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Index for EPO and Saint-Germain’s Poisonous Legacy of “Toxic Loans” Series

Techrights - Saturday 26th of May 2018 10:43:24 PM

Summary: A roundup or an index of this past week’s series about financial gambles at the EPO — Battistelli's own dubious idea

THE Frenchman (dual nationality) and former banker António Campinos will take Battistelli’s place at the EPO next month, whereupon Battistelli will lose his diplomatic immunity. Will he ever be held accountable for his actions? That remains to be seen. The facts, however, will be documented regardless shall anyone require access to them.

Here are the six parts of this series:

Remember that Battistelli and his protector (Jesper Kongstad) made Battistelli’s contract — and salary — a closely-guarded secret never to be known or shown to the public. Kongstad's own scandals were covered here two years ago and not too long afterwards we got told that he had, in effect, been fired by the Danish government (we never saw hard evidence of that). Is Battistelli next? Kongstad helped Battistelli get elected as President, so he is in many ways accountable for all that happened after 2010. In our view, these people have blood on their hands (not only chinchillas’). There was an institutional murder, suicides aside. The future of the EPO remains unclear; it’s now in the hands of speculators.

Saint-Germain’s Poisonous Legacy of “Toxic Loans”: Quo Vadis EPO?

Techrights - Saturday 26th of May 2018 10:33:25 PM

Summary: In spite of the SIDRU “toxic loans” scandal in St. Germain-en-Laye, where Battistelli is Deputy Mayor, the EPO’s Administrative Council repeats similar mistakes with opposition only from one country — the only country that actually bothered to study the matter before voting on it

It is generally known that the soon-to-depart (to be replaced by António Campinos) EPO “Sun-King” Battistelli sat on the municipal council of St. Germain-en-Laye as Deputy Mayor for culture from 2008 to 2014.

From 2014 to 2017 he was a delegated councillor in charge of the Théâtre Alexandre Dumas.

In October 2017 he reassumed his former position as Deputy Mayor for culture.

Given his close involvement with the political life of St. Germain-en-Laye it’s almost impossible to believe that he is not fully aware of the poisonous legacy of SIDRU’s “toxic loans” which his political mentor the late Emmanuel Lamy bequeathed to the citizenry of the urban agglomerations of Grand Paris Seine et Oise and Saint Germain Boucles de Seine.

“From 2014 to 2017 he was a delegated councillor in charge of the Théâtre Alexandre Dumas.”Battistelli’s official EPO profile (see CV [PDF]) also emphasises that he plays “an active role in public and community life” in France. So it would also be surprising if he was not au fait with the more general problems caused by “toxic loans” in his home country and the risks of speculative gambling with public money in the global casino of the international financial markets.

Against this backdrop it remains a mystery as to why Battistelli in his role as EPO President has been so keen to push for the inclusion of exotic and speculative “financial products”, such as derivative instruments, asset-backed securities (ABS), mortgage-backed securities (MBS) and Credit Default Swaps (CDS), in the provisions of the EPO’s New Investment Guidelines.

It is also something of an enigma as to why the Administrative Council was so quick to rubber-stamp these questionable proposals and to subsequently approve the allocation of the EPO’s whopping cash surplus of around € 2.3 billion to the newly established “treasury investment fund”.

According to EPO insiders the sole dissenting voice on the Administrative Council was that of the German delegation which seems to have been the only one of the 38 national delegations to have done its homework properly.

“Against this backdrop it remains a mystery as to why Battistelli in his role as EPO President has been so keen to push for the inclusion of exotic and speculative “financial products”, such as derivative instruments, asset-backed securities (ABS), mortgage-backed securities (MBS) and Credit Default Swaps (CDS), in the provisions of the EPO’s New Investment Guidelines.”One might have expected more prudence and “due diligence” from the governing body of such an economically significant pan-European intergovernmental organisation.

However, when we recall that this is basically the same Administrative Council which agreed to the abolition of its own independent Audit Committee at the behest of Battistelli in 2011, then perhaps current events surrounding the New Investment Guidelines and the “treasury investment fund” are not really so surprising.

Defenders of the New Investment Guidelines will undoubtedly point out that the inclusion of exotic and speculative “financial instruments” is limited to 15% of the total investment portfolio.

But to argue like this is to miss the point.

Even if only a subset of the investments within this 15% speculative slice were to turn “toxic” the fallout could be catastrophic. A few “bad apples” have the potential to significantly reduce or even obliterate the return from other more conservative investments. In a worst case scenario if some of the speculative investments were to go “pear-shaped” this could lead to an erosion of the fund’s capital.

“According to EPO insiders the sole dissenting voice on the Administrative Council was that of the German delegation which seems to have been the only one of the 38 national delegations to have done its homework properly.”Those who try to dismiss such “horror scenarios” by saying that they are unlikely to materialise need look no further than the débacle of SIDRU’s “structured debt products” and the myriad other cases of “toxic loans” which continue to plague municipal councils throughout France.

Another as yet unsolved riddle relating to the EPO’s new “treasury investment fund” concerns its management.

From the comments made by Dr. Thorsten Bausch on the Kluwer Patent Blog in March of this year it seems that the general idea is to have “a diversified portfolio managed by external experts”.

Information from EPO sources indicates that a decision has already been approved by the Administrative Council’s Budget and Finance Committee to allocate the EPO’s surplus of around € 2.3 billion to the new fund.

“Information from EPO sources indicates that a decision has already been approved by the Administrative Council’s Budget and Finance Committee to allocate the EPO’s surplus of around € 2.3 billion to the new fund.”However, it has not yet been revealed which “external experts” will be entrusted with the management of this impressive cash pile and how their “compensation package” is going to be structured.

Presumably these details will be revealed in due course.

In the meantime let us hope for the sake of all concerned that the persons selected for this task will not be “experts” from the POTT school of investment management who operate according to the motto: “Prends l’oseille et tire-toi!” – “Take the money and run!”

Links 26/5/2018: Wine 3.9, KStars 2.9.6, Bodhi 3.8.0, FreeBSD 11.2 Beta 3

Techrights - Saturday 26th of May 2018 10:25:57 PM

Contents GNU/Linux
  • Desktop
    • Dell has a new Developer Edition mobile workstation with Ubuntu, 3 more on way

      If you’re looking for a new mobile workstation based on Linux, Dell has introduced four new Precision Developer Edition models. The Precision 3530 version is available now while the 5530, 7530, and 7730 models are listed as “coming soon.” All four are based on Intel processors and discrete mobile professional graphics provided by AMD and Nvidia.

      With a starting price of $942, the base Precision 3530 configuration defaults to the Intel Core i5-8400H four-core processor, but there are four other options up to the Xeon E-2176M six-core chip. You can also choose to stick with integrated graphics, or Nvidia’s Quadro P600 discrete chip with 4GB of dedicated video memory.

    • Dell introduces 2018 Precision Developer Edition laptops with Ubuntu Linux

      Dell introduced a new line of Precision mobile workstations last month, featuring high-power specs in (relatively) portable packages. Now the company is introducing “developer edition” versions that have the same feature set, but which ship with Ubuntu Linux instead of Windows 10 software.

      The Dell Precision 3530 Mobile Workstation is already available as a developer-edition computer for about $900 and up, and the Precision 5530, 7530, and 7730 will be available in developer editions soon as well.

    • Dell Rolls Out New Precision Developer Laptops With Ubuntu Linux

      If the latest Dell XPS 13 developer edition laptop pre-loaded with Ubuntu Linux doesn’t match your needs, Dell has now rolled out several Precision laptop developer editions that also come loaded with Ubuntu LTS.

      The fourth-generation Precision Developer Editions laptops are out with the 3530, 5530, 7530, and 7730 models. These laptops come preloaded with Ubuntu 16.04 LTS and are also Red Hat Enterprise Linux certified. Right, for now they are just Ubuntu 16.04 and not the recently introduced Ubuntu 18.04 LTS.

  • Server
    • Cumulus Networks Continues to Build on Linux to Enable Next Generation Networking

      Now in 2018, Cumulus’ model of enabling white box networking with a Linux based distribution has increasingly become the norm and along with that shift, Cumulus has become increasingly successful. Cumulus has raised a total of $129 million in funding, including a $43 million Series D round that was announced on Jan. 23.

      In a video interview with EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet at the 2018 OpenStack Summit in Vancouver, Rivers outlines how the company has evolved in recent years and where it is going next.

      “We have help to change the world around with the concept of buying switching hardware and software separately,” Rivers said.

      [...]

      Since the company was created, Linux and specifically Debian Linux has been at the core of the Cumulus Networks, Cumulus Linux networking operating system.

      “One of the benefits of taking that path is you get a whole set of applications that work natively on the platform that people can just pick up and it also keeps us honest,” Rivers said. It’s really easy in this world to take an open-source component hack it up and make it your own, so it forces us to work upstream.”

  • Kernel Space
    • There’s real reasons for Linux to replace ifconfig, netstat, et al

      One of the ongoing system administration controversies in Linux is that there is an ongoing effort to obsolete the old, cross-Unix standard network administration and diagnosis commands of ifconfig, netstat and the like and replace them with fresh new Linux specific things like ss and the ip suite. Old sysadmins are generally grumpy about this; they consider it yet another sign of Linux’s ‘not invented here’ attitude that sees Linux breaking from well-established Unix norms to go its own way. Although I’m an old sysadmin myself, I don’t have this reaction. Instead, I think that it might be both sensible and honest for Linux to go off in this direction. There are two reasons for this, one ostensible and one subtle.

      The ostensible surface issue is that the current code for netstat, ifconfig, and so on operates in an inefficient way. Per various people, netstat et al operate by reading various files in /proc, and doing this is not the most efficient thing in the world (either on the kernel side or on netstat’s side). You won’t notice this on a small system, but apparently there are real impacts on large ones. Modern commands like ss and ip use Linux’s netlink sockets, which are much more efficient. In theory netstat, ifconfig, and company could be rewritten to use netlink too; in practice this doesn’t seem to have happened and there may be political issues involving different groups of developers with different opinions on which way to go.

    • Linux 4.16.12
    • Linux 4.14.44
    • Linux 4.9.103
    • Linux 4.4.133
    • Linux 3.18.110
    • Graphics Stack
      • Igalia Continues Working On Wayland & Accelerated Media Decode In Chromium On Linux

        Months ago we had reported on Igalia’s efforts for improving hardware video/media acceleration on the Chromium browser stack for Linux and getting Chromium ready for Wayland but it’s been relatively quiet since then with no status updates. Fortunately, a Phoronix reader pointed to a fresh round of ongoing work in this space.

        Igalia is working on supporting the V4L2 VDA (Video Decode Acceleration) on the Linux desktop for video/image decode of H.264, VP8, VP9, etc. Up to now the V4L2 VDA support was just used on ARM and under Chrome OS. This is part of the consulting firm’s work on delivering first-rate Wayland support for Chromium — it’s a task they have been working on for quite some time.

      • Radeon GPU Profiler 1.2 Released With RenderDoc Interoperability

        AMD’s GPUOpen group has announced the release of Radeon GPU Profiler 1.2, it’s open-source GPU performance profiler. What’s significant about this release is initial interoperability with the popular RenderDoc debugger.

        Beginning with Radeon GPU Profiler 1.2, there is beta support for allowing a profile be triggered from RenderDoc and for displaying data across the opposite tool along with synchronization between the two utilities.

      • Mir Is Running On Arch Linux; Mir Also Progressing With EGLStreams Support

        Prominent Mir developer Alan Griffiths of Canonical has published his latest weekly update on the status of this Linux display server that continues working on supporting Wayland clients.

        First up, via the UBports community, Mir is now working on Arch Linux after some basic changes and packaging work. So similar to Ubuntu and Fedora and others, it’s now easy to run Mir on Arch Linux if so desired.

      • VK9 – Direct3D 9 Over Vulkan – Hits 26th Milestone

        It’s been a wild week for the various Direct3D-over-Vulkan projects with VKD3D 1.0 being released for the initial Direct3D 12 over Vulkan bits from the ongoing work in the Wine project to DXVK continuing to get better at its D3D11-over-VLK support. There’s also an update on the VK9 front.

  • Applications
    • MX Tools – A year later, the toolbox got better

      Roughly fourteen full phases of the moon ago, I wrote an article on MX Tools, a unique and useful bunch of dedicated utilities packaged with the MX Linux distribution. This toolbox offered the ordinary (or new) MX Linux user a chance to perform some common configuration tasks with easy and elegance.

      In general, MX-16 was a great player, and the recent MX-17 is even better – and at a first glance, so is the new version of MX Tools bundled with the system. Good stuff. So I set about testing, to see what has changed, and in what way this set of utilities has improved, if at all. But I’m positive. Let us commence.

      [...]

      MX Tools turned out to be a predictable gem, just as I’d expected. Well, I’m cheating, because I wrote this article after some rather thorough testing. But then, if you look across the wider spectrum of Linux home distributions, there aren’t that many unique players with distinctive features. Quite often, it’s the rehash of old and familiar with some extra color, polish and rebranding. MX Linux goes the extra mile (or kilometer, if you will) in making the newbie experience meaningfully different.

      Future improvements could potentially include an interactive walkthrough – so users will be actively prompted and helped along in their tasks. Then of course, there’s the matter of visual appearance, in the UI itself. But in general, MX Tools TNG is better than we had before. More elegant, more streamlined, better looking, and most importantly, more practical. This is a good and useful toolbox, and it makes a solid distro even more appealing. Well worth testing. So do it. And take care.

    • Proprietary
      • Opera 54 Browser Enters Beta with News on the Speed Dial, Update & Recovery Menu

        Opera has promoted its upcoming Opera 54 web browser to the beta channel, giving us a glimpse of what to expect from the final version, due for release sometime next month.

        Based on the open-source Chromium 67.0.3396.18 web browser, Opera 54 recently entered beta stages of development with a plethora of new features and improvements, among which we can mention a new Update & Recovery Opera menu page that makes it easier for users to update the web browser and reset it to its default state, including the ability to clear temporary data, such as cookies.

    • Instructionals/Technical
    • Wine or Emulation
      • Wine Announcement

        The Wine development release 3.9 is now available.

      • Wine 3.9 Defaults To OpenGL Core Contexts For D3D, Plumbing For VKD3D

        Wine 3.9 is out as the project’s latest bi-weekly development release. This latest build is certainly on the interesting side of the 3.x series.

        Two days ago marked VKD3D 1.0 being released as the initial version of Wine’s Direct3D 12 over Vulkan translation layer for getting their D3D12 support efforts going. With today’s Wine 3.9 release there is some of the initial plumbing for being able to support VKD3D.

      • Wine 3.9 released adding in the start of Direct 3D 12 over Vulkan support with vkd3d

        Wine 3.9 is now officially out and it’s actually quite an exciting release, especially as it pulls in the recently release vkd3d for Direct 3D 12 with Vulkan.

      • Wine-Staging 3.9 Fixes D3D 10/11 Gaming Performance Regressions

        One day after the exciting Wine 3.9 update with VKD3D work and more, the Wine-Staging code has been updated against this latest development release.

        While since the revival of Wine-Staging earlier this year there has been more than 900 out-of-tree/experimental patches against this Wine branch, with Wine-Staging 3.9 that patch count comes in at 895 patches. It’s great to see with more of the changes working their way into upstream Wine after being vetted while other patches are no longer relevant. Also decided this week is that Wine-Staging developers will rely upon the WineHQ bug infrastructure for handling the submission of new Wine-Staging patches so that the work is much easier to track by users/developers in seeing the status and background on proposed patches for the staging tree.

    • Games
      • The Humble Monthly Bundle just added two great Linux games

        For those that are interested, you can secure a copy of two great Linux games in the current Humble Monthly Bundle.

        Just added today are:

        Get Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!!
        Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth

      • SC-Controller 0.4.3 Released, Support Steam Controller & Sony DS4 Over Bluetooth

        For those looking to manage your Steam Controller and other supported Linux gaming peripheral input devices outside of Steam, there is a new release of the independently-developed SC-Controller Linux user-space software.

        While Linux 4.18 is bringing the Steam Controller kernel driver, for those looking for a Steam Controller solution right now to enjoy this excellent gaming controller for now outside of Steam, SC-Controller fills that void.

  • Desktop Environments/WMs
    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt
      • KStars 2.9.6 is Released!

        I’m glad to announce the release of KStars 2.9.6 for Windows, MacOS, and Linux. This is a minor bugfix release.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK
      • GNOME Foundation to Receive $1M from Anonymous Donor over Next Two Years

        It’s a great day to be a GNOME developer as someone just pledged to donate $1,000,000 over the next two years to the non-profit GNOME Foundation, the driving force behind the widely-used GNOME desktop environment.

        The donation was made by an anonymous person, though the money will be received by the GNOME Foundation over the next couple of years. Honored by this gesture, the team pledges to use the money to hire more developers and streamline their operations to improve the GNOME desktop environment.

        “We are honored by the trust given to us and will work hard to justify that trust. This particular donation will enable us to support the GNOME project more widely, and tackle key challenges that the free software community faces,” said Neil McGovern, Executive Director of GNOME Foundation.

  • Distributions
  • Devices/Embedded
Free Software/Open Source
  • Eudora saved thanks to open sourcing

    It took the organisation some five years of wrangling with the Eudora’s IP owner Qualcomm, but eventually the once much-loved Mac then more software got given the open source greenlight.

    Eudora was created in 1988 by Steve Dorner while he was working at the University of Illinois. As email started to get big in the world of computing so too did Eudora in the mid-1990s. Qualcomm licensed the software from the University of Illinois and hired Dorner.

  • Top 10 Weirdest Names for Open Source Projects

    In the early stages of developing a new open source project, most developers rarely take the time to think about their future branding strategy. After all, a great idea, top notch code, and a passionate following are the winning formula when you’re getting a project underway.

    However the name you choose for your project can play a role in picking up a loyal following and attracting the curious.

    Names have power. They indicate tone and the intent. They can, if chosen well, inspire and unify action. They’re an important part of a project’s brand and tone of voice.

  • SD Times Open-Source Project of the Week: Katran

    While engineers are likely to implement hardware-based solutions for handling network load balance, Facebook’s scale of operation far outweighed the practicality of hardware load balancing, instead requiring the development of a lightweight software solution. The current result of Facebook’s efforts is its latest open-source release, scalable network load balancer Katran.

  • How Far Is Far Enough?

    Now, a new project from the Memento team holds out the promise of similar optimizations for more generic Web sites. The concept for Memento Tracer is to crowd-source a database of webrecorder.io-like crawls of complex Web sites in a form that can be analyzed to generate abstract templates similar to the platform templates on which LOCKSS plugins are mostly based. [...]

  • Finance
    • American Express Integrates Blockchain To Its Membership Rewards Program

      Financial services corporation American Express (AmEx) has announced a blockchain application to its Membership Rewards program in partnership with online merchant Boxed, Associated Press reported May 23.

      AmEx announced that it is integrating blockchain technology developed by Hyperledger, an open source blockchain project under the Linux Foundation, to let merchants design customized offers for AmEx cardholders in order to increase customer engagement.

    • Interview: Riccardo Spagni co-founder of a new open source blockchain

      South African cryptocurrency expert and lead maintainer of the Monero project Riccardo “fluffypony” Spagni has co-founded a new open source blockchain protocol named Tari.

      Tari is being built as a blockchain protocol for managing, transferring, and using digital assets, and is stewarded by a team based in Johannesburg.

      The Johannesburg-based team will work on building a blockchain protocol as a second-layer solution on top of Monero, leveraging the existing cryptocurrency’s security while offering a scalable and dynamic platform for digital assets.

    • CheapAir Ditches BitPay For Open-Source Bitcoin Payments

      Travel and accommodation website CheapAir.com has appeared to choose self-hosted payment processor BTCPay for its Bitcoin payments, shunning industry stalwart BitPay.

      [...]

      Coinbase revealed it was retiring its merchant processing function in April, a move which the cryptocurrency industry condemned for its disruptive consequences.

      BitPay, a processor which along with Coinbase continues to be arguably the best-known option for Bitcoin payments, appeared to miss out on wooing CheapAir, meanwhile, which has offered Bitcoin since 2014 and was the first ever travel agency world-wide to accept bitcoin.

    • Ontology (ONT) Develops its Open-source Triones Consensus System economic model

      The Ontology (ONT) team uses the blockchain technology and the Internet to explore in-depth levels of the information industry. The team’s plans include developing an open-source distributed trust ecosystem called Triones Consensus System that’s based on the Ontology chain network.

  • Web Browsers
    • Mozilla
      • Testing GNU FreeDink in your browser

        This is a first version that can be polished further but it works quite well.
        This is the original C/C++/SDL2 code with a few tweaks, cross-compiled to WebAssembly (and an alternate version in asm.js) with emscripten.
        Nothing brand new I know, but things are getting smoother, and WebAssembly is definitely a performance boost.

        I like distributed and autonomous tools, so I’m generally not inclined to web-based solutions.
        In this case however, this is a local version of the game. There’s no server side. Savegames are in your browser local storage. Even importing D-Mods (game add-ons) is performed purely locally in the in-memory virtual FS with a custom .tar.bz2 extractor cross-compiled to WebAssembly.

      • Welcome Punam to the Test pilot team!

        A couple months ago Punam transferred from another team at Mozilla to join the Test Pilot team. Below she answers some questions about her experience and what she’s looking forward to. Welcome, Punam!

        [...]

        Before Mozilla I have worked with SonicWall, eBay and Symantec doing web development.

      • This week in Mixed Reality: Issue 7

        Missed us last week? Our team met in Chicago for a work week. If you had the chance to come and meet us at the CHIVR / AR Chicago meetup, thanks for swinging by. We strategized our short and long term plans and we’re really excited to share what we’re unfolding in the coming weeks.

      • Why bootstrap?

        Over the next few quarters, I’m going to focus my attention on Mozilla’s experimentation platform. One of the first questions we need to answer is how we’re going to calculate and report the necessary measures of variance. Any experimentation platform needs to be able to compare metrics between two groups.

        For example, say we’re looking at retention for a control and experiment group. Control shows a retention of 88.45% and experiment shows a retention of 90.11%. Did the experimental treatment cause a real increase in retention or did the experiment branch just get lucky when we assigned users? We need to calculate some measure of variance to be able to decide.

        The two most common methods to do this calculation are the frequentist’s two-sample t-test or some form of the bootstrap.

        In ye olden days, we’d be forced to use the two-sample t-test. The bootstrap requires a lot of compute power that just wasn’t available until recently. As you can imagine, the bootstrap is all the rage in the Data Science world. Of course it is. We get to replace statistics with raw compute power! That’s the dream!

  • SaaS/Back End
    • OpenStack at a Crossroads

      The OpenStack of a few years ago is dead, however. What has emerged from the hype cycle is a materially different foundation, mission and software stack, with a great deal of change still ahead of it.

    • The OpenStack Foundation grows beyond OpenStack

      The OpenStack Foundation has made a considerable change to its development process and governance structure by introducing two open source projects that are not part of the OpenStack cloud platform.

      This week, the organization launched version 1.0 of Kata Containers – a runtime system with an emphasis on speed and security, enabling users to boot a VM in as little as five seconds – and introduced a brand new project called Zuul, spinning out the software development and integration platform that has been used by the OpenStack community internally since 2012.

  • Databases
    • Oracle nemesis MariaDB tries to lure enterprise folk with TX 3.0

      Open-source database biz MariaDB has upped the ante in its war against Oracle, promising enterprise customers better compatibility with – and easier migration from – Big Red.

      The Finnish firm’s latest offering, MariaDB TX 3.0, released for GA today, extends the number of use cases to include temporal processing and advanced data protection for sensitive and personally identifiable information, as well as Oracle compatibility.

      The broad aim is to tap into customers’ grumbles over legacy vendor lock-in, while convincing the bigger customers that they can move to an open-source database without compromising performance.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)
  • Funding
    • Open source networking startup Lumina Networks raises $10 million Series A round from Verizon Ventures

      Open source networking company, Lumina Networks, announced it has raised $10 million Series A funding. The current financing round is led by Verizon Ventures with participation from new investors including AT&T and Rahi Systems. The company plans to use the funding to support the development of new products and innovative solutions using the Lumina SDN Controller powered by OpenDaylight™ and for expansion of business in Europe and Japan.

  • BSD
    • FreeBSD 11.2 Beta 3 Brings LLVM Updates, Various Fixes

      For those of you with some extra time over this US holiday weekend due to Memorial Day, FreeBSD 11.2 Beta 3 is now available for testing.

      This third weekly beta release of FreeBSD 11.2 comes with various updates to the LLVM compiler stack, support for setting service types for outgoing RDMA connections via the KRPING utility, fixing a SPARC64 boot issue, and a variety of other bug fixes.

    • FreeBSD 11.2-BETA3 Now Available
  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC
    • Success for net neutrality, success for free software

      We’ve had great success with the United States Senate voting in support of net neutrality! Congratulations and thank you to everyone in the US for contacting your congresspeople, and all of you who helped spread the word.

      However, it’s not over yet. Here are more actions you can take if you’re in the United States.

      Now that the (CRA) has passed the Senate, it moves to the House of Representatives. Just as we asked you to call your senators, now it’s time to call your House representatives. Find their contact info here and use the script below to ask them to support the reinstatement of net neutrality protections.

      The timing hasn’t been set for future votes and hearings yet, but that’s no reason to wait: make sure your representatives know how you feel.

    • GNU Spotlight with Mike Gerwitz: 18 new GNU releases!

      artanis-1.2.5
      emms-5.0
      fontopia-1.8.4
      freeipmi-1.6.2
      gama-2.00
      gcc-8.1.0
      gnudos-1.11.4
      gnupg-2.2.7
      gnurl-7.60.0
      guile-cv-0.1.9
      libidn2-2.0.5
      librejs-7.14.1
      linux-libre-4.16.11-gnu
      mcsim-6.0.1
      nano-2.9.7
      octave-4.4.0
      parallel-20180522
      wget-1.19.5

    • Customize GuixSD: Use Stock SSH Agent Everywhere!

