzhou Evening News titles have also been suspended.

      Analysts told RFA that as commercial newspapers are increasingly squeezed by growing controls on what they can print on the one hand, and falling revenues and competition from social media on the other, government-run media are experiencing a huge boost resulting from their whitelisted status.

    • Wife of jailed Saudi blogger seeks U.S. help to free him
    • ‘Highly Disturbing’: Facebook Blocks Viral Video Outlets Critical of US Foreign Policy and Corporate Media

      Journalists and advocates of press freedoms are once more directing outrage and criticism at Facebook for selectively censoring pages on its platform and refusing to explain the reason behind a decision that appears to many as a clear double standard applied to outlets critical of U.S. foreign policy and corporate interests.

      Facebook is under fire for shuttering four pages managed by the Berlin-based news and media company Maffick, after CNN reporters asked the social media giant about Maffick not disclosing that it is partly funded by the Russian government.

      CNN held its report—titled “Russia is backing a viral video company aimed at American millennials”—until Friday, when Facebook blocked Soapbox, Waste-Ed, Backthen, and In The Now.

  • Privacy/Surveillance
  • Civil Rights/Policing
    • Swedish Activist Fined for Viral Live-Streamed Protest Against Deportation of Afghan Asylum Seeker

      In a video Ersson live-streamed on Facebook—which has now been seen by millions of people across the globe—she said: “I want him to get off the plane because he is not safe in Afghanistan. I am trying to change my country’s rules, I don’t like them. It is not right to send people to hell.”

      Prosecutors charged that by refusing to comply with crewmembers’ instructions to take her seat, Ersson had disobeyed the captain and violated the air traffic regulations. While her protest on the Turkish Airlines flight could have landed Ersson behind bars for up to six months, the judge declined the prosecution’s request for jail time.

      As the verdict stated, according to The Local Sweden, “In this case, Elin Ersson’s actions took place when the plane was on the ground and although it led to palpable concern among other passengers, nothing else has emerged than that the plane was able to take off around half an hour late and continued to Istanbul without further problems.”

      Tomas Fridh, Ersson’s attorney, told the Guardian that he was disappointed with the fine and would appeal. “Elin’s ambition was not to commit a crime or break the law—her protest might be seen to have an element of civil disobedience, but in this case what was right was also legal,” he said.

    • No One Knows How Many Indigenous Women Are Missing or Murdered

      I won’t pretend to be impartial. This, like most of the issues I write about, is highly personal. The issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and Two Spirit people (collectively known as MMIWG2) impacts all Indigenous lives. Most of us know a relative or community member that has gone missing or been murdered. Indigenous women and Two Spirits often discuss the violence we face when we gather. However, the data on missing and murdered Indigenous people simply haven’t existed for those that are urban-based until recently.

      The Urban Indian Health Institute (UIHI) conducted the first-ever report on urban missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and Two Spirit people, and the findings are terrifying. They found that many MMIWG2 weren’t being properly counted by law enforcement, making it difficult to advocate for policy to help bring an end to this violence. Media coverage was also found to be abysmal, resulting in a lack of public awareness.

      These findings hurt me to read and write about due to the pain I feel when I think about what our people have endured. They also strike fear in me as an urban Indigenous Two Spirit who is read and treated as a woman. Would I be properly counted if I were to go missing or found murdered? Would law enforcement actually give my case the respect it deserves? Would I be counted as both Indigenous and Two Spirit? Probably not.

      As a resident of Washington, D.C., the violence aimed at me and other Indigenous people is never too far from my mind. I fight my way through a city in which some of the most powerful people in the world live and work. I have to navigate a never-ending maze of disembodied Native heads on football jerseys worn by people that claim to “honor me” with said genocidal iconography. I have to drive on a road named “Indian Head Highway.” I have to swallow down my righteous rage in order to chase stories, access quotes and organize in a city that is home to my people’s mass murderers. It’s not a stretch for me to worry for my safety and that of my community.

    • Predators Home In on Developmentally Disabled Women

      Julie Neward’s sister, Natalie, is developmentally disabled. She is “nonverbal”: her only form of communication is moaning. She moans when she is hungry, when she wants a bath or when she is tired. Natalie communicates well with her eyes, however, and she is able to walk. Neward explains that Natalie’s body functions differently than most women’s. She does not menstruate. She can’t make tears, nor does she have sweat glands.

      Although Natalie, 37, lives at home, during the day she visits a day care facility for disabled people.

      One day, in 2012, as she was driving home from work, Neward received a phone call from an urgent care center, where her mother had taken Natalie.

      “It was a nurse from an urgent care facility, telling me I had to bring my sister in to receive an antibiotic,” Neward recalls. “Natalie had just been diagnosed with gonorrhea.”

      For Neward, the diagnosis explained the many health issues her sister had been suffering from in the previous months. Their mother had noted changes in Natalie’s behavior. She would moan all night and was not sleeping well. She would not urinate in her diaper.

    • California Prisoners Say Videos Show ‘Gladiator Fights’ At Soledad State Prison

      California prisoners released video recordings of two prisoner fights they say were set-up by officials at the Correctional Training Facility in Soledad, California. It is now the second facility to report so-called “gladiator fights” after prisoners spoke out about similar incidents at the state prison in Corcoran.

    • Erdogan is Destined for Another Rebuke in Turkey

      “Democracy is like a tram; you get off when you have reached your destination.”

      The comment by Recep Tayyip Erdogan — made more than 20 years ago when he was first elected mayor of Istanbul — sums up the Machiavellian cynicism of Turkey’s authoritarian president.

      As Turkey gears up for municipal elections on March 31, it is a prophecy Erdogan has more than fulfilled: the prisons filled with the opposition, the media largely silenced, the courts intimidated, the bureaucracy tamed, and more than 150,000 people fired.

      But for all that, there dark clouds on the horizon, much of them largely of the president’s own making. And since it’s traditional for the Turkish electorate to use local elections to send a message, Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) may be in for a setback.

    • Russian anti-corruption leader releases a report about unsanitary school catering in Moscow, but a fake image spoils the big reveal

      Alexey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK) has published a new investigative report featuring an interview with a woman identified as Natalia Shilova, who says she used to work at a business called “Moscow Schoolboy.” In a video recording, she describes how the company supplies the city’s schools and kindergartens with low-quality food. According to the magazine RBC and anti-corruption researchers at the political party Yabloko, Moscow Schoolboy has ties to catering magnate and Putin ally Evgeny Prigozhin.

      Shilova says she worked for the company from December 2016 to April 2017, and claims the business is part of the corporate structure of “Concord,” which Prigozhin owns. She told Navalny’s researchers that she deliberately took the job “to find out what they’re feeding our children.”

    • The Lucky Ones

      Nearly 30 years after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border as an undocumented child, a reporting trip brought me back to that very stretch. The memories followed.

      [...]

      “Tattoos are the art of pain in exchange for meaning,” Beto told me. “Tattoos start as open wounds that heal to reveal permanence. Growth requires healing, the only other person we let us cut open to bleed, to fix something, to live, is a doctor.” My tattoos now tell my story in a way that I couldn’t capture in words.

    • Report: EU Settled Status Automated Data Checks: Proposed outcomes, concerns and questions

      This briefing addresses the automated data checks within the EU Settlement Scheme (“the scheme”), the application route through which EU nationals must apply for settled status post-Brexit.All EU nationals (an anticipated three million plus people) will have to apply through the scheme in order to remain in the UK after 30 June 2021, in the case of a deal, or 31 December 2020 in the case of no deal. Acquiring settled status will in most cases require evidence of five years’ continuous UK residence.

      The scheme relies heavily on an automated data check. Input of a National Insurance number triggers automatic transfer of certain data from HMRC and DWP to the Home Office. This data is subjected to algorithmic machine analysis according to a Home Office “business logic” – details of which have not been made public. Result outputs of pass, partial pass and fail are issued to a Home Office caseworker. Once the output is received, the raw data disappears.

  • Intellectual Monopolies
    • If you call this firm a “patent troll,” it might sue for defamation

      We’re not going to say that Automated Transactions LLC is a “patent troll,” but several others have. The American Bankers Association has called ATL a troll. The Credit Union National Association called ATL a troll—they even illustrated the accusation with a picture of a troll. Individual lawyers, legal commentators, and banks have all described ATL as a troll.

      Inventor and ATL founder David Barcelou got so fed up with people labeling his firm a patent troll that he sued about a dozen individuals and organizations for libel in 2016. Last year, a New Hampshire state judge dismissed Barcelou’s lawsuit.

      And on Thursday, February 14, the New Hampshire Supreme Court heard oral arguments about whether to overrule the lower court’s decision and allow the lawsuit to move forward.

    • Non-Analogous Art — More than Simply Different

      Obviousness is the central patentability doctrine. Obvious innovations are not patentable. Instead, to be patentable, and invention must embody a substantial step beyond what was known in the prior art.

    • Trademarks
      • ‘Glen Buchenbach’ is a misleading indication, Hamburg Court rules

        A few months ago former GuestKat Mirko Brüß reported on a decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) concerning Geographical Indications (GIs), whisky, and a particular liquor produced in Germany.

        Now, the referring court has decided the case after it returned from Luxembourg.

    • Copyrights
      • EU Commission Decides To Mock The Public; Insists Fears About EU Copyright Directive Are All Myths

        On Thursday, the European Commission posted — on its official Medium page — an astoundingly juvenile and obnoxious post, lashing out at those who have complained that Articles 11 and 13 in the EU Copyright Directive will be destructive. The post was snide and condescending, and suggested that most of the opposition was fake and “astroturfed” and that anyone who really believed that the EU Copyright Directive was a problem was brainwashed by Google and Facebook. It was… quite a post. On Friday evening, I wrote up a (mostly) line-by-line response to its utter nonsense and planned to post it this week once people were back in the office to review it.

      • The best tweet ever on the EU Copyright Directive sums up the bloc’s miserable failure and misguided approach

        Prior to Dr. Schestowitz, no one had actually noticed the fact that the European Commission was using an American Internet platform–Medium–for this insult because it’s so normal in a way, though it’s an insanity if you actually think about it. It relates to why the whole mess that is the EU Copyright Directive is on the agenda, and to what’s bound to go wrong in the future, especially with that bill being enacted into law.

        The insanity here is that Medium is exactly an example of the blessings that user-generated content brings and that the EU Copyright Directive’s Article 13 is designed to hamper.

        As I explained yesterday, the EU institutions are now about to adopt a fake compromise. The companies opposing the directive have no one to blame but themselves because they didn’t leverage those genuine grassroots activities out there in the right way. They failed to persuade politicians from the center to the right, and didn’t even convince some left-wingers (even the German Greens). Blowing things out of proportion with terms like “censorship” gets you nowhere. Also, while I’m really happy about and impressed by the success of the savetheinternet.info online petition, it doesn’t make sense to claim that the directive threatens the Internet in general. We’re talking about specific issues and should define them precisely.

        [...]

        Investment in digital-platform startups will be discouraged, and the carveout for companies younger than three, smaller than 10 million euros in annual revenues and with fewer than five million monthly users won’t help in the slightest as I explained in my previous post.

        Not only the European Commission but also the other institutions (and the national governments, which are represented in the Council) should ask themselves why the EU can’t even use a European digital platform to insult voters and taxpayers. And they should realize that a focus on how to win, not an indulgence in envy, is the solution.

        The European Union will only make things worse if it employs the methods of the old Soviet Union. You can’t compete with the United States by restricting freedom. What has made China so successful? Freedom in the sense of capitalism (human rights are another topic).

        To be clear, it’s not just about platform companies. Europe’s economy and society will suffer in general if European user-generated content will be less abundant than American or Asian user-generated content. User-generated content is used in so many sectors of the economy, and–which is extremely important–in education. And even in politics, as the Commission’s post demonstrated in a negative sense.

      • EU Commission calls opponents of Copyright Directive a “mob,” as thousands take to the streets for the #Artikel13Demo

        The EU Commission has been forced to retract a Medium post in which it patronised and dismissed opponents of the controversial Article 13 proposal that will force platforms to surveil and censor users’ postings with copyright filters, calling them a “mob.”

        The Commission characterised the opposition as being stooges for Google, hoodwinked by the company to carry water for it, despite the fact that Google has quietly supported the idea of filters as an acceptable alternative to other forms of regulation (Facebook, too, has supported the proposal).

      • EU Commission Deletes Article 13 Post Because ‘Mob’ Understood it Incorrectly

        On Friday, the EU Commission published a piece on Medium that suggested that Google has taken over the minds of millions of citizens, rendering them incapable of thinking for themselves in their opposition of Article 13. The piece was later deleted with a note implying that people simply aren’t capable of understanding the subtle nuances of the English language.

      • The Worst Possible Version of the EU Copyright Directive Has Sparked a German Uprising

        Thankfully, Europeans aren’t taking this lying down. With the final vote expected to come during the March 25-28 session, mere weeks before European elections, European activists are pouring the pressure onto their Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), letting them know that their vote on this dreadful mess will be on everyone’s mind during the election campaigns.

        The epicenter of the uprising is Germany, which is only fitting, given that German MEP Axel Voss is almost singlehandedly responsible for poisoning the Directive with rules that will lead to mass surveillance and mass censorship, not to mention undermining much of Europe’s tech sector.

        The German Consumer Association were swift to condemn the Directive, stating: “The reform of copyright law in this form does not benefit anyone, let alone consumers. MEPs are now obliged to do so. Since the outcome of the trilogue falls short of the EU Parliament’s positions at key points, they should refuse to give their consent.”

        A viral video of Axel Voss being confronted by activists has been picked up by politicians campaigning against Voss’s Christian Democratic Party in the upcoming elections, spreading to Germany’s top TV personalities, like Jan Böhmermann.

      • Backroom deal on EU Copyright Directive is a fake compromise: here’s what a genuine compromise would look like

        Politico.eu published the outcome of backroom negotiations (called “trilogue” because three institutions participated) on the EU Copyright Directive. Adoption of that text would be tantamount to the unconditional surrender of critics of the most ill-conceived parts of the proposal.

        But the problem is that losers can’t be choosers. They can try, and every once in a while it may work, but the resistance movement needs to realize that it has missed previous opportunities to build a majority in the Parliament, or a blocking minority in the Council. In order to prevent the worst, it’s important to make a significant concession–accepting Article 11 despite the fact that it’s moronic and will be counterproductive–and to focus on Article 13 (upload filters).

        As I explained in the blog post I just linked to, it’s not just about demands. It’s also about strategy and execution. While it’s really impressive that the grassroots activists behind SaveTheInternet.info collected 4.7 million digital signatures on change.org, which they delivered to Germany’s minister of justice today, savetheinternet.eu is an underwhelming, run-of-the-mill issue coalition website. The bottom line is that what has been done so far has not been enough.

        The “trilogue” result is a typical example of what happens when one side has the upper hand and just makes some cosmetic but unhelpful concessions. Germany’s minister of justice, who simply seeks to hide behind an EU decision and Germany’s coalition government (despite the coalition agreement speaking out against upload filters), welcomes a carve-out for small companies. But that’s a fake carve-out. It only applies to companies that are less than three years old, have annual revenues below 10 million euros and fewer than 5 million users a month. I don’t want to accuse Mrs. Barley of lying, so I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt that she simply doesn’t understand the world of technology startups. But if a startup seeks to raise capital, it must present a business plan that will obviously envision staying in business for more than three years and generating, in the foreseeable future, more than 10 million euros in annual revenues–and if the legislative framework poses a threat to a business model once such a modest size has been reached, it’s basically as much of a problem as if the risk factors were there from the get-go.

What Happened in the United States Now Happens in Europe: Lots of Patents Turn Out to Be Bunk, Fake, Bogus, Invalid and Thus Worthless

Tuesday 19th of February 2019 10:09:11 AM

Low patent quality has done incredible harm/damage to confidence in the system

Summary: Worthless patents — not opposition to such patents — are the greatest threat to the legitimacy of the patent system, yet bureaucrats fail to heed the warning in the name of short-term profits

HERE AT TECHRIGHTS we’ve been following the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for more than a decade and a half (I wrote about it long before the site even existed). When I was about 20 I was upset to see Graffiti input on Palm being destroyed by patents. I wrote about it in my personal blog. Such ridiculous US patents could possibly be used by a relic like Xerox to embargo — e.g. via ITC — devices I so often used (I still own and use a Palm PDA). The workaround was known as Graffiti 2, which is vastly inferior. The PDA I use was manufactured in 2003 — the same year Graffiti 2 was introduced, so I’m lucky to have dodged this sabotage by patents. For those who wonder what got me upset at such patents (software patents), that was it. Richard Stallman often attributes the creation of GNU and then the FSF to Xerox printers that upset him. So I share more than my initials with him and we’ve been good friends. We share our views on patents and the European patent system.

Things have changed a lot since, especially in 2014 when SCOTUS ruled on Alice, giving rise to 35 U.S.C. § 101 as we now know it.

“We are saddened to see Europe falling into the same trap that the US had fallen into a few decades ago when the Federal Circuit gave a green light to software patents.”Seeing what happens in the US this year, we’re not even tempted to resume coverage of it. Virtually all cases are concluded the way we’d like them to. Janal Kalis (“Patent Buddy”) is still obsessing over mere patent applications, as PTAB and district courts have nothing for these patent maximalists to celebrate. This week he wrote: “The PTAB Reversed an Examiner’s 101 Rejection of Claims for a Method of Detecting Similar Objects” (the exception).

Usually it’s the other way around. We also note that patent extremists blame “big tech” for the demise of software patents, never mind if “small tech” (firms) too pushed towards that. “They ‘happen’ to be those who also produce a lot of software,” I replied to him, “unlike patent trolls and law firms, so…”

“It is impossible to argue (any longer) that the EPO has no patent quality issues; even the EPO’s management now admits it.”Readers can probably agree that what happened in the US after Alice, more so in recent years as caselaw shaped up, was overwhelmingly positive. Developers were able to focus on actual work rather than hire lawyers.

We are saddened to see Europe falling into the same trap that the US had fallen into a few decades ago when the Federal Circuit gave a green light to software patents. The European Patent Office (EPO) under the leadership of António Campinos is a very vocal booster of software patents in Europe. The managers at the Office, preoccupied and obsessed with so-called ‘production’, are still trying very hard to break the rules (e.g. misinterpret the EPC) and grant bogus patents — European Patents courts would reject such as "blockchain" patents.

The EPO has already admitted these are software patents as so does Bastian Best on Twitter, soon to be retweeted by EPO (official). The EPO reposted this yesterday: “For the blockchain enthusiasts in my network: Koen Lievens does a great job in this video explaining how #blockchain inventions can be #patent’ed at the @EPOorg. Hint: It’s the exact same standard as for any other type of CII.”

What are these people thinking? Bearing in mind the EPO's own admission of quality problems (albeit internally only, for now), shouldn’t they quit this madness? Sooner or later all these patents will fall in an avalanche like Alice in the US.

Meanwhile, judging by yesterday’s long post from IP Kat, the non-impartial and not-so-independent (i.e. partially dependent) EPO appeal boards are hard to rely on as long as Battistelli and Campinos, two crooked patent maximalists, control them. Watch this latest situation:

A recent decision by the EPO Technical Boards of Appeal (TBA) departed from previous boards on how the novelty of the increased purity of a known compound is to be assessed. In T 1085/13, the TBA diverged from previous decisions that established special criteria for determining the novelty of a claim directed to a known compound of increased purity. The decision also ignores the criteria set out in the EPO Guidelines for Examination. These state that to be novel a selection invention must be “purposive”. The decision therefore confirms that the EPO is prepared to depart from its previous positions on the criteria for assessing the novelty of selection inventions. It seems that, for the purpose of assessing novelty, the TBA are now in favour of applying the same novelty criteria to these inventions as to any other type of invention, and nothing further.

