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Free Software Sentry – watching and reporting maneuvers of those threatened by software freedom
Updated: 1 hour 7 min ago

The Indian Ministry of Commerce Tries to Bend Patent Law in Favour of Foreign Monopolies

2 hours 54 min ago

Monopolies and monopolists have long attempted to accomplish this

Summary: There’s an attempt to tilt patent law against the interests of India; but vigilant few are observing and reporting it, even in English

THE ISSUE or the subject of software patents in India — like software patents in the EPO, the USPTO and China — is central to this site. We’ve long written on the matter, seeing that the EPO increasingly grants such bogus patents, the USPTO drifts further away from courts (35 U.S.C. § 101 caselaw) [1, 2] and patent trolls’ front groups try to compel India to allow such patents. The patent microcosm and the patent ‘industry’ (patent offices included) is eager to grant yet more fake patents which would be invalidated if challenged in courts such as the Federal Circuit or the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). The way they see it, that’s not their problem and the price will be paid by scientists and technologists, who are basically being ‘taxed’ by law firms.

“The monopoly of patents is often justified as an incentive to promote R&D. But in practice, patents are used to control competition and give fewer options to consumers.”
      –The Wire“The government’s new proposals on patents may increase frivolous patents,” warned this new article (from last week), noting a recent proposal:

The Ministry of Commerce has floated proposed changes to the rules of the Indian patent Act.

Two of the proposed changes are very concerning. It proposes a new mechanism which will expedite decisions on patent applications. This proposed fast-track process seems to come with various other compromises on the functioning of India’s patent architecture and for protecting access to medicines, for example.

The monopoly of patents is often justified as an incentive to promote R&D. But in practice, patents are used to control competition and give fewer options to consumers. Towards this purpose, big corporations are known for obtaining multiple patents claiming minor changes on the same technology or molecule. This practice of creating patent-fences adversely impacts the industrial and technological development of countries like India, by preventing their firms from catching up with the latest technology.

India is a relatively poor country (if measured per capita), so patent maximalism never made sense for it. Some patents may be fine, but those which price medicine out of reach (for those in most desperate need) would be fatal. Since one of India’s biggest exports is software (code), software patents make no economic sense, either. Let alone purely practical sense…

The EFF Must Return That ‘Internship’ Money to Google or It Would Disgrace the Patent Reform Movement (by Association)

Sunday 20th of January 2019 06:42:54 AM

Poisoning and harming the perception of impartiality

Summary: Whether real or perceived, the EFF’s alleged bias is at stake now that Google money — not just money from a billionaire (Cuban) — lands on its lap; it can, by extension or association, serve to discredit patent reformers

PATENT maximalists like to pretend that Google is being everything and that everyone who challenges the status quo at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is a Google ‘shill’. This is totally untrue, however, but late on Friday I pointed out that EFF had taken money from Google, whereupon somewhat of a Web storm erupted (here’s one example among many). This has started a long discussion and some discord (even some members of the EFF’s Board are now dissenting) and there’s risk that Federal Circuit and Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) bashers will exploit it. Rather than dwell/focus on the details of what the EFF did (that would be rather counterproductive), let’s just say that the EFF now needs to do the right thing and revoke/return that money of Google. It not only undermines the perception that the EFF fights for privacy; it also emboldens those who accuse EFF — and by extension patent reform — of working for Google.

That’s not to say that the EFF is rogue; but there’s room for corruption and even the perception of corruption needs to be avoided. Here’s what the EFF posted just before the weekend on the issue of patents; key EFF staff, as we’ve noted before in the latest on Uniloc, challenged this patent troll and reported on the latest outcome:

A federal judge has ordered that prolific patent troll Uniloc cannot hide its shell games from the public. After EFF filed a motion to intervene seeking access to sealed court records, Judge William H. Alsup of the Northern District of California has ordered [PDF] that the relevant documents should be made public. Judge Alsup stayed his order for two weeks, however, to give Uniloc an opportunity to appeal to the Federal Circuit. We are pleased by the court’s ruling and will defend it if appealed.

The sealed documents have an importance far beyond this case. As Judge Alsup suggested in court, Uniloc appeared to be using complex machinations to hide its patents or its assets, possibly to avoid being hit with sanctions. The public has a right to know who owns patents, especially patents like the ones Uniloc claims to own, since the company has claimed its patents entitle it to payments from a vast array of technology companies.

In the underlying cases, Uniloc has sued Apple alleging that its iPhones and iPads infringe a number of its patents. For example, Uniloc claims that Apple infringes U.S. Patent No. 7,092,671, because “iPads incorporate software that causes an iPad, in response to a user’s selection, to transfer a telephone number wirelessly to a nearby iPhone which dials the selected number.”

In a heavily redacted motion to dismiss, Apple appears to argue that Uniloc entities and Fortress Investment Group LLC divided rights in the asserted patents in a way that means the Uniloc entities no longer had a legal right to sue for infringement. We say “appears” because the public cannot see most of the briefing and evidence. Because the redactions (requested by Uniloc) make it impossible to understand the dispute, we moved to intervene to seek public access.

A colleague, Alex Moss, wrote about PTAB as follows:

The exclusive rights granted by a U.S. patent create monopolies that can threaten innovation. We all benefit from the pro-innovation effects that come from cancelling monopolies that should not exist. That’s why the 2012 America Invents Act broadly allows “[a]ny person other than the patent owner” to challenge a patent at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

But what if the government itself was banned from asking for this type of patent challenge? That would mean patent holders can demand big payments from government agencies, with access to taxpayer funds—yet those same agencies wouldn’t be able to efficiently test whether the patents are valid.

Now, the Supreme Court is poised to consider the question. EFF has filed an amicus brief, explaining that the government should be able to bring challenges in the Patent Office, based on century-old legal principles, as well as public policy concerns today. Limiting the government’s ability to challenge invalid patents efficiently deprives the public of these benefits for no good reason.

Many inter partes reviews (IPRs) leverage 35 U.S.C. § 101 to eliminate software patents; having said that, if courts get the feeling that the above amicus brief is indirectly funded by large firms rather than a public interest/s group, matters can backfire. I’ve already strongly urged the EFF, on numerous occasions so far this weekend, to walk away from Google. It’s pretty obvious that when it comes to the privacy stance of the EFF (maybe not copyrights) Google is completely and utterly incompatible with the EFF’s values. The EFF’s founder died not so long ago; what would he say if he saw this?

EPO Defying Patent Restrictions/Limits From the European Parliament, the European Commission and the European Countries It Claims to Represent

Sunday 20th of January 2019 05:56:51 AM

The European Patent Convention (EPC) does not matter to the European Patent Office (EPO) anymore

Summary: The departure from the EPC (and from the rule of law) at the EPO still means that patents are being granted on things that, as per the constitutions, should never have been patentable

THERE is that boring old saying/canard, “the revolution won’t be televised…” (or similar; along those lines)

At the moment, so-called ‘IP’ blogs (patents are not property) aren’t saying much, if anything, about the EPO. IP Kat continues to intentionally overlook the rapidly-declining quality or lowered patentability bar at the EPO. Instead, in writing about the EPO/EPC a couple of days ago, it said this: “In order to satisfy the sufficiency requirement of the European Patent Convention (EPC), it is necessary for the applicant of a European patent application directed to a medical use to show that the claimed therapeutic effect is credible. However, when an patent application is filed, human clinical trial data are often not available. The claimed effect must therefore be demonstrated by data from in vitro experiments and animal models that are representative of the human disease. This practice reflects that of academic science, in which potential treatments are first tested and published using animal models before they are translated to the clinic. However, an applicant can face an uphill battle in convincing the European Patent Office (EPO) examiner that animal model data credibly demonstrate the claimed effect.”

“Many patents are nowadays being painted as “medical” or “clinical” even though they’re not…”There were similar articles (similar to the above) lately and usually the comments are a lot more informative. Many patents are nowadays being painted as “medical” or “clinical” even though they’re not; it’s that same old strategy of pretending denial of a patent would “cost lives…”

The EPO meanwhile angers everyone by granting patent monopolies on fruit and vegetables, plants and seeds, or basically nature itself. A few days ago an article was published to bemoan this; it turns out that the backlash foreseen before Christmas is already materialising, however slowly:

In June 2017, the European Patent Office (EPO) decided that no more patents would be granted on vegetables and fruit that originate from classical breeding techniques. However, the Technical Chamber of Appeal of the EPO concluded that this prohibition is in conflict with the European Patent Convention. According to current regulations, patents may still be granted on plant properties.

This is a huge setback, according to Dutch MEP Jan Huitema, since the European Parliament, the European Commission and the European countries have spoken out against this in order to prevent fruits and vegetables from falling into the hands of a small number of large companies and stifling innovation.

We’ve long opposed patents on such things; even many EPO insiders recognise the dangers of such patents. Then there’s the threat of patents on algorithms or on mathematics — something that wasn’t envisioned in the days of the EPO’s inception. How far down can the patent bar go?

“Courts’ rejection of such patents will, in the long run, devalue European Patents and harm the reputation of this whole system.”“You can watch the recordings of the EPO’s #PatentingBlockchain conference,” the EPO wrote at the end of the week, citing an event that advocated software patents in Europe; invited to the panel/keynotes were literal patent trolls, notably the patent troll most notorious in this domain. This seems to be happening a lot under António Campinos, whose management team converges with trolls' front groups.

Remember that patents on computer vision (my research area) are also software patents and the EPO promoted these as recently as days ago, citing an “EPO study”…

It’s worrying to see the EPO getting away with this intentional and reckless degradation of patent quality. Courts’ rejection of such patents will, in the long run, devalue European Patents and harm the reputation of this whole system. This is exactly what happened to patents granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

The UPC is Dead. But Bristows is Now Fully Engaged in Necrophilia.

Saturday 19th of January 2019 05:23:20 PM

Summary: In an effort to float a dead project the deceiving folks from Team UPC pretend that everything is ready to go (commence) because they’ve managed to find some gowns and robes

THE Unitary Patent lobby has been a rather embarrassing exercise, highly corrosive to the reputation of the EU and the European Patent Office (EPO). With UPC in the middle, for instance, there was nepotism and cross pollination between the EPO and EUIPO, an EU agency. It even looks like outright corruption.

“With UPC in the middle, for instance, there was nepotism and cross pollination between the EPO and EUIPO, an EU agency. It even looks like outright corruption.”The news sites that focus on patents, copyrights and trademarks have more lately been speaking of a mistaken trademark grant by EUIPO. That’s still in the news (belatedly revoked, harming McDonalds) and IP Watch speaks of “Sudden Vacancies At Some International Agencies, Industry Sees New Top Officials, Lawyers Engage In Firm-Hopping” (Catherine Saez says that “[t]he European Patent Office got two new vice-chairs,” but neglects to point out the glaring problem).

If that’s not bad enough, a day or two after that Bristows nonsense about UPC they’re now verging on legal necrophilia. Responding to the article and its promotion in Twitter, one EPO watcher then wrote [1, 2]:

Here it is, your expected spin from Team UPC, looking to profit from more litigation…! It did not take long, did it? UPC dressed up? Uhmm no, it’s still naked! #patents #EuropeanUnion

And:

Meme published by http://Techrights.org ! Well done Techrights, since it perfectly illustrates the behaviour of Team UPC. A fantasy world based on their own agendas’. Lies, Lies and more Lies

So for the second time in a week Bristows pulls this horrifying stunt; they are giving lawyers a really bad reputation — the sort of odor that makes one forget about lawyers who protect the innocent and instead focus on those who lie, mislead and manipulate for a living. They’re giving a really bad name for a profession otherwise associated with protecting the wrongly-accused, the innocent, from false charges/allegations, sometimes pro bono, like the kind lawyer who protected me from the EPO’s SLAPPing (they threatened to sue me several times for publishing true information).

“The UPC is basically a dead project. Even its biggest proponents (paid for it!) have given up. But not Bristows. These people have always lied the most. They wish to drown with this Titanic.”Bristows’ liars say that the FCC decision is “expected to happen quite soon.” Citation needed, however none was provided. Team UPC’s propaganda knows no bounds. They lie every week. They’re even censoring comments that refute them, e.g. in IP Kat and the above blog (“Kluwer Patent blogger” now turns out to be “Alan Johnson, Bristows”). Well, no comments have appeared (by now; for almost 1.5 days). It starts as follows: “In answering this question we must look at two major factors. The first is the decision of the German Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgeright – BVerfG) on the constitutional challenge by Dr Stjerna to the legislation necessary to allow German ratification of the UPC. The second is Brexit. Both are expected to happen quite soon.”

Really? based on what? The final words of the article say this: “Hopefully even if we do not see the start of the UPC in 2019, we shall at least know by then whether next year will actually see the UPC, or whether this is a case of being all dressed up with no place to go.”

They perpetuate that same old lie that the only remaining question is whether UPC can “start [...] in 2019″ (it won’t because it’s dead, irrespective of timing). That’s just a malicious lobbying/influencing tactic from the litigation ‘industry’ and speaking of which, REGIMBEAU’s Cécile Puech, Frédérique Durieux, Soizic Guindeul and Aurélia Vavasseur have just commented on PPH (Patent Prosecution Highway), which is somewhat of a mockery of the patent system because it eliminates neutrality to aid bullies and trolls. They use terms like “simplify the task” — similar to what one might expect from UPC litigation against a lot of companies in a lot of countries, including companies that only operate in a single country outside the court’s jurisdiction.

The UPC is basically a dead project. Even its biggest proponents (paid for it!) have given up. But not Bristows. These people have always lied the most. They wish to drown with this Titanic.

Links 19/1/2019: Wikipedia Cofounder Moves to GNU/Linux, Wine 4.0 RC7 Released, Godot 3.1 Beta 2, NomadBSD 1.2 RC1

Saturday 19th of January 2019 04:18:47 PM

Contents GNU/Linux
  • Wikipedia cofounder: How and why I transitioned to Linux—how you can, too

    My first introduction to the command line was in the 80s when I first started learning about computers and, like many geeky kids of the time, wrote my first BASIC computer programs. But it wasn’t until my job starting Nupedia (and then Wikipedia) that I spent much time on the Bash command line.
    (Let me explain. “Bash” means “Bourne-again shell,” a rewrite of the class Unix shell “sh.” A “shell” is a program for interacting with the computer by processing terse commands to do basic stuff like find and manipulate files; a terminal, or terminal emulator, is a program that runs a shell. The terminal is what shows you that command line, where you type your commands like “move this file there” and “download that file from this web address” and “inject this virus into that database”. The default terminal used by Linux Ubuntu, for example, is called Gnome Terminal–which runs Bash, the standard Linux shell.)
    Even then (and in the following years when I got into programming again), I didn’t learn much beyond things like cd (switch directory) and ls (list directory contents).
    It was then, around 2002, that I first decided to install Linux. Back then, maybe the biggest “distro” (flavor of Linux) was Red Hat Linux, so that’s what I installed. I remember making a partition (dividing the hard disk into parts, basically) and dual-booting (installing and making it possible to use both) Linux and Windows. It was OK, but it was also rather clunky and much rougher and much less user-friendly than the Windows of the day. So I didn’t use it much.

  • Desktop
    • Writing With a Linux Laptop

      Open source solutions like Linux provide for greater productivity; check out our screencast highlighting how a Linux Laptop functions.

    • Google Updates: Security in motion, Linux in launcher and Ethereum in the sin bin

      Back to Google proper, and Chrome OS. After wowing us with a promise of Linux compatibility, it has now emerged that the integration could run deeper than we thought. The latest news out of Mountain View is that Linux apps will be treated like any others – that means you’ll be able to launch them from the app launcher, which is cooler than we even expected.

    • Pixelbook and “Nami” Chromebooks the first to get Linux GPU acceleration in Project Crostini

      I don’t have a Pixelbook for testing right now, otherwise, I’d pop it into Developer Mode and jump on the Canary channel. However, I do still have a loaner Acer Chromebook Spin 13, so I’ll give it a go later today and see if the newly added code from early this morning is there in the Canary Channel; if it is, I’ll circle back with observations on how well it does or doesn’t work for the Android emulator in Android Studio and possibly a game or two using Steam.

    • Pixelbook and ‘Nami’ Chromebooks the First To Get Linux GPU Acceleration in Project Crostini

      I’ve been following the bug report that tracks progress on adding GPU acceleration for the Linux container in Chrome OS and there’s good news today. The first two Chrome OS boards should now, or very soon, be able to try GPU hardware acceleration with the new startup parameter found last month. The bug report says the -enable-gpu argument was added to the Eve and Nami boards.

    • Chrome OS to test early GPU support for Linux apps soon

      If you’ve kept up with Chrome OS in the past six months or so, you’ll know that one of the more interesting new features to launch is Linux apps support. While this has potential to introduce all sorts of new applications to Chrome OS, there are some features missing that hold it back, in this early stage. One of the most anticipated features, graphics acceleration (or GPU support), necessary for running Linux games and some other apps, will be available to test soon on Chrome OS.

  • Server
    • Red Hat Advances Container Technology With Podman 1.0

      Red Hat announced the 1.0 release of its open-source Podman project on Jan. 17, which provides a fully featured container engine.

      In Podman 1.0, Red Hat has integrated multiple core security capabilities in an effort to help enable organizations run containers securely. Among the security features are rootless containers and enhanced user namespace support for better container isolation. Containers provide a way for organizations to run applications in a virtualized approach on top of an existing operating system. With the 1.0 release, Red Hat is now also positioning Podman as an alternative to the Docker Engine technology for application container deployment.

      “We felt the sum total of its features, as well as the project’s performance, security and stability, made it reasonable to move to 1.0,” Scott McCarty, product manager, Containers, Red Hat, told eWEEK. “Since Podman is set to be the default container engine for the single-node use case in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8, we wanted to make some pledges about its supportability.”

    • Update on Volume Snapshot Alpha for Kubernetes

      Volume snapshotting support was introduced in Kubernetes v1.12 as an alpha feature. In Kubernetes v1.13, it remains an alpha feature, but a few enhancements were added and some breaking changes were made. This post summarizes the changes.

    • Nginx vs Apache: Which Serves You Best in 2019?

      For two decades Apache held sway over the web server market which is shrinking by the day. Not only has Nginx caught up with the oldest kid on the block, but it is currently the toast of many high traffic websites. Apache users might disagree here. That is why one should not jump to conclusions about which web server is better. The truth is that both form the core of complete web stacks (LAMP and LEMP), and the final choice boils down to individual needs.

      For instance, people running Drupal websites often call on Apache, whereas WordPress users seem to favor Nginx as much if not more. Accordingly, our goal is to help you understand your own requirements better rather than providing a one-size recommendation. Having said that, the following comparison between the two gives an accurate picture.

  • Audiocasts/Shows
  • Kernel Space
    • Graphics Stack
      • Linux 4.20 Allows Overclockers To Increase The Radeon TDP Power Limit

        The AMDGPU Linux kernel driver for a while has now offered command-line-driven OverDrive overclocking for recent generations of Radeon GPUs. This has allowed manipulating the core and memory clock speeds as well as tweaking the voltage but has not supported increasing the TDP limit of the graphics card: that’s in place with Linux 4.20

        Up until now with the AMDGPU Linux kernel driver there hasn’t been support for increasing the TDP power limit beyond its default, but has allowed for reducing that limit should you be trying to conserve power / allow your GPU to run cooler. A change was quietly added to the Linux 4.20 kernel to allow increasing the power limit when in the OverDrive mode.

        This change wasn’t prominently advertised but fortunately a Phoronix reader happened to run across it today and tipped us off.

  • Applications
    • MellowPlayer – multi-platform cloud music integration

      With my CD collection spiraling out of control, I’m spending more time listening to music with a number of popular streaming services.

      Linux offers a great range of excellent open source music players. But I’m always on the look out for fresh and innovative streaming players. Step forward MellowPlayer.

      MellowPlayer offers a web view of various music streaming services with integration with your desktop. It was developed to provide a Qt alternative to Nuvola Player.

      The software is written in C++ and QML.

    • Instructionals/Technical
    • Wine or Emulation
      • Wine Announcement

        The Wine development release 4.0-rc7 is now available.The Wine development release 4.0-rc7 is now available.

      • Juicy like the good stuff, Wine 4.0 RC7 is out with a delightful aroma

        No need to worry about a sour aftertaste here, we’re of course talking about the wonderful software and not the tasty liquid.

        As usual, they’re in bug-fix mode while they attempt to make the best version of Wine they can and so no super huge features made it in.

      • Wine 4.0-RC7 Released With Fixes For Video Player Crashes, Game Performance Issues

        Wine 4.0 should be officially out soon, but this weekend the latest test release of it is Release Candidate 7 that brings more than one dozen fixes.

        Wine 4.0 remains in a feature freeze until its release, which will likely be within the next two weeks or so. Since last Friday’s Wine 4.0-RC6, the RC7 release has 13 known bug fixes. Catching our interest are some game performance regressions being resolved, including for Hot Pursuit, Project CARS, Gas Guzzlers, and others. There are also video player crash fixes when opening audio or video files.

    • Games
      • Godot 3.1 Beta 2

        We entered the release freeze last week with Godot 3.1 beta 1, and many high priority bug reports have been fixed since then. We’re now publishing a new beta 2 snapshot for testers to work with. This new release fixes various crash scenarios, as well as a performance regression in the GLES backend.

        We’re still aiming for a release by the end of the month, so we’re under a tight schedule. From now on dev focus is on release-critical issues that would seriously hamper Godot 3.1′s usability and features.

        Contrarily to our 3.0.x maintenance releases, which include only thoroughly reviewed and backwards-compatible bug fixes, the 3.1 version includes all the new features (and subsequent bugs!) merged in the master branch since January 2018, and especially all those showcased on our past devblogs. It’s been almost a year since the 3.0 release and close to 6,000 commits, so expect a lot of nice things in the final 3.1 version!

      • Godot 3.1 Beta 2 Released With OpenGL ES Performance Fix

        The developers behind Godot, one of the leading open-source game engines, have announced their second beta release for the upcoming Godot 3.1 feature release.

        Godot 3.1 initially entered beta earlier this month as stepping towards the first major release of this cross-platform game engine since Godot 3.0 last year. Godot 3.1 is preparing OpenGL ES 2.0 rendering support, continued work around virtual reality (VR) support, 3D soft body physics capabilities, constructive solid geometry, BPTC texture compression, a new visual shader editor, WebSockets support, and various game developer/editor improvements.

      • The Beta of Zombie Panic! Source was updated recently, should work better on Linux

        Zombie Panic! Source is currently going through an overhaul, as part of this it’s coming to Linux with a version now in beta and the latest update should make it a better experience.

        [...]

        I personally haven’t been able to make any of the events yet, so I have no real thoughts on the game. Once it’s out of beta and all servers are updated, I will be taking a proper look as it looks fun. No idea when this version will leave beta, might be a while yet.

      • Dicey Dungeons, the new unique roguelike from Terry Cavanagh and co introduces quests

        We have a lot of roguelikes available on Linux (seriously, we do) yet Dicey Dungeons from Terry Cavanagh, Marlowe Dobbe, and Chipzel still remains fresh due to the rather unique game mechanics.

        I still can’t get over how fun the dice mechanic is, as you slot dice into cards to perform actions. It’s different, clever and works really well.

      • Quake 2 now has real-time path tracing with Vulkan

        If you have one of the more recent NVIDIA RTX graphics cards, here’s an interesting project for you to try. Q2VKPT from developer Christoph Schied implements some really quite advanced techniques.

      • Steam Play versus Linux Version, a little performance comparison and more thoughts

        Now that Steam has the ability officially to override a Linux game and run it through Steam Play instead, let’s take a quick look at some differences in performance.

        Before I begin, let’s make something clear. I absolutely value the effort developers put into Linux games, I do think cross-platform development is incredibly important so we don’t end up with more lock-in. However, let’s be realistic for a moment. Technology moves on and it’s not financially worth it to keep updating old games, they just don’t sell as well as newer games (with exceptions of course). As the years go on, there will be more ways to run older games better and better, of that I’ve no doubt.

      • Battle Motion, a really silly massive fantasy battle game will have Linux support

        Sometimes when looking around for new games I come across something that really catches my eye, Battle Motion is one such game as it looks completely silly.

      • Ravva and the Cyclops Curse looks like a rather nice NES-inspired platformer

        Another lovely looking retro-inspired platformer! Ravva and the Cyclops Curse from developer Galope just released this week with Linux support.

      • Become a fish inside a robot in Feudal Alloy, out now with Linux support

        We’ve seen plenty of robots and we’ve seen a fair amount of fish, but have you seen a fish controlling a robot with a sword? Say hello to Feudal Alloy.

  • Desktop Environments/WMs
    • GNOME Desktop/GTK
      • Addressing Icons Themes (Again)

        I wrote some time ago on how platforms have a responsibility to respect the identity of applications, but now there’s some rumblings that Ubuntu’s community-built Yaru icon set (which is a derivative of the Suru icon set I maintain) intends to ignore this and infringe upon applications’ brands by modifying their icons…

        [...]

        For instance, the entire point of the GNOME icon refresh initiative is to address visual mismatches between third-party app icons and GNOME icons and we been have reaching out to developers to see about updating their icons to new design—this is the appropriate approach for a platform visual overhaul, by the way—which could always use more help on.

        Now I don’t see this ever happening, but I have hopes that someday Ubuntu will fully embrace GNOME and promote it as its desktop solution—especially given the desktop is out of the scope of the Ubuntu business these days.

      • First look at Gnome’s New GTK Theme

        Today we look at Gnome’s update GTK theme Adwaita.

  • Distributions
    • OpenSUSE/SUSE
      • SUSE releases enterprise Linux for all major ARM processors

        SUSE has released its enterprise Linux distribution, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES), for all major ARM server processors. It also announced the general availability of SUSE Manager Lifecycle.

        SUSE is on par with the other major enterprise Linux distributions — Red Hat and Ubuntu — in the x86 space, but it has lagged in its ARM support. It’s not like SLES for ARM is only now coming to market for the first time, either. It has been available for several years, but on a limited basis.

    • Fedora
      • Red Hat/Fedora decide MongoDB’s SSLP doesn’t fit

        MongoDB’s January blues deepened this week as the team behind the Red Hat-backed Fedora Linux distribution confirmed it had added the open source database’s Server Side Public License to its “bad”list.

        The move came as it emerged Red Hat – Fedora’s sponsor – had nixed MongoDB support in RHEL 8.0.

      • AWS Raised Its Hand Lest Of Open Source Platform

        Even though AWS stands by MongoDB as the best the customers find it difficult to build and vastly accessible applications on the open-source platform can range from multiple terabytes to hundreds of thousands of reads and writes per second. Thus, the company built its own document database with an Apache 2.0 open source MongoDB 3.6 API compatibility. The open-sources politics are quite difficult to grasp. AWS has been blamed for taking the top open-source projects and re-branding plus re-using it without providing the communities. The catch here is that MongoDB was the company behind putting a halt to the re-licensing of the open-source tools under a novel license that clearly stated the companies willing to do this will have to purchase a commercial license.

      • Red Hat gets heebie-jeebies over MongoDB’s T&Cs squeeze: NoSQL database dropped from RHEL 8B over license

        MongoDB justified its decision last October to shift the free version of its NoSQL database software, MongoDB Community Server, from the open-source GNU Affero General Public License to the not-quite-so-open Server Side Public License (SSPL) by arguing that cloud providers sell open-source software as a service without giving back.

        The following month, and not widely noticed until this week, Red Hat said it would no longer include MongoDB in version 8 of Red Hat Enterprise Linux. The removal notice came in the release notes for Red Hat Enterprise Linux Beta 8.0.

        Under section 4.7, the release notes say, “Note that the NoSQL MongoDB database server is not included in RHEL 8.0 Beta because it uses the Server Side Public License (SSPL).”

      • Server Side Public License struggles to gain open-source support

        MongoDB first announced the release of the new software license in October as a way to protect itself and other open-source projects like it from being taken advantage of by larger companies for monetary gain.

        At the time, MongoDB co-founder and CTO Eliot Horowitz explained: “This should be a time of incredible opportunity for open source. The revenue generated by a service can be a great source of funding for open-source projects, far greater than what has historically been available. The reality, however, is that once an open-source project becomes interesting, it is too easy for large cloud vendors to capture most of the value while contributing little or nothing back to the community.”

        Other open-source businesses have developed their own licenses or adopted others in recent months, citing the same issues. However, the problem with these new licenses is that if they are not approved by the Open Source Initiative (OSI), an organization created to promote and protect the open-source ecosystem, the software behind the license is technically not considered open source, and it will have a hard time getting acceptance from members in the community.

      • Open source has a problem with monetization, not AWS
      • Why you should take notice of the open source in enterprise suckers conundrum

        In the MongoDB case, AWS is widely regarded as responding to a licensing change MongoDB made in October 2018 that has caused something of a stir among the open source cognoscenti.

      • Fedora Community Blog: FPgM report: 2019-03

        Here’s your report of what has happened in Fedora Program Management this week.

        I’ve set up weekly office hours in #fedora-meeting-1. Drop by if you have any questions or comments about the schedule, Changes, elections, or anything else.

    • Debian Family
  • Devices/Embedded
Free Software/Open Source
  • The Serverless Show: The Importance of Open Source & Community Involvement

    “I’m also involved with some open source projects. I started with Node community and helping out with some node libraries a long time ago. Now I’m mostly doing serverless-related things. I joined the Claudia.js team a long time ago, almost at the beginning, and helped Gojko Adzic and Alexander Simovich to build Claudia.js. Claudia was and still is a deployment library for AWS Lambda and API gateway. At the beginning, it was really hard to deploy serverless applications. If you tried to do that manually, you need to zip everything, to set the permissions, and things like that. The idea of Claudia was to extend AWS CLI tools and to help users deploy serverless applications easier. We continued doing Claudia and a few other things. We contributed a bit to AWS SAM and we built some other applications that are open source. We’re trying to build tools that we need and that the serverless community needs.”

  • Expect to Hear More About Open Source’s Role in Security [Ed: Security implemented with proprietary software is almost always fake. The Australian back doors ("encryption") bill is a reminder of it. If something is proprietary, one must assume back doors (even mandated from above, hidden in binaries)]

    Will 2019 be the year there is a big push for consolidation between open source and cybersecurity?

    Yes, said Sanjay Beri, CEO of Netskope, in an email comment. IBM’s acquisition of Red Hat could prove to be the game changer in how organizations approach security.

  • Want to Save Some Money? Check out These Free Software Alternatives

    The list covers drawing and design, animation and film, website building, and others. For example, Ghost Malone presents several free alternatives to drawing, design and post-processing, such as GIMP, Krita, Fire Alpaca, Autodesk Sketchbook, MediBang Paint, and Paint.NET. Another example, for editing vector graphics, is Inkscape, which is free and open source. The list goes on with several choices depending on what you’re looking for.

  • A free and open source Bitcoin trading tool has been developed by two students

    University students Jonathan Shobrook and Aaron Lichtman have created a free and open source automated trading bot to use on the Bitstamp exchange.

  • Thank Stanford researchers for Puffer, a free and open source live TV streaming service that uses AI to improve video-streaming algorithms
  • Open Source To Open Newer Avenues For CIOs In 2019

    Open source plays a crucial role in all the top strategic technology trends that are reshaping the IT world. Rajarshi Bhattacharyya, Country Head, SUSE, looks at the key trends for 2019 that organizations need to explore and in explains how open source technologies and practices open up a window of opportunities for the CIOs in the coming days.

  • The High Profile Team of Handshake Looks to Truly Open the Internet with a New Domain Name System

    Unlike other major blockchain based companies like Ethereum, they chose to avoid ICO funding altogether and went straight for private investors. They were able to obtain major private investment funding from companies such as Polychain Capital, A16Z Crypto, and Founders Fund (purchasing 7.5% coin supply of HNS between them at $10.2M) with the idea that they could be responsible for replacing entire layers of Domain Name System (DNS) layering. This removes the need for those who safeguard these layers, saving future companies large amounts of cash up front.

  • Handshake is attempting to make the Internet more open

    Handshake came out of stealth mode last August. The project, which intends to replace various levels of the Domain Name System (DNS) hierarchy, was founded by Joseph Poon (co-creator of the Lightning Network & Plasma), Andrew Lee (co-founder & CEO of Purse), Andrew Lee (co-founder & CEO of Private Internet Access), Boyma Fahnbulleh (Bcoin developer), and Christopher Jeffery (Creator of Bcoin & CTO of Purse).

    Sidestepping the ICO route popularized by Ethereum, Handshake raised private funding from a slew of investors including A16Z Crypto, Polychain Capital, and Founders Fund. These investors purchased 7.5% of the initial coin supply of HNS, Handshake’s native token, for $10.2M, valuing the protocol at $136M.

  • Google remains the top open-source contributor to CNCF projects

    According to the latest data from Stackalytics, a project founded by Mirantis and hosted by the OpenStack Foundation that visualizes a company’s contribution to open-source projects, Google remains the dominant force in the CNCF open-source ecosystem. Indeed, according to this data, Google is responsible for almost 53 percent of all code commits to CNCF projects. Red Hat, the second biggest contributor, is far behind, with 7.4 percent.

    The CNCF is the home of Kubernetes, the extremely popular container orchestration service that Google open sourced, so the fact that Google is the top contributor may not seem like a major surprise. But according to this data, Google would still be the top code contributor to all CNCF projects without even taking Kubernetes into account. In part, that’s due to the fact that Google is also the major contributor to GRPC, a queuing project the company donated to the CNCF, and Vitess, the database clustering system it developed for YouTube.

  • Google Remains Top Open-Source Contributor

    According to a scan of code contributions to projects sponsored by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL) remains by far the largest contributor of code across all projects. Using a tool called Stackalytics, the survey conducted by open-source infrastructure vendor Mirantis found that Google accounted for 52.9 percent of code commits to CNCF projects.

  • Johnson Controls to Introduce Open-Source Software for Targeting Retrofits
  • Get free programs to edit photos, send email and more

    Even better, LibreOffice can open and edit the documents you made in Office and can save new files in Office formats. LibreOffice is also compatible with the other document formats, like OpenDocument Format (ODF) and PDF.

  • Events
  • Web Browsers
    • Mozilla
      • MDN Changelog – Looking back at 2018

        December is when Mozilla meets as a company for our biannual All-Hands, and we reflect on the past year and plan for the future. Here are some of the highlights of 2018.

        The browser-compat-data (BCD) project required a sustained effort to convert MDN’s documentation to structured data. The conversion was 39% complete at the start of 2018, and ended the year at 98% complete. Florian Scholz coordinated a large community of staff and volunteers, breaking up the work into human-sized chunks that could be done in parallel. The community converted, verified, and refreshed the data, and converted thousands of MDN pages to use the new data sources. Volunteers also built tools and integrations on top of the data.

        The interactive-examples project had a great year as well. Will Bamberg coordinated the work, including some all-staff efforts to write new examples. Schalk Neethling improved the platform as it grew to handle CSS, JavaScript, and HTML examples.

  • Databases
    • SD Times Open-Source Project of the Week: Scylla

      With data having an impact on almost every part of today’s business, Scylla wants to make sure applications are powered by a database that can handle the influx of data without compromising performance.

      Scylla is a NoSQL database that provides low latency, always-on availability, high throughput, is scalable, easy to use, and community-backed.

      “Scylla is an open source NoSQL database that offers the horizontal scale-out and fault-tolerance of Apache Cassandra, but delivers 10X the throughput and consistent, low single-digit latencies. Implemented from scratch in C++, Scylla’s close-to-the-hardware design significantly reduces the number of database nodes you require and self-optimizes to dynamic workloads and various hardware combinations,” Peter Corless, technical marketing manager for Scylla, wrote in a post.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)
  • BSD
    • NomadBSD 1.2-RC1 released!

      The first release candidate of NomadBSD-1.2 is available! If you notice any problems, please let us know.

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC
    • Clear Linux’s make-fmv-patch Eases The Creation Of GCC FMV-Enabled Code Paths

      One of the GCC compiler features unfortunately not taken advantage of by most Linux distributions is FMV – Function Multi-Versioning. FMV is what allows for the compilation of different tuned code paths depending upon the processor and for the particular code-path to be chosen at run-time, i.e. optimizing to your heart’s content with AVX, SSE4, and other instruction set extensions and compiling all of that into a single binary and for the preferred code path to be taken depending upon the CPU running the binary so it will still run on older CPUs as well as today’s most powerful processors.

    • Software, apps are surveillance tools: Privacy activist Richard M Stallman

      Richard M Stallman, a US-based free software and privacy activist, said on Friday that modern mobile phones are a dream tool that Joseph Stalin would have loved to have, as they allow indiscriminate surveillance of every user.
      Delivering a public lecture at RV College of Engineering here, Stallman said: “They never go off. There is no button to switch them off. At best, they pretend to turn off but they are always listening and sending back information to servers owned by the manufacturers of the operating systems. They would’ve been (Joseph) Stalin’s dream, but unfortunately for him the technology didn’t exist then, but sadly for us, it does now.”
      He warned students from uploading his photographs or videos from the lecture on Facebook, WhatsApp or Instagram—all social messaging/networking sites/applications—claiming that they were “the three big mouths of the surveillance monster.”

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration
    • Open Hardware/Modding
      • Boosting Open Science Hardware in an academic context: opportunities and challenges

        Experimental science is typically dependent on hardware: equipment, sensors and machines. Open Science Hardware means sharing designs for this equipment that anyone can reuse, replicate, build upon or sell so long as they attribute the developers on whose shoulders they stand. Hardware can also be expanded to encompass other non-digital input to research such as chemicals, cell lines and materials and a growing number of open science initiatives are actively sharing these with few or no restrictions on use.

      • The Entire Hardlight VR project is now Open Source

        It’s always a sad day when a successful Kickstarter project has to close due to a lack of continued interest. That’s what befell the Hardlight VR team back in September, with the founders issuing a statement notifying backers that the company was closing due to lack of funds.

  • Programming/Development
    • NetBSD Exploring LLVM’s LLD Linker For Lower Memory Footprint

      The NetBSD project has been making good progress in utilizing the LLVM compiler stack not only for the Clang C/C++ compiler but also for the different sanitizers, the libc++ standard library for C++, and other improvements most of which are working their way into the upstream code-bases. One area of NetBSD’s LLVM support being explored most recently is using the LLD linker.

      NetBSD is exploring the use of the LLVM LLD linker over GNU’s ld linker due to the lower memory footprint. LLD generally goes through far less RAM than the current GNU ld linker.

    • Finding Compiler Bugs With C-Reduce

      Support for a long awaited GNU C extension, asm goto, is in the midst of landing in Clang and LLVM. We want to make sure that we release a high quality implementation, so it’s important to test the new patches on real code and not just small test cases. When we hit compiler bugs in large source files, it can be tricky to find exactly what part of potentially large translation units are problematic. In this post, we’ll take a look at using C-Reduce, a multithreaded code bisection utility for C/C++, to help narrow done a reproducer for a real compiler bug (potentially; in a patch that was posted, and will be fixed before it can ship in production) from a real code base (the Linux kernel). It’s mostly a post to myself in the future, so that I can remind myself how to run C-reduce on the Linux kernel again, since this is now the third real compiler bug it’s helped me track down.

    • Structuring Rust Transactions
    • Tidy up the user interface of the video editing application
    • Intel Vulkan Linux Driver Adds Conditional Rendering, Draw Indirect Count

      First up, the Intel Vulkan driver now supports VK_EXT_conditional_rendering after a lengthy review/revision process. VK_EXT_conditional_rendering was added to Vulkan 1.1.80 last July and allows for rendering commands to be made selective based upon a value in the buffer memory, in order to allow discard rendering commands based upon a result in GPU memory without having to wait on the application/engine. The conditional rendering can be used with Vulkan draws, compute dispatches, and clearing of attachments. VK_EXT_conditional_rendering is supported by Haswell “Gen 7.5″ graphics and newer with the upcoming Mesa 19.0.

    • Episode #113: Python Lands on the Windows 10 App Store
    • Lambda Functions in Python
    • Find Your System’s Biggest CPU Hogs
Leftovers
  • Winds of change? Winds of mediocrity.

    You’d think the world of open-source would escape this cheap reduction of human intellect. But no. The world’s saddest violin is playing mightily loudly in the halls of Tux, too. Linux distributions are, by far and large, less stable, less ergonomic and less capable than they were five or six years ago. Lots of activity, few results.

    And when you do get results, they are made by devs for devs, object-oriented software solutions that intrude into the user space and complicate things without any benefits. Systemd is a good example. Wayland is another. Network tools yet another. Then, we also have the flattification of UI elements, the same kind of stuff that Google’s been doing. And everyone is doing it, because hey, if Google does it, then if they imitate Google, they will be like Google, right. None of these things help, but we can tolerate them because they don’t really make any difference in the overall story of human survival.

    [...]

    Don’t embrace the change. Evaluate the change. Judge it. Be strict. Because we’ve come too far as a race to allow stupidity to become the driving factor. That’s an insult to the billions of humans who have died to mosquitoes and common flu and famine so that we could reach an evolutionary point where people accept low-quality, low-efficiency nonsense into their lives, and then sermonize about that with the obtuse optimism of religiously passionate fanboys.

    But there’s a happy side to this story, too. Not that long ago, I wouldn’t contemplate rejecting the “modern” technology that much or that often. There was almost a thought of discomfort at such a move. But now? It does not seem so bad. Having gone through a few cycles of big tech changes, I don’t see anything special or revolutionary in the Peckham water that companies are dishing out to the masses. It’s an almost liberating thought, sprinkled with illumination, epiphany and other long words. Perhaps I should thank the agile crowds for this unintentional contribution of disdain and apathy. Good stuff, I’d say. Be if you’re still out there, wondering if you can change the world, start by small things. Say no to stupid things. Don’t embrace the change, embrace critical thinking.

  • Science
    • Sky Bears, Earth Bears: Finding and Losing True North

      But humans are not the only species that use stars for direction. Research on songbirds that navigate at night shows that birds learn the patterns of stars within an arc of about 35 degrees bounding the North Pole including, of course, Ursa Major and Minor. Scientists surmise that birds imprint on several constellations to ensure more robust navigation on nights with partial cloud cover. Migratory birds also rely on the polar axis of the rotation of the stars as a reference system and use a diversity of other navigational cues that are truly mind-blowing.

      Although insects may not have a lot of what we many think of as brains, their navigation systems are far from primitive. Dung beetles, for example, take mental “snapshots” of star locations. They navigate by comparing the positions of stars or other celestial bodies noted in each snapshot. The lowly dung beetle, blessed with a cerebral sextant?

      As far as we know, though, humans are the only species to invent elaborate stories and even entire myth systems about stars in an unending quest to make sense of our individual lives and create durable communities.

  • Health/Nutrition
    • Hoping to Transform ‘Momentum Into Policy’, Thousands Expected to Flood Capitol Hill to Demand Medicare for All

      Ahead of the third annual Women’s March this weekend, thousands of Americans are expected to descend on Capitol Hill on Friday for a Medicare for All lobby day organized by progressive campaigners.

      The Women’s March and the Center for Popular Democracy are among the organizations participating in the push, hoping to convince as many lawmakers as possible to co-sponsor Medicare for All bills in the Senate and House—proposals that represent the majority of American public opinion.

    • Medicaid Patients In Puerto Rico Don’t Get Coverage For Drugs To Cure Hepatitis C

      Drugs that can cure hepatitis C revolutionized care for millions of Americans living with the deadly liver infection. The drugs came with a steep price tag — one that prompted state Medicaid programs to initially limit access to the medications to only the sickest patients. That eased, however, in many states as new drugs were introduced and the prices declined.

      But not in Puerto Rico. Medicaid patients in the American territory get no coverage for these drugs.

      The joint federal-territory health care program for the poor — which covers about half the island’s population — does not pay for hepatitis C medications. They also do not cover liver transplants, a procedure patients need if the virus causes the organ to fail.

      The Puerto Rico Department of Health created a separate pilot project in 2015 to provide hepatitis C medications to those sickened by the liver infection who also have HIV but expanded the program later to those with only hepatitis C. However, according to the Office of Patient Legal Services, an official territorial agency that advocates for consumers, the program ran out of funding and is no longer accepting patients only with hepatitis C.

    • Shutdown Expands the Ranks of the “Underwater Nation”

      As the government shutdown drags on, the image of federal workers lining up at food pantries has dramatized just how many workers live financially close to the edge.

      By one estimate, almost 80 percent of U.S. workers live paycheck to paycheck. Miss one check and you’re taking a second look at what’s in the back of the pantry cupboard.

      From federal prison guards in small towns to airline safety inspectors in major cities, the partial government shutdown has forced 800,000 federal workers — and many contractors, too — to survive without a paycheck.

      The shutdown is a Trump-made disaster, with an estimated 420,000 “essential workers” required to show up for work without a paycheck. They have full-time responsibilities, which makes finding another part-time job nearly impossible.

    • Hollywood’s Fat Shaming is Getting Old

      In the new film Isn’t It Romantic, actress Rebel Wilson plays a woman who suffers an injury and wakes up trapped inside a romantic comedy. The trailer shows one incredibly attractive man after another making romantic gestures to her.

      Rebel Wilson, I should note, played “Fat Amy” in Pitch Perfect. She was the fat girl, the comic relief — not the romantic lead.

      Last year, Amy Schumer’s movie I Feel Pretty is similar: She’s an unattractive-feeling woman who hits her head and wakes up with tremendous self-esteem.

      Both films put women who aren’t exactly Hollywood’s ideal of feminine beauty at the center of romantic comedies. In each, the gag is that a “fat ugly girl” either believes that she’s beautiful or that men do.

      I grew up on a steady diet of romantic comedies in a household dominated by a fat-phobic mother who berated us every time we put food in our mouths.

      It was the 1990s, when fat was public enemy No. 1. My mom would buy low fat and fat free snack products, and even chips with the fake fat Olestra a few times. The Olestra chips tasted great, but by then I had such a link between junk food and guilt that I couldn’t eat them and enjoy them.

      Food has been a struggle almost my entire life, from about the age of 10. As a teen and in my early 20s I tried several strict diets of various sorts. I gave up French fries, I limited myself to one order of my college cafeteria’s chicken tenders a month, I tried to give up chocolate but it didn’t work. I still can’t enjoy certain foods because they are too fattening.

  • Security
    • Security updates for Friday
    • How Do You Handle Security in Your Smart Devices?

      Look around your daily life and that of your friends and family, and you’ll see that smart devices are beginning to take over our lives. But this also means an increase in a need for security, though not everyone realizes it, as discussed in a recent article on our IoT-related site. Are you aware of the need for security even when it’s IoT-related? How do you handle security in your smart devices?

    • A Vulnerability in ES File Explorer Exposes All of Your Files to Anyone on the Same Network
    • 2018 Roundup: Q1

      One of our major pain points over the years of dealing with injected DLLs has been that the vendor of the DLL is not always apparent to us. In general, our crash reports and telemetry pings only include the leaf name of the various DLLs on a user’s system. This is intentional on our part: we want to preserve user privacy. On the other hand, this severely limits our ability to determine which party is responsible for a particular DLL.

      One avenue for obtaining this information is to look at any digital signature that is embedded in the DLL. By examining the certificate that was used to sign the binary, we can extract the organization of the cert’s owner and include that with our crash reports and telemetry.

      In bug 1430857 I wrote a bunch of code that enables us to extract that information from signed binaries using the Windows Authenticode APIs. Originally, in that bug, all of that signature extraction work happened from within the browser itself, while it was running: It would gather the cert information on a background thread while the browser was running, and include those annotations in a subsequent crash dump, should such a thing occur.

    • Linux-Targeting Cryptojacking Malware Disables Cloud-Based Security Measures: Report [Ed: They make it sound like GNU/Linux is the problem; but it relies on already-compromised GNU/Linux systems]

      A new cryptojacking malware has the ability to disable cloud-based security measures to avoid detection on Linux servers, research by information security company Palo Alto Networks Jan. 17 reveals.

      The malware in question mines Monero (XMR) and is reportedly a modified version of one used by the so-called “Rocke” group, originally discovered by cybersecurity firm Talos in August last year. According to the research, one of the first things that the malware does is check for other cryptocurrency mining processes and add firewall rules to block any other cryptojacking malware.

  • Defence/Aggression
    • Reports are still circulating that a deadly apartment collapse in Magnitogorsk was really a terrorist attack, but there are some problems with this story

      ISIS has belatedly claimed responsibility for an explosion that shredded an apartment building in Magnitogorsk on December 31 and killed 39 people. The terrorist group says it was also involved in a deadly minibus fire the following night. Immediately after this announcement, Russia’s Federal Investigative Committee reiterated that a gas leak is the leading explanation for what caused the apartment collapse. Since the tragedy, several news outlets have reported unverified rumors that the supposed gas leak was actually the work of terrorists. On January 18, even more details about a potential terrorism link emerged. Meduza summarizes what various sources have claimed about the Magnitogorsk apartment collapse.

    • To Stop Bolton’s Fire and Fury, Fire Bolton

      “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran,” read the headline of a 2015 New York Times op-ed by now National Security Adviser John Bolton. Writing at the height of nuclear negotiations with Iran, Bolton argued that, “Time is terribly short, but a strike can still succeed.” Almost four years later, all of Iran’s potential pathways to a bomb remain blocked by the very deal Bolton would have traded for war. But like nonbiodegradable plastic adrift at sea, undeterred by the damage left in its wake, Bolton’s views haven’t changed.

      On January 13, 2019, news broke that the National Security Council, at Bolton’s direction, asked the Pentagon for military strike options against Iran. The request was reportedly in response to a mortar attack launched in September 2018 by an Iraqi Shiite militia aligned with Iran that landed near the US Embassy in Baghdad, hitting an empty lot and causing no injuries or damage. In other words, Bolton asked the Pentagon to draw up plans for airstrikes over Iran that would start a catastrophic war — all in response to a militia attack with no victims.

      Taken on its own, a thoughtful observer might characterize Bolton’s request as a gross overreaction from an overzealous national security adviser. But in the context of this administration’s policies and statements on Iran, it looks more like part of the plan.

      Let’s review the lowlights. In the first days of Trump’s presidency, former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn ominously announced that the administration was “putting Iran on notice.” In May 2018, Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear agreement despite Iran’s verifiable compliance, and reimposed the full suite of US sanctions lifted under the agreement. Last July, Trump authored a late-night tweet threatening Iran with “consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before.” In August, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo formed the Iran Action Group, a special team tasked with coordinating the administration’s policies for countering the “Iranian threat.” Earlier this month, Pompeo started an eight-country tour through the Middle East emphasizing the need to counter “the greatest threat of all the Middle East, the Iranian regime.” Next month, the secretary of state is hosting a summit in Poland focused on “making sure that Iran is not a destabilizing influence.”

    • Rep. Ro Khanna: U.S. Troops Are a “Sitting Target” in Syria; It’s Time to Bring Them Home

      In Syria, a suicide bomber struck a restaurant in the northern city of Manbij Wednesday, killing 19 people including four Americans. Two of them were U.S. soldiers. The bombing was claimed by ISIS and came just weeks after President Trump declared victory over the group and ordered U.S. troops to withdraw from Syria, prompting the resignation of Pentagon chief Jim Mattis. Just hours after the attack, Vice President Mike Pence reiterated that ISIS has been defeated. Wednesday’s attack drew renewed calls from congressional hawks—both Republicans and Democrats—to reverse Trump’s Syria withdrawal. The U.S. has an estimated 2,000 troops stationed in Syria, even though Congress has never declared war on the country. We speak with Ro Khanna, Democratic congressmember from California. He is a leading critic of U.S. military interventions abroad.

    • The Wall, The Endless War, and the Troops Who Pay

      The suicide bombing in Manbij, Syria which killed up to twenty people, including two U.S. soldiers, a State Department employee, and a defense contractor, adds to the tragic toll of the war in Syria, said to be in the hundreds of thousands. ISIS has taken credit for the Manbij bombing, but they have provided no proof.

      Some peace activists are expressing suspicion about the timing of the bombing in northern Syria, which came just as U.S. foreign policy hawks, including the entire mainstream media, are pushing back against Trump’s promise to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. The pro-intervention crowd is saying, “See, we told you that ISIS was not defeated – we need to stay in Syria until they are.”

    • Paul Whelan accused of collecting information on Russian special services

      Paul Whelan, the former U.S. Marine who was arrested in Moscow on December 28, has been accused by investigators of collecting secret information about one of Russia’s special service agencies, TV Rain reports. The independent station referenced an anonymous source familiar with the investigation. That source also said the FSB began building a file on Whelan in May 2018, well before his arrest, and that the file includes both telephone and online conversations.

    • Shut Down the War Machine!

      The time has come to cut the US military down to size.

      Last November, the Pentagon admitted what critics have known for years: It cannot pass an audit that would let Congress, the media and taxpayers know what it does with the trillions of dollars that have been lavished on war and preparing for war by this country.

      By all accounts, the US accounts for more than a third of all global military spending. The next biggest spender on its military, China, only spends a fifth as much as the US. And remember, as a full-fledged police state and a country whose peripheral provinces have to be kept under tight military control lest they move towards independence from Beijing, much of China’s huge military is actually involved not in threatening other countries or even defending China, but in maintaining government control domestically. Russia’s military spending, which actually declined last year, is actually lower than for tiny Saudi Arabia, which can’t even control tiny neighboring Yemen without vast assistance and military aid from the United States.

      Let’s be honest: The United States faces no significant threat from any nation in the world.

      Sure I know: Russia and even China have nuclear weapons that, if launched en masse at the US could destroy this country. But everyone knows such an action would be to commit national suicide. With its vast nuclear arsenal stowed in patrolling submarines, in protected silos ready to be fired off in minutes, and in bases around the world, including some quite close to China’s and Russia’s borders, the US not only could destroy both countries many times over in response, but is actually able and prepared to attack either country or both countries first, perhaps even preventing them from retaliating successfully (See Michio Kaku’s and Daniel Axelrod’s excellent and terrifying book To Win a Nuclear War: The Pentagon’s Secret War Plans which, using secret US documents, exposes how for decades beginning even before the end of WWII the US prepared and is still preparing for a first-strike, all-out attack to kill hundreds of millions and totally destroy both Russia and China while preventing any significant counter-attack).

      The reality is that it is the US which is the most threatening and destabilizing force in the world today. It is US military spending, and the US role as the world’s largest arms merchant, selling and giving away more than 34% of all weapons and military equipment in the global arms market to a total of 98 countries, that drives global military spending. Russia, at a puny 22% of all arms sales, is distinctly second rate in the world arms market.

    • Top 10 Reasons Not to Love NATO

      Judging by comments in social media and the real world, millions of people in the United States have gone from having little or no opinion on NATO, or from opposing NATO as the world’s biggest military force responsible for disastrous wars in places like Afghanistan (for Democrats) or Libya (for Republicans), to believing NATO to be a tremendous force for good in the world.

      I believe this notion to be propped up by a series of misconceptions that stand in dire need of correction.

    • Trump Punts on Syria: The Forever War is Far From Over

      Donald Trump wants to pull U.S. troops out of Syria as quickly as possible.

      Well, it’s Wednesday, so that’s what the president wants now. Tomorrow, who knows, maybe he’ll insist that Syria pay for the pullout. Maybe Trump will decide to hold a summit with Bashar al-Assad after deciding that the Syrian leader’s not such a bad guy after all, since he also doesn’t like the Islamic State and owes his position to Russian support. Maybe Trump will team up with Turkey to build a wall around Syria because “if we stop them over there, we won’t fight them over here.”

      With Trump, all options seem to be in play, and it all depends on what Fox News covers, what the last autocrat or three-star general whispered in his ear, and whether the president’s spleen is acting up or not. The opinions of his own advisors or the foreign-policy commissariat seem to matter little. If anything, Trump delights in confounding the experts. After all, he believes himself to be the expert-in-chief.

      Foreign policy making in the Trump era is a lot like curling. Trump lets lose the stone and then the other members of the team start sweeping at the ice in an attempt to alter the trajectory. Sometimes Trump throws in the general direction of the target. Sometimes his aim is so errant that there’s nothing the sweepers can do.

      So, after Trump tweeted his new Syria policy, National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went into action to alter its trajectory. In an attempt to placate allies aghast at Trump’s decision, Bolton put so many conditions on the pull-out as to seem to render the announcement null and void. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo similarly tried to assure Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, and the Gulf States that U.S. policy remains steady: defeat the Islamic State, shut out Iran.

      This cavalcade of caveats accomplished little more than to confuse allies and mystify observers. Bolton angered Recep Tayyip Erdogan so much with his remarks about continued U.S. support for Syrian Kurds that the Turkish president refused to meet with the national security advisor when he visited Ankara this month. A prominent pro-government newspaper decried Bolton’s “soft coup against Trump.”

    • The Metamorphosis of International Students Into Honorary US Nationalists: a View from Viet Nam

      This fly-on- the-wall quote is from a US Embassy-Hanoi diplomatic cable that was leaked over a decade ago, i.e., in the pre-Wikileaks era, and quickly found its way into many inboxes in Viet Nam and elsewhere. As I mentioned in a 2011 article, this manifesto lite offers telling examples and revealing insights into the use of education as a tool and even a weapon of soft power.

      The power of leaked internal documents is their refreshing honesty and ability to confirm suspicions based on general information, hunches, and intuition. As the unvarnished truth about a particular perspective or goal, they usually offer little to no rhetorical wiggle room for dissembling by their authors, who never imagined that their thoughts would see the public light of day.

      In this particular call to action and request for additional funding, written by people I worked with at the time in my capacity as country director of a US education nonprofit with close ties to the US State Department, the US is portrayed as a knight in shining armor, with its renowned can-do attitude and munificent spirit, coming to the rescue of millions of desperate Vietnamese students and parents. It is an example of a messiah complex rooted in nationalism. We know best, we are the best, think like US, follow US, become like US, and all will be well.

    • Thief of Baghdad: an investigative report

      THERE is an evil in the mist that has enveloped the air around Helsinki. Something ominous is going on, across our planet… from Baghdad to Helsinki, and beyond. All ripples lead to one epicentre… the United States. What are they up to?
      Two successive articles have been published in Helsinki Times, warning readers, of something sinister that has already been ‘sensed’…. Do you, or anyone, have a clue?
      Will Sillitoe, the Op-Ed columnist from Finland, has taken his readers into confidence. Perhaps, all this had something to do with the guarded warehouses, located near Helsinki’s city airport and the mysterious chain of overseas cargo, which had kept flowing into the premises, in the dark.
      The big question we all seem to ask: why does the US embassy in Helsinki need a huge warehouse near Malmi Airport? And, what are the contents of thousands of kilograms of cargo that were flown into Helsinki from Baghdad in specially marked containers?
      A dilapidated warehouse located in Malmi district of Helsinki, allegedly, was being used by the United States for some unknown operations. A whistleblower, known as the Wikileaks’ releases, has finally taken the curtain away from the mystery location.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting
    • DOJ to question Ecuadorian Embassy staff following Guardian Manafort story – WikiLeaks

      The US Department of Justice is to question six staff from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London following the Guardian’s controversial article alleging Paul Manafort visited Julian Assange, according to WikiLeaks.
      The DOJ issued formal requests on January 7 to “interrogate six former diplomats & staff at Ecuador’s London embassy following Guardian’s fabricated story of Assange-Manafort meetings,” the whistleblowing organization tweeted Thursday.

      The interviews scheduled by Ecuador’s Attorney General’s office are to take place on Friday in Quito, Ecuador.

    • US Questioning Ecuadorian Embassy Staff Over Debunked Assange-Manafort Story

      Earlier, The Guardian, which made the explosive claim that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had met with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, was forced to walk back on the story, heavily editing the piece and saying it could not confirm the authenticity of its sources’ claims.
      US Department of Justice investigators have handed out international subpoenas to six members of the Ecuadorian Embassy staff who were in the London compound with Assange during the timeframe when Manafort was reported to have met with the whistleblower, Assange’s legal defence team has confirmed.

    • US officials to ask Ecuador embassy staff about Julian Assange visitors
    • Staff at Ecuadorean embassy in London where Julian Assange is holed up are questioned by Department of Justice investigators over whether he met Paul Manafort

      US investigators will on Friday begin to question diplomatic staff who were stationed at the Ecuadorian embassy in London during WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s years-long stay about his visitors, according to the whistleblower group.

      It follows international subpoenas from the US Department of Justice, which is probing a report that President Donald Trump’s disgraced former 2016 campaign chairman Paul Manafort held secret talks there with Assange, Wikileaks said.

      The Justice Department, which declined to comment on the matter, wants to talk to six staff members from the embassy and will start to interview them in the Ecuadorian capital Quito on Friday, it added.

    • Ecuadorian embassy asked to grass on Assange
    • Ecuadorian diplomats grilled by U.S. over reported ties between Manafort, Assange: Reports

      Ecuadorian diplomats were slated to be interviewed in the country’s capital Friday by U.S. authorities investigating whether President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort visited WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange at the nation’s embassy in London, regional media reported.
      Six diplomats currently or previously stationed at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, Mr. Assange’s residence since 2012, were expected to field questions from U.S. officials probing a contentious report linking him to Mr. Trump’s incarcerated former campaign manager, according to unnamed judicial sources cited by Agencia EFE, a Spanish-language news agency and one of the world’s largest wire services.
      WikiLeaks stated Thursday through the anti-secrecy group’s Twitter account that the U.S Department of Justice had issued letters rogatory to interrogate a half-dozen individuals, including former diplomats and embassy staff, and that Ecuador’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs heeded the request and scheduled them to be interviewed in Quito.

    • CN to Broadcast 13th Vigil for Assange Today at 4 pm EST

      The WikiLeaks publisher continues to resist pressure to leave the Ecuador Embassy and be sent to the U.S. for prosecution, even as he has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and Donald Trump’s lawyer says he should not be charged with any crime.

      Julian Assange’s is an historic test-case for press freedom.

    • US asked Ecuadorean officials about alleged Assange-Manafort meeting, says source

      US officials spoke with officials from Ecuador’s British embassy yesterday about an alleged meeting there between President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, an Ecuadorean government source said.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature
    • Saving the World’s Largest Tropical Wetland

      Most people have heard of the Amazon, South America’s famed rainforest and hub of biological diversity. Less well known, though no less critical, is the Pantanal, the world’s largest tropical wetland.

      Like the Amazon, the Pantanal is ecologically important and imperiled. Located primarily in Brazil, it also stretches into neighboring Bolivia and Paraguay. Covering an area larger than England at more than 70,000 square miles, the massive wetland provides irreplaceable ecosystem services that include the regulation of floodwaters, nutrient renewal, river flow for navigability, groundwater recharge and carbon sequestration. The wetland also supports the economies of the four South American states it covers.

      But as I learned working on a recent research project with the environmental nonprofit WWF, a combination of climate change, new development, expanding agriculture, urban growth and pollution are poised to transform this vast wetland — bringing drastic consequences for the environment, wildlife and millions of people who depend on the Pantanal’s natural hydrology.

    • Climate Advocates Underestimate Power of Fossil Fueled Misinformation Campaigns, Say Top Researchers

      Climate action advocates have underestimated the strength and sophistication of decades-long fossil fuel-funded misinformation campaigns and need a coordinated set of strategies to fight back, say leading academics.

      Among those strategies, say the three researchers from Yale and Brown University, are promoting financial transparency, suing misinformers and their funders, and researching the vast networks of think tanks and front groups.

      Writing in the journal Nature Climate Change, Yale University’ professors Justin Farrell and Kathryn McConnell, together with Brown University’s Professor Robert Brulle, say people working on responses to climate change “cannot afford to underestimate the economic influence, institutional complexity, strategic sophistication, financial motivation, and societal impact of the networks” behind climate misinformation campaigns.

      Brulle, who is also an academic at Drexel University, told DeSmog that after conversations with leaders of environment groups and foundations, he had concluded “there is virtually no understanding of the nature or extent of misinformation efforts and organized efforts to stop climate action.”

    • ‘If the Water Is Rising, Then So Must We’: Indigenous Peoples March in Washington Against Global Injustice

      In an event described as “breathtaking, heartbreaking, strong, and beautiful,” representatives from native communities around the world came together in Washington, D.C. on Friday for the first-ever Indigenous Peoples March.

      Organized as a rebuke to the violence and injustices that Indigenous Peoples often face—from the murder of native girls and women to police brutality to having unceded tribal lands torn away by colonizing governments and fossil fuel corporations—the march kicked off Friday morning outside the U.S. Interior Department.

    • As Workers Suffer From Shutdown, Groups Accuse Trump of ‘Rolling Out the Red Carpet’ for Oil and Gas Drilling

      Because the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) cannot post information about the drilling applications due to the shutdown, the groups argued, it is unlawfully blocking the public from participating in the process or raising objections.

      “In short, it is impossible for the public to inspect or otherwise provide meaningful feedback on any pending [applications or environmental reviews] related to these applications,” WildEarth Guardians, Western Watersheds Project, and the Center for Biological Diversity wrote in their filing (pdf), which calls on the Interior Department to completely stop processing drilling permits until the government is reopened.

      In a statement on Thursday, Taylor McKinnon—public lands campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity—declared that the “only thing trashier than our national parks during this shutdown has been the Trump administration’s coddling of the oil industry.”

      “Furloughed federal workers can’t pay their mortgages, but Trump is hellbent on ensuring profits for fossil fuel corporations,” McKinnon said. “Not one new lease or drilling permit should be allowed under these conditions.”

      “We’ve been completely shut out of decisions affecting our public lands, and we won’t stand for it,” added Rebecca Fischer, climate and energy program attorney with WildEarth Guardians.

  • Finance
    • MIT, Stanford Researchers to Fund New ‘Globally Scalable’ Cryptocurrency, ‘Unit-e’

      A group of researchers from top United States universities have announced the launch of a “globally scalable decentralized payments network,” according to a press release published today, Jan. 17.

      The development of the cryptocurrency, dubbed “Unit-e,” is being funded by Distributed Technologies Research (DTR) — a non-profit organization based in Switzerland, whose official launch was also announced today in the press release.

      DTR includes researchers from seven major U.S. universities, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley, as Bloomberg reports.

    • Feeding the Furloughed: Let Them Eat Teriyaki Chicken Sandwiches With Ginger Aioli

      Tom-Joad-like, celebrity chef, Spanish immigrant and Trump foe José Andrés has opened a pop-up kitchen in D.C. to feed thousands of federal workers getting stiffed by the petulant Man-Baby-In-Chief. With the shutdown almost a month long and over 70,000 affected in D.C., Andrés’ non-profit World Central Kitchen – which has provided millions of hot meals to hurricane, wildfire, volcano and other global disaster victims, including in post-Maria Puerto Rico – this week opened a #ChefsForFeds kitchen on Pennsylvania Ave. between the Capitol and the White House. Andrés, who owns a mini-empire of restaurants, famously pulled out of a 2015 deal at Trump’s D.C. hotel after he began insulting Mexicans and other immigrants, will serve a rotating menu of free hot gourmet meals from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily to federal workers with ID. They can also get take-out for families at home, because here in the richest country on earth, “We believe no person should have to go through the pain of not knowing what to feed their children.”

      Wednesday, as Trump blathered about “Radical Democrats/ Humanitarian Crisis,” the kitchen opened to long lines of tearful, angry, ashamed and grateful victims of his “man-made disaster.” About 4,400 people, double what was expected, queued for toasted ham and cheese sandwich with roasted garlic aioli, quinoa bowl with black beans, fennel and tomato soup. Thursday’s menu – chicken teriyaki sandwich with pickled veggies, teriyaki tofu bowl, mac and cheese – drew over 5,500. Friday’s grilled steak with carmelized onion sandwich and felafel and quinoa will likely draw more thankful for the chance to “just feel like a damn person again” amidst Depression-like lines and signs and anxiety. One aggrieved woman: “We shouldn’t have to have this in America.” Just so, says Andrés, who was already giving out free sandwiches at his restaurants during the shutdown. In a “call to action” from Puerto Rico, he urged pols and especially Trump to come together and “see the true meaning of We the People.” His Twitter mantra: “We all are Citizens of the World. What’s good for you, must be good for all. If you are lost, share a plate of food with a stranger…you will find who you are.” Give this guy a Nobel.

    • Kent Wong on LA Teachers Strike, Rebecca Vallas on the Threat to Medicaid

      Corporate media have been declaring organized labor moribund—sometimes abetting efforts to kill it—for many years now. But more than 30,000 public school teachers in Los Angeles, on strike with overwhelming community support, would suggest you ought not believe everything you read. We’ll hear about the LA teachers strike, and competing visions for public education, from Kent Wong, director of the UCLA Labor Center and vice president of the California Federation of Teachers.

    • Teachers in Los Angeles are striking for our students, not ourselves

      Huge classes, few counselors, no arts classes are becoming the norm in my city as the board attempts to run the school district like a business.

    • A Swelling Tide of Major Teacher Strikes Is Shifting Our Politics Against the Charter Agenda

      This week, Republican lawmakers held a press conference on Capitol Hill to kick off National School Choice Week, an annual event that began in 2011 under President Obama who proclaimed it as a time to “recognize the role public charter schools play in providing America’s daughters and sons with a chance to reach their fullest potential.” This year, Democratic lawmakers took a pass on the celebration. You can thank striking teachers for that.

      In the latest teacher strike in Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest school system, some 30,000 teachers walked off the job saying unchecked growth of charter schools and charters’ lack of transparency and accountability have become an unsustainable drain on the public system’s financials. The teachers have included in their demands a cap on charter school growth, along with other demands, such as increased teacher pay, reduced class sizes, less testing, and more counselors, nurses, librarians, and psychologists.

      The LA teachers’ opposition to charter schools is just the latest voice in a growing chorus of public school teachers calling on politicians to do more to support the public schools we have rather than piling more dollars and accolades onto a competitive charter school industry. And with the backing of nearly 80 percent of Los Angeles County residents, according to one survey, the teachers likely have the clout to change the politics of “school choice” in California, and perhaps the nation.

    • LA Teachers’ Strike: Student Voices of the Los Angeles Education Revolt

      We live in an era where teachers unions are attacked and scapegoated, our schools are starved of funds, and private charter operators are allowed to choose which students they want to educate and exclude those they don’t–and use desperately needed funds from the public school system to do so.

      It is said that the end of the French monarchy was portended by the fact that boys working in the king’s stables were reading the radical philosopher Voltaire. This week thousands of Los Angeles youth gave up windfall days off to show up at picketlines at 6:30 in the morning and march in the rain all day in defense of public education, teachers, and their union. Could this portend the end of the era of attacks on public education?

      Nearly 100 of our students have joined our picketlines, attended the mass downtown rallies, and provided logistical support. Below are some of their views of the Los Angeles Education Revolt of 2019.

    • Donald Trump Has Never Cared About Workers, and Never Will

      The biggest lie ever told in American politics is the claim that Donald Trump cares about working people.

      He never has. He never will.

      As a bankruptcy-prone business mogul, Trump always financed his lavish lifestyle at the expense of the workers and contractors he screwed over. Now he is doing the same thing as president. That was made abundantly clear last Friday, when the government shutdown that Trump engineered denied 800,000 federal employees their paychecks.

      “Cheating, scamming, and ripping off workers is a Donald Trump tradition that goes back decades. Federal workers are just Trump’s latest victims,” said Public Citizen President Robert Weissman as the deadline for paying the workers passed. “For decades, Trump repeatedly didn’t pay those who worked for him, and now that he’s in the White House, little has changed. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers and employees of federal contractors are suffering the same fate because of the Trump shutdown.”