      On GuixSD, I like to use the GNOME desktop environment. GNOME is just one of the various desktop environments that GuixSD supports. By default, the GNOME desktop environment on GuixSD comes with a lot of goodies, including the GNOME Keyring, which is GNOME’s integrated solution for securely storing secrets, passwords, keys, and certificates.

      The GNOME Keyring has many useful features. One of those is its SSH Agent feature. This feature allows you to use the GNOME Keyring as an SSH agent. This means that when you invoke a command like ssh-add, it will add the private key identities to the GNOME Keyring. Usually this is quite convenient, since it means that GNOME users basically get an SSH agent for free!

  • Licensing/Legal
    • Open-Source Licensing: Mitigate Your Risk

      Large software companies actively police their rights with license audits and true-up demands. Non-compliance is frequently found, and getting caught flat-footed on a software audit can be a million-dollar-plus problem. Even seemingly unrelated events, like moving to a cloud-based solution, can have a cascade effect on existing software licenses, and not proactively recognizing that creates unnecessary risk. Similarly, the free open-source software tools and applications used to efficiently create new products may need to be re-licensed on paid commercial terms when transitioning to a distribution or SaaS deployment phase.

    • Why should we care about cutting and pasting open source code?

      It’s common for developers to want to give credit where credit is due. The problem with how this is commonly done is that often the original copyright and licence aren’t brought along with the snippet, and the developer may give credit in a flippant way using language such as “code stolen from xyz” or “shamelessly lifted from the Foo project”. While this language is taken badly by the legal team, it’s often a sign of the developer trying to carve out attribution for this copied code. It’s important to provide clear guidance on how to properly bring in code snippets for licensing and security review purposes. Preserving or adding the proper copyright and license information is important to remain in compliance. It’s also invaluable for future readers of the source code to understand who wrote what.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration
    • Tesla’s GPL compliance, a new open source AI from Tencent, and more
    • Open Hardware/Modding
      • An Ultrasound Driver With Open Source FPGAs

        Ultrasound imaging has been around for decades, but Open Source ultrasound has not. While there are a ton of projects out there attempting to create open ultrasound devices, most of this is concentrated on the image-processing side of things, and not the exceptionally difficult problem of pinging a sensor at millions of times a second, listening for the echo, and running that through a very high speed ADC.

        For his entry into the Hackaday Prize, [kelu124] is doing just that. He’s building an ultrasound board that’s built around Open Hardware, a fancy Open Source FPGA, and a lot of very difficult signal processing. It also uses some Rick and Morty references, so you know this is going to be popular with the Internet peanut gallery.

        The design of the ultrasound system is based around an iCE40 FPGA, the only FPGA with an Open Source toolchain. Along with this, there are a ton of ADCs, a DAC, pulsers, and a high voltage section to drive the off-the-shelf ultrasound head. If you’re wondering how this ultrasound board interfaces with the outside world, there’s a header for a Raspberry Pi on there, too, so this project has the requisite amount of blog cred.

  • Programming/Development
    • 11 Best Programming Fonts

      There are many posts and sites comparing fonts for programming and they are all amazing articles. So why I repeated the same subject here? Since I always found myself lost in dozens of fonts and could not finger out which one was best for me. So today I tried many fonts and picked up the following fonts for you. These fonts are pretty popular and easy to get. And most importantly, all these fonts are FREE!

    • New open-source web apps available for students and faculty

      Jupyter is an open source web environment for writing code and visualizing data. Over the past few years, it has become increasingly popular across a wide range of academic disciplines.

      [...]

      JupyterHub is a variation of the Jupyter project, which adds support for user account management and enterprise authentication. The TLT instance allows students and faculty to log in with their credentials for full access to their own Jupyter environment and provides direct access to their Penn State Access Account Storage Space (PASS). Using PASS for storage provided a large persistent storage space that students and faculty were already familiar with and was easily accessible from the local lab systems or their personal devices.

Leftovers
  • 5 questions for… the Mellel word processor
  • Yelp’s Newest Campaign: Asking Google To Do The Right Thing

    Back in 2014, we wrote about a campaign by Yelp which it called “Focus on the User,” in which it made a very compelling argument that Google was treating Yelp (and TripAdvisor) content unfairly. Without going into all of the details, Yelp’s main complaint was that while Google uses its famed relevance algorithm to determine which content to point you to in its main search results, when it came to the top “One Box” on Google’s site, it only used Google’s own content. Four years ago, the Focus on the User site presented compelling evidence that users of Google actually had a better overall experience if the answers for things like local content (such as retailer/restaurant reviews) in the One Box were ranked according to Google’s algorithm, rather than just using Google’s own “Local” content (or whatever they call it these days).

    [...]

    That said, while Yelp has shifted the focus of that particular site, it certainly has not not given up on asking the government to punish Google. Just as it was relaunching the site, it was also filing a new antitrust complaint in the EU and again, I’m still concerned about this approach. It’s one thing to argue that Google should handle aspects of how its website works in a better way. It’s another to have the government force the company to do it that way. The latter approach creates all sorts of potential consequences — intended or unintended — that could have far reaching reverberations on the internet, perhaps even the kind that would boomerang around and hurt Yelp as well.

    Yelp makes a strong argument for why Google’s approach to the One Box is bad and not the best overall results for its users. I’m glad that it’s repurposed its site to appeal to Google employees, and am disappointed that Google hasn’t made this entire issue go away by actually revamping how the One Box works. But calling on the government to step in and determine how Google should design its site is still a worrisome approach.

  • Science
    • A New History of Arabia, Written in Stone

      [...]

      Not all of them will be pleased by the way that new research rewrites old understandings. In traditional historiography and common lore, southern Arabia is believed to be the primeval homeland of the Arabs and the source of the purest Arabic. In this telling, Arabic was born deep in the peninsula and spread with the Islamic conquests; as it made contact with other languages, it gradually devolved into the many Arabic dialects spoken today. Classical Arabic remains the preëminent symbol of a unified Arab culture, and the ultimate marker of eloquence and learning. To Al-Jallad, the Safaitic inscriptions indicate that various ancient forms of Arabic were present many centuries before the rise of classical Arabic, in places such as Syria and Jordan. He argues that the language may have originated there and then migrated south—suggesting that the “corrupt” forms of Arabic spoken around the region may, in fact, have lineages older than classical Arabic. Macdonald told me, “His theory will inevitably meet a lot of opposition, mainly for non-academic reasons. But it’s becoming more and more convincing.”

    • Arizona Moves to Alter Wording About Evolution in Education

      Proposed changes to the state’s school science standards would emphasize that parts of the theory are “not proven.”

  • Health/Nutrition
    • Ingredients For WHO Roadmap On Access To Medicines At Civil Society Side Event

      On the side of this week’s World Health Assembly and hours before the Assembly agreed on preparing a roadmap on access to medicines, two civil society groups held an event on the same subject. The Brazilian ambassador, a senior official from the Netherlands, and a WHO assistant director general among others delivered their thoughts on the issue and the way forward. Key words were high prices, transparency, and trade flexibilities.

    • WHA Agrees On Recommendations To Reinvigorate Plan Of Action To Boost R&D, Access

      Ten years after the adoption of a World Health Organization plan of action meant to stimulate innovation for diseases that disproportionately affect developing countries, and with very little to show for it since, delegates at the World Health Assembly this week agreed to a number of recommendations to reinvigorate the effort. How to finance the implementation of those recommendations, however, is unclear.

    • Stay of injunction in public interest: Edwards Lifesciences v Boston

      In recent years, there have been several examples of patentees in the UK Courts opting not to enforce an injunction where the infringing product constitutes a potentially life-saving treatment.

      [...]

      Back in 2015, Edwards Lifesciences issued a revocation action for Boston’s EP (UK) 2 249 254 patent (the ’254). Boston counterclaimed for infringement of the ’254, and EP(UK) 2 926 766 patents, through dealings in a transcatheter heart valve (THV) called the Sapien 3 which had been launched by Edwards in Jan 2014.
      Expert and factual evidence showed that there are currently 7 THVs approved for use in the UK, and that the Sapien 3 represents about 60% of the market. For certain patient groups, the Sapien 3 is the only treatment option.

      The ’254 was found invalid in the High Court [2017] EWHC 755 (Pat), but the ’766 was held to be valid and infringed. Boston sought an injunction in the usual way, and Edwards resisted the grant of an injunction on the ground that there was a public interest in patients continuing to receive the Sapien 3.

      The Court at first instance granted an unqualified injunction but stayed the injunction pending appeal (for which permission was granted on both sides). An order was also made for the provision of disclosure to assist Boston in making its election regarding an account of profits or a damages enquiry. On 10 May 2018, Boston elected for an account of profits, and those issues are likely to be heard in June to July 2019.

    • WHA Agrees On Drafting Of Roadmap For Access To Medicines And Vaccines; US Blasts Compulsory Licences

      The World Health Assembly yesterday agreed on a roadmap to be designed by the World Health Organization in consultation with member states to facilitate access to medicines and vaccines, including actions and activities for the period 2019-2023. If everyone agrees access to medicines and vaccines is indispensable for universal health coverage, views are still divided when it comes to intellectual property rights. The ranks of strong proponents of IP resulting in high prices are however thinning. The United States remains unshakeable, criticising compulsory licences used by countries to ensure affordable medicines are available.

    • AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Inc. v. Gilead Sciences, Inc. (Fed. Cir. 2018)

      The District Court dismissed AFH’s declaratory judgment complaint on these grounds, that “encouraging others to produce generic TAF products in the future, and Healthcare’s interest in purchasing such products,” did not satisfy the “case or controversy” requirements for declaratory judgment relief. This appealed followed.

      The Federal Circuit affirmed, in a precedential opinion by Judge Newman joined by Judges Dyk and Stoll. The opinion notes at the outset the jurisdictional implications of AHF’s complaint, and that a court is without authority to render a judgment unless the jurisdictional requirements are satisfied (which is complainant’s burden to carry). The facts comprising this burden are that there is “injury-in-fact, [a] connection between the challenged conduct and the injury, and redressability by the requested remedy,” citing Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env’t, 523 U.S. 83, 103–04 (1998). The mere existence of a patent is not enough, without more, to establish these grounds.

      [...]

      The entirety of the Federal Circuit’s opinion reinforces the focus since MedImmune on the totality of the circumstances (rather than some bright line formula) as the proper measure of whether a declaratory judgment plaintiff has alleged sufficiently for a court to find declaratory judgment jurisdiction has been established. Using this approach, while lacking the consistency of a bright line rule appears robust enough to prevent expansion of declaratory judgment jurisdiction into the realm of permitting public or patient interest groups interested in promoting their agendas onto the patent and regulatory frameworks for innovator and generic drugs, regardless of any purported societal benefits these groups may assert in support of their efforts.

  • Security
    • « The Microsoft Cyber Attack » : a German Documentary from the ARD on Relations Between Microsoft and Public Administration Now Available in English

      On February 19th, 2018, the German public broadcaster (ARD) aired a documentary on Microsoft relations with public administrations. Part of the inquiry is about the Open Bar agreement between Microsoft and the French ministry of Defense, including interviews of French Senator Joëlle Garriaud-Maylam, Leïla Miñano, a journalist, and Étienne Gonnu of April.

      The documentary is now available in English thanks to Deutsche Welle (DW), the German public international broadcaster, on its Youtube channel dedicated to documentaries : The Microsoft Cyber Attack. It should be noted that April considers itself as a Free software advocate, rather than open source, as the voice-over suggests.

    • Compliance is Not Synonymous With Security

      While the upcoming GDPR compliance deadline will mark an unprecedented milestone in security, it should also serve as a crucial reminder that compliance does not equal security. Along with the clear benefits to be gained from upholding the standards enforced by GDPR, PCI DSS, HIPAA, and other regulatory bodies often comes a shift toward a more compliance-centric security approach. But regardless of industry or regulatory body, achieving and maintaining compliance should never be the end goal of any security program. Here’s why:

    • Dialing up security for Docker containers

      Docker containers are a convenient way to run almost any service, but admins need to be aware of the need to address some important security issues.

      Container systems like Docker are a powerful tool for system administrators, but Docker poses some security issues you won’t face with a conventional virtual machine (VM) environment. For example, containers have direct access to directories such as /proc, /dev, or /sys, which increases the risk of intrusion. This article offers some tips on how you can enhance the security of your Docker environment.

    • VPNFilter UNIX Trojan – How to Remove It and Protect Your Network

      This article has been created to explain what exactly is the VPNFilter malware and how to secure your network against this massive infection by protecting your router as well as protecting your computers.

      A new malware, going by the name of VPNFilter has reportedly infected over 500 thousand router devices across most widely used brands such as Linksys, MikroTik, NETGEAR as well as TP-Link, mostly used in homes and offices. The cyber-sec researchers at Cisco Talos have reported that the threat is real and it is live, even thought the infected devices are under investigation at the moment. The malware reportedly has something to do with the BlackEnergy malware, which targeted multiple devices in Ukraine and Industrial Control Systems in the U.S.. If you want to learn more about the VPNFilter malware and learn how you can remove it from your network plus protect your network, we advise that you read this article.

    • FBI: Reboot Your Router Now To Fight Malware That Affected 500,000 Routers
    • FBI says Russians hacked [sic] hundreds of thousands of home and office routers

      The warning followed a court order Wednesday that allowed the FBI to seize a website that the hackers [sic] planned to use to give instructions to the routers. Though that cut off malicious communications, it still left the routers infected, and Friday’s warning was aimed at cleaning up those machines.

    • FBI tells router users to reboot now to kill malware infecting 500k devices

      Researchers from Cisco’s Talos security team first disclosed the existence of the malware on Wednesday. The detailed report said the malware infected more than 500,000 devices made by Linksys, Mikrotik, Netgear, QNAP, and TP-Link. Known as VPNFilter, the malware allowed attackers to collect communications, launch attacks on others, and permanently destroy the devices with a single command. The report said the malware was developed by hackers [sic] working for an advanced nation, possibly Russia, and advised users of affected router models to perform a factory reset, or at a minimum to reboot.

  • Defence/Aggression
    • Thoughts on the Saudi-Israeli Connection

      Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during his grand tour of the United States last month publicly declared in an interview with the Atlantic magazine that the Israelis “have a right to live in their own land just like the Palestinians.” It is a problematic assumption, given that the Israelis’ “own land” is the land they took away from the Palestinians. This, and much else, has been either forgotten or ignored by the Saudi crown prince.

      Seventy-three years ago Saudi Arabia’s first king, Abdulaziz Ibn Saud, expressed a very different position in a series of letters to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. For instance in a letter of November 1938 Ibn Saud had wrote “The [European] Jews have no right to Palestine and their claim is an act of injustice unprecedented in the history of the human race.” Sadly, there was in fact plenty of precedent when it came to colonial injustice, but Ibn Saud’s declaration certainly demonstrated the King’s depth of feeling. Other letters followed, predicting that Palestine was bound to become a “hotbed of disturbances and troubles” if the Zionists got their way.

      [...]

      Now Crown Prince bin Salman shows us that a lot has changed in the intervening years. Zionist Israel has become an established “fact on the ground” and thus settler colonialism is well rooted in Palestine. Saudi Arabia has, perhaps begrudgingly, accepted this change – and it is not hard to see why.

      The Saudis have built their security around an alliance with Israel’s major backer, the United States. One price paid for that alliance has been a de facto acceptance of Israel’s existence. Thus, Saudi dislike of Israel has been largely rhetorical. However, it would seem that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has finally abandoned even that facade as well as abandoning the Palestinians. That is why during the prince’s recent trip to the U. S., he was found publicly rubbing shoulders with AIPAC.

    • Russian Military Supplied Missile That Shot Down Malaysian Jet, Prosecutors Say

      The missile belonged to an active duty unit in the Russian military, the 53rd Antiaircraft Brigade based in the city of Kursk, the prosecutors said. It was trucked from Russia to eastern Ukraine in July 2014, at a time when Russian-backed rebels were taking losses from Ukrainian airstrikes and artillery guided by airborne spotters.

    • South Korean President Moons Bolton

      Korea pretty much tell the story. South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in drove into the North Korean side of the demilitarized zone (DMZ), and Seoul quickly released a one-minute video of what, by all appearances, was an extremely warm encounter with Kim Jung-un. It amounted to a smiling, thumbing of two noses at Bolton and the rest of the “crazies” who follow his advice, such as Vice President Mike Pence who echoed Bolton’s insane evocation of the “Libya model” for North Korea, which caused Pyongyang to go ballistic. Their angry response was the reason Trump cited for cancelling the June 12 summit with Kim.

      But Trump almost immediately afterward began to waffle. At their meeting on Friday the two Korean leaders made it clear their main purpose was to make “the successful holding of the North Korea-U.S. Summit” happen. Moon is expected to announce the outcome of his talks with Kim Sunday morning (Korean time).

    • The Hit and Miss Record of U.S. Targeted Killing Programs

      The rationale behind the most controversial tactic in America’s global war on terrorism—targeted killing of “high value” individuals—goes back far in history, all the way to the Talmud: “If someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first.”

      Targeted killing has yet to be formally defined in international law, but the UN Security Council has proffered a sound definition: “The intentional, premeditated, and deliberate use of lethal force, by states or their agents acting under color of law, or by an organized armed group in armed conflict, against a specific individual who is not in the physical custody of the perpetrator.”

      Only since the early 2000s has targeted killing (TK) emerged from the shadows of the “covert action” world to become a major policy issue for governments, human rights watch groups, international lawyers, and of course, the press. The first prominent TK operation in American history took place in 1943, when American fighter pilots took off from Guadalcanal with the express intention of shooting down an aircraft they knew to be transporting Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the architect of the Pearl Harbor attack. The mission was successful.

      [...]

      In July 2016 the Obama administration released an executive order outlining policies to minimize civilian casualties in such strikes, as well as figures for drone strikes outside of the active war zones, i.e., in Somalia, Libya, Yemen, and the tribal region of Pakistan. Between 2009 and mid-2016, 273 strikes had killed between 2,272 and 2,581 combatants and between 64 and 116 civilians. The civilian casualty figures were greeted with widespread skepticism by human rights groups and the press.

      [...]

      Even granting this distinction, many human rights groups and international law authorities see targeted killings as uncomfortably close to assassination, and they question the legality—and moral legitimacy—of the process by which the United States selects its targets. The lack of independent judicial oversight of a process managed exclusively by the executive branch, the DOD, and the CIA is a big problem for many critics. So is the lack of transparency about the process.

    • Bipartisan opposition nearly kills bill to allow police drone surveillance in Illinois
    • Cuban Exile & CIA Agent Luis Posada Carriles Dies a Free Man in U.S. Despite Years of Terrorism

      Former CIA operative and Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles died Wednesday just outside of Miami. He was 90 years old. Posada Carriles is best known as the suspected mastermind of the 1976 bombing of a Cubana airline jet. For decades, the U.S. refused to extradite Posada Carriles to face terrorism charges, despite demands by Cuba and Venezuela. Posada Carriles later publicly admitted ties to a series of hotel bombings in Cuba in 1997. In 2000, he was arrested in Panama City for plotting to blow up an auditorium where Fidel Castro would be speaking. Despite his record, Luis Posada Carriles died a free man in Florida. We get reaction from José Pertierra, a Cuban attorney based in Washington, D.C. He represented the Venezuelan government in its efforts to extradite Luis Posada Carriles, and also represented Elián González in 2000-2001.

    • Yemeni reprisal attacks: Drones target Saudi airport’ in Asir, flights canceled

      The Yemeni army says its military drones have bombarded a Saudi airport in the kingdom’s southwestern province of Asir for the second time in more than a month, forcing the authorities to suspend all flights to and from the regional airport.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting
  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature
    • Major Islamic financier singled out for deforestation in Indonesia

      In a recent report by climate coalition Chain Reaction Research, Lembaga Tabung Haji, whose publicly traded palm oil firm TH Plantations controls 32 estates in Indonesia and Malaysia spanning 1,600 square kilometers (620 square miles), was accused of actively clearing forest and peatland.

    • Greenpeace blasts palm oil industry deforestation in West Papua

      Satellite analysis suggests that around 4000ha of rainforest were cleared in PT Megakarya Jaya Raya concession between May 2015 and April 2017 – an area almost half the size of Paris.

    • This company promised to stop deforestation. But we caught them out.

      Here’s what we found: almost 8,000 ha of forest and peatland has been cleared in two concessions linked to APP and its parent company the Sinar Mas Group since 2013. We put these allegations to APP and Sinar Mas, but the group failed to provide a credible response or to take meaningful action.

    • NPS Report—Gasp!—Acknowledges Climate Change
    • After attempts at censorship, National Park Service finally releases climate change report

      Confederate cannon balls plunged into the brick walls of Fort Sumter at the outset of the Civil War, forcing Union troops to surrender. A century and a half later, surging storm waters are now the modern threat to the South Carolina national monument. Storm-swollen seas can flood the coastal garrison, at times forcing the National Park Service to shut it down.

      More than 100 National Park Service sites are located either on or near the coast. With global sea levels rising at an accelerating pace, spurred on by human-caused climate change, it’s more important than ever that the service understands how storm surges and rising seas will impact historical sites like Sumter.

      The conservation agency, however, lacked useful projections showing how these factors could inundate vulnerable lands, both in the near and distant future. So, when a visiting climate scientist, Maria Caffrey, proposed such a project, the Park Service accepted, and in 2013 the research began.

    • Uniti Electric Car Pre-Orders Reach $60 Million

      Uniti, the Swedish startup that is planning to build an all new electric car, claims pre-orders for the car have now reached $60 million. To all those auto industry executives out there who whine about people not wanting to buy EVs, Uniti is the wakeup call you have been dreading. People absolutely do want to buy electric cars, and if you don’t provide them with the vehicles they want, someone else will.

  • Finance
    • The trouble with charitable billionaires

      Meanwhile, inequality is growing, and both corporations and the wealthy find ways to avoid the taxes that the rest of us pay. In the name of generosity, we find a new form of corporate rule, refashioning another dimension of human endeavour in its own interests. Such is a society where CEOs are no longer content to do business; they must control public goods as well. In the end, while the Giving Pledge’s website may feature more and more smiling faces of smug-looking CEOs, the real story is of a world characterised by gross inequality that is getting worse year by year.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics
    • Musk, Media Stunts and Attention Economies That Don’t Give A Crap About The Egos Of Multi-Billionaires.

      Don’t get me wrong, I have no great love for the world’s crappy media ecosystems, which are almost unwaveringly — with a few notable exceptions — a shit-show, riddled with corruption, white old men in charge of editorial or ownership, vested interests, sneering hatred, malice, fakery, hot-takes, poor vetting, manipulation and click-bait egging on the next worst thing and the next and the next. And sure, from time to time, some over-worked under-paid journo pulls their finger out and publishes some real investigative journalism, but we’re seeing less and less of it these days. And most of the time, it’s behind paywalls.

      So what’s the point of Musk’s new venture into rating journalism anyway?

    • How You Help Trump

      Think about it: every time Trump issues a mean tweet or utters a shocking statement, millions of people begin to obsess over his words. Reporters make it the top headline. Cable TV panels talk about it for hours. Horrified Democrats and progressives share the stories online, making sure to repeat the nastiest statements in order to refute them. While this response is understandable, it works in favor of Trump.

    • Mueller probing Roger Stone’s finances: report

      Special counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly investigating Roger Stone’s finances as part of the probe into alleged collusion between Trump campaign associates and Russia.

      CNN reported Thursday that investigators have asked associates of Stone, an informal adviser to Trump’s 2016 campaign, about his finances, including Stone’s tax returns.

      Stone told CNN that investigators were apparently “combing through” his personal life, including business affairs, but claimed it was because they lacked evidence of collusion.

    • Senate panel advances Trump nominee who wouldn’t say if Brown v. Board of Education was decided correctly

      The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved a judicial nominee who faced criticism for declining to say whether the Supreme Court correctly decided a landmark case that outlaw

  • Censorship/Free Speech
    • EU censorship machines and link tax laws are nearing the finish line

      This week, people across the world are learning what they need to do to comply with the EU General Data Protection Regulation, which will become applicable on Friday – and many are finding themselves wishing they had involved themselves in the debate when the law was decided more than two years ago. A wide public debate about its finer points is happening when it’s too late to make changes or ask for clarifications – a lost opportunity even for a law that I support.

      On the topic of copyright, you NOW have the chance to have an influence – a chance that will be long lost in two years, when we’ll all be “suddenly” faced with the challenge of having to implement upload filters and the “link tax” – or running into new limits on what we can do using the web services we rely on.

    • Georgian creative work ‘censorship bill’ comes under fire

      Georgia’s par­lia­ment is to discuss a con­tro­ver­sial bill which critics say will enable cen­sor­ship. The bill, initiated by MPs from the ruling Georgian Dream party, would allow the courts to ban the dis­tri­b­u­tion of creative works if they ‘violate others’ rights’. A number of local rights groups and the Public Defender have warned that law is too broad.

      The bill’s authors, Eka Beselia and Levan Gogichaishvili from parliament’s Legal Issues Committee said that the need for the leg­isla­tive amend­ments stems from the con­sti­tu­tion­al changes adopted earlier in the spring.

      An earlier version of the con­sti­tu­tion stated that pro­hibit­ing the dis­tri­b­u­tion of creative works was unlawful unless they ‘violated others’ rights’ but did not specify who could enforce this. The new amend­ments specified that such a ban could only be issued by the courts, which was widely seen as a positive change.

      [...]