[...]

As far as this Kat is aware, T 1085/13 is the first decision by the TBA to depart from the “special criteria” for purity inventions provided in T 0990/96 (although she is happy to be corrected on this if readers are aware of any earlier decisions).

T 1085/13 also appears to have ignored the criteria for selection inventions established by earlier TBA (and outlined in the EPO guidelines for examination) that a claimed selection must constitute a “purposive selection”. This is in line with other recent decisions of the TBA. It therefore appears that the third criteria for the novelty of selection inventions is being phased out, although this is still not reflected in the most recent EPO Guidelines for Examination. If this really is to be the new position of the EPO, is it not time for these changes to be reflected in the guidelines? This Kat also awaits with interest to see whether this latest decision on purity inventions will be followed by subsequent boards and the Examiners.

Guidelines should be based on law, not so-called ‘production’ aspirations. This is akin to what Iancu does at the USPTO, in effect mimicking Battistelli. Judges are being pressured and condemned.

As further evidence of the decline of quality of patents (EPO and USPTO in this case), watch these two new reports (from yesterday) [1, 2] as they cover something we wrote about some days ago (based on the original press release). The gist of it is, the EPO admits it granted false patents… yet again (not just the USPTO, where such invalidation is a lot more common with Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) inter partes reviews (IPRs)).

To quote the first report:

The European Patent Office (EPO) and the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) have both invalidated patents owned by Immunex Corporation.
The patents cover antibodies that target human interleukin-4 receptors.

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals had opposed the patents, arguing that European patent 2,990,420 and US patent 8,679,487 were invalid due to the insufficiency of disclosure.

The EPO invalidated Immunex’s European patent a day after the USPTO’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board invalidated all 17 claims of the US patent due to obviousness.

Joseph LaRosa, executive vice president of Regeneron, commented: “We applaud decisions by the US and European patent offices this week, which invalidate Immunex’s functional patent claims to antibodies that target human IL-4 receptors.”

The second such report says:

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (Nasdaq: REGN) has announced two important legal developments invalidating Immunex patents with functional claims to antibodies that target human interleukin-4 receptors (IL-4R).

On Friday, the Opposition Division of the European Patent Office (EPO) revoked wholly-owned by Amgen (Nasdaq: AMGN) subsidiary Immunex’ European Patent No 2,990,420 in its entirety because the claims were invalid for insufficiency of disclosure. This follows a decision by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) of the US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) to invalidate all 17 claims of Immunex’ US Patent No 8,679,487 as obvious. These decisions are subject to appeal by Immunex.

Regeneron’s shares closed up 2.17% at $423.79 on Friday, while Amgen dipped 1.51% to $185.50 in after-hours trading.

“We applaud decisions by the US and European patent offices this week, which invalidate Immunex’ functional patent claims to antibodies that target human IL-4 receptors,” said Joseph LaRosa, executive vice president, general counsel and secretary, at Regeneron. “It is our position that Immunex’ functional claims unfairly attempt to claim ownership far beyond the molecules developed, and stifle innovation within the broader scientific community,” he added.

It is impossible to argue (any longer) that the EPO has no patent quality issues; even the EPO’s management now admits it.

Stephen Rowan’s and Nellie Simon’s Letter to EPO Staff: eDossier Has “Not Reached the Required Quality Levels.”

Tuesday 19th of February 2019 08:42:11 AM

Summary: We've just commented on it; here is the raw letter in full, explaining that eDossier and related frameworks will be abandoned entirely and indefinitely within less than a fortnight

The EPO management team has taken the decision to stop the eDossier project in its entirety.

After three years of intense efforts to design and deliver eDossier, the implemented solution is unfortunately neither performant nor scalable enough to create a paperless, electronic workflow. In addition, after two rounds of corrective testing, the latest release has not reached the required quality levels. This was independently confirmed by the recent IT Audit performed by Boston Consulting Group. The Audit also highlighted that the planned benefits have not materialised and expressed concerns over the expected benefits and feasibility of the programme, as currently defined.

In light of these findings, the management team has followed the recommendation of the IT Audit and stopped the eDossier project, including the Cellule de Suivi. The three directorates currently using it for Stock Management will now accept and allocate files in the same way as all other directorates.

Stopping a project of this magnitude is never easy and the decision has not been taken lightly. The Office invested greatly in this project with the aim of delivering significant benefits to the organisation, through the introduction of an electronic dossier and workflow. We also appreciate that this has been one of a number of efforts over time to introduce a more electronic workflow. However, it is a reality of innovative organisations that not all projects work out exactly as we had hoped, no matter how great the effort from those involved.

We will now draw lessons from eDossier to better prepare us for other projects in the future. With a more agile BIT structure that is being proposed, and the overall maturation of technologies, we are also better equipped to achieve our aims in the future. As part of the Office’s Strategic Plan, the Office will now make proposals for a new back-office to support the patent grant process using an improved platform, which will deliver both performance and scalability.

We fully realise that many of you have invested great energy in this project to make it a success. We would therefore like to express our sincere gratitude to all of you, whether examiner, para-technical, formalities officer, team manager or director, who has used eDossier Stock Management, as well as all the IM, PD13 and PD14 staff who worked on the project and supported the cellule during the past two years.

eDossier Stock Management will stop on Friday 1 March 2019 at 16:00. All those using eDossier will receive information later today on how the transition will be managed and what you can expect and when.

Stephen Rowan
Vice-President DG1
Nellie Simon
Vice-President DG4

Search Matters Not at the European Patent Office

Tuesday 19th of February 2019 08:24:31 AM

Early Certainty From Google (April 1, 2018)

Summary: The EPO has found out that “System Battistelli” [1, 2] has been catastrophic for the quality of patents; it stops short of openly admitting it as such and in fact it keeps the message strictly confidential (explained to insiders, who will inevitably notice a system being abandoned)

IT ought to have become clear by now that the European Patent Office (EPO) is unable/unwilling to reform. António Campinos is not changing anything except the level of advocacy for software patents in Europe (i.e. lowering patent quality even further).

Earlier this month we wrote about teffgate and now it’s mentioned in IP Kat as well, courtesy of yesterday’s post from Jonathan Pratt. He mostly cites other sources, but he binds together several items we covered earlier this month (about departure from the EPC, decline of patent quality/legitimacy, and courts throwing out European Patents).

Kluwer’s patent blog has also posted a number of articles this week. This started with an analysis of how to deal with unusual prior art when applying the EPO’s Problem and Solution Approach, in particular when there are doubts about whether the closest prior art is enabling. The second post related to the changes in the latest version of Visser’s Annotated European Patent Convention. Next up, a court in the Netherlands ruled that two Dutch patents for processing teff (a kind of grain) are invalid. This was declared as “great news” for Ethiopia which has been using teff for thousands of years. This was followed up with a comparison of the test for sufficiency in Australia and the UK following recent cases relating to Lyrica. Finally, there was an analysis of the recent decision of the District Court of The Hague that the Dutch part of Eli Lilly and Company’s patent EP 1 313 508 is valid.

As recently as last week we wrote about the “AI” buzzword/hype taking over Europe in an effort to promote bad things like surveillance; it’s often a Trojan horse/back door for software patents as well and hours ago Intellectual Property Watch published “EU Members Adopt Plan To Make Europe A Leader In Artificial Intelligence”. It turns out that it isn’t necessarily about patents, but it likely cites things like that recent UN/WIPO report. “The European Council of member states has adopted an all-encompassing plan to make Europe a global leader in artificial intelligence and integrate AI into all aspects of regional life. The plan, which comes as Europe has been identified as lagging in AI research and investment behind the United States,” says the opening (not behind their paywall).

Speaking of “AI”, belatedly the EPO admits it’s failing to replace examiners with so-called ‘AI’ (which means just “Algorithms” or “Computers” these days). As Märpel has just explained:

Märpel heard that the office computer tools are not working as well as they should. This was confirmed at the beginning of this month by an audit that was concluded by Boston Consulting Group and published by President Campinos. Märpel is frankly surprised that the audit did not leak into the general public as it paints a dismal picture of system Battistelli. Our readers will certainly remember that under President Battistelli millions were paid for software development and that a surprisingly high proportion of the IT firms chosen were French.

The pinacle of the IT tools was supposed to be the “Electronic dossier system” or eDossier. The office had great hopes in the eDossier, as it would have rendered formality officers redundant: the computer would have managed the procedural aspects automatically. The catastrophic state of formalities results from a continuous policy of understaffing in the past years: why replace staff if the computer will render them all redundant anyway?

But the e-dossier does not work. The audit suggested to close the project and the decision was published last week.

The original message came from a new appointee and former colleague of Campinos.

It seems clear that for a number of years the EPO foolishly attempted to replace examiners with low-quality automation which SUEPO repeatedly warned about/against (as did we). In fact, almost every day this month the EPO published “searchmatters” tweets like this one from half a day ago: “Check out this collection of lectures and workshops to see why #SearchMatters…”

Well, if only the EPO truly believed that “SearchMatters”; it seems to be trying to cut costs and cut the legitimacy of European Patents. If these were the goals, it succeeded at both. However, that puts at peril the future of this entire institution. This is why there was such strong resistance from examiners. In the next post we shall give new examples of bogus (as confirmed by assessors) European Patents.

António Campinos Still Needs to Undo Battistelli’s Union-Busting Activities at the EPO

Tuesday 19th of February 2019 07:42:13 AM

Yesterday: António Campinos Still Needs to Hold Team Battistelli Accountable for Illegally Bringing Weapons to the EPO

Summary: Solidarity and support for Laurent Prunier are needed because the new French president lacks empathy even for fellow Frenchmen whose sole ‘crime’ is that they represented EPO staff

NOT ONLY SUEPO (the union) but also the Central Staff Committee (CSC, representatives) is being gagged by the European Patent Office (EPO). Bergot, whom many insiders perceive to be the 'real' boss, sends them threatening letters. It’s not surprising that they hardly say anything anymore. It is an atmosphere of sheer fear.

António Campinos has not repaired anything that Battistelli did; he has in fact escalated advocacy of software patents in Europe and he is stonewalling on the subject of staff representatives being subjected to union-busting by Battistelli. None of that has changed, based on this SUEPO support letter for Laurent Prunier, which one recipient decided to pass to us:

Dear SUEPO Members,

Mr Campinos has announced, in his Communiqué of 30.10.2018, that he would work towards amicable settlements. The CSC, SUEPO and the Union Syndicale Fédérale (USF) have written to the President calling for an “amnesty” for all staff representatives targeted by Mr Battistelli & co, and in particular for those who remain dismissed.

So far the Office has not reconsidered Laurent’s unlawful dismissal and the Tribunal is unlikely to grant him relief before the end of 2019. Laurent is sick, remains unable to work, and thus without independent income. He still needs our support to stay afloat until a proper solution is found.

You can support Laurent with one-off donations, or with regular (monthly) donations. All donations are welcome and very much appreciated, regardless of the amount.

Here are Laurent’s bank coordinates:

[redacted]

We thank you for considering supporting a colleague who worked tirelessly to defend (y)our collective rights and got sacked for that.

Your SUEPO Committee The Hague

The deteriorating health of this staff representative, whom sources of ours describe as a nice person, makes it a matter of urgency. But of course Campinos lacks compassion and common sense; he’s all PR skills, but deep inside it’s another Battistelli/Bergot. People are rightly running out of patience with him.

Links 18/2/2019: Linux 5.0 RC7, RISC-V Spreading Fast

Monday 18th of February 2019 04:04:27 PM

Contents GNU/Linux
  • Linux Vs. Unix: What’s the Difference?

    Linux and Unix are often compared to each other. If the similarity in their names wasn’t enough, Linux is technically a descendant of Unix, and they share a number of similarities in tool kits and overall structure. They aren’t exactly the same, though, and the approaches and philosophies behind them are radically different.

  • Desktop
    • How I got my job in Linux: from Newbie to Pro

      I was peeved, because I’d spent my own money on building a computer and buying Microsoft Windows to put on it. Money that I really needed to pay the rent and put food in my belly. I also felt sorry for all the people that I’d end up re-installing Windows on their PC to fix their problem. I knew that most of them would probably be back in the store six or so months later with the same complaint.

      Almost by accident, I found Linux. I was in the magazine section of the PC shop I worked in one day in late 1999. I saw a magazine called ‘Linux Answers’. On the cover was a copy of Red Hat Linux 6.0. Before long, I had done the unthinkable: I had deleted Windows in a rage of fury because it had completely crashed and wouldn’t start up. All of my MP3s, photos and documents, all but gone save for a few backups on CDs I had lying around. Back in those days I had no idea that I would have been able to salvage those files with Linux; I just blithely reformatted my hard disk and went cold-turkey, believing everything that the magazine said, I forced myself into the abyss of the unknown! These were exciting times!

      I remember the blue text-mode installer, the glare of the many lines of text flying by when the machine started up for the first time. It looked really un-user friendly. Eventually, the screen flipped into what I’d later know to be called ‘runlevel 5’ and I could see a graphical login screen. Little did I know it, but that flashing cursor was the beginning to a whole new world of computing for me.

  • Server
    • What is Knative, and What Can It Do for You?

      Kubernetes is great, as it is. But with Knative, a new, open source platform spearheaded by Google, Kubernetes can be even better.

      If you haven’t yet taken a look at what Knative is or how it can save developers time and headaches, you could be missing out on some powerful features that help you get more out of Kubernetes (and containers in general) with less effort.

      Keep reading for an overview of what Knative is and how it can help you double down on microservices and containers.

  • Audiocasts/Shows
    • Linux Action News 93

      Google scrambles to repurpose Android Things, Microsoft wants to protect your Linux install really bad, and the first bank backed Crypto-coin makes a splash.

      Plus Void Linux issues a warning, running Linux on ARM laptops built for Windows, and more.

  • Kernel Space
    • Linux 5.0-rc7

      A nice and calm week, with statistics looking normal. Just under half
      drivers (gpu, networking, input, md, block, sound, …), with the rest
      being architecture fixes (arm64, arm, x86, kvm), networking and misc
      (filesystem etc).

      Nothing particularly odd stands out, and everything is pretty small.
      Just the way I like it. Shortlog appended,

      Linus

    • Linux 5.0-rc7 Kernel Released

      Linus Torvalds announced the release of the Linux 5.0-rc7 kernel on Sunday night.

      This seventh weekly release candidate to the Linux 5.0 kernel is now available for testing. This past week has been quite light on bug/regression fixing, which is good for this stage of development.

    • The Many Changes Lining Up So Far For The Linux 5.1 Kernel

      While Linux 5.0 isn’t even out yet, there are a lot of changes building up for the Linux 5.1 cycle that have us excited.

    • Nouveau Changes Sent In To DRM-Next For Linux 5.1 – Biggest Update In Several Releases

      Ben Skeggs, the Nouveau DRM maintainer employed by Red Hat, has sent in the big batch of open-source NVIDIA driver changes slates for the upcoming Linux 5.1 kernel.

      While the Nouveau changes for Linux 5.1 didn’t start off being too exciting but just another cycle of mostly mundane changes, in recent days the work has been more eventful with the merging of the HMM bits for Heterogeneous Memory Management.

    • Linux Foundation
      • ETSI MEC Creates Its First Working Group

        The group will be led by Walter Featherstone, a principal research engineer at Viavi.

        ETSI formed the MEC industry specification group (ISG) with 24 companies in December 2014. The group now boasts around 85 members. It set out to create a standardized, open environment for the integration of applications across multi-vendor MEC platforms.

        MEC will enable operators and vendors to provide cloud computing as well as an IT service environment at the edge of the network, which is characterized by low latency and high bandwidth. The technology is a rapidly developing application for 5G and IoT use cases.

        [...]

        The Linux Foundation, earlier this year, launched an edge computing initiative called LF Edge. The initiative will serve as an umbrella organization for five edge projects. The group has set out to build an open, interoperable framework for edge computing that is independent of hardware, silicon, cloud, or operating systems.

      • Open Mainframe Project: Zowe Ready for Prime Time

        There is a lot of interest in updating mainframe technology/interfaces across traditional enterprises. As development environments and toolsets have evolved outside the mainframe, there is a struggle to keep up—partially because backward compatibility requirements make wild changes difficult and partly because the very architecture of mainframes is different.

      • These Are Not The Containers You’re Looking For

        It is a well-documented fact that the rise of cloud and open-source has been connected, which also brings some interesting tensions, as I explored in my previous article. In containers, this synergy seems stronger than ever. The juggernaut behind Kubernetes and many related open source projects, the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), is part of the Linux Foundation. The CNCF charter is clear about the intentions of the foundation: it seeks to foster and sustain an ecosystem of open source, vendor-neutral projects. Consequentially, since the CNCF’s inception in 2014, it has become increasingly feasible to manage a complex cloud-native stack with a large mix of these open source projects (some interesting data in the foundation’s annual report). The more you get into container-native methodologies, the more open source you will use.

      • Zowe now at Version 1.0

        About six months ago, there was a lot of excitement with the announcement of Zowe (usually pronounced like Zoë). It provided a way for the mainframe to be treated like any other server by people whose computing skill set had been developed using open source tools rather than on the mainframe itself.

        As I’ve mentioned before, one of the biggest problems facing mainframe sites these days is their ageing population of experts. Many of their mainframe geeks, gurus, and mavens are starting to think about their pensions and their retirement. Some sites are looking to solve the issue of losing their human-based expertise by automating as much as possible – by incorporating into software as much of that expertise as they can. However, that doesn’t address the problem of how to create new applications or update existing applications to work in new ways, such as cloud, mobile working, or incorporating public APIs to create some completely new app. The big question for organizations that want to forge ahead in business is how do they ensure that they can digitally transform so that they can still operate successfully in the fast-evolving digital world? How do they make sure that any digitally disruptive technologies are included the way their company works in the future? The answer is to come up with a way of making everything on Z available to people who are used to working in other ways on other platforms. And that, in a nutshell, is where Zowe comes in.

      • Sony Makes Into the Spider-Verse Software Free and Open Source

        Sony Pictures Imageworks has made the color management tool OpenColorIO—which was used to create the recent hit animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse—available to the open source community. The tool has now become the second software project of the Academy Software Foundation (ASWF), a Linux Foundation-owned open source association.

        In addition to Into the Spider-Verse, OpenColorIO has been used in the production of such other films as Hotel Transylvania 3, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Alice and Wonderland.

    • Graphics Stack
      • Intel Preps For Discrete Graphics Cards With Linux Patches

        Intel has confirmed that recent patches to its Linux graphics driver were related to its continued work on preparing the ecosystem for its new line of discrete graphics cards.

        Phoronix reported that Intel released 42 such patches with more than 4,000 lines of code between them on February 14. The main purpose of the patches was to introduce the concept of memory regions in “preparation for upcoming devices with device local memory.” (Such as, you know, discrete graphics cards.)

        [...]

        Still, any information about Intel’s graphics plans is welcome. Right now the graphics market is dominated by AMD and Nvidia, and as we noted in December, Intel is probably the only company that even has a possibility of successfully introducing a new discrete graphics architecture. Why not enjoy the occasional glimpse behind the curtain as that architecture’s being built?

      • Intel begins talking up their open source efforts for their upcoming dedicated GPU

        With Intel’s brand new dedicated GPU due next year, they’ve begun talking up their efforts of getting Linux support in early.

      • SVT-VP9 Is Intel’s Latest Open-Source Video Encoder Yielding High Performance VP9

        At the start of the month Intel open-sourced SVT-AV1 aiming for high-performance AV1 video encoding on CPUs. That complemented their existing SVT-HEVC encoder for H.265 content and already SVT-AV1 has been seeing nice performance improvements. Intel now has released SVT-VP9 as a speedy open-source VP9 video encoder.