      Paul Shearon, president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, described the shutdown as “completely unnecessary.” And, of course, he was right. “The real problem is that President Trump has shut himself down and he’s refusing to do his job as chief executive,” explained Shearon, whose union represents judges in U.S. immigration courts, scientists, engineers and technical workers at NASA, and highly skilled workers at the EPA and NOAA.

      The human cost has been severe for federal workers who, as American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. has noted, have take-home pay averaging about $500 a week and in many cases “struggle to make ends meet even without a missed paycheck.”

      Yet Trump has no qualms about “holding employees’ paychecks hostage over demands for a border wall,” Weissman said.

      Trump actually claimed that unpaid federal workers could just “make adjustments.” The president also announced that he “can relate” to the difficult circumstance he has imposed upon the workers.

    • Newly Revealed Documents Show Facebook Gleefully Refusing To Refund Money To Kids Who Ran Up Huge Bills On Mommy’s Credit Card

      Because Facebook wasn’t looking awful enough already, some newly unsealed documents from a lawsuit going back a few years are now making the company look even worse, and certainly not doing the company any favors in its efforts to rehabilitate its reputation. Unfortunately, so far, Reveal, a project of the Center for Investigative Reporting, seems to only be revealing snippets of what’s in the documents, rather than the full documents (come on guys…), but what they’re sharing doesn’t look great.

      Specifically, a judge has unsealed previously sealed records from a 2012 class action lawsuit that was settled in 2016, concerning Facebook profiting off of children. The origins of the lawsuit involved a child who got his mother’s credit card to play a game on Facebook, without realizing that the more he played, the more of his mother’s money he was spending — compounded by Facebook then refusing to refund the charges. The latest revelations show that Facebook employees knew that they made this information confusing, in a way that people (kids and adults alike) might not realize they were still spending money off of a credit card, and also having joking conversations about people trying to get their money back. Indeed, the snippet Reveal has released has Facebook employees referring to one teenager as “a whale” — a term used in casinos to refer to big spenders.

    • The Indignity of Work Without Pay

      The Democratic senator, who just won reelection by nearly seven points in the red state of Ohio, explained the concept to reporters: “Dignity of work means hard work should pay off for everyone, no matter who you are or what kind of work you do… [dignity of work] is a value that unites us all.”

      Well, maybe not everyone. Forty percent of conservative Republicans view the government shutdown as inconsequential. That is, 40 percent of conservative Republicans believe that furloughing 380,000 federal workers and giving them no idea when they might see another paycheck is no problem. That is, 40 percent of conservative Republicans say that ordering another 420,000 federal employees to work without pay is nothing. Forty percent of conservative Republicans say that the farmers and students and potential homebuyers who can’t get loans because of the shutdown are no big deal; the restaurants and shops suffering because their usual government employee customers aren’t showing up are meaningless; the thousands of government contract workers laid off with no hope of recouping lost paychecks are trivial collateral damage.

      That repudiates the dignity of work. It disrespects government workers and the services they perform for Americans. It also disrespects the workers routinely helped by government employees, from farmers to factory laborers, who now are denied the government services they need.

    • The European Union May Not Survive the Euro

      The euro is “celebrating” its 20th anniversary this month, but they aren’t popping corks across the continent. Except, perhaps, with the notable exception of delusional Eurocrats such Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, who argued: “The euro has become a symbol of unity, sovereignty and stability. It has delivered prosperity and protection to our citizens…”

      Some prosperity!

      Much of the continent is characterized by double-digit unemployment, rising inequality, political strife, and a virtual lost generation of youth, who have never experienced anything remotely approaching a robust, ebullient economy. Greed-based integration is giving the EU a bad name.

      The worst thing about the Eurozone as a whole is the currency union itself. The euro reinforces structural inequalities between member states as well as between social groups within countries. It is also worth recalling that its creation was supposed to be an intermediate step toward the inevitable formation of a “United States of Europe” of a supranational fiscal authority—i.e., a federal union in which a central government for the whole of Europe becomes responsible for the economic stabilization and income redistribution for the whole of the EU, while the allocation of resources is left in the hands of the nation state governments. That is clearly a long ways away, given existing political tensions between the creditor nations of the Germanic north and the debtor southern periphery nations.

    • No-Confidence Survivor: Theresa May and Brexit

      Theresa May’s prime ministership remains one of torment, drawn out, and weakened daily. But does it really matter? If it is true to claim that people deserve the government they elect, then there is something madly representative of the debacle of May’s leadership, one where problems are sought for any possible solutions.

      Steering through the waters of Brexit has been a nigh impossible task rendered even more problematic by a stubborn myopia nursed by May. She nurses dogmas incapable of learning new tricks. Her latest Brexit plan, as it headed to inevitable defeat, would have rendered Britain bound to the EU in a manner more servile than any sovereign populist would have dreamed. Benefits would have been shed; obligations would have persisted. While there is very little to recommend the views of the rabid Tory Eurosceptics, there is something in the idea that Britain would become a vassal state.

      As it transpired, May lost by a colossal margin, an indication that few could stomach her vision: 432 to 202, the worst defeat by a British administration in over a century. “In all normal circumstances,” observed Robert Peston, that legendary pessimist of matters economic, “a Prime Minister would resign when suffering such a humiliation on their central policy – and a policy Theresa May herself said today would ‘set the future of this country for a generation’.”

      Such is the nature of the climate: gross failure results in bare survival rather than inevitable annihilation. Grand acts of quixotic behaviour are not richly punished but given reprieve before the next charge against windmills. So we are left with the idea of uncharted territory, suggesting, in the face of such chaos and uncertainty, a postponement of the departure date from the EU set for March 29. The Article 50 period, in other words, would have to be extended, but this, again, implies a set of hypothetical variations and ponderings.

    • Outsourcing Still Affects Us: This and AI Worker Displacement Need Not be Inevitable

      My uncle, who’s now in his early sixties, has been working at Verizon New England for decades. He was there when it was New England Telephone and for Bell Atlantic’s purchase in 2000, when the name changed to Verizon.

      Throughout the years, he’s seen his peers laid off in the dozens. In his department, he is now literally the last employee working in the United States. The rest are employed in India, saving the company billions, where they receive incomparably lower salaries.

      Healthy and able-bodied, he is in no mood to retire. However, as there was every indication that his position would soon be transferred to India, when he was offered an early retirement package, he reluctantly took it. His last day is in mid-spring.

      Cheerleaders of the globalized economy claim that outsourcing does not happen too much anymore; rather, it is artificial intelligence that is the main threat to labor – and this tends be couched in the inevitable forward march of ‘progress’.

      Yet, this past fall, a dozen people were also laid off where I work, as their jobs shifted to India. These were just a few of the 14 million American jobs overseas in recent years. As my now-former coworkers were all remote employees in California, it was easier for our supervisor to let them go from our Massachusetts headquarters; they didn’t have to see the sordid expressions of those laid off.

    • With Students ‘Getting Ripped Off’ by Wells Fargo, Elizabeth Warren Calls for Kicking Big Bank Off Campus

      Nearly a year after angrily grilling Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan over his exorbitant compensation following several scandals at the bank, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) took aim at the institution again Thursday with a letter attacking its practice of offering bank accounts to college students and then hitting them with steep fees—which have had what the lawmaker calls “disastrous effects” on students.

      Wells Fargo has for years partnered with dozens of U.S. colleges and universities, opening on-campus branches and offering students accounts and debit cards as well as other financial products. The bank is far from the only institution to do so, with BankMobile offering more student accounts than Wells Fargo—but the bank charges its student customers far more than its competitors in annual fees.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics
    • Another Day, Another Disaster. And Another, And Another…

      I’ve been trying to write something about the events of the past few days for the last week and a half, and every time I set out to achieve editorial brilliance, or at least try to keep typos and the splitting of infinitives to a minimum, something else wacky happens and it’s back to square one. I’d say it’s Sisyphean if only I knew what that meant.

      Sometimes, mere minutes pass before the next incredible piece of Trump-induced folly strikes. It’s as if the country’s being run by Beetlejuice.

      As I make this latest attempt, in just the last 24 hours – and not even counting the continuing disaster of the government shutdown – these things happened: The inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services reported that thousands more undocumented kids were torn from their parents by HHS than previously reported – “starting early in the Trump administration,” according to The Washington Post, “months before the government announced it would separate children in order to criminally prosecute their parents, through late last spring.”

      What’s more, a 2017 draft memo gotten hold of by NBC News, revealed that “Trump administration officials weighed speeding up the deportation of migrant children by denying them their legal right to asylum hearings after separating them from their parents.”

    • Lawmakers Urged to ‘Start the Impeachment Proceedings’ After Report Trump Ordered Michael Cohen to Lie to Congress

      According to Buzzfeed, Cohen told special counsel Robert Mueller that “after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie—by claiming that negotiations ended months earlier than they actually did—in order to obscure Trump’s involvement” in talks to construct a Trump Tower in Moscow.

      “The special counsel’s office learned about Trump’s directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents,” Buzzfeed reported. “On the campaign trail, Trump vehemently denied having any business interests in Russia. But behind the scenes, he was pushing the Moscow project, which he hoped could bring his company profits in excess of $300 million.”

      “Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying about the deal in testimony and in a two-page statement to the Senate and House Intelligence committees,” Buzzfeed noted. “Mueller noted that Cohen’s false claim that the project ended in January 2016 was an attempt to ‘minimize links between the Moscow Project and Individual 1′—widely understood to be Trump—’in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations.’”

      Analysts immediately pointed out that instructing witnesses to commit perjury—which legal experts say constitutes obstruction of justice—was part of the articles of impeachment against former Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.

    • The West Has Islam Dangerously Wrong

      If nothing else, Trump’s political ascent has served as a potent reminder of Islamophobia’s pervasiveness throughout 21st century American society. How then do we dismantle these harmful stereotypes, which threaten Muslim communities both at home and broad? For Juan Cole, author of the riveting new history “Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires,” the answer would appear to be a greater understanding of the religion’s founder and formation.

      “One of the features of the Qur’an, which I think is too little appreciated, is that it’s a counterargument,” he tells Robert Scheer. “It’s an argument for tolerance, at least of the monotheistic religions, of Christianity and Judaism. … So I think it’s an extremely ecumenical book, the Qur’an, and the Prophet’s preaching of it. And that is something that’s been lost, not only in Western conceptions of the religion, but often among some believers as well.”

      In the latest installment of “Scheer Intelligence,” Cole explores some of the dangers of letting hatred and bias go unchallenged. “They just did a poll in Germany where they found 44 percent of Germans think that Islam should not be practiced in Germany,” he notes. “Any time you single out a group of people as different from others, and as posing a unique kind of danger to society, that leads in very bad directions. And we have seen over and over again in modern history the directions that it can lead.”

    • Episode 46: Fascism Today with Kelly Hayes by The Lit Review

      What does fascism look like today in the U.S.? Where does the alt-right fit into this? How can it be fought?! We sat down with Chicago-based Native abolitionist organizer, writer and co-struggler Kelly Hayes to discuss Shane Burley’s book Fascism Today: What It Is and How to End It. Examining the modern fascist movement’s various strains, Shane Burley has written a super accessible primer about what its adherents believe, how they organize, and what future they have in the U.S. Key Questions: 1. What is fascism? 2. What is the alt-right? 3. What is the role of misogyny in fascism? 4. What do the building stages of a grassroots fascist movement look like? 5. What does the left need to do defeat fascism? Hosts: Monica Trinidad & Page May Guest: Kelly Hayes Date: Monday, January 14, 2019 Length: 50:47 Episode 46 Credits Intro Production: Ari Mejia Music: David Ellis “Welcome Matt”

    • Leaked Memo Reveals Trump Administration’s “Immoral” Plan to “Traumatize” Migrant Children

      The December 2017 draft memo—which Merkley shared with NBC News after receiving it from a government whistleblower—shows that Trump administration officials wanted to deport children more quickly by denying them asylum hearings after taking them away from their parents.

      “It appears that they wanted to have it both ways—to separate children from their parents but deny them the full protections generally awarded to unaccompanied children,” concluded ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt, who led a class-action lawsuit on behalf of migrant parents.

      President Donald Trump’s “child immigration strategy is immoral and comes from a dark place in the heart of this administration,” Merkley declared, responding to the revelations on Twitter. “Children are NOT expendable commodities in political battles.”

    • Top 6 Things Wrong with Trump denying Pelosi Gov’t Transport

      Trump’s petty cancellation of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s trip on military transport to Brussels and Afghanistan was clearly his revenge for her cancellation of his State of the Union message until he ends the shutdown of the government.

      Here are the top 5 things wrong with this step:

      1. It is invidious and unfair, since First Lady Melania Trump took off for Mar-a-Lago in a government plane soon thereafter. Given that 800,000 government employees are not getting their paychecks, is this the right time for Melania to vacation in Florida?

    • A Global Battle of Values and Ideals

      With each day that passes the conflict and animosity between the conservative reactionary forces and the global movement for progressive change becomes more acute, uglier and increasingly dangerous; wherever one looks in the world the battleground between groups on either side of the divide rages. In essence it is a battle of values and ideas, of what kind of society we want to live in, but as the extremes, particularly those on what is commonly called the ‘right’, assert themselves, the space for rational, open debate is being crushed and a febrile intolerant atmosphere fueled.

      Decades of systemic failure, environmental vandalism and social injustice have caused widespread discontent and anger among people in many countries, injustice made more severe by policies of crippling austerity following the 2008 banking crash. Among the 38 members of the wealthy OECD nations it is said that 50% of the population feel disenchanted with the political-economic system.

      Consistent with the times we are living in – times in which the forces of the past are receding and the energies of the new are increasing in potency, the reaction to such discontent has been polarized. While large numbers of people recognize systemic change is needed and are calling for greater levels of cooperation between people and nations, others, in many cases equally great in numbers, blame external forces and immigration, and retreat into a narrow form of nationalism, seeking security.

      Antagonisms have been enflamed by politicians who either fail to understand the impact of their poisonous rhetoric or simply don’t care what effect they have. The resulting political divisions are acute and, in many cases, compromise between groups on either side of the debate appears impossible as, for example, the government shut down in America and the Brexit deadlock demonstrate. Brexit has become the burning issue of conflict in the UK, fueling fractious, volatile political debate and entrenched national divisions. As one pro-EU protestor told The Observer, “this is civil war without the muskets…it is appalling.”

    • Dial Israel: Amos Oz, 1939-2018

      The reportage on the death of Amos Oz has focused less on the loss of a major literary force and more on the late writer’s substantial political significance. On some level, this is not all that surprising; mainstream media is not exactly a go-to source for a literary disquisition. But not to diminish Oz’s (mostly) insightful political commentary, the intertwining of art and politics is–in much of the world– a given. And especially so in Israel, where, Oz wrote, “history is interwoven with biography… Private life is virtually not private here. A woman might say, for example, ‘Our son was born while Joel was in the bunkers during the War of Attrition.’ Or, ‘We moved into this apartment exactly one week before the Six-Day War.’ Or, ‘He came back from the States during Sadat’s visit.’”

      The Amos Oz literary canon—decades long—is subordinated. What is truly fascinating is that Oz was heavily indebted to Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, transposing faraway small-town America—close-knit, secretive, gossipy—to the close-knit, secretive, and gossipy kibbutz life he knew so well. I’d actually read much of Oz’s work before reading Winesburg, Ohio; it was Oz’s interest in Anderson that piqued my own curiosity. At a book signing many years ago, I told Oz exactly that. He seemed politely uninterested.

      Oz had the mixed blessing of a prodigious output, which ranged from dull to breathtaking. My Michael, the novel that put Oz on the international map, is a big, fat bore. A Perfect Peace, on the other hand, set on a kibbutz around the time of the 1967 Six-Day War—and told via multiple, shifting perspectives—is stunning in every way.

      Oz mined the Israeli quotidian for his fiction. The paradox is that the Israeli quotidian holds no interest in the United States. Israel occupies a pivotal role on the American political stage and is a lighting rod for devotion or derision, generating reams of political analysis.. Yet with all that, there is a distinct lack of interest in…well, Israel. This is not to minimize the importance of the region’s life-and-death politics or an Israeli government that operates under Mafia ethics, but the idea of a living, breathing country seems beyond the American purview. Oz’s work is studded with the rhythms of a small, cacophonous Mediterranean country: The Champs-Elysèes hair salon—a small-town business with a preposterous name—owned by two bickering sisters-in-law. The kibbutznik who occupies his usual spot in the dining hall, pouring over the sports pages. In Fima, the eponymous protagonist delivers an unwanted, condescending political discourse to his cabdriver; the cabdriver, in response, pokes fun at Fima’s hat.

    • Roaming Charges: Sometimes an Establishment Hack is Just What You Need

      + Trump had to reach pretty deep into the recycling bin to extract the rusty figure of William Barr as a loyal replacement for J. Beauregard Sessions at the Justice Department. After he dusted him off, what did Trump see in this relic from the Poppy Bush era, that shiny reign of triumphant globalists which Trump publicly claims to loath? A cursory scan of Barr’s CV, which is about as deep a look as Trump is likely to have given, shows all the field marks of a well-worn grey man of Swamptown, a malted Scotch institutionalist, if not an honorary member of the Deep State itself. Surely Trump hesitated when he read, or more likely was told, of Barr’s stint at the Central Intelligence Agency, though the president must have been at least partly placated upon learning that Barr was an Asia hand, who was eager to promote Red China as a more menacing rival to US imperial ambitions than the decaying Soviet Union. Still, once Barr landed in Washington in the early 70s, he quickly adapted to the local habitat and for the next 40 years didn’t migrant beyond the Beltway. So what attracted Trump to this unlikely character?

      + In a word: Pardons. As Poppy’s attorney General, Barr was the man who tidied up the Iran/contra mess and gut-punched Independence Counsel Lawrence Walsh by crafting a sheaf of midnight pardons for the criminal masterminds of that squalid affair, including Casper Weinberger who had perjured himself before Congress. (See Sy Hersh’s “The Vice President’s Men“) The pardons were issued on Christmas Eve just a few days before Bush was ushered out the backdoor of the White House. A disgusted Lawrence Walsh later wrote in his book, Firewall: the Iran/Contra Conspiracy and Cover Up: “It demonstrates that powerful people with powerful allies can commit serious crimes in high office, deliberately abusing the public trust without consequences,” This is, of course, exactly kind of legal mercenary that Trump was searching for when excavating through the strata of resumés of possible lawyers to do his bidding. Sometimes an establishment hack is just what you need.

      + All of these hearings are essentially auditions for the Master and Barr, a seasoned, if aging, player in Washington dramas, hit all of the marks that would delight his audience of one. Asked whether he would considering jailing journalists “for doing their jobs,” William Barr said he could conceive of situations “as a last resort” where a news organization is held accountable for “putting out stuff that they know will harm the country.” This answer must have gone down like a fistful of Viagra for Trump.

    • The Splinters Of Our Discontent: A Review Of Network Propaganda

      Sanchez’s comments didn’t trigger any kind of real schism in conservative or libertarian circles. Sure, there was some heated debate among conservatives, and a few conservative commentators, like David Frum, Bruce Bartlett, and the National Review’s Jim Manzi, acknowledged that there might be some merit to Sanchez’s critique. But for most people, this argument among conservatives about epistemic closure hardly counted as serious news.

      But the publication last fall of Network Propaganda: Manipulation, Disinformation, and Radicalization in American Politics by Yochai Benkler, Robert Faris, and Hal Roberts—more than eight years after the original “epistemic closure” debate erupted—ought to make the issue hot again. This long, complex, yet readable study of the American media ecosystem in the run-up to the 2016 election (as well as the year afterwards) demonstrates that the epistemic-closure problem has generated what the authors call an “epistemic crisis” for Americans in general. The book also shows that our efforts to understand current political division and disruptions simplistically—either in terms of negligent and arrogant platforms like Facebook, or in terms of Bond-villain malefactors like Cambridge Analytica or Russia’s Internet Research Agency—are missing the forest for the trees. It’s not that the social media platforms are wholly innocent, and it’s not that the would-be warpers of voter behavior did nothing wrong (or had no effect). But the seeds of the unexpected outcomes in the 2016 U.S. elections, Network Propaganda argues, were planted decades earlier, with the rise of a right-wing media ecosystem that valued loyalty and confirmation of conservative (or “conservative”) values and narratives over truth.

    • Congress to Probe Report That Trump Directed Cohen to Lie

      The Democratic chairmen of two House committees pledged Friday to investigate a report that President Donald Trump directed his personal attorney to lie to Congress about negotiations over a real estate project in Moscow during the 2016 election.

      House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said “we will do what’s necessary to find out if it’s true.” He said the allegation that Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie in his 2017 testimony to Congress “in an effort to curtail the investigation and cover up his business dealings with Russia is among the most serious to date.”

      The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, said directing a subordinate to lie to Congress is a federal crime.

      “The @HouseJudiciary Committee’s job is to get to the bottom of it, and we will do that work,” Nadler tweeted.

    • The Biden Band-Aid: Will Democrats Contain the Insurgency?

      The 2020 election horse race is beginning to take shape. Unless something unexpected happens (e.g., impeachment, resignation), Trump will likely seek reelection as the Republican candidate. A number of independents will seek third-party (e.g., Greens, Socialists) candidacy. And then there are the Democrats.

      Numerous Democratic politicos are beginning to cluster behind the starting gate considering a primary run for the 2020 presidential nomination. The UK’s Independent lists 40 possible candidates that fall into four broad categories – former elected officials, current Senators and Congress-persons, celebrities and billionaires. To date, Sen. Elizabeth Warren D-MA), Julian Castro (Obama’s housing secretary) and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) have announced their candidacy.

      However, the Independent, like other media outlets, identifies Joe Biden as the current front runner. “The former two-term vice president consistently receives a majority of support among Democratic voters to run in 2020 against any other potential candidates in recent polling,” it reports.

      Liberal outlets like Vanity Fair and The Atlantic are touting Biden’s candidacy. Vanity Fair sputters, “Is Biden progressive? Absolutely. Gaff-prone? Duh. But he is the antithesis of Trump, with the added benefit that he’s been vetted before, and passed muster.” And The Atlantic champions,“These are odd times for Biden. He gets dismissed as too old, or he gets held up as the only adult who can actually come in to lead the Democrats to beat Trump in 2020. He is to many in his party the perfect answer to how to win back the white working-class voters that he helped bring in for Barack Obama, but to others he’s a relic of a Democratic Party of the past.”

    • The Tulsi Gabbard Factor

      Too much light blinds us,” Pascal wrote; “if the fool would persist in his folly, he would become wise,” wrote William Blake.

      The idea that, when pushed to extremes, things turn into their opposites seems to have arisen in one form or another many times and in many cultures. It is epitomized in the Western philosophical tradition in Hegel’s account of the dialectical structure of the real.

      Tulsi Gabbard’s announcement that she would run for the Democratic Party’s nomination for President in 2020 brought this to mind.

      What on earth could her candidacy have to do with dialectical logic? Bear with me on that.

      There is a more immediate question to deal with first: Tulsi who? Before long, if all goes well, that won’t be the first question in most Americans’ minds.

      Since 2013, Gabbard has represented Hawaii’s second Congressional district. For all but those who follow Congressional and/or Democratic Party politics closely, she is known mainly, if at all, for having resigned from the Democratic National Committee in 2016 in order to endorse Bernie Sanders in his bid to become the Party’s nominee.

      If only for bucking the Clinton tide three years ago, something no other leading Democrat dared do, her candidacy deserves to be taken seriously indeed.

    • Elections and Movement-Building Through 2020 and Beyond

      From my vantage point, one “positive” effect of the election of Mafioso Don is the marginalization of the position taken by some on the political left that elections in the US are a sham, and the correct approach to them is to non-participate.

      Elections do have consequences, potentially very big, very negative consequences, like a neo-fascist government.

      Young people in general are most likely to view elections as a sham, for understandable reasons. Young people tend to be more idealistic so that they are turned off by the often-cynical and dishonest political maneuvering from both Republicans and Democrats.

      That’s why the 2015-16 Bernie Sanders campaign generated so much active support from young people. Here was someone who spoke truth to power, who didn’t accept Super PAC money or mega-donations from rich people, who articulated a strong, positive program consistent with positions he had been taking for literally decades, who had a history of winning elections and using his elected office positively, and who consciously reached out to young people and working-class people.

    • Surveys: half of Russian citizens disapprove of their government’s actions, and only a third trust Putin

      In a new survey of Russian citizens conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation (FOM), 54 percent of respondents indicated that the Russian government’s actions in the past month left them feeling dissatisfied or resentful. The survey was conducted on January 12 and 13 and included 1500 respondents from 104 municipalities and 53 Russian regions.

      40 percent of those surveyed said they did not experience these feelings. That number has decreased by 5 percent over the past month, while the number of dissatisfied respondents has increased by 6 percent.

      70 percent of respondents said they had heard people around them criticize Russian authorities within the past month. According to FOM, this is the highest that number has been since 2013.

    • To Get Beyond “If True” Caveat, Democrats Vow to Investigate Trump’s “Potentially Impeachable Offense”

      House Intelligence Committee chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) also vowed to launch an investigation into the claims in the Buzzfeed report, which the White House denied.

      “The allegation that the president of the United States may have suborned perjury before our committee in an effort to curtail the investigation and cover up his business dealings with Russia is among the most serious to date,” declared Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. “We will do what’s necessary to find out if it’s true.”

      According to Buzzfeed, which cited two anonymous law enforcement officials, Cohen told special counsel Robert Mueller that “the president personally instructed him to lie—by claiming that negotiations ended months earlier than they actually did—in order to obscure Trump’s involvement” in negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.

      While analysts approached Buzzfeed’s report with caution given that it is based primarily on the claims of two unnamed officials, legal experts and progressive commentators argued that if the story is true, it is grounds for impeachment.

    • As the Cabinet Churns: Who’s Still Standing Among Trump’s Top Advisers
    • GOP Lawmaker Really Doesn’t Want Rep. Rashida Tlaib to Let Lawmakers Know What Life Is Like in Occupied West Bank

      Newly-elected Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) wants to offer members of Congress an alternative to the “sugar-coated” junket to Israel the American Israel Public Affairs Committee-affiliated group offers members of Congress by leading a delegation to the West Bank. For a Republican lawmaker, however, giving lawmakers a view of life in the occupied territory is an “exceedingly dangerous” plan that must be stopped.

      In letters he sent Thursday to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Democratic House committee heads, Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) laid out (pdf) his “extreme concern” with Tlaib’s proposal, first reported by The Intercept in December.

      Unlike the rite of passage for new Republican and Democratic congress members that some dub the “Jewish Disneyland trip”—sponsored by American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF)—the proposed congressional delegation by the first Palestinian-American woman to serve in Congress would focus on “Israel’s detention of Palestinian children, education, access to clean water, and poverty,” the news outlet reported at the time.

      Her delegation could spotlight Israel’s “segregation” and show “how that has really harmed us being able to achieve real peace in that region,” Tlaib told The Intercept.

      “I don’t think AIPAC provides a real, fair lens into this issue,” she addded, as it glosses over “the side that I know is real, which is what’s happening to my grandmother and what’s happening to my family there.”

    • Mueller Disputes Report That Trump Directed Lawyer to Lie

      Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office on Friday issued a rare public statement disputing the accuracy of BuzzFeed News’ report that said President Donald Trump’s attorney told Mueller that the president directed him to lie to Congress.

      BuzzFeed, citing two unidentified law enforcement officials, reported that Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about a Moscow real estate project and that Cohen told Mueller that Trump personally instructed him to lie about the timing of the project. The report said Mueller’s investigators learned about Trump’s directive “through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents.

  • Censorship/Free Speech
    • Alaska Governor’s Mass-Firing of State Workers Violated the First Amendment

      Gov. Dunleavy’s actions are a throwback to a corrupt spoils system that our system strived to eradicate for generations.
      Days after being elected governor of Alaska, Michael Dunleavy requested resignations from more than 1,200 at-will state employees. Those who didn’t resign were later fired. This kind of political retaliation against non-political state workers is an attack on the very foundations of free speech and good government.

      It is not unusual for newly elected chief executives at the federal, state, and local levels to replace political appointees. But such political tests can only reach so far down into the public workforce before they violate the First Amendment rights of government employees. In this case, it definitely crossed the line, and we’re suing Gov. Dunleavy for his unconstitutional purge on behalf of three state employees who wrongly lost their jobs.

      At the heart of this case are public comments made by Dunleavy’s chief of staff, Tuckerman Babcock, after his call for resignations was criticized by local media, state legislators, and the soon-to-be-replaced governor. They rightly said that it was inappropriate for hundreds of non-political employees who had never been included in such requests by previous administrations — such as doctors, state tax code specialists, investment managers, petroleum geologists, IT professionals, loan officers, and veterans affairs coordinators — to be forced out of their jobs.

      Babcock made the illegality of the policy clear as day when he responded in the media by saying that for those at-will state employees to keep their jobs, they not only needed to resign, but also reapply through the governor-elect’s transition team. During this re-application process, the employees were made to answer this two-part question: “Do you want to work on this agenda, do you want to work in this administration?” Babcock went on to say that those who didn’t answer in the affirmative signaled their “wish to be terminated.”

    • Montana Public Schools Block Pro-LGBTQ Websites

      Public high school students in Billings, Montana tell CounterPunch that as of Monday, January 14, they have been denied access to numerous sites, including those associated with pro-LGBTQ issues, as part of a new web filtering program initiated by the school administration. Anti-gay sites, however, appear to be accessible.

      In an email to staff, Brandon Newpher, Chief Information/Executive Director of Technology for Billings Public Schools, explained that “stricter web/internet filtering will be implemented as a way to improve network security and help protect students and staff.”

    • In Which We Warn The Wisconsin Supreme Court Not To Destroy Section 230

      One of the ideas that we keep trying to drive home is that the Internet works only because Section 230 has allowed it to work. Mess with Section 230, and you mess with the Internet. FOSTA messed with it statutorily, but it isn’t just Congress that can undermine all the speech and services that depend on Section 230′s protection for the platforms that enable them. Courts can mess with it too.

      While it’s bad enough when courts get questions of whether Section 230 applies wrong at the trial court level, the higher the court, the more potentially destructive the decision if the court decides to curtail its protection. On the other hand, the higher the court, the more durable Section 230′s protective language becomes when the decision gets it right. This post is about one of those cases where the future utility of Section 230 hangs in the balance, and where we hope that the Wisconsin Supreme Court, the highest court in the state, gets it right and finds it applies to the platform being sued — and therefore all other platforms that depend on its protection.

      We’ve written before about this case, Daniel v. Armslist. As with a lot of the litigation challenging Section 230 it was one of those “bad facts make bad law” sorts of cases. In this case an estranged husband, against whom there was a restraining order, bought a gun from an unlicensed seller who had advertised through the Armslist site. Notably it does not appear that the sale was necessarily illegal – in Wisconsin unlicensed dealers apparently do not have to run background checks – nor was the sale fully transacted on the site (the actual purchase was made in a McDonalds parking lot). Of course, even if the sale had been illegal, or fully brokered via the site, Section 230 should still have insulated the platform, but here the Section 230 inquiry should be much more straight forward: the lawsuit alleging that Armslist negligently designed a site that facilitated a third party’s speech – in this case, the speech offering the gun for sale – should have been barred by Section 230.

  • Privacy/Surveillance
    • UK Spy Agency Continues Effort to Groom Young Girls for Careers in Cybersecurity

      The effort was launched specifically to counter the popular image of security services as “male, pale and stale” — and it’s not the only way such agencies have attempted to target women and young people. MI5, MI6 and GCHQ have all used popular online forum Mumsnet to recruit female spies, and some have even targeted older women working in social care.

      [...]

      The ads, which appeared in ‘hip’ London neighborhoods, read “GCH-Who? Technical opportunities”, followed by the agency’s webs address — but Hackney council claimed permission was not sought for the “reverse graffiti” and GCHQ had acted illegally as a result.

    • Exclusive: They Spy With Their Little Eye

      I’ve spent six years alternately begging major NZ journalists to investigate state-sponsored spying on activists including me, and, out of sheer necessity, reporting extensively on it myself from within the vacuum created by their inaction. So it is somewhat bemusing to now observe the belated unfolding of what ex-Member of Parliament and Greenpeace NZ Executive Director Russel Norman is describing as New Zealand’s “Watergate moment“.

      In the wake of the bombshell release of a State Services Commission report into the affair, Norman wrote: “My key takeaway is that under the previous government, no one was safe from being spied on if they disagreed with government policy.”

      This is a remarkable statement from Norman, who once sat on the very government committee tasked with oversight of New Zealand’s intelligence agencies.

    • Episode 13: Surveillance Marketing

      Doc Searls and Katherine Druckman talk to Dr. Augustine Fou about surveillance marketing, ad tech, and privacy.

    • The Justice Department Shouldn’t Be Snooping on Journalists

      Rolling back Justice Department rules that protect journalists’ privacy would undermine freedom of the press.
      At a time when President Trump regularly attacks the news media, the Department of Justice may be preparing to make it easier for the government to obtain journalists’ private communications data.

      The public relies on both journalists and whistleblowers for vital information about our government’s most controversial activities. Weakening the current rules that protect reporters — as well as their sources — would undermine freedom of the press and endanger activities at the heart of the First Amendment.

      This week, The Hill reported that DOJ has been working for months on potential revisions to its rules about when prosecutors can demand reporters’ phone records and other sensitive information like notes or emails. These records can reveal a journalist’s confidential sources, including the individuals who entrust journalists with information the public needs to know. The new report comes after statements by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions that, under his watch, DOJ was pursuing three times as many leak investigations as it did under the Obama administration — which itself set records for leak prosecutions.

      The report comes the same week that President Trump’s nominee to be the next attorney general, William Barr, was asked at his Senate confirmation hearing whether “he would jail reporters for doing their jobs” — meaning reporters who would not disclose their sources to prosecutors. After a long pause, Barr refused to rule it out.

    • Digital license plates are now allowed in Michigan
    • Going old school: how I replaced Facebook with email

      In November 2017, I deactivated my account on Facebook. I didn’t leave Facebook for moral reasons back then but more because it was starting to feel like a waste of time and valuable brain cycles that I wanted to focus elsewhere. (I realize some people can’t leave Facebook completely for work or other personal reasons.) There were aspects of Facebook that I thought I would miss — the relative ease of use, keeping up with what is going on in lots of people’s lives, etc — so I decided to work out a new way of communicating that was completely Facebook-free after using Facebook heavily for many years. I haven’t missed it at all. This post is about what I did and what I learned.

  • Civil Rights/Policing
    • “I don’t want to go anywhere”: Video surfaces of Nastya Rybka’s arrest in Sheremetyevo Airport

      A video showing the arrest of the model and sex trainer Anastasia Vashukevich, better known as Nastya Rybka, has been published by REN TV. In the video, law enforcement officials carry Vashukevich into one of the airport’s wheelchairs while she tells them, “I don’t want to go anywhere.” The sex trainer and her mentor Alexander Kirillov, who goes by the name Alex Leslie, were deported from Thailand after being charged with conducting sex work illegally. Vashukevich first gained fame for leaking videos and images that appeared to support opposition activist Alexey Navalny’s claims about government corruption.

    • Of Triggers and Bullets

      This commentary is dedicated to all of my friends who don’t know the difference between a trigger and a bullet. I apologize in advance if I sound condescending. I’m 51 years old and I’ve been through this nonsense too many times – and every time it gets more surreal.

      It’s an imperfect metaphor — that’s the nature of metaphors. But you don’t need to be an anarchist to understand it – you don’t even need to have fired a gun in your life, either.

      Facebeast loves our arguments – their algorithms only show us arguments and baby pictures, nothing else is relevant to their business model. I really don’t understand why anyone bothers arguing with someone on Facebeast, unless they’re just trying to encourage the further stratification of society. I assume they find it therapeutic to dump on other people. It’s the social media equivalent of yelling out your car window at another driver who’s doing something you don’t approve of.

      The theme that tends to get a rise out of people the most, from my experience, is any criticism of Democratic Party politicians. There is an actual fascist in the White House, they say. We must have a unified opposition against him – a united front, a glorious resistance.

      I don’t bother arguing on Facebeast with anyone, well-intentioned though they may be. It’s a pointless exercise, by design. But yes, of course, there is a bona fide fascist in the White House. (For more on the similarities between Germany in 1933 and the US today, listen to episode 22 of my podcast, This Week with David Rovics.)

      The Orangeman in the White House is the bullet, in my metaphor of the week. What to do with that bullet, which is already speeding through the air towards its metaphorical destination, is an important question. But figuring that out absolutely requires understanding how the bullet left the chamber of the gun, and what made it fire – we know what the bullet is, but what is the trigger.

      The deplorables, I can hear someone say. The unreconstructed white American racists, says another. The misogynists, says someone else.

    • The Case Against Galveston County’s Pretrial Detention System Survives the Government’s Challenge

      A win could set a precedent for prosecutor accountability and right to counsel in bail hearings that could help reform pretrial detention nationally.
      If you are accused of a crime and arrested in Galveston County, Texas, you better hope you can afford to pay the preset bail amount to get out of jail. If not, then you will join hundreds of other people who are incarcerated simply because they cannot afford to buy their freedom. In Galveston and communities across the country, there is one pretrial detention system for the poor and an entirely different one for everyone else.

      Thirty-six-year-old Aaron Booth found this out the hard way last April after being arrested for felony drug possession. Booth’s arresting officer consulted with a prosecutor who set his bail at $20,000, the minimum amount permitted under Galveston County’s felony bail schedule, even though Booth lives near the poverty line. Booth then saw a magistrate judge who automatically adopted his bail amount without asking him about his ability to make bail or determining whether he was a flight risk or a danger to the community. Booth asked the magistrate for a court-appointed attorney, but at the time of his hearing and at the time his bond was set, the county had failed to provide an attorney to represent him.

      On April 8, 2018, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Texas, and Arnold & Porter filed a class action lawsuit in U.S. district court on behalf of Booth and other similarly situated people who remained in jail solely because they were too poor to pay their bail. We sued Galveston County, the magistrate judges, district court judges, and the district attorney for violating the substantive and procedural due process rights of Galveston County residents as well as their rights to equal protection and counsel guaranteed by the Constitution. Booth argued that everyone with a hand in Galveston’s system was legally responsible, including the district attorney who sets bail amounts, the magistrates who sign off on them without a hearing, and the trial judges who refuse to pass rules to fix this system.

    • The Annual Whitewashing of Martin Luther King Jr.

      Every year I ask myself questions about the shameful exploitation of Martin Luther King Jr.–why do Americans love to disgrace his message so much? Why is it so popular that we see it year after year? Remember last year? Trump was talking about “s@!#hole countries” while tweeting “I encourage all Americans to observe this day with appropriate civic, community, and service activities in honor of Dr. King’s life and legacy.” What is to stop longtime racists like Rep. Steve King from copying and pasting a quick quote into their twitter feeds? Last year he posted: “Ive been to the mountain top. And I’ve seen the promised land. …we, as a people, will get to the promised land.” And yet his long list of racially offensive comments and associations with avowed white nationalists, recently published in the New York Times, reveal his use of Dr. King’s words to be a snide mockery.

      Of course the GOP has recently (finally) taken a moment to be critical of Steve King’s flagrant white supremacy in 2019, but they still refuse to comment on the same racist behavior from President Trump. Minority leader Kevin McCarthy said about King’s outlandish comments defending white nationalism, “That is not the party of Lincoln and it’s definitely not American.” Great. Now how about Trump’s longtime racism? Trump’s “My Kevin” (Trump’s nickname for him when McCarthy was House Majority Leader) doesn’t get this, hence more MLK Day whitewashing.

      Sadly, Trump’s Kevin is wrong; racism has never been beneath the “dignity of the party.” Nothing is more Republican than racism—a wall serves as a modern day burning cross and the rallying point of contemporary bigotry; Nothing is more American than racism—the country’s vast fortunes were built on slave labor and theft of land from indigenous people. Nothing could be further from the message so many in the GOP copy, paste, and ignore: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” It is the kitsch of far-right Rep. Barry Loudermilk and politicians across the country, cynically misappropriating words they neither earned nor deserve. A firm commitment to Trump’s racist promises isn’t just cowardly; it is antithetical to the love that Martin Luther King Jr. preached. Teen Vogue, in a great piece on MLK one year ago, gets it better than these jellyfish do, MLK was radical in his support the love supreme Jesus preached: “Nonviolence is absolute commitment to the way of love. Love is not emotional bash; it is not empty sentimentalism. It is the active outpouring of one’s whole being into the being of another.”

    • Undocumented Immigrants Are Tethered to ICE and Private Companies

      A handful of companies are making millions off of ankle monitors strapped to undocumented immigrants in ICE custody. The makers pitch the monitors as an alternative to being jailed, but are they simply another form of bondage? Reporter Ryan Katz looks at what life is life while wearing one of these monitors. He untangles the complicated web of ICE, immigration bail agent companies, and the attorneys fighting them.

    • The Danger Within: Border Patrol is Turning America into a Constitution-Free Zone

      How far would you really go to secure the nation’s borders against illegal aliens?

      Would you give the government limitless amounts of money to fight yet another endless war? Surround the entire country with concrete walls and barbed wire? Empower border police to do whatever it takes to crack down on illegal immigrants, even if it means violating their human rights? Hold your nose and tolerate all manner of abuses in name of national security?

      Would you allow government agents to trample on the rights of anyone who gets in their way, including legal citizens? Relinquish some of your freedoms in exchange for the elusive promise of non-porous borders? Submit to a national ID card that allows the government to target individuals and groups as it chooses in order to identify those who do not “belong”? Turn a blind eye to private prisons and detainment camps that profit off the forced labor of its detainees?

      Would you turn your backs on every constitutional principle for which our founders fought and died in exchange for empty campaign promises of elusive safety by fast-talking politicians?

      This is the devil’s bargain that the U.S. government demands of its people.

      These devilish deals have been foisted upon “we the people” before.

    • Did Donald Get The Memo? Trump’s VA Secretary Denounces ‘Veteran as Victim’ Stereotyping

      Amid a controversial government shutdown, affecting 800,000 thousand federal employees, you would think that the agency headed by Robert Wilkie would be an oasis of tranquility.

      His Department of Veterans Affairs is, like the Pentagon, largely exempt from the shutdown. Due to prior budget approval, its funding for the current fiscal year is unaffected by the continuing stand-off between President Trump and Democrats in Congress.

      The 300,000 staff members of veterans’ hospitals and clinics, which serve nine million patients, are reporting for duty, getting paid, and caring for their patients as usual. About a third of them are veterans themselves.

      But in Trump-like fashion, Veterans Affairs Secretary Wilkie has stirred up a ruckus of his own about the impact of the shutdown on former military personnel elsewhere on the federal pay-roll.

      In a January 14 VA press release, he publicly denounced a veterans’ liaison officer within Bureau of Prisons for suggesting that shut-down-related psychological stress was a threat to some of the 150,000 veterans employed by the federal government who are not getting paid. (A third of them have a medical condition that is service related, according to the VA.)

      Edward M. Canales, a U.S. army veteran and local leader of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), who is a 100 percent disabled combat veteran, told ABC News about calls from union members who are upset and depressed about the growing financial pressures on their families.

    • William Barr Will Be a Loyal Foot Soldier in King Trump’s Army

      At his attorney general confirmation hearing, William Barr sought to reassure senators on the Judiciary Committee that Robert Mueller’s probe would be allowed to continue, saying, “I believe it is vitally important that the Special Counsel be allowed to complete his investigation.”

      But Barr, who champions a disturbing radical right-wing theory of all-encompassing presidential power called the “unitary executive,” refused to say whether Congress would see Mueller’s report when his investigation is complete, instead pledging only to provide a summary of it.

      Federal regulations do not prohibit the release of the special counsel’s report to Congress or the public. They simply state that, “At the conclusion of the Special Counsel’s work, he or she shall provide the Attorney General with a confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions reached by the Special Counsel.”

      What the attorney general does with the report is up to him.

      Professor Neil J. Kinkopf, who testified at Barr’s confirmation hearing, predicts that, “Barr will take the position that any discussion or release of the Mueller report — relating to the president, who again cannot be indicted — would be improper and prohibited by [Department of Justice] policy and regulations.”

    • Austin Police Department Orders Deeper Investigation After Audit Finds It Misclassified Cleared Rape Cases

      The announcement comes as the APD released the full findings of a review by the Texas Department of Public Safety, which audited the department following an investigation by Newsy, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting and ProPublica. The news report showed how Austin and dozens of other police departments across the country frequently use “exceptional” clearances to close rape cases, increasing clearance rates while leaving suspects on the streets.

      The initial findings from the DPS audit, which looked at three months of Austin rape reports from 2017, concluded that nearly one-third of the cases the APD had exceptionally cleared were misclassified.

      The full report reveals Austin police often failed on multiple fronts. To clear a case exceptionally, the FBI requires police to have enough evidence to make an arrest, to know who and where the suspect is, and for there to be a reason outside their control that prevents an arrest. Cases that fail to meet all four requirements cannot be cleared exceptionally. The DPS report shows that out of 95 exceptionally cleared rapes auditors reviewed, Austin police had failed to meet the FBI requirements 30 times. In 17 of those cases, police failed to meet at least two of the FBI’s tests. In five cases, police did not meet any of the four criteria.

      “While we’re glad this audit has been completed, it confirms that we have serious issues and we need to take quick action that corrects the patterns that allowed these cases to be handled improperly,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler said in a joint statement with Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza.

    • Merkley Calls for FBI Perjury Probe into Homeland Secretary Nielsen After Child Detention Memo Leaked

      After releasing a damning draft memo that showed the Trump administration planned to “traumatize” migrant children with family separations and expedite deportation by denying asylum hearings, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) on Friday called for an FBI investigation into whether Homeland Security Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen lied when she testified before Congress about the policy.

      In a letter sent to FBI Director Christopher Wray, the senator noted that “compelling new evidence has emerged revealing that high-level Department of Homeland Security officials were secretly and actively developing a new policy and legal framework for separating families as far back as December 2017.”

      “Despite this fact,” Merkley continued, “while testifying under oath before the House Committee on the Judiciary, Secretary Nielsen stated unequivocally ‘I’m not a liar, we’ve never had a policy for family separation.’” Given the “conflicting facts,” Merkley formally demanded an immediate investigation.

    • Long-Lost Records Surface in Wrongful Conviction Case, Detailing Lead Detective’s Fondling of Informants

      Newly released documents show the lead detective in an Elkhart, Indiana, police investigation that led to a pair of wrongful convictions was forced to resign because of sexual misconduct with an informant, the details of which the city had failed to disclose for more than 10 years.

      The former detective, Steve Rezutko, was the main investigator in the convictions of Keith Cooper and Christopher Parish, a case that was chronicled by the South Bend Tribune and ProPublica last year and was replete with errors by police, the prosecution and judges.

      The two wrongfully convicted men had been seeking the documents on Rezutko’s resignation as they pursued lawsuits against the city and individual officers. But they were repeatedly told the documents couldn’t be found, according to trial transcripts and other court records.

      The difficulties they faced getting records are similar to those faced by the Tribune and ProPublica. Local government agencies, including the Elkhart Police Department, denied or delayed access to some public records and, in other instances, released files that were incomplete.

    • Ahead of Third Annual Women’s March, Group Releases Far-Reaching ‘Intersectional Feminist Policy Platform’

      A day ahead of a major march in Washington, D.C. and satellite events nationwide, the Women’s March on Friday unveiled a detailed 70-page agenda, a document the group describes as a first of its kind “intersectional feminist policy platform.”

      The “Women’s Agenda,” the group declared on Twitter, is “a roadmap for our movement, a workplan for our electeds, and it’s everything we’re marching for on January 19, 2019.”

    • Punishment Through Humiliation: Justice For Sexual Assault Survivors

      Humiliation can always be used as a form of entertainment when coupled with a sense of moral justice. Even before Jerry Springer and Divorce Court, watching someone squirm could be appealing when well-deserved. After Louis C.K., Kevin Spacey and Charlie Rose, the definition of “schadenfreude” is public shame.

      Shaming was seen as an effective way to rehabilitate when American society was less mobile. Since citizens were mostly confined to the same small towns they grew up in, disappearing to start a new life was far less common. Instead of prison time, ‘earmarking’ was common for thieves in the 17th century southern colonies. This practice involved slitting or punching a hole in the robber’s ear. Once permanently marked, the criminal was easily recognizable as well as punished and rehabilitated through humiliation. This prevented the criminal from “bribing the government”, by paying fines. Before America grew into an easily traveled territory, the justification of this justice felt practical. Small communities meant a lasting reputation.

      The prison system, while not exactly public humiliation, has proven itself to be an island of American rights. Prison rape jokes are so common, the possibility of sexual assault is now assumed. Our obsession with the degradation can be seen from an outpouring of reality and scripted prison shows. Even when a prisoner is released, it may be difficult for him or her to vote, get a job or integrate into society.

      In 2016 when Brock Turner was accused of penetrating an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, he was met with a swarm of media attention. The idea that a young, white, upper-class man would go to prison for sexual assault, however, proved too difficult for the justice system to treat fairly. Of course he would be raped, Facebook and Reddit seemed to scream.

      The punishment for sexual assault in America is tricky. Even if there is forensic evidence, witnesses, and/or a history of abuse, prosecution is difficult at best. For many victims of sexual assault, performing a rape kit is more about their performance than the nurse’s. They must undress and display themselves for sometimes up to four hours. Their genitals are photographed, pubic hair combed, rectum swabbed and emotional state monitored. Many rape kits have not been processed, therefore proving themselves useless. The humiliation of a victim can feel worse than any justice they might find.

    • Panarchy as Full Spectrum Intersectionality

      Solidarity is the guiding principle for any egalitarian philosophy. The basic idea is that all oppressed people face the same enemy and the only way any of us can defeat our collective oppressor is with the collective force of a diverse people united against it in all its demonic manifestations. Today they call this principle intersectionality. The uncivil union of big government and big business that calls itself the state murders black people, rapes trans folks, objectifies women, dehumanizes workers, and bombs the third world into, well, the third world. Separated we are weak, impoverished, crippled. But united we are dangerous, we are a force to be reckoned with.

      In my mind, the natural objective of solidarity and intersectionality should be anarchy in one form or the other and only the concept of panarchy allows for one form or another to be properly explored. In spite of their once lofty ambitions and their recent rise in trendiness, state socialism and communism don’t destroy the class system, they just replace it. Ultimately the only difference between a bureaucrat and an oligarch is a title. The Bolshevik interpretation of the Marxist Dictatorship of the Proletariat is just asinine. If creating a state to dismantle the state worked, the Soviet Union would exist as a Kropotkinite workers paradise and Sweden wouldn’t be slowly dissolving into neoliberal hell. I’m not unsympathetic to these brave and honorable experiments in collective governance. I still admire the courage of comrades like Fidel Castro and Olaf Palme. But the experiment has failed and it’s time to move on. The Sandernistas are living in another century. The state ultimately exists for one purpose and one purpose only and that is to quite simply exist. You can call it capitalism or communism but when you create a state you create a business that relies on wage slavery and all to often war to justify its own solipsistic existence.

    • Glossip v. Gross, the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States

      On June 29, 2015 the United States Supreme Court argued in Glossip v. Gross that executions may continue with the use of lethal drug cocktails including the use of midazolam, an extremely painful drug, which in effect, burns to death the condemned by scorching internal organs. The use of midazolam, according to the Court, does not constitute “cruel and unusual punishment” under the Eighth Amendment. The Court found that condemned prisoners can only challenge their method of execution after providing a known and available alternative method.

      In dissenting views justices opened the legal door for future challenges to the death penalty. In a meticulously crafted dissent Justice Stephen G. Breyer joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg initiated a timely counterargument to capital punishment. This was joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor in diverging dissents of their own. The dissents were significant in that they outline the legal framework for the abolition of the death penalty based on the Eighth Amendment. Nevertheless, Sotomayor and Kagan argued in separate opinions that the use of lethal chemicals in executions was intolerably painful.

      In turn this begged the question, for many, as to whether or not executions could ever be legitimized since executions must necessarily involve physical or mental pain. In all democratic societies, intentionally inflicting pain on another human being is torture.

      This article addresses the Court’s concerns, expressed in Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion, that protests against Glossip’s anticipated execution was a “guerilla war” against the death penalty and that inflicting physical or mental pain intentionally on a human being is an acceptable component of execution and consistent with the U.S. Constitution.

    • A Woman’s Wide Sphere of Influence Within Folklore and Social Practices

      The recent attempts of the Vice Chancellor of the University of Agriculture Faisalabad, Pakistan, and a Professor at the University of Jadhavpur, Kolkata, to diminish women’s identities and reduce them to symbols of “purity” compelled me to think about empowered women in the fourteenth century in my native state, Kashmir.

      Kashmiris have taken pride in inhabiting a cultural space between Vedic Hinduism and Sufi Islam. The traditional communal harmony in Kashmir enabled the peaceful coexistence of Muslims and Hindus, mutual respect for their places of worship, and an ability to synthesize not just cultural but religious practices as well. Deep reverence for each other’s shrines and the relics housed in those shrines is a well entrenched aspect of the culture.

      A fitting symbol of this syncretic ethos of Kashmir is Lalla-Ded, a figure revered by both the Pandits and Muslims of Kashmir. Lalla-Ded was born in 1334 into a Kashmiri Brahmin home in village Simpur, about four miles from Srinagar, the summer capital of Kashmir. She was brutalized in a marriage that was arranged for her by the elders once she crossed the threshold of puberty. Unwilling to acquiesce to the constraints placed on the “traditional” woman and questioning the self-abnegation of women that disallows them from reconciling their private selves with their roles as public contributors to the community, Lalla-Ded disavowed the psychosocial narratives inscribed on the female body in defiance of the continued conscription of women (Bhatnagar, Dube and Dube 2004: 30).

    • Laquan McDonald’s Family: Jason Van Dyke’s Sentence Reduces Laquan To ‘Second-Class Citizen’

      Judge Vincent Gaughan sentenced former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke to six years and eight months in state prison for second-degree murder. He killed a black 17 year-old named Laquan McDonald.

      It was the first time 

that a Chicago police officer was sentenced to prison for a shooting in the line of duty


. However, the sentence was far shorter than what the prosecution requested and what McDonald’s family and many in the city of Chicago had anticipated.

      Marvin Hunter, a great uncle of McDonald, declared on behalf of the family, “This sentence represents the sentence of a second-class citizen. It reduced Laquan McDonald’s life to a second-class citizen. And it suggests to us that there are no laws on the books for a black man that a white man is bound to honor.”

      Van Dyke killed Laquan McDonald on October 20, 2014. McDonald was on the south side of Chicago that night. He had a knife in his hand. Police were apparently called to arrest him after a 911 call that alleged he was breaking into trucks in a nearby truck yard.

      None of the police on the scene fired their weapon. When Van Dyke arrived, he immediately exited his vehicle with his partner, Officer Joseph Walsh, and unloaded a magazine of bullets into McDonald’s body.

    • Carey McWilliams: The Most Important American Author Many Don’t Know

      Truthdig: Your book traces the extraordinary career of Carey McWilliams, from his Los Angeles legal activism to his radical journalism and finally to his two-decade editorial stint at The Nation. You argue that he was one of the most versatile and productive public intellectuals of the 20th century. Why don’t more Americans know about him?

      Peter Richardson: Yeah, it’s funny. Despite the accolades, he’s probably the most important American author that most people have never heard of. He has his fans, of course. Kevin Starr was one. He called McWilliams “the single finest nonfiction writer on California—ever” and “the state’s most astute political observer.” Mike Davis is another. “City of Quartz” is a kind of love letter to McWilliams. Over the years, McWilliams also won over the city room at the Los Angeles Times. When journalists need a quote about the city, they often turn to McWilliams or Joan Didion.

      There are a few reasons McWilliams isn’t better known. First, he was a radical. He had powerful enemies, including J. Edgar Hoover, the Los Angeles Times and the Associated Farmers, which objected to his history of California farm labor in “Factories in the Field” (1939). When Earl Warren first ran for governor in 1942, he promised growers that his first act would be to fire McWilliams from his position in state government. The California Un-American Activities committee smeared him mercilessly. So even though he was accomplishing a great deal, he didn’t endear himself to those in power.

      McCarthyism was a factor. By the 1950s, McWilliams was back in New York City, shepherding The Nation magazine through a difficult decade. Many of his friends were victims of the Communist witch hunt—in fact, McWilliams wrote a book on that topic in 1950, well before most people understood the dangers to our democracy. But that was typical of McWilliams. He was always a kind of early-warning system. In 1950, he called Richard Nixon “a dapper little man with an astonishing capacity of petty malice.” It took the rest of the country two more decades to figure that one out.

    • Indigenous Peoples Show Solidarity at D.C. March

      Activists from around the world gathered for the first-ever Indigenous Peoples March in Washington, D.C., on Friday. Issues including voter suppression, environmental protections and violence toward women and girls were at the forefront of the event.

      “Our people are under constant threat, from pipelines, from police, from a system that wants to forget the valuable perspectives we bring to the table. But those challenges make us stronger,” said Chase Iron Eyes, an attorney at the Lakota People’s Law Project and member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

    • The President Plans Big Announcement on Saturday on Shutdown, Border

      The move — on Day 28 of a shutdown that has left hundreds of thousands of federal workers without paychecks — represents the first major overture by the president since Jan. 8, when he delivered an Oval Office address making the public case for his border wall. The president and his aides have said he will not budge on his demand for $5.7 billion for his border wall. Democrats have panned the offer and said they will not negotiate until the government reopens.

    • Facebook manager says in internal post she quit after being ‘harassed’ over views on diversity

      A Facebook engineering manager left the company earlier this month after being harassed by her colleagues for expressing criticism.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality
    • Vermont official fact-checks mobile carriers’ coverage maps, proves they’re lying like crazy

      Knowing it and proving it are two different things: so Department of Public Service telecommunications infrastructure specialist Corey Chase, packed six cell-phones loaded with custom code developed by a Bulgarian programmer into a state-owned Prius and drove more than 6,000 miles around the state, “ground-truthing what every Vermonter with a cell phone knows: there are many, many places in the state where you simply can’t get a signal, not to mention the 5 megabits per second data download speeds the carriers were claiming.”

    • State Official Went Roaming Around Vermont To Test Cell Coverage Claims

      Equipped with six cell phones and an app customized by a coder in Bulgaria, Chase was ground-truthing what every Vermonter with a cell phone knows: there are many, many places in the state where you simply can’t get a signal, not to mention the 5 megabits per second data download speeds the carriers were claiming.

    • On Heels Of Favorable FCC Ruling, Verizon Imposes ‘Spam’ Fees On Text Message Service For Schools, Nonprofits

      Just about a month ago the FCC quietly handed the telecom industry another favor by voting to reclassify text messages as an “information service” instead of a “telecommunications service” under the Telecom Act, effectively freeing text messaging practices from government oversight. While the FCC stated the move was essential in order to fight text spam, consumer groups were quick to note the lack of oversight provided cellular carriers a nifty way to hamper third-party SMS services that might just compete with, or cause problems for, their own offerings.

      Fast forward to this month, and lo and behold, Verizon’s already ruffling some feathers on this front. Remind, a free school texting, chat and messaging service used by teachers, students, school coaches, and parents, this week sent a notice to its customers stating that it may no longer be able to offer the service on the Verizon network thanks to a new “spam” fee Verizon is imposing on a service that’s not really spam.

  • Intellectual Monopolies
    • AC Technologies S.A. v. Amazon.com, Inc. (Fed. Cir. 2019)

      The Federal Circuit recently issued a decision further clarifying the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s (PTAB) ability to invalidate claims on reconsideration even when the claims were not addressed in the final written decision. In the analysis below, we review only the procedural question of the PTAB’s ability to address claims on reconsideration. In this case, the PTAB issued a final written decision ruling certain claims of AC Technologies S.A.’s U.S. Patent No. 7,904,680 unpatentable. Then, on reconsideration, the PTAB invalidated the remaining claims based on a ground of unpatentability raised by Amazon.com…

      [...]

      The Federal Circuit found no due process violation occurred here. As AC admits, after the Board decided to accept Amazon’s rehearing request and consider Ground 3, it permitted AC to take discovery and submit additional briefing and evidence on that ground. Though AC did not receive a hearing specific to Ground 3, it never requested one. Had AC desired a hearing, it should have made a request before the Board. Other cases follow this guideline, such as finding no due process violation where a party had notice and an opportunity to be heard and failed to request surreply or rehearing to address the issue. See, e.g., Intellectual Ventures II LLC v. Ericsson Inc., 686 F. App’x 900, 905–06 (Fed. Cir. 2017).

      The Federal Circuit also reviewed AC’s challenge specific to the unpatentability of the claims (not addressed in this analysis here), and found the Board’s decision to be based on substantial evidence. Thus, the Federal Circuit affirmed the Board’s decision.

    • Trademarks
      • The ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ People Are Suing Netflix Over ‘Bandersnatch’

        As you may have already heard, the latest iteration of the Black Mirror franchise on Netflix, titled Bandersnatch, is an absolute hit. You likely also have heard that it allows the viewer to influence the plot by making choices within the story’s many inflection points. And, hey, perhaps you even heard that Netflix is facing legal action by Chooseco LLC, the company behind the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series that were popular in the ’80s and ’90s.

        But if you haven’t dug into the details, both in terms of why Chooseco states the Netflix series violates its trademark and the damages it is asking for in court, you may not realize just how bonkers all of this is.

    • Copyrights
      • Now EVERYBODY Hates the New EU Copyright Directive

        Until last spring, everyone wanted to see the new European Copyright Directive pass; then German MEP Axel Voss took over as rapporteur and revived the most extreme, controversial versions of two proposals that had been sidelined long before as the Directive had progressed towards completion.

        After all, this is the first refresh on EU copyright since 2001, and so the Directive is mostly a laundry list of overdue, uncontroversial technical tweaks with many stakeholders; the last thing anyone wanted was a spoiler in the midst.

        Anyone, that is, except for German newspaper families (who loved Article 11, who could charge Big Tech for the privilege of sending readers to their sites) and the largest record labels (who had long dreamed of Article 13, which would force the platforms to implement filters to check everything users posted, and block anything that resembled a known copyrighted work, or anything someone claimed was a known copyrighted work).

        Maybe it’s time we stopped holding the future of European copyright to ransom for the sake of a few recording companies.

      • Article 13 and 11 Update: Even The Compromises are Compromised In This Copyright Trainwreck

        Politicians are meant to broker compromises in the pursuit of the public good – though in a year that is already overloaded with government shutdowns and Brexit logjams, that skill seems in short supply.

        But sometimes there are no compromises to be found. Sometimes, even the most talented diplomats are handed an impossible task. The Romanian Presidency is struggling to finish negotiations the Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive together. But two parts of that law —Article 13, intended to introduce compulsory copyright filters, and Article 11, a new licensing requirement on reproducing snippets of news articles—are so controversial that they risk sinking the entire process.

        Just hours before a key vote on this Friday, the Presidency has presented their proposed compromise to the negotiators. The text, leaked to Politico Europe, shows just how far they will have to go to bring all the parties together.

        On Article 13, the Council and the Parliament are struggling over whether small and medium-sized businesses should be excluded from the crushing demands and liability Article 13 would impose on Internet sites. This was one of the concessions that MEP Axel Voss offered in a last-minute attempt to get the Article’s provisions past Parliament.

        But that’s not good enough for the article’s lobbyists, who believe that any site that allows users to put their content online should be treated as a pirate’s den—even if it’s a small European Internet site hoping to compete with deep-pocketed, US-based Big Tech companies.

      • Don’t Put Robots in Charge of the Internet

        Last year, YouTube’s Content ID system flagged Sebastian Tomczak’s video five times for copyright infringement. The video wasn’t a supercut of Marvel movies or the latest Girl Talk mashup; it was simply ten hours of machine-generated static. Stories like Tomczak’s are all too common: Content ID even flagged a one-hour video of a cat purring as a likely infringement.

        Filters are most useful when they serve as an aid to human review. But today’s mandatory filtering proposals turn that equation on its head.

        But those are only a small glimpse of a potential Internet future. Today, with the European Parliament days away from deciding whether to pass a law that would effectively make it mandatory for online platforms to use automated filters, the world is confronting the role that copyright bots like Content ID should play on the Internet. Here in the US, Hollywood lobbyists have pushed similar proposals that would make platforms’ safe harbor status contingent on using bots to remove allegedly infringing material before any human sees it.

        Stories like the purring and static videos are extreme examples of the flaws in copyright filtering systems—instances where nothing was copied at all, but a bot still flagged it as infringement. More often, filters ding uploads that do feature some portion of a copyrighted work, but where even the most basic human review would recognize the use as noninfringing. Those instances demonstrate how dangerous it is to let bots make the final decision about whether a work should stay online. We can’t put the machines in charge of our speech.

      • EU Cancels ‘Final’ Negotiations On EU Copyright Directive As It Becomes Clear There Isn’t Enough Support

        Apparently multiple countries — including Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland — made it clear they would not support the latest text put forth by Romania, and therefore would have blocked it from moving forward. Monday’s negotiations were supposed to have been the “final” negotiations (after the previous “final” negotiations that didn’t accomplish much) around a “compromise” bill that then would have gone out to be voted on by the EU Council, the EU Committee and the EU Parliament in the next few months. However, with the news of all those countries (via the EU Council) deciding to vote against the proposal, it effectively blocks it for now.

        MEP Julia Reda now has the full breakdown of the votes, noting that 11 countries voted against the “compromise” text: Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Finland, Slovenia, Italy, Poland, Sweden, Croatia, Luxembourg and Portugal. That’s… a pretty big list. Reda points out that most of those countries were concerned about the impact on users’ rights (Portugal and Croatia appear to be outliers). That’s pretty big — as it means that any new text (if there is one) should move in a better direction, not worse.

      • Record Labels, Film Studios, Tech Companies And The Public Now All Agreed That Article 13 Is A Disaster

        They don’t really explain why they’re so upset, but it’s not difficult to see that it’s the same reason as the film, TV and sports organizations. Again, Article 13 is a kind of bait and switch. All of the stuff people are complaining about — the mandatory filters, notice-and-staydown, the insane fines — all go away if the internet platforms agree to basically cough up all their money to the legacy copyright gatekeepers. The “secret” truth behind Article 13 is that even the folks crafting it know that all of the demands are absolutely ridiculous. It’s just that they’ve included a “way out.” And that “way out” is to agree to insane licensing rates from the legacy copyright players. Despite the nonsense you’ll hear, this won’t create “fair market” rates or “fair” anything. You don’t negotiate a fair market rate when you’re basically told that if you don’t agree to whatever rates the copyright gatekeepers set, you’ll get fined billions of dollars.

        So any path to avoiding having to agree to a license at the end of a shotgun is seen as a non-starter for the entertainment industry. Though, their latest bit of petulance about not getting everything they want kind of gives away the gameplan. This was never about stopping infringement. It was always about a government-mandated wealth-transfer from the companies who actually innovated to the companies that failed to innovate.

Links 18/1/2019: Mesa 18.3.2, Rust 1.32.0

Friday 18th of January 2019 05:19:11 PM

Contents GNU/Linux
  • Desktop
    • New Deepin Linux Gets Even Better With Touchscreen Gesture Support

      Easily the most welcome new feature is enhanced touchscreen support, especially during a time when 2-in-1 devices are becoming more popular. And in many Linux distributions, touchscreen functionality is a bit of a weak point. Deepin 15.9 adds support for multiple touch gestures including click, double click, a long press to bring up the context menu, as well as sliding up and down.

      Also added is an onscreen keyboard plugin, available from the dock.

    • Popular open source laptop maker Purism announces new series

      Hackers and hustlers who have been looking for fully open source laptops have often turned to Purism, a small but feisty distributor that pairs high-end hardware with completely open software. The laptops are generic enough to ensure that you won’t be locked down by Windows or any other closed-source players but high-end enough for programming work.

      The best thing? Both laptops feature a physical on and off switch to control the Wi-Fi, camera, and microphone, thereby ensuring complete privacy when talking biz. The laptops are excellent for folks specifically interested in security as users can manage everything from the OS to their crypto wallet with complete transparency.

    • The best Linux apps for Chromebooks

      Being able to install Linux apps on Chrome OS opens up some fascinating new possibilities — particularly if you’re an advanced user.

      After all, while a Chromebook’s standard combo of web apps, Chrome apps, and Android apps is more than sufficient for most folks’ needs, some of us still require (or maybe just prefer) traditional local programs for certain specific purposes. The presence of Linux apps on Chrome OS means we can have our cake and eat it, too — by enjoying the speed, simplicity, and security of a Chromebook while also embracing the occasional heavy-duty desktop app.

  • Server
    • Modern web applications on OpenShift: Part 3 — Openshift as a development environment

      Welcome back to the final part of this multipart series about deploying modern web applications on Red Hat OpenShift. In the first post, we took a look at how to deploy a modern web application using the fewest commands.

      In the second part, we took a deeper look into how the new source-to-image (S2I) web app builder works and how to use it as part of a chained build.

      This third and final part will take a look at how you can run your app’s “development workflow” on OpenShift.

    • Survey Indicates Container Security Concerns Limit Adoption

      A new survey indicates that 60 percent of IT pros working with containers experienced at least one container security incident in the last year.

    • SUSE teams with Intel & SAP on persistent memory in the datacentre

      SUSE has announced support for Intel Optane DC persistent memory with SAP HANA.

      Persistent memory is typically defined as any method or apparatus for storing data structures such that they can continue to be accessed using memory instructions or memory APIs even after the end of the process that created or last modified them – and that often means ‘when the power is off’.

      Running on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for SAP Applications, SAP HANA users can now use Intel Optane DC persistent memory in the data centre.

    • Red Hat Shareholders Greenlight $34B IBM Acquisition

      IBM’s $34 billion deal to acquire Red Hat took a big step closer to completion, as Red Hat shareholders nearly unanimously approved the deal on Wednesday.

    • How VMware Is Advancing Kubernetes Cloud-Native Technology With Heptio
    • Top 5 Linux Server Distributions

      However, in the name of opening your eyes to maybe something a bit different, I’m going to approach this a bit differently. I want to consider a list of possible distributions that are not only outstanding candidates but also easy to use, and that can serve many functions within your business. In some cases, my choices are drop-in replacements for other operating systems, whereas others require a bit of work to get them up to speed.

      Some of my choices are community editions of enterprise-grade servers, which could be considered gateways to purchasing a much more powerful platform. You’ll even find one or two entries here to be duty-specific platforms. Most importantly, however, what you’ll find on this list isn’t the usual fare.

  • Audiocasts/Shows
  • Kernel Space
    • Linux 4.20.3
    • Linux 4.19.16
    • Linux 4.14.94
    • Linux 4.9.151
    • Linux 4.4.171
    • Ditching Out-of-Date Documentation Infrastructure

      Long ago, the Linux kernel started using 00-Index files to list the contents of each documentation directory. This was intended to explain what each of those files documented. Henrik Austad recently pointed out that those files have been out of date for a very long time and were probably not used by anyone anymore. This is nothing new. Henrik said in his post that this had been discussed already for years, “and they have since then grown further out of date, so perhaps it is time to just throw them out.”

      He counted hundreds of instances where the 00-index file was out of date or not present when it should have been. He posted a patch to rip them all unceremoniously out of the kernel.