      On 24 May, the Public Defender’s Office issued a statement describ­ing the bill as ‘incom­pat­i­ble with the Georgian con­sti­tu­tion’ and ‘restric­tive of creative freedom’

    • Journalists say police union attacks are having chilling effect on press freedom

      This statement was originally published on globalvoices.org on 23 May 2018. It is republished here under Creative Commons license CC-BY 3.0.

      In Tunisia, police are obligated to protect journalists not only because they are citizens, but also because attacks against journalists are a crime punishable by jail time. But when coverage has questioned the conduct of security institutions, law enforcement officials and their powerful unions have too often ignored duty and issued direct threats against media workers – both online and off.

      These attacks have largely gone unpunished. To further complicate the situation, a controversial draft law promoted by the interior ministry and the police unions would create a new layer of protection for security forces, shielding them from criticism and accountability mechanisms.

      “Some of these unions represent a serious threat to the rule of law, as they aim to establish a police supremacy over other citizens: full powers, complete freedom and total impunity,” journalist and radio commentator Haythem El Mekki told Global Voices in an email interview.

    • Twitter is treating Bulgarians tweeting in Cyrillic like Russian bots

      A week ago, Twitter announced it would become more aggressive in pursuing trolls on its service, a move which seems to have had some unforeseen consequences, judging by the present upheaval in the Bulgarian Twitter community. An increasingly large and unhappy number of people have had their Twitter accounts suspended and messages filtered out of conversations, apparently for the offense of merely tweeting in Cyrillic.

      Though the trigger for an account to be suspended hasn’t been specifically established, the prevailing hypothesis — based on users’ experience — appears to be that mentioning @YouTube or any other major account in Cyrillic will get one in trouble. Perversely, even if the initial tweeter isn’t affected, the chances of being suspended for anyone replying to such a tweet in Cyrillic are even higher. This problem has afflicted people with accounts dating all the way back to 2009, some of which have multiple thousands of followers. While I’ve been able to verify the experience primarily of Bulgarian users, this blight on Cyrillic Twitter use definitely appears to extend beyond just that community.

    • Spotify To Restore XXXTentacion Onto Playlists After Kendrick Lamar Threatened To Pull Music Amid Censorship
    • Spotify Plans to Change XXXTentacion Policy After Outcry
    • Artists Strike Back At Spotify After Its Censorship Policy & The Streaming Service Is Backing Down
    • Kendrick Lamar Apparently Threatened To Pull Music From Spotify Following Censorship
    • Donald Trump Jr. Alleges Instagram’s Complicity in Conservative Censorship
    • ‘Are you fricken kidding me?’: Don Jr cries censorship on Instagram after his new follower numbers collapse
    • Donald Trump Jr. Calls Out Masters of the Universe, Claims Instagram Censorship
    • GOP Chair Slams Facebook and Twitter for Censoring Conservatives, They’re the “Silicon Valley Thought Police”
    • GOP Officials Demand Facebook And Twitter Respond To Content Censorship Allegations
    • RNC chair was asked to prove Facebook censors conservatives. It didn’t go well.

      During a Friday interview on Fox News, RNC chair Ronna McDaniel was asked to provide evidence that Facebook is censoring conservative voices. She made her case by citing a hoax.

      “Just for the audience — state the evidence as to why you think there is bias on these platforms,” host Bill Hemmer asked McDaniel, who this week co-authored a letter to social media companies claiming that “rampant political bias” has resulted in conservatives being censored.

  • Privacy/Surveillance
    • Ad Blocker Ghostery Celebrates GDPR Day by Revealing Hundreds of User Email Addresses

      Ad-blocking tool Ghostery suffered from a pretty impressive, self-inflicted screwup Friday when the privacy-minded company accidentally CCed hundreds of its users in an email, revealing their addresses to all recipients.

      Fittingly, the inadvertent data exposure came in the form of an email updating Ghostery users about the company’s data collection policies. The ad blocker was sending out the message to affirm its commitment to user privacy as the European Union’s digital privacy law, known as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), goes into effect.

      The email arrived in inboxes with the subject line “Happy GDPR Day — We’ve got you covered!” In the body of the email, the company informed users, “We at Ghostery hold ourselves to a high standard when it comes to users’ privacy, and have implemented measures to reinforce security and ensure compliance with all aspects of this new legislation.”

      What Ghostery likely didn’t intend to do was immediately expose all of its users. CCed to the email were hundreds of other recipients, their emails all readily viewable to others receiving the message. Ghostery users took to social media to complain about the exposure.

    • The GDPR: Ghastly, Dumb, Paralyzing Regulation It’s Hard To Celebrate

      Happy GDPR day! At least if you can manage to be happy about a cumbersome, punitive, unprecedentedly extraterritorial legal regime that hijacks the resources of businesses everywhere without actually delivering privacy protection commensurate with the enormous toll attempts to comply with it extract. It’s a regulatory response due significant criticism, including for how it poorly advances the important policy goals purportedly prompting it.

      In terms of policy goals, there’s no quarrel that user privacy is important. And it’s not controversial to say that many providers of digital products and services to date may have been… let’s just say, insufficiently attentive to how those products and services handled user privacy. Data-handling is an important design consideration that should always be given serious attention. To the extent the GDPR encourages this sort of “privacy by design,” it is something to praise.

    • Did Michigan just block the NSA?

      Michigan has just passed a landmark law that prohibits passing residents’ personal information over to federal authorities without a warrant. The legislation has been interpreted as a protest against the National Security Agency and has effectively tried to ban NSA privacy invasions.

      [...]

      As of June, Michigan may only provide personal data to federal agencies if they can present a warrant based upon probable cause, unless there is a legally recognized exception, if the target has given informed consent, and if it does not infringe on any reasonable expectation of privacy the person may have.

      Howrylak said in a statement that, “This reform safeguards the fundamental rights of all Michigan residents, who are guaranteed protection of their property and privacy rights by the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.” He continued:

    • Amazon confirms that Echo device secretly shared user’s private audio [Updated]

      Amazon did not explain how so many spoken Alexa prompts could have gone unnoticed by the Echo owner in question. Second update: The company did confirm to Ars that the above explanation was sourced from device logs.

    • US news outlets shut out European users amid new privacy laws
    • U.S. News Outlets Block European Readers Over New Privacy Rules

      American news outlets including The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times and The Arizona Daily Star abruptly blocked access to their websites from Europe on Friday, choosing to black out readers rather than comply with a strict new data privacy law in the European Union that limits what information can be collected about people online.

    • GDPR finally comes into effect, applying fully to all businesses operating in EU

      GDPR replaces the 1995 EU Data Protection Directive, and it means all organisations operating in the EU have to abide by its new rules. Importantly, organisations outside the EU, like US-based companies that target consumers in the EU, monitor EU citizens or offer goods or services to EU consumers (even if for free), also have to comply.

    • Facebook and Google hit with $8.8 billion in lawsuits on day one of GDPR

      On the first day of GDPR enforcement, Facebook and Google have been hit with a raft of lawsuits accusing the companies of coercing users into sharing personal data. The lawsuits, which seek to fine Facebook 3.9 billion and Google 3.7 billion euro (roughly $8.8 billion in dollars), were filed by Austrian privacy activist Max Schrems, a longtime critic of the companies’ data collection practices.

    • Everything you need to know about GDPR

      The General Data Protection Regulation is a rule passed by the European Union in 2016, setting new rules for how companies manage and share personal data. In theory, the GDPR only applies to EU citizens’ data, but the global nature of the internet means that nearly every online service is affected, and the regulation has already resulted in significant changes for US users as companies scramble to adapt.

    • How to solve all your GDPR problems in one simple step

      To spare the blushes of its author I will say only that it was from an organisation offering reiki massage in a south London suburb. Despite the fact I have never had a reiki massage, never sought a reiki massage, and it is a suburb I have visited only twice in my entire life, once for a funeral and once to get drunk.

      I am pretty certain that on neither occasion did I hand my email address to anybody offering hands-on spiritual stress relief, not least because I think any activity described as “holistic” is total bollocks.

    • Former CIA analyst says New Zealand should be kicked out of Five Eyes alliance

      A United States Congress hearing has been told New Zealand politicians are receiving “major” donations from China, with one former CIA analyst suggesting we be kicked out of the Five Eyes alliance.

      Senator James Talent alleged at the hearing the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has “gotten very close to or inside the political core” of both New Zealand and Australia. He claimed he’s heard allegations of “Beijing-linked political donors buying access and influence with party politicians” to incentivise the country to “parrot its line on issues it deems important”.

      “It’s important for the United States to consider that China may be testing methods of interference to probe for weaknesses in democracies in order to use the same techniques against Western countries in the future.”

    • Amazon Alexa Instantaneously Justifies Years Of Surveillance Paranoia

      I’ll admit that I traditionally haven’t been as paranoid as many people in regards to the surveillance powers of digital assistants like Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home. Yes, putting an always-on microphone in your home likely provides a wonderful new target for intelligence agencies and intruders to spy on you. That said, it’s not like a universe of internet of broken things or smart TVs aren’t doing the same thing, before you even get to the problem with lax to nonexistent privacy standards governing the smartphone currently listening quietly in your pocket and tracking your every location.

      That said, nobody should ever labor under the false impression that good opsec involves leaving always on, internet-connected microphones sitting everywhere around your house.

    • Facebook suggests Europeans won’t be compensated for data fiasco

      This idea of royalty payouts for data use has floated around for a bit, given the billions that Facebook makes selling ads based on the data you provide via your profile and browsing history. When we asked a law school professor about how this type of payout would work, we were told, in so many words, it wouldn’t.

    • Pornhub has its own VPN now

      Pornhub is diversifying. The most popular site that no one you know will admit to frequenting, is launching its very own VPN service today, called, get this: VPNHub. The app, which is available on Android, iOS, MacOS and Windows, is primarily designed to offer “free and unlimited bandwidth,” according to its creators.

    • Pornhub made a VPN

      Pornhub’s parent, Mindgeek, does not have a great reputation for security. A 2012 breach of subsidiary sites YouPorn and Digital Playground exposed the details of more than 1.1 million users. In 2016, Brazzers’ forum was hacked, with 800,000 members being outed. In 2017, Pornhub unwittingly hosted a malvertising attack that was in operation for more than a year.

    • WhatsApp and Facebook are sharing user data after all and it’s legal

      In simple terms – although the companies can’t merge their databases, they can integrate products and if you choose to do that, information gets passed on. If it gets passed on, that data is bound by their security and privacy policies – and it’s not WhatsApp’s fault if they misuse it – after all – you’ve effectively given permission.

    • Instapaper is latest big name site to close (for now) over GDPR

      The company is shutting down EU access from today, but has pledged to return once it has had time to comply with the new arrangements. The news was broken last night by tech writer Owen Williams who tweeted:

    • Zuckerberg set up fraudulent scheme to ‘weaponise’ data, court case alleges

      A company suing Facebook in a California court claims the social network’s chief executive “weaponised” the ability to access data from any user’s network of friends – the feature at the heart of the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

      A legal motion filed last week in the superior court of San Mateo draws upon extensive confidential emails and messages between Facebook senior executives including Mark Zuckerberg. He is named individually in the case and, it is claimed, had personal oversight of the scheme.

    • PornHub launches VPN to keep users’ browsing activity safe from prying eyes

      The Pornhub owned-and-operated VPN launched on Thursday and is said to keep your browsing activity free from the prying eyes of snoopers by offering “free and unlimited bandwidth” on iOS, Android, Windows and Mac OS.

  • Civil Rights/Policing
    • Uber wants to test driverless cars in Pittsburgh again—the mayor is pissed

      Uber announced on Wednesday that it was permanently shutting down self-driving car testing in Arizona, laying off hundreds of workers in the state. The decision comes two months after an Uber self-driving car killed pedestrian Elaine Herzberg in Tempe. But the company insisted that it wasn’t shutting down its self-driving car program as a whole. In an internal email obtained by Ars Technica, Uber said that it had a “goal of resuming operations in Pittsburgh this summer.”

      Hours later, Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto released a press release blasting the plan.

    • Uber self-driving car ‘saw woman but didn’t brake before crash’
    • Uber’s Self-Driving Car Saw the Woman It Killed, Report Says

      The National Transportation Safety Board won’t determine the cause of the crash or issue safety recommendations to stop others from happening until it releases its final report, but this first look makes two things clear: Engineering a car that drives itself is very hard. And any self-driving car developer that is relying on a human operator to monitor its testing systems—to keep everyone on the road safe—should be extraordinarily careful about the design of that system.

    • Uber self-driving car ‘saw woman but didn’t brake before crash’

      An autonomous Uber car spotted a pedestrian about six seconds before fatally hitting her but did not stop because the system used to automatically apply brakes in potentially dangerous situations had been disabled, US federal investigators said.

    • Inside The “New” Starbucks: Blood-Spattered Walls, Workers Pricked By Needles And More

      According to foodservice research firm Tachomic Inc., bathroom cleanliness is among the top factors for consumers choosing whether or not to use a restaurant. In their most recent quarterly ranking of fast-food customers, Starbucks ranked 20th in terms of bathroom cleanliness. Let’s see how they rank next quarter.

    • Trump Nominates Anti-Immigrant Zealot to Run Department on Refugees

      Senators should question Mortensen about his extreme hostility towards immigrants before voting on his appointment.

      This week, President Trump announced that he has nominated Ronald Mortensen to be the assistant secretary of state for population, refugees, and migration, a move that further cements Trump’s extreme anti-immigrant agenda.

      Mortensen must be confirmed by the Senate to oversee the State Department’s bureau to protect refugees, victims of conflict, and some of the world’s most vulnerable populations.

      Yet Mortensen’s record directly undermines the bureau’s core mission. Senators should be alarmed by Mortensen’s fiercely xenophobic rhetoric and long history of undermining the rights of refugees and immigrants.

      He founded the Utah Coalition on Illegal Immigration and serves as a senior fellow for the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), which is notorious for peddling dubious research on the supposed harms caused by immigrants. The CIS has supported Trump’s attacks on refugees and said that the government should prioritize non-Muslim refugees. Trump adviser Stephen Miller even cited a discredited CIS study to defend the administration’s Muslim ban. One CIS official backed a plan resembling “modern-day slave labor” to make incarcerated people build Trump’s southern border wall.

    • The House Could Soon Give Jeff Sessions’ $50 Million to Wage the War on Drugs

      The continued congressional rubber-stamping of the Project Safe Neighborhoods program must stop, especially under Sessions.

      While the House was busy passing the divisive “empty gesture” known as the Protect and Serve Act during Police Week, the Senate took up a bill that Attorney General Jeff Sessions describes as “the centerpiece of our crime reduction strategy.” This bill, which the Senate unanimously passed and the House could take up in the next two weeks, authorizes the Project Safe Neighborhoods grant program. This program gives more federal dollars and resources for “a nationwide law enforcement program focused on the reduction of violent crime.”

      Project Safe Neighborhoods has been around since 2001, and in that time, about $2 billion has been spent encouraging federal-local partnerships around “reducing gun violence in the United States.” Some of those partnerships, like Boston’s Operation Ceasefire, have been characterized as holistic, using a law enforcement and social services approach to reduce violence. Others, like Richmond’s Project Exile, have been described as punitive and exclusively enforcement focused.

      In the almost two decades that PSN has been around, it has received little fanfare or question. PSN has been overwhelmingly supported by past administrations and congresses, but this continued rubber-stamping must end, especially with this attorney general, who is focused on making mass incarceration worse.

      “The war on crime and drugs did not fail. It was roaring success,” Sessions has said. So why is a Congress focused on bipartisan criminal justice reform fueling Session’s drug war?

    • Bipartisan opposition nearly kills bill to allow police drone surveillance in Illinois
    • James Clapper Just Lied Again About His Previous Lies About NSA Spying
    • Columnist’s justifications for CIA’s Haspel fall short
    • Ontario NDP candidate embroiled over blowing up ‘gun nuts’ comment

      Etobicoke Centre NDP candidate Erica Kelly, who posted that she would not be sad if “gun nuts” were blown up by a drone, has now apologized for the comment.

      “I know this is horrible to say… but I would not be sad to see these gun nuts threatening civil war have their asses blown to f–k with a drone,” Kelly said. “I mean, really, if only just to see their ‘tyranical government’ 2nd amendment argument blown to smithereens.”

    • Opinion: How America and Canada are diverging on the sad legacy of torture

      Canada recently apologized and gave $10 million to a Canadian tortured by Americans. Meanwhile, the United States just promoted someone who oversaw torture to the post of CIA director.

      The political contrast between the Canadian and American approaches is jarring. The differences owe a lot to stronger protections in Canadian law.

      In 2002, Gina Haspel ran a CIA black site in Thailand where at least one detainee was tortured with waterboarding, which is a way to make someone feel like they are drowning without killing them. In 2005, shortly after a Senate investigation into torture began, Haspel executed (and reportedly advocated for) an order to destroy recordings of the interrogations.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality
  • Intellectual Monopolies
    • Nike Sues Puma for Alleged Infringement of Footwear Patents

      On Thursday, May 3rd, Beaverton, OR-based sneaker and athletic apparel maker Nike Inc. (NYSE:NKE) filed a suit alleging claims of patent infringement against German footwear maker Puma (ETR:PUM) in the District of Massachusetts. In its complaint, Nike accuses Puma of infringing upon patents held by Nike which cover elements of Nike’s Flyknit, Air and cleat assembly technologies.

    • Copyrights
      • EU Governments Reach Negotiating Stance On Copyright Reform

        European Union member states today reportedly agreed on their negotiating position on the proposed copyright directive, and early reactions are unenthusiastic.

      • Fully-Loaded Kodi Box Sellers Receive Hefty Jail Sentences

        A court in Wales has handed hefty jail sentences to former partners who ran a business selling fully-loaded Kodi boxes. Michael Jarman and Natalie Forber, who sold more than 1,000 devices over a two year period, pleaded guilty to operating a fraudulent business. Jarmain was jailed for 21 months while Forber, who had no previous convictions, was handed a 16-month suspended sentence.

      • Legal Blackmail: Zero Cases Brought Against Alleged Pirates in Sweden

        Since 2017, tens of thousands of alleged file-sharers in Sweden have received threatening letters demanding cash settlements to make a supposed lawsuit go away. Yet an investigation carried out by Sweden’s SVT has failed to unearth a single instance where a claim has resulted in a conviction for so-called copyright trolls. “Legal blackmail,” says a professor of law at Stockholm University.

Saint-Germain’s Poisonous Legacy of “Toxic Loans”: The SIDRU “Toxic Loan” Débâcle a Case of “Take the Money and Run…”

Techrights - Saturday 26th of May 2018 10:29:36 AM

Summary: The fourth part of the series exploring the debt crisis at Battistelli’s town (where he’s deputy mayor) in light of the EPO’s gambling with financial speculators, potentially adding to the many EPO scandals

The judgment of the Court of Appeal of Paris in the case of the DEPFA loan in November 2016 did not bring the saga of SIDRU and its “toxic loans” to a close.

A little over a year later in December 2017, the local newspaper La Gazette en Yvelines reported that Lamy’s successor as Chairman of SIDRU, Jean-Frédéric Berçot, had been replaced by Jean-Luc Gris, the Mayor of Gaillon-sur-Montcient and communal delegate for the urban agglomeration of Grand Paris Seine et Oise.

The article is titled Dette du Sidru : le président éjecté, les agglos devront payer [Translation: SIDRU’s debt – chairman dismissed, the urban agglomerations have to pay] and we have made local copies of the text [PDF] and the original [PDF] with a screenshot below (click to ‘zoom’).

After SIDRU had failed to raise a new loan to pay off the outstanding amounts due on the DEPFA loan, the liabilities were finally taken over by two urban agglomerations of Grand Paris Seine et Oise and Saint Germain Boucles de Seine.

La Gazette en Yvelines also reported that a second “toxic loan” which SIDRU had contracted with the bank Natixis was due to be the subject of a court judgment in 2018.

The expected liabilities for SIDRU in relation to the Natixis loan are estimated to be of the order of € 50 million.

Until all of the pending legal actions are concluded, it is difficult to put a final figure on the total financial fallout from the affair but it is likely to be of the order of at least € 70 million:

€ 20 million from the DEPFA loan and € 50 million from the Natixis loan.

For readers who are unfamiliar with local politics in France it may also be worth mentioning that the case of SIDRU is merely one example of a much more widespread problem which has caused a lot of controversy and unrest at the municipal political level throughout the country.

“During the period 2013-2014, it is estimated that the average rate of interest on these “toxic loans” was around 25%.”Over the last decade and a half many communities have been devastated by the predatory financial practices of banks such as Dexia, Deutsche Bank, Calyon (Crédit Agricole), Depfa, Natixis, and Royal Bank of Scotland.

An article published in the French magazine Capital in December 2016 explained how these communities had permitted themselves to be trapped into “toxic loan” contracts with banks and included a map of France showing some of the most noteworthy examples of towns which were suffering under exorbitant interest rates. See “Emprunts toxiques : comment les villes se sont laissé piéger par les banques” [Translation: Toxic loans: how municipalities let themselves be trapped by the banks] with the image below.

Similar to the loans which Lamy contracted on behalf of SIDRU, these “structured debt products” were long-term loan arrangements over periods ranging from ten to thirty years which offered an attractive fixed rate of interest for the first number of years, typically somewhere between 0% and 3% depending on the term of the loan.

But once the “honeymoon period” was over the debtors were thrown to the mercy of global financial markets.

During the period 2013-2014, it is estimated that the average rate of interest on these “toxic loans” was around 25%.

“According to Capital, the bankers involved in pushing these “structured debt products” referred to them internally under the code-name POTT (“Prends l’oseille et tire-toi!”) which translates into English as “Take the money and run!”“In a number of cases it rose above 50% and in one extreme example in the town of Angers it even reached 81%!

One specific example cited by Capital is the case of the town of Nîmes where an original loan for the amount of € 12.5 million resulted in estimated liabilities for the municipality of € 59 million!

According to Capital, the bankers involved in pushing these “structured debt products” referred to them internally under the code-name POTT (“Prends l’oseille et tire-toi!”) which translates into English as “Take the money and run!”

EPO, a Longtime Privacy Offender, Uses General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Day to Lie to the Public

Techrights - Friday 25th of May 2018 10:40:23 PM

Summary: The European Patent Office (EPO) has the nerve to pretend to value privacy after all it has done; it’s just exploiting the “GDPR Day” buzz to spread some more face-saving lies about the very subject it has become incredibly notorious for

MUCH remains or needs to be said about what the EPO wrote today. Unlike the USPTO, for example, the EPO is widely known for privacy abuses and data handling violations. The EPO is notorious for breaking such laws. But remember that it’s immune from lawsuits (unlike the USPTO — a subject to be covered this weekend).

“The EPO is notorious for breaking such laws.”We’re going to leave aside new tweets about software patents (the EPO has once again promoted its sponsored ‘study’ which is actually advocacy of software patents), the latest (re)tweets about “Inventor Award” (still about half a dozen per day, promoting the looting of the EPO's treasury), and even the Cypriot tweet from Georgios Lakkotrypis, who wrote: “Delighted to welcome the @EPOorg 12th Annual Meeting in #Cyprus. At a time when IP protection is vital for accelerated innovation, the 2-day deliberations in #Limassol offer an excellent opportunity for enhanced cooperation.”

These just aren’t particularly new of interesting. Let’s look at this promotion of Battistelli’s ‘blog’ (warning: epo.org link) where he wrote: “At the other end of the spectrum, the integrity of personal data held by organisations has been widely reported recently and that is sure to continue when the EU GDPR enters into force today. The EPO holds personal data but the amount we have is kept to the minimum legally required under the European Patent Convention and its rules, and with strict adherence to the personal data minimisation principle.”

“Battistelli is a serial violator of privacy who clearly broke the law on several different occasions and should be prosecuted for it (but he’s immune).”Really?! Battistelli is a serial violator of privacy who clearly broke the law on several different occasions and should be prosecuted for it (but he’s immune). Now he pretends that the EPO values privacy. The EPO’s official site has just written about it too (warning: epo.org link), basically piggybacking the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to spread a big lie about its record on privacy. Thankfully, we have plenty of information with which to rebut. See for example the EPO's passage of data to Europatis, the company of a former EPO Vice-President (VP1).

How about the time Battistelli libeled a judge by liaising with Dutch and German media to label that judge “Nazi”? And the same (or similar) for Elisabeth Hardon and other staff representatives, whom Battistelli accused of Nazi-type saluting? Remember that not only was illegal surveillance deployed but selected ‘leaks’ of confidential inquiries were made available to the press. It was a dirt-dishing exercise by the IU, the ‘gestapo’ of Battistelli. And they have the audoacity to brag about “privacy” today. How dare they? The EPO is the very antithesis of privacy, with number plate recognition (more obtrusive surveillance) recently added to the building as if patent examiners are CIA/BND agents.

“The EPO is the very antithesis of privacy, with number plate recognition (more obtrusive surveillance) recently added to the building as if patent examiners are CIA/BND agents.”Incidentally, Märpel has just published some additional details about the Elisabeth Hardon case. Battistelli and his IU apparently intruded a GMail account after they had already snooped on other E-mails to and from Hardon, eventually firing EPO staff representatives (not only her) for speaking about a profoundly critical matter (a staff suicides epidemic). To quote Märpel:

There are so many problems with this judgement that Märpel does not know where to start. Maybe she should simply start with the facts: someone committed suicide and Mrs Elisabeth Hardon, who had dealt with that person as a staff representative, was understandably upset. She was all the more upset because it was the second suicide under the same manager. Judgment 3968 fails to mention that “detail”, although the tribunal was certainly informed by the defendant.
After that suicide Mrs Hardon send an E-mail to an internal SUEPO distribution list were she stated as follows:
“[...] most of us believe that the behaviour of [the deceased staff member's] (previous) manager and the unfounded attacks by PD4.3 (culminating in a disciplinary procedure) have contributed significantly to his death. [...] Formally the Office will of course deny any guilt. But we hope that this letter will contribute to an internal discussion and maybe some lessons will be learnt.”
(This is the text, verbatim, from judgement 3968.)