        Uploaded on Friday was the initial public open-source commit of SVT-VP9, the Intel Scalable Video Technology VP9 encoder. With this encoder they are focusing on being able to provide real-time encoding of up to two 4Kp60 streams on an Intel Xeon Gold 6140 processor. SVT-VP9 is under a BSD-style license and currently runs on Windows and Linux.

  • Applications
    • FocusWriter An App For Distraction-Free Writing

      FocusWriter is a distraction-free word processor program that hides all the interfaces: menu bar, toolbar, status bar, etc and starts in fullscreen mode to enable the user fully immersed in their work. The program’s primary feature is to focus only on user’s writing productivity and not provide another full-fledged word processor like LibreOffice Writer or Calligra Word Processor.

    • 7 Best Weather Apps for Ubuntu & Linux Mint

      Weather awareness is important to a lot of people, especially those who are always commuting, event planners, etc. And while we have covered several weather applications for Linux in the past but we never compiled a list that puts the best together.

      Today, we bring you a list of the best weather applications you can install on your Ubuntu and Linux Mint set up.

    • 5 Best Free Linux Typing Tutors

      Being able to touch type is the ability of typing without looking at the keyboard. When touch-typing, the individual uses all fingers instead of just a few fingers. Consequently, typing speed increases dramatically.

      It’s not only transcriptionists and secretaries that benefit from being able to type without looking at the keyboard. By concentrating on their thoughts and creative processes rather than the keyboard, all users will focus more on the content of the text, thereby increasing its quality. Moreover, touch-typing is less tiring, and less demanding on the brain. It also reduces the risk of Repetitive strain injury and Carpal tunnel syndrome.

      Typing tutor software teaches fast and accurate typing through a system of informative lessons and progress tracking. We think it is important that learning should be fun, so we have included some typing games in this feature.

    • fd – A Simple and Fast Alternative to Find Command

      Most of the Linux users are well familiar with the find command and the many cases it can be used. Today we are going to review an alternative to find command, called fd.

      fd, is a simple, fast and user-friendly tool meant to simply perform faster compared to find. It is not meant to completely replace find, but rather give you an easy to use alternative that performs slightly faster.

    • Instructionals/Technical
    • Wine or Emulation
      • Wine Developers Release Hangover Alpha To Run Windows x86_64 Programs On 64-Bit ARM

        Wine developers André Hentschel and Stefan Dösinger have been working on “Hangover” as a means of running Windows x86/x86_64 applications on 64-bit ARM (AArch64) Linux and Android or even Windows for ARM. They are out today with the project’s first alpha release.

        Hangover 0.4 is the first (alpha) release from this project for running x86/x86_64 Windows programs now on 64-bit ARM Linux distributions. Besides GNU/Linux platforms, Hangover can also run on Android as well. This also lays the groundwork for supporting Windows games on AArch64 using Direct3D/WineD3D though due to upstream Wine limitations that doesn’t yet work on Android due to WineD3D not working off OpenGL ES at this time.

    • Games
      • Escape room puzzle game ‘Escape Legacy: Ancient Scrolls’ lands Linux support

        Escape Legacy: Ancient Scrolls from Storming Tech is an escape room puzzle game that landed Linux support back in December.

        A little late on covering it, sure, but this is due to the fact that the Linux version didn’t actually work. I reached out personally to the developer, both through email and on their Steam forum and they have just this month fixed it. I actually discovered it thanks to Steam’s Discovery Queue feature, something I’ve not used often but surprisingly it has shown me multiple games I’ve not seen before so it’s quite handy.

        It has a demo available and from the small slice it offers up, it was actually reasonably impressive. The demo isn’t long and it is a bit abrupt as it doesn’t even let you finish the first level with a barrier stopping you going further but it does seem interesting.

      • Action RPG ‘Moonlighter’ had a massive free update recently making it a much more interesting game

        Moonlighter was already quite interesting, with the mix of action-RPG dungeon crawling along with working in a shop to sell your goods, now with the free Friends & Foes update it’s even more fun.

        The first of the major new stuff is the companions system, so once you kill a particular enemy type at least 10 times a special egg will appear. After three days in-game, it will hatch giving you a new friend to take on your journey. They’ve also added 8 mini-bosses, inventory sorting, a better system to show when shop prices update, an improve item pick-up mechanic and so on. Quite a feature-packed update!

      • PlayStation 3 emulator RPCS3 shows off more great progress in their latest report

        When looking over it, at first glance it might seem like they’ve gone a little backwards in terms of supported titles. For example, they went from 1085 with a playable status in November to 1081 in December. However, this is due to a change in their compatibility list, which was revamped to bundle “multiple game IDs for the same game into one single entry”. On top of that, they’re also now bundling “IDs from the same region as well” so the compatibility list should be far more accurate going forward.

        Looking at the performance difference with the new “Approximate xfloat” feature, it’s quite impressive. They showed Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time going from 39FPS to 50FPS, God of War 3 saw a similar improvement going from 9FPS to 15FPS on AMD and 14FPS to 32FPS on Intel and they noted many other titles also seeing such improvements.

      • Top 20 Best Linux Terminal Console Games That You can Play Right Now

        Gaming on Linux has come a long way. There are thousands of amazing games available out there for you to play and enjoy. Today here, I will discuss some best games for the Linux terminal console. We all know that Linux users spend lots of time on Linux Terminal for doing the advance level task and sometimes it may be tiresome. And it will be great if you play some quick games on Linux terminal to remove the tiredness and boredom. So today I will only concentrate on making an amazing list of best Linux Terminal console games for you.

        I have already covered some write up on best Linux games, cheap steam games, top-rated steam games, and of course, best free steam games for Linux users. If you have not checked it yet, go there and choose your best one. So, guys, I am stopping further ado and jumping right to the point. Hence, let us head over to our topic.

      • Adventure Land, an MMO where you do a little coding is available on Linux with plans to go open source

        This is a bit of an odd one, Adventure Land is an MMO where you code characters using either the provided code or do a little of your own to help you progress. They plan to go open source too.

        Adventure Land sounds like quite a sandbox MMO, one with no specific quest-line to follow, no guides you have to follow and so on. They say you can “trade, gamble in tavern, party with friends, pvp solo with your rouge or go after rare loot”.

  • Desktop Environments/WMs
    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt
      • Interview with Noemie Scherer

        Hi! I’m a European Krita user.

        [...]

        That was more than ten years ago. I was something like ten, maybe twelve at most. A friend of mine had a photographer father, so I went to their house and could try his drawing tablet, and it was really cool; some time later my parents got me one (one of those small A6 ones), and my brother downloaded Gimp, probably for a birthday (he was -still is- really into open source).

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK
      • Daniel García Moreno: I’m a hacker

        The hack computer is built on top of the Endless OS. Endless OS is based on debian and the desktop is a modified gnome shell, but it’s not the usual debian derivative, it’s based on OSTree. The main difference is that the root filesystem is read only and updates are managed with ostree, that’s like a git repository.

        This kind of Operating System is easier to maintain, because the user can’t modify the base system, so this means that he was unable to break it. All user applications are installed via flatpak, so are independent of the OS version and because of flathub you can install latests version of apps without the need to update the full operating system.

        This is the way that Fedora SilverBlue is trying to follow and is a new way to build and distribute GNU/Linux.

      • Geary Email Client 0.13 Released with Gnome Online Accounts Support

        Geary email client 0.13 was released today with great new features, performance improvements, and numerous bug fixes.

        The key feature in Geary 0.13 is that email accounts added via GNOME Online Accounts now is supported.

      • Bastian Ilsø Hougaard: GNOME at FOSDEM 2019

        Earlier this month, the annual FOSDEM conference happened again at ULB, Bruxelles, Belgium. I had the opportunity to go there, man the GNOME booth, sell socks, and catch up with other GNOME contributors.

        Prior to the conference I had booked La Chambre Haute, which is a great little rooftop apartment located in Etterbeek, around 1.7km from the FOSDEM venue. I arranged the apartment for sharing through the GNOME wiki and shared the apartment with fellow GNOMEies Florian, Tobias, Julian and Niclas. We had a really pleasant time there, including oriental cooking and hacking! I can recommend joining for FOSDEM 2020.

      • Tobias Bernard: FOSDEM 2019

        Earlier this month I attended FOSDEM in Brussels. This year was much more relaxed than last year because I didn’t have a talk or other major responsibilities. That meant I had a lot more time to talk to fellow GNOME people and other friends working on different projects.

        I spent a lot of time at our booth, talking to people coming by, and planning new projects with fellow developers. The only talk I ended up going to was Zeeshan’s on Rust. I really wanted to go see Jordan’s talk as well, but the Rust devroom was way too packed on Sunday. I also attended the Mobile Free Software BoF, where Nicole gave a status update about the Librem 5 to interested community members, and people could ask questions.

  • Distributions
    • Reviews
      • Review: Slontoo 18.07.1 “LXDE”

        It is not often that I experiment with projects from the Gentoo family of distributions. This week I decided to enjoy a change of pace and experiment with a desktop oriented distribution from the Gentoo family called Slontoo. According to the project’s website,
        Slontoo is an operating system based on Funtoo Linux. It uses the Linux Mint live installer to simplify the installation procedure. Slontoo tries to provide most appropriate tools for home and office use.
        Funtoo is, in turn, based on Gentoo and strives to improve the technologies presented in the Gentoo meta-distribution.

        Slontoo is available in three editions: LXDE, MATE and Xfce. New users can download one unified ISO (1.7GB) that contains all three desktop environments, or select from one of three smaller ISO files that each include just one desktop. I decided to download the distribution’s LXDE edition which is 1GB in size. Slontoo is available for 64-bit systems only.

        Booting from the live media brings up a menu asking us to pick our preferred language. Then the system boots into a graphical mode and presents us with the LXDE desktop. A panel sits at the bottom of the screen, with the application menu in the bottom-left corner. Icons on the desktop open the file manager and launch the system installer. The live desktop was responsive and the distribution appeared to be working smoothly so I jumped immediately into the installer.

    • Screenshots/Screencasts
    • Fedora
    • Debian Family
      • Sway in experimental

        A couple of days ago the 1.0-RC2 version of Sway, a Wayland compositor, landed in Debian experimental. Sway is a drop in replacement for the i3 tiling window manager for wayland. Drop in replacement means that, apart from minor adaptions, you can reuse your existing i3 configuration file for Sway. On the Website of sway you can find a short introduction video that shows the most basic concepts of using Sway, though if you have worked with i3 you will feel at home soon.

        In the video the utility swaygrab is mentioned, but this tool is not part of Sway anymore. There is another screenshot tool now though, called grim which you can combine with the tool slurp if you want to select regions for screenshots. The video also mentions swaylock, which is a screen locking utility similar to i3lock. It was split out of the main Sway release a couple of weeks ago but there also exists a Debian package by now. And there is a package for swayidle, which is a idle management daemon, which comes handy for locking the screen or for turning of your display after a timeout. If you need clipboard manager, you can use wl-clipboard. There is also a notification daemon called mako (the Debian package is called mako-notifier and is in NEW) and if you don’t like the default swaybar, you can have a look at waybar (not yet in Debian, see this RFS). If you want to get in touch with other Sway users there is a #sway IRC channel on freenode. For some tricks setting up Sway you can browse the wiki.

      • The Sway Wayland Compositor Is Now Available From Debian Experimental

        For those that have been wanting to try out the near-final Sway 1.0, this Wayland compositor has made its way into the Debian archive albeit only in the “experimental” section for now.

        At the end of January was the start of the upstream Debian packaging work around Sway and it’s kept up with the latest release candidates. Available from Debian Experimental is now the latest Sway 1.0-RC2.

      • Making debug symbols discoverable and fetchable

        Michael wrote a few days ago about the experience of debugging programs on Debian. And he is certainly not the only one, who found it more difficult to find debug symbols on Linux systems in general.

        But fortunately, it is a fixable problem. Basically, we just need a service to map a build-id to a downloadable file containing that build-id. You can find the source code to my (prototype) of such a dbgsym service on salsa.debian.org.

      • Debian 9.8 MATE Run Through

        In this video, we look at Debian 9.8 the MATE edition.

      • Derivatives
        • Slax 9.8 Linux Distro Released with Various Updates from Debian GNU/Linux 9.8

          Slax 9.8 is now available for download and comes about three weeks after the release of Slax 9.7, which improved compatibility with new USB devices and made the ISO image even smaller by using 1MB blocks to compress the SquashFS filesystem.

          Slax 9.8 is based on the recently released Debian GNU/Linux 9.8 operating system and incorporates all of the upstream security updates and miscellaneous bug fixes that were included in the Debian GNU/Linux 9.8 “Stretch” point release.

        • Canonical/Ubuntu
          • Open sorcerers work to ARM Ubuntu

            A team of open sorcerers are trying to get Linux on Qualcomm-powered laptops from HP, Asus, and Lenovo.

            According to Tech Republic the idea could make for a higher performing experience than Windows 10.

            Microsoft and Qualcomm announced a partnership to pair Windows 10 and Snapdragon ARM processors for ultra-thin LTE-connected netbooks with a 20+ hour battery life.

            This Windows-on-Arm initiative has faced several stumbling blocks, with the the first-generation HP Envy x2 and Asus NovaGo slammed for poor performance and app compatibility in Windows 10.

          • Flavours and Variants
  • Devices/Embedded
Free Software/Open Source
  • Toyota Prepping ‘PASTA’ for its GitHub Debut

    Carmaker’s open source car-hacking tool platform soon will be available to the research community.
    The lead developer behind Toyota’s new cybersecurity testing tool said the carmaker plans to make its so-called PASTA (Portable Automotive Security Testbed with Adaptability) available via GitHub as early as next month or April.

    Tsuyoshi Toyama, senior researcher at Toyota InfoTechnology Center, told Dark Reading that he and his team are currently working on getting the PASTA specifications ready for availability online, and plan to offer as open-source the platform’s specs, CAN (controller area network) ID maps, ECU (engine control unit) program codes, and ECU circuit diagrams for vehicle testing. He says Toyota also hopes to offer PASTA’s driving simulator programs as open source, as well.

  • FAIR releases a new ELF OpenGo bot with a unique archive that can analyze 87k professional Go games

    It was last year in May when Facebook AI Research (FAIR) released an open source ‘ELF’ OpenGo bot, an AI bot that has defeated world champion professional Go players, based onits existing ELF platform for Reinforcement Learning Research. Yesterday, FAIR announced new features and research results related to ELF OpenGo, including an updated model, a Windows executable version of the bot, and a unique archive analyzing 87k professional Go games.

    ELF OpenGo, an open-source reimplementation of the AlphaZero algorithm, is the first open-source Go AI that has convincingly demonstrated superhuman performance, achieving a (20:0) record against global top professionals.

  • Novel software offers possible reduction in arrhythmic heart disease

    Potentially lethal heart conditions may become easier to spot and may lead to improvements in prevention and treatment thanks to innovative new software that measures electrical activity in the organ.

    The heart’s pumping ability is controlled by electrical activity that triggers the heart muscle cells to contract and relax. In certain heart diseases such as arrhythmia, the organ’s electrical activity is affected.

    Cardiac researchers can already record and analyse the heart’s electrical behaviour using optical and electrode mapping, but widespread use of these technologies is limited by a lack of appropriate software.

    Computer and cardiovascular experts at the University of Birmingham have worked with counterparts in the UK, Netherlands and Australia to develop ElectroMap – a new open-source software for processing, analysis and mapping complex cardiac data.

    Led by researchers from the School of Computer Science and the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, at the University of Birmingham, the international team has published its findings in Scientific Reports.

  • Web Browsers
    • Mozilla
      • Firefox 66 Beta 8 Testday Results

        As you may already know, last Friday February 15th – we held a new Testday event, for Firefox 66 Beta 8.

        Thank you all for helping us make Mozilla a better place: gaby2300, Priyadharshini A and Aishwarya Narasimhan.

  • Databases
    • DigitalOcean launches its managed database service

      DigitalOcean started as an affordable but basic virtual private server offering with a pleasant user interface. Over the last few years, the company started adding features like object and block storage, load balancers and a container service. Today, it’s expanding its portfolio once again by launching a feature that was sorely missing in its lineup: a managed database service.

      The first edition of these DigitalOcean Managed Databases only supports PostgreSQL, the popular open-source relational database. Later this year, it’ll add MySQL and Redis support (likely in Q2 or Q3). As for other databases, the company says that it’ll listen to customer feedback and use that to prioritize other offerings.

    • InfluxData Secures $60 Million in Series D Funding to Bring the Value of Time Series to the Enterprise Mainstream
    • InfluxData raises $60 million for time-series database software

      The amount of data generated today boggles the mind — U.S. companies alone produce 2.5 quintillion bytes daily, enough to fill ten thousand Libraries of Congress in a year — and much of it is of the time-series variety (i.e., data points indexed in time order). Given the sheer volume, it’s no wonder that only 12 percent of companies say they’re analyzing the data they have, according to Forrester Research.

      That’s one of the reasons Paul Dix — who’s helped to build software for startups, large companies, and organizations like Microsoft, Google, McAfee, Thomson Reuters, and Air Force Space Command — founded Y Combinator- and Bloomberg Beta-backed InfluxData (formerly Errplane) in 2012. The San Francisco startup develops an open source time series platform, InfluxDB, that is optimized to handle metrics and events in DevOps, internet of things (IoT), and real-time analytics domains. And after a banner year that saw revenue double, InfluxDB 2.0 launch in alpha, and Flux — a functional language for both querying and processing data — debut in technical preview, the startup is gearing up for growth.

    • Why you should use SQLite

      Lift the hood on most any business application, and you’ll reveal some way to store and use structured data. Whether it’s a client-side app, an app with a web front-end, or an edge-device app, chances are it needs an embedded database of some kind.

      SQLite is an embeddable open source database, written in C and queryable with conventional SQL, that is designed to cover those use cases and more. SQLite is designed to be fast, portable, and reliable, whether you’re storing only kilobytes of data or multi-gigabyte blobs.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)
  • Public Services/Government
    • Slovak advocates want parliament to push for open source

      Slovak proponents of the use of free and open source software are rallying for their country’s parliament to approve plans to share the source code of software solutions developed by and for public services. They are concerned that proprietary software vendors will lobby for changes to the eGovernment act, a strategic IT Government proposal that is to be discussed in parliament in March or April.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration
    • Open-science model for drug discovery expands to neurodegenerative diseases

      Medicines 4 Neurodegenerative Diseases (M4ND Pharma) will pursue promising new genetic drug targets for these intractable nervous system disorders, thanks to $1.5 million from the Krembil Foundation. It will be the world’s second drug discovery company committed to open science after Medicines 4 Kids (M4K Pharma), which launched in 2017 to develop a novel drug for an uncommon but fatal childhood brain cancer.

      Open science is a way for researchers to share their data and knowledge quickly and publicly, unencumbered by patents and the peer review publishing process, with the aim of speeding up scientific discovery. The movement gathered force in the life sciences in the 1990s with the Human Genome Project, and spread to protein structures and then early-stage drug discovery through the Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC).

      The non-profit SGC has generated considerable private and public investment and several spin-out companies, but there remains a gap in late-stage drug development.

      “When we started M4K, many people thought an open approach to late-stage drug development might only be applicable to rare or neglected diseases, if at all,” says Aled Edwards, a professor of molecular genetics at the University of Toronto and CEO of the SGC. “But we’re getting unexpected funding and scientific contributions from industry, academic and clinical sources, and slowly but surely we’re advancing a medicine through the pipeline. It’s time to move the goal posts again on what’s possible with open science.”