      Joe Perches was very pleased with this. He pointed out that .rst files (the kernel’s native documentation format) had largely taken over the original purpose of those 00-index files. He said the oo-index files were even misleading by now.

    • Linux Foundation
      • Check Out the 2019 Linux Foundation Events and Expand Your Open Source Experience

        The Linux Foundation just recently announced its 2019 events schedule, featuring all your favorite events as well as some brand-new ones to cover the latest technologies. Make plans now to speak or attend and expand your experience with open source.

      • The Role of Hyperledger in the Development of Smart Contracts

        Businesses constantly look to improve. A great part of that improvement is optimizing the costs-to-revenue ratio, which obviously favors revenue. Developing decentralized applications (dApps) with smart contracts has opened exciting avenues for businesses. Blockchain developers are exploring this practical aspect of smart contracts to create dApps that solve several issues current businesses struggle with: too many intermediaries, too much time, and too many conditions attached to executing a business transaction.

        The sum of these issues comes down to spending too much money on completing business contracts. Expectedly, the solution would be to reduce most of the complicated aspects to do business in a more affordable way than ever before.

        [...]

        The Hyperledger is different from other blockchain endeavors. It not only offers a dApp platform for creating practical solutions but it also provides collaborative partnership and unique smart contract technology as well as rich resources such as plug-in tools and frameworks that businesses can use in the process of dApp development. In the spirit of Linux, it also features a very active online community.

        Despite the permissioned blockchain model, it’s important to keep in mind Hyperledger’s open-source software orientation, which means the platform offers its newly developed code to partners for free. Apart from the membership fee, there are no additional fees for licenses and royalties. In a way, seeing blockchains as completely open or partially open networks is similar to the conundrum associated with the different benefits of open-source and proprietary software.

    • Graphics Stack
      • Mesa 18.3.2

        Mesa 18.3.2 is now available.

        In this release candidate we have added more PCI IDs for AMD Vega devices and
        a number of fixes for the RADV Vulkan drivers.

        On the Intel side we have a selection ranging from quad swizzles support for
        ICL to compiler fixes.

        The nine state tracker has also seen some love as do the Broadcom drivers.

        To top it all up, we have a healthy mount of build system fixes.

        Alex Deucher (3):
        pci_ids: add new vega10 pci ids
        pci_ids: add new vega20 pci id
        pci_ids: add new VegaM pci id

        Alexander von Gluck IV (1):
        egl/haiku: Fix reference to disp vs dpy

        Andres Gomez (2):
        glsl: correct typo in GLSL compilation error message
        glsl/linker: specify proper direction in location aliasing error

        Axel Davy (3):
        st/nine: Fix volumetexture dtor on ctor failure
        st/nine: Bind src not dst in nine_context_box_upload
        st/nine: Add src reference to nine_context_range_upload

        Bas Nieuwenhuizen (5):
        radv: Do a cache flush if needed before reading predicates.
        radv: Implement buffer stores with less than 4 components.
        anv/android: Do not reject storage images.
        radv: Fix rasterization precision bits.
        spirv: Fix matrix parameters in function calls.

        Caio Marcelo de Oliveira Filho (3):
        nir: properly clear the entry sources in copy_prop_vars
        nir: properly find the entry to keep in copy_prop_vars
        nir: remove dead code from copy_prop_vars

        Dave Airlie (2):
        radv/xfb: fix counter buffer bounds checks.
        virgl/vtest: fix front buffer flush with protocol version 0.

        Dylan Baker (6):
        meson: Fix ppc64 little endian detection
        meson: Add support for gnu hurd
        meson: Add toggle for glx-direct
        meson: Override C++ standard to gnu++11 when building with altivec on ppc64
        meson: Error out if building nouveau and using LLVM without rtti
        autotools: Remove tegra vdpau driver

        Emil Velikov (13):
        docs: add sha256 checksums for 18.3.1
        bin/get-pick-list.sh: rework handing of sha nominations
        bin/get-pick-list.sh: warn when commit lists invalid sha
        cherry-ignore: meson: libfreedreno depends upon libdrm (for fence support)
        glx: mandate xf86vidmode only for “drm” dri platforms
        meson: don’t require glx/egl/gbm with gallium drivers
        pipe-loader: meson: reference correct library
        TODO: glx: meson: build dri based glx tests, only with -Dglx=dri
        glx: meson: drop includes from a link-only library
        glx: meson: wire up the dispatch-index-check test
        glx/test: meson: assorted include fixes
        Update version to 18.3.2
        docs: add release notes for 18.3.2

        Eric Anholt (6):
        v3d: Fix a leak of the transfer helper on screen destroy.
        vc4: Fix a leak of the transfer helper on screen destroy.
        v3d: Fix a leak of the disassembled instruction string during debug dumps.
        v3d: Make sure that a thrsw doesn’t split a multop from its umul24.
        v3d: Add missing flagging of SYNCB as a TSY op.
        gallium/ttn: Fix setup of outputs_written.

        Erik Faye-Lund (2):
        virgl: wrap vertex element state in a struct
        virgl: work around bad assumptions in virglrenderer

        Francisco Jerez (5):
        intel/fs: Handle source modifiers in lower_integer_multiplication().
        intel/fs: Implement quad swizzles on ICL+.
        intel/fs: Fix bug in lower_simd_width while splitting an instruction which was already split.
        intel/eu/gen7: Fix brw_MOV() with DF destination and strided source.
        intel/fs: Respect CHV/BXT regioning restrictions in copy propagation pass.

        Ian Romanick (2):
        i965/vec4/dce: Don’t narrow the write mask if the flags are used
        Revert “nir/lower_indirect: Bail early if modes == 0″

        Jan Vesely (1):
        clover: Fix build after clang r348827

        Jason Ekstrand (6):
        nir/constant_folding: Fix source bit size logic
        intel/blorp: Be more conservative about copying clear colors
        spirv: Handle any bit size in vector_insert/extract
        anv/apply_pipeline_layout: Set the cursor in lower_res_reindex_intrinsic
        spirv: Sign-extend array indices
        intel/peephole_ffma: Fix swizzle propagation

        Karol Herbst (1):
        nv50/ir: fix use-after-free in ConstantFolding::visit

        Kirill Burtsev (1):
        loader: free error state, when checking the drawable type

        Lionel Landwerlin (5):
        anv: don’t do partial resolve on layer > 0
        i965: include draw_params/derived_draw_params for VF cache workaround
        i965: add CS stall on VF invalidation workaround
        anv: explictly specify format for blorp ccs/mcs op
        anv: flush fast clear colors into compressed surfaces

        Marek Olšák (1):
        st/mesa: don’t leak pipe_surface if pipe_context is not current

        Mario Kleiner (1):
        radeonsi: Fix use of 1- or 2- component GL_DOUBLE vbo’s.

        Nicolai Hähnle (1):
        meson: link LLVM ‘native’ component when LLVM is available

        Rhys Perry (3):
        radv: don’t set surf_index for stencil-only images
        ac/nir,radv,radeonsi/nir: use correct indices for interpolation intrinsics
        ac: split 16-bit ssbo loads that may not be dword aligned

        Rob Clark (2):
        freedreno/drm: fix memory leak
        mesa/st/nir: fix missing nir_compact_varyings

        Samuel Pitoiset (1):
        radv: switch on EOP when primitive restart is enabled with triangle strips

        Timothy Arceri (2):
        tgsi/scan: fix loop exit point in tgsi_scan_tess_ctrl()
        tgsi/scan: correctly walk instructions in tgsi_scan_tess_ctrl()

        Vinson Lee (2):
        meson: Fix typo.
        meson: Fix libsensors detection.

      • Mesa 18.3.2 Released With Many Fixes As Users Encouraged To Upgrade

        With the Mesa 18.2.8 release at the end of December being the last release of that driver series, users should really consider upgrading to Mesa 18.3. Fortunately, Mesa 18.3.2 is out this morning with dozens of fixes.

        This point release to Mesa 18.3 is quite big as it’s arriving a few weeks late due to the holidays and the release manager having been ill. Mesa 18.3.2 has more than six dozen changes including the new Vega 10/20 PCI IDs along with the new VegaM ID too, Gallium Nine fixes, Intel Icelake fixes, Meson build system updates, a few Broadcom VC4/V3D fixes too, and rounding out with a few RADV Radeon Vulkan driver fixes too.

      • Nouveau Open-Source Driver Will Now Work With NVIDIA RTX 2080 Ti On Linux 5.0

        Among the many Linux 5.0 kernel features is initial open-source NVIDIA driver support for the latest-generation Turing graphics processors. Missed out on during the Linux 5.0 merge window was “TU102″ support but now that is coming down as a fix for the 5.0 kernel.

        Back in December, Ben Skeggs of Red Hat posted the initial Turing support for Nouveau in the form of the TU104 (RTX 2080) and TU106 (RTX 2060/2070) but was lacking coverage of the TU102, which is for the flagship RTX 2080 Ti and TITAN RTX. He wasn’t able to test the support at the time and thus left it out. Skeggs has now been able to verify the TU102 support is working and that patch is now on its way to the mainline kernel tree.

      • Quake 2 Gets Real-Time Path Tracing Powered By NVIDIA RTX / VK_NV_ray_tracing

        For those Linux gamers with a NVIDIA RTX “Turing” graphics card, there’s finally an interesting open-source workload to enjoy that makes use of the RTX hardware and NVIDIA’s VK_NV_ray_tracing extension… A real-time path tracing port of the legendary Quake 2 game.

        While Quake II recently saw a Vulkan port, university students have now done an “RTX” port for Quake 2 with the new Q2VKPT project.

    • Benchmarks
      • Mesa 19.0 RADV vs. AMDVLK 2019.Q1.2 vs. Radeon Software 18.50 Linux Vulkan Performance

        With the latest AMDVLK Vulkan driver improvements back to coming out on a weekly basis by AMD and Mesa 19.0 development progressing ahead of its feature freeze later this month, here is a fresh Linux gaming benchmark comparison of the AMD Radeon Vulkan driver options on Linux. Tested this round with a Radeon RX 590 and RX Vega 64 was the latest Mesa 19.0 development state for RADV, this week’s new AMDVLK 2019.Q1.2 driver snapshot, and the Radeon Software 18.50 proprietary driver while running a slew of Vulkan-powered Linux games and DXVK.

      • WLinux & WLinux Enterprise Benchmarks, The Linux Distributions Built For Windows 10 WSL

        Making the news rounds a few months back was “WLinux”, which was the first Linux distribution designed for Microsoft’s Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) on Windows 10. But is this pay-to-play Linux distribution any faster than the likes of Ubuntu, openSUSE, and Debian already available from the Microsoft Store? Here are some benchmarks of these different Linux distribution options with WSL.

        WLinux is a Linux distribution derived from Debian that is focused on offering an optimal WSL experience. This distribution isn’t spun by Microsoft but a startup called Whitewater Foundry. WLinux focuses on providing good defaults for WSL with the catering of its default package set while the Debian archive via APT is still accessible. There is also support for graphical applications when paired with a Windows-based X client. For this easy-setup, quick-to-get-going Linux distribution on WSL, it retails for $19.99 USD from the Microsoft Store though often sells for $9.99 USD.

  • Applications
  • Desktop Environments/WMs
    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt
      • Plasma 5.15 Beta

        Today KDE launches the beta release of Plasma 5.15.

        For the first release of 2019, the Plasma team has embraced KDE’s Usability & Productivity goal. We have teamed up with the VDG (Visual Design Group) contributors to get feedback on all the papercuts in our software that make your life less smooth, and fixed them to ensure an intuitive and consistent workflow for your daily use.

        Plasma 5.15 brings a number of changes to our configuration interfaces, including more options for complex network configurations. Many icons have been added or redesigned. Our integration with third-party technologies like GTK and Firefox has been made even more complete. Discover, our software and add-on installer, has received a metric tonne of improvements to help you stay up-to-date and find the tools you need to get your tasks done.

      • KDE Plasma 5.15 Desktop Environment Enters Beta, Promises Numerous Improvements
      • KDE Plasma 5.15 Beta Released With Some Grand Improvements
      • Help Test KDE Plasma 5.15 Beta

        KDE’s flagship project Plasma has a new beta out. There’s now three weeks to sort out the bugs to make the release a work of perfection. We need your help.

        Plasma has a new testing release out with a final release due in three weeks. We need your help in testing it and reporting problems.

        KDE neon Developer Git-Stable Edition now has Plasma 5.15 beta and can be used for testing.

      • On Wallpapers

        I’ll be switching to releasing new wallpapers every second Plasma release, on even-numbered versions.
        This is just a post to refer to for those who have asked me about Plasma 5.15 and a new wallpaper. Since I started working on Plasma 5 wallpapers, there has always been a number of factors determining how exactly I made them. After some agonising debate I’ve decided to slow the wallpaper release pace, because as time has gone on a number of things have changed since I started contributing them [....]

        LTS Plasma versions & quality. While it may seem irrelevant to wallpapers, LTS stands out to as the place where we really need to pour love and care into our designs. With each new wallpaper I’m pushing things a bit harder and a bit further which means taking more time to create them, and I’m realising that at the quality I want to drive out LTS wallpapers with, it might take 3 to 5 dedicated days to produce a final product. That’s not including post-reveal tweaks I do after receiving feedback, or the wallpapers I discard during the creation process (for each wallpaper released, it’s likely I got halfway through 2 other designs). In other words, it’s becoming less sustainable.

        The wallpapers aren’t crap anymore. It’s no secret, my first wallpapers were rough. When a new wallpaper was finished there were real quality incentives for me to take the lessons learned and turn-around a better wallpaper. Nowadays though most new wallpapers are visually pleasing and people don’t mind if they stick around for a bit longer. I know a lot of people even go back to previous wallpapers. Adding to this, it’s gotten easy to get older wallpapers; OpenDesktop, GetHotNewStuff both serve as easy access, and we now have some of the most popular default wallpapers in the extended wallpapers package. While new wallpapers are always nice to have, it’s no longer bad to keep what we’ve got.

      • KDE Plasma 5.15 Beta Wayland Run Through

        In this video, we look at KDE Plasma 5.15 Beta the Wayland Session. Please keep in mind that it is still in development and the Xorg session is perfect.

      • Qt 5.13 Might Add QTelemetry For Opt-In Anonymous Data Collection

        The next release of the Qt5 tool-kit might introduce a potentially controversial module to facilitate anonymous data collection of Qt applications.

        The addition of Qt Telemetry has been under code review since last September. There was some reviews taking place and code revisions happening but since November that review dried up.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK
      • GNOME’s Builder IDE Goes Through Its Biggest Code Refactoring Ever

        The lead developer of the GNOME Builder integrated development environment, Christian Hergert, has just led his project through its largest code re-factoring yet. Builder 3.32 coming out in March with GNOME 3.32 features more than 100k lines of code changed with various underlying improvements as well as some new features for developers.

      • GNOME Software 3.31.2 Debuts With Flatpak Improvements, Many Fixes

        Now available for testing ahead of GNOME 3.32 in March is GNOME Software 3.31.2, the first development release for this “app store” / software center seeing its first release since v3.31.1 last October.

        Given the time since the prior development release, GNOME Software 3.31.2 has a lot of fixes and other improvements in preparing for the 3.32.0 stable release.

  • Distributions
    • OpenSUSE/SUSE
      • Tumbleweed Starts Year with New Plasma, Applications, VIM, curl

        This new year has brought several updated packages to users of openSUSE’s rolling release Tumbleweed.

        Three snapshots have been released in 2019 so far and among the packages updated in the snapshots are KDE’s Plasma, VIM, RE2, QEMU and curl.

        The 20190112 snapshot brought a little more than a handful of packages. The new upstream Long-Term-Support version of nodejs10 10.15.0 addressed some timing vulnerabilities, updated a dependency with an upgrade to OpenSSL 1.1.0j and the versional also has a 40-seconds timeout that is now applied to servers receiving HTTP headers. The changelog listed several fixes for the highly configurable text editor with vim 8.1.0687, which should now be able to be built with Ruby 2.6.0 that was released at the end of December. Google’s re2 20190101 offered some performance tweaks and bug fixes. The fast real-time compression algorithm of zstd 1.3.8 has better decompression speed on large files. There was a change in the yast2-firewall package, which arrived in the the 20190110 snapshot, that allows new ‘forward_ports’, ‘rich_rules’ and ‘source_ports’ elements in zone entries with yast2-schema 4.1.0.

    • Slackware Family
      • Uploading 15 GB of new Slackware Live Edition ISO images

        The squashfs modules in the XFCE ISOs are compressed with ‘xz’ to keep them as small as possible (so they will fit on a CDROM medium). All of the other ISOs are compressed with ‘zstd’ which gives the Live OS a speed boost of ~20% at the cost of 10% increase in the ISO size.

    • Fedora
      • How Do You Fedora: Journey into 2019

        Jose plans on continuing to push open source initiatives such as cloud and container infrastructures. He will also continue teaching advanced Unix systems administration. “I am now helping a new generation of Red Hat Certified Professionals seek their place in the world of open source. It is indeed a joy when a student mentions they have obtained their certification because of what they were exposed to in my class.” He also plans on spending some more time with his art again.

        Carlos would like to write for Fedora Magazine and help bring the magazine to the Latin American community. “I would like to contribute to Fedora Magazine. If possible I would like to help with the magazine in Spanish.”

        Akinsola wants to hold a Fedora a release part in 2019. “I want make many people aware of Fedora, make them aware they can be part of the release and it is easy to do.” He would also like to ensure that new Fedora users have an easy time of adapting to their new OS.

        Kevin is planning is excited about 2019 being a time of great change for Fedora. “In 2019 I am looking forward to seeing what and how we retool things to allow for lifecycle changes and more self service deliverables. I think it’s going to be a ton of work, but I am hopeful we will come out of it with a much better structure to carry us forward to the next period of Fedora success.” Kevin also had some words of appreciation for everyone in the Fedora community. “I’d like to thank everyone in the Fedora community for all their hard work on Fedora, it wouldn’t exist without the vibrant community we have.”

    • Debian Family
      • Understanding Debian: The Universal Operating System

        “And my final test as to whether or not Debian succeeded was: could the founder step away from the project and could the project keep going because that is the only point at which you know that the project has basically taken a life of its own.” ~ Ian Murdock

      • Week 5: Resolving the blocker

        This post is about my work on the subscription feature for Debian derivatives – first of the two main issues to be resolved within my internship. And this week’s topic from the organizers is “Think About Your Audience”, especially newcomers to the community and future Outreachy applicants. So I’ll try to write about the feature keeping the most important details but taking into account that the readers might be unfamiliar with some terms and concepts.

      • Derivatives
        • Canonical/Ubuntu
          • Flavours and Variants
            • How to replace Windows 7 with Linux Mint

              Many of you are Windows 7 users. I get it. Windows 7 just works. But the clock is ticking for Windows 7. In less than a year, Windows 7′s free support ends.

              Come that day, you’ll have a choice: You can either run it without being certain you’ll get vital security patches (that would be really stupid), or you can pay for Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESUs) on a per-device basis, with the price increasing each year. We don’t know how much that will be, but I think we can safely assume it won’t be cheap. Or, you can migrate to Windows 10. And, yes, for now, you can still update to Windows 10 for free from Windows 7.

  • Devices/Embedded
Free Software/Open Source
  • CNC milling with open source software

    I’m always looking for new projects to create with my 3D printer. When I recently saw a new design for a computer numeric code (CNC) milling machine that mostly uses 3D printed parts, I was intrigued. When I saw that the machine works with open source software and the controller is an Arduino running open source software, I knew I had to make one.

    CNC milling machines are precision cutting tools used in creating dies, engravings, and models. Unlike other milling tools, CNC machines can move on three axes: the Z axis moves vertically, the X axis moves horizontally, and the Y axis moves backward and forward.

  • Attackers Leverage Open Source in New BYOB Attack [Ed: A "phishing site impersonating the Office 365 login page," but hey, let's blame "open source"]

    An attack leveraging the open-source Build Your Own Botnet (BYOB) framework has reportedly been intercepted by Israeli cybersecurity firm Perception Point’s incident response team. According to the team, this appears to be the first time the BYOB framework has been found to be used for fraudulent activity in the wild.

    While these tactics and techniques have historically been limited in used to financially backed advanced persistent threat (APT) groups, they are now more easily accessed by novice criminals, in part because of the more widespread popularity of plug-and-play hacking kits, researchers said.

  • Try ‘Puffer’: An Open-Source Free Live TV Streaming Service By Stanford

    A new free TV streaming service called “Puffer” has been launched as a part of a nonprofit academic research study by a group of Stanford researchers.

    The team, led by Francis Yan, a doctoral student from the computer science department at Stanford Universty, aims at improving Internet transmission and video-streaming algorithms by using AI.

  • H2O.ai Empowers MarketAxess to Innovate and Inform Trading Strategies

    H2O.ai, the open source leader in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), today announced that its open source platform, H2O, provides critical machine learning capabilities to MarketAxess, the operator of a leading electronic trading platform for fixed-income securities and the provider of market data and post-trade services for the global fixed-income markets. MarketAxess’ Composite+, powered by H2O open source, delivers greater insight and price discovery in real-time, globally, for over 24,000 corporate bonds. Composite+ has won several awards for its use of AI including the Risk Markets Technology Award for Electronic Trading Support Product of the Year and the Waters Technology American Financial Technology Award for Best Artificial Intelligence Technology Initiative.

  • 2019 AI Trend To Watch: Open Source and RAPIDS

    Nvidia aims to increase its GPU platform usage by offering open source tools to help accelerate machine learning workloads.

  • How to Preserve Your Privacy on Android Without Tearing Your Hair Out

    It can seem intimidating, but you can gain some semblance of mobile privacy with a few quick tweaks.

    [...]

    If you had unlimited time and some familiarity with the Android platform, you could go to extremes like rooting to disable system components, flashing custom ROMs, or even building your own privacy-focused ROM. For most people, that’s not feasible. Not only are such activities incredibly complex, but they also make your phone less useful.

    The fact of the matter is, most Android users want access to the Play Store, Google apps, and high-security apps (e.g. banking) that rely on Google’s TrustZone system. However, you can make some simple but not always obvious changes to Android phones to preserve your privacy.

  • Blast from the Past: Retrieving Old Game Source Code

    Way back in 1985, I created games on the ZX Spectrum/Timex and CBM-64. A friend and I set up a small software house, and in addition to creating our own games, we also (and more lucratively) converted games for other publishers from CBM-64 to other formats.

    During this period, I wrote several original games in Z80 and 6502 assembler. I kept their sources on 5 1/4″ floppy disks, but after a few years I lost the floppy drive that could read the disks, and they were shoved in a cupboard. Somewhere between house moves, I lost the disks for all time.

    Fast-forward to this past December. In a store, I spotted a cheap game console for roughly $100 (get a look at this absolute unit, sold under the brand name “RetroPi”). It came with 18,000 games for various old computers and consoles, including SNES, ZX Spectrum and CBM-64. The hardware was a Raspberry PI clone in a case, and included Nintendo-type game controllers, along with HDMI and USB power cables.

    [...]

    I priced out the hardware for the console, and reckon it would cost about $70 for the Pi, controllers and cables, so I don’t feel ripped off… especially as it gave me a chance to play “Legend of Zelda” and “Secret of Mana” for the first time in 25 years via the SNES emulator!

  • How Open Source Culture Is Battling Skepticism Successfully

    The software industry has also witnessed vital changes. One of the biggest methods of evangelising this grown lies in open sourcing. One may think open source is just about free software and data, but, that is not the only thing; open source is about the code that becomes publicly available for people to modify and use it.

  • VLC, that magic open source video player, might be making a play for more consoles

    Speaking to VentureBeat, Jean-Baptiste Kempf revealed that VLC had reached three billion downloads to date and will continue to push HDR support as much as they can via the AV1 format, and further support VR videos.

    As far as gaming devices go, Kempf says that in addition to their already existing Xbox app they’re also interested in releasing VLC for the Switch, Roku devices and the PS4. As VentureBeat points out these aren’t a top priority given that only 12 people actually contribute to the VLC project, but it’s something they’re thinking about.

  • Mastodon is crumbling—and many blame its creator

    It’s 9am on a Tuesday, early morning by cybre.space’s standards. Few have logged on to the microblogging social network, and it shows: A follower feed filled with more than 31 users updates at a snail’s pace. It’s much slower than one would expect on Twitter. But then again, cybre.space isn’t Twitter. It runs off a decentralized social media software called Mastodon, and is part of a much larger network of Mastodon communities.

    Over on Twitter, users post jokes about President Donald Trump, this time of a fast food feast he prepared for the Clemson Tigers football team amid the ongoing government shutdown. But the words “Trump” and “shutdown” only appear once each on cybre.space’s “local timeline,” which shows posts on the site and any other connected “instances,” or Mastodon communities. It’s even more barren on this reporter’s home timeline: No one is talking about hamberders.

    Posting works differently on cybre.space than Twitter. It’s much more like living in a queer house, one that prefers to talk about political theory over current events. Some users chat about democratic socialism and queer identity, while others talk about games, music, fandom, or their difficulties navigating trans healthcare. One user posts a message that reads “re: hrt” with a few lines about their hormone replacement regimen hidden underneath, accessible only via the “show more” content warning (CW) button next to it. Another boosts a post praising Tallahassee by the Mountain Goats, calling it a “visceral experience.”

    Cybre.space has just over 2,000 users. Over on Mastodon’s flagship community, Mastodon.social, there are over 300,000 users. But despite the larger userbase, discussions are even less political. On the community’s local timeline, one user troubleshoots installing a Linux distribution. Another shares a news story about a man who tried to turn his home into a restaurant. A third links to an article about Gearbox Software’s Randy Pitchford. Here, Trump is not the sun; tech, gaming, and the occasional NSFW post largely prevail. It’s as if the outside world doesn’t exist.

  • The Best Open Source Software in 2018 (Users’ Choice)

    LibreOffice is a free and open source office suite written in C++, Java, and Python. It was first released in January 2011 by The Document Foundation and has since known to be the most reliable open source office suite.

  • Web Browsers
    • Mozilla
      • Announcing Rust 1.32.0

        The Rust team is happy to announce a new version of Rust, 1.32.0. Rust is a programming language that is empowering everyone to build reliable and efficient software.

      • Rust 1.32 Released With New Debugger Macro, Jemalloc Disabled By Default

        For fans of Rustlang, it’s time to fire up rustup: Rust 1.32 is out today as the latest feature update for this increasingly popular programming language.

        The Rust 1.32 release brings dbg!() as a new debug macro to print the value of a variable as well as its file/line-number and it works with more than just variables but also commands.

      • Is It Time to Rewrite the Operating System in Rust?

        Bryan Cantrill explores Rust, explains why it has captured the imagination of so many systems software engineers, and outlines where it might best fit in the deep stack of operating system software.

        [...]

        Bryan Cantrill is the CTO at Joyent, where he oversees worldwide development of the SmartOS and SmartDataCenter platforms. Prior to joining Joyent, he served as a Distinguished Engineer at Sun Microsystems, where he spent over a decade working on system software, from the guts of the kernel to client-code on the browser.

      • Julien Vehent: Maybe don’t throw away your VPN just yet…

        At Mozilla, we’ve long adopted single sign on, first using SAML, nowadays using OpenID Connect (OIDC). Most of our applications, both public facing and internal, require SSO to protect access to privileged resources. We never trust the network and always require strong authentication. And yet, we continue to maintain VPNs to protect our most sensitive admin panels.

        “How uncool”, I hear you object, “and here we thought you were all about DevOps and shit”. And you would be correct, but I’m also pragmatic, and I can’t count the number of times we’ve had authentication bugs that let our red team or security auditors bypass authentication. The truth is, even highly experienced programmers and operators make mistakes and will let a bug disable or fail to protect part of that one super sensitive page you never want to leave open to the internet. And I never blame them because SSO/OAuth/OIDC are massively complex protocols that require huge libraries that fail in weird and unexpected ways. I’ve never reached the point where I fully trust our SSO, because we find one of those auth bypass every other month. Here’s the catch: they never lead to major security incidents because we put all our admin panels behind a good old VPN.

      • Reflections on a co-design workshop

        Co-design workshops help designers learn first-hand the language of the people who use their products, in addition to their pain points, workflows, and motivations. With co-design methods [1] participants are no longer passive recipients of products. Rather, they are involved in the envisioning and re-imagination of them. Participants show us what they need and want through sketching and design exercises. The purpose of a co-design workshop is not to have a pixel-perfect design to implement, rather it’s to learn more about the people who use or will use the product, and to involve them in generating ideas about what to design.

        We ran a co-design workshop at Mozilla to inform our product design, and we’d like to share our experience with you.

        [...]

        Our UX team was tasked with improving the Firefox browser extension experience. When people create browser extensions, they use a form to submit their creations. They submit their code and all the metadata about the extension (name, description, icon, etc.). The metadata provided in the submission form is used to populate the extension’s product page on addons.mozilla.org.

      • Firefox Nightly: These Weeks in Firefox: Issue 51
      • WebRender newsletter #36

        Hi everyone! This week’s highlight is Glenn’s picture caching work which almost landed about a week ago and landed again a few hours ago. Fingers crossed! If you don’t know what picture caching means and are interested, you can read about it in the introduction of this newsletter’s season 01 episode 28.

        On a more general note, the team continues focusing on the remaining list of blocker bugs which grows and shrinks depending on when you look, but the overall trend is looking good.

      • Happy BMO Push Day!
  • Databases
    • Unlock Hybrid Everything with MariaDB Platform X3

      As customers, we expect businesses to provide us with useful information. And as our expectations rise, so too must the usefulness of the information. For example, it’s useful to know a product is on sale. It’s more useful to know that it will be sold-out within hours. It’s also useful to know the balance on my credit card. But it’s even more useful to know if it’s going be higher than the automated payment I scheduled.

    • MariaDB Platform X3 combines transaction processing and analytics

      With MariaDB Platform X3, an organization may use a single database both for conventional customer-facing workloads (transactional, or OLTP) and internal business-intelligence workloads (analytical, or OLAP). The same data is available for either kind of work and is kept automatically in sync between the two sides.

      MariaDB Platform is priced at a flat per-node cost, regardless of whether nodes are OLTP or OLAP. This allows for more flexible deployments, where the number of nodes in a given deployment can be moved freely between OLTP and OLAP workloads as demand changes.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)
  • BSD
  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC
    • Bash shell utility turns 5.0

      A few months prior to celebrating the 30th birthday of the Bash command language interpreter, the GNU Project has released Bash 5.0, featuring bug fixes and new shell variables.

      As we look forward to the release of Linux Kernel 5.0 in the coming weeks, we can enjoy another venerable open source technology reaching the 5.0 milestone: the Bash shell utility. The GNU Project has launched the public version 5.0 of GNU/Linux’s default command language interpreter. Bash 5.0 adds new shell variables and other features and also repairs several major bugs.

      New shell variables in Bash 5.0 include BASH_ARGV0, which “expands to $0 and sets $0 on assignment,” says the project. The EPOCHSECONDS variable expands to the time in seconds since the Unix epoch, and EPOCHREALTIME does the same, but with microsecond granularity.

    • Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp pose privacy risks, warns free software guru Richard Stallman

      Think twice before posting anyone’s photo on Facebook, WhatsApp or Instagram, says free software guru Richard Stallman. As a few among the strongest centralised surveillance mechanisms in the world, even with a picture of the back of head, they would be able to track where you go and what you do, he added.
      The software guru’s lecture titled Education Freedom Day lecture, organised by International Centre for Free and Open Source Software and Society for Promotion of Alternate Computing and Employment (SPACE) in Thiruvananthapuram, had first bewildered information technology professionals and academicians when he asked them to “switch-off the geo-location feature of your smartphone, if you are taking my photos”.
      He said that 90% of the 1,000 free applications in Google Play stores can spy, according to the latest studies and asked why should the fleshlight application be linked to the server. Even the data on the sex toy go to the server, with its thermometer readings sharing the time of contact. He argued that owners of the firms who spy on a user’s personal data should be jailed. Richard Matthew Stallman, according to Wikipedia, “is an Amercian freedom activist and a computer programmer. He campaigns for software to be distributed in such a manner that a user receiving it, likewise receives with it the freedom to use, study, distribute and modify that software”.

  • Licensing/Legal
    • Red Hat drops MongoDB over concerns related to its Server Side Public License (SSPL)

      It was last year in October when MongoDB announced that it’s switching to Server Side Public License (SSPL). Now, the news of Red Hat removing MongoDB from its Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Fedora over its SSPL license has been gaining attention.

    • The Need for Sustainable Open Source Projects

      The point of the article is a lot of companies that support open source projects, like RedisDB, are moving to more closed source solutions to survive. The cloud providers are called out as a source of a lot of problems in this article, as they consume a lot of open source software, but do not really spend a lot of time or effort in supporting it. Open source, in this situation, becomes a sort of tragedy of the commons, where everyone thinks someone else is going to do the hard work of making a piece of software viable, so no-one does any of the work. Things are made worse because the open source version of the software is often “good enough” to solve 80% of the problems users need solved, so there is little incentive to purchase anything from the companies that do the bulk of the work in the community.

    • MongoDB’s licensing changes led Red Hat to drop the database from the latest version of its server OS

      After MongoDB decided last year that it was changing the license for its open-source database to a more restrictive version, Red Hat decided it would no longer include MongoDB in the latest version of its flagship Red Hat Enterprise Linux operating system.

      The change apparently went unnoticed until a Hacker News thread took off earlier today, but it was included in the release notes for RHEL 8.0, which was released in beta last November. In those notes, Red Hat states “note that the NoSQL MongoDB database server is not included in RHEL 8.0 Beta because it uses the Server Side Public License (SSPL).”

    • Red Hat drops MongoDB over SSPL; MDB -3%

      Amazon responded by launching DocumentDB, a managed database that’s compatible with existing MongoDB applications and tools. DocumentDB works with MongoDB version 3.6, which predates the SSPL license.

    • Governance without rules: How the potential for forking helps projects

      The speed and agility of open source projects benefit from lightweight and flexible governance. Their ability to run with such efficient governance is supported by the potential for project forking. That potential provides a discipline that encourages participants to find ways forward in the face of unanticipated problems, changed agendas, or other sources of disagreement among participants. The potential for forking is a benefit that is available in open source projects because all open source licenses provide needed permissions.

      In contrast, standards development is typically constrained to remain in a particular forum. In other words, the ability to move the development of the standard elsewhere is not generally available as a disciplining governance force. Thus, forums for standards development typically require governance rules and procedures to maintain fairness among conflicting interests.

  • Programming/Development
    • Django 2.2 alpha 1 released

      Django 2.2 alpha 1 is now available. It represents the first stage in the 2.2 release cycle and is an opportunity for you to try out the changes coming in Django 2.2.

      Django 2.2 has a salmagundi of new features which you can read about in the in-development 2.2 release notes.

    • Eliminating PHP polyfills

      The Symfony project has recently created a set of pure-PHP polyfills for both PHP extensions and newer language features. It allows developers to add requirements upon those functions or language additions without increasing the system requirements upon end users. For the most part, I think this is a good thing, and valuable to have. We’ve done similar things inside MediaWiki as well for CDB support, Memcached, and internationalization, just to name a few.

      But the downside is that on platforms where it is possible to install the missing PHP extensions or upgrade PHP itself, we’re shipping empty code. MediaWiki requires both the ctypes and mbstring PHP extensions, and our servers have those, so there’s no use in deploying polyfills for those, because they’ll never be used. In September, Reedy and I replaced the polyfills with “unpolyfills” that simply provide the correct package, so the polyfill is skipped by composer. That removed about 3,700 lines of code from what we’re committing, reviewing, and deploying – a big win.

    • Polonius and region errors

      Now that NLL has been shipped, I’ve been doing some work revisiting the Polonius project. Polonius is the project that implements the “alias-based formulation” described in my older blogpost. Polonius has come a long way since that post; it’s now quite fast and also experimentally integrated into rustc, where it passes the full test suite.

    • Serious Python released!

      Well, Serious Python is the the new name of The Hacker’s Guide to Python — the first book I published. Serious Python is the 4th update of that book — but with a brand a new name and a new editor!

    • Radeon GCN Compiler Backend Merged Into GCC 9 – To Allow OpenMP/OpenACC Offloading

      The long-in-development AMD “GCN” back-end for the GNU Compiler Collection that allows targeting recent generations of Radeon GPUs for compute offloading has been merged into the upcoming GCC 9 release.

      This AMD Radeon GCN back-end is what has been in development for many months by Code Sourcery / Mentor Graphics with the ultimate goal of allowing Fortran/C/C++ compute work to be offloaded Radeon graphics processors via the OpenMP and OpenACC APIs, similar to the NVPTX offload support within GCC already for NVIDIA GPUs as well as Xeon Phi offloading on the Intel front.

    • Getting Started with MySQL and Python

      For any fully functional deployable application, the persistence of data is indispensable. A trivial way of storing data would be to write it to a file in the hard disk, but one would prefer writing the application specific data to a database for obvious reasons. Python provides language support for writing data to a wide range of databases.

    • Webinar Recording: “Live Development of a PyCharm Plugin” with Joachim Ansorg
    • How to implement Download Manager in python
    • “It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.” – Differentiating between bugs and non-bugs using machine learning
    • Beyond the “hello, world” of Python’s “print” function
    • Leaving Mozilla and (most of) the Rust project
    • RcppArmadillo 0.9.200.7.0
Leftovers
  • Science
  • Security
  • Defence/Aggression
    • Trump Administration Backs Slow-Motion Right-Wing Coup In Venezuela

      A slow-motion coup by right-wing opposition forces is underway in Venezuela. It has the support of President Donald Trump’s administration, and if successful, President Nicolas Maduro will be undemocratically removed from power though he was re-elected last May.

      Juan Guaido of the Popular Will Party in Venezuela was elected to lead the National Assembly, Venezuela’s congress. He said on January 11 that he was ready to replace Maduro.

      “The constitution gives me the legitimacy to carry out the charge of the presidency over the country to call actions. But I need backing from the citizens to make it a reality,” Guaido stated.

      On January 15, the National Assembly called Maduro’s presidency “illegitimate” and passed a resolution indicating the body no longer believes he has any legal authority.

      Trump administration officials immediately voiced their support. Vice President Mike Pence, who called Guaido, indicated the United States supports the effort to “declare the country’s presidency vacant.”

      “The Maduro regime is illegitimate,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared, echoing the rhetoric of opposition forces in Venezuela. He said America was hopeful it could be a “force for good” and help those who oppose Maduro “restore a real democracy to that country.”

    • Pompeo, the U.S. and Iran

      The United States’ international windbag, Secretary of Defense (read: War) Mike Pompeo has been acting the imperial blowhard throughout the Middle East. With his boss busy denying that he’s a Russian agent, watching advisors and cabinet members come and go with dizzying alacrity, and dodging porn-star accusations, Pompeo is trotting through the Middle East, sounding war drums.

      It seems that Iran, which has long been in the crosshairs of U.S. gunboat ‘diplomacy’, remains firmly targeted. In Cairo, Pompeo promised a “…campaign to stop Iran’s malevolent influence and actions against this region and the world”.

      It is with a firm shake of the head that this writer reads such statements, wondering how anyone with even a modicum of intelligence can take such pronouncements seriously. If one is to discuss ‘malevolent influence and actions against this region and the world’, shouldn’t one look, first and foremost, at the United States?

    • Bernie Sanders, Israel and the Middle East

      If you’re an American, he’s still out there among the “maybe” candidates. But if you live in the Middle East – whether you’re Arab or Israeli, Muslim, Jew or Christian – you should keep your eye on Bernie Sanders.

      He’s no shoo-in, of course – certainly not after his pitiful handover to the awful Hillary Clinton in the 2016 US presidential election. I still remember shouting “No!” myself when I heard his fans cursing his decision to stand down in favour of Clinton. But the guy just might have the guts, even the courage, to stand up to the ally to whom the US always gives groveling, uncritical, slavish, immoral support.

      Note how at this point I don’t need to identify Israel as the ally in question. Nor did I have to mention in my first paragraph that Sanders is one of the two most prominent Jewish members of the US Senate. In fact, Sanders wears his origins, race, religion, social background and integrity so easily that he comes across, even to a cynical European still living in a pre-Brexit world (just), as a patently nice guy. Unlike Donald Trump, he’s sane. But unlike Obama, he’s not so goody-two-shoes or optic-obsessed to think that he can fandangle voters with ageing good looks and the right heart.

      It’s one thing for a black candidate to go for the black vote in the US, but for an American Jew to go for the American Jewish vote is a very different matter.

    • War Whores

      From the beginning of recorded history through the end of WWII the term “war” was understood as armed conflict between states or governments. This definition obtained through the Korean and Vietnam wars, gradually losing precision by adoption of such terms as “conflict” and “insurgency”, presumably so as not to dignify grossly unbalanced contests with the glorious name bestowed on mutual slaughter by giant, equal adversaries.

      Since Vietnam–with the shameful, degrading brutality involved in the Grenada, Panama, Nicaragua, Haiti and other “police actions”–and signally since the Iraq/Kuwait Turkey Shoot, the old, abused term has lost any solid relation to its original meaning and is pathetically applied to any violent rape by the American War Machine of any putative “enemy”, regardless of the incommensurate forces involved, often when the victim–not even a legitimate adversary–has no capacity at all to strike back or defend itself.

      This suits the psychopaths who govern us perfectly, which is no surprise considering what they are. The system of War Capitalism that owns their contemptible, diseased souls can only burgeon and grow fatter by extortion of literally uncountable sums of our money, every dollar diverted from any beneficent use in our society or the least social profit for our people.

      Schumpeter said it best and it can’t be too often repeated: “Created by the wars that required it, The Machine now creates the wars it requires.”

      The tragedy–no surprise, either–is that the American people are so deeply steeped in the pretty poison of Exceptionalism that they are, if not overtly, then tacitly, fully behind the mindless military vandalizing and brutalization of people just like them in all essentials: powerless, no better and no worse.

    • Star Wars Revisited: One More Nightmare From Trump

      Donald Trump and his “war cabinet” have struck again. In the wake of record defense spending; the creation of a Space Force that would violate the Outer Space Treaty agreed to fifty years ago; the abrogation of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty from thirty years ago; and the chaos of random decision making for use of force, the Trump administration is returning to the madness of President Ronald Reagan’s “Star Wars” idea with costly and ineffective ideas regarding missile-defense technologies.

      Trump’s Pentagon is reviving ideas that were abandoned after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, including weapons that can shoot down missiles from space and high energy lasers that can destroy missiles shortly after they are launched, the so-called boost phase. Trump plans to go further than Reagan by deploying missile defense in Europe and Asia to protect U.S. forces and regional allies. Congress was skeptical of Reagan’s “Star Wars” in the 1980s, but the current Congress has been unwilling to challenge the outrageous national security policies of the Trump administration.

      Unlike Reagan’s “Star Wars,” which was designed to protect against a strategic attack from Russia or China, Trump’s version is oriented to stopping an attack from so-called rogue nations such as Iran or North Korea. According to the Washington Post, the United States would put high-powered lasers on drones flying off the Korean coast and create a third ground-based missile interceptor site in the United States to defend against Iran. The North Korean and Iranian scenarios are quite fanciful, but then again the exaggeration of the threat from the Soviet Union and China in the 1980s was equally far-fetched.

    • The Death Penalty for Canada’s Foreign Policy?

      Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has joined with the chorus of Western countries supporting Canada’s protestations against the “arbitrary,” and “politically motivated” death sentence imposed by a Chinese court on Canadian drug smuggler Robert Schellenberg.

      Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland praised Pompeo’s “recognition of the principle that we are speaking about.” She argues that the application of the death sentence to a Canadian national in this case is “inhumane”, and represents a, “way of behaving which is a threat to all countries.”

      Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., David MacNaughton, echoed Freeland’s cry of victory for having won US support. “I hope they continue to back Canada in this particular dispute,” MacNaughton said.

    • “Weather Terrorism:” a National Emergency

      As Trump projects his Imperial power in the direction of our southern border, demanding to reinforce its security by building a wall, the real threat to America’s safety – weather terrorism (Bruno Latour’s term for the biospheric backlash aimed at the vast hubris of humanity) – goes unheeded. Trump’s posturing with regard to establishing a national emergency to facilitate wall building, obscures a genuine emergency in just one more case of the Fake eclipsing the Real.

      The president is supported in this passive, climate change denialism by the misdirection of the mainstream (and much of the alternative) press, which expends an immense amount of journalistic energy impugning him. We know he’s an intensely solipsistic president who uses political issues sociopathically – for their sole value in aggrandizing his sense of self-worth. Can we move on? That logorrheic energy might better be used in raising the issue of weather terrorism to a scare factor in excess of his bogus issue of illegal immigration. Ironically, south of the border emigration is itself a climate change phenomenon. Most of those making up the migrant caravans originate in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, countries whose lands are devastated by drought, giving their farming families little choice but to seek a life elsewhere.

      Violent acts of extreme weather come and go with virtually no political will to prepare for them or mitigate their consequences. Existential crises, it seems, must be matched with the pre-existing Imperial-Fossil-Capital agenda to warrant a meaningful response. Rising sea levels, global warming exacerbated hurricanes, storm surges, floods, drought and wildfire are the real dangers at our borders, along 12,383 miles of coastline, in our cities, on our islands and farmlands, in our wilderness and hinterlands. Yet they elicit little in the way of a concerted public outrage at the failure of a supine federal government to make efforts to protect against them.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting
    • US subpoenas Ecuadorians over alleged Manafort Assange visit

      Six diplomatic staff at the Ecuador embassy in London have been issued subpoenas by the US Department of Justice, which wants to question them in the wake of a story published by The Guardian claiming that former Trump campaign manager, Paul Manafort, visited WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange.
      In a statement, WikiLeaks said the questioning was scheduled for 18 January US time (which would be approximately 19 January Australian time), adding that it had been made in 7 January.

      It said the request had been made to the Ecuadorian authorities who had approved it, despite it being “highly unusual to permit foreign interrogations of former diplomatic officials over their diplomatic work, or to provide foreign investigators information about those who have been afforded political asylum in relation to them”.

    • Hacker behind ‘Football Leaks’ arrested in Hungary

      Since 2015, the Football Leaks website operated a-la WikiLeaks, publishing secret documents that it claimed it obtained from anonymous sources. The site, a mere WordPress.com blog, made the documents available for everyone, but also to teams of investigative journalists across Europe.

      The documents helped reveal the football world’s shady inter-club player transfers that included shell companies and a slew of intermediaries that siphoned off huge bonuses from each player transaction.

    • US officials to ask Ecuador embassy staff about Assange visitors

      US investigators will on Friday begin to question diplomatic staff who were stationed at the Ecuadorian embassy in London during WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s years-long stay about his visitors, according to the whistleblower group.

      It follows international subpoenas from the US Department of Justice, which is probing a report that President Donald Trump’s disgraced former 2016 campaign chairman Paul Manafort held secret talks there with Assange, Wikileaks said.

      The Justice Department, which declined to comment on the matter, wants to talk to six staff members from the embassy and will start to interview them in the Ecuadorian capital Quito on Friday, it added.

      Britain’s The Guardian newspaper claimed in November that Manafort — who was convicted of multiple charges including bank fraud and money laundering in two separate cases last year — met Assange on several occasions from 2013 to 2016.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature
    • Scientists Call for ‘Global Agricultural Revolution’ and ‘Planetary Health Diet’ to Save Lives—and Earth

      The commission brought together 37 experts in agriculture, environmental sustainability, human health, and political science from 16 countries. Over three years, they developed the “planetary health diet,” which aims to address the global food system’s devastating environmental impact as well as mass malnutrition.

      Noting that more than 800 million people worldwide “have insufficient food, while many more consume an unhealthy diet that contributes to premature death and disease,” co-lead commissioner Dr. Walter Willett of Harvard University said the “world’s diets must change dramatically” to reverse the damage that’s been done.

      “To be healthy,” he explained, “diets must have an appropriate calorie intake and consist of a variety of plant-based foods, low amounts of animal-based foods, unsaturated rather than saturated fats, and few refined grains, highly processed foods, and added sugars.”

    • The Fox in Charge of the Henhouse: Activists Decry Trump’s EPA Pick, Coal Lobbyist Andrew Wheeler

      Senate confirmation hearings began Wednesday for former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler, whom President Trump has nominated to become administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Wheeler has been the acting head of the EPA since Scott Pruitt resigned in July amid an onslaught of financial and ethics scandals. We speak with Heather McTeer Toney, national field director for Moms Clean Air Force and former Southeast regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency during the Obama administration. We also speak with Mary Anne Hitt, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.

    • New Questions About Ritual Slaughter as Belgium Bans the Practice

      Another country has banned the cruel practice of ritual slaughter––kosher slaughter, sanctioned by Jewish law and halal slaughter, sanctioned by Islamic law. In both practices, cattle, sheep, goats and poultry have their throats cut while they are fully conscious and capable of experiencing great fear and pain.

      Starting in 2019, Belgium will no longer grant exemptions from humane slaughter laws (that require an animal be stunned before it is killed) for ritual slaughter, joining Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Denmark and Slovenia which also outlaw the practice.

      Other European countries are considering tightened slaughter laws. The Netherlands, for example, has considered a law that states that no more animals can be killed for kosher and halal meat than “necessary to meet the actual need of the religious communities present in the Netherlands” and that if an animal is not “insensitive to pain” within 40 seconds of slaughter, it must be put out of its misery and shot.

    • Battery boom aids climate change battle

      Billions of dollars are being invested worldwide in the developing battery boom, involving research into storage techniques to use the growing surpluses of cheap renewable energy now becoming available.

      Recent developments in batteries are set to sweep aside the old arguments about renewables being intermittent, dismissing any need to continue building nuclear power plants and burning fossil fuels to act as a back-up when the wind does not blow, or the sun does not shine.

      Batteries as large as the average family house and controlled by digital technology are being positioned across electricity networks. They are being charged when electricity is in surplus and therefore cheap, and the power they store is resold to the grid at a higher price during peak periods.

    • Haiti by the Numbers

      Years since a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti: 9

      Estimated number of aftershocks that measured 4.5 or greater: 59

      Number of people who died in the earthquake, according to Haitian government: 316,000

      Number of people displaced: 1,300,000

      Number of people who remained in internally displaced persons camps, as of September 2017: 37,867

      Estimated population of Canaan, a barren hillside north of the capital, pre-earthquake: 0

      Estimated population of Canaan now: 300,000

      Minimum number of new homes necessary to meet demand: 500,000

  • Finance
    • Backing Teachers, Sanders Says LA Strike Exposes National Need for ‘Revolution in Public Education’

      Tens of thousands of public school teachers and support staff with the Los Angeles Unified School District—the second-largest district in the country—continued the city’s first strike in three decades on Thursday.

      The United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) kicked off the long-promised strike on Monday over unmet demands for higher payer; smaller class sizes; more special education staff, bilingual education instructors, nurses, counselors, and librarians; and stricter regulation of the city’s many charter schools.

    • The L.A. Teachers’ Strike Is About So Much More Than Wages

      Los Angeles public school teachers began a historic strike on Monday, for the first time in 30 years. Members of the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) walked out of contract negotiations with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) that had dragged on for nearly two years. The specific battle is being fought over LAUSD’s refusal to tap into its record $1.86 billion reserve in order to reduce class sizes, hire more support staff, including counselors and nurses, improve infrastructure and more. But more broadly speaking, the L.A. teachers’ fight is symbolic of a bigger struggle to maintain and expand quality public education for all Americans and to secure the rights that the critical stakeholders—teachers, students, parents—have within that system.

      The L.A. teachers’ strike comes after several high-profile fights last spring in states like West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky, where educators tired of poverty-level wages fought for raises and won. But the L.A. strike is broader than those others, not just in terms of the sheer size of the district and the union, but in the demands the union is making. Although LAUSD has offered a 6 percent raise over two years (not nearly enough of what teachers deserve), teachers want an overall better experience for their 600,000 overwhelmingly nonwhite students. They want more nurses and counselors, smaller class sizes and a halt to the expansion of charter schools.

    • LA Teachers Strike: Black Smoke Pouring Out of LAUSD Headquarters

      LAUSD has taken over $100 million in revenue losses in the first four days of the strike, since the district is paid for each student who attends and few are attending. At my high school, for example, attendance Thursday was down to 128 students–a mere 6% of the total student body. As in several previous days, we had almost half as many students on our picketline as were in school.

    • WaPo Misses the Story: Either Scott Walker Doesn’t Understand Taxes or He Lies to Fifth Graders

      Ocasio-Cortez is right on this point and Walker is wrong. He either does not understand how our income tax system works, or is deliberately lying to advance his agenda. Either way, the Post should have pointed out that Walker was wrong.

      Many people are confused about the concept of a marginal tax rate. (The higher tax rate only applies to the income above a cutoff.) Opponents of high marginal taxes on the rich try to take advantage of this confusion in the way Scott Walker did with his class of fifth graders. It is the media’s responsibility to try to inform people about how the tax system works and to expose politicians who misrepresent the issue.

    • Bitcoin Interview: Edge Wallet’s Paul Puey on the Future of Money

      CCN had a chance to speak with Paul Puey, founder of Edge Wallet and veteran crypto entrepreneur. Edge Wallet was previously called Airbitz. In the early days of crypto, Airbitz was a Bitcoin-only wallet that featured a directory of brick and mortar businesses which accepted Bitcoin. It was one of the only mobile wallets which allowed the user to own their private keys without having to see them.

      While it was very popular as Bitcoin wallets go, the era of Ethereum and beyond made it necessary to adapt to people who expect to be able to use more than one cryptocurrency.

    • An Education in Fraud

      Most investors couldn’t have seen it coming, but those in the business were thrilled. The day after The Trump was given the keys to the best playroom he’d ever had, the stock in Strayer Education, Inc., the company that owns the for-profit Strayer University, jumped almost 20%. Stock in other for profit universities enjoyed a similar increase. Investors were prescient. Betsy DeVos was named Secretary of Education.

      A fan of school choice, charter schools, and a major supporter of the Republican party, Betsy was a great choice for the position, even though she had no experience in the realm of education, other than her passionate support for the reportedly less than successful charter schools in Michigan.

      After Betsy was confirmed by the Senate, she made up for her own lack of knowledge about the world of education by hiring people who had been closely identified with the for-profit college business. Among them was Julian Schmoke, who was placed in charge of the unit that investigates fraud in higher education. From 2008 to 2012 Mr. Schmoke was associate dean of the College of Engineering and Information Sciences at DeVry University. That university engaged in assorted fraudulent activities, for which it paid more than $1 million in fines and penalties.

      Another Betsy hire was Robert Eitel who, prior to joining the Department, had been at Bridgepoint Education. That institution was fined $30 million on account of deceptive student lending practices.

      According to a report by the Associated Press, Betsy took steps designed to improve the lives of the for-profit colleges, while making it more difficult for defrauded students to be made whole. As she explained, if a former student borrows money from the government to attend a for-profit college that defrauds the student, and the debt is forgiven or reduced, the cost of the forgiveness lands on the backs of the taxpayer. The defrauded students should, she believes, share in bearing some of the pain of having been defrauded. It should not all land on the backs of the taxpayers since they were not the ones defrauded. Happily for students, Betsy did not have the last word.

    • A Question of Loyalty

      When asked in an interview during the last Indyref where his loyalty would lie if Independence won, then Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael replied without hesitation that of course he was a Scot and he would be loyal to Scotland. Where, I wonder, would Fluffy Mundell’s loyalties lie? The border is a short hop for him. Colonel Ruthie Davison has always had her eyes on high office at Westminster, and I expect she would be quickly down the A1. As for Labour, I don’t suppose anyone in England especially wants Richard Leonard. To be fair, I suspect Gordon Brown is not going anywhere and would reconcile himself to being the Scot who, in his own mind, saved the World. Wouldn’t it be lovely if J K Rowling upped sticks and went to be closer to her beloved Tony Blair?

      With Scotland in the EU and England outside, would Andrew Neil be allowed to “queue jump” and stay as a top Tory at the England and Wales Broadcasting Corporation? Or would he fall victim to a hostile environment? Surely the mighty Laura Kuenssberg would demand a larger field for her snide right wing jibes than her home country?

    • Facebook Employees Think They Are Robbing Unsuspecting Children & Parents

      Every year several unsuspecting children end up spending hundreds, and sometimes thousands of dollars from their parent’s credit cards while playing online games on Facebook. Now, the company’s internal documents have revealed that even Facebook’s own employees believe the company is inappropriately making money off such children and their parents.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics
    • Steve King Isn’t the Only Elected Official Pursuing a White Supremacist Vision for America

      itch McConnell says racism has no place in the Republican Party. The evidence, however, demonstrates that’s not true.
      Last week, U.S. Rep. Steve King, Republican from Iowa, posed a question to a New York Times reporter that laid bare his racist ideology: “White nationalist, white supremacist, western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” He didn’t stop there. In the same interview, he expressed resentment toward the record-breaking gender and racial diversity of the 116th Congress: “You could look over there and think the Democratic Party is no country for white men.”

      His words were not taken out of context, as he now argues. Nor is such racism new for him. During the Republican National Convention in 2016, King responded to a critique about older white men dominating the Republican Party by questioning the contributions that people of color have made to civilization. “I’d ask you to go back through history, and figure out where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you are talking about – where did any other sub group of people contribute more to civilization?” he said on an MSNBC panel.

      “Than white people?” host Chris Hayes asked.

      “Than western civilization itself that is rooted in Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and the United States of America and every place where the footprint of Christianity settled the world,” King replied. He was clear about his beliefs then and now.

      I won’t waste space rebutting his ignorance by describing the incredible advances and discoveries made by people from African, Asian, and other cultures that were not white or Christian. These facts would not make a difference to King, who has chosen the path of deliberate ignorance. But he cannot use his ignorance to hide who he is.

    • ‘Terrible News’ for GOP as Survey Shows Generation Z Shaping Up To Be Most Progressive Ever

      From their strong belief that humanity played a central role in causing the climate crisis to their overwhelming dislike of President Donald Trump, the young Americans who have been classified as Generation Z—comprised of those between the ages of 13 and 21—could be even more progressive than the slightly older millennial generation, according to a Pew Research Center survey published Thursday.

      “Gen Z looks a lot like millennials politically, which is terrible news for Republicans,” Acadia University lecturer Jeffrey Sachs wrote in response to Pew’s survey, which found that 70 percent of Gen Zers disapprove of Trump, 54 percent believe the planet is warming because of human activity, and 70 percent believe the government should be doing more to solve the nation’s problems.

      “This data suggests there is a reason why Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gets so much heat from conservatives—she and this new congressional class not only represent the demographic changes that scare some, but she embodies the ideological trends, too,” argued Anthony Michael Kreis, visiting assistant professor of law at Chicago-Kent College.

    • ‘We Have Monsters Leading America’: Trump’s DHS Locked Up More Children Than Previously Known

      Confirming the fears of human rights groups, the inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reported on Thursday that thousands more children were separated from their parents at the southern U.S. border by the Trump administration, long before it first publicly unveiled the family separation policy last spring.

      “The total number of children separated from a parent or guardian by immigration authorities is unknown,” reads the report, and the inspector general found that children were separated over a longer period of time as officials “observed a steep increase in the number of children who had been separated from a parent or guardian” by the Department of Homeland Security starting in July 2017—nearly a year before the administration officially announced its family separation policy in May 2018.

    • Trump Administration Likely Split Up Thousands More Migrant Families

      It seems likely that thousands more migrant children were split from their families than the Trump administration has acknowledged, in part because officials were stepping up family separations long before the border policy that prompted international outrage last spring, a government watchdog said Thursday.

      It’s unclear just how many family separations occurred at the U.S.-Mexico border. Health and Human Services, the agency tasked with caring for migrant children, did not adequately track them until after a judge ruled that children must be reunited with their families, according to the report by the agency’s inspector general.

      Ann Maxwell, assistant inspector general for evaluations, said the number of children removed from their parents was certainly larger than the 2,737 listed by the government in court documents. Those documents chronicled separations that took place as parents were criminally prosecuted for illegally entering the country under President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” policy.

    • Trump’s Federal Government Shutdown and Unpaid Dishwashers

      “Over the past three decades,” reported Steve Reilly in a June 2016 USA Today article, Donald Trump “has been involved in more than 3,500 lawsuits.” Many of these lawsuits, Reilly notes, “involve ordinary Americans…who say Trump or his companies have refused to pay them.” Dishwashers, plumbers, bartenders, painters, waiters, real estate brokers, lawyers–this broad swath of workers Trump routinely relied on to build his wealth, and yet he didn’t see fit (it is alleged) to compensate them for the work that they had done. Trump, it seems, thought he was entitled to their unpaid labor.

      But that’s not all.

      “Trump’s companies,” Reilly continues, “have also been cited for 24 violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act since 2005 for failing to pay overtime or minimum wage.”

      While, admittedly, all of this is old news, Donald Trump’s anti-labor practices are actually instructive regarding the current #TrumpShutDown. Like his refusal to pay his former employees, for example, Trump’s shutdown is his willingness to sacrifice working women and men for his own personal gain. The shutdown also expresses his sense of entitlement–to which the lawsuits attest–to the unpaid labor of others, as well as his disregard for the fact that the workers upon whom he relies need to pay their rent, their gas and electric bills, their water bills, their student loan debts–even their transportation to the local food bank. And like his treatment of his former employees, Trump’s shutdown reveals an inability on his part to “relate” to any workers struggling to make ends meet.

    • ‘Our Nation’s Capital Has Officially Become a Playground’: Trump Sends ‘Childish’ Letter Canceling Pelosi’s Overseas Trip

      A day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called for the delay of President Donald Trump’s State of the Union Address due to security concerns caused by the government shutdown, Trump responded on Thursday with a letter of his own informing Pelosi that he has “postponed” her planned congressional delegation trip to Brussels, Egypt, and Afghanistan.

      “Our nation’s capital has officially become a playground,” declared CNN reporter Jim Acosta as he detailed the “childish” contents of the president’s letter in a television appearance shortly after it was made public.

    • Ocasio-Cortez Is on the Financial Committee, and Banks Are Afraid

      Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s assignment to the powerful House Financial Services Committee has triggered a fresh round of handwringing, this time with some merit. Banks are afraid of her — and they should be. The addition of Ocasio-Cortez, an outspoken advocate for financial reform, to the committee represents one of the greatest challenges to big banks’ interests since the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. Though she joins other strong voices like Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, on the committee, Ocasio-Cortez will give a voice to her generation, which came of age in the financial crisis.

      Now under the leadership of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California), the Financial Services Committee is considered one of the House’s most active committees and wields great influence. The committee is described as a “magnet for campaign contributions,” and its members hold tight relationships with the industries they are tasked with overseeing. Public disclosures show that the financial, insurance and real estate sectors spend at least twice as much on campaign contributions to the committee’s members as any other sector. Both Rep. Sinema (D-Arizona) and Gottheimer (D-New Jersey) received over $1 million in contributions from Securities and Investment donors in the last congressional cycle.

      By contrast, Ocasio-Cortez will join the committee as an independent, unbought politician. She boasted the largest number of small donors of any 2018 midterm candidate, with nearly 62 percent of her war chest coming from small donations. She’s built her brand and reputation on standing for working-class interests and, along with some other prominent Democratic candidates, has publicly eschewed big donors and corporate money.

    • Protesting Outside GOP’s ‘Lavish Retreat,’ Federal Workers Demand End to Shutdown Amid Growing Calls for Strike

      Amid growing calls for federal workers to walk off the job in protest as President Donald Trump continues to hold their paychecks hostage and downplay their financial hardship, government employees rallied outside of the Washington Nationals’ ballpark in the frigid D.C. weather on Thursday to demand an end to the government shutdown as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his fellow Republicans held a “retreat” inside the stadium.

      “Clearly McConnell thinks his lavish retreat is more important than 800,000 families,” declared the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), one of several unions that took part in the demonstration.

      Facing severe economic pain from the shutdown—which is now the longest in U.S. history—the workers called on McConnell to immediately allow a vote on House-passed legislation that would reopen the government and put an end to the pervasive financial anxiety and safety risked posed by the lapse in federal funding.

      “It’s past time for McConnell to call the vote instead of partying with his colleagues at Nationals stadium,” the AFL-CIO wrote on Twitter.

    • 10 Things We All Lose If Bernie Chooses Not to Run in 2020

      But perhaps the threshold question is what if he does not run? What policy issues would be off the table? What demands for transformation would be watered down? The answer is that most progressive initiatives Sanders and his supporters have championed will never see the light of day.

      Many of us have waited a lifetime for a leader with so deep a commitment to fundamental change to come along and galvanize our existing movements. While there will be a large and diverse field of candidates, the opportunity to elect someone who has dedicated his life to economic and social justice also gives us the chance to bring forth a more perfect union – one genuinely of the people, by the people, and for the people.

      Without Bernie in 2020, what follows is just a partial catalog of what disappears or is seriously compromised.

    • Facebook finds and kills another 512 Kremlin-linked fake accounts

      Two years on from the U.S. presidential election, Facebook continues to have a major problem with Russian disinformation being megaphoned via its social tools.

      In a blog post today the company reveals another tranche of Kremlin-linked fake activity — saying it’s removed a total of 471 Facebook pages and accounts, as well as 41 Instagram accounts, which were being used to spread propaganda in regions where Putin’s regime has sharp geopolitical interests.

      In its latest reveal of “coordinated inauthentic behavior” — aka the euphemism Facebook uses for disinformation campaigns that rely on its tools to generate a veneer of authenticity and plausibility in order to pump out masses of sharable political propaganda — the company says it identified two operations, both originating in Russia, and both using similar tactics without any apparent direct links between the two networks.

    • President Donald Trump’s “Magical Realism”

      It is possible that President Donald Trump never suspected this, but among his many yet never-acknowledged talents is that of being a novelist. A novelist in the Latin American tradition of magic or “magical realism.”

      Magical realism is a style of fiction writing that combines a realistic view of the modern world while also adding some magical elements. Writer and literature professor Matthew Strecher defined magical realism as “what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe.”

      Magical realism has been often associated with Latin American authors such as Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel García Márquez and Isabel Allende. Now President Donald Trump has joined the rank of these illustrious authors. His assertion that there is a serious national crisis at the U.S.’s southern border with Mexico seems to challenge reality, making it too strange to believe.

      According to official data, the number of people caught trying to cross the southern border peaked at 1.6 million in 2006 and have been in decline since then. According to the Customs and Border Protection, there were 303,916 apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border for fiscal 2017, the lowest in more than 45 years.

      In magical realism, writers reveal the magical element in the real world and the supernatural blends smoothly with the familiar world. This was notably done by Gabriel García Márquez in his seminal work, One Hundred Years of Solitude. When President Trump says that he has already started building the wall in the border with Mexico he is bending reality. So far, Congress has only appropriated money for bollard fencing, replacement fencing, or secondary fencing. What started in California is bollard fencing that had already been planned in 2009.

    • Russia’s federal censor says Facebook and Twitter have responded to data-localization demands

      Last month, Russia’s federal censor, Roskomnadzor, sent formal letters to Facebook and Twitter, demanding that the social networks report on their compliance with Russian regulations requiring companies to store Russian users’ data on servers located inside Russia. If they refused, both companies faced small fines of 5,000 rubles ($75), though Roskomnadzor was careful to point out that it has no current plans to block the social-media giants.

      On January 18, the agency announced that it has received answers from both Facebook and Twitter. The agency says it is currently reviewing the information and will issue a statement on January 21.

  • Privacy/Surveillance
    • Twitter Bug Exposed Android Users’ Private Tweets For 5 Years

      Twitter users who tweet from their Android devices should review their settings now — especially if they have tweeted at any time between 2014 and 2019. Apparently, a bug has been plaguing Twitter since 2014 which exposed the tweets of some Android users that were supposed to be private.

    • New GitHub authorization expands agency access to open source resources

      Government IT offices now have access to a vast range of open source software resources and developers since GitHub gained FedRAMP operating authority for its Enterprise Cloud, according to a new special report.

    • NY Court Tells NYPD It Can’t Hide Surveillance Of Protesters Behind A Glomar Response

      Another lawsuit over the NYPD’s surveillance of First Amendment-protected activities continues. Records requests by Black Lives Matter offshoot Millions March detailing surveillance methods used by the NYPD against protesters have been met with the usual opacity by the PD. It has done what it always does in cases like these: throw FOIL exemptions around and stonewall the hell out the request. The PD has also added a few Glomar responses to the mix, refusing to confirm or deny the existence of sought records.

      Fortunately, the judge presiding over the case — Arlene Bluth — isn’t in a charitable mood. Greeted with the NYPD’s incessant opacity, the judge has called bullshit — repeatedly — over the course of a 14-page ruling [PDF]. The plaintiffs are seeking records related to the NYPD’s use of surveillance tech targeting cellphones. It is well known the NYPD owns and has access to Stingray devices. What these records would show is the use of Stingrays in an untargeted manner — either to gather cellphone identifiers indiscriminately or simply to disrupt phone service during protests by funneling all phones in the area into the NYPD’s cell tower spoofer.

    • Decipher Podcast: Nate Cardozo

      Dennis Fisher talks with Nate Cardozo, senior information security counsel at the EFF, about a proposal from the UK’s spy agency, GCHQ, that would insert a backdoor into encrypted communications by adding a “ghost”, or invisible third party, to two-party conversations.

    • How The GDPR Is Still Ruining Christmas

      Late last year, I wrote about how the GDPR almost ruined Christmas in one German town, where it was determined that the annual tradition of kids putting their wishes on a tree in the center of town (to be fulfilled by local town officials) would violate the GDPR. Some people did figure out a “workaround” involving some pointless bureaucracy in getting parents to first sign “consent” forms to allow the town to do the same thing they’ve always done for years without a problem.

  • Civil Rights/Policing
    • Attorney General Nominee Seems Willing To Let The DOJ Jail Journalists Over Published Leaks

      Jeff Sessions did everything the president wanted him to do: roll back civil rights investigations, get tough on immigration, amp up the War on Drugs, blame everyone but law enforcement for spikes in crime. It didn’t matter. The president shitcanned Sessions because he recused himself from the DOJ’s investigation of Trump’s Russia-related activities.

      His replacement, William Barr, is undergoing the formality of a confirmation hearing. It’s assumed there’s no way he can blow it. But he’s trying.

      Barr would be no improvement over the departed Sessions. Barr thinks marijuana should be illegal everywhere. He’s a fan of expanding executive power. As attorney general under George Bush Sr., he ordered phone companies to comply with DEA demands for millions of call records originating in the United States, laying the groundwork for the NSA’s Section 215 collections.

      He also doesn’t seem to care much for the First Amendment. As attorney general, he pushed for a Constitutional amendment banning the burning of American flags in the wake of a Supreme Court decision offering First Amendment protection for this form of expression.

      Thirty years later, Barr seems just as reluctant to respect the First Amendment. During the confirmation hearing, Sen. Amy Klobuchar lobbed what should have been a softball to the AG nominee. Moving on from the appalling murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi by members of the Saudi government, Klobuchar asked if the Justice Department would jail journalists for doing their jobs.

    • Rochester Could Break Through the Thin Blue Line Protecting Abusive Police

      How the city could create New York’s first independent review board with the power to discipline officers.
      We know what happens when we allow police to police themselves. Too often, they escape punishment when they abuse the people they are supposed to protect. A lack of meaningful police accountability not only skirts justice, but people’s lives are in danger when officers who repeatedly harm civilians keep their jobs.