Märpel finds that text to be a rather measured response to a double suicide. Mr A., the manager of the two deceased persons, considered that single e-mail harassment.

Harassment has always been a difficult subject at the EPO, so difficult that the definition of harassment was the subject of several circulars. Märpel understands that Mrs Hardon was found guilty under the terms of a circular published after the facts (point 8 of judgement 3968).

Actually, Mrs Hardon was NOT found guilty, twice. VP4 wrote to that effect on 13 July 2012 (point 4 of judgement 3968) and the disciplinary committee wrote a report to the same effect on 28 January 2014 (point 8 of judgement 3968). But President Battistelli found otherwise and decided to downgrade Mrs Hardon.

Judgement 3968 confirmed the sanction. Most striking is point 18: “Consistent case law holds that the executive head of an international organisation is not bound to follow a recommendation of any internal appeal body nor bound to adopt the reasoning of that body”. Märpel understands that AT-ILO is satisfied that President Battistelli can strike any staff member he wants, with complete disregard for internal disciplinary bodies.

Isn’t there a problem with that?

Mrs. Hardon was dismissed later and for another case of “harassment” (that time a single word and not an email). She was dismissed together with another SUEPO official, Ion Brumme. A third SUEPO official, Malika Weaver, was downgraded. The 3 cases are planned for the next session of AT-ILO, right in time for President Battistelli end of contract bonus and inventor of the year event. Timing is everything. Märpel hates to predict the future, but her contacts in the 7th floor of the Isar building told her that the celebrations shall not be spoiled. It is a little known fact that the Office receives AT-ILO judgements before official publication.

Having already published the very detailed IU report, or the ‘case’ (‘trial’?) against Hardon, it’s very clear to us that the EPO breached privacy laws. Does the public care? Can Battistelli carry on lying about privacy without being challenged on it?

“Can Battistelli carry on lying about privacy without being challenged on it?”Soon enough, according to sources, Battistelli will treat himself like a literal king where he plans to prematurely inaugurate a Dutch building instead of showing up for trial at the ICC nearby. One reader asked us about this lavish, self-flattering ceremony: “Any idea what Battistelli’s big announcement at inauguration of new building is about? And why Campinos is not invited? The rumours are vague.”

Well, in case someone knows, please get in touch. As we understand it, Battistelli’s parade will be rained on when SUEPO in the Netherlands organises a party to celebrate his departure. SUEPO in the Netherlands, having already witnessed staff jumping from the window (during working hours), certainly knows that this ‘king’ has blood on his hands — probably a much more serious issue than his privacy violations — like those used against a Dutch lady who ‘dared’ speak about suicides.

Isn’t it funny that the EPO cited “privacy” when it sent me several legal threats (SLAPP) but was perfectly happy to violate the privacy of all EPO staff, especially those whom Battistelli tried getting rid of?

The Unitary Patent and the Unified Patent Court (UPC): This Week’s Latest Spin and Lies

Techrights - Friday 25th of May 2018 09:40:41 PM

The EPO wrote this (below) more than two years ago

Summary: The EPO has adopted a largely passive approach, choosing barely to comment at all on the UPC whereas Team UPC keeps repeating the same misleading if not patently untrue claims to perpetuate the notion that UPC is inevitable

THE EPO does not mention the UPC so much anymore. In fact, it barely ever mentions it at all. Ever since the complaint in Germany got ‘docketed’ the cabal of Battistelli mostly hid under a rock, choosing not to comment much on the corruption involved (it was more than political stunts and gross manipulation). António Campinos will likely be more of the same regarding UPC.

“Ever since the complaint in Germany got ‘docketed’ the cabal of Battistelli mostly hid under a rock, choosing not to comment much on the corruption involved (it was more than political stunts and gross manipulation).”Earlier today and yesterday [1, 2] the EPO spoke of this upcoming event (warning: epo.org link) which covers, as per the page: “Update on unitary patent protection” (litigation).

“António Campinos will likely be more of the same regarding UPC.”“Three days left to register for the next EPO User Day,” they said. “Need a review of the formal requirements in the European patent procedure and their implications for online filing? If so, this is the event for you…”

Notice how much of a side issue UPC is; it’s just one bulletpoint in a very long list. This, in our view, represents a reality wherein the EPO basically chooses not to make promises about the UPC (for fear of further embarrassment, knowing that UPC isn’t coming to fruition).

“Notice how much of a side issue UPC is; it’s just one bulletpoint in a very long list.”But what about Team UPC? These people spent (or shall we say wasted?) many years and plenty of money crafting this horrible thing and lobbying for its passage. Bristows, for example, having just flung copies of its UPC propaganda pieces at sites like Lexology (the patent microcosm, mirroring the corporate blog of Bristows), tells us we’re supposed to think that UPC will kick off soon and the only remaining question is, who’s in it? That’s a classic Team UPC lie which we’ll see more of in a moment..

“Spanish government provides further reasons for not joining unitary patent and UPC system,” says the headline. Gemma Barrett and Manuel Rey-Alvite Villar wrote towards the end something which is at least instructive:

In addition to the language regime, the Minister indicated the following were reasons for non-participation:

the uncertainty of the system’s future due to both the challenge in the German Constitutional Court and Brexit;

a Spanish company would still be able to obtain a unitary patent and enforce it (outside Spain) in the UPC; and

the higher costs of litigation in the UPC than in a Spanish court, which would be a particular problem for SMEs.

All of these (3 reasons) are applicable to every single country in the EU, so why do some politicians agree to ratify (text which they never even bothered actually reading)?

Writing about Italy yesterday, IAM’s sister site said this:

Italy is also a party to the Agreement on the Unified Patent Court (which was ratified in November 2016) and in July 2015 joined the enhanced cooperation on the unitary patent system. It has also been decided that Milan will host the Italian local division of the court.

“Will host” assumes certainty; but they meant “would” and the answer/outcome is likely “wouldn’t.”

They are talking about the UPC in future tense/s as though it will definitely happen/materialise, but the UPC is dead in the water right now. It may take several years for the negative outcome to be confirmed.

“They are talking about the UPC in future tense/s as though it will definitely happen/materialise, but the UPC is dead in the water right now.”IAM’s sister site also wrote about Saudi Arabia on the same day and it was so full of patent maximalism. It’s not hard to understand considering this network’s funding sources. Here they go on about the GCC’s “unitary patent” (not the same thing): “In 1992 the GCC approved a patent regulation that established a unitary patent right covering all GCC countries. The GCC Patent Office was established in 1992 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and started accepting applications in 1998. The GCC patent regulations were amended in 2000, notably adding in a novelty requirement for patentability. A GCC patent is valid and enforceable in all GCC states with no need for further validation steps.”

Going back to the EU-centric “unitary patent”, watch Claire Wallis, Tobias Reker and Coreena Brinck (CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang LLP) making some dubious claims, such as:

Finally, the last hurdle the UPCA currently faces is the pending court case before the German courts as to whether the participation of Germany in the UPCA and UP is unconstitutional.

No. Not last. Because the UK cannot participate either. Brexit is arguably far bigger a barrier than the constitutional complaint, which actually ties into it (Brexit is brought up as one of four core arguments).

“Brexit is arguably far bigger a barrier than the constitutional complaint, which actually ties into it (Brexit is brought up as one of four core arguments).”“If the German complaint is found inadmissible it is possible that the UPC may finally come into force, by the end of 2018,” it concludes. Not really, that’s the EPO management’s talking point. And it’s as misleading as can be. The EPO has been making promises like these for a number of years (projecting the start of UPC just months ahead); it was always, without exception, in vain.

REGIMBEAU’s Stéphanie Celare continues to spread Team UPC’s lies as well. All the above are from yesterday, just like this one. In short, the UPC simply cannot start without the UK and the UK cannot participate; that’s aside from serious corruption that served to impede and ultimately stopped UPC ratification in Germany. To quote Celare:

Will the UK be part of the Unitary Patent System after Brexit? The UK’s future relationship with the Unified Patent Court will be subject to negotiation with European partners as they leave the EU. Now the UK Government has ratified the UPC Agreement, it seems clear that the UK wishes to be part of the Unitary Patent System after Brexit, and to maintain a branch of the Unified Patent Court in London. Some amendment to the UPC Agreement will however be necessary to enable such a scenario.

This again is false; they’re just reusing each other’s misleading talking points, leading many potential clients to utter disappointment (not to mention waste of money). Team UPC is, to put it bluntly, a bunch of greedy and legally-aggressive liars. In fact, they either intentionally lie or are deeply deluded. They keep pretending that the only question about UPC is, “who’s in it?”

“They try to silence those who correct them. It never ends well.”This is bad legal advice if not malpractice. A lot of legal professionals have long been pointing out the same thing, whereupon Team UPC simply resorted to more flagrant censorship of blog comments. They try to silence those who correct them. It never ends well.

Links 25/5/2018: OpenSUSE 15 Leap Released, PostgreSQL 11 Beta

Techrights - Friday 25th of May 2018 08:07:00 PM

Contents GNU/Linux Free Software/Open Source
  • FOSS as a Part of a Corporate Sustainability Plan

    In 1983 the United Nations convened a commission of 22 people to investigate the question of the worldwide environmental and social impact of human development. Four years later, in 1987, the commission released Our Common Future, more commonly known as the Brundtland Report in honour of Gro Harlem Brundtland, chairperson of the commission. This report detailed the very real socio-environmental issues facing humanity. One of its recommendations was for governments, organizations and companies to start engaging in what it called sustainable development. That is, “…development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

    Since then there’s been steep growth in the number of corporations that maintain and operate according to a corporate sustainability plan. These plans encompass environmental as well as social aspects of doing business. They encompass actions within an organization—such as natural resource usage, diversity and inclusion, and fair treatment of employees—as well as those external to the organization—such as the sustainability operations of their entire supply chain as well as the overall impact the corporation has on the Earth and its inhabitants.

  • Securing Third-Party and Open Source Code Components: A Primer [Ed: Citing, as usual, firms that try to sell their proprietary software by badmouthing FOSS]

    The increasing popularity of open source code continues to be a boon for developers across the industry, allowing them to increase efficiency and streamline delivery. But there are security risks to be considered when leveraging open source and commercial code components, as each carries with it a significant risk of becoming the enemy within, creating a vulnerability in the program it helps build.

  • Events
    • Speak at Open Source Summit Europe – Submit by July 1

      Open Source Summit Europe is the leading technical conference for professional open source. Join developers, sysadmins, DevOps professionals, architects and community members, to collaborate and learn about the latest open source technologies, and to gain a competitive advantage by using innovative open solutions.

  • Web Browsers
    • Mozilla
      • Firefox 63 to Get Improved Tracking Protection That Blocks In-Browser Miners

        Mozilla developers are working on an improved Tracking Protection system for the Firefox browser that will land in version 63, scheduled for release in mid-October.

        Tracking Protection is a feature that blocks Firefox from loading scripts from abusive trackers. It was first launched with Firefox’s Private Browsing mode a few years back, but since Firefox 57, released in November 2017, users can enable it for normal browsing sessions at any time.

      • Firefox 63 To Block Cryptojackers With Advanced Tracking Protection

        It has been reported by Bleeping Computer, a security blog, that Firefox 63 will be launched with an improved tracking protection system to ward off the threats and security concerns posed by in-browser miners.

        With the surge in incidents involving mining malware trying to use your CPU power to perform some CPU-intensive calculations for their own benefit, many browsers have raised their guards by providing additional security features. (You can read more about blocking cryptocurrency mining in your browser in our earlier published article.)

      • What’s the 411 on 404 messages: Internet error messages explained

        Nothing’s worse than a broken website. Well, maybe an asteroid strike. Or a plague. So maybe a broken website isn’t the end of the world, but it’s still annoying. And it’s even more annoying not knowing what those weird error messages mean. That’s why we’ve decoded the most common HTTP error messages.

  • SaaS/Back End
    • Canonical founder calls out OpenStack suppliers for ‘lack of focus’ on datacentre cost savings

      The OpenStack supplier community’s reluctance to prioritise the delivery of datacentre cost savings to their users could prove “fatal”, says Canonical co-founder Mark Shuttleworth.

    • OpenStack in transition

      OpenStack is one of the most important and complex open-source projects you’ve never heard of. It’s a set of tools that allows large enterprises ranging from Comcast and PayPal to stock exchanges and telecom providers to run their own AWS-like cloud services inside their data centers. Only a few years ago, there was a lot of hype around OpenStack as the project went through the usual hype cycle. Now, we’re talking about a stable project that many of the most valuable companies on earth rely on. But this also means the ecosystem around it — and the foundation that shepherds it — is now trying to transition to this next phase.

    • Free OpenStack Training Resources
    • How the OpenStack Foundation Is Evolving Beyond Its Roots

      The OpenStack Foundation is in a period of transition as it seeks to enable a broader set of open infrastructure efforts than just the OpenStack cloud project itself.

      In a video interview at the OpenStack Summit here, OpenStack Foundation Executive Director Jonathan Bryce and Chief Operating Officer Mark Collier discussed how the open-source organization is still thriving, even as corporate sponsorship changes and attendance at events declines.

      At the event, Collier said there were approximately 2,600 registered attendees, which is nearly half the number that came to the OpenStack Boston 2017 event. OpenStack’s corporate sponsorship has also changed, with both IBM and Canonical dropping from the Platinum tier of membership.

  • Databases
    • PostgreSQL 11 Beta 1 Released!

      The PostgreSQL Global Development Group announces that the first beta release of PostgreSQL 11 is now available for download. This release contains previews of all features that will be available in the final release of PostgreSQL 11, though some details of the release could change before then.

      In the spirit of the open source PostgreSQL community, we strongly encourage you to test the new features of PostgreSQL 11 in your database systems to help us eliminate any bugs or other issues that may exist. While we do not advise for you to run PostgreSQL 11 Beta 1 in your production environments, we encourage you to find ways to run your typical application workloads against this beta release.

    • PostgreSQL 11 Beta 1 Released With JIT Compilation, More Performance Tuning

      The first beta of PostgreSQL 11.0 is now available for testing.

      Just yesterday we happened to be talking about the new features coming for PostgreSQL 11 and today happened to mark the beta availability. PostgreSQL 11 is bringing continued performance optimizations, better handling of large data sets, usability improvements. initial JIT compilation support by making use of LLVM, and more.

    • MariaDB launches Oracle compatible enterprise open source database

      Enterprise computing has often been reliant on proprietary database architecture, but this can be both complex and costly, putting up a barrier to innovation.

      Now open source database specialist MariaDB is launching its latest enterprise offering with Oracle compatibility. This allows existing Oracle Database users to reuse existing code and established skill sets when migrating applications or deploying new ones.

      MariaDB TX 3.0 introduces built-in, system-versioned tables, enabling developers to easily build temporal features into applications. This eliminates the need to manually create columns, tables and triggers in order to maintain row history, freeing DBAs to simply create new tables with system versioning or alter existing tables to add it, streamlining the process significantly. Developers can query a table with standard SQL to see what data looked like at a previous point in time, such as looking at a customer’s profile history to see how preferences have changed over time.

    • MariaDB TX 3.0 Delivers First Enterprise Open Source Database to Beat Oracle, Microsoft and IBM

      MariaDB® Corporation today announced the release of MariaDB TX 3.0, the first enterprise open source database solution to deliver advanced features that, until now, required expensive, proprietary and complex databases.

    • 5 Open-Source SQL IDEs for You to Learn and Explore

      If you’ve done a lot with SQL, you’ve probably used some form of SQL IDE to help you complete that work. Yes, it’s possible to do everything in SQL from the command line; but creating or even maintaining databases and tables that way is an exercise in masochism. There are some nice commercial IDEs such as dbArtisan and SQL Server’s Management Studio, but IDEs is one area where open-source can do just as well (or in some cases, even better).

  • Oracle/Java/LibreOffice
  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)
  • BSD
  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC
    • FSFE Newsletter – May 2018

      Following a more than a decade long tradition, the FSFE once again led its annual Free Software Legal and Licensing Workshop (LLW) in Barcelona, Spain, as a meeting point for world-leading legal exper…

Leftovers
  • Science
    • Opinion: Should Human-Animal Chimeras Be Granted “Personhood”?

      There are several emerging biotechnologies that raise ethical questions regarding the definition of personhood. One of these innovations is xenotransplantation, which uses gene editing (CRISPR-Cas9) and stem cell technologies to create human-pig or human-sheep chimeras that can grow human organs for transplantation. While most people understand that pigs growing human livers and kidneys could save lives, there is an ethical fear that these technologies may generate animals that incorporate human cells into their brains or sex organs—situations that require broader discussions regarding the question whether such organisms attain the status of personhood.

    • Ingestible “bacteria on a chip” could help diagnose disease

      MIT researchers have built an ingestible sensor equipped with genetically engineered bacteria that can diagnose bleeding in the stomach or other gastrointestinal problems.

      This “bacteria-on-a-chip” approach combines sensors made from living cells with ultra-low-power electronics that convert the bacterial response into a wireless signal that can be read by a smartphone.

      “By combining engineered biological sensors together with low-power wireless electronics, we can detect biological signals in the body and in near real-time, enabling new diagnostic capabilities for human health applications,” says Timothy Lu, an MIT associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science and of biological engineering.

  • Hardware
    • Internal Documents Show Apple Knew the iPhone 6 Would Bend

      Apple’s internal tests found that the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are significantly more likely to bend than the iPhone 5S, according to information made public in a recent court filing obtained by Motherboard. Publicly, Apple has never said that the phones have a bending problem, and maintains that position, despite these models commonly being plagued with “touch disease,” a flaw that causes the touchscreen to work intermittently that the repair community say is a result of bending associated with normal use.

      The information is contained in internal Apple documents filed under seal in a class-action lawsuit that alleges Apple misled customers about touch disease. The documents remain under seal, but US District Court judge Lucy Koh made some of the information from them public in a recent opinion in the case.

  • Health/Nutrition
    • Swiss Group Suggests Switzerland Use Compulsory Licences To Curb Cancer Drug Prices

      Public Eye, a well-known Swiss non-governmental organisation, convened the side event at the 71th World Health Assembly, taking place from 21-26 May. On this occasion, they launched a new campaign: ‘For Affordable Drugs’.

      According to Public Eye’s press release, the Swiss healthcare system is struggling to cope with the skyrocketing prices of new treatments, and in particular cancer drugs. Cancer treatments often reach over CHF 100,000 (US$100,000) per patient, per year, they said.

    • Why Your Health Insurer Doesn’t Care About Your Big Bills

      Michael Frank ran his finger down his medical bill, studying the charges and pausing in disbelief. The numbers didn’t make sense.

      His recovery from a partial hip replacement had been difficult. He’d iced and elevated his leg for weeks. He’d pushed his 49-year-old body, limping and wincing, through more than a dozen physical therapy sessions.

      The last thing he needed was a botched bill.

      His December 2015 surgery to replace the ball in his left hip joint at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City had been routine. One night in the hospital and no complications.

      He was even supposed to get a deal on the cost. His insurance company, Aetna, had negotiated an in-network “member rate” for him. That’s the discounted price insured patients get in return for paying their premiums every month.

      But Frank was startled to see that Aetna had agreed to pay NYU Langone $70,000. That’s more than three times the Medicare rate for the surgery and more than double the estimate of what other insurance companies would pay for such a procedure, according to a nonprofit that tracks prices.

  • Security
    • [Crackers] infect 500,000 consumer routers all over the world with malware

      VPNFilter—as the modular, multi-stage malware has been dubbed—works on consumer-grade routers made by Linksys, MikroTik, Netgear, TP-Link, and on network-attached storage devices from QNAP, Cisco researchers said in an advisory. It’s one of the few pieces of Internet-of-things malware that can survive a reboot. Infections in at least 54 countries have been slowly building since at least 2016, and Cisco researchers have been monitoring them for several months. The attacks drastically ramped up during the past three weeks, including two major assaults on devices located in Ukraine. The spike, combined with the advanced capabilities of the malware, prompted Cisco to release Wednesday’s report before the research is completed.

    • Do Not Use sha256crypt / sha512crypt – They’re Dangerous

      I’d like to demonstrate why I think using sha256crypt or sha512crypt on current GNU/Linux operating systems is dangerous, and why I think the developers of GLIBC should move to scrypt or Argon2, or at least bcrypt or PBKDF2.

    • Intel CPU Bug Affecting rr Watchpoints

      I investigated an rr bug report and discovered an annoying Intel CPU bug that affects rr replay using data watchpoints. It doesn’t seem to be hit very often in practice, which is good because I don’t know any way to work around it. It turns out that the bug is probably covered by an existing Intel erratum for Skylake and Kaby Lake (and probably later generations, but I’m not sure), which I even blogged about previously! However, the erratum does not mention watchpoints and the bug I’ve found definitely depends on data watchpoints being set.

      I was able to write a stand-alone testcase to characterize the bug. The issue seems to be that if a rep stos (and probably rep movs) instruction writes between 1 and 64 bytes (inclusive), and you have a read or write watchpoint in the range [64, 128) bytes from the start of the writes (i.e., not triggered by the instruction), then one spurious retired conditional branch is (usually) counted. The alignment of the writes does not matter, and it’s not related to speculative execution.

    • Security updates for Friday
    • Ryzom falling: Remote code execution via the in-game browser

      Ryzom’s in-game browser is there so that you can open links sent to you without leaving the game. It is also used to display the game’s forum as well as various other web apps. The game even allows installing web apps that are created by third parties. This web browser is very rudimentary, it supports only a bunch of HTML tags and nothing fancy like JavaScript. But it compensates for that lack of functionality by running Lua code.

      You have to consider that the Lua programming language is what powers the game’s user interface. So letting the browser download and run Lua code allows for perfect integration between websites and the user interface, in many cases users won’t even be able to tell the difference. The game even uses this functionality to hot-patch the user interface and add missing features to older clients.

    • For Red Hat, security is a lifestyle, not a product

      Red Hat has a sterling reputation in Linux security circles. That means the company has a workable process for preventing problems and responding to them. Even if you don’t use Linux, the Red Hat security approach has a lot going for it, and some of its practices might be worth adopting in your own shop.

    • How insecure is your router?

      Your router is your first point of contact with the internet. How much is it increasing your risk?

      [...]

      I’d love to pretend that once you’ve improved the security of your router, all’s well and good on your home network, but it’s not. What about IoT devices in your home (Alexa, Nest, Ring doorbells, smart lightbulbs, etc.?) What about VPNs to other networks? Malicious hosts via WiFi, malicious apps on your children’s phones…?

      No, you won’t be safe. But, as we’ve discussed before, although there is no such thing as “secure,” it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t raise the bar and make it harder for the Bad Folks.™

    • 24 best free security tools
  • Defence/Aggression
    • The NFL’s ‘Anthem Policy’ Is Pure Hypocrisy

      The NFL’s new “anthem policy” requires players to “respect” the flag and the national anthem or stay in the locker room until it is played. The NFL refers to this as a compromise — it was anything but.

      This was a mandate, not a decision arrived at through a collaborative process. Despite claiming that they would consult with the players before making a decision on this issue, the National Football League Players Association said, “The NFL chose to not consult the union in the development of this new ‘policy.’” So the league and owners will decide what shows “respect.”

      Kneeling is out. The Pittsburg Steelers indicated that raising a fist or linking arms is out. If one team decides a gesture or posture is respectful but another team doesn’t like it, what will happen? One of the NFL officials actually said, “We will know it when we see it.”

      [...]

      John Elway and other NFL officials have said that we should “take the politics out of football.” Really? What about the millions of dollars paid to the NFL by the Department of Defense to promote the military? If encouraging people not to serve in the military is a political act, then encouraging them to serve is equally political. What about the show of military aircraft flying overhead and flags streaming across the field? Kneeling during the anthem has nothing to do with being for or against military recruiting, but the Pentagon paid for the NFL to promote the military — an overtly political act — and the NFL has been delivering. There is nothing wrong with that, but it is what it is. The NFL gave up being non-political a long time ago.

      The NFL said the new policy would change “a false perception among many that thousands of NFL players were unpatriotic.” Think about that for a minute. There was a false perception that players were unpatriotic, meaning the players kneeling were patriotic. The cure for this false perception is to force players to stand when they would prefer to kneel. By forcing them to stand, the fans will now know they are patriotic. This makes no sense.

    • Cuba regrets CIA Bay of Pigs veteran died without trial

      Havana expressed regret Thursday that a former CIA agent who led a bloody campaign against Fidel Castro had died without ever being brought to justice for “terrorist” crimes against Cuba.

      Luis Posada Carriles, a Cuban-born veteran of the failed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, died Wednesday aged 90 at his home near Miami.

    • Cuba regrets CIA veteran died in Miami without facing trial for ‘terrorist’ crimes
    • U.S. Attacks That Killed ‘Hundreds’ of Russians and Syrians Detailed in New Report

      ew details have emerged regarding clashes between a U.S.-led coalition and an alliance of Syrian and Russian forces fighting on behalf of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a new, dramatic report.

      Citing interviews and documents obtained by the newspaper, The New York Times revealed how a four-hour firefight erupted February 7 in eastern Syria, leaving hundreds of pro-Syrian government fighters—including Russians—dead. Syria has blamed the U.S. for the bloodshed, which the U.S. argues was in self-defense. Russia has distanced itself from the incident, telling the Pentagon that the Russians involved were volunteer fighters, not part of Russia’s armed forces.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting
    • Julian Assange’s refuge ‘in jeopardy’
    • Assange’s refuge in Ecuadorian embassy ‘in jeopardy’

      Julian Assange’s nearly six-year refuge at the Ecuadorian embassy in London is in danger, opening the WikiLeaks founder to arrest by British authorities and potential extradition to the US, multiple sources with knowledge tell CNN.
      While Assange has in the past claimed his position in the embassy was under threat, sources say his current situation is “unusually bad” and that he could leave the embassy “any day now,” either because he will be forced out or made to feel so restricted that he might choose to leave on his own. His position there is “in jeopardy,” one source familiar with the matter said.
      Assange’s exit from the embassy could open a new phase for US investigators eager to find out what he knows.