    • IoT
      • Security Vulnerabilities Pose a Challenge to IoT/IIoT Mass Adoption

        Statista, a leading market and consumer data research firm, estimates that by 2020, the utilities, transportation and logistics, and discrete manufacturing industries are each projected to spend $40 billion on Internet of Things (IoT) platforms, systems and services. The next largest spending category will be business-to-consumer vendors, at $25 billion, while the health-care, energy and retail industries are each projected to spend north of $10 billion. These numbers add up to a significant investment in the IoT. In fact, the Boston Consulting Group predicts that the IoT market will reach $267 billion by 2020.

      • Decentralised IoT Network Gets Tencent Investment

        Wienke Giezeman is a man on a mission: since 2015, he’s been busy creating a decentralized LoRaWAN based internet of things (IoT) network which has no single owner and no single point of control. His goal is to make it easy for people to focus on the business value created by IoT, and not have to worry about the technology.

        Giezeman stood on the stage at his The Things Conference here earlier this month to announce some major breakthroughs that could just tip the balance for mass deployment of LoRaWAN devices and gateways. This includes a very low cost $69 indoor gateway, a generic software defined IoT node device incorporating multiple sensors, a security chip in conjunction with Microchip Technology, and a partnership with Tencent to accelerate LoRaWAN network expansion among the Chinese developer community.

      • Open IoT Network Adds Devices, Expands in China

        Giezeman stood on the stage at his The Things Conference here earlier this month to announce some major breakthroughs that could just tip the balance for mass deployment of LoRaWAN devices and gateways. This includes a very low cost $69 indoor gateway, a generic software defined IoT node device incorporating multiple sensors, a security chip in conjunction with Microchip Technology, and a partnership with Tencent to accelerate LoRaWAN network expansion among the Chinese developer community.

    • Open Hardware/Modding
      • RISC-V Climbs Software Mountain

        Now that RISC-V has established a beachhead as a deeply embedded controller in SoCs, it’s time to start asking the next question: Can this open-source instruction-set architecture (ISA) make the next big leap into being an alternative to Arm and the x86 as a host processor?

        The short answer is yes, but it could take several years and there are plenty of pitfalls along the way. Essentially, the freewheeling open-source community behind RISC-V will need to develop and adhere to a wide range of system-level standards.

        So far, Nvidia and Western Digital plan to use RISC-V controllers in their SoCs, and Microsemi will use it in a new FPGA. Andes, Cortus, and startup SiFive sell IP cores, and a handful of startups plan to launch mainly machine-learning accelerators using it.

      • Western Digital’s RISC-V ‘Swerv’ Core Now Available for Free

        Western Digital has announced that it’s completed work on its Swerv RISC-V CPU core and has published the register-transfer level (RTL) abstraction of the design. Publishing the RTL code allows other companies to use the design.

        Open-source hardware initiatives and ISAs have existed for decades, but RISC-V has gathered a critical ecosystem and corporate interests in these projects where historically there was little incentive to buy-in. The issue isn’t primarily cost savings — particularly as node sizes decrease, the licensing costs of an ARM core simply aren’t a major part of the total. The end of conventional Moore’s Law scaling has moved interest back to ISAs, as has the rise of IoT, AI, ML, and the need for new architectures to address these challenges.

      • Western Digital Releases Their RISC-V Cores To The World

        What grew out of a university research project is finally becoming real silicon. RISC-V, the ISA that’s completely Big-O Open, is making inroads in dev boards, Arduino-ish things, and some light Internet of Things things. That’s great and all, but it doesn’t mean anything until you can find RISC-V cores in actual products. The great hope for RISC-V in this regard looks to be Western Digital, manufacturers of storage. They’re going to put RISC-V in all their drives, and they’ve just released their own version of the core, the SweRV.

        Last year, Western Digital made the amazing claim that they will transition their consumption of silicon over to RISC-V, putting one Billion RISC-V cores per year into the marketplace. This is huge news, akin to Apple saying they’re not going to bother with ARM anymore. Sure, these cores won’t necessarily be user-facing but at least we’re getting something.

        As far as technical specs for the Western Digital SweRV core go, it’s a 32-bit in-order core, with a target implementation process of 28nm, running at 1.8GHz. Performance per MHz is good, and if you want a chip or device to compare the SweRV core to (this is an inexact comparison, because we’re just talking about a core here and not an entire CPU or device), we’re looking at something between a decade-old iPhone or a very early version of the Raspberry Pi and a modern-ish tablet. Again, an inexact comparison, but no direct comparison can be made at this point.

      • A Network Card For The Trash-80

        The idea for the trsnic comes from [Arno Puder]’s RetroStoreCard, a device that plugs into the TRS-80 Model III and connects it to a ‘personal cloud’ of sorts that hosts and runs applications without the need for cassettes or floppys. It does this with an ESP32 wired up to the I/O bus in the Model III, and it’s all completely Open Source.

        [Peter] took this idea and ran with it. Thanks to the power found in the ESP32, real encrypted Internet communication can happen, and that means HTTPS and TLS.

      • RISC-V Eases Innovation in Military/Aerospace Designs

        The RISC-V Instruction Set Architecture (ISA), and open hardware standards in general, have the potential to be a real boon the military and aerospace designers. “RISC-V is being received with open arms by the military and aerospace sectors,” said Tim Morin, director of strategic marketing in Microchip Technnology’s FPGA business unit. “They are very excited about it.”

        From a design perspective, the ISA addresses the need to minimize power consumption, streamline bill of material (BOM) costs, and optimize board space. “With RISC-V, when you create an integrated circuit, you do exactly what you need,” said Michael Cave, senior director, strategic technology at SiFive, adding that the company is bidding on DARPA projects currently. “The government loves that reality. The government feels like if they don’t do something innovative, China is going to capture the lead.”

      • RISC-V: The Road Ahead

        Now that RISC-V has established a beachhead as a deeply embedded controller in SoCs, it’s time to start asking the next question: Can this open-source instruction-set architecture (ISA) make the next big leap into being an alternative to Arm and the x86 as a host processor?

        The short answer is yes, but it could take several years and there are plenty of pitfalls along the way. Essentially, the freewheeling open-source community behind RISC-V will need to develop and adhere to a wide range of system-level standards.

        So far, Nvidia and Western Digital plan to use RISC-V controllers in their SoCs, and Microsemi will use it in a new FPGA. Andes, Cortus, and startup SiFive sell IP cores, and a handful of startups plan to launch mainly machine-learning accelerators using it.

        RISC-V is in as many as 20 million fitness bands and smartwatches in China. In the U.S., SiFive has shipped more than 2,500 development boards using processors that it aims to sell as IP cores or as SoCs through its design services.

        “The lowest-hanging fruit is the embedded space where the APIs are not exposed to programmers,” said Rick O’Connor, executive director of the non-profit RISC-V Foundation. “That’s the easiest thing to do, but there’s healthy activity in all segments.

      • Libre RISC-V GPU Aiming For 2.5 Watt Power Draw Continues Being Plotted

        Besides having a dedicated Intel GPU to look forward to in 2020, the effort around creating an open-source RISC-V architecture based graphics processor continues being spearheaded by Luke Kenneth Casson Leighton and other libre hardware developers.

        This is the ambitious effort for effectively creating a RISC-V-based Vulkan accelerator that hopes to be able to achieve 25 FPS @ 720p, 5~6 GFLOPs. Part of how they plan to make a RISC-V based GPU viable is via their Simple-V extension for RISC-V. While the performance target is incredibly lax by today’s standards, they do plan for an aggressive power consumption target of just about 2.5 Watts.

  • Programming/Development
    • Chinese Tech Giant Baidu Launches Blockchain OS to Support DApp Development

      Chinese search engine and web services company Baidu has launched its Baidu Blockchain Engine (BBE), an operating system designed to facilitate decentralized application (DApp) development. The news was officially announced by Baidu’s cloud computing unit, Baidu Cloud, on Feb. 14.
      Baidu Cloud states that it considers an open source, commercialized platform to be “the only way to build a blockchain operating system.” BBE has reportedly been built on the basis of Baidu’s “ABC” technology strategy — artificial intelligence (AI), big data and cloud computing — and aims to make DApp development “as simple as creating a mobile app.”

    • How is the Eclipse Foundation Specification Process (EFSP) different from the Java Community Process (JCP)?

      As most of you are aware, Oracle has contributed the Java EE specification to the Eclipse Foundation. The enterprise Java community decided to rename the Java EE specification to Jakarta EE. Part of this huge transition to open source is changing the specification process. The famous Java Community Process (JCP) is going to be replaced by the Eclipse Foundation Specification Process (EFSP), which will be better suited for vendor neutrality, transparency, and all other attributes associated with open source. So what exactly is the difference?

      To learn more about the new process, please refer to the EFSP v1.0, and Wayne Beaton’s article in this newsletter.

    • How To Build A Successful Developer Community

      As a community starter, the first question one should ask themselves is why developers want to join the community: is it because they are going to learn new skills or make their work easier?

      What is the impetus for building the community by asking questions like, whether the community is built around an open-source project? Are the developer tools available? Is there a platform with an API? Is it like a partner ecosystem? Or is it just selling a product?

    • Ember.js video documentary released

      Besides being an interesting piece of content for developers and open-source enthusiasts around the world, the documentary also addresses the human element of open-source software and the power of community.

      The documentary starts off with Tom Dale telling the story about how in the early days of creating web apps using Javascript, people where telling them, “please stop using Javascript”, and “you guys are abusing the system” – but they had to stick with the vision and see it through and today, everyone uses Javascript to create web applications.

    • Why 2019 Will Be the Year for Shift-Left Mainframe Testing

      While 2018 was the year for planning and implementing shift-left methodologies in testing, mainframe and server testers were, for the most part, left behind. These legacy infrastructure experts were tied down to old-school testing tools. Mainframes kept functioning, but tools and testing practices often became bottlenecks, preventing performance testing teams from testing more quickly mid-cycle and pre-release.

    • Ubisoft’s Clever-Commit AI will sniff out bugs in Firefox

      GAMES DO ENCOURAGE VIOLENCE, but against bugs in the case Ubisoft which has partnered with Mozilla to build out an artificial intelligence (AI) system that sniffs out code gremlins.

      Dubbed Clever-Commit, the AI will act as a form of coding assistant that learns from a developer’s base bug and regression data to predict and flag potential new bugs that might be added as new code is slapped onto the codebase.

      The system, which is already being used internally by Ubisoft, will be adopted by Mozilla to review Firefox code and spot dodgy bits, with the goal of making the browser more stable for its users. But if the systems works well, Mozilla has plans to stick it further into Firefox.

    • Ubisoft and Mozilla team up to develop Clever-Commit, an AI coding assistant

      Game developer Ubisoft today announced that it has partnered with Mozilla to develop Clever-Commit, an AI-based coding assistant that learns from your code base’s bug and regression data to analyze and flag potential new bugs as new code is committed. Ubisoft already uses this tool internally and Mozilla says that it will deploy it to spot bugs in its Firefox code.

    • Programming languages: Python rides high but Groovy is cool again with developers

      Groovy, which came to life in 2007, hasn’t been a top-20 language in Tiobe’s index since 2016 but in the February listing it is now at 19th place, up from 49th last year.

      Groovy hit its stride as a language for writing scripts for popular continuous-integration tool Jenkins, but it’s also been buoyed by the Gradle open-source build-automation system. According to Tiobe, these days more ‘glue’ software is being written in Groovy.

    • The Deep Learning Framework Backed By Facebook Is Getting Industry’s Attention

      When it comes to deep learning frameworks, TensorFlow is one of the most preferred toolkits.

    • Inside the AI developer’s toolbox
    • Guide To Web Scraping With Python Libraries Selenium & Beautiful Soup
    • Speeding up basic object operations in Cython
    • Python’s str.isdigit vs. str.isnumeric
    • Test and Code: 65: one assert per test
    • A Lightweight AVR IDE

      All the basic features are there – there’s syntax highlighting, as well as integration with the AVRA assembler and AVRDUDE for programming chips. It’s a tool that could make taking the leap into assembly code just that little bit easier. For another taste of bare metal coding, check out [Ben Jojo]’s discussion of x86 bootloaders.

    • patience diffing algorithm

      I needed a (text) diff algorithm, and if you search for one you mostly come up with the Myers algorithm. But then I stumbled across something called patience diffing, and it turns out to be just what I wanted. It’s already described elsewhere, but it seems more people could stand to know about it, so here we are. It’s easy to understand, and more importantly, usually makes pretty diffs (often prettier than Myers).

    • Converting Decimals to Roman Numerals with Bash

      My last few articles have given me a chance to relive my undergraduate computer science degree and code a Roman numeral to decimal converter. It’s quite handy when you’re watching old movies (when was MCMLVII anyway?), and the basic coding algorithm was reasonably straightforward. (See Dave’s “Roman Numerals and Bash” and “More Roman Numerals and Bash”.)

      The trick with Roman numerals, however, is that it’s what’s known as a subtractive notation. In other words, it’s not a position → value or even symbol → value notation, but a sort of hybrid. MM = 2000, and C = 100, but MMC and MCM are quite different: the former is 2100, and the latter is 1000 + (–100 + 1000) = 1900.

      This means that the conversion isn’t quite as simple as a mapping table, which makes it a good homework assignment for young comp-sci students!

    • Creating a containerized Python/Flask development environment with Red Hat CodeReady Workspaces

      Red Hat CodeReady Workspaces provide developers with containerized development environments hosted on OpenShift/Kubernetes. DevOps teams can now use a hosted development environment that’s pre-built for their chosen stack and customized for their project.

      CodeReady Workspaces can help you rapidly onboard developers for your project as everything they need to develop is running in a containized workspace. In this post, we’re going to use CodeReady Workspaces to get up and running quickly with an existing open source project, Peak. Peak is a multi-container Kubernetes application for performance testing web services, and it allows you to create distributed performance tests using the Kubernetes Batch API for test orchestration. We’ll make some modifications to Peak’s Flask front end, a stateless web interface that interacts with a Falcon RESTful API to return data about performance tests. You won’t need the complete Peak application deployed, though if you like, you can find steps to deploy it to OpenShift here.

    • How to Run Your Python Scripts

      One of the most important skills you need to build as a Python developer is to be able to run Python scripts and code. This is going to be the only way for you to know if your code works as you planned. It’s even the only way of knowing if your code works at all!

      This step-by-step tutorial will guide you through a series of ways to run Python scripts, depending on your environment, platform, needs, and skills as a programmer.

    • Mike Driscoll: PyDev of the Week: Maria McKinley

      This week we welcome Maria McKinley (@twiteness) as our PyDev of the Week. Maria is a Senior Software Engineer at the Walt Disney Company and will be a speaker at PyCascades 2019. She is also teaching the Python Certificate Program at the University of Washington Continuing Education. Let’s spend a few moments getting to know her better.

    • How To Program A Really Cheap Microcontroller

      There are rumors of a cheap chip that does USB natively, has an Open Source toolchain, and costs a quarter. These aren’t rumors: you can buy the CH552 microcontroller right now. Surprisingly, there aren’t many people picking up this cheap chip for their next project. If there’s no original projects using this chip, no one is going to use this chip. Catch 22, and all that.

      Like a generous god, [Aaron Christophel] has got your back with a working example of programming this cheap chip, and doing something useful with it. It blinks LEDs, it writes to an I2C display, and it does everything you would want from a microcontroller that costs a few dimes.

      The CH552, and its friends the small CH551 all the way up to the CH559, contain an 8051 core, somewhere around 16 kB of flash, the high-end chips have a USB controller, there’s SPI, PWM, I2C, and it costs pennies. Unlike so many other chips out there, you can find SDKs and toolchains. You can program the chip over USB. Clearly, we’re looking at something really cool if someone writes an Arduino wrapper for it. We’re not there yet, but we’re close.

Leftovers
  • Science
    • A natural selection: Evolution evolves from board game to digital app

      Players in Evolution compete to create and grow their species to consume more food tokens, which are worth points at the game’s end and which become scarcer as the game progresses. Each species can have up to three Trait cards that give it extra powers or makes it harder to attack. One of the Traits makes species (which are herbivores by default) into Carnivores, which feed by attacking other species—including your own, if you can’t feed them by attacking species belonging to other players.

    • Scientists provide new insight on gene mutations associated with autism

      Autism spectrum disorder, and autism patients’ responses to treatments, is increasingly studied using neurons derived from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) – immature cells that can give rise to an unlimited source of any type of cell needed by the body. But high costs mean that only a few iPSC-derived neuronal lines are typically tested in a single study, limiting previous autism research. New approaches are therefore needed to speed up developments in this area.

      A team of researchers from The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), the University of Toronto and McMaster University in Canada set out to establish a scalable iPSC-derived neuron model to help improve autism research. They developed a resource of 53 different iPSC lines derived from 25 individuals with autism, who carry a wide range of rare genetic variants, and from their unaffected family members.

      Using CRISPR editing, the scientists also created four ‘isogenic’ pairs of iPSC lines (cell lines with the same or similar genetic makeup) that either had or did not have a mutation, to explore the impacts of mutations on autistic characteristics.

    • Innovation and Disruption Get Less Likely With a Bigger Team, Study Finds

      One silver lining of having an apartment so small you can feel your stomach brush the wall with a particularly strong exhale is that you don’t have to feel bad not helping whomever is cooking dinner or doing the dishes. Fitting two people into the foot-and-a-half wide corridor that houses our fridge, oven, microwave, and sink is simply a non-starter. It’s frustrating at times, but it has helped instill a natural division of labor — whoever cooks does not touch the dishes — that I don’t think would have occurred otherwise, and it muted the well-intentioned, but not always constructive, instinct to help a busy cook who’s in the zone and doesn’t want to be bothered with finding you a vegetable to peel or something.

    • As Scholars Are Driven to Less Prestigious Journals, New Measures of Quality Emerge

      As more scholars publish in less-recognized open-access journals, the search is on for other ways to measure the impact of their research. One potential measure of reach is in online sharing: posts on Twitter, blog links, and other engagement metrics of various kinds.

      HuMetricsHSS, a humanities and social-sciences project that tracks indicators in those fields, includes as another such metric “openness,” including a researcher’s “transparency, candor, and accountability, in addition to the practice of making one’s research open access at all stages.”

      Such efforts seek to chip away at long-established cultural norms. Early-career academics, encouraged by the incentives of tenure and promotion, feel pressure to publish in prestigious academic journals. Faculty members reviewing an applicant’s research may not be able to evaluate its content if they do not have the proper specialty, so the name of a well-known subscription journal can serve as a proxy for quality.

  • Hardware
    • ‘This collaboration is absolutely critical going forward’… One positive thing about Meltdown CPU hole? At least it put aside tech rivalries…

      The group met at the Churchill Club in San Francisco to reflect on 2018′s big security story – the Spectre-Meltdown CPU flaws – and ponder how it could be better handled going forward. Although chip designers were alerted to the vulnerabilities around June 2017, and operating system developers soon after, an action plan for disclosure was still being formulated the week before they hoped to public on Tuesday, January 9, 2018. The Reg blew the lid off it on January 2, after hearing no response from vendors, forcing timetables to be torn up.

      Among the board of brains were Intel government and policy director Audrey Plonk, Semiconductor Industry Association CEO John Neuffer, UC Berkeley Law Prof Deidre Mulligan, and White House NSC bod turned Venable cybersec director Ari Schwartz.

      The talk centered on the CPU speculative execution holes that sent chip designers back to the drawing board, and kernel and toolchain programmers back to their IDEs, to solve and come up with mitigations. Now one year past the big reveal, the panel pondered how they could have done things differently.