      The Rochester City Council in New York introduced a draft bill this week that addresses this fundamental problem. The bill would create a civilian-controlled Police Accountability Board with the power to investigate complaints from residents and to discipline officers who the board determines have abused people. Rochester would be the first municipality in New York State — and one of just a handful in the country — with a civilian board that has the power to discipline officers.

      Most civilian review boards only have the power to make recommendations for what consequences officers should face, with final disciplinary decisions usually left up to the chief of police. Rochester already has a civilian review board, but that board lacks the authority to conduct its own investigations or to impose punishments. This bill would change that.

      The Rochester bill is part of a national trend towards creating independent mechanisms for oversight and accountability of police. This trend encompasses calls for the appointment of special prosecutors to investigate police killings, inspector generals to oversee police policies, and even legislation that takes decisions about acquiring surveillance tools out of the hands of police departments.

    • Sex trainers Nastya Rybka and Alex Leslie allegedly arrested in Moscow airport

      The Bell reports that Anastasia Vashukevich, a model and sex trainer who goes by the name Nastya Rybka, and her colleague Alexander Kirillov, better known as Alex Leslie, have been arrested in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. They and their travel companions had been deported to Russia from Thailand. While other sources have not yet confirmed The Bell’s report, the outlet has been in contact with the pair’s friends and relatives.

    • Russia’s Federal Protective Service wants to hide its procurement deals from prying eyes

      Russia’s Federal Protective Service (FSO) has drafted legislation that would grant it secrecy privileges awarded to the Defense Ministry and Federal Security Service, allowing the agency to classify its procurement contracts. If the law is adopted, the FSO could conduct these deals on closed electronic platforms, according to Vedomosti.

      A source in Russia’s intelligence community told the newspaper that federal officials believe current transparency levels could leak information about the technical equipment used to secure government communications. The deputy director of Transparency International Russia, however, warns that this could open the door to even more corruption.

    • Native American Communities Bear Brunt of Shutdown with Medicine Shortages & Suspended Food Programs

      We look at the widespread impact of the government shutdown on Native American communities, as the Indian Health Service goes understaffed and a federally funded food delivery program to Indian reservations has halted. Democratic members of Congress held a hearing Tuesday on the effects of the shutdown on health, education and employment in Native communities. We speak with Mark Trahant, editor of Indian Country Today and member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes.

    • Russian police arrest two more human rights activists on suspicious drug charges

      A year after the suspicious arrest of Chechen human rights advocate Oyub Titiev, two activists connected to Alexey Navalny and Mikhail Khodorkovsky have been arrested in the city of Pskov, MBK Media reports. Leah Milushkina and her husband, Artyom Milushkin, have been charged with selling drugs in large quantities, their attorney Tatyana Martynova told MBK. Mediazona reports that Milushkina is the local coordinator of Khodorkovsky’s Open Russia movement in Pskov while Milushkin works in Navalny’s local headquarters.

    • Judge Acquits 3 Chicago Officers of Laquan McDonald Cover-Up

      A judge on Thursday acquitted three Chicago officers of trying to cover up the 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald, dismissing as just one perspective the shocking dashcam video of the black teenager’s death that led to protests, a federal investigation of the police department and the rare murder conviction of an officer.

      In casting off the prosecution’s entire case, Judge Domenica Stephenson seemed to accept many of the same defense arguments that were rejected in October by jurors who convicted officer Jason Van Dyke of second-degree murder and aggravated battery. He is scheduled to be sentenced Friday.

      The judge said the video showed only one viewpoint of the confrontation and that there was no indication the officers tried to hide evidence.

      [...]

      In her ruling, the judge rejected prosecution arguments that the video demonstrated officers were lying when they described McDonald as moving and posing a threat even after he was shot.

      “An officer could have reasonably believed an attack was imminent,” she said. “It was borne out in the video that McDonald continued to move after he fell to the ground” and refused to relinquish a knife.

      The video appeared to show the teen collapsing in a heap after the first few shots and moving in large part because bullets kept striking his body for 10 more seconds.

    • Judge Acquits Cops in Laquan McDonald Cover-Up Trial

      When Police Officer Jason Van Dyke let loose a hail of gunfire on 17-year-old McDonald, murdering him in October of 2014, the police code of silence quickly sprang into action. Van Dyke’s partner, officers on the scene, investigating detectives, and their superior officers all collaborated to manufacture, record and promote a false story: that Van Dyke shot McDonald in an act of justified self-defense.

      Meanwhile, a video that revealed the lie behind the police’s cover story was kept secret by high-ranking city and county officials, including then Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez, for more than a year — until it was released by a Cook County judge in November 2015 in the wake of the publication of an autopsy report that showed that McDonald had been shot 16 times.

      The reaction was seismic: Outraged people took to the streets, Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy was fired, Mayor Rahm Emanuel publicly admitted that there was a police code of silence and Alvarez was defeated at the polls. Later, the Mayor’s Police Accountability Review Commission and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division each issued scathing condemnations of the Chicago Police Department’s (CPD) racist policies and practices.

      To top things off, Emmanuel recently announced he will not seek another term.

    • Bar Barr or Regret this Dictatorial Attorney General

      Many Senate Democrats are throwing in the towel on the nomination of William Barr for Trump’s Attorney General (a prospect assured by Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, declaring his personal vote against Barr). Let’s ask why?

      One would think that Senate Democrats would be appalled at Barr’s long-time unyielding conduct and writings asserting that the President can start any wars he wants even if Congress votes against it! An example of this is the constitutionally undeclared criminal invasion of Iraq by George W. Bush. Barr was also George H.W. Bush’s Attorney General and has been a long-time defender of executive branch lawlessness.

      One would think that Barr’s insupportable drive for more corporate prisons and more mass incarceration would upset these Senators.

      One would think that Barr’s view of the separation of powers, which has meant separating Congress from its constitutional powers and handing them over to the “unitary presidency,” would alarm these Senators. (Didn’t James Madison believe that Congress would jealously guard its authority vis-à-vis any new emergence of a modern King George III?)

      One would think that Barr’s inflexible position giving Presidents—including the embattled Donald Trump—effective immunities for obstructing justice and from blocking ongoing investigations, including limitless pardons even of himself and his family, would infuriate the Democrats.

    • Strike! Barbara Ehrenreich Calls on TSA Workers to Walk Off Job in Protest of Government Shutdown

      The longest government shutdown in U.S. history is now on Day 27. As 800,000 workers continue to go without pay, federal employees around the country are rising up to demand an end to the shutdown, which has run public institutions ragged and left hundreds of thousands financially strapped. We speak with Barbara Ehrenreich, author of the best-seller “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America.” She is calling for TSA workers around the country to strike.

    • The ‘Shameful’ Answer to #WheresMitch? Not Ending Shutdown, But Voting on Extremist Anti-Choice Bill

      Freshman members of Congress and others who have been demanding to know the whereabouts of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in recent days got their answer on Thursday, as McConnell held a Senate vote not on whether to reopen the government, but on a bill that would restrict abortion rights for low-income women.

      The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (S.109) would have permanently restricted federal funds from going to abortion care, codifying the Hyde Amendment so the Senate doesn’t have to pass it—as it has since 1976—in annual appropriations bills. The legislation would have also banned abortion care in federally funded medical facilities and barred healthcare plans subsidized under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) from covering abortions.

    • Center for American Progress, a Liberal Think Tank, Fires Two After Media Leaks

      Two staff members from The Center for American Progress (CAP), a leading Washington think tank, were fired amid concerns that they were involved in leaking internal emails to the media, The Intercept reported Wednesday. Other CAP staff, who spoke to The Intercept anonymously, believed these emails “reflected improper influence by the United Arab Emirates within the think tank.”

      The emails, which The Intercept says were not leaked by the fired employees, revealed that CAP staff members argued over how CAP should respond in a public statement to the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident and U.S. citizen who, according to a C.I.A. report, was killed on the orders of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

      Initially, according to The Intercept, CAP’s public statement both condemned the killing and called for specific consequences for Saudi Arabia. Then, as The Intercept reports, “Brian Katulis, a Gulf expert at CAP, objected to the specific consequences proposed in an email exchange with other national security staffers.” Demands for Saudi Arabia to face specific consequences as a result of its role in Khashoggi’s killing were cut from the statement, replaced with a general, milder request to “take additional steps to reassess” U.S.-Saudi relations.

    • Russian activist faces police charges for posting video on Facebook that shows her civic movement’s logo

      Police in Krasnodar are pressing misdemeanor charges against Yana Antonova, a pediatric surgeon and the regional coordinator for the “Open Russia” protest movement, because she shared a video on Facebook showing an appeal to the State Duma asking for federal subsidies to build 10 new schools in the city. What was the problem with the video? It featured Open Russia’s logo.

      According to Radio Liberty, Antonova is being charged with “carrying out the activities of an undesirable organization” and faces a fine as high as 15,000 rubles ($225).

    • Human Trafficking Should Be Illegal

      Donald Trump comes under fire from the neoliberal establishment whenever he does something digestible. I am amazed the liberals are mad at him so often, considering 99.9% of the time he is doing something awful. Anytime Trump has a unique thought about the vicious imperialist structures, the crippling trade deals, or the draconian CIA, the neoliberal establishment loses their heads. Now Donald Trump, in spite of his nefarious history, is attempting to stop sex trafficking. This somehow is his greatest crime and “leftists”, “liberals” and “feminists” of all stripes are losing their heads.

      Donald Trump’s latest delinquency: The Frederick Douglass Trafficking Victims Prevention and Protection Reauthorization Act, which puts 430 million in federal funds towards preventing human trafficking. I wrote about Donald Trump’s denial of asylum to domestic violence victims here. .On the Douglass act, one has to be happy that this prevention attempt is getting some much-needed funding. Domestic violence shelters and other government resources are already hurting under the government shutdown and through Trump’s budget cuts in general. If Trump will fund anything, it’s the police. But with no other alternative in sight, and the Democrats surely to blow it again to Trump in 2020, the Douglass act will save some lives.

      Now there is opposition to the bill by all sorts of people. The first argument against: free speech and a tyrannical government. I always wonder what people’s worst-case scenarios are for the big government complaints. Is your theoretical (hopefully, theoretical) right to buy a prostitute really more important than someone’s right not to be bought by you? I mean is the government really going to inflict something worse than ownership of another human being? Trafficking is already a dire situation. Sorry, we shouldn’t consider buying another human being to be an expression of free speech. Maybe the First Amendment believed that, but that was written by slaveholders. We should believe that buying another human being is wrong and we should know that the United States is willing to support it precisely because our society was founded on such principles of freedom that relied on ownership of others.

    • A Saudi Teen and Freedom’s Shining Moment

      The first Saturday of 2019 didn’t start well for Rahaf al-Qanun, the Saudi teen, who wanted to make a dash for freedom in Australia via Thailand.

      The forces of “order” blocked her path in the Thai capital.

      On the second Saturday, January 12, she landed at Toronto Pearson International Airport in Ontario. Chrystia Freeland, the foreign minister of Canada, was among those who welcomed her to her new homeland.

      What catapulted this unknown Saudi teen into stardom is an incredible story of freedom and its glorious victory with the help of Twitter, journalists and ordinary people with smartphones all over the world.

  • Intellectual Monopolies
    • Sudden Vacancies At Some International Agencies, Industry Sees New Top Officials, Lawyers Engage In Firm-Hopping

      While the World Bank Group and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) are looking for new leaders following the unexpected resignations of their heads, the International Telecommunication Union re-elected its secretary general. The European Patent Office got two new vice-chairs, and the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) a new president, both starting in January. Associations for the creative industry and the pharmaceutical industry also elected new top officials, and lawyers continued to practice firm-hopping.

    • Trademarks
      • Supermacs Beats McDonalds To Have ‘Big Mac’ Trademark Cancelled In Europe

        You may be surprised to find that a search of our story archives involving fast-food giant McDonald’s returns pretty scant posts here at Techdirt. Regardless, the company is known to be quite protective on trademark matters, often times using the trademarks it holds to swat at legitimate competition, pretending at potential public confusion that doesn’t really exist. Given the size of the company’s legal war chest, these bullying efforts are typically successful.

        But not always. One victim of this bullying was Supermacs, an Irish fast-food chain with an appropriately Irish name. Supermacs has for years wanted to expand throughout Europe, but was largely unable to due to McDonald’s claiming that its trademark registration for “Big Mac”, the name of its famous sandwich, meant that any attempt by Supermacs to expand into Europe would cause public confusion. This is typically where the story would end. Instead, Supermacs went on the offensive and decided to try to get McDonald’s “Big Mac” trademark cancelled entirely so that it could no longer be wielded as a bully-stick. And, much to this writer’s surprise, Supermacs won.

      • EUIPO cancels McDonald’s ‘BIG MAC’ trade mark due to lack of genuine use

        Can the word EU trade mark (EUTM) ‘BIG MAC’ owned by McDonald’s be revoked for non-use? The answer is ‘yes’.

        The EUIPO Cancellation Division provided it further to an application for revocation filed by Irish company Supermac (Cancellation No 14 788 C).

    • Copyrights
      • Latest EU Copyright Directive Still Demands Internet Companies Wave Magic Wands

        The whole thing remains an utter disaster that is moving forward even as no one is left who really seems to support it. The public doesn’t want this shit. The big entertainment companies are now asking for Article 13 to be set aside. The big internet companies have always been against it. And yet it rolls ever forward, with a bunch of clueless, technically illiterate bureaucrats basically saying “well, if we just say big companies should do this without allowing any negative consequences to happen, surely they can figure it out…” and tossing it over the fence.

        This is not how sane policy is made. This is how you fuck up the internet.

      • Activists Publish ‘An Illegal Book?’ to Defend Popcorn-Time News Site in Court

        A seized domain name of a website that provided information about the Popcorn Time software, has resulted in an intriguing legal battle. Several organizations, including Electronic Frontier Norway informed a local court that the seizure went too far. To prove their point, EFN published “An illegal book?” which consists of a printout of the site in question.

      • Copyright’s Safe Harbors Preserve What We Love About the Internet

        How is the Internet different from what came before? We’ve had great art, music, film, and writing for far longer than we’ve had the World Wide Web. What we didn’t have were global conversations and collaborations that millions can participate in. The Internet has lowered barriers to participation in culture, politics, and communities of interest. Copyright’s safe harbors for intermediaries are essential to making this possible. But today, those safe harbors are under threat from laws like Article 13 of the EU’s proposed Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive. And some voices in the U.S. want to gut the safe harbors here.

        In the U.S., the safe harbors of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act protect Internet companies of various kinds against the possibility of massive copyright infringement damages when one of their users copies creative work illegally. In return for that protection, Internet companies have to take some concrete steps, like adopting and enforcing a repeat infringer policy. Some companies—the ones that store user-uploaded content—have to register an agent to accept and act on takedown notices from rightsholders (the familiar “DMCA notices”). The law is explicit that Internet companies aren’t required to surveil everything uploaded by users to find possible copyright infringement. It also provides a counter-notice process for users to get non-infringing uploads put back online.

        This system is far from perfect. At EFF, we spend a lot of time calling out abuses of the DMCA notice and takedown regime—abuses that the law makes far too easy. We’ve also fought to make the penalties for improper takedowns a meaningful deterrent. But for all our criticism of the existing safe harbor, it is vital to preserving many of the things we all love about the Internet—especially the ease of participation that it enables.

Links 17/1/2019: ZFS Debate Returns, AWS Pains Free Software

Thursday 17th of January 2019 05:31:00 PM

Contents GNU/Linux
  • Desktop
    • Elementary OS Challenge Day 1: Filling In The Audio App Gap

      So, elementary OS 5 ships with a perfectly serviceable Music app visually reminiscent of a stripped-down iTunes, but there are better alternatives inside the AppCenter.

      Melody by Artem Anufrij ($3 or pay what you want) doesn’t do everything under the sun, but what it does do works fast and works well.

      Melody feels modern without feeling bloated, and also offers a sorting option that I appreciate: the ability to view your music library by artist, and then chronologically by album. It also remembers the position of your currently playing track if you close and reopen the software.

    • Android-x86 8.1 Officially Released, Lets You Run Android 8.1 Oreo on Your PC

      The Android-x86 Project announced the general availability of the Android-x86 8.1-r1 stable release, a GNU/Linux distribution that lets you run Google’s Android mobile operating system on your PC.
      After entering development last year in June, the Android-x86 8.1 release, which is based on the latest Android 8.1 Oreo mobile operating system, saw two RC (Release Candidate) builds that allowed testers to try the upcoming OS on their PCs. Three months after the last RC build, the Android-x86 8.1 release is now finally stable and ready for mass adoption.

      Software rendering is also possible on unsupported GPU devices with OpenGL ES 2.0 support via SwiftShader, and Android-x86 8.1 also comes with support for hardware accelerated codecs on devices powered by Intel HD and Intel G45 graphics cards series. For newer Intel and AMD GPUs, this release adds experimental Vulkan support available via Advanced options on the boot menu.

    • The 15-minute Chromebook tune-up

      As far as computers go, Chromebooks are almost shockingly low-maintenance. Google’s Chrome OS operating system updates itself silently and automatically — as do most of the core apps associated with the platform — and it doesn’t get gunked up and slowed down over time, as traditional operating systems tend to do. There’s no antivirus software to fret over, either, and little in the way of complicated settings or compatibility concerns. By and large, things “just work” — like, for real.

    • Ten Years After – Part II – Opening Worlds

      “My college room mate my freshman year did me a big favor by introducing me to Virtual Box, so the few times I needed Windows software, I had the environment I needed to run it. But those times were few and far between. Of course it helped to have a room mate that used Linux too. I was actually surprised to find out how many students did use Linux and Chromebooks. I didn’t encounter a fraction of the problems you said I might run into”.

      However, Trella told me that during her graduate work, there were a couple of specific softwares she needed for chemistry, that required a bit more horsepower than a Virtual Box environment and five gigs of RAM. I’ve passed that software onto those who might be able to get the right people to look at it. But other than that, she did just fine with her Linux computer throughout her college career.

    • Chrome OS Linux apps to gain access to Android ‘Play files’ folder

      Chrome OS is rapidly becoming a serious player in the Linux field. Now, Google seems to be further integrating the Linux app support with the existing Android app support by allowing the Chrome OS Linux apps to access files from the separated ‘Play files’.

      To keep things naturally secure, among other reasons, Chrome OS keeps its native files, the ‘Play files’ used by Android apps, and the ‘Linux files’ available to Linux apps neatly separated. If you wish to work on something with an Android app then switch to working on it from a Linux app, you currently need to copy the file from one container to the other.

      Google’s Chromium team is working to allow users to break down that barrier, according to a work-in-progress commit posted last week to the Chromium Gerrit source code management. The goal of the work is to allow users to share contents of the ‘Play files’ folder with Linux apps, just as can currently be done with the Downloads folder.

    • What is a Google Chromebook?

      You’ve probably seen the term Chromebook mentioned on the internet, and you might be wondering what they are, and how they differ from regular laptops.

      In this guide we’ll explain what a Chromebook is, list the pros and cons of the devices, and help you decide whether or not a Chromebook is right for you.

      If you’re after in-depth buying advice on specific models, check out our Should I Buy a Chromebook? and Best Chromebook guides.

    • What’s your favorite desktop Linux distribution?

      So, for our annual poll, we pulled the top 15 distributions according to DistroWatch over the past 12 months. It’s not scientific—but it’s something to start with, and we had to cull it down somehow.

      Did your favorite distribution fall short of the cut-off point? Let us know what it is in the comments. And no matter what distro you choose, be sure to let us know why it’s your favorite. What’s so great that makes it your distribution of choice?

    • The Top 4 Ways Your Linux Computer Can Earn You Money

      Computers, whether they run Linux or not, as a rule, don’t tend to be cheap. However, what if I was to tell you that you can offset at least some of that cost by using the machine itself? Well, you can, and below you can find out exactly how to do this.

    • What Should We Expect from Linux in 2019?

      There are a lot more questions about what the open source community will do this year like would Ubuntu finally have stable support for fractional scaling? Will snap apps finally blend in perfectly with the UI of the distros they run on by default? Which distros will be the most innovative?

      Which features will you like to see any Linux distros and open source apps this year? Do you have any hints or inside information on the cool improvements to come? Tell us all about it below in the comments section.

  • Server
    • Leveraging OpenShift or Kubernetes for automated performance tests (part 3)

      This is the third of a series of three articles based on a session I held at EMEA Red Hat Tech Exchange. In the first article, I presented the rationale and approach for leveraging Red Hat OpenShift or Kubernetes for automated performance testing, and I gave an overview of the setup. In the second article, we looked at building an observability stack. In this third part, we will see how the execution of the performance tests can be automated and related metrics gathered.

    • Ansible vs. Puppet: Declarative DevOps tools square off

      DevOps aims to drive collaboration between development and operations teams, but software quality drives DevOps adoption more than any other factor. As this comparison of Ansible vs. Puppet shows, software quality dramatically influences DevOps tools.

      Software quality tends to be an organizational goal or a staff function, not the dominion of a dedicated group with broad responsibility to implement its decisions. Effective software quality efforts involve everyone from development to production users to ensure real value.

    • An Introduction to the Machine Learning Platform as a Service

      Machine-Learning-Platform-as-a-Service (ML PaaS) is one of the fastest growing services in the public cloud. It delivers efficient lifecycle management of machine learning models.

      At a high level, there are three phases involved in training and deploying a machine learning model. These phases remain the same from classic ML models to advanced models built using sophisticated neural network architecture.

    • SUSE Partners with Intel and SAP to Accelerate IT Transformation with Persistent Memory in the Data Center

      SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for SAP Applications is the FIRST enterprise Linux optimized for Intel® Optane™ DC persistent memory with SAP HANA® workloads.

    • Puppet on DevOps: practitioners (not managers) are the new champions

      With a foundation in open source, Puppet is championing a world of what it calls ‘unconstrained software change’… presumably an even more intense version of Continuous Integration (CI) and Continuous Delivery (CD).

    • Architectural learning curve for the private cloud

      Just about everybody is familiar with Docker; about half as many know Kubernetes. But how about Istio? Docker and Kubernetes may be the foundation of your private cloud, but it turns out they might not be enough.

      Here are some very interesting and easily accessible numbers from Twitter: Docker has 304,000 followers and Kubernetes has 121,000. On the other hand, Helm, Istio and Prometheus Monitoring have fewer than 15,000 followers each.

  • Audiocasts/Shows
  • Kernel Space
    • Systemd 241 Paired With Linux 4.19+ To Enable New Regular File & FIFO Protection

      The Linux 4.19 kernel brought the ability to disallow the opening of FIFOs and regular files not owned by the user in world-writable sticky directories in the name of security. Had this ability been around previously it could have prevented a number of CVEs going back a long time. In helping ensure this functionality gets utilized, Systemd 241 will now set these sysctl options to enable the behavior by default.

      The restricted O_CREAT of FIFOs and regular files is not enforced by the kernel by default as it could be considered a breaking change but with systemd 241+ it sets the fs.protected_regular and fs.protected_fifos sysctls to enabled for having said functionality, similar to systemd’s enforcing of hardlink/symlink protection. This protection is for avoiding unintentional writes to an attacker-controlled FIFO or regular file. That Linux 4.19 kernel commit notes at least a handful of security vulnerabilities that could have been prevented by this functionality with those CVEs going back to at least the year 2000.

    • The rest of the 5.0 merge window

      Linus Torvalds released 5.0-rc1 on January 6, closing the merge window for this development cycle and confirming that the next release will indeed be called “5.0″. At that point, 10,843 non-merge change sets had been pulled into the mainline, about 2,100 since last week’s summary was written. Those 2,100 patches included a number of significant changes, though, including some new system-call semantics that may yet prove to create problems for existing user-space code.

    • A setback for fs-verity

      The fs-verity mechanism, created to protect files on Android devices from hostile modification by attackers, seemed to be on track for inclusion into the mainline kernel during the current merge window when the patch set was posted at the beginning of November. Indeed, it wasn’t until mid-December that some other developers started to raise objections. The resulting conversation has revealed a deep difference of opinion regarding what makes a good filesystem-related API and may have implications for how similar features are implemented in the future.
      The core idea behind fs-verity is the use of a Merkle tree to record a hash value associated with every block in a file. Whenever data from a protected file is read, the kernel first verifies the relevant block(s) against the hashes, and only allows the operation to proceed if there is a match. An attacker may find a way to change a critical file, but there is no way to change the Merkle tree after its creation, so any changes made would be immediately detected. In this way, it is hoped, Android systems can be protected against certain kinds of persistent malware attacks.

      There is no opposition to the idea of adding functionality to the kernel to detect hostile modifications to files. It turns out, though, there there is indeed some opposition to how this functionality has been implemented in the current patch set. See the above-linked article and this documentation patch for details of how fs-verity is meant to work. In short, user space is responsible for the creation of the Merkle tree, which must be surrounded by header structures and carefully placed at the beginning of a block after the end of the file data. An ioctl() call tells the kernel that fs-verity is to be invoked on the file; after that, the location of the end of the file (from a user-space point of view) is changed to hide the Merkle tree from user space, and the file itself becomes read-only.

    • Pressure stall monitors

      One of the useful features added during the 4.20 development cycle was the availability of pressure-stall information, which provides visibility into how resource-constrained the system is. Interest in using this information has spread beyond the data-center environment where it was first implemented, but it turns out that there some shortcomings in the current interface that affect other use cases. Suren Baghdasaryan has posted a patch set aimed at making pressure-stall information more useful for the Android use case — and, most likely, for many other use cases as well.

    • ZFS On Linux Landing Workaround For Linux 5.0 Kernel Support

      Last week I reported on ZFS On Linux breaking with Linux 5.0 due to some kernel symbols sought by this out-of-tree file-system driver no longer being exported and the upstream developers not willing to adjust for the ZoL code. That’s still the case but the ZFS On Linux developers have a patch so at least the file-system driver will be able to build on Linux 5.0.

      This ZOL + Linux 5.0 issue stems from a set of functions used by this ZFS Linux port for vectorized file-system checksums no longer being exported. The kernel developers don’t want to re-export the functionality since as Greg Kroah-Hartman put it, “my tolerance for ZFS is pretty non-existant.”

      Since that Phoronix article last week, Greg KH followed up on the mailing list with, “Sorry, no, we do not keep symbols exported for no in-kernel users.” Longtime Linux kernel developer Christoph Hellwig also suggested users switch instead to FreeBSD if caring about ZFS.

    • Graphics Stack
      • Generations of GeForce GPUs in Ubuntu

        If you are running an Ubuntu system with an older GPU and are curious about upgrading but unsure if it is worth it, Phoronix has a great review for you. Whether you are gaming with OpenGL and Vulkan, or curious about the changes in OpenCL/CUDA compute performance they have you covered. They even delve into the power efficiency numbers so you can spec out the operating costs of a large deployment, if you happen to have the budget to consider buying RTX 2060′s in bulk.

      • Intel To Eventually Explore Offering A Graphics Control Panel For Linux Systems

        Intel’s Linux graphics driver stack has never offered its own vendor-specific driver control panel GUI like is common among all major graphics vendors on Windows, but instead they’ve opted for the command-line experience and making use of common interfaces with what’s offered by the different desktop environments for resolution handling, multi-monitor setup, etc. But moving forward they may end up bringing a new graphics driver control panel to Linux.

      • Mesa 19.0 Deprecates GNU Autotools Build System In Favor Of Meson

        Last month was a proposed patch that would have killed the Autotools build system within Mesa. Developers have decided for the upcoming Mesa 19.0 release not to eliminate this GNU Autotools support but rather to mark it as deprecated and require an extra flag in order to make use of it.

        Hitting Mesa Git master today was the patch deprecating Autotools support within Mesa in favor of the Meson build system. It hasn’t been determined when the Autotools scripts will be removed themselves, but for now if wanting to enable the support you need to pass –enable-autotools to acknowledge the fact that it’s been deprecated.

  • Applications
  • Desktop Environments/WMs
    • GNOME Desktop/GTK
      • Builder 3.32 Sightings

        We just landed the largest refactor to Builder since it’s inception. Somewhere around 100,000 lines of code where touched which is substantial for a single development cycle. I wrote a few tools to help us do that work, because that’s really the only way to do such a large refactor.

        Not only does the refactor make things easier for us to maintain but it will make things easier for contributors to write new plugins. In a future blog post I’ll cover some of the new design that makes it possible.

        Let’s take a look at some of the changes in Builder for 3.32 as users will see them.

      • GNOME Software Package Manager to Feature Better Flatpak Support for GNOME 3.32

        GNOME Software, the app used for installing, updating, and removing software from your GNOME-based GNU/Linux operating system, will get a major revamp in functionality for the upcoming GNOME 3.32 desktop environment.
        A new development snapshot of GNOME Software 3.32 landed this week with lots of improvements for the Flatpak universal package format, allowing new permissions for Flatpak updates and displaying permissions for installed Flatpak apps. GNOME Software also now shows correct version numbers for installed Flatpaks.

        The update mechanism for Flatpak apps was switched to use a single transaction, allowing the GNOME developers to share more code with the flatpak command-line utility, and it looks like GNOME Software 3.32 will offer better support for installing Flatpak repository files, also known as flatpakref, and for Flatpak plugins.

  • Distributions
    • OpenSUSE/SUSE
    • Fedora
      • Fedora Still Needs Help Testing The New Zchunk Metadata Support

        Fedora has been working on transitioning to Zchunk for its DNF metadata due to its good compression ratio while being delta-friendly and leveraging the existing work of Zstandard and Zsync/casync. The metadata has been offered in Zchunk for some weeks while more client testing is needed before landing that support in Rawhide and in turn for Fedora 30.

        The goal of this Zchunk metadata for Fedora is to speed-up DNF operations by needing to download less metadata. While the server bits are in place, additional client testing is desired before landing the updated packages in Fedora Rawhide where it will affect all users on this development build of Fedora ahead of the Fedora 30 release due out in the spring.

      • NOTICE: Epylog has been retired for Fedora Rawhide/30

        Epylog is a log analysis code written by Konstantin (“Icon”) Ryabitsev, when he was working Duke University in the early 2000′s. It was moved to FedoraHosted and then never got moved to other hosting afterwords. The code is written in early python2 syntax (maybe 2.2) and has been hacked to work with newer versions over time but has not seen any major development since 2008. I have been sort of looking after the package in Fedora with the hopes of a ‘rewrite for Python3′ that never got done by me.

    • Debian Family
      • Derivatives
        • Deepin 15.9 Released with Touchscreen Support, Various Fixes

          There’ll little else like Deepin Linux in the distro ecosystem. It has its own bespoke desktop, custom apps, and is a true standout in a sea of (sometimes) broadly samey desktops.

          The first major update to the China-based distro this year, Deepin 15.9 features a number of improvements, optimisations, and refinements.

        • deepin 15.9 Linux distribution is here with new multi-touch gestures and improved power management

          Since Microsoft will be ending Windows 7 support in less than a year, many computer users will have to decide if they will move onto the much-maligned Windows 10. Alternatively, depending on their needs, they could opt for a Mac or Chromebook. But what if you are happy with your current computer and don’t want to buy new hardware? In that case, Linux can save the day. The excellent Netrunner, for instance, is a great option for Windows switchers that fear a change of user interface.

          If you are open to moving away from the traditional Windows-like interface, another superb Linux distribution to consider is deepin. If you aren’t familiar, deepin is a very stable operating system that focuses heavily on appearance. Quite frankly, it puts Windows 10 to shame in that regard — its “Deepin Desktop Environment” is far superior to the dated and boring interface found on Microsoft’s latest operating system. Today, deepin 15.9 becomes available for download with a huge list of changes, including new multi-touch gestures and improved power management.

        • Canonical/Ubuntu
          • Notepad++ Snap App Review

            Notepad++ is a lightweight and popular programmer’s text editor, originally developed for MS Windows Operating System, and now available on Snap Store for Linux users.

            The program is developed using C++, hence, the name Notepad++. Its official website claims to save more CO2 emission by utilizing fewer resources and CPU. Nonetheless, Notepad++ comes equipped with many useful features like syntax highlighting, buffer restoring, automatic code indentation, etc.

  • Devices/Embedded
Free Software/Open Source
  • Get started with CryptPad, an open source collaborative document editor

    There seems to be a mad rush at the beginning of every year to find ways to be more productive. New Year’s resolutions, the itch to start the year off right, and of course, an “out with the old, in with the new” attitude all contribute to this. And the usual round of recommendations is heavily biased towards closed source and proprietary software. It doesn’t have to be that way.

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

  • SalesAgility Launches SuiteCRM 7.11

    SalesAgility has released SuiteCRM 7.11 with several bug fixes, new workflows, Elasticsearch, and Google calendar synchronization.

    Elasticsearch is an open-source RESTful search engine to centrally store and index data. SuiteCRM will now provide users a faster and more scalable way to perform full text searches via Global Search on larger data volumes than before.

  • The essential guide to open source virtualization platforms

    Open source virtualization platforms offer adopters the chance to reduce licensing costs and avoid vendor lock-in, while still providing robust virtualization features.

    IT administrators who adopt open source might have less support than they would from a major vendor, so they must be adept at troubleshooting or garnering help from open source communities. Open source virtualization adopters might also consider vendors such as Red Hat that can provide support and integration services.

  • Events
    • Richard Stallman to speak at MSU-Bozeman
    • 2019 Linux Foundation events include ELC shows in San Diego and Lyon

      The Linux Foundation announced its 2019 schedule of events, including new events about Ceph and gRPC. The Embedded Linux Conference will co-locate with the Open Source Summit in San Diego on Aug. 21-23.

      Now’s the time to schedule your plans for Linux events, most of which occur under the umbrella of the Linux Foundation. The LF has revealed its 2019 calendar for conferences, including two new events: Cephalocon, which will explore the world of the Ceph storage standard and gRPC Conf, which covers gPRC Remote Procedure Call technology. In 2018, Linux Foundation events attracted more than 32,000 attendees from more than 11,000 organizations across 113 countries. The LF expects 35,000 participants in 2019.

  • Web Browsers
    • Mozilla
      • Mozilla Has Axed Firefox Test Pilot

        If you were a fan of the Mozilla Test Pilot programme, I’ve some bad news to share: it’s being axed.

        Mozilla has announced that is closing the Test Pilot programme effective January 22, 2019.

        Launched three years ago, the Test Pilot programme was a playground in which Mozilla could test innovative new Firefox features and experiment with new or unusual types of browser functionality.

        Successful tests often ‘graduated’ from playground to product, going on to be incorporated in to Firefox itself (screenshots, containers, activity stream). Others popular tests became standalone products or made freely available add-ons (notes, lockbox).

      • L10n report: January edition
  • Databases
    • MongoDB “open-source” Server Side Public License rejected

      MongoDB is open-source document NoSQL database with a problem. While very popular, cloud companies, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), IBM Cloud, Scalegrid, and ObjectRocket has profited from it by offering it as a service while MongoDB Inc. hasn’t been able to monetize it to the same degree. MongoDB’s answer? Relicense the program under its new Server Side Public License (SSPL). Open-source powerhouse Red Hat’s reaction? Drop MongoDB from Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 8.

      Red Hat’s Technical and Community Outreach Program Manager Tom Callaway explained, in a note stating MongoDB is being removed from Fedora Linux, that “It is the belief of Fedora that the SSPL is intentionally crafted to be aggressively discriminatory towards a specific class of users.” Debian Linux had already dropped MongoDB from its distribution.

  • CMS
    • WordPress Partners with Google News to Launch Open Source Platform for Newsrooms

      On January 14, 2019, WordPress announced the launch of Newspack by WordPress, an Open Source Platform for Newsrooms which will begin operations in mid-2019 with backing from ConsenSys, Civil media and others.

    • Automattic announces Newspack to help news organizations publish and monetize

      WordPress, the open-source project that lets you create websites on WordPress.com, is already a solid content management system (we use it at TechCrunch). But it becomes more difficult to use once you want to monetize your content using subscriptions, metered paywalls and user accounts. WordPress doesn’t have a native solution for that.

      That’s why Automattic is working on a platform for news organizations — think about it as a version of WordPress specifically designed for news organizations. The company wants to help local news organizations more specifically, as those media companies don’t necessarily have a ton of development resources.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)
  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC
    • An Absence of Strategy?

      I keep starting articles but not finishing them. However, after responding to some correspondence recently, where I got into a minor rant about a particular topic, I thought about starting this article and more or less airing the rant for a wider audience. I don’t intend to be negative here, so even if this sounds like me having a moan about how things are, I really do want to see positive and constructive things happen to remedy what I see as deficiencies in the way people go about promoting and supporting Free Software.
      The original topic of the correspondence was my brother’s article about submitting “apps” to F-Droid, the Free Software application repository for Android, which somehow got misattributed to me in the FSFE newsletter. As anyone who knows both of us can imagine, it is not particularly unusual that people mix us up, but it does still surprise me how people can be fluid about other people’s names and assume that two people with the same family name are the same person.
      Eventually, the correction was made, for which I am grateful, and it must be said that I do also appreciate the effort that goes into writing the newsletter. Having previously had the task of doing some of the Fellowship interviews, I know that such things require more work than people might think, largely go either unnoticed or unremarked, and as a participant in the process it can be easy to wonder afterwards if it was worth the bother. I do actually follow the FSFE Planet and the discussion mailing list, so I’d like to think that I keep up with what other people do, but the newsletter must have some value to those who don’t want to follow a range of channels.

  • Licensing/Legal
    • GPL Cooperation Commitment: Promise of Collaborative Interpretation [Ed: IP Kat perpetuates the Microsoft-connected (and funded) lie that GPL “popularity has dropped dramatically during the past decade,” citing Jono Bacon and Microsoft-funded ‘analysts’, proxies like Black Duck. To this date, in light of the GitHub takeover, Microsoft managers are badmouthing the GPL and many anti-GPL ‘studies’ are based on this Microsoft site alone.]

      GNU General Public Licence version 2 (GPLv2) was written in the early nineties to ensure compliant distribution of copyleft-licensed software. Even though its popularity has dropped dramatically during the past decade, it nevertheless continues to be one of the most widely used and important open source licences.

      Notedly, GPLv2 was drafted by non-legal free (as in “free speech,” not as in “free beer”) software enthusiasts and yet it has necessitated legal interpretation and application in accordance with IP and contract law principles. For nearly two decades, compliance and enforceability of the licence by its users has had to deal with ambiguity and uncertainty with respect to its terms.

    • HMD releases source code for Nokia 8 Sirocco

      HMD has released the source code for Nokia 8 Sirocco and it is now available for download on the official Nokia website.

    • HMD released the source code for Nokia 8 Sirocco

      The Open source releases webpage was refreshed once more, now with the source code files for beautiful Nokia 8 Sirocco.

    • AWS mixes toxic cocktail for open source

      There is currently a crisis unfolding in the open source world, with a number of companies changing their licensing to protect revenue. This has arisen due to a potentially toxic situation where public cloud providers have introduced managed services based on free open source products.

    • MongoDB “open-source” Server Side Public License rejected

      MongoDB is open-source document NoSQL database with a problem. While very popular, cloud companies, such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), IBM Cloud, Scalegrid, and ObjectRocket has profited from it by offering it as a service while MongoDB Inc. hasn’t been able to monetize it to the same degree. MongoDB’s answer? Relicense the program under its new Server Side Public License (SSPL). Open-source powerhouse Red Hat’s reaction? Drop MongoDB from Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 8.

    • Amazon Ditches MongoDB, Launches Rival

      The rationale given by Amazon is that customers find it challenging to build performant, highly available applications on MongoDB that can quickly scale to multiple Terabytes because of the complexity that comes with setting up and managing MongoDB clusters. Amazon DocumentDB implements the Apache 2.0 open source MongoDB 3.6 API by emulating the responses that a MongoDB client expects from a MongoDB server, allowing customers to use their existing MongoDB drivers and tools with Amazon DocumentDB.

      However, there’s a lot that’s not included in that view of the situation. Amazon and AWS has in the past been criticized for taking open-source software, doing some work on it then rebranding it without necessarily playing fair with the original developers. The thinking seemed to be that just having Amazon using your software was enough of a reward.

    • AWS has broken open source software

      Amazon Web Services (AWS) and other infrastructure as a service companies have broken the standard open source revenue model. The former model was that you wrote software to solve a problem you were having. This was usually a problem being experienced by many people. You could earn a decent living supporting the software you created since you were the creator of the software. People would come to you with questions or pay you to create additional functionality.

      Let’s say you created software to store lots of information in computer memory and retrieve it quickly. This is something that many other people would like to do too. Rather than write their own software they will use the software and pay you for support when they have questions or issues.

      If Amazon Web Services (AWS) or other infrastructure as a service companies decide to use your software, suddenly users of your software have a decision: do they pay Amazon to support the software or do they pay you for support. In general, most companies will choose Amazon since they are a well-known commodity and that is the decision with the least risk.

    • Why I Just Sold Most of My MongoDB Stake

      The “Death Star” has reared its head for MongoDB. Not the Death Star from Star Wars , but the company that cable mogul John Malone once compared to that ominous space station: Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) .

      Amazon Web Service’s huge cloud infrastructure has allowed the company to expand into databases over time, but its efforts had been limited to the Aurora SQL database and the DynamoDB database. Dynamo is a nonrelational database closer to MongoDB; however, DynamoDB was not open-source, like MongoDB.

    • Open Source Software At A Crossroads

      Last week, AWS announced on its blog the launch of DocumentDB, a MongoDB-compatible database. As some pundits have pointed out, this is clearly a reaction to MongoDB, Inc.’s new and highly-restrictive license called the Server Side Public License (SSPL)—a move which the publicly-traded MongoDB made in order to protect its revenue position.

      Earlier last year, Redis Labs learned a hard lesson in community relations management when it took a less dramatic step: while offering its Redis database under a permissive license, it changed the licensing on its add-on modules to the “Commons Clause”, so service providers would need to pay for their use. While communication could have been clearer, the action itself is similar in intent to what MongoDB did, and to what many other open source companies have attempted or plan to attempt to do.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration
    • Open Call for Humanitarian Design Challenges

      All designs and documentation of the solution will be freely published online as Open Source, to the benefit of you, users and other stakeholders, future (student) teams and anyone interested.

  • Programming/Development
    • gVisor: Building and Battle Testing a Userspace OS in Go

      Adin Scannell talks about gVisor – a container runtime that implements the Linux kernel API in userspace using Go. He talks about the architectural challenges associated with userspace kernels, the positive and negative experiences with Go as an implementation language, and finally, how to ensure API coverage and compatibility.

    • Rust bindings for GStreamerGL: Memoirs

      Rust is a great programming language but the community around it’s just amazing. Those are the ingredients for the craft of useful software tools, just like Servo, an experimental browser engine designed for tasks isolation and high parallelization.

      Both projects, Rust and Servo, are funded by “>”>Mozilla.

      Thanks to Mozilla and Igalia I have the opportunity to work on Servo, adding it HTML5 multimedia features.

      First, with the help of Fernando Jiménez, we finished what my colleague Philippe Normand and Sebastian Dröge (one of my programming heroes) started: a media player in Rust designed to be integrated in Servo. This media player lives in its own crate: servo/media along with the WebAudio engine. A crate, in Rust jargon, is like a library. This crate is (very ad-hocly) designed to be multimedia framework agnostic, but the only backend right now is for GStreamer. Later we integrated it into Servo adding an initial support for audio and video tags.

      Currently, servo/media passes, through a IPC channel, the array with the whole frame to render in Servo. This implies, at least, one copy of the frame in memory, and we would like to avoid it.

      For painting and compositing the web content, Servo uses WebRender, a crate designed to use the GPU intensively. Thus, if instead of raw frame data we pass OpenGL textures to WebRender the performance could be enhanced notoriously.

    • proc-macro-rules
    • Analyzing Robinhood trade history
    • What should be in the Python standard library?

      Python has always touted itself as a “batteries included” language; its standard library contains lots of useful modules, often more than enough to solve many types of problems quickly. From time to time, though, some have started to rethink that philosophy, to reduce or restructure the standard library, for a variety of reasons. A discussion at the end of November on the python-dev mailing list revived that debate to some extent.

      Jonathan Underwood raised the issue, likely unknowingly, when he asked about possibly adding some LZ4 compression library bindings to the standard library. As the project page indicates, it fits in well with the other compression modules already in the standard library. Responses were generally favorable or neutral, though some, like Brett Cannon, wondered if it made sense to broaden the scope a bit to create something similar to hashlib but for compression algorithms.

    • A new free-software forge: sr.ht

      Many projects have adopted the “GitHub style” of development over the last few years, though, of course, there are some high-profile exceptions that still use patches and mailing lists. Many projects are leery of putting all of their project metadata into a proprietary service, with limited means of usefully retrieving it should that be necessary, which is why GitLab (which is at least “open core”) has been gaining some traction. A recently announced effort looks to kind of bridge the gap; Drew DeVault’s sr.ht (“the hacker’s forge”) combines elements of both styles of development in a “100% free and open source software forge”. It looks to be an ambitious project, but it may also suffer from a lack of “social network” effects, which is part of what sustains GitHub as the forge of choice today, it seems.

      The announcement blog post is replete with superlatives about sr.ht, which is “pronounced ‘sir hat’, or any other way you want”, but it is a bit unclear whether the project quite lives up to all of that. It combines many of the features seen at sites like GitHub and GitLab—Git hosting, bug tracking, continuous integration (CI), mailing list management, wikis—but does so in a way that “embraces and improves upon the email-based workflow favored by git itself, along with many of the more hacker-oriented projects around the net”. The intent is that each of the separate services integrate well with both sr.ht and with the external ecosystem so that projects can use it piecemeal.

      There are two sides to the sr.ht coin at this point; interested users can either host their own instance or use the hosted version. For now, the hosted version is free to use, since it is still “alpha”, but eventually one will need to sign up for a plan, which range from $2 to $10 per month, to stay on the hosted service. There are instructions for getting sr.ht to run on other servers; it uses nginx, PostgreSQL, Redis, and Python 3 along with a mail server and a cron daemon.

    • Wing Python IDE 6.1.4

      This minor release fixes using typing.IO and similar classes as type hints, improves handling of editor splits in goto-definition, fixes failure to install the remote agent, and fixes failure to convert EOLs in the editor. See the change log for details.

    • Create Panda 3D Game Project

      Hello, do you still remember that I have mentioned to you before that I will start another game project alongside the new pygame project? Well, I have not decided yet which game framework should I use to build the python game. Yesterday I had just came across Panda 3D which is a very attractive game framework that we can use to create the python game.

    • Top technical skills that will get you hired in 2019

      Landing the perfect IT job is never easy, but certain technical skills can smooth the way, especially if they’re in high demand. Job search platform Indeed has analyzed the fastest-growing terms used by job seekers when searching for tech jobs in 2019, and the results represent some significant changes over last year.

      “When people look for new jobs, they often use search terms that describe cutting-edge skills associated with the jobs they want,” says Daniel Culbertson, economist at Indeed. “On the employer side, the highly specialised tech talent who have these proficiencies are in great demand.”

    • 5 open source Go tools for tuning up your Golang mastery

      Love programming in Go? It’s hard not to fall in love with it, we know! Today we browsed through some Golang tools on GitHub and picked some of our favorites from the list. Far from exhaustive, this list highlights some of the best in show.

    • Executing Shell Commands with Python
    • Introduction to Python
    • Convert video from one format to another with python
Leftovers
  • Slack’s new logo is a penis swastika

    Behold the Brostika! Like the hidden arrow in the FedEx logo, Slack’s new brand has a negative-space surprise in store. The bars point the “lucky” left way, at least, rather than, well, to the right.

  • Fortnite made an estimated $2.4 billion last year

    While much of Fortnite’s revenue comes from selling character skins and emotes, SuperData says that 34 percent of all US players also purchased a seasonal “battle pass,” a feature that has since made its way to other online games like PUBG and Rocket League.

  • Engage more and dictate less in 2019

    “Says easy, does hard.” That’s a Southern expression I’ve really grown to appreciate. And it’s especially relevant this time of year, when people are making their 2019 resolutions. Change of any kind—either personal or organizational—can be easy to conceptualize in the abstract. But making that change, actually doing the work of changing, is much more difficult.

  • Science
    • Consequences of Trump’s ‘Egregious’ War on Science Mount as People and Planet Suffer

      With the Trump administration regularly putting its right-wing ideology ahead of scientific data and the common good, scientists are taking stock of the tangible damage President Donald Trump has done to the environment and public health as a direct result of the War on Science, two years into his term.

      Public health organizations and former government officials told the Guardian Wednesday about ways in which hostility toward science within numerous federal agencies have led to funding cuts for vital programs, dangerous regulatory rollbacks, and a severe lack of transparency on scientific facts from the government.

    • Turns out the science saying screen time is bad isn’t science

      A new study is making waves in the worlds of tech and psychology by questioning the basis of thousands of papers and analyses with conflicting conclusions on the effect of screen time on well-being. The researchers claim is that the science doesn’t agree because it’s bad science. So is screen time good or bad? It’s not that simple.

      The conclusions only make the mildest of claims about screen time, essentially that as defined it has about as much effect on well-being as potato consumption. Instinctively we may feel that not to be true; technology surely has a greater effect than that — but if it does, we haven’t found a way to judge it accurately.

  • Health/Nutrition
    • Could Trump’s Government Shutdown Cause Outbreaks of Wildlife Disease?

      The current U.S. government shutdown could worsen ongoing wildlife disease outbreaks or even delay responses to new epidemics, according to federal insiders and outside experts who work with federal wildlife employees.

      The shutdown — initiated by the Trump administration on Dec. 22 over a financing dispute for the president’s promised southern border wall — has already gone on to be the longest federal shutdown in U.S. history. It has halted virtually all work by federal employees in several agencies, including those tasked with caring for the nation’s wildlife.

      When the government is functioning normally, wildlife biologists on national parks and wildlife refuges investigate unusual wildlife deaths and send samples to federal labs that specialize in testing deceased animals for several types of disease. During this shutdown, however, monitoring and testing capabilities have been limited. Following federal shutdown contingency plans, the four major agencies tasked with testing for, responding to and monitoring wildlife disease outbreaks have significantly cut their staff, response and research activities. These agencies include the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey and National Park Service.

    • Congress Considers Bill to Defend Freedom of People With Disabilities

      On January 15, disability justice activists celebrated the reintroduction of the Disability Integration Act (DIA). This monumental piece of legislation is an important step forward for the full civil rights of those with disabilities.

      The DIA would ensure that people with disabilities have the right to live in their homes and receive services to do so. Insurance companies and state governments would be barred from discriminating against people with disabilities through imposing what is essentially segregation. Far too many of those with disabilities are forced into nursing homes and other institutions rather than given in-home supports they need, which are often less expensive than institutionalization.

      Once they are in nursing homes, people almost entirely lose their freedom: the freedom to choose not only where they live, but what they eat, who they spend time with, if and when they go out and return home, and more. They’re also at a higher risk of abuse by the staff.

      Many people live in nursing homes simply because there isn’t any accessible and affordable housing available to them. Access to housing is one of many barriers people with disabilities face. Under the DIA, the failure of a public entity to ensure “affordable, accessible, and integrated housing” to allow people with disabilities that require Long Term Services and Support, such as home health aides and attendants, to live in the community would be considered “discrimination.” There is also a provision that addresses how some forms of long-term support are only given based on tenancy in certain types of housing such as public housing.

      Even for those who are receiving services that allow them to live at home, there are still limitations placed on their freedom. Many programs require that individuals only receive help while they’re at home. Clients typically cannot choose the schedule on which their services are provided. These restrictions can diminish access to employment, education and community activities. Help with daily tasks, such as shopping, cooking for both the client and their dependents, or travel to medical appointments may not be available. Service providers can also refuse to help with tasks in the home. The DIA would address each of these issues.

    • The Government Shutdown Expands the Ranks of ‘Underwater Nation’

      Another 380,000 federal workers have been furloughed, including Coast Guard employees that are being encouraged to take on babysitting gigs and organize garage sales. They saw their last paycheck on December 22 and are scrambling to pay rent, mortgages, alimony, and credit card bills, let alone the groceries.

      The average federal employee isn’t wealthy, taking home a weekly paycheck of $500, according to American Federation of Government Employees, the union representing affected workers.

      The vulnerability they feel isn’t unusual. A majority of the U.S. population is living with very little by way of a savings cushion.

    • European Council Advances SPC Waiver For Generics; Negotiations Coming

      The European Union Council of member states has approved a mandate for negotiations with the EU Parliament concerning a draft regulation aimed at boosting EU-based generic and biosimilar manufacturing for export by providing an exception to the extended intellectual property protection granted by special protection certificates (SPCs). The mandate brings the draft regulation a step closer to adoption, and it also suggests that Parliament’s recent amendments to the regulation are likely be key areas of debate in the negotiations, which are expected to begin in the coming weeks.

  • Security
    • Oracle Patches 284 Vulnerabilities in January Critical Patch Update

      Oracle released its first Critical Patch Update for 2019 on Jan. 15, providing patches for 284 vulnerabilities.

      The January 2019 CPU addresses security vulnerabilities found across the Oracle software portfolio, including ones affecting database, middleware, Java, PeopleSoft, Siebel and E-Business Suite applications. Thirty-three of the vulnerabilities are identified as being critical with a Common Vulnerabilities Scoring System (CVSS) score of 9.0 or higher. CVSS is a standardized method for helping organizations understand the impact and severity of software vulnerabilities.

    • Microsoft Rolls Out New Updates for Different Versions of Windows 10, Includes Small Bug Fixes

      Just a week ago, Microsoft released its Patch Tuesday updates for all the supported versions of Windows 10. And now, the company has come up with new updates for Windows 10 versions 1709, 1803, and 1703. The cumulative updates released by the company do not include any security patches but has quite a few changes that have been rolled out. Here are the updates that Microsoft has rolled for the three versions of Windows 10.

    • Only XRP Private Keys That Used Software From Before August 2015 Are Vulnerable

      Ripple (XRP) software libraries published before August 2015 potentially rendered private keys which signed multiple transactions vulnerable, Ripple announced in a statement released on Jan 16.

      Recent research jointly conducted by the DFINITY Foundation and the University of California revealed that a portion of Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH) and Ripple addresses are vulnerable.

      As is known among cryptographers, the security of Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithms (ECDAs) employed by the aforementioned cryptocurrencies is highly dependent on random data, which are known as nonces. The research further explains:

    • Major Security Breach Discovered Affecting Nearly Half of All Airline Travelers Worldwide

      According to ELAL, the bug stems from their supplier Amadeus’ (https://amadeus.com/en/industries/airlines) online booking system, which controls a staggering 44% market share of airlines operating worldwide, including United Airlines, Lufthansa, Air Canada, and many more. While booking a flight with ELAL, we received the following link to check our PNR: https://fly.elal.co.il/LOTS-OF-NUMBERS-HERE.

      By simply changing the RULE_SOURCE_1_ID, we were able to view any PNR and access the customer name and associated flight details.

    • Kubernetes flaw shows API security is no ‘set & forget’ deal

      When a report surfaced last month detailing a ‘severe vulnerability’ in Kubernetes, the popular, open-source software for managing Linux applications deployed within containers, many of us will have wondered what the deeper implications of this alleged flaw could mean.

      Although the flaw was quickly patched, it allowed any user to escalate their privileges to access administrative controls through the Kubernetes API server.

    • WordPress to show warnings on servers running outdated PHP versions
    • Top 10 app vulnerabilities: Unpatched plugins and extensions dominate
    • This Clever New Ransomware Attempts To Steal Your PayPal Credentials

      Meanwhile, PayPal offers two factor authentication which, when turned on, can offer a vital extra layer of security should your password and username be compromised, Moore says.

    • A deep dive into the technical feasibility of Bloomberg’s controversial “Chinese backdoored servers” story

      These denials also don’t add up: Bloomberg says it sourced its story from multiple (anonymous) sources who had direct knowledge of the incidents and who had been employed in the named organizations while they were unfolding. Bloomberg stood by its reporting, and implied that the idea that all these sources from different organizations would collude to pull off a hoax like this.

      Faced with the seemingly impossible task of sorting truth from hoax in the presence of contradictory statements from Big Tech and Bloomberg, technical experts began trying to evaluate whether the hacks attributed to the Chinese spy agencies were even possible: at first, these analyses were cautiously skeptical, but then they grew more unequivocal.

      Last month, Trammell Hudson — who has developed well-regarded proof-of-concept firmware attacks — gave a detailed talk giving his take on the story at the Chaos Communications Congress in Leipzig.

  • Defence/Aggression
    • Let’s Expose Congress Members for the Warhawks They Are

      As the nation continued to reel from President Trump’s shock decision last month to remove all U.S. troops from Syria, news came Wednesday that an unknown number of U.S. soldiers were among at least 15 killed in a bombing in northern Syria. Amid such continued violence, one would think the president’s withdrawal would have ever more urgency. And yet, just about everyone in Washington has attacked his decision to pull out.

      The reflexive hatred for Donald Trump that dominates the national conversation is bad for the U.S., especially when it comes to foreign policy. This is not to say that the president isn’t a flawed figure; after all, I’ve spent the better part of two years critiquing most of his policies. Still, when the man demonstrates prudent judgment—as in his recent calls to pull U.S. troops out of Syria and Afghanistan—he should be applauded. But that’s unlikely to happen in a divided America, as long as an interventionist, bipartisan consensus runs the show in Washington.

      Some call it the deep state, others the swamp—but the terminology hardly matters at this point. This forever-war crowd of congressional members, media pundits, arms industry CEOs and semiretired generals holds the reins on foreign policy in ways that are counter to the war-exhaustion instincts of both Trump and the American public. And it has to stop.

      [...]

      But the militarist elites don’t care what the people—especially Trump’s supporters—want. As far as they’re concerned, they alone know what’s good for America. Or so they’d have us believe. In reality, whether they’re election-obsessed legislators or ratings-obsessed media moguls, these interventionists all serve the same corporate masters. They play politics even when lives—both of U.S. troops and countless civilians—are at stake. That goes for pugnacious Republicans of the Lindsey-Graham mold, as well as hypocritical media celebrities like Rachel Maddow and her Democratic fan club. On the ostensible left, we’re even seeing an entire generation of born-again hawks rise in opposition to any and all de-escalation, even if those same liberal politicians and pundits would likely celebrate the same decision were it made by President Obama.

    • Europe’s Strategic Humanitarian Aid: Yemen vs. Syria

      The Syrian conflict will soon be into its ninth year, and the Yemen conflict into its fifth year. Both are major humanitarian disasters, with millions displaced amid unimaginable suffering. An estimated half a million have been killed in Syria, and over 100,000in Yemen.

      The West is deeply involved in both conflicts – supporting the opposition in Syria and the Kurdish areas, and providing arms and political support for the Saudi Arabian and Emirati led war on Yemen.

      The humanitarian aid provided to both crises is indicative of where priorities, Europe’s in particular, lie.

      From 2015 to 2018, the European Union (EU) and European countries have provided some $1.56 bnin aid to the UN Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan (YHRP), while providing roughly fifty percent more for Syria during the same period, $3.2 bn.

      In 2018, $4.03 bn was pledged (globally) to the UN’s YHRP. This is less than half the amount pledged to the UN’s Syria Humanitarian Response Plan, $8.96 bn. Furthermore, the Syria campaign received more funding for 2018 than the entirety of the Yemen conflict, some $8.6 bn (2015-2018). Over the same period, $12.6 bn was pledged for Syria. This is a huge difference, despite the number of people affected in both conflicts being similar.

      There are 5 million Syrian refugees and 6 million internally displaced, while 80 percent of Yemen’s 22.2 million people – a population on par with Syria’s 23 million – are in need of humanitarian or protection assistance, with 11.3 million in acute need.

      At a country level, Europe has been more ‘generous’ regarding the Syria campaign than for Yemen, despite 21 EU countries selling $86.9 bnin arms to Saudi Arabia and the UAE (in 2015 and 2016), some 55 times more than the aid provided,as shown in figures I compiled for Middle East Eye.

    • China: An Ancient Country, Getting Older

      Saudi Arabia, rolling dunes, endless desert, little rain. Northern China. Verdant hills, green fields and this time of year, heavy snow. Yet there is less water available in northern China per head of population than in Saudi Arabia.

      With a fifth of the world’s population, China has about 7 per cent of the planet’s fresh water.

      Even the quality of what is available is poor. Tap water is undrinkable without being filtered heavily. Industrial waste and the flow of pesticides from fields contribute massively to pollution. At least 10, 000 petrochemical plants dot the banks of the Yangtze River. China has about 88,000 reservoirs but at least 40 percent are in a poor condition.

      Things are not much cleaner above ground. Massive strides have been taken too combat air pollution in northern China but it is still a cause for concern. The first two weeks of January have seen more polluted days, where levels of particulate matter 2.5 (often referred to as PM 2.5, because their diameter is 2.5 microns), exceed World Health Organization guidelines, than clear ones. Correct, enough of the science. But PM2.5 levels are a main topic of conversation in Beijing. It is not uncommon for conversations in shops or the train queues to mention PM2.5 levels.

    • America Has Its Gunsights on Venezuela

      Imperialism is a word that is rarely used these days. It is relegated to histories of colonialism in the distant past. There is little understanding of the suffocating way that financial firms and multinational businesses drive their agenda against the development aspirations of the poorer nations. There is even less understanding about the muscular attitude of countries such as the United States, Canada and the Europeans against states that they deem to be a problem.

      The gunsights were once firmly on West Asia and North Africa—on Iraq, Libya, Syria and Iran—but now they are focused on Latin America—on Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. These countries face economic sanctions and embargoes, threats of annihilation, covert operations and war. The definition of imperialism is simple: if you don’t do what we tell you to do, we’ll destroy you.

      Pressure on Venezuela has been intense. U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly called for the overthrow of the Bolivarian government, led by Maduro. Sanctions have been ratcheted up. Economic warfare has become normal. Threats of a military invasion are in the air.

    • Ground Zero Nagasaki

      Landing at Nagasaki Airport last November, I joined a line of Japanese men, women, and children waiting to disembark from our plane. Most were likely returning home on this holiday weekend or arriving to visit family and friends. I wondered how many of them remembered or thought about the nuclear annihilation of this city 73 years ago — within, that is, their own lifetimes or those of their parents or grandparents.

      From the airport, I took a bus along the jagged coast through small mountain villages toward Nagasaki, entering the city from the north on a route used by rescue and relief workers on August 9, 1945, and by bewildered family members racing into the smoldering city to search for their loved ones. For months after the bombing, no public transportation could penetrate the ruins of this northern part of the city. My bus, on the other hand, moved seamlessly into a metropolis that showed no sign of its obliteration three-quarters of a century ago.

      Much of Nagasaki and the world have, of course, moved on from that terrible morning when a five-ton plutonium bomb plunged at 614 miles per hour toward the city of 240,000 people. Forty-three seconds later, it detonated a third of a mile above Nagasaki’s Urakami Valley. A super-brilliant blue-white flash lit the sky, followed by a thunderous explosion equal to the power of 21,000 tons of TNT. The entire city convulsed. Within hours it was engulfed in flames.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature
    • “I’m Sure Dinosaurs Thought They Had Time, Too’: Over 12,000 Students Strike in Brussels Demanding Bold Climate Action

      An estimated 12,500 students walked out of their classrooms in Brussels, Belgium on Thursday to join the country’s second youth-led climate march in the past week, demanding that government leaders from across Europe take bold action to help stem the global climate crisis.

      Carrying signs reading “Act now before it’s too late,” “The planet needs you to give a damn,” and “I’m sure the dinosaurs thought they had time, too,” young people at the Marche Pour le Climat chanted, “We want change!” as they marched through the city in the rain.

    • Public Takeover of PG&E: A Radically Common-Sense Proposal

      California’s large investor-owned utility, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), announced it would be filing for bankruptcy by the end of the month after being faced with $30 billion in damages related to a series of fires over the past two years, including last fall’s deadly Camp Fire, which was allegedly sparked by the utility’s old, faulty transmission lines.

      That fire killed 86 people, destroyed 14,000 homes in the town of Paradise, and stands as the deadliest and most destructive fire in the state’s history.

      PG&E’s bankruptcy forces a critical choice for new California Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state leaders. They could opt to bail out PG&E, or break up the gargantuan company into presumably more manageable pieces.

      Or they could do the right thing and take the utility into democratic, public ownership.

      A public takeover is not outlandish, but rather, is a common-sense proposal for the future of Californians. With the company’s value dropping precipitously, this is a key moment for the state to step in, take over, and design a utility system that centers affordability, reliability, resiliency and leadership on climate change. Public ownership could also help secure the priorities that bankruptcy puts up in the air — such as pensions, union contracts and renewable energy investments — that the for-profit utility might not value saving as much as it would CEO bonuses.

    • Could a Green New Deal Save Civilization?

      The public champions of the Green New Deal (GND) in the U.S. include Democratic progressive representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Deb Haaland, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Antonio Delgado. The idea is also supported by writer-activists Naomi Klein and Van Jones; by the Green Parties in the US and Europe; and by the Sierra Club, 350.org, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and the Climate Mobilization. The proposals currently circulating in Washington aim to provide 100 percent renewable energy in 10 to 20 years while supporting job retraining and aiding communities impacted by climate change. Some proposals also include a carbon tax (often with a fee-and-dividend structure that would rebate funds to low-income people so they could afford more costly energy services), incentives for green investment, public banks, measures to re-regulate the financial system, and the first steps toward a global Marshall Plan.

    • ‘Step Up or Step Aside’: Youth Climate Leaders Occupy Schumer’s Office to Demand Support for Green New Deal

      Keeping up the pressure on the Democratic leadership to embrace bold and popular solutions that are aligned with the science, youth climate leaders on Thursday occupied the D.C. office of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y) to demand that he either show true leadership by supporting a Green New Deal or “step aside.”

      “Real climate leadership means a commitment to bold climate action and a just transition. It means a Green New Deal,” a 16-year-old New Yorker named Jordan declared during Thursday’s demonstration, which comes just weeks after young climate campaigners demonstrated at the offices of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

    • World’s coffee under threat, say experts

      The first full assessment of risks to the world’s coffee plants shows that 60% of 124 known species are on the edge of extinction.

    • ‘A Disgrace’: Bernie Sanders Takes Trump EPA Pick to Task for Claiming Climate Change Not ‘Greatest Crisis’ Facing Planet

      When Sanders asked Wheeler if he believes climate change is a “global crisis” that requires “unprecedented” policy changes, the EPA nominee responded that the warming planet is an “issue” but repeatedly refused to call it a “crisis.”

      “I believe that climate change is a global issue that must be addressed globally,” Wheeler said. “I would not call it the greatest crisis, no sir.”

      According to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world must cut carbon emissions in half by 2030 by to avert global catastrophe.

      “The person Donald Trump has nominated to lead the Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t believe climate change is a “crisis,” Sanders wrote on Twitter following Wednesday’s hearing. “That is not only a disgrace, it is incredibly dangerous to the future of our planet.”

    • As Planet Heats Further, Even Davos Elite Warns Humanity Is ‘Sleepwalking Into Catastrophe’

      While WEF has made a habit of recognizing the threat posed by the human-made climate crisis in its Global Risks reports—for which it has garnered some praise—author and activist Naomi Klein was quick to challenge the narrative presented in the latest edition (pdf), pointing out that many of the polices pushed by the very people invited to the exclusive event have driven the global crisis.

      “Sleepwalking? Nah. The policies of global deregulation, privatization, unending consumption, and growth-worship that you advanced so aggressively in order to construct the Davos Class marched us here,” she tweeted. “Pretty sure your eyes were wide open.”

    • In Hoax Letter Calling Out Climate Inaction, Pranksters Urge Asset Manager Behemoth to Ditch ‘Zombie Funds of the Apocalypse’

      Because “generating sustainable returns into the future requires that we have a future,” the head of the world’s biggest money manager, BlackRock, sent a letter Wednesday to investors saying it would start to consider as “sin stock” companies that fail to align their business models with the goals of the Paris climate accord.

      Or so a group of climate-minded activists would have you believe.

      The pledge to better address the climate crisis was not actually made by BlackRock chairman and CEO Larry Fink but by activists who say in their hoax letter that such a move would not only be economically wise but would help save the only planet we have.

      “Everything called for in our fake letter are steps BlackRock could take while still remaining model capitalists,” said fake letter co-author Jeff Walburn of the Yes Men—activists whose previous targets have included the DNC, Dow Chemical, and Pfizer. “These slightly less extinction-oriented moves would make more money for investors and ensure their customers have a stable economy to profit from down the line. This is hardly a radical push; but it’s a push we need, for the sake of humanity’s survival and, yes, its asset owners.”

      In the fake letter, sent to multiple news outlets—duping at least one—and posted to a website made to look like the real BlackRock site, Fink supposedly declares “that the biggest contributor to uncertainty is also the greatest threat to the long-term stability of our economy and our investors’ assets: climate change. Companies must address climate risk factors or fail in their fiduciary duty.”

      “We spent much of 2018 mapping near-term climate risks that will affect municipal bonds and real estate, and we’re going to scale that methodology across all of our investments,” it states.

    • That Green Growth at the Heart of the Green New Deal? It’s Malignant

      A burgeoning save-the-climate effort called the Green New Deal, explains Vox’s David Roberts, “has thrust climate change into the national conversation, put House Democrats on notice, and created an intense and escalating bandwagon effect. … everyone involved in green politics is talking about the GND. … But WTF is it?”

      Roberts goes on to give a good summary, but no one can fully answer that question until someone puts a complete plan down on paper. We do know that the vision as it’s being described by its fans (and it seems to have nothing but fans in the climate movement) explicitly draws its inspiration from the New Deal that the Roosevelt Administration launched eighty-four years ago in an effort to end the Great Depression.

      [...]

      The Green New Dealers nevertheless are holding out the promise of prosperity and sustainability through growth. Without asking where the energy to fuel that growth will come from, they predict that with heavy investment in renewable infrastructure, the U.S. economy will expand rapidly so that lower-income households can look forward to more, better jobs and rising incomes.

      Unlike the World War II stimulus, this new green stimulus will not be accompanied by any planned allocation of resources or limits on production and consumption in the private sector. But that is what’s needed. Given the necessity for an immediate, steep decline in greenhouse emissions and material throughput, such planning and limits are needed even more now than they were during World War II.

    • Uniting for a Green New Deal

      Support is growing in the United States for a Green New Deal. Though there are competing visions for what that looks like, essentially, a Green New Deal includes a rapid transition to a clean energy economy, a jobs program and a stronger social safety net.

      We need a Green New Deal for many reasons, most obviously the climate crisis and growing economic insecurity. Each new climate report describes the severe consequences of climate change with increasing alarm and the window of opportunity for action is closing. At the same time, wealth inequality is also growing. Paul Bucheit writes that more than half of the population in the United States is suffering from poverty.

      The Green New Deal provides an opportunity for transformational changes, not just reform, but changes that fundamentally solve the crises we face. This is the time to be pushing for a Green New Deal at all levels, in our towns and cities, states and nationally.

    • More vegetables, less meat for all our sakes

      An international panel of health scientists and climate researchers has prescribed a new diet for the planet: more vegetables, less meat, fresh fruit, wholegrains and pulses, give up sugar, waste less and keep counting the calories.