    • Report: Julian Assange Might Get Kicked Out of Ecuadorian Embassy

      WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is on the verge of being evicted from his hideout at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, according to CNN. A source said Assange could leave “any day now,” subjecting himself to extradition to the United States. CNN reports that the U.S. is pressuring Lenin Moreno, Ecuador’s new president, to kick Assange out. Assange might also be “made to feel so restricted that he might choose to leave on his own,” according to CNN.

    • Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange May Be Forced Out of Ecuadorian Embassy in London ‘Any Day Now’

      Wikileaks founder Julian Assange may be forced out of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where he has lived for the past six years “any day now,” according to a CNN report.

    • Julian Assange “in jeopardy” of being forced into UK and US detention

      According to a CNN report today, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is in imminent danger of being forced to leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London. He would face arrest by British authorities and potential extradition to the US, where he could face life imprisonment or execution on espionage charges.

      CNN said that “multiple sources with knowledge” of Assange’s “unusually bad” situation warned that he could be removed from the embassy “any day now”—either forced out or made to feel so restricted that he might leave on his own.

      Since seeking political asylum in the embassy in 2012, Assange has been effectively detained in a tiny room without charge for 2,726 days. For 59 days, he has been denied visitors and outside communications since the Ecuadorian government cut off his access on March 28.

    • If Trump’s team was colluding with Russia, why did it keep asking WikiLeaks for things?
    • Assange’s protection from US extradition “in jeopardy”

      Almost two months after Julian Assange’s ability to receive visitors and access to digital communications was severely curtailed by the Government of Ecuador, CNN reports that the situation has become “unusually bad”.

      Without the protection of the Ecuadorian government, Assange is liable to be arrested in the UK on charges related to a bail violation. More seriously, this would also open the way to questioning and a likely extradition request from the United States, where a grand jury investigation has been looking into Assange and WikiLeaks for publishing US secrets since 2010.

      Last week, the Guardian reported that the UK and Ecuador were engaged in negotiations to attempt to bring the impasse over Assange’s asylum status to an end, without a guarantee that Assange should be protected from the prospect of extradition for his publication activities. Such a settlement would appear to breach principles of international and Ecuadorian domestic law.

    • Both Democrats And Republicans Blame The Messenger When Leaked Emails Are Made Available

      Back during the 2016 election, when Wikileaks published John Podesta’s leaked emails, Democrats freaked out and blamed Wikileaks, and even tried to lie about the validity of those emails. Many supporters of the Democratic party, to this day, believe that Wikileaks and/or Julian Assange should face legal consequences for publishing those hacked emails. Of course, Republicans cheered on that effort. Sean Hannity, who back in 2010 was screaming about how Assange was “waging his war against the U.S.” by publishing the leaked documents from Chelsea Manning and demanding that Obama “arrest” Assange, is now seen as one of Assange’s most vocal supporters even having him on his show.

      But, of course, when the shoe is on the other foot, things change. Just recently, various news organizations started reporting on shenanigans by top Trump fundraiser, Elliott Broidy, based on a leak of Broidy’s emails. Broidy’s not taking this very well, issuing a subpoena to the Associated Press to try to uncover the news organization’s source for his emails.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature
  • Finance
    • Trump is proposing to lift ZTE’s ban for $1.3bn and nobody is happy

      The latest word is that Trump wants a complete management overhaul at ZTE and a $1.3bn ‘fine’ paid to lift the restrictions which prevent the company from buying parts made by American companies.

      As if that wasn’t enough, Congress appears to be united against Trump on this – both sides of the house have expressed the wish that no deal is done and that the ZTE ban remains in place.

    • Media Quote Frank on Rolling Back Dodd/Frank–Not Disclosing He’s Now a Bank Director

      The House of Representatives voted on Tuesday to roll back key provisions of the landmark Dodd/Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, a 2010 law that increased regulatory scrutiny of banks following the 2008 financial crisis.

      One of the many provisions of the original Dodd/Frank law subjected banks with over $50 billion in assets to annual economic “stress tests” to gauge their potential for collapse in the event of an economic crisis. The rollback bill raises that threshold to $250 billion, which would exempt at least two dozen “small” banks, including SunTrust, BB&T, Charles Schwab and American Express. By comparison, in 2008, key failed bank Countryside had only $172 billion in assets, and so would have avoided stress testing, while other financial dominos like Washington Mutual ($264 billion) and Bear Stearns ($289 billion) were close to the lower limit.

      The Dodd/Frank rollback also relaxes banks’ reporting requirements on borrowers, and adds exemptions for banks with less than $10 billion in assets from the Volcker Rule, a Dodd/Frank provision that bars banks from investing deposits in risky private equity and hedge funds.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics
    • Elon Musk has a very bad idea for a website rating journalists

      Fact-checking sites perform an invaluable service, but they are labor-intensive, not a self-regulating system like what Musk proposes. Such systems are inevitably and notoriously ruled by chaos, vote brigades, bots, infiltrators, agents provocateur and so on.

    • Tom the Dancing Bug: Our Nation’s Leaders Analyze the Data on USA’s Gun Violence
    • European Earthquake as Populist Government Forms in Italy

      The revolt of voters across the Western world has reached a high point in Europe.

      The Five Star Movement and the League, two so-called “populist” political parties in Italy, are preparing to form a government after Wednesday’s appointment of a new prime minister following an election result that could directly challenge the foundations of the European Union.

      Like other anti-system movements around Europe, the Italian parties are calling in particular for abandoning the neoliberal economic policies and speculative finance, which are hollowing out the middle class.

      The breakthrough comes two and a half months after the elections held on March 4, in which Italian voters sent an unequivocal message to the current political institutions, not simply of protest, but of a desire to actually give power to those willing to implement deep changes.

    • Hey Elon Musk, Let’s Talk About The Media

      And, yesterday you went on a bit of a Twitter rant about the media and said that you were going to start a media truth rating site called Pravda (clever!). And, as with the Boring Company, I believe you’ll do it. I mean, you actually did incorporate Pravda Corp. last fall. So, you’ve got that going for you.

      On top of that, I even think you have a general point about how bad the mainstream media is. We’ve been at this for over 20 years, and some of our most successful stories have been calling out really bad reporting by big publications. It’s good to keep them honest.

      That said, I have some pretty serious concerns about this whole setup and believe you’ve misdiagnosed the problem.

      [...]

      I’m curious if you could point to any actual example of that happening in practice today for a mainstream publication? I know that Gawker — who your former colleague Peter Thiel killed off — used to pay writers a bonus based on clicks, but I can’t think of any other news organization that still does that. It’s a nice story that people outside the media like to claim, but actual journalists know is not actually the case. Hell, here at Techdirt, I’ve never actually told any of our writers how much traffic their stories get, because I don’t want them thinking about clicks at all. I want them to write the best stories they can write, and then they can let me focus on how to monetize good content and a good insightful community, rather than just going for scale and clicks.

      [...]

      But, there is a larger, more important issue here that should be discussed. I know you’ve dismissed a few people who have suggested your anti-media rant does more harm than good, but you might want to rethink that stance. Yes, the media makes mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes are pretty serious. And, yes, some media organization are just… terrible. But painting the entire media industry with a broad brush, at the same time that many other powerful institutions who don’t want to be held accountable (*cough* *cough*) are doing the same thing, doesn’t help make the media better or more credible. It just empowers those who seek to discredit the actually good and necessary job of underpaid, overworked reporters who are actually breaking important stories, holding the powerful accountable and speaking truth to power.

    • Are Democrats Screwing Themselves Over By Suing Russia?

      The DNC is suing Russia, Wikileaks, and Donald Trump for alleged campaign and election interference, and this lawsuit might be one of the biggest mistakes the Party has made in recent years. Ring of Fire’s Mike Papantonio and Farron Cousins discuss this.

    • Trump Administration Ordered to Help DNC With Lawsuit Against Russia

      The Democratic National Committee won a court order forcing President Donald Trump’s administration to help in the group’s lawsuit accusing Russia of interfering in the 2016 election.

      U.S. District Judge John Koeltl on Wednesday granted the DNC’s request to enlist Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s department to formally serve Russia with the complaint through a provision of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. Russia generally refuses to accept U.S. legal complaints in the mail, complicating the Democratic group’s suit over the meddling.

      [...]

      Beginning in mid-2016, WikiLeaks released almost 20,000 emails from inside the DNC that showed, among other things, how staffers had favored Hillary Clinton during her primary campaign against Bernie Sanders — prompting Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida to resign as committee head. Later in the campaign, WikiLeaks released tens of thousands of emails from the Gmail account of John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign chairman.

  • Censorship/Free Speech
    • Federal judge rules that Trump can’t block Twitter users

      Ever since Donald Trump took office, there’s been controversy around his Twitter addiction. Chief among the issues with president’s use of Twitter is how he frequently blocks his critics. As an elected official, many have argued that his account represents official communication that should be free for anyone to see, and there have already been several lawsuits around his habit of blocking users. As of today, it looks like there’s some legal weight behind that argument: a Federal judge just ruled that Trump should not be allowed to block users because it is a first amendment violation.

    • Court rules that Trump can’t block people on Twitter

      A New York federal judge has ruled that Donald Trump can’t block people he doesn’t like on Twitter, because he uses Twitter to communicate his edicts and policies as President of the United States, and the US government can’t exclude communications based on viewpoint, as this violates the First Amendment.

    • A Judge Ruled It’s Unconstitutional for President Trump to Block Twitter Users

      Because Trump’s account is considered a “public forum,” the judge ruled that “blocking of the plaintiffs based on their political speech constitutes viewpoint discrimination that violates the First Amendment.”

    • Judge rules Trump can’t block users on Twitter

      But Buchwald did not order Trump or Scavino to unblock the individual plaintiffs in the case or prohibit them from blocking others from the account based on their views as the plaintiffs’ had asked.

      She said a declaratory judgment should be sufficient.

    • Court Says It’s Unconstitutional For Trump To Block People On Twitter, But Doesn’t Actually Order Him To Stop

      Just last month, we noted that a court in Kentucky had ruled that the Governor of that state was free to block critics on social media accounts, saying that while people are free to speak, the First Amendment does not mean that the Governor has to listen. As we noted at the time, that ruling did not bode well for a more high profile case that was filed by the Knight First Amendment Center at Columbia University against President Donald Trump under similar circumstances. However, as you may have heard, a federal court in New York has now ruled that Trump’s blocking is unconstitutional.

      This is, not surprisingly, getting lots of attention, but many people commenting on it are not fully understanding the actual issues in the lawsuit (shocking, I know, that people doing legal analysis on the internet might sometimes not get it right…). As we’ve noted plenty of times in the past, the First Amendment does not apply to private platforms, and nothing in this ruling means that Twitter is a “public forum” (as some nuttier lawyers are trying to argue in other cases). Instead, the ruling is specific that it is just the commentary in response to Donald Trump that has become a public forum.

      [...]

      There is one odd bit that is not mentioned in most of the commentary on this ruling. And it’s this: the court does not actually order Trump to stop blocking people. It just says that it’s unconstitutional. Given the choice between giving the Knight Center injunctive relief (i.e., forcing the defendant to comply) and merely declaratory relief (i.e., telling the plaintiff they are correct), it chose the latter. It notes that there is some question of whether or not the courts can impose injunctive relief on a sitting President, and decides to side-step the question altogether.

    • Swedish Journalist Probed for ‘Hate Speech’ Over Sharia-Mocking Cartoons

      According to Sjunnesson, he was reported to the police by the taxpayer-funded Näthatsgranskaren (Net Hate Examiner) group, which is on the lookout for online posts containing hate [sic] speech. The group presents itself as independent, yet received a total of SEK 600,000 ($74,000) in state aid via the Swedish Agency for Youth and Society (MUCF) in 2017.

      Fellow journalist and writer Katerina Janouch urged the public to share these “insulting” pictures to “give these Net Hate Terrorists a pain in the neck” and support Jan Sjunnesson. “Please RT. Let’s commit felony together,” Janouch tweeted.

    • NRATV host equates gun restrictions to media censorship

      “You can still report on the shootings, we just need reasonable laws that place limitation on the glory and fame you give to these killers and their twisted motivations,” he said.

      Noir then goes on to reveal that the calls to censor media coverage of shooters was a setup.

      “You know that feeling of anxiety that shot through your body when I said the government should pass laws to limit the media’s ability to exercise their First Amendment right?” Noir asked. “That’s the same feeling gun owners get when they hear people say the same thing about the Second Amendment.”

    • Childish Gambino shows pop music can be powerfully political despite censorship

      The ConversationIt is a violently subversive darkly comic take on police brutality, white supremacy, and US machismo – and Childish Gambino’s music video, This is America, has been released to critical acclaim, 180 million YouTube hits (and counting), and minimal backlash.

      It may seem incongruous, then, that in 1988, Noam Chomsky and Ed Herman proposed that the media industry would not oppose state or private power in any fundamental way.

      Herman and Chomsky highlighted five causal factors that led them to this conclusion: concentrated corporate ownership; the prevalence of advertising money; the reliance on official information sources; the disproportionate ability of powerful organisations to issue flak against dissenters, and a pervasive axiom that the Western economic system is a panacea.

    • Swedish ISP Telenor will voluntary block The Pirate Bay

      Now, a year later, Telenor – an ISP which has long fought against site-blocking in Sweden – will voluntarily begin blocking The Pirate Bay.

    • Prosper High School journalists allege newspaper censorship by principal, fight editorial policy

      Student journalists at Prosper High School are fighting an editorial policy that they say unfairly restricts what they can and cannot print after three controversial pieces were censored this year.

      Students were told by principal John Burdett that editorials would not be published because they were “incorrect, not uplifting and did not voice all 3,000 students at their high school,” a news release states.

    • Students protest censorship, job cuts at Otago uni

      About 170 students braved freezing weather to march on the University of Otago clocktower brandishing signs opposing the disposal of editions of Critic magazine, university job cuts, and too much of a focus on marketing at a protest today.

      [...]

      Representatives of the group Students Against Sexual Violence also spoke at the protest, about what they perceived as an attempt to censor them from speaking about sexual assault on campus.

    • Conservatives Fail the N.F.L.’s Free Speech Test

      The United States is in the grips of a free-speech paradox. At the same time that the law provides more protection to personal expression than at any time in the nation’s history, large numbers of Americans feel less free to speak. The culprit isn’t government censorship but instead corporate, community and peer intimidation.

      Conservatives can recite the names of the publicly shamed from memory. There was Brendan Eich, hounded out of Mozilla for donating to a California ballot initiative that defined marriage as the union of a man and woman. There was James Damore, abruptly terminated from Google after he wrote an essay attributing the company’s difficulty in attracting female software engineers more to biology and free choice than to systemic discrimination. On campus, the list is as long and grows longer every semester.

      It is right to decry this culture of intolerance and advocate for civility and engagement instead of boycotts and reprisals. The cure for bad speech is better speech — not censorship. Take that message to the heartland, and conservatives cheer.

    • Ukraine war on free speech coordinated with US

      There is no independent policy in Kiev, they do everything in conjunction with the US, and new sanctions against Russian media reinforce those suspicions, executive editor of 21st Century Wire.com Patrick Henningsen told RT.

      Ukraine has blocked access to the websites of Russian news organizations by including them on a sanctions list that is in sync with the US Treasury. RIA Novosti-Ukraine and Sputnik with the agencies’ resources are banned for three years.

    • Russia accuses Ukraine of ‘censorship’ after sanctions on RIA news agency

      Ukraine’s decision to include a Russian state news agency in its sanctions list amounts to “political censorship”, the agency, RIA, quoted Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova as saying on Thursday.

      Kiev has added Russian state news agency RIA Novosti to its sanctions list, the website of the Ukrainian president said earlier on Thursday.

    • Ukraine blocks access to websites of leading Russian TV channels
    • Sanctions Against Sputnik Another Act of Political Censorship – Foreign Ministry
    • ‘USSR Blocked Western Media, Modern Ukraine Blocks Russia’s’ – Writer
    • Journalistic Community Slams Kiev’s Ban on Russian media
    • Sputnik, RIA Novosti Ukraine Blocked in Ukraine According to New Sanctions List
    • Menstruation magazine cover sparks censorship row in New Zealand
    • Row over New Zealand student magazine’s ‘period issue’
    • Kevin McCarthy Won’t Stand For Conservative Censorship
  • Privacy/Surveillance
    • The EU’s new data-privacy law takes effect Friday. Its reach extends into the Triangle.

      Red Hat, SAS and other companies that hold data on Europeans have a new set of data privacy rules to deal with as of Friday.

      But while the local software giants, like other firms, have had two years’ notice of the advent of the European Union’s “General Data Protection Regulation” and think they’ve made a solid effort to comply, they admit the jury is still out on whether they’ve thought of and covered everything.

    • ​ICANN Makes Last Minute WHOIS Changes to Address GDPR Requirements

      The Board of Directors of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) struggled and sweated and with days left came up with a way to make the Domain Name System (DNS) and WHOIS, the master database of who owns what website name, compliant with the European Union (EU)’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

      We’ll see.

      It doesn’t appear to me that ICANN’s “Temporary Specification for gTLD Registration Data” will pass muster with the GDPR Article 29 working party, the GDPR enforcement group.

    • What is the GDPR Privacy Law and Why Should You Care?

      The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a new European Union law that takes effect today, and it’s the reason you’ve been receiving non-stop emails and notices about privacy policy updates. So how does this affect you? Here’s what you need to know.

      The new GDPR law takes effect today, May 25th, 2018, and it covers data protection and privacy for EU citizens, but it also applies to a lot of other countries in various ways, and since all the tech giants are huge multi-national corporations, it affects a lot of the stuff that you use on a daily basis.

    • Woman says her Amazon device recorded private conversation, sent it out to random contact

      A Portland family contacted Amazon to investigate after they say a private conversation in their home was recorded by Amazon’s Alexa — the voice-controlled smart speaker — and that the recorded audio was sent to the phone of a random person in Seattle, who was in the family’s contact list.

      “My husband and I would joke and say I’d bet these devices are listening to what we’re saying,” said Danielle, who did not want us to use her last name.

    • Amazon Alexa Records Couple’s Personal Conversation And Sends It To A Contact

      Another day, another stop in the ‘privacy breach’ journey of IoT.

      In a startling and alarming incident, a Portland, Oregon based woman named ‘Danielle’ has accused Amazon Alexa of recording her personal conversation with her husband and sending it to a contact without permission.

    • Wireless Carrier Abuse Of Location Data Makes The Facebook, Cambridge Scandal Look Like Amateur Hour

      As we’ve noted a few times now, however bad the recent Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal was, the nation’s broadband providers have routinely been engaged in much worse behavior for decades. Yes, the Cambridge and Facebook scandal was bad (especially Facebook threatening to sue news outlets that exposed it), but the behavior they were engaging in is the norm, not the exception. And watching people quit Facebook while still using a stock cellphone (which lets carriers track your every online whim and offline movement) was arguably comedic.

      As the recent Securus and LocationSmart scandal highlights, wireless carriers pretty routinely sell your location data to a laundry list of companies, governments, and organizations with only fleeting oversight. And while some lawmakers are pressuring the FCC to more closely investigate the scandal (which resulted in the exposure of wireless location data of some 200 million users in the U.S. and Canada), few expect the same FCC that just killed net neutrality to actually do anything about it.

    • Trial Underway for Refugee Who Challenged NSA Surveillance

      A refugee from Uzbekistan conspired to support a terrorist group financially and planned to travel overseas to join them, U.S. prosecutors said Thursday, walking jurors through a trove of phone calls, emails and other online activity they said proves the man’s desire to help the group.

      The start of Jamshid Muhtorov’s trial comes more than six years after his arrest at a Chicago airport. The case led to the U.S. Justice Department’s first disclosure that it intended to use information obtained through one of the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance programs.

      Muhtorov challenged the constitutionality of the warrantless surveillance program but Judge John Kane ruled in 2015 that the program may have potential for abuse but did not violate his rights.

    • ‘Obama already did it to the French’: WikiLeaks weighs in on Trump’s ‘Spygate’ claims

      US President Donald Trump has seemingly found a ‘Spygate’ ally in WikiLeaks, after the whistleblowing organization tweeted to remind the public of CIA “espionage orders” for the 2012 French election.

      Reports that domestic intelligence chiefs in the US instructed an FBI informant to contact Trump’s campaign team during the 2016 US presidential election have incensed the current US commander-in-chief. In a hail of tweets, Trump dubbed the revelation ‘Spygate’ and described it as “one of the biggest political scandals in history.”

      Trump has since instructed the Department of Justice to investigate whether the alleged informant, an unnamed Cambridge University professor, was planted by his predecessor Barack Obama’s administration. WikiLeaks soon weighed in and responded directly to Trump’s tweets on the matter.

    • Comcast bug made it shockingly easy to steal customers’ Wi-Fi passwords

      A security hole in a Comcast service-activation website allowed anyone to obtain a customer’s Wi-Fi network name and password by entering the customer’s account number and a partial street address, ZDNet reported yesterday.

      The problem would have let attackers “rename Wi-Fi network names and passwords, temporarily locking users out” of their home networks, ZDNet wrote. Obviously, an attacker could also use a Wi-Fi network name and password to log into an unsuspecting Comcast customer’s home network.

      Shortly after ZDNet’s story was published, Comcast disabled the website feature that was leaking Wi-Fi passwords. “Within hours of learning of this issue, we shut it down,” Comcast told ZDNet and Ars. “We are conducting a thorough investigation and will take all necessary steps to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.”

    • Comcast Exposes Customer WiFi SSIDs and Passwords For Customers Paying To Rent A Comcast Router

      Look, when it comes to Comcast, it’s obviously quite easy to slap the company around for any number of its anti-consumer practices. Just sampling from the most recent news, Comcast was sued over its opt-out mobile hotspot from your home router plan, the company has decided to combat cord-cutting by hiking prices and fees on equipment for customers who cord-cut cable television, and it also has put in place a similar plan to charge all kinds of bullshit fees on equipment installations for customers who aren’t bundling in other services with its ISP offering. You should be noticing a trend in there that has to do with how Comcast handles so-called “equipment rental” fees for its broadband customers and how it handles customers that choose to bring their own device to their home networks instead. Comcast has always hated customers that use their own WiFi routers, as the fees for renting a wireless access point represent a huge part of Comcast’s revenue.

      Which is why you would think that the company would at least not expose the home networks of customers who use that equipment. Sadly, it seems that Comcast’s website made the network SSIDs and passwords available in plain text of customers who were renting router equipment, while those that used their own routers were completely safe.

    • What Facebook’s New Political Ad System Misses

      Facebook’s long-awaited change in how it handles political advertisements is only a first step toward addressing a problem intrinsic to a social network built on the viral sharing of user posts.

      The company’s approach, a searchable database of political ads and their sponsors, depends on the company’s ability to sort through huge quantities of ads and identify which ones are political. Facebook is betting that a combination of voluntary disclosure and review by both people and automated systems will close a vulnerability that was famously exploited by Russian meddlers in the 2016 election.

      The company is doubling down on tactics that so far have not prevented the proliferation of hate-filled posts or ads that use Facebook’s capability to target ads particular groups.

    • Zuckerberg accused of avoiding questions in luke-warm European Parliament grilling

      Indeed, many MEPs in attendance complained that the format meant that Zuckerberg had to wait for all of the leaders of the European Parliament’s various political groups – who, of course, all love the sound of their own voice – to ask several questions apiece before he could respond. Zuckerberg could then pretty much decide which questions he condescended to respond to.

      As a result, Zuckerberg spent a total of just 22 minutes answering questions, missing out any he didn’t like the sound of.

    • How GDPR will affect HR departments

      Here are four ways in which HR departments will be affected by GDPR.

    • FBI repeatedly exaggerated how many phones it needed to decrypt and couldn’t

      The agency has – not once – but repeatedly provided hugely inflated stats to Congress about how bad things are, claiming that 7800 devices had been nabbed last year, locked, as part of investigations.

      The real figure is somewhere between 1000 and 2000 says The Washington Post. The exact figure is somewhere around 1200, as far as we know.

  • Civil Rights/Policing
    • There Is Power in a Union

      For a period of 40 years, something managed to keep inequality in check in the United States. From 1940 to 1980, the richest 1 percent took home 9 percent of the wealth generated by the economy. Today, just as they did in the 1920s, the top 1 percent grabs about double that share. Surprisingly, the cause of this midcentury “Great Compression” has been largely neglected by economists, with many of them casually dismissing the role of unions.

    • Trump’s Assault on American Governance Just Crossed a Threshold

      The President has demanded that the Justice Department open an investigation into its own investigation of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

    • Why Low-Level Offenders Can Get Longer Sentences Than Airplane Hijackers

      Marion Hungerford has a severe form of borderline personality disorder that led to her numerous suicide attempts. As her mental state deteriorated, her husband of 26 years left her. Alone and unable to support herself, she began a relationship with a man whom she helped to commit a string of armed robberies. She never even touched the gun the man used for the robbery. Even though this was her first offense, Hungerford was sentenced to 159 years in federal prison.

      Her case tells us everything we need to know about a set of harsh sentencing laws, particularly one known as “924(c),” that prosecutors use to swell prison populations and perpetuate injustice. There are already too many stories like hers, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ charging and enforcement policies — which roll back the previous administration’s more enlightened approach — will only worsen the problem and fuel mass incarceration across the nation.