      For Schwartz, the saga reaches back to 2014′s Heartbleed, the data-leaking OpenSSL bug that was Meltdown before Meltdown. At the time, he was working in the White House, and had to actually play up the risk of the bug until it got the right attention.

      “When we looked at it we know this was very big,” Schwartz recounted. “The chief of staff to the President walked into our office, and said: I want to know everything about this.”

      The crisis of Heartbleed seemingly trained the tech giants on how to handle mass disclosure and patching of major security holes that affect the entire industry. Companies would learn how to cooperate with one another and set aside competitive differences for the greater good.

      Fast forward three years to late 2017, and researchers dotted around the world uncovered fundamental flaws in the way modern CPUs predicted which data or code would be needed next, flaws that could be exploited by malware to read memory that should be out of bounds – kernel memory or that of another application – and potentially steal passwords and other secrets.

  • Health/Nutrition
    • The Real Reason Anti-Vax Beliefs Spread So Fast Online Isn’t About Facts

      In a world where people are increasingly encountering science information online, particularly on social media, it’s important to understand why people are vulnerable to anti-vaccination messages and why this kind of [dis-]information spreads so easily.

    • Unequal Justice: Kavanaugh’s Vote on Abortion Access Bodes Ill for Roe

      On September 4, at the outset of his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Brett Kavanaugh pledged that if he became the 114th Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, he would serve as a fair decider of the law.

      “A good judge must be an umpire—a neutral and impartial arbiter who favors no litigant or policy,” Kavanaugh told the committee. “I don’t decide cases based on personal or policy preferences. I am not a pro-plaintiff or pro-defendant judge.”

      Even before Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified in late September that Kavanaugh had tried to rape her in 1982, when he was a seventeen-year-old high school student, Kavanaugh’s critics weren’t buying the umpire metaphor. They believed that Kavanaugh, if confirmed, would operate as a conservative judicial activist bent on moving the high tribunal hard to the right. Women’s groups, in particular, feared that Kavanaugh would provide a fifth and decisive vote to gut, and eventually overturn, Roe v. Wade.

  • Security
    • RunC container vulnerability: What makes it so dangerous?

      First of all, what is runC? It is a command-line tool for spawning and running containers according to the OCI specification. It has the ability with run containers without root privileges using rootless.

      Researchers Adam Iwaniuk and Borys Popławski discovered the runC security vulnerability.

      An e-mail from Aleksa Sarai, Senior Software Engineer and developer at the open source software company SUSE, describes the runc Container breakout.

    • Open Source Security Podcast: Episode 134 – What’s up with the container runc security flaw?

      Josh and Kurt talk about the new runc container security flaw. How does the flaw work, what can you do about it, what should you do about it, and what the future of container security may look like.

    • Switzerland launches e-voting bug bounty

      The Swiss government is inviting hackers to test its electronic voting (e-voting) system for vulnerabilities, in a move aimed at improving the security and integrity of the country’s electoral process.

      The initiative was unveiled last week by Swiss Post, Switzerland’s national postal service and the organization tasked with deploying and managing the country’s e-voting platform.

      Ahead of the system’s planned nationwide rollout, a public intrusion test will take place between February 25 and March 24. A range of cash prizes are on offer for successful pen testers.

    • A Conversation about ZipSlip, NodeJS Security, and BBS Hacking

      Earlier this year, the popular Bower package manager was found vulnerable to archive extraction, allowing attackers to write arbitrary files on a user’s disk. As Nodejs Security WG member and Snyk developer advocate Liran Tal wrote, the vector attacks used by this exploit have been known since the early days of BBS.

      As security researcher skyn3t reported on January 1st 2019, an attacker could craft a malicious zip archive to exploit improper validation of symlinks to write arbitrary files outside of the zip extraction directory. According to Tal, the culprit for enabling path transversal in Bower’s case is a small Nodejs package, decompress-zip, but it is far from being an isolated case. In fact, this kind of vulnerability has been found in several ecosystems, including JavaScript, Ruby, .NET, Go, and Java, and seems to affect thousands of projects, making it deserve the ZipSlip moniker. What is even more striking is that the basic attack vector used by ZipSlip has been known, and potentially exploited many times, since the very early days of Bulletin Board Systems (BBS).

    • Vet third-party apps to reduce supply chain threats [Ed: At least NPM caught this; with proprietary software the back doors are there permanent, hidden, and you cannot remove them]

      Case in point: there was last fall’s update to the event-stream Node Package Manager (NPM), which included cryptocurrency-stealing code, and which wasn’t revealed until almost two months after the software was released. There have also been prior security issues identified in NPM packages.

      Jarrod Overson blogged about investigating the event-stream NPM package. The event-stream developer changed ownership of the project and the cryptocurrency-stealing code was added by the new developer in a subsequent update. The original developer hadn’t used the module in years and agreed to give a new developer control of the package.

      Once the malicious code was added, the developer updated the version information so applications that used the module would install the updated version. The package was installed as a dependency to other modules and was reportedly downloaded two million times per week. NPM packages will follow best practices to determine if updates to dependencies are available and auto-install the updated modules, making these types of attacks difficult to combat.

    • Oh Snapd! Gimme-root-now security bug lets miscreants sock it to your Ubuntu boxes

      Canonical has issued an update for Ubuntu to address a security vulnerability that can be exploited by malware and rogue users to gain root access.

      As this bug affects desktop and server editions of the Linux distro, this is an irritating flaw for folks using shared systems, such as labs or offices of workstations.

      Chris Moberly gets credit for the discovery and reporting of the flaw in question, CVE-2019-7304, which is an elevation-of-privilege vulnerability present in Ubuntu versions prior to 19.04. To reiterate, the flaw is not remotely exploitable, so a miscreant would need to already have a foothold on victim’s machine.

    • Pakistan Feels The Wrath Of Indian Hacktivists: Govt Sites Taken Down
    • Pulwama attack aftermath: Over 200 Pakistani websites hacked by Indian group
  • Defence/Aggression
    • NSC Memo Shows Elliott Abrams ‘Caballed Quietly’ to Spring a CIA-Connected Drug Trafficker

      When U.S. policymakers needed to spring a convicted CIA-connected drug trafficker from doing hard time in federal prison, who did they call?

      Trump’s infamous appointed special envoy to Venezuela, Elliott Abrams, according to a September 1986 National Security Council email, written by NSC staffer Oliver North.

      In a U.S. House Committee hearing on Thursday, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) scorched Abrams for his covering up of the infamous El Mozote massacre and lying to Congress during the Iran-Contra conspiracy in the 1980s.

      Her interrogation drew rebuke from Max Boot, the apostate conservative, and a chorus of right-wing media commentators. Boot described Omar’s comments as a “disgraceful ad hominem attack.”

      Actually, the impertinent congresswoman from Minneapolis could have gone much further about Abrams’ untrustworthy behavior. One of the most revealing stories comes from an impeccably right-wing source, Oliver North, former Republican senatorial candidate and Fox News talking head.

    • Abu Dhabi Arms Fair Opens Amid Yemen War Carnage

      The United Arab Emirates’ yearslong war in Yemen alongside Saudi Arabia bled into the start of a biennial Abu Dhabi arms fair Sunday, which saw the Emirates sign $1.3 billion in weapons deals.

      One manufacturer displayed a model of a machine gun on sale that’s now in the hands of Emirati-backed militiamen in Yemen, while the armored personnel carriers and tanks used in the war in the Arab world’s poorest country also could be seen at the show. Even the military show that began the fair included troops raiding a militant hideout equipped with both mobile and land-based ballistic missiles, just like those in the possession of Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

      While Emirati officials avoided discussing Yemen, allied American officials linked arms smuggling there to what they described as the wider malign activities of Iran across the greater Middle East.

    • The Crimes of Elliot Abrams

      Last week’s completely appropriate and mild questioning of President Trump’s Venezuela envoy Elliot Abrams seems to have struck a chord for both critics of US Latin American policy over the years and for the foreign policy establishment. The latter has recoiled in horror that one of their own has actually been publicly taken to task, in a congressional setting by a sitting Congresswoman (Omar Ilhan (D)-Minnesota), and the former has rejoiced that, at least, the crimes of US Latin American policy in the 80’s have been recognized. So, what exactly are the crimes of Elliot Abrams?

      Elliot Abrams is a cipher for US imperialism in Latin America and the world.

      From the inception of the United States US business interests and political leaders have coveted the natural resources, strategic position, markets and labor of Latin America. Thomas Jefferson was horrified by the first full blown republic in the hemisphere (Haiti) and imposed an embargo. Founder and President James Monroe was so grandiose in his view of the future imperial republic that his Doctrine basically proclaimed back yard status for the entire hemisphere in 1823. By the 1840’s there was little talk of neighbors and fellow republicans and overt racist discussion of the Manifest Destiny of the Anglo-Saxon race. This led to, as well as the destruction of most of the First Nation’s population and sovereignty, the theft of the northern half of Mexico. By 1898 the US set its sights on the remains of the Spanish Empire and successfully occupied Cuba and Puerto Rico, where they remain today.

      Naked aggression did not abate with the new century, it accelerated. With its maturing industrial economy, the US built the “Great White Fleet,” toured the world as a warning to all that there was a new Sheriff in town, and in response to the “Venezuela Crisis” the “great” progressive hero Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed the right of the US to intervene (The Roosevelt Corollary, 1904), at any time, for any purpose in the affairs of Latin America. Soon there after TR sent the US Navy to Columbia to lop off its northern province to create a canal.

    • What Happened to the Remains of Khashoggi’s Predecessor?

      Ghadanfar Rokon Abadi was Iran’s senior intelligence officer in Beirut in the late 1990s. I met him many times and he was always frank about Iran’s support for Hezbollah in Lebanon; he even spoke to students at a Christian university in east Beirut to explain why his country supported Syria. He was not very convincing: claiming that the Syrian revolution had nothing to do with poverty or oppression was a hard sell. He arrived back in Beirut as ambassador – and be sure, even more senior intelligence officer — in 2010, and subsequently herded then-president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad – a crackpot if ever there was one – on a tour of southern Lebanon.

      But in November 2013, two suicide bombers attacked the Iranian embassy in Beirut, killing 23 employees, Hezbollah guards and civilians who fell from their high-storey balconies when the explosion blasted through the streets. The attack was claimed by the ‘Abdullah Azzam Brigades’, named after a former lecturer in Saudi Arabia who would later help to found al-Qaeda, and was intended to destroy the entire embassy compound.

      The Iranians believed the Saudis were behind the attack. The Saudis, as always, denied it. The bombers never got through the gates, and so their intended target, Ambassador Ghadanfar Rokon Abadi, survived. For less than another two years.

      For in September 2015, now one of his country’s top diplomats (and still an intelligence officer, of course), he made the Haj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia and was one of those among the more than 2,300 men and women killed in the Mecca stampede. Among the 464 Iranians to die were a number of Iranian officials, of whom Rokon Abadi was one.

    • It’s Not Just Trump and the Republicans

      There is a lot of talk lately in the liberal media about how President Trump and his Neocon advisors John Bolton (National Security Advisor) and Mike Pompeo (Secretary of State) along with his acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, are moving the country and the world dangerously closer to a catastrophic global nuclear war with the administration decision to terminate the Reagan-era treaty banning intermediate range nuclear missiles.

      It is true that the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, concluded by President Ronald Reagan and Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, did greatly reduce the chances of nuclear war by removing US missiles from Europe and Asia that had the ability to strike the Soviet Union in minutes. It’s also true that with the INF gone, Russia will, as it is already doing, inevitably develop countermeasures, such as designing and deploying fleets of quick-launch, virtually unstoppable hypersonic cruise missiles that could head towards the US before attacked, assuring the destruction of the United States in response to any first strike. (Russian or Chinese hyperspeed cruise missiles that travel perhaps 6000 mph, pose no first strike threat unless based along the US border, as they give the US plenty of time to launch a counterattack–probably the reason the US never put much effort into developing them.)

      What is not true is the notion that it is just Trump who has pushed the nuclear doomsday clock closer to midnight.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting
    • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard defends WikiLeaks: It ‘spurred some necessary change’

      Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a 2020 presidential hopeful, defended WikiLeaks Saturday night, saying the information released by the organization brought “necessary change.”

      The Hawaii congresswoman was fielding questions at a meet-and-greet in Concord, New Hampshire, over the weekend when she was asked about WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature
    • Use these tools to help visualize the horror of rising sea levels
    • A Green New Deal for American Labor?

      The simple yellow protest signs were stenciled “Green Jobs for All.” Speaker after speaker stepped into the middle of the office floor, marked with a U.S. House of Representatives seal. Representative-Elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, fresh off her election win, gave the protesters high fives.

      That was the scene in November when the youth climate justice organization Sunrise Movement held a sit-in at the office of Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who was soon to be the Speaker of the House.

      Most Americans had never heard of the “Green New Deal” at the time.

      Now, it’s on the mainstream radar. The New York Times and the Washington Post ran multiple stories when Ocasio-Cortez introduced a resolution on February 7 to reduce carbon emissions through a massive good jobs program. The resolution has 67 House co-sponsors, while the Senate version has 12.

      Just like the original New Deal in the ’30s, her version of a Green New Deal would include a federal guarantee of living-wage employment—that is, anyone who wanted a job could get one at a salary that could support a family, with an emphasis on union jobs and protecting the right to organize.

    • What Green New Deal Advocates Can Learn From the 2009 Economic Stimulus Act

      Congressional Democrats have introduced a “Green New Deal” proposal that calls for a 10-year national mobilization to curb climate change by shifting the U.S. economy away from fossil fuels. Many progressives support this idea, while skeptics argue that a decade is not long enough to remake our nation’s energy system.

      The closest analog to this effort occurred in 2009, when President Obama and Congress worked together to combat a severe economic recession by passing a massive economic stimulus plan. Among its many provisions, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided US$90 billion to promote clean energy. The bil’s clean energy package, which was dubbed the “biggest energy bill in history,” laid the foundation for dramatic changes to the energy system over the last 10 years.

    • Early rain as Arctic warms means more methane

      As the global temperature steadily rises, it ensures that levels of one of the most potent greenhouse gases are increasing in a way new to science: the planet will have to reckon with more methane than expected.

      Researchers who monitored one bog for three years in the Alaskan permafrost have identified yet another instance of what engineers call positive feedback. They found that global warming meant earlier springs and with that, earlier spring rains.

      And as a consequence, the influx of warm water on what had previously been frozen ground triggered a biological frenzy that sent methane emissions soaring.

    • When Grizzly Bears Go Bad: Constructions of Victimhood and Blame

      Global temperatures are rising in a synchronous dance with glacier ablation and rising ocean levels. Hurricanes are strengthening, islands are drowning, droughts are worsening, and weather is gravitating towards extremes, at the same time that our modern version of the Know-Nothings is willfully denying the obvious. Meanwhile, an exceedingly few people are attacked by one of the trifling number of grizzly bears that have survived the onslaught of humanity. And of those exceedingly few people, fewer yet are killed. Fewer by orders of magnitude than those killed by surgical procedures, measles, lightning strikes, dog attacks, murderous white supremacists…and any other of a multitude of causes.

      Yet you wouldn’t know this. Based on media coverage, the polemics of certain politicians, and the lament of privileged ranchers and hunters, you would think that grizzly bears are running amuck, killing all who venture near their malicious claws and teeth. Or, even among those inclined to be more temperate, you would think that grizzlies are the unmitigated malefactors, and the attacked humans, victims without exception.

    • Venezuelan Coup Democrats Vomit on Green New Deal

      In humanity’s current existential climate crisis, leftists who see any hope for humanity put our faith in movements. Without movements relentlessly pressuring them to do the right thing, politicians of both US major parties—especially at the crucial national and state levels—will remain their bought-off pro-corporate warmongering selves, and powerful corporate media will provide them propaganda cover.

      US media providing propaganda cover for politicians doing the wrong thing has been “a thing” almost forever, especially in foreign policy, where we’ve persistently done the murderous wrong thing in distant lands most Americans know or care little about. Among almost countless instances, the Vietnam and Iraq wars spring powerfully to mind. Our government lied, our media spread their lies, and our government mass-murdered, while We the People helped foot the bill with our taxes. But even where tax-cutting was all the rage, as in the “Dubya” Bush administration, no cost was too high for wars elites wanted— unwittingly providing a powerful argument for supporters of modern monetary theory (MMT).

      With the stakes higher than ever, when doing the wrong thing now bears a hideous climate price tag, our government is at it again. While Naomi Klein titled her groundbreaking book on climate politics This Changes Everything, for our bought-off Republican and Democrat warmongers, humanity’s climate crisis evidently changes nothing, and the business-as-usual of illegal, murderous US regime change remains the order of the day. If our intentions in Venezuelan aren’t murderous, why put a proven amoral butcher like Elliot Abrams in charge of things? Under the PR stunt cover of US humanitarian aid to Venezuela (a self-serving political stunt the Red Cross and the UN warned the US not to try), Abrams may already be up to his old trick of smuggling arms to Venezuelan rebels. While our corporate media—acting yet again as our warmongering government’s propaganda arm—almost universally applauds.

  • Finance
    • An End to Amazon’s Two-Bit Romance. No Low-Rent Rendezvous.

      The Amazon corporation walked out in a huff. On Valentine’s Day, the retailer announced that its romance with New York is off.

      Faced with stiffer-than-anticipated resistance, the company announced February 14th that it is pulling out of its previously reported plan to build a gleaming corporate headquarters in Long Island City.

      The timing seemed perfect for what has felt from the start like a very old-school seduction routine.

      Having led this city and others around in an embarrassing flirt-to-the-finish, Amazon, the wealthy suitor, chose to bed down in Long Island City. Now they’ve stormed out. Apparently, Amazon didn’t like the fact that the city of Lady Liberty wanted to set a few terms before sex.

      Like a macho man in the pre-feminist era, Amazon wanted things their way or no way. That’s how monopolies roll. Don’t ask questions, don’t consider options, and whatever you do, don’t conduct a background check. New York’s tryst with the the company was struck in private before local residents groups, unions, and state and city legislators got their say.

      Stuart Appelbaum of the retail union, who participated in what turned out to be the final meeting between Amazon and lawmakers, said the company had refused to compromise even on a demand that it not actively work against the unionization of its New York workers, and rumor has it they didn’t like activists talking about exploitation in their warehouses and their workplaces out of state.

      In the #MeToo era, intimacy requires informed consent. So, too, development. City residents didn’t fancy an arranged marriage. The Amazon deal required answers to some basic questions: who will get what for what kind of compensation, and how do city taxpayers know they won’t be left high and dry when the fun is over, the profits are gone, and it’s time to clean up the mess?

    • How a Failing Capitalist System Is Allowing Amazon to Cripple America

      Capitalism is failing in America, and Amazon is both the cause and beneficiary of much of the breakdown. Jeff Bezos said, “We’ve had three big ideas at Amazon that we’ve stuck with for 18 years, and they’re the reason we’re successful: Put the customer first. Invent. And be patient.” He might have added three capitalist practices familiar to his company: (1) Pay no taxes; (2) Drive competitors out of business; and (3) Exploit workers.

    • Are the super-rich ruining Burning Man?

      The increase in so-called “turnkey” or “plug-and-play” camps offering luxury and glamour for the super-rich or Insta-famous has become a source of tension at Black Rock City.

    • To Get Any Economic Fairness, We Need To Be Demanding It—By Name

      The United States has the most inequitable distribution of wealth of any developed country in the world. The top 1% own 40% of the nation’s wealth. The US has 26% of the world’s 2208 billionaires, including 12 of the top 15. The three wealthiest Americans have more wealth than the entire bottom half of the US population.