      And if 200 nations accept the diagnosis and follow doctor’s orders, tomorrow’s farmers may be able to feed 10 billion people comfortably by 2050, help contain climate change, and prevent 11 million premature deaths per year.

      A commission sponsored by one of the oldest and most distinguished medical journals in the world today provides what it calls the first scientific targets for a healthy diet, from a sustainable food production system, that operates within what its authors term “planetary boundaries.”

      The commission is the result of three years’ consultation by 37 experts from 16 countries, among them experts in health, nutrition, environmental sustainability, economics and political governance.

    • The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party: Part Three

      The Green Party should seek, within the policy initiatives of the Green New Deal, to strengthen worker rights. As Whitney Webb writes in Corporations See a Different Kind of “Green” in Ocasio-Cortez’s “Green New Deal,” the Democratic Green New Deal (hereafter DGND) actually contains within its policy proposals further neoliberal assaults on worker rights and austerity measures, both of which have fostered the growth of white nationalism historically in American politics.

      Along with Improved Single Payer Medicare for All, the Green Party states they would also pass the Employee Free Choice Act, otherwise known as “card check,” which makes union organization easier. They should furthermore repeal the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 while amending the 1926 Railway Labor Act so to return the right to strike to railway and airline workers. The Green Party goal is to guarantee a living wage job for every American willing and able to work. To do this, the national party would establish a full employment program that will create 25 million jobs by implementing a nationally funded, locally controlled employment initiative. This would also include measures to create fair trade treaties and strengthen workplace safety laws. Job training would be in combination with a guaranteed tuition-free public college education and granting of student debt forgiveness. They would reform tax codes and laws to assure fair taxation, distributed in proportion to one’s ability to pay. And finally, we would provide all Americans with decent, accessible, affordable, and sustainable housing and democratically run, publicly owned, not-for-profit utilities

      Another distinction is the role of anti-imperialism within the coordinates of the Green New Deal. The DGND makes no reference to de-linking the American dollar’s value from the Saudi Arabian oil barrel’s price on the international exchange market. Unless a serious effort is made to disconnect the link between the dollar and Saudi oil, otherwise stated as eliminating the petrodollar, it is fundamentally against the best interests of the American government to engage in any sort of project that would reduce the worldwide value of Saudi oil. American capitalism since the termination of the Bretton Woods system during the Nixon administration has been one that only can be maintained by the perpetuation of a fossil fuels-based economic system. Sustainable energy policy from Democratic Party that does not take on this issue will not take on what actually drives climate change.

      Furthermore, owing to the precarious nature of the House of Saud’s grip on that country’s government, American foreign policy towards Saudi Arabia has always been extremely militarist and imperialist. From the start of the Cold War, when Saudi Arabia and Israel were positioned in the region as two poles that would oppose secular Arab nationalism, to contemporary times, with the ongoing genocidal war on Yemen and the jingoistic bipartisan saber-rattling towards Iran, the House of Saud has exchanged the security of American oil supplies for allowance of the most reactionary type of absolute monarchism on earth. Saudi Wahhabism has been a fundamentalist current promoting anti-Black racism, misogyny, trans/homo/bi-phobia, and feudal judicial practices across the Islamic world. The Saudis have been a key player in American imperial policy across Asia and Africa.

    • In Facing Mass Extinction, We Don’t Need Hope. We Need to Grieve.

      In 2015, my best friend, Duane French, came down with pneumonia and was taken to the hospital. Pneumonia on its own is bad enough, but for someone who has been quadriplegic for more than forty years, it is also life threatening. I met Duane when I first moved to Alaska in 1996, then I became his personal assistant. Duane is now one of the oldest living quadriplegics on the planet and he has always been one of my heroes. He broke his neck in a diving accident when he was just fourteen and spent his adolescence in a rehabilitation hospital with mangled Vietnam veterans returning from the war. Duane decided not to allow something like a broken neck and confinement to an electric wheelchair stop him from working to help pass the Americans with Disabilities Act. Since then, he has run more than one state government division that assists people with disabilities.

      Struggling to breathe, Duane was moved to the ICU shortly after being admitted to the hospital. His partner, Kelly, his personal assistant Sakhum, and I took twelve-hour shifts by his bed. Three weeks went by as one antibiotic after another failed. Duane’s heart rate was over one hundred beats per minute for weeks on end. He was barely eating, and he began spending more and more time wearing a breathing mask.

      Knowing the odds were heavily stacked against him, I sat at his bedside and gave him my full attention. When he slept, I watched his chest rising and falling, savoring the fact that he was still alive. When it was my turn to rest, I would go to bed in Kelly and Duane’s guest bedroom back at their home, knowing that Duane was still alive. But he continued to decline and, as he did, every moment with him was an ever more precious gift. It was easier for me to sit by his bed than anywhere else on Earth. My heart was breaking; yet I did not want to miss one single second of Duane’s life. I had no idea if he would survive, and that became less relevant as each moment I had with him became increasingly inestimable.

      Duane’s condition grew worse. There appeared to be nothing left to do. The nurse administered morphine to calm his struggles to breathe.

    • Tax the Rich, Fight the Climate Crisis

      Following the 2018 midterm elections, national media missed one piece of very good news. By a margin of almost two-to-one, tens of thousands of Portland, Oregon, voters approved an imaginative clean energy initiative that offers a model for the rest of the country — at the ballot box, but also in our classrooms.

      Work on Portland’s Clean Energy Fund began in February of 2016 in a church basement when representatives of the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO), the Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA), Verde (a community-based environmental organization), the Coalition of Communities of Color, the NAACP, and 350PDX (the local affiliate of 350.org) met to discuss how work to fight climate change could simultaneously address racial and economic justice and create living wage jobs. The initiative was the first ballot measure in Oregon’s history launched and led by people of color. And it’s what we need a lot more of: conversations, activism (including curriculum) that lead people to recognize that the “just transition” away from fossil fuels can also be a move toward a society that is cleaner, more equal, and more democratic.

      The Clean Energy Fund will be supported by a tax — technically, a surcharge — of 1 percent on corporations with gross retail receipts nationally of $1 billion and at least $500,000 in Portland. Food, medicine, and healthcare are exempt. A 1 percent tax on the 1 percent. Corporations affected include big retailers like Walmart, Target, J. C. Penney, and Best Buy, but also the media behemoth Comcast, which dominates Portland’s cable market. Organizers estimate that the tax will raise $30 million a year. The money will go to a fund dedicated to clean energy projects — renewable energy and energy efficiency — targeted explicitly to benefit low-income communities and communities of color. The fund will also support regenerative agriculture and green infrastructure projects aimed at greenhouse gas sequestration and sustainable local food production.

      An important component of the new initiative will be creating clean energy jobs that “prioritize skills training, and workforce development for economically disadvantaged and traditionally underemployed workers, including communities of color, women, persons with disabilities, and the chronically underemployed.” Workers will be paid more than $20 an hour, at least 180 percent of minimum wage.

  • Finance
    • The world is swimming in $244 trillion of debt

      Put another way, global debt is now more than three times the size of the world economy. The level of debt around the world has topped 318% of global gross domestic product, just below the all-time high of 320% in mid-2016. These elevated levels come despite a “cyclical pickup in global growth” over the last two years, the IIF said.

    • After Selling Kidney To Buy iPhone, Chinese Man Bedridden With Organ Failure

      The man suffered renal failure in his second kidney after having one removed. It is said that it was due to the unsanitary conditions where the surgery took place.

    • A Dream Deferred: MLK’s Dream of Economic Justice is Far From Reality

      January 15th marked what would’ve been Dr. Martin Luther King’s 90th birthday.
      Most known for his famous “I Have Dream Speech,” King envisioned a future in which deep racial inequalities — including deep economic inequality — was eradicated. He worked tirelessly towards that mission.
      Over 50 years after his assassination, sensational media stories have focused heavily on the black unemployment rate, which has reached historic lows.
      President Trump was quick to claim credit for this improvement last year, tweeting: “Somebody please inform Jay-Z that because of my policies, Black Unemployment has just been reported to be at the LOWEST RATE EVER RECORDED!” (The rapper had recently criticized the president for a racist statement about African countries.)

    • Turkish Court Jails Journalist For Telling The Truth About A Politician’s Offshore Tax Shelter

      Truth is no defense against allegations of defamation — not in Turkey where criminal defamation law is just one of the government’s many weapons deployed against critics. Journalist Pelin Ünker has been sentenced to more than a year in jail by a Turkish court for publishing undeniable facts.

    • Disappointing photos show what living in San Francisco on a tech salary really looks like

      In the nation’s most competitive real-estate market, it can be next to impossible to find affordable living accommodations. The housing crisis has left thousands struggling and has done nothing to help the city’s homelessness epidemic.

      It costs $3,360 on average for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco. That means when the average starting tech salary of $91,738 is taken into account, some techies are shelling out a good portion of their paycheck solely on rent.

    • Income Share Agreements: A Student Debt Promise Falling Short Of Reality – Roosevelt Institute

      With outstanding student debt at $1.5 trillion, policymakers and education providers are looking for ways to make college more affordable. Though many argue for enhanced public investment to reduce tuition, others are turning to debt alternatives like income share agreements (ISAs). Through these contracts, universities (often with funding from private investors) contribute to a student’s education in exchange for a cut of their future income over a set number of years. Recently, journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin advocated for ISAs in The New York Times, calling one ISA-funded education program a “radically new approach to funding education” that could work for students, “not just for schools and bill collectors.” However, our forthcoming research indicates that the ISAs that are emerging throughout the country may not match up with their promise and instead put students at risk.

      To many, ISAs are a potential silver bullet for the student debt crisis. The appeal is that ISAs would allow students to reduce their risk compared to loans. Loans stick students (and often, their families) with all of the risk if their education doesn’t pay off. Through ISAs, funders only make money if the students do, and students will never owe more than their earnings can support. In reality, however, funders can shape ISAs to quietly push much of the risk back onto students by crafting contracts that work to their advantage, avoiding consumer protections laws and aggressively marketing the alleged advantages of ISAs.

      The program touted by Sorkin’s recent column, Lambda School, offers little public information about the terms of its ISAs, so it is difficult to assess its impact on consumers. Instead, we looked at Purdue University’s “Back a Boiler” program — perhaps the most prominent and acclaimed ISA programs in the United States. Back a Boiler illustrates how ISAs are not a solution to the high cost of higher education but rather another avenue for students to become trapped in debt. As a non-profit university with a vested interest in students’ success, Purdue’s ISA has been heralded as a model both for other universities and for legislative proposals, but our research uncovers major problems with Back a Boiler.

      First, Purdue’s program includes less favorable terms for students in less profitable majors. In other words, if a student’s major increases the risk that the funder won’t recoup their investment — e.g., perhaps a student is more likely to become a teacher than an investment banker — then the ISA contract is adjusted accordingly. These students owe a greater percentage of their income for a longer period of time than peers in other, “more profitable” majors. Instead of sharing the risk of lower earnings, Purdue bakes that risk into the terms.

    • Machiavellianism and Brexit

      A Cabinet Office source tells me today No. 10 is considering agreeing a second referendum with three choices: No Deal Brexit, May’s Deal or No Brexit. It would be by alternative vote, ie you rate your preferences 1, 2. The thinking is that the first round might go No Deal 23, May’s Deal 37, No Brexit 40. The second round would then go May’s Deal 60, No Brexit 40.

      They claim there is opinion poll evidence to support this. But I see a flaw. It is predicated on the current situation, where a lot of Remainers are prepared to support Brexit, to respect the referendum result. But surely a second referendum would release that psychological constraint and the overwhelming majority of Remainers would seize the opportunity to try and ditch Brexit?

      The advantage of the ploy from May’s viewpoint is that it presents her “deal” as the only alternative to No Deal or No Brexit, and in an AV vote the compromise position is always boosted. What is more it keeps the numerous other options for deals outwith her red lines – eg EFTA, Single Market, Customs Union, EEA – all off the ballot paper. This limited choice referendum thus appeals to May as “out-maneuvering” the opposition parties. The idea is to sucker them in to talk on a second referendum, then produce this slanted one.

    • Outsourced and Forgotten: No Relief for Federal Contract Workers

      As the government shutdown drags on, 800,000 federal workers continue to be furloughed or are working without pay. Even if they receive back pay at the end of the shutdown, it will be a case of “too little, too late”: Delayed pay cannot redress lost housing, late payment fees on bills or credit cards, unpaid child care bills, or the daily struggles of living paycheck to paycheck when those checks are delayed indefinitely.

      But large numbers of people who do the work of the federal government are not directly employed by the federal government; they do work that the government has outsourced to private companies. Many of these workers may end up receiving no back pay at all.

      These are the women and men who staff customer service lines, process payments, maintain properties, serve meals and provide tech support through government contracts with private employers. The number of affected workers is literally impossible to pinpoint, even for the government agencies signing the contracts. For every direct federal worker, we hire almost two more to execute such contracts, for a total of more than 3.7 million contracted employees, according to 2015 research estimates. Untold thousands of these employees have been locked out of work for temporarily shuttered agencies like the Departments of Transportation (with its $9.1 billion in contracts), Treasury ($13.9 billion in contracts) and Agriculture ($16.9 billion).

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics
    • ‘Putin’s chef’ wanted to buy St. Petersburg’s leading investigative news outlet, but the owner of ‘Maxim’ magazine beat him to it

      On Friday, January 11, media magnate Viktor Shkulev chaired the morning planning meeting at Fontanka’s newsroom in St. Petersburg, introducing himself as the outlet’s new owner. A source on Fontanka’s editorial staff told Meduza that Shkulev brought a new logo and a new subheader for the website, changing “Petersburg Internet Newspaper” to “St. Petersburg Online.” According to Meduza’s source, Shkulev said Fontanka would “need to remain equidistant from all political forces,” while making an extra effort to attract male readers (“the beast with the prized fur”) beloved by advertisers.

      Viktor Shkulev is the president of the Hearst Shkulev Publishing company, which publishes the Russian-language edition of Maxim, the country’s most popular men’s magazine, as well as the women’s publications Elle, Marie Claire, and Psychologies. The total audience for the company’s publications was 18.2 million people in 2016. Shkulev, however, isn’t just in the magazine business: since 2012, he’s been developing a series of city websites and has bought shares of regional media companies. In the past few years, he’s acquired online-publications in Yekaterinburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Samara, Perm, Novosibirsk, Sochi, and Novokuznetsk, amassing an empire that reaches 19 million people.

    • DNC Rules Chair: How the 2020 Caucuses Could Change

      James Roosevelt III has been the co-chair of the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee since 1995. In late December, the DNC issued its 2020 Delegate Selection Rules, which require states holding presidential caucuses, like Iowa and Nevada, to offer same-day registration and a way to participate without being present—either by mail or online. I reached out to Roosevelt about modernizing the caucus process and the challenges posed, starting with 2020’s first event in Iowa.

    • ‘Where’s Mitch?’: Ocasio-Cortez and Fellow Democrats Search High and Low to Demand McConnell Hold Vote to End Shutdown

      With the economic pain and dire safety risks caused by the record-long government shutdown becoming clearer by the day, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and a group of her fellow freshman House Democrats marched to the Senate building on Wednesday to hand-deliver a letter demanding that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) immediately hold a vote to reopen the government.

      After searching for and failing to find McConnell in the Republican cloakroom, his office, or on the Senate floor, the Democrats left copies of their letter on McConnell’s desk and in his personal office.

    • GOP Congressmen Meet With Holocaust-Denying Troll Chuck Johnson

      Johnson, a former Breitbart reporter, has denied the magnitude of the Holocaust, expressing doubt that gas chambers were real and questioning whether six million Jews were really killed—a figure that has been well-documented by scholars and historians. He also ran crowdfunding efforts for white supremacist causes, including the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer.

      [...]

      Despite his unsavory past, Johnson has had access to other members of Congress before. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) invited Johnson to the 2018 State of the Union address, and once arranged a meeting between then-Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

    • Trump Is Over If You Want It

      Hey peeps, good news! The tinpot tyrant resigned by writing a note on a napkin in the Oval Office! He was felled by a women-led, multi-racial grassroots resistance targeting not just Trump but those who enabled him, turning the tide with an array of actions from sticky “sippy-cup sit-ins” of lawmakers’ offices by mothers with young children to a “wall of floof” created by young women in multi-layered quinceañera gowns to blockade government buildings. Outsmarted and out-classed, Trump fled to Yalta. Meanwhile, a grim Mike Pence was sworn in for a “clipped-duck” term, world leaders breathed sighs of relief, and progressives celebrated 64 groundbreaking bills, including Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, free college tuition and election reform. Amidst the stunning turnaround – #byebye45 – major news outlets took a remorseful look back at Trump’s rise to power and offered a collective mea culpa: “Our bad.”

      Across D.C. on Wednesday, the news of Trump’s demise – “UNPRESIDENTED” – was trumpeted on the front page of the Washington Post. Alas, it was in fact a fake Post created by activist collective The Yes Men, along with authors Onnesha Roychoudhuri and L.A. Kauffman.

    • Trump’s Flailing will get More Desperate and More Dangerous

      Since the striking victories of Democrats up and down the ballot in 2018, President Donald Trump has been flailing more and more wildly.

      He’s setting new records for the length of the government shutdown, watched his defense secretary resign after suddenly announcing the withdrawal of troops from Syria, forced his attorney general to resign, found it difficult to find a permanent replacement for his departing chief of staff, and tweeted that he is “all alone in the White House.”

      Quietly, the unrelenting investigation of Robert Mueller becomes ever more ominous. Now the new Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives will probe the corruption of this most corrupt administration, from Trump’s business dealings to the corporate lobbyists who are running entire departments in the interests of their once and future employers.

      While Trump issues insult after insult against opponents — Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Vice President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer — he reveals just how desperate he is.

      Essentially, Trump now has three choices. He can stay in office and be impeached. The evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors is building each day, from trampling election laws by payoffs to keep his mistresses quiet to blatant self-enrichment that surely offends the Constitution’s ban on emoluments, to open and secret efforts to obstruct justice.

      Democrats will no doubt wait for special prosecutor Mueller to issue his report. They will wait to see if Republicans, alarmed by their sinking poll numbers, begin to separate themselves from Trump. Sen. Mitt Romney’s blast at Trump may be an early warning of what’s likely to come.

    • Trump vs the Constitution: Why He Cannot Invoke the Emergencies Act to Build a Wall

      The more President Trump changes his mind about declaring a national emergency to build his wall the less likely it is that he has the authority to do it. But even if he had declared a national emergency immediately, it is unlikely the Constitution or congressional statute allows him to do it. That is perhaps why Trump has not invoke emergency powers to build the wall–basic principles of American law suggest he lacks the authority to do it.

      The US Constitution is a power conferring document. There are no extra-constitutional powers. Before the president or any branch of the national government does something it needs to trace authority back to the explicit text of the Constitution or the power must be necessarily implied. In the case of the president, his authority comes from Article II of the Constitution, or he may be delegated some additional authority to him from Congress via Article I.

      Under Article II section 1, executive power is vested in the president. Under Article II, section 3, the president shall take care that the laws are faithfully executed. Through either of these clauses the president can issue an executive order and declare a national emergency, but what does that really mean? Does it mean presidents can ignore existing law or do whatever they want for whatever reason? Doubtful. President’s cannot manufacture an emergency and then invoke undefined powers to ignore the law or the Constitution; this idea violates the very idea of rule of law and the concept of American constitutionalism.

    • Referendum 2020: A Green New Deal vs. Racist, Classist Climate Genocide

      Perverse as it may seem, I as a climate justice activist am extremely glad the corrupt corporate, militarist Democratic Party leadership has repeatedly expressed its contempt for the Sunrise Movement’s much-needed, potentially game-changing call for a Green New Deal. Three recent, egregious instances of that contempt are 1) Chuck Schumer’s criminally insane promotion of Trump-supporting fossil fuel puppet Joe Manchin to be lead Democrat on a powerful Senate energy committee, 2) Nancy Pelosi’s predictable castration of Sunrise’s hoped-for committee to legislate a Green New Deal, and 3) Pelosi’s equally predictable construction of an insurmountable barricade to a Green New Deal by her ardent embrace of a pay-go budget provision, recently adopted by House Democrats.

      What makes me so glad is that Democrats’ corrupt Schumer-Pelosi leadership has taken no time whatsoever to show its cards: it clearly seeks to kill a Green New Deal. Or, at minimum, to weaken it beyond recognition, so the leadership game of serving Wall Street and Silicon Valley, the military-industrial-surveillance complex, and the Israel lobby can continue unimpeded. Absolutely clueless that the youth climate movement is different and won’t be bought off with lip service, Democrats’ leadership has already provoked the Sunrise Movement to strengthen its resolve.

      Deeply heartened by Sunrise’s refusal to be taken lightly, I see clear hope that the movement is willing to get radical and use “nuclear” political weapons against the adamantine anti-climate obstinacy of the Democratic leadership. As a veteran activist strategist, I have one such “can’t miss” weapon to propose: making the 2020 election a referendum between Democrats’ Green New Deal and Republicans’ racist, classist climate genocide. If taken up by a popular presidential hopeful like Bernie Sanders, or by a climate-obsessed one like Washington governor Jay Inslee, this stark referendum could sound the well-deserved death knell for today’s beyond-criminal Republican Party. And spell endless, politically suicidal woe for any corporate Democrat who dares oppose it.

    • Just Another Brick in the Wall of Lies

      It’s time to bring back the original Nightline. For those of you too young to remember, Nightlinewas born almost 40 years ago during the “Iranian Hostage Crisis.” Each nightly broadcast began with the words “The Iran Crisis: America Held Hostage” that would eventually be followed by the numbers of days that had elapsed since their seizure. This continued for 444 days. After the release of the hostages, the program began to devote more of its thirty minutes to probing in depth a single political or social issue. Over the years, having to compete with talk-over-shouting-matches-on-demand cable and the click-bait internet, the once venerable news program has since degenerated into little more than an infomercial for the exploits of Lindsay Lohan and R. Kelly, providing the latest celebrity gossip, politically safe human-interest stories, and the 411 on films and TV shows produced by Disney, its parent company.

      The revival of Nightline – and hopefully corporate tele journalistic due diligence – would be motivated by another national crisis: the fact that as of January 13th, for the last 723 days, America has been taken hostage by homegrown radical extremists, although the true dimensions of this siege did not become clear until their righteous leader decided to shut down the government and hold Americans ransom to pay for his Wall. Of course, Trump being Trump, the magnitude of his hostage crisis far exceeds the 52 Americans seized by Iran, as it includes some 800,000 federal workers and their families and promises to impact the lives of millions more the longer it continues.

      Yet for all its current chest beating about the truth and protestations against being labeled fake news, the corporate mainstream media has not learned the lessons of its past. Had it done so, it would not have provided Trump with prime-time national coverage to bamboozle the nation with more drivel about his Great Wall. Recall that these self-avowed defenders of democracy and Diogenesian seekers of truth and honesty are the same networks that in 2014 refused to provide President Obama the airtime to promote his own immigration plan because, according to a “network insider” cited by the Washington Post (November 21, 2014), they thought it was “overtly political,” as if, some four years later, Trump’s was any less so (and by almost any measure far more so). Then again, their denial may have been motivated by other less high-minded considerations: As the Post’s Jaime Fuller reported, November also “happens to be ‘sweeps’ month, when programming tries and encourage more viewers to turn in by promising more exciting content. Presidential sweeps don’t always ensure the exciting cliffhangers and plot twists that networks are looking for.” Did I mention that Diogenes was a Cynic?

      Apparently, these networks, still under the sway of the former reality TV star, who as presidential candidate and President boosted their sagging ratings, believe his address would have the same impact, albeit it turns out the ratings were less than stellar, with the Democratic rebuttal drawing slightly more viewers. Despite the fact that Trump is, as the New York Times’s Roger Cohen recently dubbed him, the “Michelangelo of bullshit artists” (a more fitting description, I think, would be the Dali of deception, since his masterworks dabble in surrealistic distortions of reality), the media, conflicted patron of the arts that it is, continues to provide him its canvas free of charge.

    • White House Denounces Rep. Steve King’s Racist Remarks

      Comments by Republican Rep. Steve King about white supremacy are “abhorrent,” the White House said Wednesday as bipartisan condemnation of King continued.

      White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders praised a move by House Republicans to strip the nine-term Iowa lawmaker of his committee assignments.

      King told The New York Times last week that, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?”

    • Giuliani Claims ‘I Never Said There Was No Collusion’ Between Trump Campaign and Russia (Yes, He Did)

      Giuliani previously garnered attention last summer, when he said during interviews that he’s not even convinced collusion with a foreign government that is trying to influence a U.S. presidential election is actually a crime.

      Trump, for his part, has called Mueller’s probe a “witch hunt.” The president has also tweeted: “Russian Collusion with the Trump Campaign, one of the most successful in history, is a TOTAL HOAX” and “The Trump campaign did nothing wrong – no collusion!”

      Giuliani’s interview comes after a court filing revealed last week that Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort gave 2016 presidential campaign polling data to Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian political consultant who was previously an interpreter for his country’s military and is said to have ties to its intelligence services.

      The interview also comes amid speculation about when Mueller’s report will finally arrive and who will get to see it. Trump’s legal team reportedly may try to block it from being released to Congress and the public, but Giuliani denied that to Cuomo on Wednesday, claiming the president’s lawyers just want the opportunity to see it first and respond.

    • Facebook deletes hundreds of fake groups created by staff at Kremlin media outlet

      On January 17, the head of Facebook’s Cybersecurity Policy announced the removal of 364 pages and accounts that originated in Russia and operated in the Baltics, Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Europe. According to Facebook, the administrators and account owners represented themselves as independent news pages and general-interest pages, but were really “linked to employees” of the Russian media agency Sputnik, frequently posting about topics like “anti-NATO sentiment, protest movements, and corruption.”

      Apparently, seven of the targeted Facebook pages belonged to Sputnik’s foreign newsrooms. In a public statement on Thursday, the Russian state media agency said Facebook’s decision is “unequivocally political censorship.”

    • In First Floor Speech, Ocasio-Cortez Condemns Trump Shutdown as ‘Erosion of American Democracy’

      “It is actually not about a wall, it is not about the border, and it is certainly not about the well-being of everyday Americans,” Ocasio-Cortez said of the shutdown, which is now in its fourth week with no end in sight. “The truth is, this shutdown is about the erosion of American democracy and the subversion of our most basic governmental norms.”

      “It is not normal to shut down the government when we don’t get what we want. It is not normal for public servants to run away and hide from the public that they serve,” the New York congresswoman declared, referencing her unsuccessful search for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in the Senate building on Wednesday. “And it is certainly not normal to starve the people we serve for a proposal that is wildly unpopular among the American people.”

    • Mitch McConnell Begins to Feel the Heat for Government Shutdown at Home

      Federal workers’ protests outside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office in Lexington, Ky. are raising questions about how long the Republican leader can continue his support of President Trump in the face of the longest government shutdown in US history.

      Government workers from the Federal Medical Center, US Penitentiary in Lexington and the Federal Correctional Institution of Manchester assembled outside McConnell’s office this week to protest the shutdown, according to local CBS affiliate WKYT. The protesters made it clear that their objective was for McConnell, and Congress overall, to vote to re-open the government.

      “They don’t even know if they can make it to work, yet they’re required to work,” Jerry Jackson Jr, a union president in Big Sandy, told the network.

      “What do we pay now? Do we pay the mortgage, do we save gas money to get to work, what do we do? Do we buy the groceries? So now the times are starting to get tough,” Stephen Creech, a union president in Manchester, also observed.

  • Censorship/Free Speech
    • YouTube updates policies to explicitly ban dangerous pranks, challenges

      Pranks and challenges have always been popular on YouTube, but now the Google-owned company has set stricter guidelines for such content. A new YouTube support page details the company’s updated policy surrounding “harmful and dangerous” content to explicitly ban pranks and challenges that cause immediate or lasting physical or emotional harm.

    • Russia’s Constitutional Court decides to ease limits on foreign involvement in the media — a bit

      Russia’s Constitutional Court issued a decision today regarding Article 19.1, a law that governs mass media. The law prohibits foreigners from founding or controlling media outlets in Russia, but the Court ruled that it requires correction. The new ruling indicates that the prohibition itself is just “because that sort of influence might threaten the security of state information,” but the Court also decided to clarify what rights foreigners do have if they own shares in Russian media companies.

  • Privacy/Surveillance
    • Integrating Network-Layer Privacy Protections With Cryptocurrencies

      Some of the emerging methods for deanonymizing users of cryptocurrencies stem from mapping network traffic to unveil IP addresses and making connections between identities. Privacy concerns around network-layer tracking by government surveillance programs and other avenues for unveiling identities across the Internet have led to several important developments to preserve privacy.

      The Tor Network and The Invisible Internet Project (I2P) are two of the leading overlay networks for users to protect their privacy over the public medium of the Internet. Other solutions include Mixnets, which are routing protocols using chained proxy servers to mix input messages.

    • 2019: The Push For Bad Faith, Loophole-Filled Privacy Legislation Begins

      We’ve talked at length about how the telecom industry has spent the last few years pushing phony, loophole-filled net neutrality legislation.

      Why would the telecom sector do that? They know their successful lobbying assault on net neutrality rules rests on shaky ground. Next month’s court battle could easily reverse the FCC repeal, highlighting how the agency engaged in all manner of dubious behavior to kowtow to the telecom sector. They also know that thanks to the shifting winds in Congress and rising public anger, there could soon be growing support for a net neutrality law. Therefore, they want to pass their own, shitty, loophole-filled law to pre-empt tougher, better, state or federal protections.

      The same thing is happening on the privacy front. Like the successful lobbyist attack on net neutrality, the cross-industry assault on the FCC’s fairly modest broadband privacy rules back in 2017 pissed off those who were actually paying attention to it. Especially because those rules could have helped mitigate the growing roster of location data scandals by giving consumers greater control over how their location data is collected and sold.

    • Most Facebook users don’t know that it records a list of their interests, new study finds

      Seventy-four percent of Facebook users are unaware that Facebook records a list of their interests for ad-targeting purposes, according to a new study from the Pew Institute.

    • Facebook Algorithms and Personal Data

      [...] But how well do Americans understand these algorithm-driven classification systems, and how much do they think their lives line up with what gets reported about them? As a window into this hard-to-study phenomenon, a new Pew Research Center survey asked a representative sample of users of the nation’s most popular social media platform, Facebook, to reflect on the data that had been collected about them. [...]

    • Most Users Still Don’t Know How Facebook Advertising Works

      In response to questions about its targeting practices, Facebook has said that anyone can use the platform’s ad preferences menu to see and control how Facebook has categorized them. But a new survey from Pew Research Center suggests that the vast majority of US users isn’t aware that Facebook tracks their interests and traits this way. When respondents found out, most said they were uncomfortable with the assumptions the social network had made.

  • Civil Rights/Policing
    • These Hungarian Students Are Fighting for Their Country’s Democracy

      One of the first things I learned, as an outsider who just came to Hungary this year, is that it is not just CEU that is under attack from Fidesz but all Hungarian universities and academic institutions. The Corvinus University of Economics is being privatized; the country’s textbook makers have all come under state control; the largest and best humanities university (called Eötvös Lorand University, or ELTE) in the country is being defunded; certain degrees (including my field, gender studies) have been banned; conferences on migration have been banned—and that is simply what has made it to press in the few Hungarian media outlets not controlled by strongmen of Orbán.

    • William Barr Is a Trojan Horse

      Compared to Brett Kavanaugh’s sullen, bombastic performance last September, this week’s Judiciary Committee hearing for William Barr, nominee for the post of attorney general, was almost a soporific affair. It was, in a way, a throwback to an age when nominees held in their rage and clotted grudges were not verbally vomited all over the conference table.

      Of course, nothing about the Barr hearing was humdrum because it took place within the context of the chaos presidency of Donald Trump. The stakes for this nomination — political, legal and constitutional — are as high as the tape measure can reach. At stake is the extent of presidential powers, the security of Robert Mueller’s ongoing collusion investigation and the eventual availability of his final report, the integrity of the office of the attorney general and the Justice Department at large, the care and feeding of the noxious carceral state, and freedom of the press.

      As far as surface performance goes, Barr comported himself as well as can be expected. No surprise there, as he has been through Senate confirmation hearings three times before, most notably when he was named to be George H.W. Bush’s attorney general at the ragged end of that administration. This was old hat for a veteran DC insider. The tableau of his family seated behind him – his librarian wife and three grown daughters, all lawyers, plus a grandson named Liam who ladled cuteness all over the proceedings – lent Barr an aura of stability, like some weathered old oak.

      Appearances are often deceiving, however, and beneath that respectable veneer lurked a man with strong ideas which would not sit well with a public that has spent two years enduring Trump’s tyranny of mayhem-enriched overreach. When you give your hand away at a poker table, it’s called a “tell.” Barr’s tell appeared on the occasions when he refused to give straight answers to serious questions.

      For most of the hearing, Barr gave very Republican answers to a wide variety of questions because he is very Republican, but did so quietly. The committee members by and large seemed to welcome this. Sen. Diane Feinstein’s line of questions on Tuesday essentially boiled down to asking him, “Do you promise to be awesome, please?” Barr said he would.

    • What We Learned From William Barr’s Confirmation Hearing

      Trump’s pick for attorney general signaled that his Justice Department will match the poor civil rights record of Jeff Sessions.

      On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee questioned William Barr, President Trump’s nominee to be attorney general, on his views on the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference, the criminal justice system, and immigration. Senators also addressed other key issues — including privacy, marijuana, voting rights, abortion rights, and LGBTQ civil rights — in their questioning.

      While the ACLU does not take a position on nominations, we have raised concerns about his record, including his past work involving warrantless surveillance, mass incarceration, and civil liberties abuses.

    • State Duma refuses to resume cooperation with PACE, increasing chances that Russia could leave the Council of Europe

      Federal lawmakers in Russia say they are opposed to sending a delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for this year’s Winter Session in Strasbourg, rejecting an invitation from General Secretary Wojciech Sawicki.

      On January 17, at a plenary session of the State Duma, all four represented political parties endorsed an announcement refusing to resume cooperation with PACE until Russia’s voting rights are restored in the organization.

      According to the Duma’s statement, more than half the judges now working in the European Court of Human Rights were elected without the participation of a Russian PACE delegation, “calling into question the legitimacy of the ECHR’s rulings related to Russia.”

    • The FBI Says Its Photo Analysis Is Scientific Evidence. Scientists Disagree.

      At the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, a team of about a half-dozen technicians analyzes pictures down to their pixels, trying to determine if the faces, hands, clothes or cars of suspects match images collected by investigators from cameras at crime scenes.

      The unit specializes in visual evidence and facial identification, and its examiners can aid investigations by making images sharper, revealing key details in a crime or ruling out potential suspects.

      But the work of image examiners has never had a strong scientific foundation, and the FBI’s endorsement of the unit’s findings as trial evidence troubles many experts and raises anew questions about the role of the FBI Laboratory as a standard-setter in forensic science.

      FBI examiners have tied defendants to crime pictures in thousands of cases over the past half-century using unproven techniques, at times giving jurors baseless statistics to say the risk of error was vanishingly small. Much of the legal foundation for the unit’s work is rooted in a 22-year-old comparison of bluejeans. Studies on several photo comparison techniques, conducted over the last decade by the FBI and outside scientists, have found they are not reliable.

    • Our Pointless, Very American Culture of Shame

      Puritanism’s obsession with guilt and shame, Nathaniel Hawthorne believed, was America’s original sin. We haven’t made much progress since “The Scarlet Letter.”

      Do the crime do the time, goes the cliché. In the United States, when the time ends the shaming begins.

      It starts when you look for a job. At least 65% of Americans have a felony or misdemeanor criminal record that makes them ineligible to work for the more than 90% of companies who run background checks to weed out applicants with a record. As for the few ex-cons who slip through this electronic dragnet, they are required by shaming laws to tell prospective employers about their checkered past. (Some states have slightly liberalized the requirement with laws like New York’s “Ban the Box” law, which requires disclosure only at the job offer stage.)

      The only social benefit to convict-shaming is the shaming itself. “The irony is that employers’ attempts to safeguard the workplace are not only barring many people who pose little to no risk, but they also are compromising public safety. As studies have shown, providing individuals the opportunity for stable employment actually lowers crime recidivism rates and thus increases public safety,” notes a 2011 report by the National Employment Law Project. But capitalism is dog-eat-dog. Each company looks out for itself, society be damned.

      I dug into the issue of convict-shaming after an op-ed I wrote for the Wall Street Journal calling for automatic expungement of records of people previously convicted of buying recreational marijuana in amounts that would now be legal prompted a discussion online. Some readers agreed with me that it’s absurd to keep punishing people for acts that are now legal. Others felt that if it was a crime at the time a criminal is still a criminal.

      In most countries most employers do not conduct criminal background checks and there is no legal or ethical expectation that ex-cons reveal that they have committed a crime.

      A person is convicted, sentenced to prison time and/or to pay a fine, serves the term and coughs up the money. Isn’t there a logical contradiction between release—which assumes an inmate no longer presents a danger to society—and public shaming? I am thinking of one of the most extreme examples of convict-shaming, Megan’s Law. Based on the false assumption that sex offenders have a high rate of recidivism, these statutes require that released inmates register in a database and notify local police and their neighbors of their address.

    • The Wall Already Exists — In Our Hearts and Minds

      My favorite album of all time is Pink Floyd’s The Wall. It should be re-released given the current (manufactured) crisis. I’m not surprised that Roger Waters is planning a show on the border to protest Trump’s continued government shutdown over funding for an ill-defined barrier that has come to represent everything wrong with his presidency: lies, false promises, fear, racism, and simplistic solutions.

      It’s important to emphasize that the wall is more symbol than reality. Setting aside the fact that the nearly-2,000-mile border is already teeming with armed men and barriers of various kinds, a Trumpian “wall” already exists: the (abstract) wall that blocks many Americans from seeing migrants from Central America and Mexico as people just like them.

      While Trump was rightly condemned for misappropriating the Game of Thrones slogan “Winter Is Coming” by taking the font and changing it to “The Wall Is Coming,” the underlying analogy is eerily correct. Although — spoiler alert — the (mythical) wall is destroyed by undead invaders (who only advance during winter) at the end of the show’s last season, for thousands of years it served to separate the living not only from the undead but also from each other. In a reversal of reality, those living south of the wall disparaged the northerners as “wildlings,” portraying them as amoral, violent, and uncivilized, while the northerners denounced their southern brethren for their cloistered arrogance. Sound familiar?

    • Government Mistakenly Wanted to Deport U.S. Veteran, Says ACLU

      A Marine veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder was held for three days for possible deportation before federal authorities learned that he was a U.S. citizen born in Michigan, lawyers said Wednesday.

      Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, 27, lives in the Grand Rapids area. He was released on Dec. 17 from a detention center in Calhoun County after personal records were provided to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.

      “Why did they think he was a noncitizen? Did they get him confused with someone else? Who knows,” ACLU attorney Miriam Aukerman said. “This is an individual who’s incredibly vulnerable with a mental illness.”

      ICE released a statement Wednesday evening saying Ramos-Gomez told its officers he was “a foreign national illegally present in the U.S,” and the agency took him into custody on Dec. 14. ICE said it released him three days later after receiving documentation suggesting he was a U.S. citizen.

    • Haiti’s Forgotten Women and Children

      I lived in Haiti in 2010, arriving six weeks after the January earthquake. I initially worked at a children’s hospital, where I was assigned to a ward full of toddlers, all but one of whom were female, most of them abandoned. I was to change diapers, feed and bathe the children, and do whatever else the staff nurses needed.

      On my third day, a woman from an American nongovernmental organization (NGO) came to our wing and ordered the Haitian nurses about in a troubling manner. She instructed them to prepare the children for photo shoots. She then walked through the ward as a photographer clicked away, while she picked up children and pulled every Princess Diana pose in the book.

      I was disturbed by this scene, as were the nurses, who told me that they could not ask this woman to stop, for fear of losing their jobs. So I intervened and reminded her that she was violating U.N. regulations regarding the safety and privacy of the children. The woman explained that she planned to use these pictures as promotional material for her orphanage in Cuernavaca, Mexico. I reminded her again that these children were considered refugees and that she had no right to take their photos. Long story short, that was the shortest-lived job I ever had. I was shown the door two hours later.

    • Steve King Stands for Everything MLK Fought Against

      If Martin Luther King Jr. were alive, he would have turned 90 years old on Tuesday. Instead, he was felled by an assassin’s bullet that terrible day, April 4, 1968. After a long-fought struggle, his birthday was finally celebrated as a national holiday in 1986. Many states, from New Hampshire to South Carolina to Arizona and beyond, delayed implementing the holiday, exposing the intractability of institutional racism.

      Another King was in the news on MLK Jr.’s birthday this week: Steve King, a racist Republican congressman from Iowa. This King added to his extensive record of racist comments by telling The New York Times last week, “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization – how did that language become offensive?” Commenting on the diversity of the new 116th Congress, he added, “You could look over there and think the Democratic Party is no country for white men.” His remarks have sparked a backlash from his own party, which stripped him of his committee assignments. Some Republican members of Congress, along with many Democratic members, are calling on him to resign, as are the editorial boards of prominent Iowa newspapers.

      The House of Representatives, under Democratic control, passed a resolution — on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday — rejecting “White nationalism and White supremacy as hateful expressions of intolerance.” It mentioned Steve King’s comments to The New York Times, but did not expressly condemn him or his words. The resolution passed by a vote of 424-1. Steve King himself voted for the resolution.

    • Iran Newspapers, Minister Criticize U.S. Arrest of Newscaster

      Iran kept up its criticism Thursday of the FBI’s apparent arrest of an American anchorwoman from Iran’s state-run English-language TV channel, with its foreign minister saying “she’s done nothing but journalism.”

      The hard-line Vatan-e Emrooz paper criticized the detention of Press TV’s Marzieh Hashemi as “Saudi-style behavior with a critical journalist.” That’s a reference to the Oct. 2 assassination of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

      Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told Press TV that “we have a right to continue to look after her interests” as Hashemi, born Melanie Franklin in New Orleans, also holds Iranian citizenship.

    • Blogger outside Khabarovsk is arrested after sharing video that allegedly shows cops attending a mobster’s funeral

      On January 8, reputed mobster Yuri Zarubin was laid to rest in the town of Amursk, about 150 miles outside Khabarovsk. That same day, Twitter user Mikhail Svetlov shared footage of the funeral procession, recorded by a local woman. Svetlov claims the ceremony blocked road traffic (though the woman who filmed the procession says this isn’t true). A few minutes after this content went up on Twitter, a user named VictorKvert2008 wrote that Zarubin’s pallbearers allegedly included the city’s district attorney and the chief of police. According to the news agency Rosbalt, another Amursk resident wrote online about the funeral and planned to share his own footage of police officers participating in the procession, but he decided not to publish the video, after threats from the authorities.

    • What About Open Borders?

      There are things that go unquestioned in the national discussion. Because this is a country wrapped in fear and self-importance, the basic, unchallenged premise determining how we behave, how we spend our money, is that we need to protect ourselves . . . from The Enemy.

      There’s always an enemy lurking at the core of our fear that is simplistic and human. The “enemy” is not, for instance, global warming, except in an abstract and basically meaningless sense, the defeat of which would require a collective global effort. Nor is the enemy nuclear disaster or accident, which could be addressed by (heaven forbid) disarmament.

      Such solutions have enormous complexities, of course, but these complexities are not part of the national conversation, let alone the actions of government. Instead, we choose to arm—that is, to simplify—our fears, via bloated military budgets and, as is now becoming overly apparent in the age of Donald Trump, turning our “border” into a sacred fetish.

    • House Subcommittee Report Highlights ‘Culture Of Fear And Retaliation’ In Federal Prisons

      Wardens and other senior officials in the federal prison system engage in gross misconduct, avoid consequences by disrupting investigations and disciplinary proceedings, and encourage a “culture of fear and retaliation,” according to a report from a subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

      The deep-seated abuses documented in the report [PDF] have appeared in other government oversight records going back to at least 2004, yet according to the report, “the culture apparently remains.” That culture may impact some efforts to bring relief to federal prisoners via reforms like the First Step Act, which will be implemented this year.

      The report was submitted during the last Congress by Republicans on the Subcommittee on National Security and is dated January 2, 2019.

      “These measures of protection have given management at many [Bureau of Prisons (BOP)] facilities a disturbing level of impunity,” the report states.

      The subcommittee found 12 complaints against five wardens that were opened and closed on a single day. Complaints against senior staff included assaults on prisoners, falsifying records, creating a hostile work environment, embezzlement, harassment, and retaliation. None of the people who lodged complaints were notified of their outcome.

      Misconduct was “largely tolerated or ignored altogether.” The names of specific facilities and personnel were not published in the report.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality
    • FCC Wants Delay In Net Neutrality Trial Due To Government Shutdown, But Isn’t Likely To Get It

      Again, this legal fight is going to be very interesting to watch, as it’s the first time the FCC will have to defend the various bizarre behaviors it engaged in during the repeal, including making up a DDOS attack (apparently to concoct an alternative explanation for the outrage-driven FCC website outage), blocking FOIA and law enforcement inquiries into those bogus comments the FCC refused to do anything about, or why its flimsy justifications for the repeal were pushed in perfect synchronicity with big telecom lobbyists.

      If you were staring down the barrel of that particular gun, you’d probably want a delay too. Should the FCC lose, the agency’s 2015 rules could be restored. If it wins, the FCC and its friends in the telecom sector need to find a way to prevent some future FCC or Congress from simply passing new rules, which is why they’ve been pushing bogus net neutrality laws even Congress hasn’t been dumb enough to buy into quite yet. Get your popcorn ready.

  • DRM
    • Why Does Everyone Else Want To Stop Netflix Password Sharing, When Netflix Is Fine With It?

      Except, that assumes that everyone using a shared password would otherwise buy, which is ludicrous. And, again, the companies whose actual existence depends on this, both insist that it’s not having any impact, other than acting as free marketing for them to later sign people up long term. Incredibly, the reporter at the Independent includes that bogus “study” and other quotes about how password sharing is “too expensive to ignore,” but doesn’t bother to check to see HBO or Netflix’s opinion of whether or not this is actually a problem.

      It really is a shame that so many people automatically default to the idea that people sharing access to content must automatically be “a problem” that must be “stopped.” The companies who dominate this space don’t see it as a problem, and just because some company’s PR team got the ear of a reporter, that doesn’t change reality.

  • Intellectual Monopolies
    • The FTC has rested its likely-winning case with a final hand grenade destroying a Qualcomm mantra

      Yesterday (Tuesday, January 15) was Day 6 of the FTC v. Qualcomm antitrust trial in San Jose (Northern District of California), which will continue in Judge Lucy H. Koh’s court on Friday, January 18.

      When FTC lead counsel Jennifer Milici said “Your Honor, the FTC rests its case,” you could have heard a pin drop even if there had been thousands of people in the audience, provided that all of them would have been reasonably knowledgeable. That’s because seconds before that procedural notice, former Qualcomm licensing president Marvin Blecker had been confronted, in a videotaped deposition, with an internal email in which a colleague confirmed to him that Qualcomm’s chip division had actually held product shipments to a customer who had not yet accepted Qualcomm’s license terms.

      It had been Qualcomm’s mantra all the time that they had never actually carried out the “No License-No Chips” threat against existing customers. They couldn’t deny that they wouldn’t accept a new customer prior to taking a license from them. And an Apple witness said that after Apple sued Qualcomm (in January 2017), Qualcomm refused to even discuss a potential 5G product partnership with Apple. But again, Qualcomm’s lawyers had over and over again–you could set your watch by them–elicited testimony from current and former Qualcommm executives that the company had never carried out the threat of holding chipset shipments to an existing customer due to disagreements on licensing.

      In the seconds before resting its case, the FTC made them all look like…well, I don’t want to use the harsh words that I actually think would be warranted here, so let me just call them “unreliable witnesses and lawyers you better don’t trust in this context.”

    • Copyrights
      • Nearly 100 European Authors Demand ‘Proportionate’ Remuneration In EU Copyright Directive

        With negotiations for the European Union Copyright Directive apparently approaching an end, a group of some 95 screenwriters and directors joined the intensive lobbying efforts with a letter today urging that a principle of “proportionate” remuneration to them be enshrined. The letter spells out several elements they argue are key to ensuring European audiovisual authors are able to “make a living from our craft and creativity.”

      • The EU’s Copyright Directive Charm Offensive Pats Europeans On the Head and Tells Them Leave it Up to the Corporations

        In a new Q&A about the Directive, the European Parliament – or rather, the JURI committee, which, headed by Axel Voss, spearheaded the shepherding of Article 13 and 11 through a skeptical Parliament, sets out a one-sided account of the most far-reaching regulation of online speech in living memory, insisting that “online platforms and news aggregators are reaping all the rewards while artists, news publishers and journalists see their work circulate freely, at best receiving very little remuneration for it.”

        The author of JURI’s press release is right about one thing: artists are increasingly struggling to make a living, but not because the wrong corporations are creaming off the majority of revenue that their work generates. For example, streaming music companies hand billions to music labels, but only pennies reach the artists. Meanwhile, a handful of giant companies make war with one another over which ones will get to keep the spoils of creators’ works. In a buyers’ market, sellers get a worse deal, and when there are only five major publishers and four record labels and five Internet giants, almost everyone is a seller in a buyers’ market.

      • Poland, Take Action Now: Tell Negotiators to Oppose Article 13 and 11

        (Almost) everybody hates these ideas. Not only have four million Europeans signed a petition opposing the Directive’s passage in the current form; it has also been roundly condemned by Europe’s largest movie companies and sports leagues and the Internet’s most esteemed technical experts, including the Father of the Internet Vint Cerf, and the inventor of the World Wide Web Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

      • Sweden — and You! — Can Save the Internet from the Copyright Directive
      • Luxembourg: Save the Internet from the Copyright Directive
      • Belgium: Say No To Article 13 and 11
      • Germans Can Help Save the Internet from the Copyright Directive!

        Write to Germany’s EU Negotiators and say No to Article 13 and 11

        We had hoped that the EU and national government negotiators would delete Article 13, the “censorship machines” rule that requires online platforms to hand their users’ videos, texts, audio and images to black-box machine learning filters that would unilaterally decide whether these infringed copyright and thus whether they would be censored or allowed to be published.

        Instead, the current text goes to enormous lengths to obscure its mandate for AI filters. The new language says that filters “should be” avoided, and that companies can escape liability if they use “best practices” to fight infringement. But the rule also says that the limitation of liability doesn’t apply where there is “economic harm”—meaning that a user has any commercial content—and it also requires “notice and staydown,” which means that once a platform has been notified that a given file infringes copyright, it must prevent all of its users from ever posting that content again.

      • Google Shows What Google News Looks Like If Article 11 Passes In The EU Copyright Directive

        While much of the focus concerning the EU’s Copyright Directive have been about Article 13 and the censorship and mandatory filters it will require, an equally troubling part is Article 11, which will create a “snippet” tax on anyone who aggregates news and sends traffic back to the original sites (for free) without paying those news sites. This is dumb for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is that this plan has been tried in both Germany and Spain, and failed miserably in both places. Indeed, studies in Spain showed that this law actually did tremendous harm to smaller news sites (which the EU insists this law is designed to help). The latest version we’ve seen in the EU Copyright Directive is even worse than the laws in Germany and Spain in that it is so vague and so unclear that it is possible to read them to say that using more than a single word will make the aggregator liable for the tax.

        In Spain, as you may recall, when that law was passed, Google responded by turning off Google News in Spain entirely, saying that it was impossible to remain in the country under that law. As they noted (and which everyone pushing for these laws always ignores), Google actually doesn’t put any advertisements on Google News. It’s not monetizing it (despite lies from supporters of these laws that Google is “profiting” off of their work, when Google is actually sending traffic for free). So there were some questions about what Google would do with Google News in Europe if Article 11 becomes law.

      • Vimeo ‘Fined’ €8.5m For Failure to Remove Copyrighted TV Content

        Vimeo has been ordered to pay Italian broadcasting giant €8.5m in compensation after failing to take down copyrighted TV shows. The Rome Court of Appeals also ordered the US-based video service to prevent future uploads of the content or face 1,000 or euros in fines for each offense.

      • Star Wars Theory’s “Vader” Fan Film Hit With Copyright Claim (Update)

        A ‘Vader’ fan film published by the “Star Wars Theory” YouTube channel has been hit with a copyright claim. While the channel’s owner was told that he could not monetize the production, the video is now running ads for Warner/Chappell, which owns the rights to the original Star Wars theme music. The issue angered many Star Wars fans but the music publisher doesn’t plan to back down.

      • Rightsholders Call for Suspension of Article 13

        A group of prominent representatives of the audiovisual and sports sectors, including the MPA and the Premier League, are calling for a suspension of the current Article 13 negotiations. The companies suggest that a case currently before the EU Court of Justice may give them a ‘better deal’ than the copyright reform proposal.

      • EU Copyright Directive to Turn Google into Ghost Town

        The EU Copyright Directive has made a lot of waves lately given that many fear that some of its provisions will lead to increased censorship, with almost 4.5 million Europeans signing a change.org petition to stop Article 13.

        This article was the one that attracted almost everyone’s attention seeing that it will require large online platforms such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to always keep an eye out on what their users are uploading and block all copyrighted items such as videos, images, and text.

        The other controversial article part of the EU Copyright Directive is Article 11, a provision which will force news aggregators to pay the copyright holders a fee for every news item they link to.

        Google, one of the most heated critics of the two provisions, is now testing a new search engine results page (SERP) template where the EU Copyright Directive is applied to the listed search results “to understand what the impact of the proposed EU Copyright Directive would be to our users and publisher partners,” according to Search Engine Land.

US Patent Lawyers Will Need to Change Profession or End up Becoming Abundantly Redundant, Unemployed

Thursday 17th of January 2019 11:04:50 AM

Last year: Number of US Patent Lawsuits Was More Than 50% Higher Half a Decade Ago

Summary: In the age of Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) inter partes reviews (IPRs) and 35 U.S.C. § 101 it’s too risky to sue with dodgy patents; moreover, the Federal Circuit‘s growing adoption of Alice means that no recent cases have given hope to patent maximalists and litigation frequency has fallen again (at double-digit rates)

FOR THOSE who still wonder why we don’t write much about the USPTO anymore (we still cover EPO affairs), it’s to do with the decline of patent litigation in the US. It seems to still accelerate though anti-PTAB front groups continue to cherry-pick numbers and pretend that the Office can influence courts; it’s the other way around [1, 2].

“Over the past few years many such shops have shut down or have been taken over/merged. The father of patent trolling died along with his ‘business’ and the world’s biggest troll, Intellectual Ventures, is shedding off ‘assets’.”We’ve taken note of the demise of the litigation capital in Texas and currently the European Patent Office is failing to create an alternative to it in Europe (the UPC is failing). After litigation had already fallen sharply (it used to be a half higher half a decade ago, i.e. around the time of Alice) we learned that as per the “Docket Navigator database on January 14, some 3,600 cases were filed in 2018 – down 11.5%,” as Managing IP put it. It’s pretty clear that the patent litigation ‘industry’ has collapsed in the US. It’s good for people who actually make/innovate stuff; not so good for litigators and trolls. Over the past few years many such shops have shut down or have been taken over/merged. The father of patent trolling died along with his ‘business’ and the world’s biggest troll, Intellectual Ventures, is shedding off ‘assets’. If we don’t cover US patents as much as we did last year, this is why. So far this week Watchtroll has already attacked both SCOTUS and PTAB. It also liaised with IBM for some more software patents propaganda, reaffirming our fears for Red Hat's fate.

Links 16/1/2019: Deepin 15.9 Released and Mozilla Fenix

Wednesday 16th of January 2019 11:59:34 PM

Contents GNU/Linux
  • Linux Tools: The Meaning of Dot

    Let’s face it: writing one-liners and scripts using shell commands can be confusing. Many of the names of the tools at your disposal are far from obvious in terms of what they do (grep, tee and awk, anyone?) and, when you combine two or more, the resulting “sentence” looks like some kind of alien gobbledygook.

    None of the above is helped by the fact that many of the symbols you use to build a chain of instructions can mean different things depending on their context.

  • Desktop
    • Entroware Unleash Hades, A Powerful Linux Workstation

      British Linux computer company Entroware has unveiled its latest Linux-powered offering — and it’s something of a beast!

      The Entroware Hades is the company’s first workstation PC to offer AMD processors and multi-GPU configurations.

      The base model comes equipped with an octa-core AMD Ryzen 1900X, Nvidia GeForce GT 1030 (2GB) and 16GB RAM and a 120GB SSD.

    • Introducing The Elementary OS 5 Linux Community Challenge

      The basic premise of the elementary OS Challenge is simple: ditch Windows, macOS or your current Linux OS of choice and exclusively use elementary OS 5 Juno as your daily driver for two weeks. Explore the curated AppCenter and the bundled software to get all of your working and playing done. For email, for music, for coding, for gaming, for whatever.

      We’ll be taking this journey together, which hopefully means a two-way conversation to discuss the successes, discoveries, questions and potential stumbling blocks we encounter along the way.

    • Purism Upgrades Librem 13 And 15 Linux Laptops Without Raising The Price

      Purism also adopts coreboot, an open source replacement for a PC’s traditional (and proprietary) BIOS, thus diminishing the risk for certain security flaws. It also serves to better compliment PureOS, the company’s own Linux distribution which it bills as a “fully auditable operating system.”

    • CTL Announces $300 Rugged Chromebook Tablet for the Education Market

      The Chromebook Tablet (seriously though, why can’t get rid of the “book” in that title?) education revolution is here. Acer started it, ASUS got in on it, and now CTL is getting in the game. Here’s the skinny.

      You’d be forgiven if your first thought was “…who is CTL?,” because honestly, they’re not as well known as some of the other companies that are active in the Chrome OS market. Still, they make some fantastic Chromebooks and Chromeboxes (see, we don’t say “Chromebook Desktop,” so why aren’t they called Chrometabs?) designed to be more robust than the average Chrome OS device.

    • Chrome OS will soon let you search for and install Linux apps from the launcher

      We’ve talked a lot about Chrome OS‘ ability to install various Linux applications. From supporting the ability to install Debian packages to some kernel modules being backported so that older Chrome OS devices can support Linux apps. There has been a lot of activity in this area in the last 12 months. This added support is a big deal for a lot of people with some saying it’s the biggest change to Chrome OS since the added support of Android apps. Now, some new details have been discovered that suggest Chrome OS will soon let you search for and install these supported Linux apps directly from the launcher.

    • Chrome OS Launcher May Soon Be Able To Search For And Install Linux Apps

      The entire Crostini (Linux apps on Chromebooks) effort has moved along quite quickly when you think about it. In just 6 short months, we’ve gone from not having an official option for Linux apps (though Crouton is and was an amazing effort) to seeing a majority of Chromebooks gain baked-in access to Linux on Chrome OS.

      While we’re still eagerly awaiting a few big, missing features (audio and GPU acceleration), the core pieces are falling into place quite nicely and many users are already finding great workflows with their favorite Linux apps on Chrome OS.

    • Chrome OS may let users find new Linux apps from the App Launcher

      Chrome OS has always been based on Linux, but with its new beta support for Linux apps, the system has been opened to a wealth of powerful new applications otherwise inaccessible. The problem is, unless you’re already a Linux guru, you likely have no idea what those Linux apps are. Google is looking to fix this by making Linux apps you can install discoverable from the Chrome OS app launcher.

      In a new commit posted last night to Chromium’s Gerrit source code management, we see our first signs of returning behavior for Chrome OS’s app launcher. From the handy search tool, you will be able to search for Linux apps beyond just the ones you already have installed.

    • Chrome OS may allow Linux software to be installed from the launcher

      Chrome Story discovered a commit on the Chromium repo which adds the ability to search for and install Linux packages from the Chrome OS launcher. The bug tracker description reads, “Add APT search into Chrome OS App Launcher, so that uninstalled Linux packages and Apps can be searched for and installed via the App launcher.” The feature doesn’t appear to be live on Chrome OS Canary yet, but the flag will be called #crostini-app-search.

  • Server
    • Using Linux containers to analyze the impact of climate change and soil on New Zealand crops

      New Zealand’s economy is dependent on agriculture, a sector that is highly sensitive to climate change. This makes it critical to develop analysis capabilities to assess its impact and investigate possible mitigation and adaptation options. That analysis can be done with tools such as agricultural systems models. In simple terms, it involves creating a model to quantify how a specific crop behaves under certain conditions then simulating altering a few variables to see how that behavior changes. Some of the software available to do this includes CropSyst from Washington State University and the Agricultural Production Systems Simulator (APSIM) from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) in Australia.

    • MAAS 2.5 : Growing the ecosystem and support for KVM micro-clouds

      Our latest release makes for a very exciting point in the MAAS evolution. As datacenter (DC) infrastructure grows at unparalleled scale fueled by new applications and services such as connected autonomous cars, augmented/virtual reality (AR/VR) and IoT, the need for automated bare metal provisioning has never been more important. Multi-access edge computing and the ongoing shift to 5G will continue to drive cloud architectures ranging from small clusters deployed at actual radio towers all the way to thousands of nodes running in core data centres.

      The agility and speed of discovering, allocating and also repurposing bare-metal servers will be crucial to new services and an automated physical infrastructure lifecycle management. MAAS 2.5 brings new capabilities and improvements to how this can be achieved in a repeatable and reliable way.

    • Container Storage Interface (CSI) for Kubernetes GA

      The Kubernetes implementation of the Container Storage Interface (CSI) has been promoted to GA in the Kubernetes v1.13 release. Support for CSI was introduced as alpha in Kubernetes v1.9 release, and promoted to beta in the Kubernetes v1.10 release.

      The GA milestone indicates that Kubernetes users may depend on the feature and its API without fear of backwards incompatible changes in future causing regressions. GA features are protected by the Kubernetes deprecation policy.

    • Happy Birthday, Chef!

      With Chef, you can automate the way your infrastructure is configured, deployed, and managed. When you’re operating with a single machine, configuration management can be fairly simple. But what happens when your organization scales up? That’s where Chef comes in and saves the day — and a whole lot more.

      Chef ensures your configurations are standardized and continuously enforced in every environment and at any scale. It allows your infrastructure configurations to be testable, portable, and auditable, saving your organization time and monetary resources. You could say Chef is a superhero with all the saving it does.

  • Audiocasts/Shows
  • Kernel Space
    • Linux Foundation
      • Yahoo Japan and EMQ X Join the OpenMessaging Project

        The OpenMessaging project welcomes Yahoo Japan and EMQ X as new members.

        We are excited to announce two new members to the OpenMessaging project: Yahoo Japan, one of the largest portal sites in Japan, and EMQ X, one of the most popular MQTT message middleware vendors. Yahoo Japan and EMQ X join Alibaba, JD.com, China Mobile Cloud, Qing Cloud, and other community members to form a standards community with 13 corporation members.

        OpenMessaging is a standards project for messaging and streaming technology. Messaging and Streaming products have been widely used in modern architecture and data processing, for decoupling, queuing, buffering, ordering, replicating, etc. But when data transfers across different messaging and streaming platforms, compatibility problems arise, which always means much additional work. The OpenMessaging community looks to eliminate these challenges through creating a global, cloud-oriented, vendor-neutral industry standard for distributed messaging.

      • The Linux Foundation Announces 2019 Events Schedule

        The Linux Foundation, the nonprofit organization enabling mass innovation through open source, today announced its 2019 events schedule. Linux Foundation events are where the creators, maintainers and practitioners of the world’s most important open source projects meet. In 2018, Linux Foundation events attracted more than 32,000 developers, architects, community thought leaders, business executives and other industry professionals from more than 11,000 organizations across 113 countries. New events hosted by the Linux Foundation for 2019 include Cephalocon and gRPC Conf.

    • Graphics Stack
      • AMDVLK Weekly Code Drop Brings A DXVK Fix, VK_EXT_debug_utils Support

        AMD developers maintaining their official Vulkan driver have carried out another weekly code push to the open-source AMDVLK code-base.

        Overall the changes for this week’s worth of AMD Radeon Vulkan driver changes is fairly small, but there is a DXVK fix, one new Vulkan extension wired up, and a lot of low-level driver work.

      • NVIDIA 415.27 Linux Driver Released With GeForce RTX 2060 Support

        With NVIDIA today officially shipping the GeForce RTX 2060 as the new $349 USD Turing graphics card, the 415.27 Linux driver was released today to officially support this new graphics card.

        The GeForce RTX 2060 actually works with former 415 driver series releases, but would just be identified as a NVIDIA “Device” as opposed to the GeForce RTX 2060. The product string is now in this driver plus any other small tweaks to officially support this lowest-cost RTX Turing graphics card to date.

      • Mesa 18.3.2 release candidate

        The candidate for the Mesa 18.3.2 is now available. Currently we have:
        – 78 queued
        – 3 nominated (outstanding)
        – and 0 rejected patches

      • Mesa 18.3.2 Is Finally En Route With 78+ Changes

        It’s been more than a month since the debut of Mesa 18.3 and the emergency 18.3.1 release while due the holidays and the release manager being sick, the next point release fell off the tracks. Mesa 18.3.2 is now being crafted and should be out in the next few days. Given the time since the previous release, Mesa 18.3.2 is heavy on fixes.

        Emil Velikov announced the release today of Mesa 18.3.2 RC1 and plans for officially releasing this point update in the next day or two. This release candidate has 78 patches queued over the prior update.

      • Khronos Exploring New Industry Standard For Heterogeneous Communications

        From VR to autonomous vehicles to edge computing, The Khronos Group continues working on new industry standards for today’s expanding compute landscape. Today the organization announced they are soliciting industry feedback and creating an exploratory group for a new, open industry standard around High Performance Embedded Computing (HPEC).

      • Broadcom’s V3D Gallium Driver Picks Up New Features Ahead Of Mesa 19.0

        Lead VC4/V3D driver developer Eric Anholt of Broadcom has landed a batch of improvements to the next-generation V3D driver in Mesa 19.0.

        The latest round of work that was merged on Monday evening include SSBO / atomic counters support, support for the ARB_framebuffer_no_attachments OpenGL extension, support for more compute shader intrinsics, and other items.

      • AMDGPU Changes Begin Queueing Ahead Of Linux 5.1 Kernel Cycle

        The drm-next-5.1-wip branch has been created by open-source AMD developers as they begin vetting the changes they plan to submit to DRM-Next for inclusion in the Linux 5.1 kernel cycle when it kicks off around the start of March.

        With it just being over one week since the Linux 5.0 merge window ended and with this branch having just been setup the other day, there are just over 100 changes so far in this proving grounds for Linux 5.1 AMDGPU though nothing really dramatic.

    • Benchmarks
      • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760/960/1060 / RTX 2060 Linux Gaming & Compute Performance

        The NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 is shipping today as the most affordable Turing GPU option to date at $349 USD. Last week we posted our initial GeForce RTX 2060 Linux review and followed-up with more 1080p and 1440p Linux gaming benchmarks after having more time with the card. In this article is a side-by-side performance comparison of the GeForce RTX 2060 up against the GTX 1060 Pascal, GTX 960 Maxwell, and GTX 760 Kepler graphics cards. Not only are we looking at the raw OpenGL, Vulkan, and OpenCL/CUDA compute performance between these four generations, but also the power consumption and performance-per-Watt.

      • 10GbE Linux Networking Performance Between CentOS, Fedora, Clear Linux & Debian

        For those curious how the 10 Gigabit Ethernet performance compares between current Linux distributions, here are some benchmarks we ramp up more 10GbE Linux/BSD/Windows benchmarks. This round of testing was done on two distinctly different servers while testing CentOS, Debian, Clear Linux, and Fedora.

        This is the first of several upcoming 10GbE test comparisons. For those article we are testing some of the popular enterprise Linux distributions while follow-up articles will also be looking at some other distros as well as Windows Server and FreeBSD/DragonFlyBSD. CentOS 7, Debian 9.6, Clear Linux rolling, and Fedora Server 29 were the operating systems tested for this initial round.

  • Applications
  • Desktop Environments/WMs
    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt
      • Essential System Tools: Krusader – KDE file manager

        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 Krusader, a free and open source graphical file manager. For details of all tools in this series, please check the table at the summary page of this article.

        Krusader is an advanced, twin-panel (commander-style) file manager designed for KDE Plasma. Krusader also runs on other popular Linux desktop environments such as GNOME.

        Besides comprehensive file management features, Krusader is almost completely customizable, fast, seamlessly handles archives, and offers a huge feature set.

      • Plasma ergonomics – Lessons in life

        The bugsy trends aren’t unique to Plasma – this is the desktop all over. The agile thingie, the curse of quality and usability everywhere. Even looking at something like Windows, there are far more annoyances in Windows 8.1 than there were in Windows 7, and then a whole order of magnitude more still in Windows 10. These could be seemingly small things – and there sure ain’t enough testing to begin with – but they can mean a world to the end user. And if Plasma wants to be top dog, it needs to do everything better than the competition. Today, I uncovered a fresh handful issues, and that’s just a couple of extra months of rigorous usage. It will be interesting to see what happens a year or two down the road. Well, my Plasma journey continues. Stay tuned.

      • KDE Students Excel during Google Code-in 2018

        After many years of successful Google Code-in participation, this year we did it again! KDE attracted a number of students with exciting tasks for their eager young minds.

        Google Code-in is a program for pre-university students aged from 13 to 17 and sponsored by Google Open Source. KDE has always worked to get new people involved in Free and open source (FOSS) projects with the aim of making the world a better place.

        This year was no different. Our students worked very hard, and some of them already have their contributions committed to the KDE codebase!

        We designed tasks in a way that made them exciting for all students. Students who were not skilled in programming took on tasks of writing blogs or documentation. To help students who had no experience with FOSS or with the community, we set up introductory tasks for IRC and mailing lists, both of which are essential in FOSS as communication channels.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK
      • GNOME 3.32 Desktop to Feature a Revamped Theme, Beta Coming Early February

        The GNOME Project is currently working hard on the next major release of their beloved desktop environment for Linux-based operating system, GNOME 3.32, due for release in Spring 2019, and they recently unveiled some changes to the default theme.

        GNOME’s Matthias Clasen talks in his latest blog article about some of the theme changes coming to the GTK+ 3 toolkit, which is the core of the GNOME desktop environment, revealing the fact that the upcoming GNOME 3.32 desktop environment would feature a revamped default Adwaita theme with more modernized elements.

        It’s been a while since GNOME’s default theme Adwaita saw some changes since it was completely revamped and modernized three years ago as part of the GNOME 3.16 series, but Clasen explains that it is a challenge to update Adwaita as most GTK+ apps are still using the stable GTK+ 3.x series and any major change could cause issues.

      • GNOME’s New GTK Theme is Ready for Testing

        Cast your minds back to December and, amid all the baubles and wrapping paper, you may recall us sharing some screenshots of a refreshed version of the Adwaita GTK theme, used by GNOME.

        Now, GNOME’s Matthias Clasen has spilled the beans on the refresh. In a post on the GTK blog Clasen reveals plans to test the improved Adwaita theme over the next three weeks and gather feedback on the changes.

        He describes the refresh as a ‘limited set of theme changes’, and moots their inclusion in a future GTK 3 release (feedback dependant).

  • Distributions
    • Blue Collar Linux: Something Borrowed, Something New

      Sometimes it takes more than a few tweaks to turn an old-style desktop design into a fresh new Linux distribution. That is the case with the public release of Blue Collar Linux.