      The details of Hungerford’s case do not match her over-a-century sentence. She “took no active part other than driving [the man] to or from the scene of the crime or casing the stores that [he] later robbed,” as one of the judges who reviewed her case explained. Together, they stole fewer than $10,000. No one was injured during the crime. The man turned on Hungerford in exchange for leniency in his sentencing — he got 32 years. At trial, a psychiatrist testified that she had a “very low capacity to assess reality” and “low level of intellectual functioning.”

    • DHS Fusion Center Gets Request For Documents On Extremists, Decides To Hand Over Mind Control Docs Instead

      Once you release a document to a public records requesters, it’s a public record, whether you meant to release it or not. The person handling FOIA requests for the Washington State Fusion Center (a DHS/local law enforcement collaboration known more for its failures than successes) sent Curtis Waltman something unexpected back in April. Waltman asked the Fusion Center for records pertaining to Antifa and white supremacy groups. He did get those records. But he also got something titled “EM effects on human body.zip.”

      [...]

      The files did not appear to have been generated by any government agency, but rather collected from other sources who thought there might be some way the government could control minds using electronic stimulation or “remote brain mapping.” Why the Fusion Center had them on hand remains a mystery, as does their attachment to a FOIA request containing nothing about electronic mind manipulation.

      This inadvertent disclosure has led to more requests for the same documents. Only this time, requesters — like Joshua Eaton of ThinkProgress — are asking specifically for government mind control files. It appears the Fusion Center first thought about withholding some mind control docs, but somewhere along the line decided it couldn’t pretend the documents that weren’t supposed to be released hadn’t actually been released.

    • In the ‘50s, CIA decried Soviet torture tactics that would later be used at Gitmo and Agency black sites

      In the early days of MKULTRA, while the Central Intelligence Agency scrambled to defend against the alleged “brainwashing” programs of foreign countries, and to create its own, Agency staff responsible for the program responded to a report describing reported Soviet brainwashing efforts. In a letter formerly classified SECRET, CIA staff dismissed the Soviet techniques as “police tactics which would not be condoned in a democratic country.” The tactics described in the report not only mimic tactics which have been used in Guantanamo and in CIA black sites, proved to be a source of inspiration for some post-9/11 interrogation programs.

      [...]

      The stress positions included the benign sounding forced prolonged standing, the effects of which are described in excruciating detail. According to the report, an edema is produced, resulting in the ankles feet, and even thighs swelling to twice their normal size. “The skin becomes tense and intensely painful. Large blisters develop … Eventually there is a renal shutdown. Urea and other metabolites accumulate in the blood.” The ultimate result would be “a delirious state, characterized by disorientation, fear, delusions and visual hallucinations,” which the report described as “psychosis.”

    • The Fairfax, Virginia, Fire Department Is Sexist

      When I returned to the FRD in the spring of 2016 after my fellowship, I was on a high, feeling optimistic about creating positive change for our department’s future leaders. A few weeks after my return in the spring of 2016, a young firefighter named Nicole Mittendorff took her own life. It turned out that she had been harassed on an anonymous website by people claiming to be her male co-workers. In response to the media scrutiny over the department’s sexist culture, I was named to the long-vacant position of women’s program officer.

      I knew firsthand how important it was to create a culture that’s more inclusive for women firefighters. Ever since Judy Brewer became America’s first female firefighter 45 years ago, women have been hazed in the fire service, including sabotaged oxygen tanks and glass in their boots. Today, fewer than four percent of the nation’s firefighters are women. One landmark study found that the majority of them face differential treatment, wear ill-fitting safety gear meant for male bodies, work in departments with no anti-discrimination procedures, and witness disrespectful treatment of female leaders.

      In Fairfax, I’ve been trying for a long time to tackle similar problems. In 2005, I joined with a group of FRD women to sue the department over a wide range of disparities, from hiring to promotions to harassment. We settled a year later, in exchange for promises that things would change. Although a report published in 2017 found that FRD is on par with the national average of women in the rank and file, we still lag far behind in command staff. That’s despite five more sex discrimination lawsuits filed against the department since it settled mine.

    • Reality Check: Will Haspel Stick to Her Word on Torture?

      It has been a heated fight for the nomination of Gina Haspel as the new CIA director. Some have nicknamed her the “Queen of Torture.”

      [...]

      Keep in mind, as I have told you before, Gina Haspel didn’t just oversee a black site prison. She helped to destroy evidence of the program she now says did damage to the U.S. standing in the world.

    • Egyptian Blogger and Activist Wael Abbas Detained

      When we wrote of award-winning journalist Wael Abbas being silenced by social media platforms in February, we never suspected that those suspensions would reach beyond the internet to help silence him in real life. But, following Abbas’s detention on Wednesday by police in Cairo, we now fear that decisions—and lack of transparency—made by Silicon Valley companies will help Egyptian authorities in their crackdown on journalists and human rights activists.

      Abbas was taken at dawn on May 23 by police to an undisclosed location, according to news reports which quote his lawyer, Gamal Eid. The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) reported that Abbas was not shown a warrant or given a reason for his arrest. He appeared in front of state security yesterday and was questioned and ordered by prosecutors to be held for fifteen days. According to the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE), Abbas was charged with “involvement in a terrorist group”, “spreading false news” and “misuse of social networks.”

    • ICE Trying To Deport Journalist For Reporting On Abusive ICE Behavior

      For many years (looong before this current administration), we’ve documented the problems with ICE, a government agency that has long been totally out of control, abusing its power and authority not just in dealing with immigration, but in literally seizing blogs, because Hollywood told them to do so. The organization has done nothing to improve its reputation over the years, and lately almost seems to relish in the free reign it has to act like complete thugs in uniform.

      The latest story — as with seizing blogs — appears to have some serious First Amendment concerns, though there’s no indication that ICE cares at all about that. In this story, ICE detained a journalist and is trying to have him deported because of that reporter’s coverage of ICE activities. Freedom of the Press has the details, but the short version is that Manuel Duran, who fled El Salvador a decade ago over death threats there, has been living in the US and reporting for a few different Spanish language news organizations.

    • [Old] Trust damaged between Milwaukee police and community, Department of Justice draft report says

      The Milwaukee Police Department fails the community and its own officers by not communicating clearly, making too many traffic stops and applying inconsistent standards when disciplining officers, according to a draft of a federal report obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

      The draft report offers a particularly damning critique of Chief Edward Flynn’s reliance on data, a signature component of his strategy since he took over the department in 2008. Federal evaluators found this approach is having a damaging, if unintended, effect on police-community relations.

      “MPD’s attention to crime data has distracted the department from the primary tenet of modern policing: trust between law enforcement agencies and the people they protect and serve,” the draft report states.

    • Report On Milwaukee PD Body Cams Show Fewer Complaints, Fewer Stops, But No Reduction In Use Of Force

      The DOJ also found officers had no idea what community policing entailed, suggesting it only applied to other officers officially designated as community liaisons. The DOJ highlighted the disconnection between the MPD’s statements and actions on community policing using this depressing anecdote.

      [...]

      It’s not all negative, however. As noted above, officers with cameras received 50% fewer complaints, suggesting the presence of another “witness” causes both parties to treat each other with a little more respect. Camera use can result in de-escalation, which is something rarely willfully practiced by officers.

      But we can’t read too much into that either. The drop in complaints is tracked by a drop in stops, which may suggest the cameras aren’t “civilizing” interactions so much as fewer of them are taking place.

      Body cams are band-aids, at best. They can never be a panacea, but they’re far from useless. Things do change when law enforcement operates under additional scrutiny. But they don’t change as quickly or dramatically as proponents of cameras hope they will. A seismic cultural shift is needed in most departments and body cameras will only incrementally increase the speed in which bad apples are expunged from the barrel. But the barrel will still be filled with slightly-less-rotten apples. That being said, cameras should be a requirement as should the presumption that missing footage weighs against a cop’s statements. Just because they’re not working as well as many of us thought they would doesn’t mean it’s without its merits.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality
  • Intellectual Monopolies
    • Brian Soucek on Aesthetic Judgment in Law

      As noted in my last post, one of the most quoted lines in copyright law is from Justice Holmes’s 1903 opinion in Bleistein: “It would be a dangerous undertaking for persons trained only to the law to constitute themselves final judges of the worth of pictorial illustrations.” This aesthetic neutrality principle has found purchase far beyond copyright law. But in a compelling new article, Aesthetic Judgment in Law, Professor Brian Soucek challenges this dogma: “Almost no one thinks the government should decide what counts as art or what has aesthetic value. But the government often does so, and often, it should.” Soucek’s article may have flown under the radar for most IP scholars because he does not typically focus on copyright law, but it is well worth a look.

      Soucek’s first point is that despite the “widespread aversion to aesthetic judgment” by government decisionmakers, such judgments are ubiquitous both at the “retail” level of individual artworks and at the “wholesale” level of “what constitutes art or aesthetic value in the first place.” A number of scholars have made similar points in the IP space; see, for example, Andrew Gilden’s argument that courts are more likely to consider images of women and racial minorities to be “raw materials” that are free to use. But the point holds even more strongly in other areas of law. Perhaps most obviously, there is significant direct spending on the arts that falls on the “government-set” side of the who decides? spectrum, including grant decisions by the National Endowment for the Arts, book purchases by public libraries, and hiring and curriculum decisions by humanities departments at public universities. Other examples are easy to find: Tariff and tax laws embody Congress’s decision to benefit only certain types of art, and they require government officials to make judgments such as whether abstract art is art. Land-use laws ban conduct that is “offensive to the visual sensibilities of the average person” like front-yard clotheslines. The test for obscenity asks whether the work “lacks serious literary [or] artistic” value.

    • Trademarks
      • Woof: The Prosecco People Successfully Oppose A Pet-Treat Company’s ‘Pawsecco’ Trademark Application

        In the realm of the alcohol industry, the French champagne makers have distinguished themselves for their jealous protection of the name of their sparkling white wine. This protectionism is taken to the extreme, with association groups representing champagne makers essentially forbidding anyone else from even using the term. France’s neighbor, Italy, has its own sparkling white wine called prosecco. And it seems that the makers of prosecco are trying to take a page from their champagne-making cousins in “protecting” their trademarks to a ridiculous degree.

        A maker of drinks for pets recently tried to trademark the name of a product it makes called “Pawsecco.” The pet treat is not alcoholic, is sold only to pet owners, and is, frankly, puntastic. Despite all of this being supremely obvious, Woof and Brew faced a trademark opposition from the prosecco people.

    • Copyrights
      • Forget The GDPR, The EU’s New Copyright Proposal Will Be A Complete And Utter Disaster For The Internet

        Today is GDPR day, and lots of people are waking up to a world in which EU regulations are having a widespread (and not always positive) impact on how the internet works. As we’ve detailed over the past couple of years, while there are many good ideas in the GDPR, there are also many ridiculously bad ones, combined with poorly thought out drafting, and we’re already seeing some of the fallout from that. But, believe it or not, there’s an even larger threat from the EU looming, and it’s received precious little attention: the EU’s new copyright reform proposal is set to be voted on next month and it will truly be disastrous to the internet. As it currently stands, it will require widespread censorship in the form of mandatory filtering and also link taxes that have already been shown to be harmful to news.

      • The Demise Of Copyright Toleration

        Although denying fair use, these content owners were acknowledging a larger truth about copyright, the Internet, and even the law in general: It works largely due to toleration. Not every case is clear; not every outcome can be enforced; and not every potential legal outcome can be endured. Instead, “grey area” conduct must be impliedly licensed, or at least tolerated.

        Counsel then or now could not have cited a single court holding on whether the private, noncommercial recording of a song is a lawful fair use. Long before the Supreme Court in Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc. said that video home recording from broadcasts as a fair use, the music industry could have pursued consumers for home audio recording from vinyl records. But the risk of losing and establishing a bad precedent was too great.

      • Mexico’s new copyright law allows censorship of online content, rights advocates warn

        Legal censorship of online content could be much easier in Mexico due to recently approved changes to the country’s copyright laws.

        On April 26, the Mexican Senate passed a bill that modified the Federal Copyright Law, enabling judges to order the removal of internet content that allegedly violates copyright law without needing to prove it in court or by sentence.

        The bill allows the suspension and removal of public content and includes “precautionary measures” against the equipment that enables the spread of such content. Approval of these changes was given hastily without following legislative procedures.

      • BPI Wants Piracy Dealt With Under New UK Internet ‘Clean-Up’ Laws

        This week, Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, announced the launch of a consultation on new legislative measures to clean up the ‘Wild West’ elements of the Internet. In response, music group BPI says the government should use the opportunity to tackle piracy with advanced site-blocking measures, repeat infringer policies, and new responsibilities for service providers.

Privacy Statement

Techrights - Friday 25th of May 2018 04:54:34 AM

Summary: Today, May 25th, the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) goes into full effect; we hereby make a statement on privacy

AS a matter of strict principle, this site never has and never will accumulate data on visitors (e.g. access logs) for longer than 28 days. The servers are configured to permanently delete all access data after this period of time. No ‘offline’ copies are being made. Temporary logging is only required in case of DDOS attacks and cracking attempts — the sole purpose of such access. Additionally, we never have and never will sell any data pertaining to anything. We never received demands for such data from authorities; even if we had, we would openly declare this (publicly, a la Canary) and decline to comply. Privacy is extremely important to us, which is why pages contain little or no cross-site channels (such as Google Analytics, ‘interactive’ buttons for ‘social’ media etc.) and won’t be adding any.

Shall readers have any further questions on such matters, do not hesitate to contact us.

Saint-Germain’s Poisonous Legacy of “Toxic Loans”: The SIDRU “Toxic Loan” Débâcle and Criticism of Lamy From Local Opposition Groups

Techrights - Friday 25th of May 2018 04:31:41 AM

Last week: Système Battistelli (ENArque) at the EPO is Inspired by Système Lamy in Saint-Germain-en Laye

Summary: The EPO‘s entrance into the “toxic loans” trap as of a few months back (just like in Saint-Germain*) is a sign of potential trouble ahead; The SIDRU “toxic loan” débâcle is highlighted as per criticism of mayor Lamy (St Germain-en-Laye, where Battistelli is deputy mayor) from local opposition groups

Following the judgment of the Court of Appeal of Paris which found SIDRU liable for all of the outstanding debts and interest charges on its DEPFA loan, the former SIDRU chairman Emmanuel Lamy was obliged to defend himself at the meeting of the municipal council of St Germain-en-Laye which took place on 16 November 2016.

According to a commentary on the affair written by Jean-Claude Merle, a former municipal councillor of the neighbouring municipality Marly-le-Roi, Lamy tried to evade the question of his personal responsibility for the débâcle by referring to the collective responsibility of the 15 municipal councils that are the stakeholders of SIDRU as well as to the roles of other authorities such as the regional Prefect and the regional Chamber of Auditors.

“Following the judgment of the Court of Appeal of Paris which found SIDRU liable for all of the outstanding debts and interest charges on its DEPFA loan, the former SIDRU chairman Emmanuel Lamy was obliged to defend himself at the meeting of the municipal council of St Germain-en-Laye which took place on 16 November 2016.”See “Emprunts toxiques du SIDRU, qui paiera ?” [Translation: “SIDRU’s toxic loans, who is going to foot the bill?”]

As for the financial consequences Lamy tried to reassure the taxpayers of St Germain-en-Laye that the financial consequences of Court of Appeal judgment were being discussed by the affected urban agglomerations with a shared will to define “a course of action that would not impact the level of local taxes of the 200,000 inhabitants concerned”.

Without providing precise details he indicated that the two urban agglomerations of Grand Paris Seine et Oise (covering 73 municipalities and more than 400 000 inhabitants) and Saint Germain Boucles de Seine (covering 20 municipalities and 340 000 inhabitants) could be relied upon to absorb the fallout from SIDRU’s toxic loans (which directly affected 200,000 inhabitants).

“Doit-on spéculer avec l’argent public?”

“According to a commentary on the affair written by Jean-Claude Merle, a former municipal councillor of the neighbouring municipality Marly-le-Roi, Lamy tried to evade the question of his personal responsibility for the débâcle by referring to the collective responsibility of the 15 municipal councils that are the stakeholders of SIDRU as well as to the roles of other authorities such as the regional Prefect and the regional Chamber of Auditors.”The local left-wing opposition group Saint-Germain Autrement, formerly Saint-Germain Gauche Plurielle, has been a longtime and persistent critic of Lamy’s management of SIDRU and his imprudent dabbling in speculative “financial instruments”.

As far back as July 2007 the group published a short party political statement in the local Journal de Saint-Germain under the title “Doit-on spéculer avec l’argent public?”.

See below (click to ‘zoom’ in).

In this statement the group expressed its serious concerns about the speculative nature of the financial contracts concluded by Lamy in his role as chairman of SIDRU and warned of the potential for losses of the order of several millions of Euros for the public purse.

“In this statement the group expressed its serious concerns about the speculative nature of the financial contracts concluded by Lamy in his role as chairman of SIDRU and warned of the potential for losses of the order of several millions of Euros for the public purse.”Throughout the remainder of 2007 the group published a series of articles on its website presenting a detailed analysis of the situation at SIDRU and the risks involved, e.g. [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6].

One of the leading figures in the group’s campaign for transparency about SIDRU’s finances and its criticism of Lamy’s speculative use of public funds is Emmanuel Fruchard (pictured below), a financial analyst by profession, who has been fêted in the local press as “the sworn enemy of toxic loans”.

Some video footage of the “two Emmanuels” – Fruchard and Lamy – each presenting his own view of the SIDRU affair can be found in an online report from 2011 by a freelance French journalist, Mélanie Houé.

“One of the leading figures in the group’s campaign for transparency about SIDRU’s finances and its criticism of Lamy’s speculative use of public funds is Emmanuel Fruchard…”After its initial series of articles in 2007 the Saint-Germain Autrement group continued to monitor the situation at SIDRU over the course of the next decade and regularly published updates on its website.

In November 2016 in response to the judgment of the Court of Appeal of Paris, the group published a statement in the “Free Opinion” column of issue no. 697 [PDF] of the JSG in which it spoke in terms of a “damning judgment” against Lamy: “SIDRU: le jugement accable E. Lamy”.

“Monsieur le Président, expliquez-vous”

Criticism of Lamy’s management of SIDRU has also come from the local conservative opposition group Agir pour Saint-Germain whose members include the former Deputy Mayor, Anne Gommier.

“Criticism of Lamy’s management of SIDRU has also come from the local conservative opposition group Agir pour Saint-Germain whose members include the former Deputy Mayor, Anne Gommier.”Ms Gommier had already expressed a general dissatisfaction with Lamy’s political style in an interview given to the local press during the 2014 municipal election campaign.

On that occasion she spoke of an unacceptable “disconnect” with the local populace as well as problems with a lack of transparency and consultation.

“On that occasion she spoke of an unacceptable “disconnect” with the local populace as well as problems with a lack of transparency and consultation.”She also deplored the way in which the municipal council had been turned into a rubber-stamping chamber: “Le conseil municipal est une chambre d’enregistrement”.

In October 2016 the Agir pour Saint-Germain group joined in the chorus criticising Lamy’s handling of the SIDRU affair. It published a statement in the “Free Opinion” column of issue no. 695 [PDF] of the Journal de Saint-Germain under the title “La Dette du SIDRU: un mauvais suspense” which could be translated freely into English as “SIDRU’s debt: the suspense is killing us”.

In this statement the group complained that although the annual report of SIDRU had been placed on the agenda for the municipal council meeting of 29 September 2016 there had in fact been no discussion at the meeting and the council had not been informed of the state of SIDRU’s finances. They referred to estimated losses of the order of € 70 million from SIDRU’s toxic loans (€ 20 million from the DEPFA loan and € 50 million from a second loan with Natixis). In view of Lamy’s status as a graduate of the illustrious Institut d’études politiques de Paris (Sciences PO) and the Ecole Nationale d’Administration, a former advisor to the Minister of Finance and someone who had held a senior position in the Finance Ministry (“Bercy”), one could only surmise that he must have known the risks involved. But irrespective of whether or not he was aware of the risks, in the end it was the local taxpayers who were the “turkeys” (“dindons de farce”) left to foot the bill.

“In view of Lamy’s status as a graduate of the illustrious Institut d’études politiques de Paris (Sciences PO) and the Ecole Nationale d’Administration, a former advisor to the Minister of Finance and someone who had held a senior position in the Finance Ministry (“Bercy”), one could only surmise that he must have known the risks involved.”In November 2016, following the judgment of the Court of Appeal of Paris, the group published a further statement in the issue no. 697 of the JSG under the title “Monsieur le Président, expliquez-vous” in which it strongly criticised the use of public monies for speculative purposes and called on Lamy to account for his actions as the chairman of SIDRU at the time when the DEPFA loan contract was signed.

In December 2016 the group published a follow-on statement in the JSG [PDF] under the title of “Illusions, Désillusions” which could be translated into English as “Illusions and rude awakenings”.

Starting off with an ironic reference to the famous picture (at the top of this article) of “the Conjurer” by the Dutch Renaissance painter Hieronymous Bosch which was on display in Saint-Germain as part of an exhibition of his works, they repeated their criticism of Lamy’s financial conjuring tricks at SIDRU (the “illusion”) and referred to the findings of the Court of Appeal of Paris (the “rude awakening”).

“But irrespective of whether or not he was aware of the risks, in the end it was the local taxpayers who were the “turkeys” (“dindons de farce”) left to foot the bill.”They deplored the fact that despite repeated calls for Lamy to account for his role in the affair he had not seen fit to offer an apology for his mistakes nor had he even made any attempt to explain himself: “Et pourtant, au Conseil Municipal comme au Conseil Communautaire, le Maire interpellé par notre groupe sur ses erreurs et sa responsabilité n’a pas daigné faire amende honorable, ni même s’expliquer.”

[Translation: “And yet, in the municipal council as in the communal council the Mayor, having been questioned by our group about his mistakes and his responsibility, did not deign to make amends, nor even explain himself.”]

“The concluding advice given to the citizens of Saint-Germain was to pay attention to the lesson of Bosch’s painting and not to be gullible spectators who passively watched as their quality of life was whittled away by the deceit and legerdemain of others.”After referring to a number of other contentious local issues, they asked how many more “bad tricks” remained to be pulled out of the conjurer’s bag: “Combien de mauvais tours encore dans le sac ?”

The concluding advice given to the citizens of Saint-Germain was to pay attention to the lesson of Bosch’s painting and not to be gullible spectators who passively watched as their quality of life was whittled away by the deceit and legerdemain of others.
__________
* An article by Carmen Nobel, senior editor of Harvard Business School Working Knowledge, provides some additional background information about the “toxic loan” crisis in France. We covered that in previous parts and would like to highlight some selected bits:

A new study by Boris Vallée and Christophe Pérignon offers evidence that local politicians in France (and probably elsewhere) used high-risk loans for political gain in the years leading up to the recent financial crisis. The strategy worked: Toxic loans helped mayors get reelected.

[...]

The researchers focused their study on France, having gained access to two valuable data sets: The first contained the entire debt portfolio for most of the 300 largest French local governments as of December 31, 2007; and the second contained the loan-level data for all the outstanding structured transactions of Dexia, the leading bank in the market as of December 31, 2009. (Shortly thereafter, Dexia fell apart in the European debt crisis.) The data showed that so-called structured loans accounted for 20.1 percent of the 52 billion euros in total debt for the municipal sample.

Similar to subprime mortgages, structured loans usually carry a few years of guaranteed low interest, which allows local governments to reduce the cost of their debt quickly and obviously. But after the honeymoon period, these loans end up carrying highly variable interest rates resulting from exotic exposures. For example, the City of Saint-Etienne saw the interest rates on one of its major loans rise from 4 percent to 24 percent in 2010, due to the depreciation of the pound sterling. In total, losses on toxic loans doubled the city’s debt levels.

[...]

Toxic loan transactions were especially frequent for incumbent politicians running in “swing” areas. Incumbent politicians running in politically contested areas (where the local government had been ruled by the same party for fewer than 10 years) were more inclined to use structured loans than those in political strongholds (where the ruling party had been in power for more than 20 years).

Vallée and Pérignon analyzed how the politicians used the loans—whether they had invested the money in equipment or services for the city, or used the cash to lower taxes for their constituents, or both. It turned out that for the most part, they had used the short-term savings from the loans to lower taxes. “This action is consistent with politicians seeking reelection by catering to taxpayers’ preference for low taxes, which represents a likely channel for the previous result on the effects on reelection,” the researchers write.

The strategy apparently worked. Controlling for potential selection effects, the researchers found that using structured loans led to an increase in the likelihood that a politician was reelected.

[...]

“These financial innovative products appear, therefore, to have aligned banks’ incentives, as the transactions were highly profitable, with local politicians [who] had an interest in getting reelected,” Vallée says. “However, this happened at a large cost to the taxpayer, as the positive effects of the loans were short-lived, and interest on toxic loans ballooned when the crisis hit.”

In the wake of the financial crisis, many local politicians filed suits against their banks, claiming that they had not comprehended the risky nature of the loans they undertook.

[...]

That said, the researchers did assess the role of financial sophistication on the use of structured loans. They considered the size of each municipality, understanding that larger governments were more likely to employ specialized financial advisors. And they obtained the mayors’ current or former occupations, educational backgrounds, and age at the time of election.

The data suggested that mayors with the most-educated backgrounds were actually more likely to take out structured loans than those with less education. Those who took out the most structured (or toxic) loans had worked previously as corporate executives or senior-level civil servants. Former blue-collar workers, farmers, and artists, on the other hand, largely stayed away from these products.