      Meanwhile, those in that bottom half struggle to get by. 39.7 million (or 12.3% of) Americans live below the poverty line, including 17.5% of all children under 18. Tens of millions of others live barely above it. 78.8% percent of all Americans live paycheck to paycheck, and 71% are in debt. On any given night an estimated 554,00 Americans are homeless.

      This maldistribution of national wealth has major societal consequences. Studies by British researchers have found strong correlations between economic inequality and a variety of social ills including obesity, heavy drug use, shorter life expectancy, high rate of teen births, high rates of violent crime, poor educational performance, high rates of incarceration, less social mobility, fewer job opportunities, etc. Compared to other developed countries, the United States performs badly on all these measures, suggesting that our high degree of economic inequality is a prime cause. It is also a major factor in the US’s ranking of 108th out of 140 countries in the Happy Planet Index.

    • After Superstorm Sandy’s Rain, Cooperatives Sprang Up Like Mushrooms

      In the wake of Superstorm Sandy back in 2012, a grassroots relief effort growing partly out of Occupy Wall Street did its best to help the hardest-hit area of the Rockaways, a neighborhood located in the Queens borough of New York City. Networks grew up offering business assistance and loans, and gradually the “worker-owned Rockaway cooperatives” (WORCs) were born. Offering residents in this remote part of Queens, New York, a way to meet their immediate needs while kind of staving off what author Naomi Klein has described as disaster capitalism.

      After all these years, how are those efforts faring? Is there, in fact, an alternative path for developers after disasters? And if so, what do the Rockaways have to teach? Do lessons also emerge from places like Florida after Hurricane Michael, or Puerto Rico after Maria? To talk about all this, we are joined by Lorena Giron, a Rockaways resident and co-owner of the La Miez Bakery. We are also joined by Brendan Martin, founder and director of the Working World, a nonprofit that provided free business development training and ongoing technical assistance to many of the Rockaways co-ops.

    • They Used To Hold Hands Through the Wall. Now, There’s Razor Wire.

      The February sun reflects off the concertina razor wire strung across the U.S.-Mexico border wall like razor-sharp tinsel. The wire seemed to bloom overnight, six rows of it, placed all the way to the ground, within reach of playing children or wandering dogs.

      On the sidewalk where I stood in Nogales, Arizona, a storefront window displayed mannequin brides, dressed in white wedding dresses. Not 50 feet away, the coils of glinting wire expand like a lethal slinky.

      It was morning, and the town of 20,000 was just beginning to wake up. Downtown in the shopping district, a garbage truck rumbled past, and Norteño music played from stereos outside of just-opening shops. Shuttle drivers congregated along the sidewalk, waiting for Tucson or Phoenix-bound passengers to fill their vans.

      In November 2018, the Trump administration ordered that the wall at the Nogales port of entry be topped with concertina razor wire. Last week, more rows of wire were suddenly added to the Arizona side of the wall, and stretched much further than the immediate port of entry. And this time, the wire was placed all the way to ground level.

    • Welfare for Those ‘Unwilling to Work?’ It’s Not As Crazy As You Might Think.

      The rollout of the progressives’ Green New Deal has been less than smooth. One major reason: the release of an FAQ that listed “economic security” for those “unwilling to work” as one of the program’s goals.

      “Unwilling”? The now-retracted FAQ made other eyebrow-raising claims, but conservatives pounced on that word in particular. Of a piece with the usual complaints about welfare as a reward for laziness, it was called extreme, absurd and, in one florid instance, a “Communist Manifesto, 21st Century.”

      But is the idea of unconditional economic security really so extraordinary? In fact, Finland recently completed a landmark basic income project aimed at just that. And while the results are preliminary, they give us reason to reflect on our own values.

    • BuzzFeed News Employees Unionized And The Company Says It’s Open To Voluntary Recognition

      The union’s announcement on Tuesday came little more than two weeks after BuzzFeed laid off roughly 15% of its workforce, or more than 200 employees — cuts that hit the news division hard in bureaus in Los Angeles; San Francisco; Washington, DC; and New York.

      “We look forward to meeting with the organizers to discuss a way toward voluntarily recognizing their union,” Ben Smith, editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed News, said.

      The employees have organized under the NewsGuild of New York. The organizing effort dates back to 2015, when a group of employees met with the guild to discuss workplace grievances.

      Dominic Holden, a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and a member of the organizing committee, said in an interview that employees were well on their way to unionizing before the latest round of layoffs. However, he said, the recent cuts “made it abundantly clear that we need a contract that protects workers during periods of intense transition.”

    • Nasdaq to Add Bitcoin and Ethereum Indices to Global Data Service

      Stock exchange operator Nasdaq is adding indices for bitcoin and ethereum to its global data service later this month.

      The company announced Monday that it has partnered with New Zealand-based blockchain data and research firm Brave New Coin to offer information on the two new indices starting Feb. 25.

      The Bitcoin Liquid Index (BLX) and the Ethereum Liquid Index (ELX) will offer ?real-time? information on the Nasdaq Global Index Data ServiceSM (GIDS), its consolidated data feed, Nasdaq said.

    • J.P. Morgan is using Ethereum to launch a ‘digital U.S. dollar’—here’s what it means for blockchain

      One blockchain milestone that I’ve been anticipating this year is the slow but sure arrival of the institutional herd. Well, the herd is arriving. J.P. Morgan just became the first bank to create and successfully test a digital coin that represents the U.S. dollar and plans to extend their digital coin to other major currencies.

      The JPM Coin was built on Quorum, an enterprise iteration of the Ethereum blockchain, that enables the instantaneous transfer of payments between institutional accounts.

      While J.P. Morgan is the first U.S. bank to issue a blockchain-based digital coin that represents the U.S. dollar, it is not the first time large financial institutions have used an enterprise implementation of the Ethereum blockchain to tokenize fiat currency.

    • Of Stress and Inequality

      Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett’s “The Inner Level: How More Equal Societies Reduce Stress, Restore Sanity and Improve Everyone’s Well-Being” is a follow-up to their 2009 best-seller “The Spirit Level.” That book reviewed several hundred studies expounding on their book’s subtitle: “Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger,” and came to the breakthrough finding that “inequality affects the vast majority of the population, not only the poor minority.”

      The data also supported their contention that closing the wealth gap between the highest- and lowest-income citizens reduced the cost and impact of health and social problems, such as violence and drug abuse, for an entire society. They update this previous research to demonstrate ever more strongly that the United States is not “the land of opportunity,” but one of the world’s most unequal societies, offering less upward mobility than most other economically developed democracies.

      Had they gone no further, the new book could have served as a valuable revision of their original work. But they do go further. In fact, I felt that their contention that we are in a new era where inequality affects everyone’s mental health was at times too ambitious for the data presented. Nevertheless, the authors break new ground. They go beyond the economic impact that weakens a society when it cannot create a reasonably balanced distribution of wealth, extending into the psychological fallout from inequality. But they’re quick to dissuade readers from assuming that they are concerned about individual neuroses, beginning with the title of the first chapter: “This is Not a Self-Help Book.”

    • Jimmy Song Gives 3 Reasons Why Bitcoin SV is a Scam… But Is It Enough to Change Your Mind?

      Mr. Song has been a profound critic of Bitcoin SV from the very moment of its announcement, however even before its birth; he was one of the biggest voices against Bitcoin Cash, the altcoin from which it originated. A few months ago, on the Blockchain Cruise, Song held a debate with Roger Ver, in which he shared the reasons why he opposes the BCH philosophy. He argued that BCH was fiat on a blockchain, it was extremely centralized, it was somewhat toxic and not at all what was envisioned by Satoshi Nakamoto

    • Brock Pierce: My Mt. Gox Redemption Plan ‘Shows Power Of Bitcoin’

      Venture capitalist and ex-Bitcoin Foundation director Brock Pierce thinks his plan to take over the Mt. Gox rehabilitation process “demonstrates the power of open source.”

    • Bitcoin [BTC] developer Jimmy Song lists 3 reasons why Bitcoin SV [BSV] is a “scam”

      Bitcoin SV [BSV] has been met with a host of varied opinions from the global cryptocurrency since it emerged three months ago, from being lauded as the true vision of Satoshi, to being called a “dumpster fire,” BSV has seen it all.

      Recently, Jimmy Song, a developer of the top cryptocurrency Bitcoin [BTC] and author of the book, “Programming Bitcoin,” called BSV a “scam” and listed out three specific reasons for his conclusion, via a video on his YouTube channel, “Off Chain with Jimmy Song.”

      [...]

      Craig S Wright, recently went on a tirade about how he, “was Satoshi,” for which he received a lot of flak from the crypto industry. Known for being very verbal on Twitter, Wright even got into a heated dispute with Wikileaks, which he brands a “fakenews cesspool.”

      Wikileaks did not take things lying down, the news organization claimed and even produced evidence of Wright editing a blog post from August 2008, which he wanted to use to prove that he was involved in cryptocurrencies over a decade ago. Wikileaks, and many in the crypto-community labeled Wright as “faketoshi” since, a label that Song would approve of.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics
    • We Will Be Here: On Donuts, Dogs, the Duck of Justice and Other Non-Emergencies

      We are again in need of a break from the latest batshit executive follies: Nominating himself for the Nobel Peace Prize; grazing like any thick doddering geezer, national “emergency” notwithstanding, at the scuzzy omelette bar at his scuzzy golf club; fuming about punishing a late-night comedy show on the teevee – “This is the real Collusion!” – because what First Amendment? For a touch of comic relief mixed with improbable humanity, we turn to the slice-of-Maine-life that is the Bangor Police Department’s Facebook page, full of wry tales of good deeds, small crimes like ineptly self-updated license plate registrations – a “weak effort in criminal behavior” – hope, grief, dogs, drugs, empathy, cereal, their “marginally famous” Duck of Justice, the universal “fight to find the light,” small acts of grace and, yes, donuts. To get real: These are cops, white men (mostly) with power, so there have to be some skanky acts going unrecorded. Lieut. Tim Cotton, a detective and the page’s author/administrator, addresses the ugly elephant in the room: “Of course there are bad cops that need to be out of the industry (and) out of a job. But most cops are good people. I hear cops do interviews saying, ‘We want to show that we’re human’” – which is “a given. We need to show kindness, empathy and humor.”

    • Trump’s Wall an Ugly Scar Across Hot Zone of Biological Diversity

      Trump’s Wall, like most Trump fantasies, is more symbolic than real, which is why he can never remember what its shape would be or what to call it. The fact is that it is just a projection of his racist anxieties, something standing between him and the rapists, murderers, and drug dealers he believes seep into his life from the south, just his worst subconscious impulses seep up to make him rape and launder money and commit other enormities. Trump’s Wall is a mirror for his unfaced dark side, which he projects on the Mexican Other.

      Because it exists in his fevered imagination he cannot imagine that it has an impact on real, living beings. But the impact is profound, and deeply damaging.

      An important article in the journal Bioscience pointed out last summer that “The Border Wall bypasses and violates environmental laws.”

      The Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act can be waived by the Department of Homeland Security on the authority of the 2005 Real ID Act.

      This waiver allows wall construction to evade any analysis of environmental impact or any study of “less damaging alternative strategies.” There are no opportunities for public comment or legal remedies. 8 such waivers have been issued so far, for all of the four southern border states, 3 of them under Trump himself.

    • Slamming President for Jeopardizing Disaster Funds, States Prepare Legal Challenge to Trump’s Emergency Declaration

      At least five states are preparing a legal challenge to President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration, which he made on Friday to secure funding for a border wall after congressional Democrats refused to approve $5.7 billion in funds for the project.

      California Attorney General Xavier Becerra appeared on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday to say a lawsuit he’s preparing with officials in Minnesota, Hawaii, New Mexico, and Oregon will be filed “definitely and imminently.”

      “We knew something like this might happen, and with our sister state partners we are ready to go,” Becerra told Martha Raddatz.

    • White House Indicates Trump to Veto Resolution to Disapprove Emergency

      President Donald Trump is prepared to issue the first veto of his term if Congress votes to disapprove his declaration of a national emergency along the U.S.-Mexico border, a top White House adviser said on Sunday.

      White House senior adviser Stephen Miller told “Fox News Sunday” that “the president is going to protect his national emergency declaration.” Asked if that meant Trump was ready to veto a resolution of disapproval, Miller added, “He’s going to protect his national emergency declaration, guaranteed.”

      The West Wing is digging in for fights on multiple fronts as the president’s effort to go around Congress to fund his long-promised border wall faces bipartisan criticism and multiple legal challenges. After lawmakers in both parties blocked his requests for billions of dollars to fulfill his signature campaign pledge, Trump’s declared national emergency Friday shifts billions of federal dollars earmarked for military construction to the border.

      California Attorney General Xavier Becerra told ABC’s “This Week” that his state would sue “imminently” to block the order, after the American Civil Liberties Union and the nonprofit watchdog group Public Citizen announced Friday they were taking legal action.

    • Facebook Is Incapable Of Governing Itself; Strict Laws Underway: UK Govt

      After 18 months of an investigation against Facebook, probing the social media platform’s privacy practice, the UK government has published a detailed report. The Digital, Culture, Media and Sports Committee of the UK Parliament has accused Facebook of violating data privacy laws.

      The report also contained information acquired from Facebook’s internal emails. The officials have asked social media platforms to remove “hurtful” or “illegal” content and must be held responsible for it. Members of Parliament have advocated for a compulsory code of conduct that must be followed by the social media companies to limit their role and to make them accountable for their actions.

    • Worshipping the Electronic Image

      Donald Trump, like much of the American public, is entranced by electronic images. He interprets reality through the distortions of digital media. His decisions, opinions, political positions, prejudices and sense of self are reflected back to him on screens. He views himself and the world around him as a vast television show with himself as the star. His primary concerns as president are his ratings, his popularity and his image. He is a creature—maybe the poster child—of the modern, post-literate culture, a culture that critics such as Marshall McLuhan, Daniel Boorstin, James W. Carey and Neil Postman warned us about.

      It is not, as some have suggested, merely that Trump speaks at the level of a seventh-grader or that he harkens back to a preliterate oral culture. He embodies the incoherence of the modern digital age, filled with sudden shifts from subject to subject, a roller-coaster ride of emotional highs and lows punctuated with commercials. There is nonstop stimulation. Seldom does anything occupy our attention for more than a few seconds. Nothing has context. Images overwhelm words. We are perpetually confused, but always entertained. We barely remember what we saw or heard a few minutes earlier. This is by design of the elites who manipulate us.

      “It is not merely that on the television screen entertainment is the metaphor for all discourse,” Postman points out. “It is that off the screen the same metaphor prevails.” Americans, because television stages their world, “no longer talk to each other, they entertain each other.” Trump is what is produced when a society severs itself from print, when it pushes art, ethics, classics, philosophy, history and the humanities to the margins of the universities and culture, when its members spend hours sitting inert in front of a screen. Information, ideas and epistemology are, as Postman writes, given form today by electronic images.

      [...]

      The fixation on electronic images by Trump means he and millions of other American adults—who, according to a 2018 report by the Nielsen company, on average watch four hours, 46 minutes of TV each day and spend “over 11 hours per day listening to, watching, reading or generally interacting with media”—have severed themselves from complex thought. They have been infantilized. Television, including the news, reduces all reality to a childish, cartoonish simplicity. News as presented on screens “provides degenerate photographs or a pseudo-reality of stereotypes,” James W. Carey writes. “News can approximate truth only when reality is reducible to a statistical table: sport scores, stock exchange reports, births, deaths, marriages, accidents, court decisions, elections, economic transactions such as foreign trade or balance of payments.” News on our screens is incapable of imparting complexity and nuance. It is devoid of historical, social or cultural context. TV news speaks in easily digestible clichés and political and cultural tropes. It is sensational and fragmented. The frenetic pace of TV news means that except when delivering statistics, the programs can trade only in established stereotypes. TV news is, in essence, divorced from the real, mindlessly grounded in the ruling elites’ reigning ideology of neoliberalism, militarism and white supremacy.

      Postman, in his book “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” writes that after the development of the telegraph, “News took the form of slogans, to be noted with excitement, to be forgotten with dispatch.” Arguing that the 19th-century invention is the basis for communication in the digital age, he says, “Its language was also entirely discontinuous. One message had no connection to that which preceded or followed it. Each ‘headline’ stood alone as its own context. The receiver of the news had to provide a meaning if he could. The sender was under no obligation to do so. And because of all this, the world as depicted by the telegraph began to appear unmanageable, even undecipherable. The line-by-line, sequential, continuous form of the printed page slowly began to lose its resonance as a metaphor of how knowledge was to be acquired and how the world was to be understood. ‘Knowing’ the facts took on a new meaning, for it did not imply that one understood implications, background, or connections. Telegraphic discourse permitted no time for historical perspectives and gave no priority to the qualitative.”

    • Rift Between Trump and Europe Is Now Open and Angry

      European leaders have long been alarmed that President Trump’s words and Twitter messages could undo a trans-Atlantic alliance that had grown stronger over seven decades. They had clung to the hope that those ties would bear up under the strain.

      But in the last few days of a prestigious annual security conference in Munich, the rift between Europe and the Trump administration became open, angry and concrete, diplomats and analysts say.

      A senior German official, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to speak on such matters, shrugged his shoulders and said: “No one any longer believes that Trump cares about the views or interests of the allies. It’s broken.”

      The most immediate danger, diplomats and intelligence officials warned, is that the trans-Atlantic fissures now risk being exploited by Russia and China.
      Even the normally gloomy Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, happily noted the strains, remarking that the Euro-Atlantic relationship had become increasingly “tense.”

      “We see new cracks forming, and old cracks deepening,” Mr. Lavrov said.

    • 31 Actual National Emergencies

      Everyone with five functioning gray cells knows that the aspiring fascist strongman Donald Trump’s Declaration of a National Emergency on the U.S.-Mexico border is absurd.

      There is no “national security crisis” of illegal immigration on the southern United States border.

      Illegal crossings are not at “emergency” levels; they are at a fifty-year low.

      Undocumented immigrants are not a crime and violence threat. They are less likely to commit crimes, violent ones included, than naturalized U.S. citizens.

      Drugs come into the U.S. not through gaps in border fencing but primarily through legal ports of entry.

      There is no big call for a completed U.S.-Mexico wall on the part of U.S. citizens on the southern border.

      The United States military has not been “breaking up” and blocking “monstrous caravans” of illegal immigrants trying to harm the U.S.

      The only crisis at the border is the humanitarian one created by Trump’s war on asylum-seekers and legal as well as technically illegal immigrants. The wannabe strongman has set up a ridiculous brown menace strawman in an effort to take an unprecedented step. He wants to use the National Emergencies Act to fulfill a ridiculous campaign promises to his white-nationalist base. He wants to make an end run around Congress to spend federal taxpayer on a project that lawmakers chose not to fund – a political vanity scheme that is opposed by 60 percent of the U.S. populace.

    • Haiti and the Collapse of a Political and Economic System

      You can draw a pretty straight line from the last electoral process to the current unrest in Haiti. Building for months, and frankly years, the country has now been shut down for five days as tensions – and violence – increase, threatening President Jovenel Moise’s mandate.

      In 2015 and 2016, backed by the international community, political and economic actors made a Faustian bargain in the name of “stability.” They decided to allow fraudulent and violence-plagued legislative elections to stand, and rerun them at the presidential level.

      The failure of that analysis is evidenced by the situation in Haiti today. In truth, it’s been international policy for more than a decade. Keep a lid on things, while sustaining the unsustainable status quo.

    • The Millennial Generation Will Tear Down Trump’s Wall

      In an impromptu animated speech from the Rose Garden, President Trump continued his streak of fanatical claims about his beloved wall. Moving on from lengthy rambling about how “Mexico will foot the bill,” and building a “human wall, if necessary,” Trump played his final card: declaring a national emergency. It’s a constitutionally questionable move—and one that comes with an $8 billion price tag.