      “The guidance and design were shaped by real people — blue collar people,” Blue Collar developer Steven A. Auringer told LinuxInsider. “Think useful and guided by Joe and Jane Whitebread in Suburbia.”

      Blue Collar Linux has been under development for the last four years. Until its public release this week, it has circulated only through an invitation for private use by the developer’s family, friends and associates looking for an alternative to the Windows nightmare.

    • Testing openSUSE, Manjaro, Debian, Fedora, and Mint Linux distributions on my new laptop

      Due to the recent unfortunate demise of a couple of my computers I found myself in need of a new laptop on rather short notice. I found an Acer Aspire 5 on sale at about half price here in Switzerland, so I picked one up. I have been installing a number of Linux distributions on it, with mostly positive results.

    • Reviews
      • Netrunner 19.01 Blackbird overview | The Bird has landed

        In this video, I am going to show an overview of Netrunner 19.01 Blackbird and some of the applications pre-installed.

      • What’s New in MX Linux 18 Continuum

        MX Linux 18 codename Continuum has been released, this release features Xfce 4.12 as default environment include xfce4 component, based on Debian 9.6 scratch and powered by Linux Kernel 4.19 series, which means that it offers support for the latest hardware components available on the market.

        MX Tools graphical tool to make user easy to access most system tasks was improved. selectable themes for installed system grub boot menu and Plymouth boot-splash via MX-boot-options, system-keyboard and system-locale options allow easy access to configuration of system default keyboard and locales management.

      • Microsoft is killing Windows 7, so you should switch to Netrunner 19.01 ‘Blackbird’ Linux distro now!

        Windows 7 is an excellent operating system. It is a no-nonsense computing experience that just works. There are no ugly live tiles or forced updates. Conversely, Windows 10 is largely trash. Don’t get me wrong, Microsoft’s latest operating system isn’t all bad, but it has many poor design choices, and the intrusive telemetry makes it feel like you are being spied on when using your own computer. Worst of all, it has proven to be very buggy — it has been deleting important user files! That is scary stuff…

        Many Windows users passed on both Windows 8.x and Windows 10, opting to stay on Windows 7. You know what? I don’t blame them. Unfortunately, starting today, the Windows 7 death clock begins ticking away. You see, in exactly one year, Microsoft will end support for Windows 7. While the operating system will still function, it is foolish to use an unsupported OS. These folks will have to decide if they want to “upgrade” to Window 10 or opt for something entirely different. Today, Netrunner 19.01 “Blackbird” — a Linux-based operating system that is reminiscent of Windows 7 — is finally released. If you don’t want to run Windows 10 on your PC, you should definitely give Blackbird a try before the Windows 7 support ends.

    • Screenshots/Screencasts
    • OpenSUSE/SUSE
      • Video: Five Things to Know About SUSE Linux Enterprise for HPC

        The need to analyze massive amounts of data and transaction-intensive workloads are driving the use of HPC into the business arena and making these tools mainstream for a variety of industries. Commercial users are getting into high performance applications for fraud detection, personalized medicine, manufacturing, smart cities, autonomous vehicles and many other areas. In order to effectively and efficiently run these workloads, SUSE has built a comprehensive and cohesive OS platform. In this blog, I will illustrate five things you should know about our SUSE solutions for AI over HPC.

      • Managing compliance for Linux systems with SUSE Manager

        Many industries and governments require compliance with security standards to ensure security, identity, confidentiality, and data integrity. These standards specify a minimum security level and also mandate measures such as logging and auditing to reveal any hints of unauthorized use. Some of the most widely adopted standards are:

    • Slackware Family
      • New VLC and Flash

        AV1 is a new video codec by the Alliance for Open Media, composed of most of the important Web companies (Google, Facebook, Netflix, Amazon, Microsoft, Mozilla…). AV1 has the potential to be up to 20% better than the HEVC codec, but the patents license is totally free. VLC supports AV1 since version 3.0.0 but I never added the ‘aom‘ decoder/encoder to my vlc package, since ‘aom’ is the reference implementation of the video format and it does not really perform.
        The VideoLAN and FFmpeg communities are collaborating on ‘dav1d’ to make this a reference optimized decoder for AV1. Now that ‘dav1d’ has an official release I thought it would be cool to have in the VLC package. Mozilla and Google browsers already have the support for AV1 video playback built-in, so… overdue here.

      • KDE Plasma5 – Jan ’19 release for Slackware

        Here is your monthly refresh for the best Desktop Environment you will find for Linux. I just uploaded “KDE-5_19.01” to the ‘ktown‘ repository. As always, these packages are meant to be installed on a Slackware-current which has had its KDE4 removed first. These packages will not work on Slackware 14.2.

        It looks like Slackware is not going to be blessed with Plasma5 any time soon, so I will no longer put an artificial limitation on the dependencies I think are required for a solid Plasma5 desktop experience. If Pat ever decides that Plasma5 has a place in the Slackware distro, he will have to make a judgement call on what KDE functionality can stay and what needs to go.

    • Fedora
    • Debian Family
      • What Are Various Debian Installation Discs

        Ever got confused by the amount of disc made available for downloading on Debian servers? Worry not, if this is your approach looking around the Internet for an explanation why and what are those various discs for installing Debian on your beloved computer, you are at the right place. I’ll try to be quick and concise so you can get on with Debian installation within 2 minutes read

      • Derivatives
        • Deepin Linux 15.9 Released with Support for Touchscreen Gestures, Faster Updates

          Packed with all the updates that have been released through the official channels since Deepin 15.8, the Deepin 15.9 update is here to add support for multiple touchscreen gestures, including click, double click, long press to open the context menu, as well as slide up and down, an on-screen keyboard, and faster updates thanks to a new Smart Mirror Switch function.

          The Deepin 15.9 release also brings some performance optimizations by making power management more efficient and convenient to laptop and desktop users alike. “Whether your computer is connected to power supply or not, you can easily change the monitor and computer suspend time for different scenarios,” explained the devs in today’s announcement.

        • DEEPIN 15.9 – CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENTS MAKE WONDERFUL PERFORMANCE

          deepin is a Linux distribution devoted to providing beautiful, easy to use, safe and reliable system for global users.

          deepin is an open source GNU/Linux operating system, based on Linux kernel and mainly on desktop applications, supporting laptops, desktops and all-in-ones. deepin preinstalls Deepin Desktop Environment (DDE) and nearly 30 deepin native applications, as well as several applications from the open source community to meet users’ daily learning and work needs. In addition, about a thousand of applications are offered in Deepin Store to meet users’ various needs. deepin, developed by professional operating system R&D team and deepin technology community (www.deepin.org), is named from deepin technology community, which means deep pursuit and exploration of the life and the future.

          In deepin 15.9, many known bugs are fixed and the existing functions are optimized. Compared with deepin 15.8, deepin 15.9 adds support for touchscreen gestures and onscreen keyboard, optimizes the using frequency algorithm for application sequence in Launcher mini mode, and introduces a new function – Smart Mirror Switch, hoping to bring users more stable and efficient experiences.

          Since deepin 15.8, deepin have used a rolling update strategy to release the updates on a regular basis. That is to say, deepin 15.9 covers all the system updates after deepin 15.8.

        • Deepin 15.9 Released With Usability Improvements, Bug Fixes

          The popular China-based Deepin Linux distribution derived from Debian and featuring its own Qt5-based desktop environment is out today with version 15.9.

  • Devices/Embedded
Free Software/Open Source
  • Get started with Cypht, an open source email client

    There seems to be a mad rush at the beginning of every year to find ways to be more productive. New Year’s resolutions, the itch to start the year off right, and of course, an “out with the old, in with the new” attitude all contribute to this. And the usual round of recommendations is heavily biased towards closed source and proprietary software. It doesn’t have to be that way.

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

  • SuiteCRM Announce the Release of SuiteCRM 7.11
  • Open Source for Enterprise Trends in 2019

    We know that open source is well established as the place where software innovation happens. Today enterprises are looking at open source even more closely for pro-active, adaptive and innovative technologies to deliver better customer experience. As we move into 2019, we see open source technology further making its mark in some of the key trends we are already experiencing.

  • Open source search engines attract developers
  • Alibaba Acquires Open Source Firm Data Artisans for $130M
  • Apache Flink Advances Enterprise Apps Aspirations With Alibaba

    There are a lot of different types of tools that are needed to enable modern enterprise apps. The ability to process data streams in real-time is one such needed tool and it’s what the open source Apache Flink project enables.

    Apache Flink is an open-source stream processing framework for distributed, high-performing, always-available and accurate data-streaming applications. The lead developer and commercial organization behind Flink has been data Artisans, which was created by the core developers behind Flink itself. Data Artisans and by extension Apache Flink are getting a major vote of confidence, thanks to Chinese internet giant Alibaba.

  • Google Summer of Code mentor projects sought
  • Genode To Focus On Making Sculpt OS Relevant & Appealing In 2019

    The Genode operating system framework based on a micro-kernel design and various original user-space components continues going strong a decade since its start. But it hasn’t achieved too much appeal outside of its niche even when it began working on “Sculpt” as an operating system for general purposes use-cases and supporting common PC/laptop hardware. But they hope to change that in 2019.

    Genode has published their 2019 roadmap and for this year they want to make “Sculpt OS relevant and appealing for a broader community.”

  • How Enterprise IT Pros Can Contribute to Open Source Projects

    Undoubtedly, your company uses open source software. But the powers that be might express reluctance when developers want to create or maintain projects on company time. Here is a roadmap to help you convince them otherwise—starting with an internal open source project office.

    Open source innovation has a methodology all its own, and it doesn’t follow traditional business processes. The big difference is that open source development is collaborative rather than competitive. This attitude may come naturally to IT people, but not to managers and rarely to people in the C-suite….

    To change the corporate attitude about permitting developers to be embedded in open source projects, you need to get other departments to see the benefits in their own terms.

    One way to handle this is by finding allies outside software development circles. For instance, human resources execs could be on your side if you can convince them that companies that support open source development are more attractive to prospective employees. A CFO who is motivated by financial cost savings can “do the numbers” for you to, for argument’s sake, demonstrate that investing in a developer who spends 20 hours weekly working on an open source project is still more cost effective than purchasing a not-quite-right IT application.

  • Web Browsers
    • Mozilla
      • Augmented Reality and the Browser — An App Experiment

        We all want to build the next (or perhaps the first) great Augmented Reality app. But there be dragons! The space is new and not well defined. There aren’t any AR apps that people use every day to serve as starting points or examples. Your new ideas have to compete against an already very high quality bar of traditional 2d apps. And building a new app can be expensive, especially for native app environments. This makes AR apps still somewhat uncharted territory, requiring a higher initial investment of time, talent and treasure.

        But this also creates a sense of opportunity; a chance to participate early before the space is fully saturated.

        From our point of view the questions are: What kinds of tools do artists, developers, designers, entrepreneurs and creatives of all flavors need to be able to easily make augmented reality experiences? What kinds of apps can people build with tools we provide?

        For example: Can I watch Trevor Noah on the Daily Show this evening, and then release an app tomorrow that is a riff on a joke he made the previous night? A measure of success is being able to speak in rich media quickly and easily, to be a timely part of a global conversation.

      • Adios, Amigo

        Firefox Test Pilot is flying off into the sunset on January 22nd, 2019. Currently active experiments will remain installed for all users, and will be available on addons.mozilla.org after this date. Non-extension experiments like Firefox Lockbox and Firefox Send will continue in active development as standalone products. In fact, both products will have significant launches in the near future. Stay tuned for updates in the coming months.

      • Evolving Firefox’s Culture of Experimentation: A Thank You from the Test Pilot Program

        For the last three years Firefox has invested heavily in innovation, and our users have been an essential part of this journey. Through the Test Pilot Program, Firefox users have been able to help us test and evaluate a variety of potential Firefox features. Building on the success of this program, we’re proud to announce today that we’re evolving our approach to experimentation even further.

      • Mozilla Fenix: New Android browser’s intriguing details start to surface

        The new non-Firefox browser for Android is apparently targeted at younger people, with Mozilla developers on GitHub tagging the description, ‘Fenix is not your parents’ Android browser’.

        Fenix mockups found by Mozilla contributor Sören Hentzschel and Ghacks suggest the makers of Fenix are turning the Firefox Android browser on its head, currently toying with the idea of putting the URL bar and home button down at the bottom of user interface.

        News of Fenix as a possible replacement surfaced in the middle of 2018 after someone spotted the new Mozilla mobile project on GitHub. Activity on the project has picked up in recent months.

      • Firefox Fenix for Android mockups

        Mozilla is working on a new web browser for Android to replace the currently available Firefox for Android mobile browser.

        Firefox users who use the browser on Android may have noticed that development slowed down in recent time. Updates are still released regularly but they address issues such as slowdowns, crashes, or security issues for the most part.

        The core reason for that is that Mozilla’s working on Fenix, a new mobile browser for Android. Fenix is based on Android Components and GeckoView. In other words, Fenix will be powered by built-in components on Android and Mozilla’s GeckoView.

      • Keep Smart Assistants from Spying on You with Alias, Security Advisory for Old scp Clients, Major Metasploit Framework Release, Mozilla Working on a New Browser for Android and VirtualBox 6.0.2 Is Out

        Mozilla is working on a new Android browser called Fenix. According to ZDNet, this “new non-Firefox browser for Android is apparently targeted at younger people, with Mozilla developers on GitHub tagging the description, ‘Fenix is not your parents’ Android browser’.” In addition, mockups suggest that Fenix developers are “currently toying with the idea of putting the URL bar and home button down at the bottom of user interface.”

  • SaaS/Back End
    • Community collaboration makes for some great OpenStack solutions

      If you follow the evolution of OpenStack, you know how it’s finding its way into all sorts of workloads, from high-level research to car manufacturing to all-new 5G networks. Organizations are using it for everything from the mundane to the sublime and sharing what they’re learning with the OpenStack community.

      Some of the examples offered up at the recent OpenStack Summit Berlin showed that OpenStack is a full-fledged part of the IT mainstream, which means there are a wealth of ideas out there for your own implementation.

  • Moodle
    • In 2019, Nothing Will Bolster Collaborative Open Source, User-Centered Design & Development In Learning Like The Moodle Users Association

      In LMS and learning technologies, there are few like the Moodle Users Association. Across the spectrum, developers and entrepreneurs keep looking for community engagement. When they do, the usual ideas come to mind. Surveys or social media interactions seem enough to call it a day. In some cases, large participants can influence the development roadmap and single-handedly affect the experience for everyone. Moodle offers all these avenues of interaction. But it also offers the MUA Process Development Cycle, a unique process of transparency and effectiveness that continues to polish and grow and audience. People with little more than a good idea and willingness for effort can make great impact.

    • The 101 on Moodle

      We have all sorts of management systems to help make our work and lives easier to, well, manage. While content management systems help us organise our blogs, portfolios and social media, learning management systems (LMS) get our virtual education filing system sorted in one nook of the Web. One can liken Moodle to a ‘virtual classroom without the germs and threat of detention’.

  • BSD
    • Trident 18.12-RELEASE Available

      This version is based off the 18.12-stable branch of TrueOS (FreeBSD 13-CURRENT), using the new TrueOS distribution framework with several add-ons by Project Trident itself. The packages with this release were created from the TrueOS ports tree as-of January 7th. We are planning to release regular updates to packages every week or two depending on the state of the ports tree at any given time. In this release, both the Chromium and Iridium browsers have also been fixed and function normally again.

      18.12-RELEASE has been a long time in development, and we wish to say a bit “Thank You!” to everybody who has been helping test out the pre-release versions, find issues, submit fixes both to us and to upstream FreeBSD/TrueOS, and in general being a wonderful and supportive community! We look forward to continuing to work with all of you in making Project Trident amazing!

    • Google Is Hiring More LLVM/Clang Developers

      Android and Chrome are among their software now shipping in production that relies upon LLVM Clang rather than GCC or other alternatives, among other Google software projects. LLVM/Clang is also used by various internal projects at Google. Over the years Google developers have contributed back many improvements to upstream LLVM ranging from their Lanai processor back-end to security improvements to other language tooling on LLVM to performance optimizations.

    • LLVM 9.0 Is Now Open For Development, Releasing In Late 2019

      The code for the upcoming LLVM 8.0 release (Clang 8.0 included) is now branched and the release candidate process will begin shortly. That means LLVM 9.0 is now open for development on its master branch.

      Developers behind this compiler stack are planning to get out of the official LLVM 8.0.0 release by the end of February. The first release candidate is imminent and one or two more can be expected in February based upon how the testing proceeds.

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC
    • 2019 OSI Board Elections

      The Open Source Initiative (OSI) is managed by a member-elected Board of Directors that is the ultimate authority responsible for the organization. The Board’s responsibilities include oversight of the organization, including its operations, staff and budget; setting strategic direction and defining goals in line with the mission, and; serving the community through committees and working groups. The eleven person Board is composed of Directors elected by OSI Individual Members (5) and Affiliate Members (5). The General Manager of the OSI also serves on the Board as a Director (ex officio). The results of elections for both Individual and Affiliate Member Board seats are advisory with the OSI Board making the formal appointments to open seats based on the community’s votes.

      As a true corporate board, Board members must agree to, and comply with, the OSI Conflict of Interest Policy, and all Directors are expected to participate regularly in monthly Board meetings, any special meetings that may arise and the ongoing discussions related to the OSI specifically and open source generally.

    • Purism Supports Software Freedom Conservancy

      We live in a dangerous world where privacy and security are more important than ever. In order for software to be trusted, the source code must be available to verify — a simple trust and verify model. Purism is proud to release all of our source code under Free Software licenses that not only empower users but are vital to protect their privacy and security. We favor licenses with strong copyleft like the GNU General Public License version 3, and will release software under the GPLv3 or an FSF-approved license we inherit. Our code can be studied, verified, and shared, whether you use our Librem line of products or not.

      Software Freedom Conservancy is a vital and important part of the Free Software ecosystem that we at Purism and billions of people worldwide rely upon. Without organizations that protect and enforce the terms expressed in software licenses, our digital rights are at risk. Conservancy continues to play a central role in legal battles to safeguard these freedoms.

    • FSF Blogs: The FSF is 5,000 members strong — thanks to you

      Your support is just what we need to push the free software movement to new frontiers. Our ever-growing base of members, donors, and activists are the backbone of our work and free software. Without you, we wouldn’t have been able to raise over $440,000 for software freedom. With the 488 new members, we now have more than 5,000 active FSF members. Thanks to you, we’ll be able to expand the staff of the FSF, increasing our organizational capacity, ability to work on issues that matter, and build the community; certify more Respects Your Freedom products to ensure that your devices run free software out of the box, and continue enforcing the GNU General Public License and leading other copyleft efforts; build our technical infrastructure and provide greater support for the many projects that rely on the FSF; create new items for our catalog of cool new swag and engaging publications from the GNU Press Shop; ramp up the fight against DRM; and create a better future for free software.

    • Software user should advocate user freedoms: Richard M Stallman

      Stallman will also deliver a lecture at Technopark on Wednesday.

    • Arm Posts Initial Ares CPU Tuning Support For GCC, Helps SPEC Performance By ~1%

      Arm continues plumbing the open-source GNU compiler toolchain support for their next-generation “Ares” high-performance server/HPC core.

      Back in November they presented the initial Ares compiler patches for GCC. Those patches presented Ares as an ARMv8-based design that has statistical profiling, dot product, and FP16 extensions by default. We’ve also seen other Ares toolchain patches by Arm developers like the recent GNU Assembler support.

  • Licensing/Legal
    • Fedora Decides To Not Allow SSPLv1 Licensed Software Into Its Repositories

      Back in October, MongoDB announced the Server Side Public License v1 (SSPLv1) as their new license moving forward for this document-oriented database server over their existing AGPL code. SSPL was met with much controversy upon its unveiling and Fedora’s legal team has now ruled it an invalid free software license for packaged software in its repositories.

      The intent of MongoDB developing the Server Side Public License was to ensure that public cloud vendors and other companies using their software as a service are giving back to the community / the upstream project. SSPL v1 was based on the GPLv3 but lays clear that a company publicly offering the SSPL-licensed software as a service must in turn open-source their software that it uses to offer said service. That stipulation applies only to organizations making use of MongoDB for public software services.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration
    • Open Hardware/Modding
      • ANAVI Thermometer open source temp and humidity sensor board

        Anavi Technology has this month launched a new product via the Crowd Supply in the form of the ANAVI Thermometer, an ESP8266-powered, open source, wireless dev board equipped with temperature and humidity sensors. The Anavi Thermometer Development board is fully compatible with the Arduino IDE, PlatformIO, and Home Assistant via the MQTT messaging protocol. Watch the demonstration video below to learn more about the open source dev board and its features.

        The development team behind the ANAVI Thermometer explain more about its hardware and specifications:

  • Programming/Development
    • Samba 4.10 RC1 Released: Adds Offline Domain Backups, Now Defaults To Python 3

      Samba 4.10 release candidate 1 was announced today as the open-source SMB implementation with support for Windows Server and Active Directory domains.

      The Samba 4.10 release is bringing export/restore features for Group Policy Objects (GPO), pre-fork process model improvements, support for offline domain backups with the samba-tool domain backup command now supporting an offline option, support for group membership statistics within a domain, Python 3 is now considered the default Python implementation while Python 2 support is retained, JSON logging improvements, and other work.

    • newt-lola

      Bison and Flex (or any of the yacc/lex family members) are a quick way to generate reliable parsers and lexers for language development. It’s easy to write a token recognizer in Flex and a grammar in Bison, and you can readily hook code up to the resulting parsing operation. However, neither Bison nor Flex are really designed for embedded systems where memory is limited and malloc is to be avoided.

      When starting Newt, I didn’t hesitate to use them though; it’s was nice to use well tested and debugged tools so that I could focus on other parts of the implementation.

      With the rest of Newt working well, I decided to go take another look at the cost of lexing and parsing to see if I could reduce their impact on the system.

    • Kano Scores a Disney Partnership, Announces a Star Wars Kit for Later This Year

      Kano creates killer little sets to teach kids how to code and beyond (like the awesome Harry Potter Coding Kit), and today the company is announcing a Disney partnership. The first product will be a Star Wars kit.

      While other info is scant at the time, Kano says the Star Wars kit will be out “in the second half of 2019.” Alex Klein, Kano’s CEO and co-founder, only teased other details, saying that “Collaborating with Disney is a blessing. We can combine connected, creative technologies with some of the most memorable stories ever told.”

    • GDA and GObject Introspection: Remember 1
    • No really, pathlib is great
    • Top Seven Apps Built With Python
    • Turn video into black and white with python
    • Happy Mu Year 2019!
    • Python 101: Episode #42 – Creating Executables with cx_Freeze

      In this screencast, we will learn how to turn your Python code into a Windows executable file using the cx_Freeze project.

    • PyCoder’s Weekly: Issue #351 (Jan. 15, 2019)
    • How To Learn Go Programming Language

      First appeared in November 2009, Go is a statically typed, compiled programming language designed at Google. You might have just heard about this programming language in the past couple of years but recently, Go has started to gain significant popularity in the coding world.

      Being light-weight, open source, and suited for today’s microservices architectures, Go is an amazing choice for a language. Also known as Google’s Golang, this language was developed by some of the brilliant minds from Google who created the C programming language. Today, it is one of the fastest growing languages and it’s absolutely a great time to start learning and working with GO.

    • Review: The 6 best JavaScript IDEs

      Back in the ancient days when Java Swing was new and exciting, I enjoyed using Eclipse for Java development, but soon moved on to other Java IDEs. Five-plus years ago, when I did some Android development with Eclipse, I found the experience OK, but poky. When I tried to use Eclipse Luna with JSDT for JavaScript development in 2014, it constantly displayed false-positive errors for valid code that passed JSHint.

    • A Complete List of The Best Data Science Programming Languages

      Data science is one of the fastest-growing fields in America. Organizations are employing data scientists at a rapid rate to help them analyze increasingly large and complex data volumes. The proliferation of big data and the need to make sense of it all has created a vortex where all of these things exist together. As a result, new techniques, technologies and theories are continually being developed to run advanced analysis, and they all require development and programming to ensure a path forward.

    • PyFilesystem is greater than or equal to Pathlib

      I was reading a post by Trey Hunner on why pathlib is great, where he makes the case that pathlib is a better choice than the standard library alternatives that preceded it. I wouldn’t actually disagree with a word of it. He’s entirely correct. You should probably be using pathlib were it fits.

    • How to build an API for a machine learning model in 5 minutes using Flask

      As a data scientist consultant, I want to make impact with my machine learning models. However, this is easier said than done. When starting a new project, it starts with playing around with the data in a Jupyter notebook. Once you’ve got a full understanding of what data you’re dealing with and have aligned with the client on what steps to take, one of the outcomes can be to create a predictive model.

      You get excited and go back to your notebook to make the best model possible. The model and the results are presented and everyone is happy. The client wants to run the model in their infrastructure to test if they can really create the expected impact. Also, when people can use the model, you get the input necessary to improve it step by step. But how can we quickly do this, given that the client has some complicated infrastructure that you might not be familiar with?

    • What is Small Scale Scrum?

      Agile is fast becoming a mainstream way industries act, behave, and work as they look to improve efficiency, minimize costs, and empower staff. Most software developers naturally think, act, and work this way, and alignment towards agile software methodologies has gathered pace in recent years.

      VersionOne’s 2018 State of Agile report shows that scrum and its variants remain the most popular implementation of agile. This is in part due to changes made to the Scrum Guide’s wording in recent years that make it more amenable to non-software industries.

    • This Week in Rust 269
    • Async IO in Python: A Complete Walkthrough

      Async IO is a concurrent programming design that has received dedicated support in Python, evolving rapidly from Python 3.4 through 3.7, and probably beyond.

      You may be thinking with dread, “Concurrency, parallelism, threading, multiprocessing. That’s a lot to grasp already. Where does async IO fit in?”

      This tutorial is built to help you answer that question, giving you a firmer grasp of Python’s approach to async IO.

Leftovers
  • VR’s 300m-euro engines that couldn’t

    The paper explained that the Vectron locomotives’ automatic access control systems have not performed as expected in the local rail environment, but for unknown reasons unexpectedly activate the emergency brake system. The defect is so serious that it has short-circuited commissioning of the new engines for use on commuter and freight trains.

  • Science
    • How We’ll Forget John Lennon

      Last month Hidalgo and colleagues published a Nature paper that put his crafty data-mining talents to work on another question: How do people and products drift out of the cultural picture? They traced the fade-out of songs, movies, sports stars, patents, and scientific publications. They drew on data from sources such as Billboard, Spotify, IMDB, Wikipedia, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and the American Physical Society, which has gathered information on physics articles from 1896 to 2016. Hidalgo’s team then designed mathematical models to calculate the rate of decline of the songs, people, and scientific papers.

      The report, “The universal decay of collective memory and attention,” concludes that people and things are kept alive through “oral communication” from about five to 30 years. They then pass into written and online records, where they experience a slower, longer decline. The paper argues that people and things that make the rounds at the water cooler have a higher probability of settling into physical records. “Changes in communication technologies, such as the rise of the printing press, radio and television,” it says, affect our degree of attention, and all of our cultural products, from songs to scientific papers, “follow a universal decay function.”

      Last week I caught up with Hidalgo to talk about his Nature paper. But I also wanted to push him to talk about what he saw between the mathematical lines, to wear the social scientist’s hat and reflect on the consequences of decay in collective memory.

    • Men React to Repeated Painful Experiences Differently than Women Do

      A painful experience is not one you are likely to forget—you don’t need to a trunk slammed onto your finger multiple times to realize that it’s a situation you’d like to avoid. According to a study published Thursday (January 10) in Current Biology, one painful ordeal in a particular setting is enough to make pain less tolerable in that same place in the future—but only if you’re male.

    • China’s Moon Lander Grows The First Plant On Moon

      Despite the challenges, this experiment is a giant leaf for mankind (pun intended) as it suggests that humans have realistic chance of growing plants during space missions for food and other resources.

      It could also relieve the cargo load for long term missions to Moon and other planets. While growing full-fledged extraterrestrial farms is beyond our capacity at the moment, this milestone makes the idea seems more achievable.

  • Health/Nutrition
    • Desalination Is Booming. But What About All That Toxic Brine?

      This is the controversial idea behind large-scale desalination—great, big, expensive facilities that turn saltwater into a liquid that won’t kill you. The classic criticism of desal is that it takes a tremendous amount of energy to process seawater, and we really shouldn’t be burning any more fossil fuels than we need to be. But a less chattered-about problem is the effect on the local environment: The primary byproduct of desal is brine, which facilities pump back out to sea. The stuff sinks to the seafloor and wreaks havoc on ecosystems, cratering oxygen levels and spiking salt content.

    • Americans more likely to die of opioid overdose than car crash, says council report

      More than 49,000 people died due to opioid overdoses in 2017, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Last fall, the Senate passed legislation to combat the opioid crisis.

    • Another Misdemeanor Deal in Flint Water Investigation

      Seven people now have resolved their cases with misdemeanor pleas.

      Flint’s water was contaminated with lead when the city switched sources in 2014 and didn’t treat water to reduce corrosion. A former state health director and a state doctor are awaiting trial on involuntary manslaughter charges related to a Legionnaires’ outbreak that was blamed on the water.

    • Michigan’s ex-drinking water regulator takes deal in Flint water investigation

      It’s a break for Liane Shekter Smith, who was facing felony charges, including involuntary manslaughter, in an investigation of Flint’s lead-tainted water and a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak.

      Smith pleaded no contest Monday to disturbance of a lawful meeting and agreed to testify against others, if necessary. Special prosecutor Todd Flood praised her “candor and truthfulness.” Defense attorney Brian Morley says the case likely will be dismissed in six to 12 months.

    • Flint water investigator calls for independent oversight of Michigan DEQ

      What happened in Flint can happen anywhere, Hall said. In light of emerging public health concerns over PFAS contamination across the state, he said it’s clear that questions of water quality in Michigan aren’t going anywhere. Hall considers Flint to be a “canary in the coal mine” that illustrates the risk that every American community faces given what he calls the fundamental lack of environmental protections ensured by state and federal law.

    • A Trump County Confronts the Administration Amid a Rash of Child Cancers

      Their questions led them to an old industrial site in Franklin, the Johnson County seat, that the federal government had ordered cleaned up decades ago. Recent tests have identified a carcinogenic plume spreading underground, releasing vapors into homes.

      Now, families in a county that voted overwhelmingly for President Trump are making demands of his administration that collide directly with one of his main agendas: the rolling back of health and environmental regulations.

    • Benefits of limiting toxins obviously outweigh cost — except at Trump’s EPA

      When they thought no one was looking on the Friday before the New Year, Trump’s EPA decided to cheat the American public in favor of polluters, by exaggerating the price tag of environmental regulations while minimizing their benefit.

      In rolling back the tight Mercury and Air Toxics Standards finalized under President Obama, the Trump administration created a fundamental shift in the federal regulatory framework as it seeks to undo each building block of environmental regulation developed over EPA’s 49-year history.

    • Some Fear Groundwater Near Georgia Military Bases Is Toxic

      “Given that there are concentrations of these compounds on site, over time they’re going to move off of the site. That’s just common sense,” said Jamie DeWitt, an associate professor of pharmacology and toxicology at East Carolina University. “No contaminant obeys property lines.”

      Nationwide, the Air Force has acknowledged contaminating drinking water in communities close to its bases in more than a dozen other states.

      [...]

      The contamination, which is linked to a class of chemicals known collectively as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, was laid out in a series of site inspection reports completed by the Air Force last year.

    • Wild monkeys with killer herpes are breeding like crazy in Florida

      A quick reminder: there’s a band of feral monkeys running wild in Central Florida that carries a type of herpes lethal to humans. The mischievous simians—who are not shy around people—can transmit deadly disease with just a scratch, nip, or fling of poo.

      Last year, experts warned that the rhesus macaques are a public health threat. It now seems that the monkey business is likely to get worse, with a wildlife expert revealing that their population is set to double in the next few years.

    • Will Michigan Governor End State Funding for Anti-Choice Clinic Network?

      Real Alternatives, a network for so-called crisis pregnancy centers has reaped millions of taxpayer funds from Republican-controlled legislatures and GOP governors. The funds include nearly $2.6 million from Michigan over the past five years to run the Michigan Parenting and Pregnancy Support Program, which it received while failing to provide health services to pregnant people, according to the Campaign for Accountability, a nonprofit group focused on public accountability.

      [...]

      Not only does Real Alternatives use taxpayer funds in support of anti-choice pregnancy clinics that seek to dissuade people from seeking abortion care, but it has time and again failed to meet goals for service, according to a complaint the Campaign for Accountability filed Monday. Real Alternatives, after pledging to administer 8,000 visits and serve 2,000 people in Michigan in its first year of operation, “only managed to oversee a mere 785 visits and serve only 403 women,” per the complaint. In over four and a half years, Real Alternatives has only provided service for 3,771 pregnant people, according to the Campaign for Accountability.

      Real Alternatives has prioritized “payments for ineffective advertising and pay increases for its executives, with no comparable increase in the number of women being served,” according to the Campaign for Accountability. The organization charged that Real Alternatives “appears to be skimming state funds by withholding 3% of [state] funding intended for subcontractors for its own private, unspecified use, even though RA’s administrative expenses are separately provided for in the [state] contract.”

    • Two New Lawsuits Allege Surgical Errors During Heart Transplants at St. Luke’s in Houston

      Two new lawsuits have been filed against Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center by patients who say they suffered serious injuries as a result of surgical errors during heart transplants at the troubled Houston hospital.

      The suits, both filed Friday in Harris County District Court, bring to five the number of malpractice complaints involving heart transplants that have been leveled against St. Luke’s or its doctors since a Houston Chronicle and ProPublica investigation last year documented deaths and unexpected complications in the once-renowned program.

      In August, the federal government cut off Medicare funding for heart transplants at St. Luke’s, citing its failure to make changes needed to improve outcomes. The hospital is appealing.

      In one of the lawsuits filed last week, Lazerick Eskridge alleges that Dr. Jeffrey Morgan sewed a major vein closed during his heart transplant in February 2017, causing blood to back up into his head and requiring an emergency repair in the operating room. That led to several serious complications and resulted in a three-month hospital stay, according to the lawsuit.

  • Security
    • An ancient OpenSSH vulnerability

      ities in the scp clients shipped with OpenSSH, PuTTY, and others. “Many scp clients fail to verify if the objects returned by the scp server match those it asked for. This issue dates back to 1983 and rcp, on which scp is based. A separate flaw in the client allows the target directory attributes to be changed arbitrarily. Finally, two vulnerabilities in clients may allow server to spoof the client output.” The outcome is that a hostile (or compromised) server can overwrite arbitrary files on the client side. There do not yet appear to be patches available to address these problems.

    • 36-Year-Old SCP Clients’ Implementation Flaws Discovered

      A set of 36-year-old vulnerabilities has been uncovered in the Secure Copy Protocol (SCP) implementation of many client applications that can be exploited by malicious servers to overwrite arbitrary files in the SCP client target directory unauthorizedly.

      Session Control Protocol (SCP), also known as secure copy, is a network protocol that allows users to securely transfer files between a local host and a remote host using RCP (Remote Copy Protocol) and SSH protocol.

      In other terms, SCP, which dates back to 1983, is a secure version of RCP that uses authentication and encryption of SSH protocol to transfer files between a server and a client.

      Discovered by Harry Sintonen, one of F-Secure’s Senior Security Consultants, the vulnerabilities exist due to poor validations performed by the SCP clients, which can be abused by malicious servers or man-in-the-middle (MiTM) attackers to drop or overwrite arbitrary files on the client’s system.

    • scp client multiple vulnerabilities

      Many scp clients fail to verify if the objects returned by the scp server match those
      it asked for. This issue dates back to 1983 and rcp, on which scp is based. A separate
      flaw in the client allows the target directory attributes to be changed arbitrarily.
      Finally, two vulnerabilities in clients may allow server to spoof the client output.

    • Software Security is a Civil Right!
    • Security isn’t a feature

      As CES draws to a close, I’ve seen more than one security person complain that nobody at the show was talking about security. There were an incredible number of consumer devices unveiled, no doubt there is no security in any of them. I think we get caught up in the security world sometimes so we forget that the VAST majority of people don’t care if something has zero security. People want interesting features that amuse them or make their lives easier. Security is rarely either of these, generally it makes their lives worse so it’s an anti-feature to many.

      Now the first thing many security people think goes something like this “if there’s no security they’ll be sorry when their lightbulb steals their wallet and dumps the milk on the floor!!!” The reality is that argument will convince nobody, it’s not even very funny so they’re laughing at us, not with us. Our thoughts by very nature blame all the wrong people and we try to scare them into listening to us. It’s never worked. Ever. That one time you think it worked they were only pretended to care so you would go away.

      So it brings us to the idea that security isn’t a feature. Turning your lights on is a feature. Cooking you dinner is a feature. Driving your car is a feature. Not bursting into flames is not a feature. Well it sort of is, but nobody talks about it. Security is a lot like the bursting into flames thing. Security really is about something not happening, things not happening is the fundamental problem we have when we try to talk about all this. You can’t build a plausible story around an event that may or may not happen. Trying to build a narrative around something that may or may not happen is incredibly confusing. This isn’t how feature work, features do positive things, they don’t not do negative things (I don’t even know if that’s right). Security isn’t a feature.

      So the question you should be asking then is how do we make products being created contain more of this thing we keep calling security. The reality is we can’t make this happen given our current strategies. There are two ways products will be produced that are less insecure (see what I did there). Either the market demands it, which given the current trends isn’t happening anytime soon. People just don’t care about security. The second way is a government creates regulations that demand it. Given the current state of the world’s governments, I’m not confident that will happen either.

    • Metasploit, popular hacking and security tool, gets long-awaited update

      The open-source Metasploit Framework 5.0 has long been used by hackers and security professionals alike to break into systems. Now, this popular system penetration testing platform, which enables you to find, exploit, and validate security holes, has been given a long-delayed refresh.

      Rapid7, Metasploit’s parent company, announced this first major release since 2011. It brings many new features and a fresh release cadence to the program. While the Framework has remained the same for years, the program was kept up to date and useful with weekly module updates.

    • Security updates for Tuesday
    • Bellevue’s Polyverse brings on significant “strategic investors” as it raises $2M for its secure Linux product and courts the Pentagon

      Polymorphic Linux fools memory-based attack software, a growing type of attack that takes advantage of vulnerabilities in widely used software, as opposed to older methods of delivering malware onto a network through a compromised email attachment. It does this by “scrambling” some of the basic system information those in-memory attacks use to target Linux applications, creating a unique version of Linux by producing “individually unique binaries that are semantically equivalent,” according to Polyverse material.

      “If you’re running the same software the Russians have, you’re in trouble,” Gounares said. “They’re getting your copy of Linux, they are studying it, they are finding those flaws, and today those economics favor them” given how many machines they can access if they discover a zero-day flaw in something as widely used as Linux or Windows, he said.

    • Microsoft scores five-year $1.76bn contract with the Pentagon

      The $1.76bn (£1.57bn) deal was announced by the Pentagon as an indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity arrangement – in other words, between now and the end of January 2024, Microsoft will offer what is needed, payable on a per task basis, across different cost centres.

    • Nine defendants charged in SEC [cracking] scheme that netted $4.1 million

      Two of the defendants, federal prosecutors in New Jersey said, breached SEC networks starting in May 2016 by subjecting them to hacks that included directory traversal, phishing attacks, and infecting computers with malware. From there, the defendants allegedly accessed EDGAR (the SEC’s Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval system) and stole nonpublic earnings reports that publicly traded companies had filed with the commission. The [intruders] then passed the confidential information to individuals who used it to trade in the narrow window between when the files were stolen and when the companies released the information to the public.

    • Security updates for Wednesday
    • Reproducible Builds: Weekly report #194

      Here’s what happened in the Reproducible Builds effort between Sunday January 6 and Saturday January 12 2019…

    • ES File Explorer Has A Hidden Web Server; Data Of 500 Million Users At Risk
    • The Evil-Twin Framework: A tool for testing WiFi security

      The increasing number of devices that connect over-the-air to the internet over-the-air and the wide availability of WiFi access points provide many opportunities for attackers to exploit users. By tricking users to connect to rogue access points, hackers gain full control over the users’ network connection, which allows them to sniff and alter traffic, redirect users to malicious sites, and launch other attacks over the network..

      To protect users and teach them to avoid risky online behaviors, security auditors and researchers must evaluate users’ security practices and understand the reasons they connect to WiFi access points without being confident they are safe. There are a significant number of tools that can conduct WiFi audits, but no single tool can test the many different attack scenarios and none of the tools integrate well with one another.

      The Evil-Twin Framework (ETF) aims to fix these problems in the WiFi auditing process by enabling auditors to examine multiple scenarios and integrate multiple tools. This article describes the framework and its functionalities, then provides some examples to show how it can be used.

  • Defence/Aggression
    • New federal rules would let drones fly at night and over crowds

      The Federal Aviation Administration proposed Monday to relax rules governing commercial drone operations. Since 2016, the FAA has allowed the commercial operation of unmanned aerial vehicles weighing less than 55 pounds under certain limited circumstances. New rules proposed this week would relax two of the restrictions in the 2016 rules: drones will now be allowed to operate at night, and they’ll be able to operate over people.

    • Russian Federal Penitentiary Service employee still at work after driving car into mother and two children

      On September 4, 2018, an employee of the Federal Penitentiary Service, or FSIN, in the Russian republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia ran his car into three pedestrians at approximately 40 miles per hour. 31-year-old Murat Botashev, a junior inspector in a pretrial detention facility, claimed that he was hurrying home after work, but one witness to the incident testified that Botashev appeared to be racing another car. Mediazona described the crash and its consequences in a detailed report.

      Elina Khapaeva was walking with her two young children when Botashev’s Lada Priora hit them. The children, described as six-year-old Rustam and four-year-old Veronika in Mediazona’s report, were severely and permanently injured. Their mother will require plastic surgery. To protect their privacy, the children’s real names have not been revealed.

    • ‘Meduza’ fact check: The secretary of Russia’s Security Council says there was only one terrorist act in the country last year. Is he right?

      “Terrorist activity in this country has decreased by more than 20 times over the course of five years. In 2018, five crimes motivated by terror and one terrorist act were committed in this country. This decrease in the threat of terror is related to the meticulous work of special services and law enforcement in our country, which has resulted in the prevention of 36 crimes motivated by terror as well as 20 terrorist attacks,” said Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, in an interview with The Russian Gazette. Patrushev believes these statistics demonstrate that Russia is in a more stable situation than Europe, where “terrorist activity has increased.”

      [...]

      The best-known case in which a terrorist attack was reclassified under a different statue in Russian law was a shooting at Kerch Polytechnic College. Vladislav Roslyakov, a student at the college, triggered several improvised explosive devices there and fired at those who remained inside. Twenty people were killed as a result of the attack, and more than 40 were injured. Roslyakov committed suicide after the shooting.

      In the hours following the attack, Russia’s Investigative Committee brought forward terrorism charges. However, after law enforcement determined the attacker’s identity, the Committee reclassified its investigation under a different statute that governs the murder of two or more people. The Committee wrote that its decision was based on “the general picture of the crime.”

    • Trump, Bolton and the Syrian Confusion

      It’s a messy, though typical picture. US President Donald Trump wants to pull out forces in Syria. When announced in December, jaws drooped and sharp intakes of breath were registered through the Washington establishment. Members of the military industrial complex were none too pleased. The President had seemingly made his case clear: US blood and treasure will not be further drawn upon to right the conflicts of the Middle East.

      His national security advisor, John Bolton, prefers a different message: the US will not leave north-eastern Syria till the militants of Islamic State are defeated and the Kurds protected. If this was a message of intended confusion, it has worked. The media vultures are confused as to what carrion to feed upon. The US imperial lobby is finding the whole affair disruptive and disturbing. Washington’s allies attempt to read the differences between policy-by-tweet and policy by representation.

      Trump’s pre-New Year announcement suggested speediness, a rapid removal of US forces supposedly indispensable in Making America Great Again. Once made, US troops were to leave in a matter of weeks – or so went a certain wisdom. “They’re all coming back, and they’re coming back now,” ventured the president. But Bolton suggested otherwise. US personnel, he suggested, would remain in al-Tanf to counter Iranian influence. Timetables could be left to the talking heads.

    • Trump’s Syria Exit Tweet Provokes Washington Panic

      President Trump’s unexpected December 19 twitter announcement ordering a 30-day timetable for the withdrawal of the 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria and 7,000 of the 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan provoked a bipartisan panic in Washington. Defense Secretary “Mad Dog” James Mattis, “the butcher of Fallujah,” resigned in protest stating, according to the New York Times, that “Leaving Syria in 30 days would jeopardize the fight against the Islamic State, betray our Syrian Kurdish Arab allies on the ground, and cede the eastern part of the country to the Syrian government and its Russian and Iranian allies.”

      The former commander of American-led troops in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2010, General Stanley McChrystal, warned that “Trump’s approach to national security was reckless.” Eight years earlier the same McChrystal, working under the Obama administration, pilloried then Vice President Joseph Biden for publicly revealing that Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and other Gulf State monarchies had systematically provided weapons to and trained Al Qaida and other terrorist groups to invade Syria for the purpose of removing the Bashar Assad government. Biden soon after apologized for his “indiscrete” statements but never repudiated their validity.

      Brett McGurk, U.S. representative to the so-called global coalition fighting ISIS, also resigned from Trump’s team stating “Fighters with ISIS were on the run, but not yet defeated as Trump had said.”

      Pressing the panic button to the hilt, New York Times reporter, Vivian Lee opened her December 26 article with: “Turkey is threatening to invade Syria to eradicate Kurdish fighters. Syrian forces are rolling toward territory the Americans will soon abandon. Israel is bombing Iran-backed militias deep inside Syria and Russia could soon move to crush the last vestige of the Syrian anti-government insurgency.”

      Joining the chorus of Trump naysayers was none other than former State Department Director of U.S. Policy Planning,

    • UK government fighting to keep details of counter-extremism radio shows secret

      The British government is attempting to prevent publication of material that would show how counter-extremism propaganda is being channelled covertly through radio dramas broadcast in the UK.

      Lawyers for the government are resisting an attempt to force disclosure of documents that would expose the role the Home Office’s secretive Research, Information and Communications Unit (RICU) has played in the creation and production of supposedly independent radio shows.

      RICU, part of the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT) within the Home Office, is known to have been producing and disseminating communications for around a decade as part of the British government’s controversial Prevent strategy. The unit goes to great lengths to obscure the extent of its operations.

      Government lawyers are arguing that any disclosure – under the UK’s Freedom of Information Act – that revealed details of RICU’s secret involvement in radio drama would jeopardise national security.

      “The relevant information clearly concerns matters which have the potential to expose the United Kingdom and its citizens to a national security threat,” they said in a submission to the Information Tribunal, the court that is set to rule on an appeal in the case.

    • Suspect arrested in terror attack allegedly planned for Putin’s visit to Serbia

      Armin Alibashich, 21, has been arrested in the Serbian city of Novi Pazar on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack, the Serbian news outlet Blic reported.

      Alibashich was allegedly stopped because his backpack looked suspicious. A rifle with an optic sight was found inside. A search of the young man’s home revealed components of improvised bombs and symbols related to the terrorist group ISIS.

    • US Army Documents Reveal Massive Support For ‘Long Road Home’ Miniseries, Possible Fraud At Military’s Entertainment Liaison Office

      The National Geographic drama series, “The Long Road Home,” tells a version of the story of the battle for Sadr City in 2004, a key moment in Iraq War, and newly-released emails and other documents from the United States Army detail the extensive military support for the TV series and how the Pentagon repeatedly bent its own rules on providing assistance to entertainment productions.

      Until April 2004, Sadr City was one of the quietest areas of Baghdad and coalition troops stationed there saw little action. That all changed on the night of April 4, known as ‘Black Sunday.’ Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of a prominent Shia militia, had his newspaper shut down by Paul Bremer, leader of the Coalition Provisional Authority.

      A few days later, one of al-Sadr’s top lieutenants was arrested. This sparked a vicious retaliation from the Sadrist movement, which ambushed a routine U.S. Army patrol in Sadr City and then attacked the forces sent in to retrieve them. It was a harbinger of what was to come, as the multi-form insurgency against the Western occupation of Iraq rapidly grew in size and violence in the following years.

    • Trump Wants to Punish California Wildfire Victims by Withholding FEMA Funds

      Just after California Governor Gavin Newsom delivered a fiery inauguration speech that positioned the state firmly against the worst elements of the Trump administration, the president swiped back via his favorite medium: Twitter and empty threats.

      Trump claimed that he told FEMA to “send no more money” to the state, which is recovering from the worst wildfires in its history; 2018 was a hot, dry, deadly and scorched year.

      But the president’s hatred for California isn’t new. And, more broadly, conservatives make a point of regularly sniping at the state and “San Francisco values” — whatever that’s supposed to mean.

    • ‘US Administrations Have Been Intervening in Venezuela Since at Least the Early 2000s’ – CounterSpin interview with Alexander Main on Maduro’s reelection

      When it comes to Venezuela, elite US media don’t hide their feelings. And their feelings are all the same. Headlines on last year’s reelection of Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro differed only in tone, including the disdainful: “As Venezuelans Go Hungry, Their Government Holds a Farcical Election,” from the Economist; the decisive: USA Today‘s “Maduro Is Turning Venezuela Into a Dictatorship,” or Foreign Affairs’ more somber version, “Venezuela’s Suicide; Lessons From a Failed State.” There’s Forbes’ vaguely threatening “Why Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela May Wish He Lost the Presidential Election,” and Foreign Policy’s unashamed “It’s Time for a Coup in Venezuela.”

      But they’re all pretty much variations on a theme that’s hard to unhear, given that media bang it out so loudly and repeatedly. Here to help us sort fact from froth is Alexander Main. He’s director of international policy at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. He joins us by phone from Washington, DC. Welcome to CounterSpin, Alex Main.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting
    • Journalism Is Dangerous Work

      The unnerving sense of insecurity surrounding the field of journalism is more intense, of course, in places like Somalia and Saudi Arabia. But US journalists are increasingly finding solidarity with colleagues struggling to expose the truth in other countries. In an era of soft oppression and anti-media demagoguery, no journalist anywhere can afford to let their guard down.

    • WikiLeaks takes on The Guardian for alleging ties to Paul Manafort: ‘Legal action will now commence’

      Bolstered by online donors fronting the money for legal costs, WikiLeaks on Monday announced its plans to pursue a lawsuit against The Guardian newspaper over an article that alleged the antisecrecy group had ties to President Trump’s former election campaign manager, Paul Manafort.

      “WikiLeaks fund to sue the Guardian for publishing fabricated front page stories has hit $50,000. Thanks to all 1270 donors so far. Legal action will now commence (but more is required to complete),” WikiLeaks said on Twitter.

      Published by The Guardian on Nov. 27, 2018, the article alleged that Manafort held “secret talks” with WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange during the 2016 U.S. presidential race, essentially creating a direct link between Mr. Trump’s election campaign and the website responsible for releasing stolen documents damaging to his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

      No other outlets have corroborated The Guardian’s claims, and WikiLeaks and Manafort separately flatly rejected the article as false and libelous.

    • ‘Perfect accuracy’: WikiLeaks hits back at ‘neocon’ app NewsGuard, which labeled it untrustworthy

      NewsGuard claims to help combat fake news online and defend against “disinformation” but its links to the US government have caused some to call its objectivity into question.

      In a tweet responding to the news that Microsoft has partnered with NewsGuard to add it as an extension to its Edge web browser by default, WikiLeaks claimed the news-rating app was “pushing US security state news imperialism across the world” and reminded users that WikiLeaks has a “perfect” record on accuracy. Since its beginnings, no documents published by WikiLeaks were ever found to be inauthentic.

    • ‘Real journalists act as agents of people, not power’

      I had spent much of 1971 based in Calcutta reporting on the seven million refugees coming from what was then East Pakistan. Their journey was along what we reporters called a “corridor of pain”. The previous year, I had witnessed the devastation caused by the great tidal wave that engulfed the unprotected Bay of Bengal. What had struck me was the lack of real concern by the government in Islamabad, which sent the army to impose martial law on the people of East Bengal.
      This was a dangerous corner of the world for ordinary people and dissenters from the colonial power that touched all their lives; it was also an inspirational place where, it was clear to me, a free Bangladesh was struggling to be born.
      I like Bengali people; I admired their resilience and warmth and wit. In the summer of 1971, a young idealistic lawyer, Moudud Ahmed (who later rose to high office in Bangladesh), led me at night across the Radcliffe Line that divided India from East Pakistan. We marched behind an armed guide bearing a green and red Bangladeshi flag and we listened to people’s moving accounts of Pakistani atrocities and saw their destroyed villages.
      My subsequent report in the London Daily Mirror and my colleague Eric Piper’s photographs provided substantial evidence that the Islamabad government was waging genocidal war in Bengal.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature
    • The U.S. Oil and Gas Industry Is Drilling Us Towards Climate Disaster

      As the 116th Congress commences, in the wake of dire reports from climate scientists, the debate over U.S. climate policies has taken a welcome turn towards bold solutions. Spurred on by grassroots pressure from Indigenous communities, the youth-led Sunrise Movement, and communities from coast to coast fighting fossil fuel infrastructure, Capitol Hill is alive once again with policy proposals that edge towards the scale required to address the crisis we’re in.

      A new study released today by Oil Change International and 17 partner organizations makes it clear that managing a rapid and equitable decline of U.S. fossil fuel production must be a core component of any comprehensive climate policy.

    • Studies Show Ice Melting and Ocean Warming Both Happening Much Faster Than Previously Thought

      A multitude of new climate studies has painted a picture of the numerous factors that are simultaneously leading to rising sea levels, which could increase by more than 10 feet by the end of the century.

      Scientists at University of California, Irvine found significant acceleration in the melting of ice across Antarctica, compared with how fast the ice was melting in the 1980s.

      On social media, author and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben was among those who issued a reminder that despite daily news regarding the Trump administration, the climate crisis remains “the biggest story” affecting the entire planet.

    • Virginia Air Board Member Who Approved a Controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline Permit Has Links to a Dominion Gas Partner

      A member of a Virginia state permitting board who last week approved a highly controversial certification for Dominion’s planned Atlantic Coast pipeline has business ties to a company currently collaborating with Dominion on a related gas project, DeSmog has found.

      William (Trip) Ferguson joined three other Air Pollution Control Board members to unanimously approve a permit for Dominion’s Buckingham compressor station. The planned station, which will propel the natural gas as it moves through the 600-mile interstate pipeline, will be built in Union Hill, a largely African-American community settled by free blacks and emancipated slaves after the Civil War.

      The plan has sparked a years-long opposition campaign by activists and concerned residents of Union Hill. Last week’s final approval was met by outrage, as protesters — many chanting “Shame! Shame!” — accused the governor-appointed board of foisting a noxious infrastructure project onto a reluctant community while ignoring critical environmental justice concerns.

      Now, a DeSmog investigation raises questions about the degree of Ferguson’s impartiality when approving this project.

    • The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party: Part Two

      Legislators in Washington are currently proposing a Democratic Green New Deal (hereafter DGND) project that continues to implement neoliberal policy, including anti-union measures and fiscal benefits for the 1%. (cf. Corporations See a Different Kind of “Green” in Ocasio-Cortez’s “Green New Deal” by Whitney Webb, 12/18/18, Mint Press News) This would most likely include either quasi-privatization of infrastructure, known in popular press discourse as public-private partnerships, or outright privatization, passed off in public relations as a fair exchange of infrastructure ownership for installation and maintenance of renewable energy implements and devices, such as solar panels or windmills.

      It also appears that the DGND includes within its framework further weakening of labor union and worker protections. Whitney Webb writes “Another indication that there is nothing ‘progressive’ about the Ocasio-Cortez-backed plan is the fact that it is stocked with neoliberal buzzwords that are catnip to modern-day American robber-barons. For instance, the plan states that it must ‘include additional measures such as basic income programs, universal health care programs and any others as the select committee may deem appropriate to promote economic security, labor market flexibility and entrepreneurism…’ [emphasis added] The term ‘labor market flexibility’ is a neoliberal buzzword that disguises a corporation’s ability to hire and fire at will as an exercise in ‘flexibility’ as opposed to an exercise of corporate power. As Investopedia notes, ‘A flexible labor market is one where firms are under fewer regulations regarding the labor force and can, therefore, set wages, fire employees at will and change their work hours.’”

      This is another opening for the Green Party to take advantage of. Right now, the pseudo-alternative press outlets that function as auxiliaries and free public relations agents of the Democratic Party’s Progressive caucus, from Vox to Jacobin Magazine to The Nation, are promoting a multi-media meta-narrative that articulates an argument for a Popular Front with the Democratic Party to oust Donald Trump in 2020.

      While there certainly are undeniable and painful aspects to the Trump administration that have fascistic features, one element missing from all of these social democratic venues and reporters/analysts is a true socio-political diagnosis of fascism as a symptom and outgrowth of austerity policies. This is probably because austerity has been most successfully and brutally promoted in the past decade by the political candidates these social democratic venues have regularly and unfailingly endorsed. The Democrats willfully enable the growth of fascist political trends with financial policies that incubate white nationalism within the public over an immiseration that has a very real material basis. This immiseration is borne out in metrics regarding suicides, birth rates, substance abuse rates (most notably being the opioid epidemic), and the precarity of finances that demonstrate many are living paycheck-to-paycheck and are one major accident away from bankruptcy. While this loss of quality of life does not mean that so-called whites are in any way close to facing the kinds of struggles that African Americans and Indigenous people deal with, it does demonstrate that the ‘wages of whiteness,’ as W.E.B. Du Bois explained white privilege, are coming up short and no longer delivering in the fashion they once did.

    • The World Will End in Fire

      Proclaiming that the end is nigh has now become the labor of the very opposite of a deluded religious devotee. And the question framed by Robert Frost of whether the world will end in fire or ice is no longer in dispute. The world will soon end in fire, possibly the fire of the Pentagon’s “usable” nuclear weapons, certainly the fire of anthropogenic climate collapse. Not only will the world not end in ice, but the vanishing of ice from the earth is helping to rapidly render this planet uninhabitable for humans and many other species.

      As we observe up-close in Dahr Jamail’s new book The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption, great masses of ice are melting away. Glacier National Park will soon lack any glaciers. Greenland, that ice-covered land falsely labeled green and distorted by northern prejudice to appear larger than Africa on most western maps, is being transformed into something you can spray through a hose . . . or drown in. Ice that most of us have never seen, but upon which our lives depend, is disappearing, not just quickly, but at a rate that is constantly becoming quicker, and even quicker, and quicker still.

      The permafrost in the Arctic, Jamail tells us, is thawing and releasing methane, and could at any moment release methane equivalent to several times the total carbon dioxide released by humans ever. Barring that catastrophe, the feedback loops or vicious cycles are real and underestimated. When the glaciers melt, the streams warm up or dry up, ecosystems collapse, forests burn, and the glaciers melt more. By 2015, forests in California had become climate polluters rather than CO2 reducers. Jamail finds that every single worst case scenario predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) regarding temperature, sea level, severe weather, and CO2 in the atmosphere has fallen short. In fact, Jamail explains why the IPCC is generally not just excessively conservative but 10 years out of date. That figure places the IPCC’s late-2018 report claiming that humanity had 12 years left in which to change its ways and avert disaster in a harsh light.

    • Natural gas is now getting in the way; US carbon emissions increase by 3.4%

      But it appears that emissions have increased 3.4 percent in 2018 across the US economy, the second-largest annual increase in 20 years, according to Rhodium Group’s preliminary data. (2010, when the US started recovering from the recession, was the largest annual increase in the last two decades.)

    • Without Trump, local governments spend millions to protect against climate change

      Frustrated by what they see as the Trump administration’s decision to de-emphasize the danger posed by climate change, local government officials, non-profit leaders and university researchers are busily forging ahead with limited resources in a piecemeal approach they say is better than nothing. They’re hardening buildings, digging bigger storm drains and changing zoning laws to keep homes from being built in low-lying areas prone to flooding.

    • India’s love for hydroelectric power is misplaced: It isn’t renewable, river flow is erratic and mega dams dangerous

      Due to the variety of reasons discussed above, governments across the world are progressively becoming more cognizant of the adverse impacts of dams. Many countries, such as the United States of America, Brazil, China and Peru, are now actively taking steps to de-commission existing dams, or to abort plans for commissioning future dams. Similarly, it has been recommended that unsafe and unproductive dams in India should be de-commissioned.

      Policymakers should desist from shifting the goalposts by re-classifying large hydro as a source of renewable energy. In view of the large environmental and social costs of energy from large hydro, it may be more prudent at this juncture to reduce dependence on large hydro, and if required, signal this through a reduction in the NDC target of 175GW to 125GW.

    • Hazy figures cloud Indonesia’s peat restoration as fire season looms

      Activists have also questioned figures that suggest the target of restoring 24,000 square kilometers (9,300 square miles) of peatland by the end of 2020 has been almost achieved, saying there’s little transparency about the bulk of the required restoration, being carried out by pulpwood and plantation companies.

    • Breakthrough as world’s largest palm oil trader gives forest destroyers nowhere to hide

      The world’s largest palm oil trader, Wilmar International, has published a detailed action plan to map and monitor all of its suppliers. If implemented, this would put the palm oil giant, which supplies 40% of the world’s palm oil, one step closer to finally eliminating deforestation from its supply chain and would have a major impact on the rest of the industry.

    • WHO study likens palm oil lobbying to tobacco and alcohol industries

      The palm oil industry is deploying tactics similar to those of the alcohol and tobacco industries to influence research into the health effects of its product, a study published by the World Health Organization said on Tuesday.

      Evidence of the health impact of palm oil is mixed, with some studies linking consumption to several ailments, including increased risk of death from heart disease caused by narrowing arteries, the report said.

    • MPOC lambasts WHO over negative remarks on palm oil lobbying

      The authors of the study, published in the WHO’s bulletin, claimed that they found nine pieces of research showing overwhelmingly positive health associations, but four of them were authored by the MPOC.

      Kalyana said back in the 1980s, palm oil was said to pose a risk for heart disease because of its higher saturated fat content and the industry had to step in and sponsor a global research to learn the truth.

    • Ocean Warming Is Accelerating Faster Than Thought, New Research Finds

      Scientists say the world’s oceans are warming far more quickly than previously thought, a finding with dire implications for climate change because almost all the excess heat absorbed by the planet ends up stored in their waters.

      A new analysis, published Thursday in the journal Science, found that the oceans are heating up 40 percent faster on average than a United Nations panel estimated five years ago. The researchers also concluded that ocean temperatures have broken records for several straight years.

    • What warmer oceans mean for the planet

      Our oceans are much warmer than we previously thought, according to a new study. They are also heating up faster than was believed, driven by climate change caused by humans.

    • ‘No Life Without Water’: Kabul Faces Water Crisis as Drought, Population Strain Supply

      Water is not only scarce in Kabul, but most of it is undrinkable, according to the National Environmental Protection Agency.

      Around 70 percent of the city’s groundwater is contaminated by waste and chemicals from leaky household septic tanks and industrial plants that can cause diarrhea or other illnesses if the water is not boiled or purified properly.

    • Government resolves to cancel land titles in wetlands

      The minister’s pronouncement comes barely two months after authorities in Masaka halted all activities taking place in wetlands, forests and other water catchment areas.

    • Study: Number of monarch butterflies in California declined by 86 percent in one year

      The group’s most recent count, over Thanksgiving weekend, recorded less than 30,000 butterflies — an 86-percent decline since 2017 alone.

    • We’re losing monarchs fast—here’s why

      The epic 3,000-mile monarch butterfly migration may become a thing of the past. Each fall, monarchs travel from their summer homes in the northern U.S. and Canada to winter habitats in California and Mexico. But the 2018 Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count found that the number of west-coast monarchs spending the winter in California had plunged to only 20,456 butterflies—a drop of 86 percent since last year. And the number of eastern monarchs overwintering in Mexico this year has dropped 15 percent since last year, for a total decline of more than 80 percent over the past 20 years, according to the National Wildlife Federation.

      This year’s count is only the latest in a string of bad news for the charismatic butterfly that makes one of the longest known insect migrations. The culprit? Humans. The twin forces of human-caused climate change and habitat loss are now threatening North American monarch butterflies with extinction.

    • Meteorological Institute confirms 2018 was hottest year in Finland’s history

      In a bulletin released by the Institute this morning, they reveal that overall, 2018 was a full 2 degrees warmer than usual as an average. Meanwhile, the peak temperature of the year, which was recorded as 33.7 degrees Celsius in Vaasa on 18 June, was one of the highest ever reached.

    • Fewer Americans are biking to work despite new trails, lanes and bicycle share programs

      Around the country, city transportation officials wish there were more bicyclists like Dandino, as they seek to cut traffic congestion, promote health and identify alternatives to cars. But after rising for several years, the percentage of commuters turning to bikes has declined for the third year straight, U.S. Census Bureau figures shows.

    • Washington Could Become the First State to Compost the Dead

      The method is called “recomposting” and claims to be cheaper and more environmentally friendly than traditional burial or cremation. It involves rapidly decomposing a body and converting the remains into soil. That nutrient-rich material can then be used to grow trees, flowers, and other new life.

      The alternative practice hinges on a bill that state senator Jamie Pedersen plans to introduce next month, according to NBC. It would legalize recomposting in Washington where burial and cremation are currently the only acceptable ways to dispose of human remains.

    • These species went extinct in 2018. More may be doomed to follow in 2019.

      A disturbing trend is that mainland species are starting to go extinct, rather than island species: “Ninety percent of bird extinctions in recent centuries have been of species on islands,” said Stuart Butchart, BirdLife’s chief scientist and lead author on the paper.

      “However, our results confirm that there is a growing wave of extinctions sweeping across the continents, driven mainly by habitat loss and degradation from unsustainable agriculture and logging,” he said.

    • Top Oil Lobbyist Wants Government Open to Keep Rolling Back Environmental Rules

      Although the partial U.S. government shutdown, now marching into its fourth week, isn’t hurting the oil and gas industry, according to Mike Sommers, the head of the American Petroleum Institute (API) says he wants the shutdown to end so that the Trump administration can get back to actively helping the industry by meeting federal deadlines for rolling back environmental regulations.

      Nevertheless, there are signs the Trump administration is still at work on that fossil fuel-friendly agenda in some places, such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), despite the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.

    • A Planet in Crisis: The Heat’s on Us

      The ancient cinder cone I’m perched on reminds me that St. Paul was, oh, so long ago, one of the last places woolly mammoths could be found in North America. I’m here doing research for my book, The End of Ice. And that, in turn, brings me back to the new reality in these far northern waters: as cold as they still are, human-caused climate disruption is warming them enough to threaten a possible collapse of the food web that sustains this island’s Unangan, its Aleut inhabitants, also known as “the people of the seal.” Given how deeply their culture is tied to a subsistence lifestyle coupled with the new reality that the numbers of fur seals, seabirds and other marine life they hunt or fish are dwindling, how could this crisis not be affecting them?

      While on St. Paul, I spoke with many tribal elders who told me stories about fewer fish and sea birds, harsher storms and warming temperatures, but what struck me most deeply were their accounts of plummeting fur seal populations. Seal mothers, they said, had to swim so much farther to find food for their pups that the babies were starving to death before they could make it back.

      And the plight of those dramatically declining fur seals could well become the plight of the Unangan themselves, which in the decades to come, as climate turbulence increases, could very well become the plight of all of us.

    • Trump’s Border Wall Threatens Rare Butterflies and Native Bees

      Numerous experts have expressed fear that the wall would have devastating effects on birds, jaguars, fish, butterflies and potentially thousands of additional species.

      Now a new research project reveals that dozens of beautiful native bee species, most of which are rarely seen in the United States, could also be hurt or wiped out by the border wall. Bees perform crucial work as pollinators of plants that feed birds and other animals. If their numbers are reduced or species are lost altogether, it could cause a cascade of harmful environmental impacts.

      The bees, identified by nature photographers Paula Sharp and Ross Eatman along with a team of scientists, were found at the National Butterfly Center, a nonprofit that works to conserve and study wild butterflies in Mission, Texas. The Trump administration plans to build the border wall through more than half of the privately held 100-acre property.

    • Bernie Sanders: As World Faces Climate Crisis, 95% of EPA Workers Furloughed During Trump Shutdown—’How Insane Is That?’

      Bundled up in a winter coat, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) stood outside the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) headquarters in Washington, D.C. to raise alarm that the arm of the government “that should be leading the effort in this country and around the world to combat climate change” is barely operating due to President Donald Trump’s temper tantrum over border wall funding.

      In a video shared to social media on Tuesday, the senator called on Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) to stop blocking votes on legislation approved by the House that would end the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.

      While pointing to warnings from scientists that without an urgent transition away from burning fossil fuels, “the planet that we will be leaving our children and grandchildren will be increasingly unhealthy and uninhabitable,” Sanders noted that during the shutdown, 95 percent of EPA employees are furloughed and many are considered “nonessential.”

    • Warmer waters leave Irish anglers fishless

      Unusually high temperatures in 2018 have left many Irish anglers frustrated as fish struggle to survive in the Emerald Isle’s lakes and rivers, with the rising heat also causing an increase in methane emissions.

      Now changes in climate could threaten the anglers’ activities, putting in jeopardy what is a multi-million euro leisure industry.

      Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI), a state agency, says that a heat wave across Ireland in the summer of 2018 caused temperatures in the country’s lakes and rivers to rise to what it describes as lethal levels for a number of freshwater fish species.

      The IFI’s findings, reported in the Irish Times newspaper, indicate that the two most affected species were salmon and trout – both prized by the freshwater fishing community.

      “The 2018 summer water temperatures need to be considered in the context of climate change predictions”, Cathal Gallagher, the IFI’s head of research, told the Irish Times.“If temperatures continue to increase, sensitive cold water fish species will be at risk.”

    • With US ‘Drilling Towards Disaster,’ Report Warns Anything Less Than Urgent Green New Deal Will Be ‘Too Little, Too Late’

      These are just two alarming findings from a report (pdf) published Wednesday by Oil Change International (OCI), which warns that—unless radical action on the scale of a Green New Deal is taken—U.S. fossil fuel production could single-handedly imperil the world’s ability to adequately confront the climate crisis before it’s too late.

      “Our findings present an urgent and existential emergency for lawmakers in the United States at all levels of government. The oil and gas industry is expanding further and faster in the United States than in any other country at precisely the time when we must begin rapidly decarbonizing to prevent runaway climate disaster,” said Kelly Trout, senior research analyst at OCI and co-author of the report, which was produced in collaboration with 350.org, Friends of the Earth, and over a dozen other progressive organizations.

      “This report should be a wake-up call for elected officials who consider themselves to be climate leaders,” Trout added. “We need a complete overhaul of our economy with a Green New Deal, and that overhaul must include standing up to the fossil fuel industry in order to take us off this path of devastation for our climate and communities. Anything less than a full, swift, and just managed decline of fossil fuel production is too little, too late.”

      Titled “Drilling Towards Disaster,” OCI’s report estimates that the continued expansion of massive fossil fuel extraction and pipeline projects throughout the U.S. under President Donald Trump has put the nation on track to account for 60 percent of global growth in fossil fuel production between 2019 and 2030—the year by which United Nations experts say the world must cut carbon emissions in half to avert planetary catastrophe.