The likelihood to use structured and toxic loans increased with local government size, indicating that bad loan decisions couldn’t be blamed on a lack of staff expertise. Meanwhile, the use of structured loans decreased with the mayors’ ages. “This was not a senility effect,” Vallée says.

[...]

New EPO Caricature: The Rubber Stamp

Techrights - Friday 25th of May 2018 03:05:26 AM

Related: Leaked E-mails From the EPO’s Roberto Vacca Reveal That Patent Quality at the European Patent Office Has Become Farcical

Summary: Cartoon which circulates in EPO ‘circles’, encapsulating the concern many people have about the quality of granted patents and unrealistic expectations from the management

Battistelli crushed the EPO and ended patent quality while appeals are being made even harder. See yesterday’s “Comments To The Revision Of The Rules Of Procedure Of The Boards Of Appeal Of The EPO,” an article by Johannes Lang (Bardehle Pagenberg). To quote:

Although the proposed revision aims at improving “the efficiency and predictability of appeal proceedings before the Boards of Appeal of the EPO”, it appears doubtful whether these objectives will be achieved. The result may well be overloading first instance proceedings as well as subsequent appeal proceedings by precautionary submissions, and merely shifting the dispute in appeal proceedings from substantive to formal procedural matters without any efficiency gains. Furthermore, the revision runs the risk of losing sight of a reasonable trade-off between predictability and flexibility required in patent granting proceedings.

[...]

Hence, all in all, the new Rules significantly limit the possibilities for amendments already at the beginning of the appeal proceedings, reduce them even more after the initial stage, in particular by requiring prima facie-allowability, and remove them completely after the period set in a communication has expired or the summons to oral proceedings has been notified. Any desirable flexibility of the procedure is now transferred to, and limited by, the Board’s discretion which, however, is to be exercised under strict criteria, notably procedural economy. As a general result, the battleground in appeal proceedings will be shifted even more from a discussion of the merits of a case to formal issues. As has already been pointed out above, we believe that this does not necessarily improve the efficiency of the proceedings. Moreover, it appears that a vital amount of flexibility has been sacrificed in the name of predictability.

What’s worth noting is that even stakeholders like law firms (which typically — at least in the short term — benefit financially from patent maximalism) do generally recognise these issues, not just patent examiners and applicants. Patents that cannot withstand a court’s scrutiny (see US trends over the past couple of years) drain even plaintiffs — not just defendants — financially. Sooner or later applicants lose interest in patents, causing systemic collapse.

Promo Sprint Report: What We Did and How You Can Help Us

KDE Dot News - Friday 25th of May 2018 12:00:00 AM

February was a big month for the Promo team - we held a long-awaited sprint in Barcelona, Spain from the 16th to 18th. The aim of the sprint was to look at information we had collected over the prior years, interpret what it meant, and use it to discuss and plan for the future. The activities we came up with should help us accomplish our ultimate goal: increasing KDE's visibility and user base.

Nine members of the team made it to Barcelona: Aleix Pol, Ivana Isadora Devčić, Jure Repinc, Kenny, Łukasz Sawicki, Lydia Pintscher, Neofytos Kolokotronis, Paul Brown, and Rubén Gómez. We met at Espai 30, an old factory converted into a social center for the neighborhood. Coincidentally, that is one of the places where the Guifi.net project started -- rather fitting for a meeting that comprised Free Software and communication.

Day 1: Informal Afternoon Meeting

Although Friday was "arrival day" without an official agenda, we could not resist talking shop over pizza and beer. Discussions gravitated towards the KDE.org website, which will be migrated from an old and clunky backend to a Wordpress framework. The improvement to the framework got us thinking on how we could improve the content, too.

The consensus was that we want to inform the general public about what KDE is - not a desktop, but the community that creates, maintains, documents, translates, and promotes a large body of multi-purpose software. Our software collection does include a desktop environment, but it also offers utilities, games, productivity applications, media players and editors, an environment and applications for mobile phones, development frameworks, and much more.

We should also make sure the website caters equally to the tech savvy and unsavvy, since KDE's software is meant for everybody. The new site should clearly direct users to our products, allowing end users to simply download and use them. At the same time, the website should ease the way for potential contributors to join the community.

Day 2: Espai 30, Stats stats stats, and Improved Communication

At the break of dawn the next day... well, actually, at 10 o'clock, sprint sessions started in earnest. Ivana gave a recap of Promo's main activities over the last year or so, revisiting funding campaigns we promoted and communication tactics we implemented.

Next we looked at hard, cold data, collected from social media accounts, web statistics, and distro popcons (application popularity contests). The bad news is that visits to our main sites have gone down over the last year. The good news, however, is that followers and interactions on social media have seen a significant increase. Although data collected from popcons are partial, it also looks like Plasma's user base is growing steadily.

*/ Want to help us with data-collecting and processing, or have ideas about where we can collect more useful information? Send your suggestions to our mailing list and we'll look into it.


Paul made the team look at bar charts
for the better part of an hour.

The data also helps us pinpoint wins and fails in our approach to communicating with the outside world. We found a direct relation between the traffic to our news site (dot.kde.org) and to the main kde.org website. Therefore it makes sense to seriously work on increasing the traffic to kde.org first, in order to improve the visibility and effectiveness of our announcements and campaigns. We also identified ways to make our social media posts more attractive, which should help them garner more re-tweets, boosts (the equivalent of re-tweets in Mastodon), shares and upvotes, and spread our messages further.

Another way of reaching more people is through events. We discussed Akademy and our plans for promoting the 2018 edition before and during the event, so that news coming out of Vienna in August can reach as many people as possible.

We also talked about visiting other technical and even not-so-technical events. By showcasing our applications and letting users play with them, we think we will be able to increase our user base. In any case, we need to be well-prepared for all types of conferences, so we made a list of essentials based on our previous experiences.

We noticed that even within the FLOSS community, there is a large portion of businesses, organizations and developers who are unaware of technologies that KDE develops. Speaking and setting up booths at technical, but non-KDE/Qt events (like the upcoming Embedded Linux Conference organized by the Linux Foundation), could help solve this problem and even attract contributors for KDE.

*/ Do you have suggestions for events we should attend? Join the Attend External Events task and tell us about them.

This brought us to the discussion on how Promo can help with the long-term community goals, especially the goal of streamlining the onboarding of new contributors.

One of the things we have started doing, for example, is creating a list of simple tasks for beginners. We are also trying to identify where people struggle in the process of joining Promo, and working on eliminating obstacles. On a more one-to-one basis, we want to be able to identify people's skills so we can direct them to teams they can join. This was one of the topics we tackled during the last day of the sprint.

Day 3: Teams, Market Research, and Publicity Stunts

We already noticed there are wide variety of jobs for our team, and agreed it would be more efficient to classify them and assign them to smaller groups of people with the best skills to carry them out.

For example, we'd like to have a smoother communication channel with developers, so that we can better understand their work and advise them on how to promote it. The best way to do this, we thought, would be to recruit developers already in the Promo group as liaisons with their colleagues.

Likewise, experienced YouTubers and videographers can create promotional videos for product releases; journalists and editors can write or help improve blog posts and news articles; and people with a background in marketing can use their knowledge to do some serious market research.

That last thing is important because the Promo team must discover what technologies people use, how they use them, and what they like and dislike about them to be able to market KDE products. We decided to take a step back and work on a market research project that will provide us with solid information on which to base our actions.

*/ Got experience in marketing? Join the effort!

At the same time, we can entice people to use Plasma and KDE applications with straightforward advertising, or rely on the more subtle art of product placement. Regarding the former, we looked at publicity stunts that had helped other community projects in the past, like full page ads in prominent newspapers, or messages on public transport. For example, ads at bus stops in university areas may help encourage students join the community.

*/ Got an idea for advertising campaign which is both effective and cheap to carry out? Share it with us!

As for the latter, it turns out that TV shows and movies sometimes have a hard time when they want to show a flashy computer or mobile device interface. Because they can be endlessly customized, Plasma, Plasma Mobile and the applications that run on them are perfect candidates for the likes of The Blacklist, CSI Cyber, Mission Impossible 7... Okay, maybe we will have to start more modest, but remember that KDE tech was already featured on Mr Robot, albeit as the choice of the villain.

We discussed other ways of indirectly increasing the popularity of KDE, including working with journalists, bloggers and vloggers from outside of our community. We started brainstorming a list of "influencers", journalists and publications.

*/ Do you know somebody with a solid audience on the fringes of open sourcedom that could influence a large group of people? Go and add them to the list.

We also want to improve our presence in businesses. To do that, we would first have to approach businesses and contractors that already work with KDE/Qt-based technologies. The idea is to get them on board and create a marketplace/support network that other companies can rely on when considering a migration to desktop Linux.

While brainstorming other ways to increase awareness, we realized we could improve videos and help them reach a wider audience by adding subtitles. If you would like to help creating subtitles in your language, sign up for the video group and tell us what you can do.

Conclusion


So much stuff still needs to be done...

This was an intense and intensive sprint. The full list of topics we discussed is longer than this report, but we managed to devote enough time to the most pressing issues. We came up with ideas for targets and ways to work towards them that will translate into real results. We are now progressively implementing tasks that will help us reach those targets, but we need your help.

If you think you can help us achieve our goals, please join the Promo group. We have a mailing list, IRC channel, and a Telegram group. You can also take a look at our workboard and leave your feedback on tasks that are in progress.

Developing KDE's software is super-important, but so is spreading the message that the software exists and that everybody, regardless of their level of computer-literacy, can and should use it. That is what the Promo team is all about, and we will keep practicing what we preach.

Links 24/5/2018: RIP Robin “Roblimo” Miller, Qt 5.11 Released

Techrights - Thursday 24th of May 2018 08:20:58 PM

Contents GNU/Linux
  • RIP Robin “Roblimo” Miller

    Linux Journal has learned fellow journalist and long-time voice of the Linux community Robin “Roblimo” Miller has passed away. Miller was perhaps best known by the community for his roll as Editor in Chief of Open Source Technology Group, the company that owned Slashdot, SourceForge.net, freshmeat, Linux.com, NewsForge, and ThinkGeek from 2000 to 2008. He went on to write and do video interviews for FOSS Force, penned articles for several publications, and authored three books, The Online Rules of Successful Companies, Point & Click Linux!, and Point & Click OpenOffice.org, all published by Prentice Hall.

  • How CERN Is Using Linux and Open Source

    CERN really needs no introduction. Among other things, the European Organization for Nuclear Research created the World Wide Web and the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s largest particle accelerator, which was used in discovery of the Higgs boson. Tim Bell, who is responsible for the organization’s IT Operating Systems and Infrastructure group, says the goal of his team is “to provide the compute facility for 13,000 physicists around the world to analyze those collisions, understand what the universe is made of and how it works.”

  • Server
    • ETSI Open Source MANO announces Release FOUR, moving faster than ever

      ETSI is pleased to announce the availability of OSM Release FOUR. Bringing a large set of new features and enhancements, this version is the most ambitious and innovative OSM Release to date and constitutes a huge leap forward in terms of functionality, user experience and maturity.

      This new Release brings substantial progress thanks to a number of architectural improvements, which result in a more efficient behaviour and much leaner footprint – up to 75% less RAM consumption. Additionally, its new northbound interface, aligned with ETSI NFV work, and the brand-new cloud-native setup, facilitate OSM’s installation and operation, while making OSM more open and simpler to integrate with pluggable modules and external systems, such as the existing OSS.

    • Open Source MANO Release FOUR lands

      In monitoring, ETSI says OSM Release FOUR’s alarm and metric settings are easier to use, and a new policy manager adds push notifications and reactive policy configuration, which the standards body says “opens the door to closed-loop operations”.

      The monitoring module uses Apache Kafka as its message passing bus, and the module also implements a flexible plugin model so sysadmins can BYO monitoring environment.

  • Audiocasts/Shows
  • Kernel Space
    • XFS online filesystem scrubbing and repair

      In a filesystem track session at the 2018 Linux Storage, Filesystem, and Memory-Management Summit (LSFMM), Darrick Wong talked about the online scrubbing and repair features he has been working on. His target has mostly been XFS, but he has concurrently been working on scrubbing for ext4. Part of what he wanted to discuss was the possibility of standardizing some of these interfaces across different filesystem types.

      Filesystem scrubbing is typically an ongoing activity to try to find corrupted data by periodically reading the data on the disk. Online repair attempts to fix the problems found by using redundant information (or metadata that can be calculated from other information) stored elsewhere in the filesystem. As described in Wong’s patch series, both scrubbing and repair are largely concerned with filesystem metadata, though scrubbing data extents (and repairing them if possible) is also supported. Wong said that XFS now has online scrubbing support, but does not quite have the online repair piece yet.

    • Supporting multi-actuator drives

      In a combined filesystem and storage session at the 2018 Linux Storage, Filesystem, and Memory-Management Summit (LSFMM), Tim Walker asked for help in designing the interface to some new storage hardware. He wanted some feedback on how a multi-actuator drive should present itself to the system. These drives have two (or, eventually, more) sets of read/write heads and other hardware that can all operate in parallel.

      He noted that his employer, Seagate, had invested in a few different technologies, including host-aware shingled magnetic recording (SMR) devices, that did not pan out. Instead of repeating those missteps, Seagate wants to get early feedback before the interfaces are set in stone. He was not necessarily looking for immediate feedback in the session (though he got plenty), but wanted to introduce the topic before discussing it on the mailing lists. Basically, Seagate would like to ensure that what it does with these devices works well for its customers, who mostly use Linux.

    • Using user-space tracepoints with BPF

      Much has been written on LWN about dynamically instrumenting kernel code. These features are also available to user-space code with a special kind of probe known as a User Statically-Defined Tracing (USDT) probe. These probes provide a low-overhead way of instrumenting user-space code and provide a convenient way to debug applications running in production. In this final article of the BPF and BCC series we’ll look at where USDT probes come from and how you can use them to understand the behavior of your own applications.

      The origins of USDT probes can be found in Sun’s DTrace utility. While DTrace can’t claim to have invented static tracepoints (various implementations are described in the “related work” section of the original DTrace paper), it certainly made them much more popular. With the emergence of DTrace, many applications began adding USDT probes to important functions to aid with tracing and diagnosing run-time behavior. Given that, it’s perhaps not surprising that these probes are usually enabled (as part of configuring the build) with the –enable-dtrace switch.

    • Schedutil CPU Frequency Scaling Governor Improvements Coming To Linux 4.18

      Adding to the list of changes coming to Linux 4.18 are updates to CPUFreq’s “Schedutil” CPU frequency scaling governor.

      Schedutil is the newest CPUFreq governor introduced back during Linux 4.7 as an alternative to ondemand, performance, and others. What makes Schedutil different and interesting is that it makes use of CPU scheduler utilization data for its decisions about CPU frequency control.

    • Linux Foundation
    • Graphics Stack
      • ROCm 1.9 Compute Components To Support Ubuntu 18.04 LTS

        For those wanting to use the open-source ROCm Radeon Open Compute stack on Ubuntu 18.04 LTS, it will be supported by the next release.

        The ROCm compute stack with OpenCL support will officially support Ubuntu 18.04 LTS with the upcoming ROCm 1.9 release. Gregory Stoner of AMD’s compute team c

      • The Vulkan Open-Source Ecosystem Grows: Now More Than 2,100 GitHub Projects

        Just over one month after there were 2,000 Vulkan-mentioning projects on GitHub, the 2,100 project milestone has been breached.

      • RADV Gets Fix For DXVK With World of Warcraft & Other Games

        If you have been experiencing rendering issues with the Vulkan-over-Direct3D “DXVK” layer while playing games on Wine and are using the RADV Vulkan driver, you may want to upgrade to the latest Git.

      • Libinput 1.11 Is Bringing With It Many Linux Input Improvements

        Within the libinput world, the 1.11 development cycle has been going on long with Libinput 1.10 having debuted in January. But this long development cycle is bringing with it many changes.

        Peter Hutterer of Red Hat who started the libinput project today announced the first release candidate of the upcoming libinput 1.11.

      • Mesa 18.2 Due For Release In August

        While Mesa 18.1 just officially shipped last week, Mesa 18.2 as next quarter’s open-source 3D OpenGL/Vulkan graphics driver stack update is scheduled for release in mid-August.

        The tentative Mesa 18.2 release schedule puts the official Mesa 18.2.0 release for 10 August or potentially 17 August depending upon if a fourth release candidate is needed or any other release delays.

      • XWayland Gets Patches For Better EGLStreams Handling

        While the recently released X.Org Server 1.20 has initial support for XWayland with EGLStreams so X11 applications/games on Wayland can still benefit from hardware acceleration, in its current state it doesn’t integrate too well with Wayland desktop compositors wishing to support it. That’s changing with a new patch series.

      • Intel Mesa Driver Finally Supports Threaded OpenGL

        Based off the Gallium3D “mesa_glthread” work for threaded OpenGL that can provide a measurable win in some scenarios, the Intel i965 Mesa driver has implemented this support now too.

        Following the work squared away last year led in the RadeonSI driver, the Intel i965 OpenGL driver supports threaded OpenGL when the mesa_glthread=true environment variable is set.

      • Geometry & Tessellation Shaders For Mesa’s OpenGL Compatibility Context

        With the recent Mesa 18.1 release there is OpenGL 3.1 support with the ARB_compatibility context for the key Gallium3D drivers, but Marek Olšák at AMD continues working on extending that functionality under the OpenGL compatibility context mode.

      • Mesa Begins Its Transition To Gitlab

        Following the news from earlier this month that FreeDesktop.org would move its infrastructure to Gitlab, the Mesa3D project has begun the process of adopting this Git-centered software.

  • Applications
  • Desktop Environments/WMs
    • LXQt 0.13 Desktop Environment Officially Released, It’s Coming to Lubuntu 18.10

      For starters, all of LXQt’s components are now ready to be built against the recently released Qt 5.11 application framework, and out-of-source-builds are now mandatory. LXQt 0.13.0 also disabled the menu-cached functionality, making it optional from now on in both the panel and runner, thus preventing memory leaks and avoiding any issues that may occur when shutting down or restarting LXQt.

    • Release LXQt 0.13.0

      The LXQt team is proud to announce the release of LXQt 0.13.0, the Lightweight Qt Desktop Environment.

      The LXQt team is working hard towards LXQt 1.0.0. Want to help us? Found any bugs? Please file bug reports and pull requests on our GitHub tracker!

    • LXQt 0.13 Released With More Improvements For This Lightweight Qt Desktop

      The developers working on the combined Razor-qt and LXDE desktop effort, LXQt, have rolled out their newest feature release.

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt
      • Qt 5.11 released

        Slightly ahead of our planned schedule, we have released Qt 5.11 today. As always, Qt 5.11 comes with quite a few new features as well as many bug fixes to existing functionality. Let’s have a look at some of the cool new features.

      • Qt 5.11 Released With A Big Arsenal Of Updates

        The Qt Company has managed to release Qt 5.11 one week ahead of schedule compared to its original road-map, which is quite a feat considering some of the past Qt5 release delays. Beyond that, Qt 5.11.0 is offering a big slab of improvements.

      • Porting guide from Qt 1.0 to 5.11

        We do try to keep breakages to a minimum, even in the major releases, but the changes do add up. This raises the question: How hard would it be to port a Qt application from Qt 1.0 to 5.11?

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK
      • GLib gets MinGW32 continuous integration and code coverage

        Thanks to the work of Christoph Reiter, GLib has had continuous integration builds on Windows (using MinGW32/MSYS2) for a week or two now. Furthermore, he’s added code coverage support, so we can easily see how our code coverage is changing over time. Thanks Christoph!

      • Automatically shutting down a daemon on inactivity

        Automatically shutting down daemons when not in use is in vogue, and a good way of saving resources quite easily (if the service’s startup/shutdown costs are low).

      • Moving clang out of process

        For the past couple of weeks, Builder from git-master has come with a new gnome-builder-clang subprocess. Instead of including libclang in the UI process, we now proxy all of that work to the subprocess. This should have very positive effect on memory usage within the UI process. It will also simplify the process of using valgrind/ASAN and obtaining useful results. In the future, we’ll teach the subprocess supervisor to recycle subprocesses if they consume too much memory.

      • Thunderbolt Networking on Linux

        Thunderbolt allows for peer-to-peer network connections by connecting two computers directly via a thunderbolt cable. Mika from Intel added support for this to the 4.15 kernel. Recently, Thomas Haller from NetworkManager and I worked together to figure out what needs to be done in userspace to make it work. As it turns out, it was not that hard and the pull-request was merged swiftly.

  • Distributions
    • OpenSUSE/SUSE
      • What’s new in openSUSE Leap 15 – part 1

        openSUSE Leap 15 will be released on the 25th of May 2018! A new openSUSE release is always an exciting event. This means that I get to play with all kinds of new and improved software packages.

        I am aware that I can simply install openSUSE Tumbleweed and have a new release 4 or 5 times a week. But when using openSUSE Tumbleweed some time ago, I noticed that I was installing Gigabytes of new software packages multiple times per week. The reason for that is that I have the complete opposite of a minimum install. I always install a lot of applications to play / experiment with (including a lot of open source games). I am using openSUSE since 2009 and it covers all of my needs and then some. I am already happy with the available software, so there is no real reason for me to move with the speed of a rolling release. Therefore I prefer to move with the slower pace of the Leap releases.

    • Red Hat Family
      • RPKG guide from Tito user

        Since the beginning of the rpkg project, it was known as a client tool for DistGit. Times changed and a new era for rpkg is here. It was enhanced with project management features, so we can safely label it as a tito alternative.

        A features review, pros and cons and user guide is a theme for a whole new article. In this short post, I, as a long-time tito user, want to show rpkg alternatives for the tito commands, that I frequently use.

      • All-Flash Platform-as-a-Service: Pure Storage and Red Hat OpenShift Reference Architecture

        Pure Storage® is excited to announce a reference architecture for Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform, using both Pure Storage FlashArray and FlashBlade™ to provide all the underlying storage requirements.

      • Red Hat OpenStack Platform 13 Delivers Long-Term Support

        The Red Hat OpenStack Platform 13 release was officially announced here on May 21, bringing along with it new features and expanded support for the open-source cloud platform.

        In a video interview with eWEEK, Mark McLoughlin, senior director of engineering for OpenStack at Red Hat, details what’s new in the release and what is set to come in the next release. Red Hat OpenStack Platform 13 is based on the upstream OpenStack Queens release that first became generally available on Feb. 28.

        “The key thing for the OpenStack Platform 13 release is that it is a long life release,” McLoughlin said.

      • Delivering Container Storage-as-a-Service

        Today, Pure Storage is excited to announce Pure Service Orchestrator. It is now possible to deliver container storage-as-a-service to empower your developers to build and deploy scale-out, microservices applications. The agility that your developers expect they could only get from the public cloud is now possible, on premise!

        In this blog, we’ll discuss why the adoption of containers is exploding, how the the lack of persistent storage threatens to slow adoption, and why a newer, smarter approach to storage delivery for containerized application environments is needed.

      • Best practices for engaging with Red Hat Support

        With a Red Hat subscription, you get the latest enterprise-ready software, expert knowledge, product security and technical support from trusted engineers making software the open source way. Red Hat Support makes sure our enterprise technology works in your environment, and helps you minimize the impact to your business if an issue occurs. If you need to open a support case, it will be routed to engineers that are specialized in the product that you use, so your issue can be efficiently resolved by experts.

      • Red Hat Certifies Multiple Ribbon Virtual Network Functions on Open Stack Platform 10
      • Red Hat intros hyperconverged infrastructure for cloud

        Red Hat has introduced Red Hat Hyperconverged Infrastructure for Cloud, an integrated solution for customers seeking to co-locate compute and storage functions in OpenStack environments. The new offering combines Red Hat OpenStack Platform 13 and Red Hat Ceph Storage 3 in a single user experience, supported by a common lifecycle for greater operational and organizational efficiency.

      • How Red Hat has accelerated open source adoption to hit 25-year milestone

        The firm recently celebrated 25 years in business, and according to Miles, Red Hat is as strong as ever. Four years into his tenure at the company here in the Middle East, he has been “pleasantly surprised” and “very impressed” that regional organisations are already pursuing strong strategies in open source.

      • Red Hat rolls out OpenStack HCI platform for telco and enterprise hybrid clouds

        Red Hat launched a new hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) platform for telcos and enterprises that combines OpenStack compute with its Ceph storage.

        Red Hat Hyperconverged Infrastructure for Cloud is an open, integrated platform for customers seeking to co-locate compute and storage functions in OpenStack environments.

        Announced Tuesday at the OpenStack Summit, the new platform blends Red Hat OpenStack Platform 13 and Red Hat Ceph Storage 3 into a single user experience for hyperconvergence in the hybrid cloud. Red Hat said it was the biggest contributor to both open source projects.

      • Finance
      • Fedora
        • 10 tasks for running containers on Atomic Host

          Unlike a virtual machine, which includes an entire operating system, a container is meant to hold only the software needed to run an application. Therefore, to run a container efficiently and securely, you need an operating system that provides secure container services and acts as a foundation for running containers. One operating system developed for that task is Atomic Host.

          Think of Atomic Host as a secure, specialized version of Fedora, CentOS, or Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). Its best use is to provide a reliable and easily upgradable operating system for running containers. Different formats of Atomic Host are available to run on anything from bare metal to a variety of cloud environments. With an Atomic Host system installed, you can use the docker command as you would on other container-enabled systems. However, Atomic Host also comes with an additional command called atomic, which expands what you can do with containers.

        • GNOME Terminal: a little something for Fedora 29

          Can you spot what that is?

    • Debian Family
      • More Vnlog demos

        More demos of vnlog and feedgnuplot usage! This is pretty pointless, but should be a decent demo of the tools at least. This is a demo, not documentation; so for usage details consult the normal docs.