      With this latest anger-fueled outburst par for the course from the White House, it’s no surprise that a majority of millennials do not agree with how Trump handles immigration. Considering that millennials are the largest voting bloc for the 2020 election, Trump needs our support—so he should consider what we want.

      Millennials are both the largest living generation, and the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in American history. In 2016, according to the Census Bureau, 39 percent of foreign-born U.S. citizens and 48 percent of foreign-born non-citizens were between the ages of 25 and 44. And roughly one in five millennials identify as Latino, while 14 percent are black and seven percent are Asian.

      Given this diversity, it’s not surprising that millennials have dramatically different views on immigration compared to Baby Boomers—who are more ethnically homogeneous. Though the border wall isn’t particularly popular with the American people at large, it’s even less popular with young voters: 77 percent of millennials under 30 oppose Trump’s plans.

      Still, regardless of political persuasion, nearly all Americans recognize the broken state of our immigration system. Yet millennials have identified the correct solution, and largely agree that the fix isn’t a wall, but, rather, effective changes in policy.

  • Censorship/Free Speech
    • The First Rule of AIPAC Is: You Do Not Talk about AIPAC

      Washington’s political establishment went berserk when US Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) publicly noted that US-Israel relations are “all about the Benjamins” — slang for $100 bills, referring to money shoveled at American politicians by the American Israel Public Affairs Group (AIPAC).

      Omar was accused of antisemitism — immediately by Republicans, shortly after by members of her own party — and bullied into apologizing. She may or may not be prejudiced against Jews, but even if she is, that wasn’t her real offense.

      Her real offense was publicly mentioning the irrefutable fact that many members of Congress take their marching orders from a foreign power’s lobbying apparatus (an apparatus not, as required by law, registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act), at least partly because those marching orders come with promises of significant donations to those politicians’ campaigns.

      AIPAC itself doesn’t make direct donations to political campaigns. But AIPAC and other pro-Israel lobbying groups like Christians United For Israel punch well above their weight in American politics, largely by motivating their supporters to financially support and work for “pro-Israel” candidates in general elections and help weed out “anti-Israel” candidates in party primaries.

      By the way, “pro-Israel” in this context always means “supportive of the jingoism of Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party,” and never “supportive of the many Israelis who’d like peace with the Palestinian Arabs.”

    • USMCA’s Outsourcing of Free Speech to Big Tech

      When Trump signed the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) last November, he said that this was “the most advanced trade deal in the world with ambitious provisions on the digital economy”—and he wasn’t lying. The USMCA has effectively replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement that was signed by Canada, Mexico and the US under the Clinton administration in 1994. This redraft, however, does not look like its predecessor in scope or political aims and dangerously treads upon the freedom of speech guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Article 6 of Mexico’s Constitution in addition to all three countries’ accession to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

      To understand what has happened here, we need to examine the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA, also known as Title V of the Telecommunications Act of 1996). Section 230 states: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider” (47 U.S.C. § 230). What this means is that the host which acts as an online intermediary by republishing our speech is protected against a series of laws that would otherwise hold them accountable and legally responsible for what we post online as individuals. Those protected under this section are every entity from our ISPs to the platforms upon which we publish, be it Twitter, Instagram, Google, and any online service that publishes third-party content.

      While there are certain exceptions for mostly criminal content and anything related to intellectual property, the CDA 230 created a wide range of protections allowing for free speech online. This translates to if The Guardian publishes a defamatory piece about me, I could sue this newspaper for libel. But if The Guardian tweets the very same claims, Twitter would not be held legally accountable for libel. One caveat to CDA 230, however, is that this bill had been wrongly interpreted to shield websites that participate in sex trafficking from any criminal liability. So, last year an important piece of legislation removed this loophole, the bipartisan “Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act,” H.R. 1865, 115th Congress (2018), provides websites immunity for content posted by third parties with the exclusion of sex trafficking. Additionally, two to bills with online provisions were passed into law—one in the House known as FOSTA (the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act) and the Senate bill, SESTA, (Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act)—have held big tech responsible for child pornography and human trafficking.

  • Privacy/Surveillance
    • Facebook may not collect or combine personal data using “forced consent”, says German competition authority

      It would be an understatement to say that Facebook is under intense scrutiny at the moment. Mostly this has come from data protection authorities in the EU, using the GDPR as a means for challenging Facebook’s business practices. But the attack has just broadened, with Germany’s competition authority, the Bundeskartellamt, issuing a ruling that strikes at the heart of Facebook’s business model.

      Following a three-year investigation, the German competition authority has imposed a number of restrictions on Facebook. In the future, Facebook will no longer be allowed to force its users to agree to the practically unrestricted collection and assigning of non-Facebook data to their Facebook user accounts. By combining data from its own site and from many others around the Internet, Facebook is able to build a uniquely powerful database for each individual user, and thus to gain market power. That market power is why the competition authority has intervened.

    • A Line in the Sand

      At the time I wrote that, I assumed that the GDPR would clear paths for work already moving forward within all 13 items on that muggle-liberating punch list. Alas, the GDPR’s single positive achievement so far has been shaking things up. That’s it. The worst thing the GDPR has done is encourage surveillance capitalists to keep doing the same damn things, only now with the “consent” of “data subjects” clicking “agree” to misleading cookie notices everywhere.

  • Civil Rights/Policing
    • HATE-FEST IN WARSAW

      The point of this cynical exercise was to lay the diplomatic groundwork for an anti-Iranian coalition to act as a fig-leaf for an upcoming attack on Iran planned by President Donald Trump and his close ally, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu.

      The real question is who is calling the shots in bleak Warsaw, Trump or Bibi Netanyahu? It seems to many that the Israeli tail is again wagging the American dog.

      This is thanks to the power of America’s born-again evangelicals, hoodwinked into believing that a Greater Israel is somehow a key part of the Second Coming of Christ.

      A Fox News poll this week finds that a quarter of these credulous folks believe that God actually summoned Donald Trump to become president. This may even be more than the number of Americans who believe that Elvis is still alive. More proof that the Republicans have pretty much become a theological party.

      The three horseman of the hard right Republican Apocalypse, Vice president Mike Pence, Insecurity advisor John Bolton, and State Secretary Mike Pompeo (who reportedly keeps an open bible on his desk) joined their voices to the Warsaw jamboree to excoriate Iran for being a ‘sponsor of terrorism,’ and a danger to world peace and stability.

    • Former Congressman Anthony Weiner Released From Prison

      Disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner has been released from federal prison after being convicted of having illicit online contact with a 15-year-old girl in 2017.

      The Federal Bureau of Prisons website shows the 54-year-old New York Democrat is currently in the custody of its Residential Re-entry Management office in Brooklyn, N.Y.

      It’s not immediately clear when Weiner was transferred and where he’s staying now, but Weiner will have to register as a sex-offender and spend three years on supervised release under the terms of his sentence.

      The prison bureau, federal prosecutors in New York and Weiner’s lawyer didn’t respond to emails seeking comment Sunday.

    • Smollett Developments Leave Some Baffled, Others Outraged

      The national outrage that simmered after actor Jussie Smollett said he was attacked by people shouting racial and anti-gay slurs was fueled in part by celebrities who spoke out loud and strong on social media.

      But the outrage has now been replaced by surprise, doubt and bafflement as the singers, actors and politicians who came out in support of the “Empire” star struggle to digest the strange twists the case has taken. Some conservative pundits, meanwhile, have gleefully seized on the moment.

      The narrative that just a week ago seemed cut-and-dry has become messy and divisive — and it’s all playing out again on social media.

    • America Has a Lot to Learn From the Roman Empire’s Fall

      And soon enough after September 11th, those unapologetic, implacable demonstrations of will did, in fact, begin — first in Afghanistan and then, a year and a half later, in Iraq. Goaded by Osama bin Laden, the new Rome went into action.

      Of course, in 2019 we have the benefit of hindsight, which Charles Krauthammer, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, and the rest of that crew didn’t have as they applied their Roman-style vision of an imperial America to the actual world. It should be added, however, that the millions of people who hit the streets globally to protest the coming invasion of Iraq in the winter of 2003 — “How did USA’s oil get under Iraq’s sand?” said a typical protest sign (which Donald Trump would have understood in his own way) — had a far better sense of the world than did their American rulers-to-be. Like the Soviets before them, in fact, they would grievously confuse military power with power on this planet.

      More than 17 years later, the U.S. military remains stuck in Afghanistan, bedeviled in Iraq, and floundering across much of the Greater Middle East and Africa on a planet with a resurgent Russia, and an impressively rising China. One-third of the former axis of evil, Iran, is, remarkably enough, still in Washington’s gunsights, while another third (North Korea) sits uncomfortably in a presidential bear hug. It’s no exaggeration to say that none of the dreams of a new Rome were ever faintly fulfilled. In fact, if you want to think about what’s been truly exceptional in these years, it might be this: never in history has such a great power, at its height, seemed quite so incapable of effectively applying force, military or otherwise, to achieve its imperial ends or bring its targets to heel.

      And yet, wrong as they may have been on such subjects, don’t sell Krauthammer and the rest of that neocon crew short. They were, in their own way, also prophets, at least domestically speaking. After all, Rome, like the United States, had been an imperial republic. That republic was replaced, as its empire grew, by autocratic rule, first by the self-anointed emperor Augustus and then by his successors. Arguably, 18 years after Krauthammer wrote that column, the American republic might be heading down the same path. After all, so many years later, the neocons, triumphantly risen yet again in Washington (both in the administration and as its critics), finally have their Caesar.

      Hail, Donald J. Trump, we who are about to read your latest tweet salute you!

    • If You Hate Campaign Season, Blame Money in Politics

      Amy Klobuchar could’ve waited for the temperature to rise above 15 degrees before launching her 2020 presidential bid. Instead, she chose to risk frostbite and make her pitch in the middle of a snowstorm — all for an election more than 600 days away.
      The Minnesota senator is just one of around a dozen Democrats who’ve already thrown their hats into the presidential ring or hinted they intend to soon.
      What’s the big rush?
      People in other countries think we’re insane for having such long political races. By one count, in the timeframe of the 2016 U.S. election, you could’ve fit about four elections in Mexico, seven in Canada, 14 in the UK, and 41 in France.

    • How the BLM Serves the West’s Welfare Ranchers

      The BLM just released its decision on its proposed Bruneau Owyhee Sage-grouse Habitat Project (BOSH Project) which will degrade 617,000 acres of southern Idaho by logging juniper, creating linear weed patches known as fire breaks, and using other questionable management strategies, all done, we are told in the name of enhancing sage grouse habitat.

      Remarkably the BLM failed to note that livestock grazing is by far and away the biggest factor in sage grouse decline across the West, in part, because of the multiple ways that the livestock production harms the bird. But, of course, seeing its role to pander to the welfare ranchers of the West, the BLM has taken the politically expediate measure of doing more harm in the name of sage grouse.

      The BLM starts out with some questionable assertions. The first is that juniper, a native species, is expanding its range and thus must be eradicated. Any number of studies challenge that assumption. Juniper woodlands tend to burn at intervals of hundreds of years, and in stand replacement blazes. After such blazes, the juniper slowly recolonizes the landscape. Also climate change has led to natural expansion of juniper in some areas. In either case, the presence of juniper is not abnormal or something to be destroyed.

      Instead of even responding to such studies, the BLM relies only on studies by Range Department professors who exist to justify livestock grazing on public lands. These studies start with the incorrect assumption that wildfire was very frequent in sagebrush ecosystems and therefore, also in juniper woodlands, but more recent sagebrush fire studies also find sagebrush burns at long rotations of hundreds of years.

    • A Tale of Two Citations: Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” and Michael Harrington’s “The Other America”

      More than half a century has passed since Rachel Carson meticulously exposed government and corporate poisoning of the planet with synthetic pesticides. Serialized in the New Yorker in weekly install­ments, Carson’s Silent Spring was officially published as a hard-cover book in September 1962 by Houghton Mifflin Co. for the price of $5. The book, with its wonderful drawings, excoriated the government and corporations for covering the planet with cancer-causing pesticides like DDT, a product of the newly powerful agribusiness and pharmaceutical infrastructure. Many of the pesticides were originally designed as nerve gasses and weapons of war.[i] “Since the earliest origins of modern industrial agriculture, agribusiness has been at war against all life on earth, including ourselves,”[ii] writes Brian Tokar, author of Earth for Sale and Monsanto: Origins of an Agribusiness Behemoth. From its origins, “chemical agriculture has been a form of warfare—it is a war against the soil, against our reserves of fresh water, and against all the microbes and insects that are necessary for the growing of healthy food.”[iii] But in an expansive America following World War II, few were concerned about the mass application of pesticides, which was promoted as part of the promise for securing “the good life” for all. (To actually achieve that, though – if it were possible to be achieved at all – would require powerful social justice movements to overturn the country’s legacy of white supremacy and Jim Crow laws. Millions of people were excluded from partaking in what was portrayed as the American dream, and which remained, for many, the American Nightmare.)

      Carson’s mind-blowing exposé not only revealed the prevalence of chemical pesticides but – and we’ve forgotten this today – also the “secret” that radio­active Strontium 90, a byproduct of above-ground nuclear bomb tests, had tainted the nation’s milk supply. This was shocking information. “No one had ever thought humans could create something that could create harm all over the globe and come back and get in our bodies,” oceanographer Carl Safina told Eliza Griswold, whose story about Rachel Carson appeared in 2012 inThe New York Times Sunday Magazine. [iv] The uproar that followed inspired an army of parents anguishing over the threats of pesticides and radioactive Strontium 90 to the health of their children. Many were women who had worked for the first time in jobs previously “set aside” for men, in support of the anti-Nazi effort during World War II, only to be replaced by male workers reclaiming “their” jobs upon returning from the war. They brought those experiences into organizing a new mass “environmental” movement in the context of the Cold War, and as their children were drilled to “duck and cover” under their desks in case Russia was to order a nuclear bomb attack – more an ideological device than offering practical protection.[v] Would such a mass environmental movement have emerged had there been no perceived external threat to fuse with ongoing ecological disasters? Would so many women have participated had they not first experienced a sort of liberation (at least in part) from traditional family roles through their work in factories during the anti-Nazi effort in World War II? It’s impossible to say. But one thing is true: As a consequence, women’s organizing of the ecology and Ban the Bomb movements, and their participation in factory jobs, shook up the typical or traditional nuclear family structure—a structure neither as typical nor as traditional as we’re led to believe.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality
    • How Tim Berners-Lee’s Inrupt project plans to fix the web

      Tim Berners-Lee wants to change the face of the internet he created. In September 2018, the father of the world wide web announced the launch of startup Inrupt, co-founded with cybersecurity entrepreneur John Bruce, which has as its mission “to restore rightful ownership of data back to every web user.”

      Since 2015, Berners-Lee has been working on a new web infrastructure called Solid, which rethinks how web apps store and share personal data. Inrupt aims to drive the development of the Solid platform and transform it from an innovative idea to a viable platform for businesses and consumers. “My group in the CSAIL [Computer Sciences and Artifical Intelligence Laboratory] Lab at MIT had been working on Solid for some years,” Berners-Lee says. “The initial goal of Inrupt is to add the energy and resources of a startup to the open-source efforts to make the Solid movement happen.”

      Over the past three decades, the web has evolved into something very different to Berners-Lee’s original vision of openness, co-operation and creativity. Most of the data we put online is now siloed on the servers of companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter, and used to sell us as an audience for targeted advertising. We can download and delete our online histories, but we still can’t easily move our data between services. “Innovation and value creation are choked by powerful forces whose focus is primarily on what generates profit or serves political agendas,”says John Bruce, who takes the role of CEO at Inrupt (Berners-Lee is CTO).

  • Intellectual Monopolies
    • Foreign Meaning Matters: Brauneis and Moerland on Trademark’s Doctrine of Foreign Equivalents

      I was enjoying some siggi’s® yogurt, and noticed, just below the trademark name siggi’s®, an interesting piece of trivia: “skyr, that’s Icelandic for thick yogurt!” You learn something new every day.

      Robert Brauneis and Anke Moerland’s recent article argues that it would not be good policy to allow the company that distributes siggi’s ® yogurt to trademark the name SKYR for yogurt in the United States, even though most people in the United States do not currently know what the word “skyr” means. In short, they argue that when reviewing trademarks for purposes of distinctiveness, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) and the courts should translate foreign terms that are generic or merely descriptive in their home country, because allowing such marks would cause unexpected harms for competition.

      This is a fascinating paper that warrants serious thinking, and perhaps re-thinking, of how trademark law currently treats foreign terms.

      What’s the harm, we might ask? If a US company wants to sell thick yogurt under the trademark SKYR, and virtually no one in the US knows what SKYR means, surely this should be classified as fanciful (inherently distinctive) and receive strong protection. At least this would be the answer provided by a typical “doctrine of foreign equivalents” analysis.

    • Copyrights
      • EU copyright directive moves into critical final stage

        In September 2018 the European Parliament voted to approve drastic changes to copyright law that would negatively affect creativity, freedom of expression, research, and sharing across the EU. Over the last few months the Parliament, Commission, and Council (representing the Member State governments) were engaged in secret talks to come up with a reconciled version of the copyright directive text.

        The closed-door “trilogue” negotiations are now complete and a final compromise has been reached. The text is not yet published but MEP Julia Reda has shared unofficial versions of Article 13 (upload filters) and Article 11 (press publishers right). Both of these carried through with no major improvements on behalf of user rights and the public interest.

      • NJ AG: Takedown notice that led to new gun-file lawsuit came from Slovakia—not us

        Last week, it appeared that Defense Distributed’s battle against the State of New Jersey over a recently enacted “ghost gun” law had new life. This week, a filing from the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office puts one of the new lawsuit’s inciting incidents into question.

        In a February 12 letter (PDF) to District of New Jersey Judge Anne Thompson, NJ Assistant AG Glenn J. Moramarco writes that a recent takedown notice submitted to Cloudflare and aimed at the website CodeIsFreeSpeech was faked.

        “A key document supporting Plaintiff’s TRO application—a ‘takedown notice’ purportedly sent by [New Jersey AG's Division of Criminal Justice] to CloudFlare, Inc., which hosts one of the plaintiff’s websites, CodeIsFreeSpeech.com—was not in fact issued by DCJ,” the NJ AG’s office writes in the filing. “[It] appears to have been issued by some entity impersonating the Attorney General’s Office.”

António Campinos Still Needs to Hold Team Battistelli Accountable for Illegally Bringing Weapons to the EPO

Monday 18th of February 2019 07:31:35 AM

Recent: António Campinos Will Never Hold Battistelli Accountable for His Crimes Because He Too Profits From These

Summary: It is imperative that, in order to repair the reputation of the European Patent Office (EPO), António Campinos should pursue accountability for the managers who brought Benalla and firearms to the Office (very serious breach of German law, jail sentence included)

Related/background:

Links 17/2/2019: Compiz 0.9.14.0, Geary 0.13.0, GNU FreeDink 109.6, Debian 9.8, Texinfo 6.6

Sunday 17th of February 2019 06:51:03 PM

Contents GNU/Linux
  • Desktop
    • Here’s what Linux backup and restore for Chromebooks looks like, expected in Chrome OS 74

      A few weeks ago I pointed out a new feature targeted for Chrome OS 74: A native way to backup and restore Linux apps and data on Chromebooks that support Project Crostini. Since then, the Chromium team has made a big push to nail down the functionality in advance of the Chrome OS 74 feature freeze date, which is February 22: Aside from the code to support backups and restores, there was a slew of interface work done this week.