    • Former Coal Lobbyist Andrew Wheeler Faces Senate Confirmation as EPA Administrator

      Acting Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief — and now Trump cabinet nominee — Andrew Wheeler heads into Senate confirmation hearings at 10 a.m. EST Wednesday, as the longest government shutdown in U.S. history has left the EPA mostly shuttered.

      Wheeler, a former coal, petrochemical, and LNG (liquefied natural gas) lobbyist, has run America’s top environmental agency since ex-EPA chief Scott Pruitt resigned this summer under at least a dozen internal investigations.

      The Pruitt investigations — now abandoned, the EPA’s Office of Inspector General reported in November — ranged from concerns Pruitt tried to use EPA staff to help arrange a potential Chick-fil-A franchise deal for his wife (and to help him buy a used Trump Hotel mattress), enlisted environmental law enforcement staff as his own unjustified 24/7 personal security detail (and to pick up his dry cleaning), and a $50 per night condo deal struck with a lobbyist.

      Wheeler now faces confirmation hearings before the Republican-controlled Senate, as he did during his confirmation hearing to become deputy administrator. He won 53 votes at that time, including the votes of three Democrats, two of whom were voted out in 2018. Nonetheless, Senate Republicans would have enough votes to approve Wheeler’s confirmation even if he draws no bipartisan support.

    • Keeping Global Warming Below 1.5°C May Still Be Possible With Immediate Action, New Study Shows

      While that goal is described by some as “daunting,” critics of the Paris accord—which is backed by every nation on Earth except the United States under President Donald Trump—and its recently established rulebook have concluded that neither go far enough. Beyond those squabbles, though, there is a general consensus among the world’s scientists that tackling the climate crisis requires “rapid, far-reaching, and unprecedented” societal reforms.

      Specifically, the new research shows that if carbon-intensive infrastructure is phased out from this point forward, there is a 64 percent chance of keeping global temperature rise within this century below 1.5°C. However, the window of opportunity is closing quickly. According to the report, “delaying mitigation until 2030 considerably reduces the likelihood that 1.5°C would be attainable even if the rate of fossil fuel retirement was accelerated.”

      “It’s good news from a geophysical point of view. But on the other side of the coin, the [immediate fossil fuel phaseout] is really at the limit of what we could we possibly do,” lead researcher Christopher Smith, of the University of Leeds, told the Guardian. “We are basically saying we can’t build anything now that emits fossil fuels.”

      While the findings suggest the world still has the option to meet the Paris agreement’s ambitions, there are some limitations to the research. As the Guardian pointed out, “the analysis did not include the possibility of tipping points such as the sudden release of huge volumes of methane from permafrost, which could spark runaway global warming.”

  • Finance
    • China’s growth data may mask economic risks: research group

      Economists in China and abroad have long suspected data is massaged upward, often noting that full-year gross domestic product hits Beijing’s pre-set targets with suspicious regularity.

    • “A Fight for the Soul of Britain”: Theresa May’s Brexit Deal Goes Down in Historic Defeat

      Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal was crushed Tuesday in the biggest defeat for a sitting British government in modern history. After months of build-up, May’s plan for withdrawing Britain from the European Union was voted down 432 to 202, fomenting political uncertainty about the future of Britain, as well as May’s leadership. On Wednesday, Parliament will vote on a no-confidence motion in May’s government. We speak with Paul Mason, New Statesman contributing writer, author and filmmaker. His latest piece for the New Statesman is titled “To avoid a disastrous failure, Labour must now have the courage to fight for Remain.”

    • Steny Hoyer Deploys ‘Republican-Lite Talking Points’ to Oppose 70% Tax Rate on Ultra-Rich That Most Americans Want

      Speaking to the news outlet Cheddar, Hoyer scoffed and smirked when asked on Tuesday whether he would support the proposal—even as he undermined his own point, admitting that a 70 percent tax rate for the rich has in fact existed in the U.S. in the past.

      Despite his stated view that “we need to get the deficit down” and “pay for our priorities and our needs,” Hoyer claimed that asking Americans making more than $10 million per year—as Ocasio-Cortez proposed—”is not reasonable to attain either politically or frankly, I think, from a policy standpoint.”

      Justice Democrats communications director Waleed Shahid compared Hoyer’s statement to “mealy-mouthed Republican-lite talking points in place of a vision of Democratic governance.”

    • Student veterans deserve better than the DeVos agenda

      Periodic crackdowns by Congress over the years have made it harder for unscrupulous providers to prey on veterans and waste taxpayer dollars. One important requirement was to ensure schools weren’t being paid to leave students to learn on their own. But this could soon change, as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos embarks on an ambitious — and scary — effort to deregulate higher education and open the floodgates of hundreds of billions of dollars in federal aid to those who care more about making a quick buck than making sure students get what they’re paying for.

    • How Cities Make Money by Fining the Poor

      That night, Tillman says, she conducted an informal poll of the 20 or so women in her pod at the Alcorn County jail. A majority, she says, were incarcerated for the same reason she was: an inability to pay a fine. Some had been languishing in jail for weeks. The inmates even had a phrase for it: “sitting it out.” Tillman’s face crumpled. “I thought, Because we’re poor, because we’re of a lower class, we aren’t allowed real freedom,” she recalled. “And it was the worst feeling in the world.”

      No government agency comprehensively tracks the extent of criminal-justice debt owed by poor defendants, but experts estimate that those fines and fees total tens of billions of dollars. That number is likely to grow in coming years, and significantly: National Public Radio, in a survey conducted with the Brennan Center for Justice and the National Center for State Courts, found that 48 states increased their civil and criminal court fees from 2010 to 2014. And because wealthy and middle-class Americans can typically afford either the initial fee or the services of an attorney, it will be the poor who shoulder the bulk of the burden.

    • It’s Time For A Homes Guarantee

      Our nation is in a full-blown housing emergency. Today, a person working full time in a minimum-wage job cannot afford a two-bedroom apartment – anywhere in the United States. More than half of all Americans spend a third or more of their income on housing. Only one in five households that qualify for federal housing assistance receives it.

      And right now, thanks to President Trump’s irresponsible government shutdown, hundreds of thousands of households may face eviction and homelessness.

      So we have to ask again, with even greater urgency, the question we put to HUD Secretary Ben Carson when we confronted him in Las Vegas last spring: “Where will we live?”

      This is the humanitarian crisis we should be talking about: the one that’s right under our noses, and is growing larger every day. Most people – especially low-income families and communities of color – live one emergency away from an eviction. More than three million families and individuals are already experiencing homelessness, including over one million children.

    • Unpaid federal workers get help from food banks during government shutdown
    • The 2019 government shutdown is just the latest reason why poor people can’t bank on the safety net

      I conduct a lot of in-depth interviews with people like a woman I’ll call Angie as part of my work as a political scientist who studies poverty and public policy. When I asked the low-income mother of two, who works multiple jobs but still struggles to care for her family, about her experience with government assistance programs, she expressed dismay over benefit cuts.

      “The people who make these rules … they don’t have any poor people in their family,” she told me. “That is why they are willing to chop so many services for the poor.”

      People living in poverty are now bracing for that kind of chopping as a result of the partial government shutdown that began in December. By the three-week mark, most safety-net benefits were still being funded. But should the impasse drag on, that could change.

      In my view, the added economic hardship brought on would highlight an enduring aspect of American public policy: Government benefits can be unreliable. They can be cut or eliminated arbitrarily.

    • Arne Duncan’s Attack on Los Angeles Public Teachers Shows He Doesn’t Care About Real Student Needs

      Literally tens of thousands of Los Angeles public schoolteachers and support staff are on strike this week, demanding that the wealthy elites who run LA’s school district address the desperate need for more resources and supports for their students. But just weeks before the strike began, former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan wrote an op-ed in The Hill essentially telling educators to back off their demands because there’s not enough money to fund them – even though those public school educators live in one of the wealthiest states in the nation.

      Let’s be clear. Arne Duncan has never taught a day in his life. He sent his children to an elite private school with small class sizes and great resources. He landed his job as CEO of Chicago Public Schools through insider ties—where he pushed policies that hurt our public school students’ access to the very same resources his own children had. He’s pushed endlessly for school privatization, and he’s been a national proponent of the teacher blame game as a way to dodge the real need for more resources for public education. Now he wants to silence Los Angeles teachers who are demanding the very supports for their students that Duncan’s children received—in a state with the fifth largest economy on the planet.

      “We need the opposite of what [Arne] Duncan brought to the table in Chicago and what he proposes in Los Angeles.”

    • 3 Reasons to Pay Attention to the LA Teacher Strike

      The first mass teacher labor action of 2019 is unfolding in California as the United Teachers Los Angeles walked out for the first time in 30 years.

      This strike, which began on Jan. 14, isn’t just important to people in Los Angeles. Here are three reasons the nation should pay attention.

      1. The Los Angeles case is different

      The Los Angeles strike stands out because of the size of the district.

      With 640,000 students, and about 500,000 enrolled in the district’s public schools, Los Angeles represents the second largest school district in the United States. The only bigger district is New York City.

      The Los Angeles strike involves 34,000 teachers. To compare, the statewide 2018 teacher strike in West Virginia – where I am researching teacher strikes and teacher shortages – involved about 20,000 teachers and affected approximately 270,000 students.

      Also, the political context is different. When West Virginia teachers walked out of the classroom, they were battling a conservative state legislature in a largely rural, majority-white state. Los Angeles is urban, far more diverse, and located in a state that has voted mostly Democratic in presidential elections since 1992.

      Los Angeles Unified School District’s student population is 73 percent Latino, 10.5 percent white, 8.2 percent black and 4.2 percent Asian. The district serves over 150,000 students whose first language is not English.

      The situation for the Los Angeles teachers union is also different in several ways. For instance, it is engaged in an active fight against the rapid growth of charter schools. Los Angeles is home to the largest number of charter schools in the U.S. with 277.

      Since 2008, the charter industry in Los Angeles has grown 287 percent. According to the Los Angeles teachers union, this is effectively siphoning US$550 million per year from the district’s traditional public schools.

    • LA Teachers’ Strike: When Just One Man Says, “No”

      So said Kirk Douglas as Spartacus, the leader of the renowned ancient slave revolt, in the movie Spartacus. The closer we came to a strike, the more furious the conservative establishment’s attacks on United Teachers of Los Angeles became. Their fear is palpable.

      Teachers are supposed to submit to the massive underfunding of our schools and tackle the problems in our usual way–self-sacrifice. This means working insane hours, trying to do what can’t be done, and spending our own money to buy what Los Angeles Unified School District will not. It means being blamed for the district’s shortcomings and the negative effects poverty has on our overwhelmingly impoverished student body.

      Finally, we said “No.”

      Our strike is so obviously popular that teachers unions’ more sensible opponents have refrained from attacking us, instead mouthing platitudes about “what’s good for the children.” But not so with the more open enemies of unions, teachers, and public schools.

    • ‘This Model of Education Is Not Sustainable’

      The Los Angeles teachers are on strike for the first time since 1989, demanding a change to conditions that have become intolerable. They’re demanding reduced class sizes; more counselors, nurses, and psychologists; less testing; a cap on charter schools; and an increase in statewide, per-student funding to raise California from its current, dismal rank of 43rd in the nation for such spending. Before voting to strike, they spent 20 months bargaining with the superintendent, Austin Beutner, who was chosen by LA’s elected school board, only to hit a stalemate on the major demands. A few months earlier, Beutner had accused the union of bargaining in bad faith, but to talk to the teachers—about the experience each day of teaching in LA’s schools, about their reasons for striking—was to understand that they had put their faith in a school system that continued to fail them.

    • #TacosForTeachers: crowdfunding to feed LA’s teachers as they strike against privatization and austerity

      Teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District (America’s largest district) are walking the picket line this week in the pouring rain, demanding an end to the billionaire dark-money backed privatization movement that funnels public education funds to the shareholders of racially segregated, underperforming charter schools.

      The Democratic Socialists of America have started a GoFundMe to provide taco truck meals to the striking teachers. It was originally intended to raise $1,000 and feed a couple schools’ worth of teachers, but it’s reached $24,000 as of this writing.

    • “Public Education Is Not Your Plaything”: L.A. Teachers Strike Against Privatization & Underfunding

      Los Angeles public school teachers are on strike for the first time in three decades. On Monday morning, tens of thousands of teachers braved pouring rain on the picket line for the strike’s first day. Some 20,000 people marched through downtown Los Angeles, demanding smaller class sizes, higher pay, the regulation of charter schools and more nurses, counselors and librarians. Over 31,000 members of United Teachers Los Angeles are striking. We speak with Cecily Myart-Cruz, strike leader and National Education Association vice president at United Teachers Los Angeles, and Eric Blanc, a reporter covering the strike for The Guardian and Jacobin. He is author of the forthcoming book “Red State Revolt: The Teachers’ Strike Wave and Working-Class Politics.”

    • Caroline Lucas: We need a People’s Vote no matter who’s in Number 10

      Responding to events in Parliament tonight, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said:

      “This is game over for Theresa May. But it’s only the end of the beginning of this whole Brexit saga.

      “MPs don’t want Theresa May’s deal, they rightly reject no deal, and they can’t have a fantasy renegotiation.

    • Ocasio-Cortez Forced to Explain Marginal Tax Rates to ‘Far-Right Former Governor’ Scott Walker

      “What Walker leaves out of the story,” joked Washington Post political reporter Dave Weigel, “is that the student had already made $9,999,990 on house work that year and the extra $10 pushed him into the top bracket.”

      “How is it even possible that you don’t know how marginal tax rates work?” the progressive advocacy group Credo Mobile asked Walker.

      And while the Patriotic Millionaires, a group wealthy individuals which advocates for higher taxes on people in their tax bracket, offered to share their resource materials to Walker so that he might better understand how the marginal rate works, their progressive allies at the Tax March also wanted to help.

      “Hey Scott Walker, it’s clear that you don’t understand marginal tax rates and we can’t have you mis-informing America’s children,” the group tweeted. “Check out our newest explainer video, it will get you up to speed.”

    • Britain’s May Faces No-Confidence Vote After Brexit Plan Crushed

      British lawmakers overwhelmingly rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s divorce deal with the European Union on Tuesday, plunging the Brexit process into chaos and triggering a no-confidence vote that could topple her government.

      The defeat was widely expected, but the scale of the House of Commons’ vote — 432 votes against the government and 202 in support — was devastating for May’s fragile leadership.

      It followed more than two years of political upheaval in which May has staked her political reputation on getting a Brexit deal and was the biggest defeat for a government in the House of Commons in modern history.

      Moments after the result was announced — with Speaker John Bercow bellowing “the noes have it” to a packed Commons chamber — May said it was only right to test whether the government still had lawmakers’ support to carry on. Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn quickly obliged, saying May’s government had lost the confidence of Parliament.

      Lawmakers will vote Wednesday on his motion of no-confidence. If the government loses, it will have 14 days to overturn the result or face a national election.

    • Richard Wolff: The Next Economic Crisis Is Coming

      Every time I sit down with economist Richard Wolff, he demonstrates why the field of economics is so necessary in the cultural critique of our American empire. In my recent interview with him, we discussed why the thriving economy touted by President Donald Trump hasn’t translated into real gains for the majority of Americans. We also went over what is hidden by the economic indicators that allow the financial industry to celebrate while so many Americans are still suffering.

      Professor Wolff talked with me on my show “Redacted Tonight: VIP” on RT America. Enjoy this excerpt from the interview.

    • As Poll Shows Majority Back 70% Tax Rate for Ultra-Rich, Ocasio-Cortez’s “Radical” Proposal Proves Extremely Mainstream

      Conducted by The Hill in partnership with the market research firm HarrisX, the poll found that 59 percent of the U.S. public supports raising the marginal tax rate on the richest Americans to 70 percent. The poll also found a “surprising amount of support” for the proposal among Republicans, with 45 percent backing the idea along with 71 percent of Democrats.

      “Oh? What’s that? The majority of Americans respect when you break down reasonable policy proposals that are designed to combat runaway income inequality and help fund priorities they value most?” Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Twitter in response to the new survey. “We can win public sentiment, stand our ground, and not be scared by GOP [mis]information.”

      “I don’t think it’s surprising,” Ocasio-Cortez said of the poll results in an interview with The Hill. “What we see, overall, is that the vast majority of Americans know that income inequality is one of the biggest issues of our time.”

    • Wednesday Papers: Theresa May’s Brexit plan falls by 230 votes

      Financial Times: Theresa May’s Brexit deal suffered a crushing defeat on Tuesday night in the House of Commons after MPs rejected the Prime Minister’s flagship policy by an overwhelming 230 votes.

      The Independent: The pound plunged and then rallied against the euro after Theresa May’s Brexit deal was overwhelmingly rejected by Parliament; sterling fell 0.74% against the euro to hit €1.1133 but it then recovered, rising 0.37% to €1.1257.

      The Daily Telegraph (Comment): We risk talking the UK economy into recession with all those Brexit scare tactics.

      The Independent: The International Air Transport Association has warned of potentially higher air fares, and reiterated that some flights from the UK could be cancelled if the country crashes out of the European Union.

    • Racism Poisons the Entire Brexit Debate

      It appears sadly impossible not to comment on Brexit at the moment; the astonishing scale of the government defeat in Parliament yesterday and the appalling self-serving behaviour of politicians on all sides compels attention.

      The first and most obvious point is this; had Theresa May any honour, she would simply resign after her major political objective was rebuffed so dramatically by the legislature. But honour appears to be entirely out of fashion, so I shall not refer to it again today.

      Parliament now appears ready to vote that it has confidence in the government when, clearly, it does not. This is because MPs wish to keep their jobs and careers intact. So from hereon the UK proceeds under the lie that it has a government which has a majority in Westminster for its views.

      Even more remarkably, Theresa May has no intention of seeking a proposal that could command a majority. She seeks to move forward with cross-party discussions which exclude the leadership of other parties. She also insists that such discussions must be limited by her infamous “red lines” – but within those constraints, there is no deal materially different to the deal Parliament has just rejected which will ever be available.

    • Angela Merkel Says There’s Still Time for Brexit Negotiations

      Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipila is urging all British citizens living the Nordic country to immediately register at Finland’s immigration service to make sure they receive a living permit in case of no-deal Brexit.

      Sipila told Finnish news agency STT Wednesday that the temporary permit will be issued so that the 5,000 Britons currently living in the country of 5.5 million can continue their stay if Britain exits the European Union without a deal.

      He said the likelihood of a no-deal Brexit has increased as a result of the British parliament’s decision to reject Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal Tuesday.

      The Finnish government’s social benefits office Kela said there may be major changes to what social benefits British citizens in Finland may be entitled to in case of a Brexit without an agreement, but did not provide details.

    • How Illinois Bet on Video Gambling and Lost

      WITH THE LAST STREAKS OF DAYLIGHT fading on a mild October evening, the cars pulled up in waves at Piero’s Italian Cuisine, an old-school Las Vegas hotspot known for its osso buco.
      Cadillacs with tinted windows. Taxis and rideshares. A black Bentley limousine and a white minivan. Men and women emerged, most casually dressed, there for the first of a series of posh, private events hosted by the video gambling industry during the 2018 Global Gaming Expo, North America’s largest gambling trade show. They included gambling executives, lobbyists — and about a dozen Illinois lawmakers.
      The politicians had flown to Las Vegas to learn about the latest developments in the gambling industry and to discuss its expansion in Illinois, including proposals that would, among other items, license six new casinos in the state, legalize sports betting and increase the wagering limit on video gambling machines. The plans, lawmakers have said, would brighten the state’s gloomy financial picture without having to raise taxes or cut spending.

    • How We Analyzed Video Gambling in Illinois
    • Do You Know Someone Struggling With Video Gambling? ​Help Us Understand Video Slot and Poker Addiction in Illinois.
    • Jim Yong Kim’s Mixed Messages to the World Bank and the World

      World Bank president Jim Kim is an ex-leftist who claims that in the mid-1990s he wanted to shut down the Bank. At the time, it was an entirely valid, realistic goal of the 50 Years is Enough! Campaign and especially the World Bank Bonds Boycott. Kim’s co-edited Dying for Growth (2000) book-length analysis of the Bank’s attacks on Global-South public health offered very useful ammunition.

      However, not only did Kim subsequently make an ideological U-turn, as we see below, but more importantly, among the casualties of the 9/11 attacks were many such movement-building efforts aimed at a common international enemy. The global justice scene faded quickly as a result of new divisions between social activists and U.S. labor patriots, the shift by internationalists into anti-war mobilizing, and the ascendance of NGO-led World Social Forum talk-shopping. Other more hopeful recent leftist waves also ebbed: Latin America’s Pink Tide and 2011’s Occupy moment in many sites across the world. Perhaps the recent revival of social-democratic politics in the two core (Anglo-American) sites of neoliberalism will make this post-2001 lapse appear as an only temporary setback.

      If so, one inevitable site to identify neoliberalism’s coldest logic – and sometimes most brute-force muscles – is the World Bank, an institution often engaged in self-delegitimization. So if activists across the globe do not currently have a central site of resistance, nevertheless countless battles are being waged at any given time against Bank projects and ideology. The battle over its leadership is worth close attention.

      After founding an impressive NGO (Partners in Health) and pursuing Harvard anthropology and public health scholarship during the 1990s, Kim went on to run the World Health Organization’s AIDS division (very well indeed, helping get generic medicines to millions), and then Dartmouth College (not so well). Improbably, in 2012 he then became World Bank president due to his proximity to Bill and Hillary Clinton. But he made mistake after mistake for six and a half years at 18th & H Sts, NW Washington, alienating all kinds of different constituencies. In the wake of his sudden resignation last week, practically no one has a good word to say about Kim.

    • ‘Change Is Coming!’ Congressional Dems Join Sanders in Proposing Bill to End ‘Starvation Wages,’ Ensuring $15 Per Hour for All Workers

      The bicameral Raise the Wage Act would increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour, where it’s stood since 2009, to $15 by 2024. The proposal would also bar employers from paying tipped workers below the minimum wage and stipulate future pay increases for low-wage workers to keep up with median wage growth and cost of living.

      The House bill has 181 co-sponsors, while 31 Democrats joined Sanders in co-sponsoring the Senate version.

      “Just a few short years ago, we were told that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour was ‘radical.’” said Sanders in a statement. “But a grassroots movement of millions of workers throughout this country refused to take ‘no’ for an answer. It is not a radical idea to say a job should lift you out of poverty, not keep you in it. The current $7.25 an hour federal minimum wage is a starvation wage. It must be increased to a living wage of $15 an hour.”

      The grassroots movement the senator referred to was the group Fight for $15, which began its fight for a minimum wage increase in 2012 and has since grown into a global movement in hundreds of cities. Fight for $15 celebrated the bill’s introduction, with members gathering in Washington, D.C. as the legislation was proposed.

    • Masters of Our Domain: Foxconn and State Minions Seize Land

      A government’s right of eminent domain is typically used to condemn and buy up property that stands in the way of projects purportedly serving direct public needs, such as roads or large-scale public transit. But in Wisconsin, the rationale has been harnessed at the expense of the public good.

      The village of Mt. Pleasant, for example, is using Wisconsin’s eminent domain laws to force out homeowners on land coveted by the Taiwanese manufacturer Foxconn for a television and computer-screen plant in southeastern Wisconsin, about twenty miles south of Milwaukee. The nearly four-square-mile project is already slated to receive up to $4.5 billion in state and local subsidies. It will also be exempt from paying taxes due to Wisconsin’s existing laws, will benefit from an exemption to smog control regulations (thanks to former EPA chief Scott Pruitt), and the waiving of water quality protections for wetlands and Lake Michigan.

    • Amazon Dash Buttons Ruled Illegal In Germany For… Making It Too Easy To Buy Stuff

      You can count me among those who don’t see the value in those Amazon Dash buttons that got plenty of attention a few years back, allowing those who had the little single-button devices to re-order some consumable product with the push of a single button. Even if lots of people made fun of them at launch, Amazon has expanded them to many more brands. So, even if I don’t see the value, it appears plenty of people do. Except, in Germany, they’re now illegal, because apparently some people are upset that they make things too easy to order.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics
    • Inside Megyn Kelly’s troubled exit from NBC

      The former Fox News host lasted just 18 months at NBC News, but Page Six learned during the course of her negotiations that the sticking point over her exit deal was not her astronomical salary — but her non-disclosure agreement to keep quiet about the network and its staff, which she eventually signed.

    • White House Shifts Shutdown Strategy, Attempts to Bypass Pelosi

      Shifting strategy, the White House invited rank-and-file House Democrats to lunch Tuesday with President Donald Trump, bypassing Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team in an effort to get centrist and freshman lawmakers on board with funding Trump’s long-promised U.S.-Mexico border wall.

      Pelosi approved of lawmakers attending the meeting, telling her team that the group can see what she and others have been dealing with in trying to negotiate with Trump to end the partial government shutdown, now in its 25th day with no resolution in sight.

      Pelosi predicted that after meeting with Trump the lawmakers will want to make a “citizen’s arrest,” according to the aide, who wasn’t authorized to publicly discuss the meeting and spoke on condition of anonymity.

      Lawmakers invited to the White House include centrist Democrats from districts where Trump is popular, including freshmen.

    • Once a ‘Laughingstock’ on Voting Rights, Reform Package Moves New York Toward More ‘Inclusive Democracy’

      Voting rights advocates celebrated Monday night as state lawmakers in New York—long considered a “national laughingstock” on voting rights—took a major step toward creating a “strong, inclusive democracy” by passing election reform legislation.

      The legislative package—which Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo indicated he will sign into law—includes provisions on early voting; the consolidation of state and federal primaries to one day; same-day registration; pre-registration for teenagers; portable registration; and “no excuse” absentee voting.

    • Trump’s Government Shutdown Furthers Native Genocide

      As the US government shutdown goes into day 25, it is now the longest US shutdown ever. While many are suffering from this crisis created by Trump’s demands for his wall, Indigenous people are faring the worst. Treaty-guaranteed rights to health care, food and other services are going unmet, endangering the lives of Native people.

      Indian Health Services (IHS) and the USDA Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations aren’t receiving the necessary funds to operate. Indian Health Services provides medical care to members and citizens of state and federally recognized Indigenous nations within the occupied US. While the reservation-based Indian Health Services facilities have received some funds, all urban Indian Health Services facilities have gone unfunded. This is particularly devastating, given that 70 percent of Native people are urban-based.

      Kerry Hawk Lessard, a Shawnee descendant and executive director of Native American Lifelines — an Indian Health Services agency that serves Native people in the Baltimore and Boston metropolitan areas — has had to make some heartbreaking decisions. Lifelines serves its communities through the purchase of care reimbursements for medical expenses, dental, behavioral health, and cultural and community-based services. Before the shutdown began, Indian Health Services owed two months of reimbursements totaling $130,000 to Lifelines, according to Lessard. The agency had to immediately operate on its reserves and suspend services when the shutdown began. “You have this right to health care that your ancestors paid for with land and blood and genocide,” Lessard told Truthout.

    • Democrats’ Attacks on AOC Are Silly and Self-Defeating

      A number of Democratic lawmakers appear to be ganging up on Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, accusing her of undermining unity in her own party. But underneath their lectures about being a team player lies a deeper concern: that she might have the power to remold the party in her own image.

      In a much-talked-about Politico article published on Friday, close to a dozen Democratic members of Congress and staffers criticized the Bronx-born freshman for her brash political style. It was a remarkable report—Ocasio-Cortez has barely been in Congress two weeks, and several of her colleagues were willing to express blunt rebukes of her, many of them on the record. “She needs to decide: Does she want to be an effective legislator or just continue being a Twitter star?” said one Democratic lawmaker.

      [...]

      Ocasio-Cortez isn’t a normal freshman. She toppled a Wall Street-backed ten-term incumbent who was the fourth-most powerful Democrat in House leadership, and did it with virtually no money or political experience. A democratic socialist, she quickly revealed a preternatural ability to discuss left-wing ideas as if they were mere common sense, earning praise from scholars as Reaganesque in her ability to communicate. Telegenic and media savvy, she goes viral without a hint of effort, and is pioneering novel forms of political engagement like the Instagram town hall. And as a young Puerto Rican woman, she has become the iconic face of a rapidly diversifying Democratic caucus that’s beginning to look more like the constituencies it represents.

      While Ocasio-Cortez’s critics say she only represents one district and nothing more, her ability to bend the news cycle to her will day after day, to generate weird, obsessive criticism from right-wing media, and to electrify the left nationwide suggests that her message is resonating far more widely.

    • A Democrat Who Votes With Trump 69% of the Time Should Be Primaried

      In the 2018 midterm election, when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley upset long-time incumbent Democrats who had grown out-of-touch with their deep blue districts, progressives revealed enormous energy for change in the Democratic Party primary electorate.

      The result: A former bartender from the Bronx now has more Twitter followers than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and is reshaping the Democratic Party and another is bravely taking to the floor of Congress to condemn Trump’s government shutdown. When new members know there’s a progressive base they need to respond to, they embrace progressive policies.

      Democratic voters are not afraid of primary challenges, so the party shouldn’t be either. A 2018 poll conducted by the progressive think tank Data for Progress and data analytics firm YouGov Blue showed that 54% of Democrats agree that, “Democrats should provide a clear, positive agenda to contrast with Trump and the Republican culture of corruption. Primary elections ensure the strongest Democrats emerge to advance that agenda.”

    • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand Jumps Into 2020 Presidential Race

      Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand entered the growing field of 2020 Democratic presidential contenders Tuesday, telling television host Stephen Colbert that she’s launching an exploratory committee.

      “It’s an important first step, and it’s one I am taking because I am going to run,” the New York senator said on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” She listed a series of issues she’d tackle as president, including better health care for families, stronger public schools and more accessible job training.

      Gillibrand, 52, has already made plans to campaign in Iowa over the weekend, more than a year before the leadoff caucus state votes.

    • As With Any Animal That Is Rabid: Bobby Rush Is Really Not Down With Steve King Or White Supremacy

      We’re glad that after 27,624 abhorrent remarks over nine terms in Congress, Iowa Rep. Steve “Anchor Babies” King’s GOP colleagues finally noticed he’s a racist and moved to strip him of his power on House committees. Their disingenuous protestations – from Kevin McCarthy intoning “that language has no place in America” to Mitch McConnell tsk-tsking he “has no tolerance for such positions” – struck many as the rhetorical equivalent of issuing thoughts and prayers to combat racism. Nonetheless, King took the criticism with the grace of any Nazi, blasting a “political decision that ignores the truth” and whining about the “assault on my freedom of speech.” Observers were unmoved – “Your hood is showing…Eat shit, corn Hitler” – maybe because they’ve witnessed his atrocities over 20 years in office as he fought to restrict abortion, uphold “traditional marriage,” make English Iowa’s official language, keep races separate, protect civilization from “somebody else’s babies” and liken those babies to “dirt,” all while deeming Obama a “very urban” son of Kenya and displaying a Confederate flag on his desk. Given all that, many wondered what a white dude had to say to get fired.

      Now we know: In the wrong political moment, he had to gripe that what’s wrong with white supremacy anyway? King’s final-straw offense moved the Congressional Black Caucus to demand early on he be stripped of his committee roles. Then came the rare, fire-and-brimstone call for censure from senior Caucus member and longtime Illinois Rep. Bobby Rush, who denounced King’s “pattern of despicable comments” and declared, “This must come to a screeching halt right now.” To be clear, this is not Rush’s first rodeo: A former Black Panther Defense Minister, he co-founded the Illinois Panthers in 1968 and took over as leader after the 1969 murder of Fred Hampton by Chicago police and the FBI. A few years ago, Rush got thrown off the House floor for wearing a hoodie to protest the killing of Trayvon Martin; he still cites his revolutionary roots, is clearly done with the scummy likes of King, and used as radical language as one is likely to hear in the genteel, euphemistic confines of Congress when he said of King,“He has become too comfortable with proudly insulting, disrespecting, and denigrating people of color. As with any animal that is rabid, Steve King should be set aside and isolated.”

    • Warning of ‘Catastrophic Event,’ Air Traffic Controllers Union Official Says Flying ‘Absolutely’ Less Safe Due to Trump Shutdown

      “Each day that this shutdown continues, the situation gets worse and worse,” Trish Gilbert, executive vice president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, told CNN in an interview. “There are several complicated, complex layers in our system to ensure that it maintains the critical safety components that we all rely on when we fly. What we don’t want to see is a catastrophic event occur, and for us to come to you and say we told you that controllers are working longer hours, and now they don’t have their support staff.”

      “They’re going to work unpaid, so they’re not sleeping at night,” Gilbert said of air traffic controllers. “They’re looking for other jobs; maybe they’re driving Uber before or after their shift. This is unacceptable.”

      Asked if people should be concerned about flight safety as the shutdown continues with no end in sight, Gilbert answered in the affirmative, declaring: “I would say it is less safe today than it was a month ago, absolutely.”

      “We do not have the professionals on the job. We are working with bare-bones crews. We have controllers there doing what they do very, very well, but how long can you expect them to do it without all of the systems behind them to keep the system safe and the planes in the air?” Gilbert continued. “This is a horrible game of chicken that we’re in the middle of, and we need to get out of it, and we need to get out of it today.”

    • Brief History Notes on Mexican Immigration to the U.S.

      The historical ties of Mexican immigrants to the U.S., specifically the Southwest, distinguishes people of Mexican origin from other immigrant groups, especially those from Europe. While Mexican immigrants continue to be demonized and characterized as “criminals,” “drug dealers,” “rapists,” “illegal aliens” and “invaders” by American leaders and millions of white citizens, they have essentially become “foreigners in their own land.”

      In his infamous article, “The Hispanic Threat,” the late Dr. Samuel P. Huntington of Harvard claimed that Latinas/os in general and individuals of Mexican origin in particular represented an existential threat to the U.S. By studying history, however, we can easily dismiss racist labels and false narratives by small-minded American leaders, scholars and citizens. Moreover, we can learn the true history about the actual invaders. For instance, in progressive history books, like Dr. Ronald Takaki’s A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America, we learn that white Americans gradually migrated into what is now known as Texas during the 1820s. While the Mexican government allowed for whites to settle in this foreign territory, the authorities did so under the assumption that the Americans adopt Mexican customs, learn Spanish and intermarry with the native population. This originally occurred without much conflict, which reveals the openness of the Mexican government and its people towards foreigners.

      By 1826, according to Takaki, then-President John Quincy Adams offered the Mexican government $1 million for Texas, where the Mexican government refused. Once Mexico outlawed slavery in 1830, however, American slaver owners, along with other white settlers, rebelled and formed The Republic of Texas in 1836. By 1845, it was annexed into the United States.

      It appears to me that the white settlers or gringos took the Mexicans literally when the hosts generously said, “Mi casa es su casa.”

    • Joe Biden, Crime Fighter from Hell

      I just listened to Joe Biden’s seventeen-and-a-half minute 2003 eulogy for his political friend Strom Thurmond, the former Dixiecrat segregationist from South Carolina who became a Republican in 1964. It’s clear Biden liked the man, who he worked closely with to pass crime bills in the early 1980s. As Thurmond’s replacement as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Biden went on to push the now-controversial bill he proudly touts as “the 1994 Biden Crime Bill.” This is the bill about which, in 2015, former President Bill Clinton told an NAACP convention concerned about the mass incarceration of African Americans: “I signed a bill that made the problem worse. And I want to admit it.” According to a 2015 NY Times story, “Today, about 2.2 million Americans are locked up in federal and state prisons and local jails, twice as many as when Mr. Clinton took office.”

      Biden’s long eulogy is full of warmth and wit and, for a liberal like Biden, driven by a spirit of forgiveness and, more important, a pragmatic sense of political synthesis between the dead man’s racist past and what Biden claims as his political mission, the pursuit of civil rights. He had been asked by Thurmond himself to give it. The problem is, when we forgive past shortcomings or evils in order to get over hurdles to make change possible so we can move on to better things, there needs to be true atonement, or it can’t work. And even if one argues that Strom Thurmond in old age was ready to atone in some way and to really move on, it’s crystal clear from the current state of Thurmond’s chosen Republican Party — still notorious for its cynical Nixonian “southern strategy” — that honest atonement is far from the order of the day; that, in fact, a dishonest, dog-whistle reanimation of that racist past is still alive in the heart of Thurmond’s Republican Party.

      In 1981, when Biden and Thurmond began to work together, Thurmond, who had been in politics since 1933, may have become a kindly old man with very real personal desires to atone. And the savvy, new Senator Joe Biden, 40 years his junior, may have figured out how to exploit those personal issues in order to accomplish legislation he found advantageous to his own and Democratic power needs. But this is 2019, and in the current political environment, Joe Biden’s clearly documented instincts for appeasing the conservative right to juice-up eroding Democratic power would be a coward’s way of regaining power. What’s needed is a new, courageous and pragmatic vision.

    • Trump Violates Law by Taking Putin Notes

      The Washington Post has reported that Trump “has gone to extraordinary lengths to conceal details of his conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, including on at least one occasion taking possession of the notes of his own interpreter, and ordering the linguist not to discuss what had transpired with other administration officials.

      As a result, U.S. officials have said there is no detailed record, even in classified files, of Trump’s face-to-face interactions with the Russian leader at five locations over the past two years.

      This is unprecedented in Presidential history, and truly chilling. After all, fourteen U.S. intelligence agencies have already concluded that Russia interfered with the 2016 elections, and Trump and his campaign is under investigation for possible conspiracy and obstruction of the probe.

      Without a written record, there is no way for the American public, Robert Mueller, or even top Trump national security advisors to know what he discussed with Putin on multiple occasions, what promises he may have made to the Russians, or even what instructions he may have received from Putin.

    • ‘Like I said: A puppet’: Hillary Clinton repeats her allegation that Trump is working on behalf of Russian interests

      Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, reiterated her claim that President Donald Trump is a “puppet” of Russia in a rare tweet addressing Trump on Monday.

      “Like I said: A puppet,” she added to a retweet of a now viral video from an October 2016 presidential debate in which she first asserted that Trump was a “puppet” of Russia.

      When Trump said Russian President Vladimir Putin had “no respect” for Clinton, she hit back by saying, “that’s because he’d rather have a puppet as president,” prompting Trump to reply, “no puppet, you’re the puppet!”

    • A Great Speaker of the UK’s House of Commons

      Unlike the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, the Speaker of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom, given the essential place and nature of debate in the Commons, is expected (procedurally at any rate) to be a kind of neutral referee in recurrently adversarial situations.

      The Speaker of the House of Commons does not have to come from the party that wins the general election– speakers are elected by the entire House, and any MP can be a candidate in this election.

      Historically, though no longer, the Speaker’s position has sometimes been deadly for its holders: seven Speakers of the Commons have been executed.

      Incidentally, some of my American friends, upon being informed by me of this piece of arcane Ukanian parliamentary history, and knowing that the US retains the death penalty, say this would be a fate befitting the recently retired Republican Speaker of the US House of Representatives, the widely-denounced hypocrite Paul Ryan, and several others as well.

      John Crace, the superb parliamentary sketch-writer of The Guardian, said in a recent piece that many Tory Brexiteers would have the current Speaker, John Bercow (a Tory who has been in this position since 2009), meet the same fate as his seven executed predecessors.

      Given that their role is to enforce routine rules of procedure, Speakers of the Commons rarely have the chance to make momentous interventions.

    • Did ‘The Sopranos’ Anticipate the Rise of Trump?

      In “The Sopranos’ ” controversial and relentlessly scrutinized final episode “Made in America,” Tony’s misfit son AJ makes a reluctant announcement: he’s going to fight in Afghanistan because he believes the Army will improve his career prospects. “My ultimate goal is to qualify for helicopter pilot training,” he tells an incredulous Tony. “Afterwards go to work for Trump or somebody. Be their personal pilot.” (AJ ultimately accepts a position at “Little” Carmine Lupertazzi’s production company, which is developing a movie about a private detective who gets sucked into the internet.)

      Twelve years later, the U.S. is still fighting in Afghanistan and Donald Trump has improbably ascended to the White House, his family’s criminal undertakings offering their own source of fascination for the American public. To borrow a phrase from “Sopranos” character Bobby Baccalieri, maybe Quasimodo predicted all this. Either way, the series has proved remarkably prescient in its assessment of America as a culture and a society.

      “I think the thematic heart of the show—corruption, consumption and waste—are subjects that are on people’s minds to a far greater degree now than they were in the late ’90s,” New York Magazine’s Matt Zoller Seitz tells Truthdig. “And I hate to be so blunt, but we have a kind of gangster president.”

      In their new book, “The Sopranos Sessions,” Seitz and co-author Alan Sepinwall offer a critical reexamination of the HBO drama—one that explores how the series revolutionized serial television, aesthetically and thematically. “The show’s mercurial unpredictability was electrifying,” they write in their introduction. “Pre-Sopranos, TV was widely dismissed as a medium for programs that didn’t ask the viewer to think about anything except what was coming on next, and that preferred lovable characters who didn’t change and had no inner life. The ideal network series was filler between commercials.”

    • Applause as AOC, Porter, Pressley, and Tlaib Head to House Financial Services Committee

      Following outrage last week after Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) shut out progressives from some of the chamber’s most powerful committees, news that freshman Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Katie Porter (D-Calif.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) are headed to the Financial Services Committee was met with applause.

      Congratulating the quartet, Social Security Works called it “scary news for Wall Street and great news for the rest of us!”

  • Censorship/Free Speech
    • Roku defends hosting Infowars

      Roku has been receiving angry tweets from users over the past few days after many noticed that Infowars continues to be available on the TV streaming device, as first reported by DigiDay. Infowars, known for its hateful content, was effectively de-platformed last year after being booted from Apple’s App Store, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, dramatically limiting its ability to reach viewers.

    • Roku explains why it allowed Infowars on its platform

      Because of Jones’ claims, the Sandy Hook families have received death threats and have been continually harassed, even offline. Jones has also promoted other theories that led to violence, like Pizzagate.

    • Infowars Must Turn Over Internal Documents to Sandy Hook Families, Judge Rules

      The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are relatives of five children and three adults who were killed, and one F.B.I. agent who responded to the shooting. Their complaint said the families have faced “physical confrontation and harassment, death threats, and a sustained barrage of harassment and verbal assault on social media.”

    • Court To Revenge Porn Bro Suing Twitter: You Agreed To Twitter Picking The Courtroom Every Time You Created A New Alt Account

      Craig Brittain’s $1 billion lawsuit against Twitter is still rolling slowly towards its inevitable dismissal. Bringing with him his usual legal expertise — which includes badly misreading the Knight Institute v. Trump decision and asking for some weird hybrid judgment/injunction/perma-unbanning — Brittain has so far forced Twitter to… move his case to another venue. (via Eric Goldman)

      Twitter invoked the forum selection clause of its terms of service — terms Brittain agreed to time and time again as he created new accounts only to have them permanently suspended later. The terms say Twitter can move your lawsuit to its preferred venue (California federal court) and if you don’t like it, well… you can just not use Twitter and/or sue Twitter.

      Brittain’s attempt to avoid having his Arizona lawsuit moved to California contains some rather novel legal arguments.

    • Texas Speech Pathologist Fired for Refusal to Sign Pro-Israel Oath

      A 2018 report shows that American citizens are actively being stripped of their First Amendment rights. As Glenn Greenwald, reported, 26 states have enacted Israel loyalty oath requirements for contract workers, and 13 other US states have similar bills pending. Greenwald’s reported cited figures from Legal Palestine, an independent organization that protects the civil rights of people in the US who speak out for Palestinian freedom.

      The laws allow the state governments to sanction and impose limits on citizens who participate in political boycotts of Israel. The First Amendment is supposed to protect citizens from being punished for expressing their political beliefs, Greenwald reported, but for Bahia Amawi, a children’s speech pathologist in Texas, this has not been the case.

    • St. Petersburg court upholds customs seizure of Masha Gessen’s new book about modern-day Russian ‘totalitarianism’

      In November, Russian lawyer Sergey Golubok received a letter from the Pulkovskaya customs agency asking whether a book he had ordered on Amazon contained “signs of propagandizing certain views and ideologies.” The book in question was journalist and political analyst Masha Gessen’s The Future is History: How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia, which won the 2017 National Book Award for nonfiction. After the book was temporarily seized and then returned to Golubok, he filed a legal complaint about the incident. Kommersant reports that while the attorney’s complaint was unsuccessful, the accompanying court proceedings revealed how Russian customs services decide whether to search incoming packages.

      Golubok argued that the customs agency’s actions violated his right to private correspondence: the Russian Constitution prohibits government agents from opening private mail without a warrant. However, customs representatives successfully argued that a package is “a good or commodity” rather than a letter and therefore does not fall within that right. Golubok has appealed the court’s decision, and his appeal will be heard on January 22.

    • UK Welcomes Extremists, Bans Critics Of Extremists

      We have also seen time and again how extremist clerics such as the Pakistani clerics Muhammad Naqib ur Rehman and Hassan Haseen ur Rehman have been allowed to enter the UK despite their track records of supporting the murder of people merely suspected of having blasphemed against, or apostasised from, Islam. Nevertheless, while the UK government continues to allow clerics such as these to enter Britain, it develops an ever-growing banned list of people who are not Muslim but who have been critical of aspects of Islam. It is almost as though the UK government has decided that while extremist clerics can only rarely be banned, critics of such clerics can be banned with ease.

    • European Court of Human Rights Promotes Human Wrongs

      Unfortunately, while good news is coming from Dublin, the same cannot be said for Strasbourg, where the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) — a supranational judicial body entitled to scrutinize the compliance of national pieces of legislation with the European Convention of Human Rights — recently upheld the criminal conviction of an Austrian woman, Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff. Her “crime” was supposedly having defamed the Islamic Prophet Muhammad.

  • Privacy/Surveillance
    • Our Devices Getting Creepier, Nosier and More Invasive, by Daily Editorials

      In a March 8, 2017, story, the Daily Telegraph of London reported that TVs, like computers, are “being hacked and turned into spying tools.” TV manufacturer Vizio has been accused of spying on its customer base, and Wikileaks released documents that appeared to show the CIA had technology to transform smart TVs into “bugging devices.”

      Meanwhile, Jon Webb of the Evansville Courier & Press in Indiana reported on Jan. 2 that such voice-activated assistant devices as Amazon Echo and Google Home “eavesdrop on you all the live-long day.” He described an incident last spring when an Echo employee recorded a conversation between a husband and wife in Portland, Oregon — and proceeded to send a recording to one of his co-workers.

      The product is supposed to be activated when someone says the word “Alexa.” Amazon claimed in a statement that its product “woke up due to a word in background conversation sounding like ‘Alexa,’” and continued to misinterpret the discussion to the point of unintentionally sending off a recording. Was it an accident? Perhaps, but it’s unnerving that something like this can happen.

    • Ajit Pai Refuses To Brief Congress On What He Plans To Do About Wireless Location Data Scandals

      So last week yet another location data scandal emerged for the wireless industry, highlighting once again how carriers are collecting your location data, then selling it to a universe of sometimes shady partners with little to no oversight or accountability. Like the Securus and LocationSmart scandals before it, last week’s Motherboard report highlighted how all manner of dubious dudebros (and law enforcement officers) have been abusing this data for years, and the Ajit Pai FCC has yet to so much as mention the problem, much less spend a single calorie addressing it in any meaningful way.

      Shortly after the scandal broke last week, Frank Pallone, the Chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, asked Pai (pdf) to brief Congress on the steps the agency was taking to address the wireless sector’s long-standing failure to adequately address location data abuse. Pai’s response? Yeah, no thanks.

    • Ajit Pai Refuses to Brief Congress About Why Bounty Hunters Can Buy Cell Phone Location Data

      Last week a Motherboard investigation revealed that cell phone providers and location aggregators have allowed real-time smartphone location data to be sold to bounty hunters, landlords, and used car salesman, among others. Soon after the story broke, Frank Pallone, the Chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, asked Pai for an emergency briefing on the issue. Monday, Pai refused that request, according to Pallone’s office.

    • Ajit Pai gives carriers free pass on privacy violations during FCC shutdown

      Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai refused a Democratic lawmaker’s request to immediately address a privacy scandal involving wireless carriers, saying that it can wait until after the government shutdown is over.

      A Motherboard investigation published last week found that T-Mobile, Sprint, and AT&T are still selling their mobile customers’ real-time location information to third-party data brokers, despite promises in June 2018 to stop the controversial practice.

    • Federal Judge Says Compelling People To Unlock Phones With Their Fingerprints/Faces Violates The 5th Amendment

      The advent of biometric “passcodes” — fingerprints and facial recognition — appear to be leaving those who choose these methods with fewer Fifth Amendment protections. A handful of courts have ruled fingerprints and faces aren’t “testimony.” Much as officers can collect fingerprints and mugshots without a warrant following an arrest, they can also apply fingers and faces to locked phones to get to the data inside.

      But it’s not as simple as some court decisions make it appear. Even passwords can be considered testimonial, as they may indicate ownership of a locked device or compel production of evidence to be used against the device’s owner. The passcode argument has gone both ways in court, which usually comes down to the individual judge’s definition of “foregone conclusion.” Does the foregone conclusion refer to the device’s ownership or the evidence contained in it? The latter is harder to prove, and raising the burden of proof to this level tends to result in courts finding the compelled production of passwords to be a Fifth Amendment violation.

    • Vizio Admits Modern TV Sets Are Cheaper Because They’re Spying On You

      The problem is that this trade off isn’t really providing value to the end user, in large part thanks to the TV sector’s terrible security and privacy practices. For one, navigating the TV sector’s historically terrible GUIs to actually find and opt out of this data collection is often a nightmare. Usually opting out is first intentionally named something nebulous, then buried deep in a sea of terribly-designed menus. And even then, opting out can often result in you losing access to some core set features you might actually use. That’s only a good deal if you enjoy annoyance.

      Then there’s the fact that the TV sector routinely does an absolutely terrible job at the security and privacy practices needed to protect this data. We’ve seen vendors like Samsung get busted hoovering up and collecting living room conversations, then shoveling this data off to a nebulous assortment of third-party clients. Numerous set vendors have similarly been busted collecting this data then transmitting it to the cloud without adequate encryption. Vizio itself just struck a $2.2 million settlement with the FTC for secretly tracking and selling the usage habits of around sixteen million Vizio owners for around three years.

      So yes you’re maybe paying a bit less up front for a cheaper set, but you’re paying for the deal out the other side of the equation in a way that’s not even entirely calculable. Even then, higher-end TV set vendors do this same thing, kind of deflating the claim that this is only being done by necessity among lower-end vendors trapped by tight margins. In reality, the same disregard for privacy and security that has infected the internet of broken things space is on proud display in the TV business, resulting in hardware that’s easily exploitable by everyone from run of the mill hackers to intelligence services. Is that a bargain, really?

    • With Facial Recognition Technology at ‘Crossroads,’ 90 Groups Urge Amazon, Google, and Microsoft Not to Collude With Big Brother

      The letters come in response to recent public statements by the tech giants’ leaders regarding concerns about government misuse of such products, and reporting that the FBI is piloting Amazon’s Rekognition technology—which the company has also pitched to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), one of the agencies charged with implementing the Trump administration’s cruel immigration policies.

      Despite CEO Jeff Bezos’ admission that Amazon’s technology could be misused, the company has appeared more willing to profit from the U.S. government’s effort to achieve Big Brother status while Google and Microsoft have been more cautious.

      Last month, Google indicated that it will continue to develop artificial intelligence (AI) programs but will not sell facial recognition technology to governments—at least, until the potential dangers are mitigated to a degree that satisfies the company’s decision-makers.

      Microsoft President Brad Smith, meanwhile, wrote a blog post in December charging that facial recognition technology “brings important and even exciting societal benefits but also the potential for abuse.” Smith called for “governments in 2019 to start adopting laws to regulate this technology” but also pledged to be proactive in creating safeguards to address concerns about abuse.

    • Democrats aren’t buying a proposal for big tech to write its own privacy rules

      But the “bargain” would also preempt state laws like California’s new privacy act, and repeal every other existing piece of federal privacy legislation, including landmark laws like Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Every sector- or issue-specific privacy law would be removed, and state and local lawmakers would be unable to draft stricter, more specific regulations in the future.

    • Facebook’s Privacy Problems Get Real in Germany

      The country’s Federal Cartel Office intends to ban Facebook from collecting user data from third parties, the newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported. This will also prohibit data sharing between WhatsApp and Instagram, which Facebook owns. Germany is concerned that Facebook users didn’t know they agreed to be tracked across the internet when they signed up for the firm’s offerings.

    • German antitrust watchdog to act against Facebook: report

      The Federal Cartel Office, which has been investigating Facebook since 2015, has already found that the social media giant abused its market dominance to gather data on people without their knowledge or consent.

      The Bild am Sonntag newspaper said the watchdog will present the US company with its ruling on what action it needs to take in the next few weeks.

    • Rosenstein, DOJ exploring ways to more easily spy on journalists

      For months now, the Department of Justice (DOJ) quietly has been working on a revision to its guidelines governing how, when and why prosecutors can obtain the records of journalists, particularly in leak cases.

      The work has been supervised by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s office, especially since former Attorney General Jeff Sessions departed, but is not wrapped up.

      The effort has the potential to touch off a First Amendment debate with a press corps that already has high degrees of distrust of and disfunction with the Trump administration.

      Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker is aware of the effort but has not been given a final recommendation. Sources close to Whitaker say he will await final judgment but, in recent days, has developed reservations about proceeding with the plan.

    • Feds Can’t Force You To Unlock Your iPhone With Finger Or Face, Judge Rules

      A California judge has ruled that American cops can’t force people to unlock a mobile phone with their face or finger. The ruling goes further to protect people’s private lives from government searches than any before and is being hailed as a potentially landmark decision.

      Previously, U.S. judges had ruled that police were allowed to force unlock devices like Apple’s iPhone with biometrics, such as fingerprints, faces or irises. That was despite the fact feds weren’t permitted to force a suspect to divulge a passcode. But according to a ruling uncovered by Forbes, all logins are equal.

    • Huawei founder claims no user data will be given to govt

      Huawei chief executive and founder Ren Zhengfei says the company will under no circumstances allow the Chinese Government to access customer data.

    • Mullvad vs. NordVPN: Two popular VPNs do battle

      Before you plunk down your cold hard credit card number, however, there are many questions to ask. Can you trust the company? What are the speeds like? Is there a desktop app and is it easy to use? How many country locations are there, and can you still watch Netflix while connected?

  • Civil Rights/Policing
    • Gearbox CEO allegedly mocked ex-lawyer’s Christianity with slurs, “ridiculing” gifts

      Callender’s claim matches a timeline he outlined in his December countersuit against Gearbox: that Callender did not depart the company as a voluntary “resignation.” Instead, Callender alleges he was forced out after Pitchford began crafting a “false narrative about Callender’s employment.” His December lawsuit has roiled the video game industry in part because it included sensational allegations. One of those—about a lost, unencrypted USB stick full of industry secrets and pornography left behind at a Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament—was confirmed (in part) by Pitchford himself.

    • Thailand: Allow Fleeing Saudi Woman to Seek Refuge

      Al-Qunun said she fled while her family was visiting Kuwait, which unlike Saudi Arabia, does not require a male relative’s approval for an adult woman to depart the country. She said that she was fleeing abuse from her family, including beatings and death threats from her male relatives, who also forced her to remain in her room for six months for cutting her hair.

    • Saudi woman ‘trapped at Bangkok airport trying to flee family

      She told the BBC that she had renounced Islam, and feared she would be forcibly returned to Saudi Arabia and killed by her family.

    • The Hague Comes of Age

      I am delighted by the acquittal of Laurent Gbagbo at the International Criminal Court. As I explained at the time in a series of articles, Gbagbo was ousted as President of Ivory Coast by a corrupt election and an armed insurgency, both funded by Western oil interests, chiefly but not solely by Trafigura plc.

      Gbagbo was guilty in western eyes of failing to do what left wing African leaders are supposed to do, allow himself to be quickly butchered and his supporters massacred. So Gbagbo ended up at the International Criminal Court as a war criminal, while Big Oil’s puppet, Alassane Ouattara, is now comfortably ensconced in the Presidential Palace of Ivory Coast, and getting very rich indeed.

    • Court Blocks Trump’s Plan to Add a Citizenship Question to 2020 Census

      A federal court has blocked the Trump administration’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, stating that it constitutes an “egregious” violation of federal law. The ruling deals a serious blow to the administration’s plan to use the 2020 census to attack the financial and political resources of immigrants and communities of color.

      In a decision released Tuesday, Judge Jesse M. Furman determined that the Trump administration’s attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, “would undermine the proposition—central to the rule of law—that ours is a government of laws, and not of men” and that it violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) in many different ways — “a veritable smorgasbord of classic, clear-cut APA violations.” In the end, Judge Furman concluded that if the Trump administration got its way and a citizenship question was put on the census, “hundreds of thousands—if not millions—of people will go uncounted in the census.”

      In particular, Judge Furman ruled that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s decision was “arbitrary and capricious” pursuant to the APA, which governs federal agency action. As demonstrated at trial, Secretary Ross decided to add a citizenship question in the early days of the Trump administration and only after did it “set out to find a ‘legal rationale’ to support it”— a reverse engineering process that both directly contravenes the APA and goes against the story that Secretary Ross has told for months. During the course of our litigation, we obtained documents that revealed that Secretary Ross lied to Congress about the origin of the citizenship question, testifying that he added the question because the Department of Justice had requested it in order to better enforce the Voting Rights Act (VRA). However, as litigation revealed, Secretary Ross actually started considering a citizenship question almost 10 months before DOJ made its request, and he had even compelled Commerce Department staff to push DOJ to make the ask in the first place.

      It’s no wonder that Judge Furman determined that Secretary Ross’s March 2018 memo officially adding the question, his sworn testimony before Congress, and the information he initially provided in our lawsuit was “materially inaccurate.”

    • Census Citizenship Question? The Answer Is No, Federal Court Says

      The United States census has not asked respondents whether they are American citizens since 1950. In March 2018, Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross brought it back, in a list of potential census questions submitted to Congress. Almost immediately, immigrants’ rights organizations filed multiple lawsuits challenging the question.

      On Tuesday, the first ruling came down, addressing two of the lawsuits. Judge Jesse M. Furman of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ordered the Trump administration to remove the question from the census. Ross, according to Furman, committed multiple violations of federal procedural law, setting up the possibility of appeals that could take the citizenship question all the way to the Supreme Court.

    • In Rebuke of Trump’s Effort to ‘Weaponize’ 2020 Census Against Immigrant Communities, Federal Judge Strikes Down Citizenship Question

      Civil liberties and immigration rights advocates are applauding a ruling decision by a federal judge New York on Tuesday after the court struck down the Trump administration’s attempt to insert a citizenship question in to the 2020 Census.

      Ruling on a lawsuit filed by the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), the ACLU, and other groups, U.S. District Judge Jess Furman said that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the Census, acted illegally when he requested that the question be added.

      Ross had previously claimed that the Justice Department (DOJ) had originally requested the question, which was to read, “Is this person a citizen of the United States?” But the lawsuit filed by the groups revealed that Ross had actually consulted with former White House strategist—and open white supremacist—Steve Bannon. Ross’s addition of the question violated the Administrative Procedures Act, the judge ruled.

    • Muslim group enraged over naming of man-eating tiger
    • Cleared In Blasphemy Case, Asia Bibi To Still Spend Christmas In Custody

      But the ruling ignited days of violent demonstrations that paralysed large swathes of the country, with enraged Islamists calling for her beheading, mutiny within the powerful military and the assassination of the country’s top judges.

    • ‘She confessed… how can we forgive her?’: Asia Bibi’s former neighbours still want her put to death
    • Oxford Street terror attack plotter ‘resisted’ de-radicalisation

      A man who planned to drive a van into 100 people in London was working with a government de-radicalisation programme at the time, a court has heard.

    • ‘Let the West Burn’: Norway Reveals Radicalization in ‘Quran Schools’ Abroad

      The Norwegian police have raised concerns about the ongoing radicalization process in so-called ‘Quran schools’ in Somalia, where kids from immigrant families residing in the Nordic country are sent, often against their will, by parents to avoid being “westernized.”

    • New York Muslims have a new security patrol group
    • ‘French prison turned our son to ISIS’

      According to them, when he was released from prison, he and other young people like him were told they would receive an amount of 80,000 euros for establishing a Muslim cell. He would recruit operatives and send them Islamic messages in the spirit of ISIS.

    • Ugandan Christians live in fear of minority Muslims on quest for conversions

      “Ali convinced me to convert and become a Muslim, but I declined. They started pushing me on the ground threatening to kill me if I don’t accept Islam,” he said. “One of the attackers hit me with a sharp object on my neck, and I became unconscious. I remember them saying they have killed me.”

    • Ohio hospital condemns ex-resident who said she would give Jews ‘the wrong meds’

      A hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, said it has fired a doctor after it emerged that she had been making anti-Semitic remarks for years on social media.

      [...]

      On January 2, 2012, she wrote that she would “purposely give all the yahood the wrong meds,” using the Arabic word for Jews. She also repeatedly expressed hope that “Allah will kill the Jews.”

    • Triumph of Conventional Wisdom: AP Expunges Iran/Contra Pardons from Barr’s Record

      A president facing a major scandal, just as the highest-profile trial is about to begin, pardons the indicted or convicted officials around him to effectively stop the investigation that’s closing in on his own illegal conduct.

      Trump soon? We’ll see. But this actually describes what President George H.W. Bush did in 1992.

      The Iran/Contra scandal revealed, among other things, that the Reagan/Bush White House had secretly sold missiles to Iran in exchange for hostages held in Lebanon, using the proceeds to fund right-wing forces fighting the leftist Nicaraguan government in violation of US law.

      On Christmas Eve 1992, just as the indicted former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger was about to face trial, Bush pardoned him and five others, including former Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams and and former National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane. The New York Times (12/25/92) reported this as “Bush Pardons 6 in Iran Affair, Averting a Weinberger Trial; Prosecutor Assails ‘Cover-Up.’”

      The attorney general for Bush who approved the pardons, William Barr, is now being nominated for the same position by Trump. Is this background relevant? Though current news columns are rife with speculation that Trump might likewise protect himself by pardoning his indicted or convicted associates, the dominant US news wire service doesn’t seem to think so.

    • William Barr’s Deep State Resume: Cover-Ups, Covert Ops, and Pardons

      “I started off in Washington at the Central Intelligence Agency and went to law school at night while I was working at CIA,” recalled William Barr in a 2001 oral history for the University of Virginia.

      Trump’s nominee to be attorney general has what Trump might call “deep state” credentials. Barr came to Langley in 1973. He was a 23-year-old graduate of Columbia with a master’s in political science and Chinese studies. His resume shows he toiled at the CIA by day and attended George Washington University law school at night. The Watergate scandal was ravaging the agency’s reputation and destroying the presidency of Richard Nixon.

    • William Barr Is a Danger to Civil Rights

      When William Barr served as attorney general in the early 1990s, the war on drugs and the public panic it generated was reaching a fever pitch. In the years that followed, intensifying law enforcement and mandatory minimum sentencing for drug crimes caused prison populations to explode, devastating communities of color and making the United States the most incarcerated country on the planet. Now, president Trump has nominated Barr to serve as attorney general again.

      Has Barr changed since the early 1990s? Civil rights groups demanded to know in the lead-up to the confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. Now they do.

      While it appears that some of Barr’s views have evolved, his testimony revealed a proponent of heavy policing and mass incarceration. He also dodged questions about voting rights cases and parroted the limited interpretation of civil rights law that former Attorney General Jeff Sessions used to roll back protections for LGBTQ people and transgender students established by the Obama administration.

      During the hearing yesterday, Republicans and even some Democrats appeared pleased by Barr’s performance, particularly after he repeatedly pledged to allow special counsel Robert Mueller to finish his investigation of Russian election meddling and the Trump Organization. Civil rights groups and progressive Democrats, still frustrated by Sessions’s tenure, were anything but pleased.

      “William Barr had the opportunity today to prove to all of us that he could be the independent, fair Attorney General America needs right now. He failed,” said Kristine Lucius, executive vice president for policy at The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, in a statement on Tuesday.

    • William Barr Hearing: Senators Press Barr on Criminal Justice Overhaul

      Senators pressed President Trump’s choice to run the Justice Department on his expansive views of executive power and how he’ll protect the special counsel.

    • Trump’s Attorney General Nominee: ‘I Will Not Be Bullied’

      Vowing “I will not be bullied,” President Donald Trump’s nominee for attorney general asserted independence from the White House on Tuesday, saying he believed that Russia had tried to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, that the special counsel investigation shadowing Trump is not a witch hunt and that his predecessor was right to recuse himself from the probe.

      The comments by William Barr at his Senate confirmation hearing pointedly departed from Trump’s own views and underscored Barr’s efforts to reassure Democrats that he will not be a loyalist to a president who has appeared to demand it from law enforcement. He also repeatedly sought to assuage concerns that he might disturb or upend special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation as it reaches its final stages.

      Some Democrats are concerned about that very possibility, citing a memo Barr wrote to the Justice Department before his nomination in which he criticized Mueller’s investigation for the way it was presumably looking into whether Trump had obstructed justice.

      Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, told Barr the memo showed “a determined effort, I thought, to undermine Bob Mueller.” The nominee told senators he was merely trying to advise Justice Department officials against “stretching the statute” to conclude that the president had obstructed justice.

      Though Barr said an attorney general should work in concert with an administration’s policy goals, he broke from some Trump talking points, including the mantra that the Russia probe is a witch hunt. Trump has equivocated on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and assailed and pushed out his first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, for recusing because of his work with the Trump campaign.

    • Bill Barr Must Not Be Sessions 2.0 on Civil Rights

      The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to begin confirmation hearings on Tuesday for William Barr, President Trump’s nominee to lead the Department of Justice. Given that the president is holding the country hostage over his vanity project at the Southern border resulting in the longest ever government shutdown, it is no surprise that Barr’s nomination has largely flown below the radar.

      The limited media coverage surrounding Barr has focused on his deeply troubling attacks on the Mueller investigation and his expansive views on presidential power. Considering how Trump is undermining the rule of law and our democracy, these are crucially important aspects of Barr’s record to question. But at tomorrow’s hearing, senators must also interrogate Barr about his commitment to a critical duty of the Justice Department: enforcing federal civil rights laws.

      [....]

      Based on what we know, senators will have plenty to explore in Barr’s record. As attorney general, Barr endorsed a draconian approach to law enforcement that helped build the system of mass incarceration we have today, which continues to decimate poor Black and Brown communities. Yet, he denied evidence of racial disparities, telling a reporter, “Our system is fair and does not treat people differently.” It was untrue then and it is still untrue now. Barr later backed a 1992 Justice Department report, The Case for More Incarceration, as the prison population in the United States soared. The report irresponsibly stated, “We are incarcerating too few criminals, and the public is suffering as a result.” He also co-chaired a commission in the mid-1990s that recommended abolishing parole.

      This is all particularly alarming because it appears that Barr was strident even for the time. And his views do not appear to have evolved — even as the country has. In 2015, Barr signed a letter opposing the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, which would have modestly reduced mandatory minimum prison sentences for non-violent drug offenders. Ending mass incarceration is now a popular and bipartisan issue, so much so that even the most recent and highly polarized 115th Congress overwhelmingly passed a law last month that makes important improvements to the federal prison system. That law, the FIRST STEP Act, will be implemented by the Justice Department. Senators must press Barr on whether he will fully and faithfully carry out that charge.

    • Trump Attorney General Nominee Raked in Millions from Corporate Industries He’ll Oversee

      Donald Trump’s pick for Attorney General is going up for confirmation this week – and his nomination is just the latest example of the extent to which the Trump administration is captured by corporate America, despite its populist posture.

      William Barr is Trump’s nominee to replace Jeff Sessions as the head up the U.S. Department of Justice. Barr previously served as Attorney General for George H.W. Bush, after which he began a 25 year career in the corporate world. Much of this time was spent as the top lawyer for telecommunications company GTE and then, after GTE’s merger with Bell Atlantic to form Verizon, as the top lawyer for Verizon.

      Media outlets like the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal have reported on Barr’s dedicated service to the corporate world – with a particular focus on his GTE/Verizon days, as well as his roles at Time Warner (he’s been a board member since 2009 and clashed with the DOJ over the proposed Time Warner-AT&T merger) and Caterpillar (he represented the company in the face of a recent DOJ probe).

      Barr has been a board member of three corporate giants over the past ten years: Time Warner (as mentioned), but also Dominion Energy (2009-present) and Och-Ziff Capital (2016-2018). As a director of these companies, Barr has raked in over $4.68 million during the past decade in cash payments and stock options – and very likely close to a million more than that, since three of his recent years of compensation are so far undisclosed, but probably fall in the range of $290,000 to $300,000, based on precedent. (This calculation also doesn’t take into account gains that Barr may have seen from increases in the value of his company stock rewards over the past decade’s stock market boom).

    • Watch: Devastating New ‘Land of the Free’ Music Video Decries Violence and Cruelty of Trump’s America

      “Incarceration’s become big business,” he notes, “And we got more people locked up than the rest of the world.” Written partly in response to mass shootings that have become all too common in this country, he asks, “So how many daughters, tell me, how many sons, do we have to have to put in the ground, before we just break down and face it: We got a problem with guns?”

      In a message posted to Facebook, Flowers recalls how his grandmother and her family fled to U.S. “from Lithuania to escape the USSR’s oppression,” opting to work “in dangerous coal mines, rather than endure tyranny at home.” Condemning “too many examples of racial injustice to ignore,” including the tear-gassing of migrants at the border, he concludes: “I see my family in the faces of these vulnerable people… you’ve gotta believe that we can do better.”

    • Rep. Steve King Stripped of Committee Duties Following Racist Remarks

      Veteran Republican Rep. Steve King will be blocked from committee assignments for the next two years after lamenting that white supremacy and white nationalism have become offensive terms.

      King, in his ninth term representing Iowa, will not be given committee assignments in the Congress that began this month, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Monday night. King served on the Agriculture, Small Business and Judiciary committees in the last Congress, and he chaired Judiciary’s subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice.

      McCarthy, R-Calif., called King’s remarks “beneath the dignity of the Party of Lincoln and the United States of America.”

    • After Career Full of Racist Remarks, GOP Finally Gets Around to Punishing Rep. Steve King

      Progressives on Tuesday expressed relief that Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) was booted from his House committee assignments following his latest racist comments, but also noted that the GOP’s decision to penalize King is long overdue, following nearly two decades of openly bigoted remarks.

      The move by Republicans—who have a long history of championing the racist and xenophobic policies King also supports—comes just days after a New York Times interview was published in which King asked why terms like “white supremacy” and “white nationalism” are considered offensive. As punishment, King will no longer be allowed to serve on the House Judiciary or Agriculture committees.

      As Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) noted, “Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences.”

      Like other progressives, the New York Democrat expressed approval of King’s punishment, writing on Twitter that his removal from the committees will have far-reaching consequences for his career in the current Congress, and that his constituents will likely take note.

    • Who’s Afraid of AOC?

      Norman Solomon and Jaqueline Luqman join host Paul Jay to discuss whether the call from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to primary establishment Democrats weakens the party

    • Can the Trump Administration Use Asset Forfeiture Funds to Build the Border Wall?

      Hawaiian vacation. Margarita machine. Sparkles the Clown. Are we going to add Trump’s border wall to the list of “ridiculous things” that civil asset forfeiture funds have been spent on?