  • Server
    • The Rise of Bare-Metal Kubernetes Servers

      While most instances of Kubernetes today are deployed on virtual machines running in the cloud or on-premises, there is a growing number of instances of Kubernetes being deployed on bare-metal servers.

      The two primary reasons for opting to deploy Kubernetes on a bare- metal server over a virtual machine usually are performance and reliance on hardware accelerators. In the first instance, an application deployed at the network edge might be too latency-sensitive to tolerate the overhead created by a virtual machine. AT&T, for example, is working with Mirantis to deploy Kubernetes on bare-metal servers to drive 5G wireless networking services.

  • Audiocasts/Shows
  • Kernel Space
    • Bitmain SoC Support Coming To Linux 5.1 – Sophon ARMv8 + RISC-V Chip For Deep Learning

      Queued for mainlining with the upcoming Linux 5.1 kernel cycle is initial support for Bitmain SoCs. Bitmain is the Chinese company that started out designing ASICs for Bitcoin mining with the Antminer and other products. The company has also been venturing into designs for artificial intelligence and deep learning.

      With the upcoming Linux 5.1 kernel will be initial support for Bitmain’s BM1880 System-on-a-Chip as well as the “Sophon Edge” developer board.

    • Linux Foundation
      • Samsung SDS Reveals Blockchain Accelerator Tech Following Hyperledger Testing

        The IT arm of South Korean technical school large Samsung proclaimed it had developed technology to hurry up blockchain transactions, the corporate confirmed in an exceedingly promulgation on Feb fourteen. Presenting at the continued IBM suppose 2019 conference in point of entry, Samsung SDS aforesaid its new technology, Nexledger Accelerator, had already passed testing with Hyperledger material.

        “In order to boost dealing process speed, that could be a key thought in applying blockchain technology, Samsung SDS has developed its own Nexledger Accelerator, which may be applied to Hyperledger material,” the promulgation explained:

      • Samsung SDS, IBM collaborate to strengthen Open Source Hyperledger Fabric

        During IBM THINK 2019, IBM’s annual conference focused on technology and business, Samsung SDS announced it is continuing its collaboration with IBM in support of advancing Hyperledger Fabric, an open source cross-industry blockchain technology, with recent code contributions, research, and a new white paper.
        As a contributor to Hyperledger Fabric, Samsung SDS is working to improve fabric capabilities and actively contributing its new “Accelerator” code to the open source community. The new code is expected to significantly improve Hyperledger Fabric performance for specific use cases.

      • Samsung SDS and IBM Collaborate to Strengthen Open Source Hyperledger Fabric and Blockchain Ecosystems
      • IBM Blockchain Platform now live in Melbourne

        IBM has made its blockchain platform available out of the IBM data centre in Melbourne, allowing customers to run their applications on the company’s cloud and abide by data sovereignty requirements.

      • Hyundai Commercial Partners With IBM to Accelerate Blockchain Development
      • Linux Foundation Revives Mapzen, an Alternative to Giants

        Mapzen, an open source mapping platform praised in civic tech circles and used in certain local government projects, is back.

        More accurately, it never really left. The project officially shut down a year ago, but since it was open-source, people kept using it.

        Now, the Linux Foundation — a vanguard of open-sourcing — is taking on Mapzen as a project, giving current and prospective Mapzen users more clarity about who owns the intellectual property and how they can use it.

      • Open Mainframe Project Advances Modern Mainframe with Production-Ready Zowe 1.0

        The Open Mainframe Project (OMP) has announced that Zowe, an open source software framework for the mainframe, is now production-ready less than 6 months after launching.

        Hosted by The Linux Foundation, the Open Mainframe Project is comprised of business and academic leaders within the mainframe community that collaborate to develop shared tool sets and resources. OMP launched Zowe, an open source project based on z/OS, last August to serve as an integration platform for the next generation of tools for administration, management and development on z/OS mainframes.

      • Develop on the Mainframe like any other cloud platform with Zowe

        Hosted by The Linux Foundation, the Open Mainframe Project is comprised of business and academic leaders within the mainframe community that collaborates to develop shared toolsets and resources. OMP launched Zowe, the first-ever open source project based on z/OS, last August to serve as an integration platform for the next generation of tools for administration, management and development on z/OS mainframes.

        Zowe 1.0 consists of core technologies enabling modern interfaces for web applications on z/OS, a new command line interface and expansion of platform REST API capabilities. This makes the z/OS environment more “cloud-like” and aims to improve integration in h

      • Open Mainframe Project Advances Modern Mainframe with Production Ready Zowe 1.0

        Hosted by The Linux Foundation, the Open Mainframe Project is comprised of business and academic leaders within the mainframe community that collaborate to develop shared tool sets and resources. OMP launched Zowe, the first-ever open source project based on z/OS, last August to serve as an integration platform for the next generation of tools for administration, management and development on z/OS mainframes.

      • Zowe 1.0 released, Microsoft joins OpenChain, new Raspberry Pi store, and more news
      • Zowe 1.0 released for the modern mainframe

        The Open Mainframe Project has announced that after six months of development Zowe is now production ready. Zowe is an open-source mainframe framework that strengthens integrations with modern enterprise applications.

        By providing interoperability and offering new web technologies, Zowe is designed to enable developers to use familiar open-source tools to access mainframe resources and services.

      • Sony Pictures unveils the Open-Source Software used for making Into the Spider-Verse

        The acclaimed Sony Pictures Imageworks contributed the software tool used to curate the best of Sony Pictures movies. The movies such as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Alice in Wonderland, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs to a major open source community.

        Sony Pictures used OpenColorIO for managing color during the process of production. OpenColorIO has become the second project of the software in the Academy Software Foundation. The foundation is an industry association across the industry the the Open Source Linux Foundation is working on.

        The acclaimed Sony Pictures Imageworks contributed the software tool used to curate the best of Sony Pictures movies. The movies such as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Alice in Wonderland, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs to a significant open source community.

      • OpenColorIO tool from Into the Spider-Verse now open-source

        The OpenColorIO tool from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is now available as an open-source program.

    • Graphics Stack
      • RADV Driver Gets Big Patch Series For 8-bit & 16-bit Arithmetic, 8-bit Storage

        A set of 38 patches have been sent out that wire in support for the VK_KHR_shader_float16_int8, VK_AMD_gpu_shader_half_float, VK_AMD_gpu_shader_int16, and VK_KHR_8bit_storage extensions to the RADV driver within Mesa.

        Rhys Perry who started contributing to the Nouveau driver stack has been working on this 8-bit and 16-bit arithmetic support for the Radeon Vulkan “RADV” driver. These 8-bit / 16-bit extensions work for AMD Volcanic Islands GPUs and newer. However, the half-floats support needs LLVM 8.0 or newer due to bugs on LLVM 7.

      • BACO Power Savings Support Comes To AMD’s Vega 12

        The latest addition to AMD’s open-source Linux kernel driver is supporting BACO on Vega 12.

        With the upcoming Linux 5.1 kernel cycle, BACO is enabled for Vega 10 and Vega 20. BACO is short for Bus Active, Chip Off as a low-power mode whereby most of the GPU is shut-off during idle periods in order to drastically cut the power consumption of the graphics card. BACO is also known as AMD ZeroCore Power mode.

      • Improved ETC2 Texture Compression Lands For Older Haswell/Ivybridge GPUs On Linux

        The previously mentioned work on improving ETC2 support for older generations of Intel graphics has now been mainlined for Mesa 19.1.

        This work for the ETC2 texture compression is improving the “fake” support for Intel Gen 7 class graphics, the Ivybridge and Haswell era graphics. This work was done by Igalia to address the lack of native ETC2 coverage on these several year old chips. Following this improved implementation for the fake ETC2 support is also wiring up OES_copy_image support for this extension. ETC2 is the lossy texture compression mandated since OpenGL ES 3.0 and OpenGL 4.3.

      • Freedreno Picks Up OpenGL Compute Support For Adreno A6xx Hardware

        The newest addition to the Freedreno Gallium3D driver for open-source 3D on Qualcomm graphics hardware is enabling OpenGL compute support for A6xx series hardware.

        Freedreno already ships compute support for Adreno A5xx hardware while now for Mesa 19.1 the support has landed for the latest-generation A6xx hardware.

    • Benchmarks
      • Noctua’s NH-U9 TR4-SP3 Is Still The Best 4U EPYC / Threadripper Cooler I’ve Found

        If you are in the market for an AMD Ryzen Threadripper or AMD EPYC heatsink that fits within 4U height requirements, the Noctua NH-U9 TR4-SP3 is still easily the best option available. I’m now running the NH-U9 TR4-SP3 in five different EPYC/Threadripper systems in the racks and they work out splendid.

        I’ve already covered the NH-U9 TR4-SP3 multiple times before, but with having picked up another one of these coolers this past week and being satisfied with the results, just wanted to give another shout-out to Noctua and pass along the latest thermal results. For this latest build, the NH-U9 TR4-SP3 is cooling an EPYC 7351P 16-core / 32-thread CPU that tops out at 3.9GHz.

  • Applications
    • Compiz 0.9.14.0 released

      Compiz 0.9.14.0 has been officially released today.

      Major changes in this release include:

      - Development has switched from Bazaar (back) to Git [1].
      - CCSM has been ported to PyGObject, GTK 3 and Python 3.
      - compizconfig-python has been ported from Pyrex to Cython.
      - Restored the Color Filter plugin by porting it to the new plugin API.
      - Added support for loading configuration from multiple files.
      - Docks and splashscreens now appear focused.
      - Fixed build errors with GCC 8.
      - Removed KDE (4.x) support code.
      - Compiz now needs cmake ≥ 3.10.0 and pkg-config ≥ 0.29.1 to build.
      - gtk-window-decorator now needs libmetacity ≥ 3.22.0 to build.

      Also, some bugs have been fixed. See NEWS [2] for a list of them.

      The tarball for the new release can be downloaded at [3].
      Please report any bugs you have found to our bug tracker [4].

      I would like to thank Alberts Muktupāvels, Marco Trevisan, Auboyneau Vincent,
      Samuel Thibault, Colomban Wendling, Eleni Maria Stea and other people who have
      contributed to this release.

    • Compiz 0.9.14 Released As First Update In Over Two Years

      While Ubuntu may no longer be using Compiz by default as the compositing window manager, the Compiz project is still alive as marked by today’s Compiz 0.9.14.0 release.

      Compiz 0.9.14.0 is the first release for the project in over two years and features the Compiz Config Settings Manager (CCSM) being ported to GTK3 and Python 3, restored the color filter plug-in, support for loading configuration data from multiple files, focus fixes for docks, fixes for building with the GCC 8 compiler, dropping the KDE4 support code, and a variety of other bug fixes and improvements.

    • 4 Excellent Command-line FTP clients

      The desktop environment with its bundle of programs sharing a common graphical user interface (GUI) remains a firm favorite with users. Not surprising really given that a good desktop environment makes computing fun and simple. The graphical desktop environment has become so ingrained in almost everyone’s computer activities that it might seem the command line will wither away. Yet, there is still an important role to play for the powerful command-line interface (CLI).

    • Colorization in GIMP

      As part of the Image team at GREYC lab (CRNS, ENSICAEN, University of Caen), I implemented the “fill by line art” algorithm in GIMP, also known as “Smart Colorization“. You may know this algorithm in G’Mic (developed by the same team), so when they proposed me to work with them, I wanted to implement this algorithm in GIMP core. Thus it became my first assignment.

    • Geary 0.13.0 released!

      Geary 0.13.0 has been released.

    • GNOME’s Geary 0.13 Is A Big Step Forward For This Linux Mail Client

      Geary 0.13 is out today as a big step-up for this GNOME e-mail client for the Linux desktop.

      The Geary 0.13 release features a new UI for creating/managing email accounts, there is finally integration with GNOME Online Accounts, improvements for displaying conversations, better UI/UX work around composing new messages, various bug fixes, security fixes, and other enhancements.

    • Geary 0.13.0 released

      This is a major new release, featuring a number of new features —
      including a new user interface for creating and managing email
      accounts, integration with GNOME Online Accounts (which also provides
      OAuth login support for some services), improvements in displaying
      conversations, composing new messages, interacting with other email
      apps, reporting problems as they occur, and number of important bug
      fixes, server compatibility fixes, and security fixes.

      This latest version is now available for installation from Flathub. See
      the Geary web site for installation details and other installation
      options: https://wiki.gnome.org/Apps/Geary

      Note to maintainers: This version now uses meson for a build system and
      has a number of updated dependencies. Please see meson.build for
      details.

    • Wine-Staging 4.2 Released – Now Less Than 800 Patches Atop Upstream Wine

      Wine 4.2 debuted on Friday and now the latest Wine-Staging release is available that continues carrying hundreds of extra patches re-based atop upstream Wine to provide various experimental/testing fixes and other feature additions not yet ready for mainline Wine.

      Wine-Staging for a while has been carrying above 800 patches and at times even above 900, but with Wine-Staging 4.2 they have now managed to strike below the 800 patch level. It’s not that they are dropping patches, but a lot of the Wine-Staging work has now been deemed ready for mainline and thus merged to the upstream code-base. A number of patches around the Windows Codecs, NTDLL, BCrypt, WineD3D, and other patches have been mainlined thus now coming in at a 798 patch delta.

    • 14 Excellent Free Plotting Tools

      A plotting tool is computer software which helps to analyze and visualize data, often of a scientific nature. Using this type of software, users can generate plots of functions, data and data fits. Software of this nature typically includes additional functionality, such as data analysis functions including curve fitting.

      A good plotting tool is very important for generating professional looking graphics for inclusion in academic papers. However, plotting tools are not just useful for academics, engineers, and scientists. Many users will need to plot graphs for other purposes such as presentations.

      Fortunately, Linux is well endowed with plotting software. There are some heavyweight commercial Linux applications which include plotting functionality. These include MATLAB, Maple, and Mathematica. Without access to their source code, you have limited understanding of how the software functions, and how to change it. The license costs are also very expensive. And we are fervent advocates of open source software. The purpose of this article is to help promote open source plotting tools that are available.

      To provide an insight into the quality of software that is available, we have compiled a list of 14 excellent plotting tools. Many of the applications are very mature. For example, gnuplot has been in development since the mid-1980s.

      The choice of plotting software may depend on which programming language you prefer. For example, if your leaning towards Python, matplotlib is an ideal candidate as it’s written in, and designed specifically for Python. Whereas, if you’re keen on the R programming language, you’ll probably prefer ggplot2, which is one of the most popular R packages. With good reason, it offers a powerful model of graphics that removes a lot of the difficulty in making complex multi-players graphics. R does come with “base graphics” which are the traditional plotting functions distributed with R. But gpplot2 takes graphics to the next level.

    • Instructionals/Technical
    • Games
      • GNU FreeDink 109.6

        This is the first official announcement for the new 109.x line with updated technologies (SDL2, OpenGL), WebAssembly support and many fixes and improvements.

      • GNU’s RPG/Adventure Game Updated For SDL2, Defaults To OpenGL Rendering

        Of the many free software projects under the GNU umbrella, there aren’t many games. One of the only titles is GNU FreeDink, which is out this weekend with its newest update after several active weeks of development.

      • Ravenfield, the single-player FPS with large-scale battles has a new release out

        More FPS news for you this weekend, with the single-player Ravenfield having another great update out with lots of new toys.

        Early Access build 13 is up and with it comes two huge new maps with River Delta and Citadel, so it now has a total of nine large battles to engage in.

      • The unique FPS ‘Shotgun Farmers’ is leaving Early Access next month

        Shotgun Farmers, by far one of the most unique FPS games I’ve played in a long time is due to leave Early Access soon.

        While the developer, Megastorm Games, isn’t giving an exact date just yet they have made it clear it will be next month. To go along with the news, a small update was released adding in some adjustments to the maps along with support for character emotes.

      • The first Steam Play update for this year is out with Proton 3.16-7 beta

        Valve have pushed out a Steam Play beta update with Proton 3.16-7 now available for testing. Lots of fixes!

        Not quite the huge upgrade many were expecting, most people thought Valve would be pushing ahead with a major update of Wine but this release still seems like a very nice update overall

        Firstly, they’ve updated DXVK to 0.96 and FAudio to 19.02. This should hopefully mean quite a number of games will see improvements and begin working. Additionally, there has been some controller improvements, with Unity specifically mentioned for games like Subnautica and INSIDE.

      • Neon Krieger Yamato Brings a New Breed of Puzzle-Platforming to Linux and Windows PC

        LIONPLEX’s first game looks like a fantastic pickup for anyone who enjoys a wide variety of action-platformers. Neon Krieger Yamato gives you eight playable characters to play as through a wide variety of genres. The genre blending on display is impressive, and uses platformers alongside combat-centric puzzles to bring back touches of the past with its pixel art and also using more detailed art than one would normally see in the early ’90s.

  • Desktop Environments/WMs
    • Xfce apps – In the land of Tux, where the shadows lie

      Last year, I decided to do a thorough analysis of the KDE and Gnome application stacks, separately, to figure out how complete these two desktop environments really are. I looked at the different application categories, weighed the major advantages and flaws in the popular software, examined some unique entries, and then also talked about what’s missing, the obstacles that keep these environments from being fully independent and 100% user ready, so to speak.

      I’d like to examine Xfce next. After all, this is the third most popular Linux desktop environment, barring forks of the other two, and so it merits its own moment of spotlight. But at the same time, Xfce has never really deliberately prided itself at what it can do and offer. It’s always hung to the back, sort of shying away from publicity, being modest and frugal in all aspects. So when you think about Xfce, you don’t normally think about the application stack. You could say it’s a lightweight, simple desktop, but can you name five pure Xfce programs? Aha. Let’s see.

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt
      • Latte and a Colors tale…

        A few months ago while I was scratching Latte Dock limits an idea came and haunted my thoughts. How Latte could give the colors freedom for panels and windows that an Android phone already provides? Questions like this arose and solutions appeared suddenly in many different places, but an important and concrete dream prevail in the end.

      • KDE Continues Overhauling System Settings, More Discover Improvements

        Sunday mornings mean another weekly recap of the KDE improvements made, thanks to the great analysis by KDE developer Nathan Graham. While Plasma 5.15 was released this week, the KDE developers are already hard at work on KDE Plasma 5.16.

      • This week in Usability & Productivity, part 58

        The System Settings Window Decorations page has been completely rewritten, bringing it into greater conformance with the modern visual style and fixing a huge number of bugs in the process (Valerio Pilo, KDE Plasma 5.16.0)…

  • Distributions
    • New Releases
      • Sparky Online

        There is a new, small tool available for Sparkers: Sparky Online.

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE
      • If companies can run SAP on Linux, they can run any application on it: Ronald de Jong

        “We have had multiple situations with respect to security breaches in the last couple of years, albeit all the open source companies worked together to address the instances. As the source code is freely available even if something goes wrong, SUSE work closely with open source software vendors to mitigate the risk”, Ronald de Jong, President of -Sales, SUSE said in an interview with ET CIO.

      • SUSE Public Cloud Image Life-cycle

        It has been a while since we published the original image life-cycle guidelines SUSE Image Life Cycle for Public Cloud Deployments. Much has been learned since, technology has progressed, and the life-cycle of products has changed. Therefore, it is time to refresh things, update our guidance, and clarify items that have led to questions over the years. This new document serves as the guideline going forward starting February 15th, 2019 and supersedes the original guideline. Any images with a date stamp later than v20190215 fall under the new guideline. The same basic principal as in the original guideline applies, the image life-cycle is aligned with the product life-cycle of the product in the image. Meaning a SLES image generally aligns with the SUSE Linux Enterprise Server life-cycle and a SUSE Manager image generally aligns with the SUSE Manager life-cycle.

    • Fedora