      It seems so if left up to this administration.

      On Friday, two congressional Republicans told the Associated Press that the administration had been looking at civil asset forfeiture funds to finance the border wall’s construction. And it’s easy to see why. The federal government’s forfeiture fund currently has $3.7 billion in cash, but over $7.6 billion in assets. For the Trump administration, what could be more tempting than liquidating this slush fund to build the wall it wants a new influx of $5.7 billion for?

      This scheme exemplifies all that is wrong with civil asset forfeiture, which occurs when law enforcement takes property away from someone based on the mere suspicion it is connected to a crime. To be clear — because people can’t believe this is a thing — you do not have to be arrested or convicted of a crime to have your property seized and taken under civil asset forfeiture.

      And once forfeited, local law enforcement in many places can use this money for almost anything it wants. This is how civil forfeiture has earned the nickname “policing for profit.” And this is why the Trump administration thinks forfeiture funds are on the table for a border wall.

    • Europe’s future? A new Austrian decline

      Two years ago, the cardinal archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Schönborn, did not go easy with either the words or the date of the 333th anniversary of the Turkish siege of Vienna. The most important Austrian Catholic prelate feared the possibility of “an Islamic conquest of Europe”, calling it “the third Islamic attempt to conquer Europe”.

    • Belgium Bans Religious Slaughtering Practices, Drawing Praise and Protest

      “They want to keep living in the Middle Ages and continue to slaughter without stunning — as the technique didn’t yet exist back then — without having to answer to the law,” she said. “Well, I’m sorry, in Belgium the law is above religion and that will stay like that.”

    • ‘The Stuff of Movies’: A Battered Wife’s Journey from Islam to Christian Pastor

      But Muslim immigration has also made Sweden a home for dangerous radicals, and Parsan told us she has received death threats and lives with the knowledge she could be killed.

      Parsan said Sweden “…is a free country. But it’s dangerous, too.” She says she sometimes wonders if she will be killed by Islamists in Sweden.

    • Pork restaurant to change billboard for mosque goers

      Taoyuan City Councilor Shu Tsui-ling (舒翠玲) said that her office had received multiple complaints about the sign since the restaurant opened.

    • French Prisons: Incubators of Terror

      Before his murderous rampage, Chekatt already had 27 convictions in three different countries – France, Germany and Switzerland – for crimes including armed robbery. But while in prison in France in 2015, French intelligence believes he was radicalized.

      “During a stay in prison, he was noticed as much for his violence as for his religious proselytism,” noted one report. As a result, he was carded “Fiche S” by French intelligence concerning potential dangerousness.

      But after the December terrorist attack, France’s future concerning “gangster-jihadistes” continues to appear bleak.

    • Only hell awaits if non-Muslims lead, Hadi says in piece calling for Islamic supremacy

      “Don’t ever take the infidelic West as an example, because the best of them will still end up in hell, since their kindness is without any faith to Allah and the End Times,” he wrote.

    • Egypt university expels female student for hugging male friend

      Egypt’s Al-Azhar university on Sunday said it had expelled a female student after she appeared in a video hugging a male colleague, accusing her of undermining the school’s reputation.

    • PrimaMedia co-founder sues journalist who accused him of sexual assault

      Aleksey Migunov, co-founder of the media conglomerate PrimaMedia, announced that he is suing Sibir.Realii journalist Yekaterina Fedorova for defamation or, as it is described in Russian law, for the “protection of [his] honor and dignity.” On January 3, Fedorova publicly accused Migunov of physically and sexually assaulting her in her home on October 13. She has since continued to answer questions about that evening.

    • Arizona Activists Face Jail Time for Providing Life-Saving Aid to Migrants Crossing Sonoran Desert

      As the longest government shutdown in U.S. history heads into its 25th day and President Trump continues to crack down on immigrants, we look at how the Trump administration is criminalizing humanitarian aid at the border. In Tucson, Arizona, activists with the humanitarian group No More Deaths go to trial today facing charges for a slew of federal crimes, all due to their efforts to leave water and food in the harsh Sonoran Desert to help refugees and migrants survive the deadly journey across the U.S. border. The charges were filed last year in January, just a week after No More Deaths published a report accusing U.S. Border Patrol agents of routinely vandalizing or confiscating water, food and other humanitarian aid, condemning refugees and migrants to die of exposure or dehydration. We speak with Paige Corich-Kleim, a humanitarian aid worker and volunteer with No More Deaths, and Ryan Devereaux, a staff reporter at The Intercept. His latest piece is titled “Arizona Judge in No More Deaths Case Had Secret Talks with Federal Prosecutors.”

    • Trump’s Fascist Politics Treat Children as Disposable

      We live in an age in which the welfare of children is no longer a measure of the degree to which a society lives up to its democratic ideals. In an age of growing fascism, those in power no longer view children as the promise of a future but as a threat to the present.

      In particular, poor Black and Brown children are being treated as what Teju Cole calls “unmournable bodies.” Rather than being educated, many are being imprisoned; rather than living in communities that are safe and clean, many are relegated to cities where the water is poisoned and the police function as an occupying army.

      In the age of Trump, children of undocumented workers are stripped of their humanity, caged in internment camps, sometimes sexually abused and subjected to the unethical grammars of state violence. Sometimes they lose their lives, as did two children from Guatemala who died while in custody of Customs and Border Protection: seven-year old Jakelin Caal and eight-year-old Felipe Gómez. In this way the dual logic of disposability and pollution becomes the driving force of a machinery of social death.

      Removed from the sphere of justice and human rights, undocumented children occupy a ruthless space of social and political abandonment beyond the reach of human rights. This is a zone in which moral numbness becomes a central feature of politics, power and governance. How else to explain Republican Congressman Peter King responding to the deaths of these two children by praising ICE’s “excellent record,” stating that since there are “only two children that have died,” the death count is a testament to how competent organizations like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) actually are. This is a fascist discourse marked by the rhetorical tropes of hate, demonization and violence.

    • Judge Recommends Vacating The Sentence Of One Of The FBI’s Handcrafted Terrorists

      Nearly 13 years after the FBI managed to turn a California cherry picker into a international terrorist, one of its self-created terrorists is about to be turned back into regular California resident, albeit one missing more than a decade from his life.

      Hayat went to Pakistan in 2003 to visit his mother and get married. The FBI and prosecutors insisted he went there to train to be a terrorist. When he returned to the US, he was arrested and indicted. Prosecutors tacked on some lying to federal agents charges because of course they did, pushing Hayat’s sentence to 24 years.

      This conviction was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals but Hayat’s motion to vacate his sentence has found some sympathy from a federal magistrate judge.

    • Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go

      The New York Times reports that “[i]n the days after President Trump fired James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, law enforcement officials became so concerned by the president’s behavior that they began investigating whether he had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests.”

      That’s an interesting way of putting it, but let’s try another:

      Enraged at the firing of their director, and suspecting the firing might portend a threat to their place and power in the American political establishment, FBI officials went to war with the president of the United States. They redirected taxpayer money and government resources away from anything resembling a legitimate law enforcement mission, putting themselves instead to the task of drumming up a specious case that said president is an agent of a foreign power.

      This is exactly the kind of bovine scat subsumed by the recently popularized term “Deep State” — an entrenched bureaucracy, jealous of its prerogatives and bent on the destruction of anyone and anything it perceives as dangerous to those prerogatives.

      I’m far from the first writer to point out that this latest news reflects nothing new. Yes, it’s over the top, but it pretty much sums up what the FBI does, and what it has done for the entirety of its 111 years of existence. It attempts to protect “America” — which it defines as the existing establishment in general and itself in particular — not from crime as such, but from inconvenient disruption.

    • ‘DC Has Been Consistently Out of Touch With the Reality of the Borderlands’

      Only the easily surprised can be surprised that, gifted by the networks with a primetime platform with which to explain what emergency at the US/Mexico border necessitates the extended partial shutdown of the US government, Donald Trump delivered familiar hate-mongering and falsehoods, all in service of his notion of a “border wall,” which, it’s been recently reported, was intended as just a sort of mnemonic device advisers gave Trump as a candidate to remind him to “talk tough” on immigration.

      Factchecking is fine as far as it goes, but were media to devote less attention to rhetoric and more to the reality of life as lived along the US southern border, any conversation about walls could at least be grounded in an understanding of the barriers that already exist, with significant impacts on the community and the environment.

    • How Long Can Nepal Blame Others for Its Woes?

      One hardly gets beyond the alarming statistic when a culprit is identified –“The Arabs”. Maybe a suppressed guilt is behind Nepalis’ litany of hardships which “Arabs” and by implication Muslims inflict on their four million compatriots. “Look how Nepali workers are mistreated!” “Someone should protect them.” “Hundreds arrive home in boxes!” “No human rights there.”

      With no check on exaggerations and misinformation, prejudice continues unabated.

      There’s abundant sympathy for exploited countrymen, while any suggestion that conditions within Nepal could be responsible for the exodus is absent. Don’t overseas remittances actually help workers’ families? There’s no acknowledgment of the benefits of employment, anywhere. Consider how many businesses, from rental properties to food services, are sustained by families receiving remittances. Kathmandu has hundreds of low cost private schools enrolling children of overseas workers seeking a better chance for the next generation. Where are the anecdotes of returned workers investing what they’ve saved to lift themselves out of an otherwise hopeless cycle of poverty?

      All we hear are stale, decades-old, stories of “Arab exploitation”, stories that help conceal Nepal’s failure towards its citizens. Let’s be honest: workers look overseas for redress because of hopeless conditions at home.

    • Chili’s Denied Meagan Hunter a Promotion Because She Needed to ‘Dress More Gender Appropriate’

      The ACLU is taking action against Chili’s, which discriminated against a server for not fitting her boss’ idea of what a woman should look like.
      Meagan Hunter loved her job as a server at Chili’s Grill & Bar in Phoenix, Arizona — and she excelled at it. She was thrilled when her supervisors suggested that she apply for a new training program to become a manager.

      In order to learn more about the opportunity, she attended a seminar on Chili’s Certified Shift Leader program. She wore a men’s button-up shirt, fitted slacks, and boat shoes — an outfit similar to what male managers at Chili’s wear. So she was surprised when her general manager told her that the district manager had seen her at the seminar and commented that she was “inappropriately dressed.”

      Meagan tried to overlook the comment. But after she interviewed for the promotion, the general manager doubled down on the criticism of her clothes. “We really want to hire you,” he told her. “However, we need you to dress more gender appropriate.” Incredulous, she asked, “Are you telling me that I need to have my breasts hanging out to be successful in your company?” He responded, “Not in those words.”

    • I’m Out of a Job Because My Boss Didn’t Think I Look Like a Woman
    • Rebuke of Trump’s Census Plan Gives Immigration Activists Hope

      Concrete, steel or transparent barriers — President Trump doesn’t care how the wall is built, as long as he can continue to build walls on the US-Mexico border and between Americans. Now his attempt to build a wall around the immigrant community that already resides within the country is backfiring as a New York federal judge shot down his proposed citizenship question for the 2020 census.

      By seeking to deter undocumented immigrants from participating, the Trump administration is rigging the census in a blatant attempt to gerrymander districts to support his racist, anti-woman, anti-LGBTQ vision of the United States. The citizenship question — which is still to be considered by the Supreme Court in February — is also a signal to immigrants that they are being watched, tracked and hunted. Borrowing from war tactics used throughout the centuries, the Trump administration’s proposed citizenship question is an insidious attempt to encircle and isolate immigrants, walling them off from the support of their neighbors and larger community.

      The census is just one of many battlefronts. The Trump administration is continuing its march on communities of color through a barrage of racist policies and tactics designed to inspire fear and treat Black and Latinx communities as criminals. Indeed, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s adoption of a zero tolerance approach through Operation Streamline provides the administration cover to criminally prosecute migrants en mass — trying up to 70 people at one time.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality
    • Verizon charges new “spam” fee for texts sent from teachers to students

      Remind—the company that offers the classroom communication service—criticized Verizon for charging the new fee. Remind said its service’s text message notifications will stop working on the Verizon network on January 28 unless Verizon changes course. (Notifications sent via email or via Remind’s mobile apps will continue to work.)

    • Where There’s No Distance or Gravity

      Even if the networked world seems to start breaking up (as we’re already seeing with China), at a deeper level that world arises from a simple protocol, TCP/IP, that isn’t going away soon.

      And even if TCP/IP gets replaced, the genie it liberated from the digital bottle won’t stop giving everyone with a decent connection the experience of being together in a world without distance or gravity.

      We also won’t stop wanting to live in what John Updike (in the 1960s!) called “the age of full convenience”. We can get full convenience only from networks that are completely free (as in freedom) and open to whatever.

    • Online presence vital for business: jobs report

      The vital importance of an online presence in today’s business landscape was driven home in 2018, with jobs aimed at developing, populating, promoting and marketing websites among the fastest growing areas of online work last year, according to a newly published report on the job market.

    • Comparing secondary authoritative DNS service providers

      A secondary authoritative DNS (sometimes called “slave DNS”) service provider is a DNS name server that clones and hosts your primary DNS server over the DNS Zone Transfer Protocol (AXFR). There are a number of managed DNS service providers that offer this service, and I’ve put together a little feature comparison.

      A secondary DNS server is often referred to as a “backup name server” or “backup DNS”. However, in reality every authoritative name server can be expect to receive an equal distribution of DNS query traffic. DNS was designed to be decentralized and you can increases your domain zone’s availability and resilience to service outages by replicating it onto multiple name servers.

      I’ll start off with a feature comparison matrix for a few hosted secondary DNS name server providers. The matrix also outlines the feature requirements I think are important. I’ll go into more details on each of these later in the article.

  • DRM
    • Millions of customers will now pay more for Netflix—here’s how much

      Netflix’s most popular plan, which lets users stream HD content on two screens simultaneously, will now cost $13 per month. That’s an 18-percent increase from its previous $11 monthly price. Netflix’s premium plan, which includes HD and UHD streaming on up to four screens simultaneously, will now cost $16, up from $14 monthly. The most affordable Netflix option, the “basic” plan, increases by $1, from $8 per month to $9.

    • Device ‘Ownership’ Is a Civil Liberties Issue

      We’re taking part in Copyright Week, a series of actions and discussions supporting key principles that should guide copyright policy. Every day this week, various groups are taking on different elements of copyright law and policy, and addressing what’s at stake, and what we need to do to make sure that copyright promotes creativity and innovation.

      The technology you rely on to interact with the world and express yourself should ultimately obey you, not the company that made it. If the devices in our pockets, on our bodies, and all around us are going to help us advance our own values, it has to be possible to control and customize them so they don’t just do whatever their manufacturer envisioned.

      A sad fact of modern technology is that many “smart” devices use their smarts to act as their manufacturer’s spy and digital enforcer. They monetize your private data and are designed not to empower you, but to maximize the profits you bring to their manufacturer.

      [...]

      Section 1201 makes it unlawful to bypass access controls on copyrighted works–even when those access controls are inside a device you own, controlling access to your copy of a work. Congress intended to prevent infringement by stopping people from, for instance, descrambling cable channels they hadn’t paid for. But secure digital systems often use access controls, such as encryption, and if you don’t have the digital keys to look at and modify the code in your devices, then breaking that encryption can get you into legal trouble, even for devices you’ve bought and own.

  • Intellectual Monopolies
    • China patent flood stifles foreign filer freedom

      Corporate concern is growing over freedom to operate capability in China after a surge of domestic patent applications into the country’s IP office, according to in-house counsel.

      Eight in-house lawyers from medical device, telecoms, manufacturing, confectionery and automotive companies say the increasing number of design patents and utility models being filed at China’s National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA, formerly known as SIPO before a restructure last year) by Chinese companies is making it difficult to keep up with potentially important prior art in the region.

    • Qualcomm and Apple bridged the wide gap between their FRAND perspectives through complicated arrangements

      Yesterday (Monday) was Day 5 of the FTC v. Qualcomm antitrust trial in San Jose (Northern District of California). In a first summary shortly after the court session, I provided an overview of how, after most of the day had gone extremely well for the FTC, Qualcomm got what athletes call a “second wind” and made tremendous headway against one of the FTC’s three expert witnesses, Michael Lasinski. This is now a follow-up post with a focus on negotiation dynamics and deal structures, which was the #1 topic on Friday.

      Apple’s Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams was first to testify on Monday morning. He was a member of the team that created the original iPhone, and has interacted with Qualcomm ever since. What we learned from him contributed to a better understanding of Qualcomm’s dealings with other companies.

      In an antitrust case pitting the U.S. government against a patent-wielding U.S. chipmaker, Apple obviously plays an important role–but many observers of this proceeding appear to miss the grand picture by focusing too narrowly on that company. Only one of the FTC’s four key issues is specifically about Apple: exclusivity arrangements. Even that one is ultimately about a pattern, just that the related agreements between Apple and Qualcomm are the only manifestation of that pattern at issue in this case.

      At the moment, Apple appears to be Intel’s only customer. Qualcomm elicited testimony from Intel’s Aicha Evans confirming that at certain points she wasn’t even interested in a couple of potential customers. There may have been any number of reasons for that as Intel needs to ramp up its baseband chip business step by step, but there’s no reason to assume that Intel wouldn’t be interested in growing its business in this field and in having a broader customer base.

    • Trademarks
      • Infamous Pinkerton Detectives Claim Red Dead Redemption’s Use Of Historically Accurate Pinkertons Is Trademark Infringement

        Take 2 Interactive is no stranger to fighting bogus complaints about “infringement” concerning how it represents characters in its various games. Most of these fights have been over its flagship franchise, the Grand Theft Auto series, where the developer often enjoys poking fun at pop culture and society through settings and characters that are an amalgam of several stereotyped individuals. This has resulted in entitled celebrities and property owners attempting to sue over trademark and publicity rights in the past, with Take 2 typically coming out victorious by pointing out that its work is that of parody and covered by fair use.

        This is now happening with a different game but the basic story remains the same. In this case we have the added insanity of a rather infamous company trying to profit off of its infamous history. Pinkerton Consulting & Investigations sent a cease and desist notice to Take 2 after Red Dead Redemption 2 was released due to the game including characters who were a part of the company during ye olde olden times. In response, Take 2 filed suit.

    • Copyrights
      • Set-Top Box Anti-Piracy Code Neutralized By [Crack]

        Last month, IPTV set-top box manufacturer Infomir announced cooperation with rightsholders to block access to ‘pirate’ streams. It now appears the system to block allegedly infringing portals can be circumvented, either with a DIY technique or by downloading custom firmware.

      • Article 13 Suspense Builds as Finish Line Nears

        This coming Monday, lawmakers hope to reach agreement on the final text of the controversial Article 13. Whatever direction the proposal goes, there’s bound to be some disappointment. Opponents fear invasive censorship, while proponents see it as a lifebuoy for the music industry.

      • We’re gonna party like it’s 1923

        Co-hosted with the Internet Archive, this celebration will feature keynote addresses by Lawrence Lessig and Cory Doctorow, lightning talks, demos, multimedia displays and more to mark the “re-opening” of the public domain in the United States. The event will take place at the Internet Archive.

        In preparation for this event, we asked a few Creative Commons community members to provide reflections on some of their favorite works that have entered the Public Domain this year!

      • The Public Domain Is Back, But It Still Needs Defenders

        After twenty years stuck in Mickey Mouse’s shadow, the public domain is finally growing again. On January 1st, thousands of works became free for the public to distribute, perform, or remix. Every book, film, or musical score published in 1923 is now in the public domain. This policy win, like the public domain itself, belongs to everyone.

        How can you use the public domain? You could preserve and distribute books. Or you could, say, add zombies to a literary classic. You can choose between a faithful or radical production of a play without fear of a legal fight with the heirs of the playwright. Technology blog Techdirt has a contest to create games out of new public domain works. The only limit on the use of the public domain is the limit of human creativity.

        The public domain has benefits beyond remixes of high-profile works. Copyright terms are extremely complex. Figuring out whether something is in the public domain or not can require knowing if it was a corporate work or not, knowing whether it was registered and renewed or not, or knowing when the author died. For many works, it is impossible for archivists to answer any of these questions. That’s why clear cut-off dates are important. They give preservationists certainty.

        When Congress first passed the copyright law in 1790, it provided for a 14-year term with an optional 14-year renewal period. Since then, Congress has ratcheted the term upwards many times. In 1998, Disney and others got a 20-year extension without much public opposition. But advocates for the public interest in copyright policy have since become more informed and better organized.

      • The Copyright Law of Interfaces

        There is value in standardization of these interfaces – it allows people to write one program that will work with multiple systems. Duan uses two good examples. The first is HTML/CSS programming, which allows people to write a single web document and have it run in any browser and/or server that supports the same language. The second is SMTP, which allows email clients to communicate with any email server. The internet was built on these sorts of interfaces, called RFCs.

        [...]

        In other words, standards will define the commands that must be sent, but there’s not a language based implementation (e.g. public, static, integer, etc.). As with the sample line above. Most say: send x command to do y. And people writing software are on their own to figure out how to do that. And you can bet the implementing code looks very similar, but there’s something different about how it is specified at the outset (a full header declaration v. a looser description). So, the questions this raises are a) does this make standards less likely to infringe, even under the Federal Circuit’s rules (I think yes), and b) does this change how we think about declaring code? (I think no, because the code is still minimal and functional, but Oracle presumably disagrees).

        Secondarily, I don’t think the article considers the differences between Oracle’s position (now – it changed, which is one of the problems) and that of a contribution to standards. Contribution to a standard is made so that others will adopt it, presumably because it gives you a competitive advantage of some sort. By not being part of the standard, you risk having a fragmented (smaller) set of users. But if Oracle doesn’t want others adopting Java language and would rather be limited, then that makes the analogy inapt. If Google had known this was not allowed and gone another way, it may well be that Java is dead today (figure that in to damages calculations). But a fear of companies submitting to standards and then taking it back is to me different in kind from companies that never want to be part of the standard. (Of course, as noted above, there is some dispute about this, as Sun apparently did act as if they wanted this language to be an open standard).

        A final point: two sentences in the article caught my eye, because they support my view of the world (confirmation bias, of course). When speaking of standard setting organization policies, Duan writes: “To the extent that a copyright license is sought from contributors to standards, the license is solely directed to distributing the text of the standard. This suggests that copyright is simply not an issue with regard to implementing interfaces.” Roughly interpreted, this means that these organizations think that maybe you can copyright your API, but that copyright only applies to slavish copying of the entire textual document. But when it comes to reuse of the technical requirements of the standard, we filter out the functionality and allow the reuse. This has always been my position, but nobody has argued it in this case.

      • Openness, Mapping, Democracy, and Reclaiming Narrative: Majd Al-shihabi in conversation

        Majd Al-shihabi, the inaugural Bassel Khartabil Free Culture Fellow, is a Palestinian-Syrian systems design engineer focusing on the role of technology in urban systems and policy design. He is passionate about development, access to knowledge, user centered design, and the internet, and experiments with implementing tools and infrastructures that catalyze social change. He studied engineering at the University of Waterloo, in Canada, and urban planning at the American University of Beirut, in Lebanon.

      • Hollywood Asks EU To Drop Article 13 Entirely, Because It Might Possibly Have A Tiny Compromise For The Internet

        Earlier today, we had a post detailing the completely ridiculous “defense” of Articles 11 and 13 in the EU Copyright Directive that the EU Parliament’s JURI Committee released. It was so full of misleading statements, outright lies, and contradictory arguments that it would have been hilarious, if it wasn’t trying to justify changing the entire internet for the worse. However, those of us who think that the EU should drop Article 13 (and Article 11) entirely now have a very unlikely ally: the legacy entertainment industries, who were the ones lobbying heavily for Article 13 in the first place.

        Really.

        As we had noted last month, as the negotiations moved forward on Article 13, the TV, sports and film industries — calling themselves the “creative sectors” — have been suddenly freaking out and asking the negotiators to hit the brakes, or at least carve them out of Article 13. They were doing this for all the wrong reasons of course. Specifically, negotiators had begun to consider a very, very limited (and ridiculously weak) safe harbor for internet platforms, that if they followed a few key steps, they’d be able to avoid having massive liability foist upon them if they let any users sneak through an upload of infringing content (they’d still have to pull it down quickly after it was uploaded, but they wouldn’t be facing billions in fines).

        And, now with Article 13 just about finalized and it looking absolutely terrible in almost every single way… Hollywood is going for broke and now calling for negotiations on Article 13 to be suspended entirely. Again, they’re doing this for totally the wrong reasons, but considering that absolutely no one wants Article 13 at this point, shouldn’t EU negotiators just drop it?

      • ‘Catastrophe for Free Expression’: Critics Warn EU Reforms a ‘Dire Threat’ to Internet as We Know It

        “The new EU Copyright Directive is progressing at an alarming rate,” Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) special adviser Cory Doctorow wrote on Monday, describing the rules package as a “catastrophe for free expression.”

        “This week, the EU is asking its member states to approve new negotiating positions for the final language. Once they get it, they’re planning to hold a final vote before pushing this drastic, radical new law into 28 countries and 500,000,000 people,” Doctorow added, calling on residents of European nations to pressure their representatives to stop the directive.

        While the vast majority of the rules in the sprawling Copyright Directive are “inoffensive updates to European copyright law,” Doctorow points out, two specific measures—Article 11 and Article 13— “pose a dire threat to the global internet.”

      • Even the Rightsholders Think Europe’s Article 13 is a Mess, Call for an Immediate Halt in Negotiations

        With only days to go before the planned conclusion of the new EU Directive on Copyright in the Single Digital Market, Europe’s largest and most powerful rightsholder groups — from the Premier League to the Motion Picture Association (MPA) and the Association of Commercial Television in Europe — have published an open letter calling for a halt to negotiations, repeating their message from late last year: namely, that the Directive will give the whip hand to Big Tech.

        Article 13 — which still mandates copyright filters for big platforms, despite months of obfuscation — is the brainchild of the music recording industry, who invented the idea of the “value gap” as a synonym for “when we negotiate with YouTube for music licenses, we don’t get as much as we’d like.”

        Seen in this light, the unworkability of Article 13 is a feature, not a bug. Putting Google on the hook to give in on license negotiations or be forced to do the impossible is a powerful negotiating stick for the recording industry to hit Google with.

        The problem is that this tool will not only be wielded by record executives against Google: it will allow any of the Internet’s two billion users to claim copyright over anything (including the record industry’s most popular works) and improperly collect license fees, or simply block the material from public view.

        That’s not the only problem, though. In the course of negotiating Article 13, European lawmakers made concessions that make the proposal (barely) coherent and affordable by Google (though not, importantly, by Google’s small European competitors, who stand to be squashed flat by the dancing elephants of Big Tech and Big Content).

      • Movie Company Tries But Fails to Expose Pirates Through a DMCA Subpoena

        The makers of the film “London Has Fallen” tried to expose the personal details of alleged pirates on a Comcast connection. Instead of filing a regular lawsuit, the company opted for a DMCA subpoena shortcut. This effort failed, with the court noting that it has long been established that these subpoenas are not available in file-sharing cases.

      • Article 13 is almost finished – and it will change the internet as we know it

        The negotiators have reached agreement on the core of Article 13, which will change the internet as we know it: They want to make internet platforms directly liable for any copyright infringements their users commit.

      • Swedes! Poles! Germans! Luxembourgers! The world is depending on you to save the internet from the EU!

        The new Copyright Directive contains two deal-breaking clauses: the first, Article 11, gives news sites the power to charge (or refused to offer) a license fee for anyone who wants to link to their stories and include more than a single word from the story to accompany the link. Open access news sites can’t opt out of this regime, putting the whole idea of public-interest, open-access news in jeopardy.

Brexit Has Failed, But So Has the Unitary Patent (UPC)

Wednesday 16th of January 2019 10:18:34 AM

Summary: Even though all signs indicate that the Unified Patent Court (UPC) will never become a reality spin is to be expected from Team UPC, still looking to profit from more litigation and expanded scope

Last night there was that historic vote on the Brexit deal; the overall outcome was predictable and the “unknown” was the extent to which the deal would be voted down as well as the steps to follow (there’s still lack of clarity about that). But regardless, the UPC died and with it the possibility that some bizarre courts will allow software patents in defiance of national patent laws.

As recently as yesterday the European Patent Office (EPO) was promoting software patents in Europe ‘dressed up’ as “blockchain” — citing the usual nonsense from António Campinos. Of course this is a violation of the EPC, but the EPO is an outlaw institution that disregards courts’ decisions and constitutions. The EPO’s patent extremism has deepened under the new administration.

“Of course this is a violation of the EPC, but the EPO is an outlaw institution that disregards courts’ decisions and constitutions. The EPO’s patent extremism has deepened under the new administration.”Bird & Bird LLP’s Oliver Jan Jüngst, Anna Wolters-Höhne and Annika L. Schneider (Team UPC) have just commented on the Düsseldorf decision that we mentioned in passing last week and so far we haven’t seen any response from Team UPC to what happened last night.

Published yesterday in two publications, JD Supra and Lexology, was an article titled “Effect of a “No-Deal” Brexit on IP in the UK” (by “IP” they mean copyrights and patents — two entirely different things). Latham & Watkins LLP’s Deborah Kirk and Terese Saplys perpetuate lies about unitary ‘patents’ — in effect treating the UPC as inevitable even though it’s dead. This is the background:

On 19 February 2013, 25 of the 28 EU member states (excluding Croatia, Poland, and Spain) accepted the European Commission’s proposal for “enhancing the patent system in Europe” and signed the Agreement on a Unified Patent Court (UPC). To date, 16 EU member states, including the UK, have ratified the UPC, which now only requires Germany’s ratification to take effect. When the UPC becomes effective, it will hear cases relating to European patents and a new type of patent: the unitary patent. The European Patent Office, which is not an EU institution, will administer both types of patents.

Notice the tense. They don’t say “would” or “if”; they perpetuate those same old lies. Further down it speaks of “two possible outcomes regarding the UPC in the context of Brexit…”

The first: “The UPC does not come into force before exit day: If Germany fails to ratify the UPC, by operation of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 the UK will not enshrine in national law the underlying EU legislation and it will never take effect in the UK.”

Aside from the odd use of the word “fails” — as if rejecting something unconstitutional is a “failure” — they make it seem like a question of timing, not outcome. Moreover, they make it seem as though the only uncertainty is associated with UK participation rather than the UPC as a whole.

“Conspicuously missing is the option that’s already becoming a reality: UPC falls flat on its face, so Britain has nothing ‘unitary’ to ever consider, let alone participate in.”To them, the second possibility is as follows: “The UPC comes into force before exit day: The UK government’s technical notice on patents implies a degree of uncertainty in this scenario, stating simply that the UK will explore whether it is possible to remain in the UPC and unitary patent system following Brexit. In the event that the UK needs to withdraw from the framework, the technical notice advises that businesses would not be able to use the UPC and the unitary patent system to protect their inventions within the UK. The UK will grant an equivalent patent to any existing unitary patents to ensure their continued protection in the UK. Businesses could still use the UPC and unitary patent to protect their inventions within the contracting EU countries, but would need to maintain equivalent UK patents (and enforce these in UK courts) to protect their inventions in the UK.”

Conspicuously missing is the option that’s already becoming a reality: UPC falls flat on its face, so Britain has nothing ‘unitary’ to ever consider, let alone participate in. This is the sort of lie we see almost every week in some so-called ‘articles’ from British law firms. They’re playing psychological games for lobbying’s sake.

IBM, Which Will Soon be Buying Red Hat, is Promoting Software Patents in Europe

Tuesday 15th of January 2019 06:33:57 PM

Summary: Even days apart/within confirmation of IBM’s takeover of Red Hat IBM makes it clear that it’s very strongly in favour of software patents, not only in the US but also in Europe

IT HAS been bad enough that US courts got targeted by IBM, which actively lobbies to water down 35 U.S.C. § 101 and the impact of Alice (SCOTUS). We wrote many articles about it. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) uses the word “customer” to refer to companies like IBM — the same thing the Battistelli-appointed António Campinos does.

They totally distort what patent offices are and what they exist for.

“IBM is using OIN to stonewall opponents of software patents and pretend that Free software developers can and should coexist with them.”As we last noted earlier this week, at the European Patent Office (EPO) patent quality is nowadays just “speed of granting”. It’s just a patent-granting machine. Examination is being narrowed. Calling the speed of granting “quality” is like judging the quality of fine dining in some restaurants by how quickly the food gets served (by that yardstick, junk food or deep-fried “fast food” is of the best “quality”).

Ever since Campinos came to the EPO they’ve been calling algorithms “AI” every day; it’s how they promote software patents in Europe.

We have meanwhile noticed that UPC and software patents boosters speak to IBM. They’re constructing their typical kind of propaganda — lobbying with puff pieces that neglect opposition (not even hiding the agenda and it’s clear who’s sponsoring it). Once again, under the guise of ‘harmonisation’ (the word UPC fanatics like to throw around) and using words like “clarity” (the same thing they say in relation to the US), Patrick Wingrove of Managing Intellectual Property pushes this piece. Watch how IBM promotes abstract patents under the guise of “AI”; Even in Europe, in violation of the EPC…

Lawyers from IBM and other artificial intelligence-focused businesses have welcomed the EPO’s new guidelines, but say kinks in the examination approach to the technology in Europe and elsewhere need to be ironed out and then harmonised

[...]

Shaw at IBM says her company would welcome clarification of AI patenting laws to eliminate ambiguity, such as those associated with patentable subject matter and inventorship.

“It’s always helpful in any guidance issued by patent offices to include a range of pointers and examples, such as the useful output from the EPO and JPO,” she says. “That is especially true in some areas where case law within AI has not yet built up.

IBM needs to quit doing this. Red Hat is being sold to an enemy of Free software if it carries on pushing in this direction. Someone wrote yesterday (linking to our coverage about Finjan): “In the security space, it did them [IBM] well in the sense of selling patents to outright troll Finjan, which in turn used them to lift $12M out of FireEye’s pockets.”

IBM is using OIN to stonewall opponents of software patents and pretend that Free software developers can and should coexist with them. We suppose that this is the future of Red Hat as well.

Team UPC on Dead UPC: Choosing Gowns for Corpses

Tuesday 15th of January 2019 06:07:48 PM

The emperor is naked, but look at those shoelaces…

Summary: The campaign of lies, long waged by Team UPC in order to manipulate politicians and courts, hasn’t stopped even in 2019 (IAM threw in the towel, but some of Team UPC is still ‘embalming’ UPCA)

SEVERAL months ago we saw comments about the European Patent Office (EPO) conducting job interviews for jobs that do not exist because of a longterm hiring freeze intended to reduce the number of patent examiners. Years prior to that Team UPC was advertising jobs that did not exist, as we repeatedly pointed out in past years (e.g. [1, 2]).

“Robert Burrows is now promoting this illusion that UPC is about to start and the only decision left to be made is what people will wear.”I am not a lawyer, but I believe faking news might not be a crime, whereas faking job openings might be. There’s accountability and the advertiser can be sued.

About 3 years ago Team UPC at IP Kat was pretending that a venue had been chosen for the UPC (in the UK) and that the court’s operations were imminent. Basically, they were choosing venues/courts even before a Brexit referendum (months earlier than that); there were psychological games and publicity stunts — ones whose nature was thankfully documented (I had been writing about the UPC and its predecessors for about a decade). Months ago Team UPC spread fabricated rumours, trying to induce pressure on the FCC (German Constitutional Court).

And now this from Bristows and EPLIT:

The patent attorney organisation, EPLIT (European Patent Litigators Association), has posted here a short survey asking members whether representatives before the Unified Patent Court (UPC) should wear uniform robes (and the reason for the answer) and, if so, what colour.

Excuse me? Robert Burrows is now promoting this illusion that UPC is about to start and the only decision left to be made is what people will wear. Maybe tomorrow they’ll even present the UPC’s lunch menu. Just about everything and anything to spread the illusion (maybe targeting German constitutional judges) that a decision has already been made and they’re just a ‘nuisance’ standing in the way.

Links 15/1/2019: MX Linux MX-18 Continuum Reviewed, Mageia 7 Artwork Voting

Tuesday 15th of January 2019 03:48:28 PM

Contents GNU/Linux
  • Desktop
    • Entroware Launches Hades, Its First AMD-Powered Workstation with Ubuntu Linux

      With Hades, Entroware debut their first AMD-powered system that’s perfect for Deep Learning, a new area of Machine Learning (ML) research, but also for businesses, science labs, and animation studios. Entroware Hades can achieve all that thanks to its 2nd generation AMD Ryzen “Threadripper” processors with up to 64 threads, Nvidia GPUs with up to 11GB memory, and up to 128GB RAM and 68TB storage.

      “The Hades workstation is our first AMD system and brings the very best of Linux power, by combining cutting edge components to provide the foundation for the most demanding applications or run even the most demanding Deep Learning projects at lightning speeds with impeccable precision,” says Entroware.

    • Linux hardware vendor Entroware has unleashed Hades, their first AMD CPU desktop

      For those looking to splash out a bit on a new desktop, the Linux hardware vendor Entroware have unleashed Hades, a powerful new desktop computer with Linux pre-loaded.

      This is their first AMD Ryzen powered desktop with multiple choices between the CPU and GPU, although they’re still only providing NVIDIA GPUs with the Hades. For those looking at the ultimate performance, they’ve gone with the AMD Threadripper so it really is a bit of a beast.

    • Chromebook owners may soon be able to choose which Linux distro to use

      Midway through 2018, Google wowed many Chromebook users by allowing them to run desktop Linux apps on Chrome OS. Though this support currently works through a virtualized Linux, based on Debian, Google has been continuously improving the support. Features like graphics acceleration are lined up for future addition. And the company isn’t stopping there. It now plans to allow device managers to choose a Linux distro on which it runs.

    • Librem laptops now at Version 4

      We are excited to announce Version 4 of our Librem laptops! Our Librem 13 and Librem 15 will now be upgraded with a 7th Gen Intel Core i7-7500U Processor with integrated HD Graphics that still works with coreboot. In addition, the Librem 15 display will be upgraded to 4K resolution. Upgraded models are available now for purchase whether you pick Librem 13: the road warrior or Librem 15: the desktop replacement.

    • Purism Announces 4K Librem 15 Linux Laptop, Updated CPU and GPU for Librem 13

      Purism is known for manufacturing and shipping security and privacy-focused laptops powered by Linux-based operating systems. They have their own GNU/Linux distribution called PureOS, based on the popular Debian GNU/Linux distribution, which they ship pre-installed with all their Librem laptops.

      The company announced today a new hardware promotion where you can buy the Librem 13 and Librem 15 high-end laptop series with updated CPU and graphics, including the 7th Generation 3.50GHz Intel Core i7-7500U processors with two cores and four threads, with integrated Intel HD Graphics 620.

    • Purism Announces New Laptops Based On 7th Gen Intel CPUs, 4K Option

      hile Purism remains very busy with their Librem 5 smartphone efforts, today they have announced their fourth version of the Librem 13/15 laptops.

      With Version 4 of the Librem laptops, they have upgraded the Librem 13 and Librem 15 to Intel 7th Gen CPUs… Yes, 7th Gen from 2016. Granted, that’s done in order to retain Coreboot compatibility with their hardware, but a bit sad to see such dated processors used while the Librem 13 pricing starts off at the same $1399 and the Librem 15 at $1599. In particular, Purism is going with the i7-7500U which is dual-core plus Hyper Threading Kabylake in comparison to Intel’s newer Core i7 mobile parts being true quad-core processors plus Hyper Threading, among power efficiency improvements, etc.

    • Purism Announces Version 4 of Its Laptops, KDE Frameworks 5.54.0 Now Available, Debian 10 Default Theme Chosen, Linux Kernel 5.0-rc2 Is Out and Mozilla to Disable Flash in Firefox 69

      Purism announced the fourth version of its Librem laptops today. The Librem 13 and 15 will be “now be upgraded with a 7th Gen Intel Core i7-7500U Processor with integrated HD Graphics that still works with coreboot. In addition, the Librem 15 display will be upgraded to 4K resolution. Upgraded models are available now for purchase whether you pick Librem 13: the road warrior or Librem 15: the desktop replacement.” Note that the base cost will remain the same despite these updates (the Librem 15 is $1599, and the Librem 13 is $1399).

    • Purism’s newest Librem laptops ship with newer (but still old) chips

      Purism’s first smartphone is set to launch this year, but the corporation got its start making laptops that ship with free and open source software and privacy-oriented features like physical kill switches for the mic, camera, and wireless radios.

      Now Purism is updating its laptop lineup with new models sporting upgraded processors. And by upgraded, I mean the Librem 13 and Librem 15 laptops now ship with a 7th-gen Intel Core i7-7500U processor… a chip that was first released in late 2016.

      [...]

      These are obviously laptops for a niche market — folks willing to pay a premium for privacy, security, and software freedom. But if you’re in that market, I suppose it’s nice to have the option to pick up a model with a new(er) processor… even if it’s a little overdue (Purism had originally planned to make the switch to 7th-gen Intel chips in 2017) .

      The Purism Librem 13 version 4 features a 13.3 inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel matte display, an Intel Core i7-7500U processor, and at least 4GB of RAM and 120GB of solid state storage (it supports up to 16GB/6TB (2TB NVMe + 4TB SSD).

    • Exclusive: Dell Opens Up About Its Linux Efforts And Project Sputnik

      The XPS 13 was pivotal in my personal switch to using Linux full-time, but I’m not a developer. I initially received the XPS 13 as a review sample with Windows 10. It ticked all my boxes for being a lightweight machine with a dazzling display to use for writing, research and general everyday use. It became exponentially better once I installed Ubuntu 18.04 on it because the sound and Wireless connections were more stable than Windows, updating the machine was a nag-free experience and the operating system was elegant and stayed out of my way.

      I bring this up because prior to being immersed in the world of Linux, I may not have considered buying a “Developer Edition” of the XPS 13 — or any other Dell offering with that name attached to it. It doesn’t necessarily have a consumer-friendly name, yet it’s an ideal device for non-developers who want a rock solid, reliable (and yea, pretty sexy) laptop without the bloat and instability of Windows 10.

      Couldn’t Dell shift more of these units if its Ubuntu-powered XPS 13 shipped under a more mainstream name?

    • APEX in Android Q: What Could Be The Biggest Thing Since Project Treble

      The idea behind APEX by itself is rather common in everyday GNU/Linux distributions: package updates targeting specific sections of the Linux library set. But that’s something Google never tried to do given that Android has used a RO (read-only) partition where all the system libraries and frameworks are stored versus the usual RW (read-write) partitions used in most Linux distributions, rendering the standard upgrade process unsuitable.

    • Chrome OS 73 finally lets you add top-level folders other than Downloads

      While Google has had a rudimentary file manager for Chrome OS for years, it has long lagged behind the functionality of those on other desktop-class operating systems. Starting with Chrome OS 73, however, Google will make a major step forward in catching up, as it allows users to add top-level folders as they choose.

    • Google is Adding ‘Apt Search’ to the ChromeOS App Launcher

      Chrome OS’s ability to run Linux apps continues to mature.

      Having recently revealed plans to let device managers specify a Linux distro for use with the feature comes word of another key feature tasked with making ‘Linux (beta) for Chromebooks’ more user-friendly.

    • Linux Steam Integration 0.7.3 Released With Annoyance Fixes

      Solus founder Ikey Doherty who is back working for Intel on the Clear Linux team and brought the Linux Steam Integration (LSI) into that fold has issued a new release of this software for improving the Steam integration on Linux.

  • Server
    • Kubernetes vs. Docker: A Primer

      The differences and similarities between two of the most influential open source projects of 2018.

      Kubernetes versus Docker is a topic that has been raised numerous times in the cloud computing industry. Whether you come from a non-technical background and need a quick introduction or if you need to make a business decision, I hope that the following few words will clarify this matter once and for all.

      We need to look beyond the hype that surrounds both Kubernetes and Docker. What these words mean is important to grasp before running your business on top of them.

    • VR Development Guide: Choosing the Right Engine

      Creating virtual 3D worlds has been a dream of programmers for many decades. Virtual reality, once a faraway fiction, is becoming a reality. Failures such as Nintendo’s infamous Virtual Boy are now a distant memory, and major successes including PSVR and Google Cardboard have become the norm for the emerging technology. In fact, Statista projects incredible growth for virtual reality, estimating that the market will expand to $40 billion by 2020.

      [...]

      If you’re looking for the lowest cost possible, you’ll want to investigate completely free engines. Video game engines such as Godot may be serviceable, but virtual reality compatibility is not completely assured. You’ll have to devote more time and resources into editing the engine your needs.

      Completely open source virtual reality-ready engines are also available for use. Apertus VR is one such example. It’s a set of embeddable libraries that can easily be inserted into existing projects. OSVR is another virtual reality framework that can help you begin developing your own virtual reality games. Both OSVR and Apertus VR are fairly new creations, however, and you may experience bugs and other issues you would not encounter with Unity or Unreal.

    • 10 Database ‘Must-Haves’ for Microservices in 2019

      A monolith application can have one database for all functions; however, in a microservices architecture, different services can each operate within its own separate database, which can lead to a dramatic increase cost. An open source database gives users the chance to download a free copy, play with the database and see if it is a right fit before making a major financial commitment. Thanks to the flexibility open source options offer, it’s no wonder Gartner predicts open-source-based database products will account for more than 20 percent of total database revenue by 2020. To ensure success, the key is to make sure the open source option is top quality, reliable, and validated by an industry leader.

    • Eight Application Design Principles to Cope with OpenShift Maintenance Operations

      Most Red Hat OpenShift maintenance operations follow the same pattern: one or more nodes are temporarily taken off the cluster to perform the required maintenance and then they are re-added to the cluster when complete. This cycle repeats until the maintenance operation has been performed on all nodes..

      In order to gracefully remote a node from the cluster, that node must first be drained. Draining the node means killing all of the pods in it, until the node is completely empty.

      In this post, we will look at a set of design principles that facilitate applications coping with this necessary OpenShift maintenance pattern.

    • CES 2019 | IBM unveils first commercial quantum computer

      At CES, IBM unveiled the world’s first quantum computer that commercial customers have access to. Although there is still a long way to go before the technology can really be used by everyone, this is a huge step forward.

    • DevOps for the hybrid cloud: Red Hat Ansible Tower 3.4

      With the growth of the cloud and containers, DevOps has become increasingly important. Old-school sysadmin methods and means simply aren’t up to managing server instances that can spin up at a moment’s notice when needed. Red Hat knows that better than many companies, so its latest release, Red Hat Ansible Tower 3.4, goes even further in automating today’s IT stack.

    • The Slow But Inevitable Shift To Cloudy Infrastructure

      Architectural transitions for layers in the IT stack at hyperscalers can happen in a matter of years, and cloud builders and HPC centers can move at almost the same speed. But for the vast number of enterprises, it takes a long time to change their stacks, in part because they are more risk averse and in part because they have more – and more diverse – applications to support to run their businesses.

      This, we think, is one of the reasons why the transition from bare metal to cloudy infrastructure is taking so long in the enterprise, even as it has long since taken over at the hyperscalers and cloud builders and is making significant headway – mostly due to the advent of containerized environments that are significantly less heavy than clusters that are virtualized with full-on hypervisors – in the HPC realm.

  • Audiocasts/Shows
    • Linux Thursday – Jan 13, 2019 – Lingering Cough Edition
    • Episode 50 | This Week in Linux

      On this episode of This Week in Linux, Linus Torvalds announced that the Linux 5.0 Kernel is coming soon. We got some Linux Mobile news from UBports Ubuntu Touch and Purism Librem 5. Then in App News, Bash 5.0 is out and we’ll check out some new interesting apps like a new Password Manager and subtitles syncing tool. In distro news, we’ll look at some news from Clonezilla Live, Funtoo, and Fedora. Later in the show we’ll check out some Security News for Metasploit and a new 2FA phishing tool. Then we’ll finish out the show with some Linux Gaming news for Super Tux Kart and A Story About My Uncle. All that and much more!

  • Kernel Space
    • Linus Torvalds Says Things Look Pretty Normal for Linux 5.0, Releases Second RC

      Linux creator Linus Torvalds announced today the general availability for testing of the second RC (Release Candidate) of the upcoming major release of the Linux kernel, Linux 5.0.
      According to Linus Torvalds, things are going in the right direction for Linux kernel 5.0 series, which should launch sometime at the end of February or early March 2019, and the second Release Candidate is here to add several perf tooling improvements, updated networking, SCSI, GPU, and block drivers, updated x86, ARM, RISC-V, and C-SKY architectures, as well as fixes to Btrfs and CIFS filesystems.

      “So the merge window had somewhat unusual timing with the holidays, and I was afraid that would affect stragglers in rc2, but honestly, that doesn’t seem to have happened much. rc2 looks pretty normal. Were there some missing commits that missed the merge window? Yes. But no more than usual. Things look pretty normal,” said Linus Torvalds in a mailing list announcement.

    • AMD Raven 2 & Picasso AMDGPU Firmware Binaries Added To Linux-Firmware

      Now available via the official linux-firmware tree are the AMDGPU firmware binaries needed for initializing the forthcoming Raven 2 and Picasso AMD APUs.

      Since a few months back AMD posted the initial open-source driver support for Picasso APUs as well as Raven 2 APUs. That kernel driver support was merged for the Linux 4.20 kernel and the necessary IDs are also present now in the Mesa drivers for rounding out the driver support. But for making this open-source driver support are also the necessary firmware bits needing to be in place.

    • ZOL 0.8 Nears With RC3 Release – Big Update For ZFS On Linux

      ZFS On Linux (ZOL) 0.8 is going to be a big release… No, a huge release. But for ensuring it’s going to be a successful release, a third release candidate was just issued for further vetting of all the new code.

      ZFS On Linux 0.8 is bringing a lot of new features including native encryption support, device removal, direct I/O, sequential scrub, pool checkpoints, and a lot of other new features for the first time with this Linux port of the Sun/Oracle ZFS file-system.

    • Intel Sends Out First Batch Of Display/Graphics Driver Updates For Linux 5.1 Kernel

      While the Linux 5.0 kernel won’t even debut as stable until around the end of February, as is standard practice, it’s open season for new feature improvements of the changes developers want to end up queuing into the “-next” branches ahead of the Linux 5.1 cycle. The Intel open-source driver developers on Monday sent in their initial batch of graphics driver changes for this next kernel cycle.

      Rodrigo Vivi of the Intel Open-Source Technology Center sent in their initial Linux 5.1 Intel DRM driver material today to DRM-Next for its vetting until the Linux 5.1 merge window at the start of March.

    • Graphics Stack
      • Lczero Neural Network Chess Benchmarks With OpenCL Radeon vs. NVIDIA

        Yesterday I posted a number of Lczero chess engine benchmarks on NVIDIA GPUs using its OpenCL back-end as well as its CUDA+cuDNN back-end, which offered massive performance gains compared to CL on the many tested NVIDIA GPUs. With the CUDA+cuDNN code performing so much better than OpenCL, some wondered whether NVIDIA was intentionally gimping their OpenCL performance. Well, here are results side-by-side now with Radeon GPUs on OpenCL.

      • RADV Vulkan Driver Picks Up Memory Budget Information For Mesa 19.0

        With Mesa 19.0 entering its feature freeze this week, the race is on for developers to land their last minute additions to this next quarterly installment of Mesa. Valve developer Samuel Pitoiset has landed support in the Radeon “RADV” Vulkan driver for the new memory budget extension.

      • VKD3D Tapping Vulkan Transform Feedback For Direct3D 12 Stream Output

        Wine’s VKD3D project for working towards Direct3D 12 support mapped atop the Vulkan graphics API now has patches for utilizing transform feedback in order to implement Direct3D Stream-Output functionality.

        Similar to the DXVK support that was added last year when VK_EXT_transform_feedback was first introduced, VKD3D now has patches pending for similar Direct3D Stream Out functionality by utilizing this Vulkan extension.

    • Benchmarks
      • PlaidML Deep Learning Framework Benchmarks With OpenCL On NVIDIA & AMD GPUs

        Pointed out by a Phoronix reader a few days ago and added to the Phoronix Test Suite is the PlaidML deep learning framework that can run on CPUs using BLAS or also on GPUs and other accelerators via OpenCL. Here are our initial benchmarks of this OpenCL-based deep learning framework that is now being developed as part of Intel’s AI Group and tested across a variety of AMD Radeon and NVIDIA GeForce graphics cards.

        Over the weekend I carried out a wide variety of benchmarks with PlaidML and its OpenCL back-end ofr both NVIDIA and AMD graphics cards. The Radeon tests were done with ROCm 2.0 OpenCL and it was working out fine there without any troubles while also working fine with NVIDIA’s OpenCL driver stack. Benchmarks were done with a variety of neural networks, both training and inference, etc.

  • Applications
  • Desktop Environments/WMs
    • GNOME Desktop/GTK
      • More GNOME Performance Optimizations Being Tackled Thanks To Canonical

        While there has already been a lot of exciting GNOME performance improvements so far during the GNOME 3.32 cycle, even more could be on the way with there still being a number of open merge requests for enhancing the performance of the GNOME desktop.

        Since Ubuntu switched from Unity back to GNOME, Canonical has been contributing more upstream patches to the GNOME stack. Ubuntu/Canonical developer Daniel Van Vugt in particular has been spearheading many of the desktop performance initiatives. He has landed a number of improvements in recent months but he has many open merge requests still to be addressed.

      • Canonical Patches GNOME Bluetooth Vulnerability on Ubuntu 18.04 LTS, Update Now

        Security researcher Chris Marchesi recently discovered a security vulnerability, documented as CVE-2018-10910, in the BlueZ Linux Bluetooth stack, which made it incorrectly handle disabling Bluetooth visibility, allowing a remote attacker to possibly pair to Bluetooth devices.

        Canonical was quick to release today patched versions of the BlueZ components for the long-term supported Ubuntu 18.04 LTS (Bionic Beaver) operating system series, addressing the security vulnerability, which might also affects all of the derivatives of Ubuntu 18.04 LTS, including Xubuntu, Kubuntu, Lubuntu, and Ubuntu MATE.

      • GNOME Security Internship – Update 3

        As of now we allow a single keyboard even if the protection is active because we don’t want to lock out the users. But Saltarelli left a comment making me notice that an attacker would have been able to plug an hardware keylogger between the keyboard and the PC without the user noticing.

        To prevent this now we display a notification if the main keyboard gets unplugged and plugged again.

      • Theme changes in GTK 3

        Adwaita has been the default GTK+ theme for quite a while now (on all platforms). It has served us well, but Adwaita hasn’t seen major updates in some time, and there is a desire to give it a refresh.

        Updating Adwaita is a challenge, since most GTK applications are using the stable 3.x series, and some of them include Adwaita-compatible theming for their own custom widgets. Given the stable nature of this release series, we don’t want to cause theme compatibility issues for applications. At the same time, 3.x is the main GTK version in use today, and we want to ensure that GTK applications don’t feel stale or old fashioned.

      • GNOME Developers Are Testing A Revised GTK3 Theme

        GNOME developers are currently testing some changes to the Adwaita theme as a minor refresh to GTK3 applications.

        With the default GTK3 Adwaita theme not having been revised in a while, developers are looking at making some minor enhancements to “ensure that GTK applications don’t feel stale or old fashioned.” They are testing some changes over the next few weeks and are looking at merging a revised theme into the GTK 3.24.4 release.

      • GTK+ Developers Are Testing An Updated Adwaita Theme

        Along with the GTK+ 3.24.3 release, the GTK+ developers have released an updated, more vibrant Adwaita theme as “a trial”, with the possibility to include it in a future GTK 3 release.

  • Distributions
    • Solus 4 and Budgie 10.5 Desktop Will Finally Be Released in Spring 2019

      It’s been a year since the former leader of the Solus Project, Ikey Doherty, promised us the release of Solus 4, but after many trials and tribulations the team is now stable and ready to continue from where they left off. According to experience lead developer Joshua Strobl, the Solus 4 release is on its way very soon, as soon as Budgie 10.5 desktop environment hits the streets.

      “I’m hoping that Budgie 10.5 will be ready for release in the next few weeks, which also means Solus 4 will also be released, finally moving us away from the Solus 3.x release and subsequent ISO refresh and opening the door to our previously announced change in our In Full Sail blog post to how we release new versions of Solus,” said Joshua Strobl.

    • 2019: To Venture Ahead

      Solus is a project which does not shy away from continuously improving and rethinking entire aspects of our architecture and experiences on our quest for technical excellence, whether that is introducing new tooling and experiences or changing existing ones. 2019 is going to be a transformative year for Solus.

      To make it easier to discover what we’re going to be working throughout the year and the time-frames for when development of those items will occur, we are going to be breaking up these sections into quarters, and within each quarter the projects themselves.

    • Solus Plans For A Busy 2019 With Budgie 10.5/11, Solus 4, Sol & Ypkg 3

      The Solus project has laid out some of their grand plans for the year from their GTK-based Budgie desktop environment to seeing the release of the highly anticipated Solus 4 Linux distribution to working on new software components further out in the year.

    • Top 5 Best Ubuntu Alternatives

      If you asked younger Linux users to tell you what their first Linux distribution was, we bet that Ubuntu would be the most common answer. First released in 2004, Ubuntu has helped establish Linux as a viable alternative to Windows and macOS and convinced millions that not all good things in life cost money.
      If you asked younger Linux users to tell you what their first Linux distribution was, we bet that Ubuntu would be the most common answer. First released in 2004, Ubuntu has helped establish Linux as a viable alternative to Windows and macOS and convinced millions that not all good things in life cost money.

    • MultiBootUSB

      There is a new tool available for Sparkers: MultiBootUSB.

    • Reviews
      • MX Linux MX-18 Continuum – Time x Space x Fun

        MX Linux MX-18 Continuum is a pretty good distro. It has a lot of really cool points, and some superbly nice and unique ones, too. It looks good, it gives you everything out of the box, it comes with a fast installation that will preserve your data, and you get the excellent MX Tools and Package Installer as a bonus. It’s also rock stable, very frugal, the performance is dog’s bollocks, and consequently, you get a really neat battery life. Overall, it’s better than its predecessor in most areas.

        But then, there were also some problems. Mostly cosmetic, just like in the past. But I am not happy about things not working – media playback from the phone, topmenu plugin, those kind of things. By now, I’m expecting perfection. I know it’s hard making always better and smarter products, but it’s the only way. All in all, Continuum is a great distro, don’t get me wrong, but it must not let complacency and randomness spoil its game. 8.5/10 this time, and if you’re looking for a nice distro to test and try, this is by far one of the more refreshing and fun systems I’ve used in a long time. Just be on the lookout for an odd bug. Lastly, we shall soon commence testing on the old Nvidia-powered machine. And that would be all.

      • MX Linux 18 “Continuum” Review
    • Screenshots/Screencasts
    • PCLinuxOS/Mageia/Mandriva Family
      • Mageia 7 Artwork Voting

        The artwork contest is now closed, firstly, all of the people that gave their time to make and submit so many excellent pieces deserve our thanks, it is really appreciated, they will make Mageia 7 look excellent.

        So now we need to start voting on which of these images we want to have included, primarily for the signature background, but also as additional background and screensavers.

        As we have so many images to choose, there are two votes, one for the background and one for the screensavers, in both cases you can choose up to 20 images that you like, to vote, just put an “x” in a new column next to the image you want.

    • OpenSUSE/SUSE
      • Looking for a reason to attend SUSECON? I’ve got 5!
      • SUSE Linux for Arm is now available for all customers

        Subscriptions for SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for Arm and SUSE Manager Lifecycle for Arm are now available directly to customers through the Corporate price list or through the SUSE Shop https://www.suse.com/shop/
        Previously, SUSE subscriptions for the Arm hardware platforms were only available to SUSE Partners due to the relative immaturity of the Arm server platform. Now that we have delivered four releases of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for Arm and have customers running SUSE Linux on Arm servers as diverse as the tiny Raspberry Pi and the high performance HPE Apollo 70 servers, we are now ready to sell subscriptions directly to customers.

      • And the Race is On! 2018-2019 openSUSE Board Elections Enter Campaign Phase

        Marina is a very active Italian openSUSE Advocate, involved in the Project since 2009, deeply involved in LibreOffice. She relocated to Munich last June, where she is working for CIB mainly on its LibreOffice team as Senior Migrations & Deployments Engineer. You may read more about Marina on her Wiki User page.

        Marina joins an already impressive line-up of Quality Candidates who announced they were stepping up during the past week, adding to what will be very tough decisions for the Voters in the upcoming Elections. Official openSUSE Members in Good Standing are qualified to vote in the Elections, and they will have to make difficult choices for who should take the three open Board Seats, choosing between Marina, incumbent Christian Boltz aka cboltz, Dr. Axel Braun aka DocB, incumbent Sarah Julia Kriesch aka AdaLovelace, Sébastien Poher aka sogal, Vinzenz Vietzke aka vinzv, and Nathan Wolf aka futureboy and CubicleNate on IRC.

        Sarah and Sébastien’s run for the Board was announced in last Wednesday’s openSUSE News, while the Candidacies of Christian, Dr. Braun, Vinzenz, and Nathan were announced in the next day’s news article.

    • Fedora
      • Updating release schedule tasks

        One thing that I noticed as I got settled in to this role last summer is that the Fedora release schedule tasks look a lot like they did when I first started contributing almost a decade ago. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. but I suspect it’s less because we’re still getting releases out in the same way we did 10 years ago and more because we haven’t captured when reality has drifted from the schedule.

      • PHP with the NGINX unit application server
      • Contribute at the Fedora Test Day for kernel 4.20
      • Deepin Desktop Option Approved For Fedora 30

        Last month we mentioned that Fedora 30 was possibly picking up a Deepin Desktop Environment option for this Qt5-based desktop developed by the Deepin Linux distribution.

        Assuming the packaging work remains in good shape, the Deepin desktop option will be found in the May release of Fedora 30. The Fedora Engineering and Steering Committee (FESCo) has formally approved of Deepin being offered by Fedora 30.

    • Debian Family
      • “futurePrototype” will be the default theme for Debian 10

        After the Debian Desktop Team made the call for proposing themes, a total of eleven choices have been submitted, and any Debian contributor has received the opportunity to vote on them in a survey. We received 3,646 responses ranking the different choices, and futurePrototype has been the winner among them.

      • Here’s the Default Theme and Artwork for Debian GNU/Linux 10 “Buster”

        Created by Alex Makas, the “futurePrototype” artwork set was selected the winner of the artwork proposals for Debian GNU/Linux 10 “Buster” and will be used as the default theme for the upcoming operating system. The “futurePrototype” artwork set consists of a wallpaper, login theme with the Debian Buster logo, as well as a theme for the GRUB bootloader.

        “After the Debian Desktop Team made the call for proposing themes, a total of eleven choices have been submitted, and any Debian contributor has received the opportunity to vote on them in a survey,” said the Debian team in an announcement. “We received 3,646 responses ranking the different choices, and futurePrototype has been the winner among them.”

      • Debian 10 Buster Enters Transition Freeze, New Theme Announced

        Debian 10 “Buster” continues moving along for its hopeful stable release later in 2019. The first freeze is now underway while the new artwork/theme for Debian 10.0 has been decided.

        12 January marked the transition freeze for Debian Buster. New transitions and big ticket changes are no longer permitted. Coming up next month on 12 February will be the soft freeze after which only “small, targeted fixes” will be allowed into the Buster archive. Finally, on 12 March is when the full freeze will take place for Buster. Once that full freeze is in place, changes need to be manually reviewed and approved by the release team. Details on the Buster freezes can be found here.

      • Freexian’s report about Debian Long Term Support, December 2018

        Like each month, here comes a report about the work of paid contributors to Debian LTS.

      • CasparCG Server for TV broadcast playout in Debian

        The layered video playout server created by Sveriges Television, CasparCG Server, entered Debian today. This completes many months of work to get the source ready to go into Debian. The first upload to the Debian NEW queue happened a month ago, but the work upstream to prepare it for Debian started more than two and a half month ago. So far the casparcg-server package is only available for amd64, but I hope this can be improved. The package is in contrib because it depend on the non-free fdk-aac library. The Debian package lack support for streaming web pages because Debian is missing CEF, Chromium Embedded Framework. CEF is wanted by several packages in Debian. But because the Chromium source is not available as a build dependency, it is not yet possible to upload CEF to Debian. I hope this will change in the future.

      • Derivatives
        • Debian-Based Netrunner 19.01 “Blackbird” Officially Released with New Dark Look

          The development team behind the Netrunner Linux project announced today the official release and general availability of the Debian-based Netrunner 19.01 operating system.

          Dubbed Blackbird, Netrunner 19.01 comes ten months after the Netrunner 18.03 “Idolon” release with a fresh, dark new look and feel with a more 3D-looking design, which was created using the Kvantum theme engine and the Alpha-Black Plasma theme. The new theme comes with some bling too as there’s now a light glow for the “Minimize all Windows to show Desktop” function.

          “Around this time of the year, we thought we could try something more vivid and colorful to lighten up the shortened days. So instead of going with the previously used “material look”, we thought of something different. Blackbird ships with a new Look and Feel Theme called “Netrunner Black” that is based on a dark, yet not too harsh contrasting visual,” reads today’s announcement.

          In addition to the new dark look and feel, the Netrunner 19.01 “Blackbird” release adds support for Web Apps, which are links to websites that can be easily added as launchers from the applications menu, the Plasma-Integration addon to the Mozilla Firefox web browser, which enables media controls and visual feedback for downloads, as well as Plasma integration for GTK+ apps.

        • Canonical/Ubuntu
  • Devices/Embedded
Free Software/Open Source
  • VLC is adding AirPlay support and will reach 3 billion downloads

    VLC, the open-source video player app, is announcing two major milestones from CES today. The development team, Videolan — along with Jean-Baptiste Kempf, one of the lead developers — told Variety at CES that it’ll be adding AirPlay support, allowing users to transmit videos from their iPhone (or Android) to their Apple TV.

  • Faucet: An open source SDN controller for high-speed production networks

    Thanks to open source software, we can now take control over and modify the behavior of almost every component in an IT system. We can modify everything from the networking stack in the kernel all the way down to web server code in user space to make improvements or implement new features.

    The final hurdle to having complete control over our hardware and software stack is the physical network hardware. These devices are usually built from the open source tools we love, but they are presented as black boxes that can’t easily be modified by network operators.

  • Getting started with Sandstorm, an open source web app platform

    There seems to be a mad rush at the beginning of every year to find ways to be more productive. New Year’s resolutions, the itch to start the year off right, and of course, an “out with the old, in with the new” attitude all contribute to this. And the usual round of recommendations is heavily biased towards closed source and proprietary software. It doesn’t have to be that way.

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

  • Key Resources for Effective, Professional Open Source Management

    At organizations everywhere, managing the use of open source software well requires the participation of business executives, the legal team, software architecture, software development and maintenance staff and product managers. One of the most significant challenges is integrating all of these functions with their very different points of view into a coherent and efficient set of practices.

  • An open source world

    HotPicks is one of, if not the most popular section of Linux Format and while the reader survey tells me that, I don’t actually understand why! My gut feeling is that people love the choice, variety and freedom HotPicks delivers every issue. I guess the truth is the sheer variety of open source means it can be hard to discover the best tools for the job and HotPicks offers a way to discover the best each issue… so say hello to our HotPicks Special!

    It’s a guide to this vast open source world and isn’t that what this magazine is here for? So we’re running a best open source software list for 2019. We’ve not done anything like this for over two years, so it’s more than time we help people discover new software that’s just waiting for an apt install to download. The availability of open source is a curse and blessing. It makes some see it as free of value while the sheer abundance makes it hard for others to cut through the noise and get to the tools they need.

  • Open source may be the key to securing IoT [Ed: The writer is selling insecurity and FOSS FUD for a living]

    As a society, we like things that are smart. Your TV, phone, thermostat, even your water bottle now tracks your habits and interacts with you via applications.

    We demand that our connected devices do more for us, collecting data to help us make more informed decisions, offer us more options, and just be downright better. Unfortunately, far too often in the quest to gain more features from our various devices, security concerns are lost along the way.

    Internet of Things (IoT) devices face risks that the industries producing them are generally unprepared to deal with. Time after time, we see new breaches that target vulnerabilities in IoT products which should make us increasingly cautious about buying them, with good reason.

  • Events
    • Why teachers should get out of their comfort zones and into the open

      If ever there was an experience that brought the above quotation home for me, it was my experience at the All Things Open conference in Raleigh, NC last October. Thousands of people from all over the world attended the conference, and many (if not most), worked as open source coders and developers. As one of the relatively few educators in attendance, I saw and heard things that were completely foreign to me—terms like as Istio, Stack Overflow, Ubuntu, Sidecar, HyperLedger, and Kubernetes tossed around for days.

    • A design chat with DevConf.cz ’19 UX speakers

      At the end of January, Red Hat’s User Experience Design team heads to Brno, the second largest city in the Czech Republic, to attend DevConf.cz, the 11th annual, free, Red Hat sponsored community conference for contributors to open source.

      This trip marks our team’s first appearance at the Brno conference, and we’re excited to see interest in user experience from the open source development community. I sat down with some of the team to talk a bit about why UX matters and how development teams can shift their thinking to build more usable and intuitive user experiences.

    • Girlscript Summer of Code Is Here

      Heard of Open Source but don’t know how to begin? Wish to work on real projects but don’t know where to get started?

  • Web Browsers
    • Mozilla
      • Moving to a Profile per Install Architecture

        With Firefox 67 you’ll be able to run different Firefox installs side by side by default.

        Supporting profiles per installation is a feature that has been requested by pre-release users for a long time now and we’re pleased to announce that starting with Firefox 67 users will be able to run different installs of Firefox side by side without needing to manage profiles.

      • This Week In Servo 123

        In the past three weeks, we merged 72 PRs in the Servo organization’s repositories.

      • TenFourFox FPR12b1 available

        TenFourFox Feature Parity 12 beta 1 is now available (downloads, hashes, release notes). As before, this is a smaller-scope release with no new features, just fixes and improvements. The big changes are a fix for CVE-2018-12404, a holdover security fix from FPR11 that also helps improve JavaScript optimization, and Raphael’s hand-coded assembly language AltiVec-accelerated string matching routines with special enhancements for G5 systems. These replace the C routines I wrote using AltiVec intrinsics, which will be removed from our hacked NSPR libc source code once his versions stick.

        Unfortunately, we continue to accumulate difficult-to-solve JavaScript bugs. The newest one is issue 541, which affects Github most severely and is hampering my ability to use the G5 to work in the interface. This one could be temporarily repaired with some ugly hacks and I’m planning to look into that for FPR13, but I don’t have this proposed fix in FPR12 since it could cause parser regressions and more testing is definitely required. However, the definitive fix is the same one needed for the frustrating issue 533, i.e., the new frontend bindings introduced with Firefox 51. I don’t know if I can do that backport (both with respect to the technical issues and the sheer amount of time required) but it’s increasingly looking like it’s necessary for full functionality and it may be more than I can personally manage.

  • SaaS/Back End
    • ‘Cloudera brand going nowhere,’ says CEO Reilly

      As expected, the newly merged Cloudera and Hortonworks will operate under the Cloudera brand, and is aiming to start moving customers to a new, unified Cloudera Data Platform, while also committing to hybrid and multi-cloud deployments and remaining ‘100% open source’.

      Back in October last year the rivals announced that they would be merging via an “all-stock merger of equals” bringing together two once red-hot heavily VC-backed unicorns that have both struggled to effectively mon