        Each Wednesday night I join a group bike ride. This is an organized affair, and each week an email precedes the ride, very roughly describing the route. The two organizers alternate leading the ride each week, and consequently the emails alternate also. I was getting the feeling that some of the announcements show up in my mailbxo more punctually than others, and after a recent 20-minutes-before-the ride email, I decided this just had to be quantified.

        The emails all go to a google-group email. The google-groups people are a wheel-reinventing bunch, so talking to the archive can’t be done with normal tools (NNTP? mbox files? No?). A brief search revealed somebody’s home-grown tool to programmatically grab the archive:

      • First GSoC Report

        To whom it may concern, this is my report over the first few weeks of gsoc under the umbrella of the Debian project. I’m writing this on my way back from the minidebconf in Hamburg, which was a nice experience, maybe there will be another post about that

        So, the goal of my GSOC project is to design and implement a new SSO solution for Debian. But that only touches one part of the projects deliveries. As you can read in the description Alexander Wirth originally posted in the Debian Wiki, the project consists of two parts, where the first one is the design and coding of a new backend and self-service interface for Debian guest users (this includes the accounts of Debian Maintainers).

      • Derivatives
        • Parrot 4.0 Ethical Hacking Linux Distro Released: Download Here To Get New Features

          Compared to its previous releases, Debian-based Parrot 4.0 ethical hacking distro has arrived with a lot more changes. The development team has called it an important milestone in the history of the project.

        • Canonical/Ubuntu
          • Ubuntu Unleashed 2019 and other books presale discount
          • Call for nominations for the Technical Board

            The current 2-year term of the Technical Board is over, and it’s time for electing a new one. For the next two weeks (until 6 June 2018) we are collecting nominations, then our SABDFL will shortlist the candidates and confirm their candidacy with them, and finally the shortlist will be put to a vote by ~ubuntu-dev.

            Anyone from the Ubuntu community can nominate someone.

          • Decreasing the complexity of IoT adoption with Edge as a Service model

            Last week, much of the IoT industry descended on Santa Clara, California, for the annual IoT World trade show. One of the exhibitors present were Rigado who Canonical partnered with earlier this year to deploy Ubuntu Core on their IoT gateways primarily targeted at commercial applications such as smart lighting and asset tracking. Rigado used IoT World as an opportunity to discuss the launch of Cascade, their new ‘Edge as a Service’ proposition, for commercial IoT.

            Cascade, which is offered as a simple monthly subscription, enables companies to focus on their business and what generates revenue rather than expending effort and resource dedicated to managing the infrastructure behind it. With many organisations looking at ways they can benefit from adopting IoT while removing perceived barriers, Cascade offers a low-risk, low-cost entry which in turn enables project teams to benefit from reduced development, support and no upfront hardware costs. The end result is a quicker path to IoT deployment and resulting ROI.

          • Welcome to Ubuntu 18.04: Make yourself at GNOME. Cup of data-slurping dispute, anyone?

            Comment Ubuntu 18.04, launched last month, included a new Welcome application that runs the first time you boot into your new install. The Welcome app does several things, including offering to opt you out of Canonical’s new data collection tool.

            The tool also provides a quick overview of the new GNOME interface, and offers to set up Livepatch (for kernel patching without a reboot).

            In my review I called the opt-out a ham-fisted decision, but did note that if Canonical wanted to actually gather data, opt-out was probably the best choice.

          • UBports To Work On Unity 8 / Mir / Wayland After OTA-4

            The UBports team have put out their latest batch of answers to common questions around this project that’s still working to maintain the Ubuntu Touch software stack.

            Among the project’s recent work has included getting QtWebEngine working on Mir and before their Ubuntu 16.04 LTS based release they still need to figure out Chromium crashes and to resolve that as well as updating the browser. For their first release of UBports derived from Ubuntu 16.04 “Xenial” they are still going to rely upon Oxide while later on should migrate to a new browser.

          • Flavours and Variants
            • Xubuntu: New Wiki pages for Testers

              During the last few weeks of the 18.04 (Bionic Beaver) cycle, we had 2 people drop by in our development channel trying to respond to the call for testers from the Development and QA Teams.

              It quickly became apparent to me that I was having to repeat myself in order to make it “basic” enough for someone who had never tested for us, to understand what I was trying to put across.

              After pointing to the various resources we have, and other flavours use – it transpired that they both would have preferred something a bit easier to start with.

              So I asked them to write it for us all.

            • Linux Mint tools – That which makes the distro unique

              Creating Linux distro spins is relatively easy. A few string replacements, some branding, and you’re done. Creating unique, independent and self-sufficient projects, that’s another matter entirely. The latter category is reserved to only a small number of distros that manage to balance their parenthood and individual identity while still providing users with a sensible and meaningful setup for work and fun. Linux Mint is one of such rare examples.

              For many years, Mint has successfully paddles its gray-green look and feel, topped with good and easy access to everyday needs. This hasn’t always been easy, as Ubuntu changes a lot, and this has often affected Mint in unpredictable ways. Still, overall, it managed to retain an edge of worth that goes beyond being yet another bland clone. Staying with the LTS releases as the baseline is one such manifest. A set of unique tools is another. We explore.

            • Kubuntu 18.04 Review: KDE Plasma at its Best

              Kubuntu 18.04 LTS has been released and we take it for a test drive in this detailed review of Kubuntu 18.04.

  • Devices/Embedded
Free Software/Open Source
  • Zuul: Proven open-source continuous integration/continuous delivery

    If you think Zuul is the Gatekeeper, demigod, and minion of the ancient Hittite god Gozer, then you’re a Ghostbusters fan, too. But, if you’re interested in continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) and not “human sacrifice, dogs, and cats living together… mass hysteria,” then you want Zuul, OpenStack’s open-source CI/CD platform.

    Zuul originally was developed for OpenStack CI testing. For years, OpenStack, the Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) cloud, got all the attention. Over time, people began to realize that as impressive as OpenStack was, the CI system behind it, which enabled contributors and users across many different organizations to work and develop quickly together across multiple projects, was impressive in its own right.

  • Computer History Museum saves Eudora

    The Computer History Museum, based in California, has announced the publication of the source code for one of the first successful mainstream email clients: Eudora.

    Developed by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign programmer Steve Dorner in 1988, Eudora launched as an Apple Macintosh-exclusive client for the new-fangled electronic mail technology that was taking the world by storm at the time. Its original incarnation was just 50,000 lines of C code, but as Eudora’s popularity grew so did the code base: By 1991 it had become successful enough to attract the interest of Qualcomm, which licensed the software and took over development while launching it in 1993 as a paid-for commercial package for both Apple Macs and IBM PC compatibles.

  • Computer history Museum releases Eudora email client source code

    Before email was something you could access on the web, on your phone, or via Outlook, there were a handful or primarily text-based email applications such as Elm and Pine.

    One of the first popular email utilities to feature a graphical user interface was Eudora, created for Mac computers by Steve Dorner in 1988.

  • Events
    • Video: Containers Should Contain… Right?

      Here’s a presentation video from the very recent OpenStack Summit Vancouver 2018. The topic repeats what Dan Walsh was saying a couple of years ago. Again, this is talking about application containers using traditional kernel features like namespaces and cgroups… because as we all know, in the Linux kernel, containers are NOT a REAL thing.

      Just to be clear, OpenVZ… which is a mature out-of-tree patch for system containers that has been around and maintained for well over 13 years… does contain… but the hype is all around application containers like Docker and its work-alikes.

    • Updates in container isolation

      At KubeCon + CloudNativeCon Europe 2018, several talks explored the topic of container isolation and security. The last year saw the release of Kata Containers which, combined with the CRI-O project, provided strong isolation guarantees for containers using a hypervisor. During the conference, Google released its own hypervisor called gVisor, adding yet another possible solution for this problem. Those new developments prompted the community to work on integrating the concept of “secure containers” (or “sandboxed containers”) deeper into Kubernetes. This work is now coming to fruition; it prompts us to look again at how Kubernetes tries to keep the bad guys from wreaking havoc once they break into a container.

    • Autoscaling for Kubernetes workloads

      Technologies like containers, clusters, and Kubernetes offer the prospect of rapidly scaling the available computing resources to match variable demands placed on the system. Actually implementing that scaling can be a challenge, though. During KubeCon + CloudNativeCon Europe 2018, Frederic Branczyk from CoreOS (now part of Red Hat) held a packed session to introduce a standard and officially recommended way to scale workloads automatically in Kubernetes clusters.

      Kubernetes has had an autoscaler since the early days, but only recently did the community implement a more flexible and extensible mechanism to make decisions on when to add more resources to fulfill workload requirements. The new API integrates not only the Prometheus project, which is popular in Kubernetes deployments, but also any arbitrary monitoring system that implements the standardized APIs.

    • An introduction to MQTT

      A few years ago, I was asked to put temperature monitoring in a customer’s server room and to integrate it with their existing monitoring and notification software. We ended up buying a rack-mountable temperature monitor, for nearly £200, that ran its own web server for propagating temperature data. Although the device ostensibly published data in XML, that turned out to be so painful to parse that we ended up screen-scraping the human-readable web pages to get the data. Temperature sensors are fairly cheap, but by the time you’ve wrapped them in a case with a power supply, an Ethernet port, a web server, enough of an OS to drive the above, and volatile and non-volatile storage for the same, they get expensive. I was sure that somewhere there must be physically-lightweight sensors with simple power, simple networking, and a lightweight protocol that allowed them to squirt their data down the network with a minimum of overhead. So my interest was piqued when Jan-Piet Mens spoke at FLOSS UK’s Spring Conference on “Small Things for Monitoring”. Once he started passing working demonstration systems around the room without interrupting the demonstration, it was clear that this was what I’d been looking for.

  • Web Browsers
    • Mozilla
      • The General Data Protection Regulation and Firefox

        We are only a few days away from May 25th, when the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will go into full effect. Since we were founded, Mozilla has always stood for and practiced a set of data privacy principles that are at the heart of privacy laws like the GDPR. And we have applied those principles, not just to Europe, but to all our users worldwide. We feel like the rest of the world is catching up to where we have been all along.

      • Ready for GDPR: Firefox Focus Offers Additional Tracking Protection Against Advertisers

        It’s been nearly a year since we launched Firefox Focus for Android, and it has become one of the most popular privacy browsers for mobile around the world. In light of recent events, more and more consumers have growing awareness for privacy and secure products. The upcoming implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe later this month reflects this and, at the same time, highlights how important privacy is for all users.

      • rust for cortex-m7 baremetal
      • Tags are now available in Pontoon to help you prioritize your work

        Almost a couple of years ago I started working on a concept called string tiers. The goal was twofold: on one side help locales, especially those starting from scratch, to prioritize their work on a project as large as Firefox, with currently over 11 thousand strings. On the other hand, give project managers a better understanding of the current status of localization.

        Given the growth in complexity and update frequency of Developer Tools within Firefox (currently almost 2,600 strings), finding a solution to this problem became more urgent. For example, is a locale in bad shape because it misses thousands of strings? The answer would not automatically be ”yes”, since the missing strings might have a low priority.

        The string tiers concept assigns priority to strings based on their target – who is meant to see them – and their visibility. The idea is quite simple: a string warning the user about an error, or requiring an action from them, is more important than one targeting developers or website owners, and buried in the Error Console of the browser.

      • These Weeks in Firefox: Issue 39
  • SaaS/Back End
    • Google Acquires Open Source Big Data Platform Cask

      Last week Cask Data, known for its open source Cask Data Application Platform (CDAP), announced that it’s being acquired by Google — specifically Google’s cloud division.

      “We are thrilled to announce that Cask Data, Inc. will be joining Google Cloud!” the company’s founders, Jonathan Gray and Nitin Motgi, said in its online announcement of the purchase.

    • Rackspace Jumps Into Kubernetes, Again

      “With Kubernetes-as-a-Service, we are providing the industry’s simplest Kubernetes consumption model by delivering it fully configured, tested and validated at enterprise scale with the managed cluster services customers need to effectively run their applications,” Scott Crenshaw, executive vice president of private clouds at Rackspace, stated.

      “Rackspace’s combination of operational experience and open source expertise, coupled with the security, improved economics and a fully managed Kubernetes offering available on leading public and private cloud technologies, helps companies accelerate their digital transformation,” Crenshaw continued.

    • How OpenStack Is Redefining Itself and Open Infrastructure

      The OpenStack Foundation is no longer interested in only its own cloud platform, but also in enabling the broader ecosystem of open infrastructure

      In a session at the OpenStack Summit, Thierry Carrez, VP of Engineering at the OpenStack Foundation, outlined the steps the foundation are taking to create what he referred to as a better-defined OpenStack. The key theme of the redefinition is that OpenStack is no longer just about the OpenStack cloud platform project.

    • OpenStack Boosts Container Security With Kata Containers 1.0

      The OpenStack Foundation announced on May 22 the Kata Containers 1.0 release which is designed to bolster container security.

      The Kata Containers project provides a virtualization isolation layer to help run multi-tenant container deployments in a more secure manner than running containers natively on bare-metal. The effort provides a micro-virtual machine (VM) layer that can run container workloads.

    • VMware OpenStack 5 Rolls Out for Data Centers and Telecoms
    • VMware Integrated OpenStack 5 Aims to Accelerate Carrier Clouds
    • What’s Coming in OpenStack Rocky?

      The OpenStack Rocky release is currently scheduled to become generally available on August 30th, and it’s expected to add a host of new and enhanced capabilities to the open-source cloud platform.

      At the OpenStack Summit here, Anne Bertucio, marketing manager at the OpenStack Foundation, and Pete Chadwick, director of product management at SUSE, outlined some of the features currently on the Rocky roadmap.

      Bertucio began the session by warning the audience that the roadmap is not prescriptive, but rather is intended to provide a general idea of the direction the next OpenStack release is taking.

  • Databases
    • PostgreSQL 11 Is Continuing With More Performance Improvements, JIT’ing

      PostgreSQL 11 is the next major feature release of this open-source database SQL server due out later in 2018. While it’s not out yet, their release notes were recently updated for providing an overview of what’s coming as part of this next major update.

      To little surprise, performance improvements remain a big focus for PostgreSQL 11 with various optimizations as well as continued parallelization work and also the recently introduced just-in-time (JIT) compilation support.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)
    • Review of Kaspersky Labs Report Confirms OPC Foundation’s Transparent, Open Source OPC UA Implementations Strategy Improves Security

      The Kaspersky Labs report issued on May 10th, 2018 has garnered a lot of media attention based on its claim of having identified 17 security issues in some OPC UA implementations. A detailed description of the 17 issues can be found at https://opcfoundation.org/security/.

    • Wind River Drives Open Source Edge Infrastructure

      In a recent blog post, Intel and Wind River have announced their intent to make open source some of the components from the Wind River Titanium Cloud portfolio. The code is now being upstreamed in a new open source project called StarlingX, hosted by the OpenStack Foundation.

      Wind River Titanium Cloud was built on open source components, which are then extended and targeted to be hardened to address critical infrastructure requirements: high availability, fault management, and performance management needed for continuous 24/7 operation. Wind River Titanium Cloud also includes the low latency, high performance, scalability, and security needed for edge and IoT workloads.

    • WhiteSource Rolls Out New Open Source Security Detector [Ed: When you call something “Open Source” but it is actually proprietary and it alerts about Open Source]

      WhiteSource on Tuesday launched its next-generation software composition analysis (SCA) technology, dubbed “Effective Usage Analysis,” with the promise that it can reduce open source vulnerability alerts by 70 percent.

      The newly developed technology provides details beyond which components are present in the application. It provides actionable insights into how components are being used. It also evaluates their impact on the security of the application.

      The new solution shows which vulnerabilities are effective. For instance, it can identify which vulnerabilities get calls from the proprietary code.

  • Funding
  • BSD
    • TrueOS: A Simple BSD Distribution for the Desktop Users

      When you think of It’s FOSS you probably think mainly of Linux. It’s true that we cover mostly Linux-related news and tutorials. But today we are going to do something different.We are going to look at TrueOS BSD distribution.

      Linux and BSD, both fall into Unix-like operating system domain. The main difference lies at the core i.e. the kernel as both Linux and BSD have their own kernel implementation.

    • “FreeBSD Mastery: Jails” Sponsorships, and writing schedule changes

      Per my 2018 schedule, it’s time to start writing FreeBSD Mastery: Jails. I’ve been idly assembling the parts over the last couple of months.

  • Licensing/Legal
    • Tesla disclosed some of its autopilot source code after GPL violation

      Tesla, a technology company, and the independent automaker are well known for offering the safest, quickest electric cars. The company uses a lot of open source software to build its operating system and features, such as Linux Kernel, Buildroot, Busybox, QT, etc also they have always been taciturn about the finer details and tech of its popular artefacts, such as Model S, Model X, but now Elon Musk’s company has just released some of its automotive tech source code into the open source community.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration
    • Mozilla teamed up with a brewery for an open-sourced beer, and we downed a pint

      Mozilla is seriously into open-source. So seriously, in fact, that developer doesn’t just want to see it restricted to software. In its eyes, just about anything can go open-source. Even beer.

      To prove it, Mozilla teamed up with Widmer Brothers, a brewery based in Portland, Oregon. The companies crafted a survey for community input on the style, hops, and any special additions drinkers might want to see. Responses were tabulated, weighed, and turned into a recipe by the brewers at Widmer.

    • Open Hardware/Modding
      • Open Source Underwater Distributed Sensor Network

        One way to design an underwater monitoring device is to take inspiration from nature and emulate an underwater creature. [Michael Barton-Sweeney] is making devices in the shape of, and functioning somewhat like, clams for his open source underwater distributed sensor network.

  • Programming/Development
    • Best Websites For Programmers

      As a programmer, you will often find yourself as a permanent visitor of some websites. These can be tutorial, reference or forums websites. So here in this article let us have a look at the best websites for programmers.

    • The 2018 Python Language Summit

      Over the past three years, LWN and its readers have gotten a yearly treat in the form of coverage of the Python Language Summit; this year is no exception. The summit is a yearly gathering of around 40 or 50 developers from CPython, other Python implementations, and related projects. It is held on the first day of PyCon, which is two days before the main PyCon talk tracks begin. This year, the summit was held on May 9 in Cleveland, Ohio.

    • A Gilectomy update

      In a rather short session at the 2018 Python Language Summit, Larry Hastings updated attendees on the status of his Gilectomy project. The aim of that effort is to remove the global interpreter lock (GIL) from CPython. Since his status report at last year’s summit, little has happened, which is part of why the session was so short. He hasn’t given up on the overall idea, but it needs a new approach.

      Gilectomy has been “untouched for a year”, Hastings said. He worked on it at the PyCon sprints after last year’s summit, but got tired of it at that point. He is “out of bullets” at least with that approach. With his complicated buffered-reference-count approach he was able to get his “gilectomized” interpreter to reach performance parity with CPython—except that his interpreter was running on around seven cores to keep up with CPython on one.

    • Modifying the Python object model

      At the 2018 Python Language Summit, Carl Shapiro described some of the experiments that he and others at Instagram did to look at ways to improve the performance of the CPython interpreter. The talk was somewhat academic in tone and built on what has been learned in other dynamic languages over the years. By modifying the Python object model fairly substantially, they were able to roughly double the performance of the “classic” Richards benchmark.

      Shapiro said that Instagram is a big user of Python and has been looking for ways to improve the performance of the CPython interpreter for its workloads. So the company started looking at the representation of data in the interpreter to see if there were gains to be made there. It wanted to stick with CPython in order to preserve the existing API, ecosystem, and developer experience

    • Subinterpreter support for Python

      Eric Snow kicked off the 2018 edition of the Python Language Summit with a look at getting a better story for multicore Python by way of subinterpreters. Back in 2015, we looked at his efforts at that point; things have been progressing since. There is more to do, of course, so he is hoping to attract more developers to work on the project.

      Snow has been a core developer since 2012 and has “seen some interesting stuff” over that time. He has been working on the subinterpreters scheme for four years or so.

    • GitLab 10.8 open sources push mirroring

      GitLab 10.8 was released this week with the open sourcing of a highly requested feature. The company announced its push mirroring capability is now open sourced.

      Push mirroring was originally introduced as a paid feature, but GitLab says it is one of the most frequently requested to be moved into the open-source codebase.

      This move will add a few new use cases for GitLab Core users, such as freelance developers being able to mirror client repos and users migrating to GitLab being able to use push mirroring to ease the migration path.

    • How Security Can Bridge the Chasm with Development

      Enhancing the relationships between security and engineering is crucial for improving software security. These six steps will bring your teams together.

      There’s always been a troublesome rift between enterprise security teams and software developers. While the friction is understandable, it’s also a shame, because the chasm between these teams makes it all the more challenging to build quality applications that are both great to use and safe.

    • Which Programming Languages Use the Least Electricity?

      Can energy usage data tell us anything about the quality of our programming languages?

      Last year a team of six researchers in Portugal from three different universities decided to investigate this question, ultimately releasing a paper titled “Energy Efficiency Across Programming Languages.” They ran the solutions to 10 programming problems written in 27 different languages, while carefully monitoring how much electricity each one used — as well as its speed and memory usage.

    • How Java EE found new life as Jakarta EE

      The title of this post may seem strange, but if you look a bit into Java EE’s recent history, it will make sense.

      Originally, Sun started and ran Java Enterprise Edition, and later Oracle took over after it acquired Sun. Specifications were driven by a Sun/Oracle-governed process. At more or less regular intervals, they made a new version of the specification available, which was implemented by the server vendors. Those vendors had to license the technology compatibility kits (TCKs) and brand from Oracle.

      Let’s fast-forward a bit. In 2013, Java EE 7 was released, and Oracle began work on EE8, but it did not progress quickly. Meanwhile, new technologies like Docker and Kubernetes came along and changed the way applications run. Instead of running a single fat server process on a big machine, the software is now split into smaller, independent services that run in a (usually) Docker container orchestrated by Kubernetes.

Leftovers
  • Google Sheets is becoming a viable alternative to Microsoft Excel for most spreadsheet users
  • Science
    • Testing the “wide walls” design principle in the wild

      Seymour Papert is credited as saying that tools to support learning should have “high ceilings” and “low floors.” The phrase is meant to suggest that tools should allow learners to do complex and intellectually sophisticated things but should also be easy to begin using quickly. Mitchel Resnick extended the metaphor to argue that learning toolkits should also have “wide walls” in that they should appeal to diverse groups of learners and allow for a broad variety of creative outcomes. In a new paper, Benjamin Mako Hill and I attempted to provide the first empirical test of Resnick’s wide walls theory. Using a natural experiment in the Scratch online community, we found causal evidence that “widening walls” can, as Resnick suggested, increase both engagement and learning.

    • Natural experiment showing how “wide walls” can support engagement and learning

      Seymour Papert is credited as saying that tools to support learning should have “high ceilings” and “low floors.” The phrase is meant to suggest that tools should allow learners to do complex and intellectually sophisticated things but should also be easy to begin using quickly. Mitchel Resnick extended the metaphor to argue that learning toolkits should also have “wide walls” in that they should appeal to diverse groups of learners and allow for a broad variety of creative outcomes. In a new paper, Sayamindu Dasgupta and I attempted to provide an empirical test of Resnick’s wide walls theory. Using a natural experiment in the Scratch online community, we found causal evidence that “widening walls” can, as Resnick suggested, increase both engagement and learning.

  • Health/Nutrition
    • “Like slavery”: Rehab patients forced into unpaid labor to cover “treatment”
    • A Pioneering Heart Surgeon’s Secret History of Research Violations, Conflicts of Interest and Poor Outcomes

      There’s a story Bud Frazier tells often. It was around 1966, and Frazier, now one of the world’s most celebrated heart surgeons, was a medical student at Baylor College of Medicine.

      An Italian teenager had come to Houston for an aortic valve replacement, but at some point during or after the surgery, the teen’s heart stopped. Doctors told Frazier to reach in and start pumping the failed organ by hand.

      As he did so, the teen lifted a hand to Frazier’s face, and in that moment, just before the patient died, he says he realized his life’s calling.

      “As long as I was massaging that kid’s heart, he would wake up,” Frazier, now 78, said last year. “I thought then, and I’ve often returned to this: If my hand can keep this kid alive, why couldn’t we make a device to do the same?”

  • Security
    • Security updates for Wednesday
    • Security Researchers Discover Two New Variants of the Spectre Vulnerability
    • ARM64 Mitigation Posted For Spectre 4 / SSBD

      Following the Intel/AMD Spectre Variant 4 mitigation landing yesterday with “Speculative Store Bypass Disable” (SSBD) and then the POWER CPU mitigation landing today, ARM developers have posted their set of patches for 64-bit ARM CPUs to mitigate against this latest Spectre vulnerability around speculative execution.

    • Linux 4.9, 4.14, 4.16 Point Releases Bring SSBD For Spectre V4

      Greg Kroah-Hartman has today released the Linux 4.9.102, 4.14.43, and 4.16.11 kernels. Most notable about these stable release updates is Spectre Variant Four mitigation.

      Today’s 4.9/4.14/4.16 point releases carry the Intel/AMD mitigation for Spectre V4 albeit the Intel support is dependent upon to-be-released microcode updates and is vulnerable by default while for AMD processors there is SSB disabled via prctl and seccomp.

    • An Initial Look At Spectre V4 “Speculative Store Bypass” With AMD On Linux

      Yesterday the latest Spectre vulnerability was disclosed as Spectre Variant 4 also known as “Speculative Store Bypass” as well as the less talked about Spectre Variant 3A “Rogue System Register Read”. Here are my initial tests of a patched Linux kernel on AMD hardware for Spectre V4.

      Landing yesterday into Linux 4.17 Git was Speculative Store Bypass Disable (SSBD) as the Linux-based mitigation on Intel/AMD x86 CPUs. Since then has also been the POWER CPU SSBD implementation and pending patches for ARM64 CPUs.

    • Exclusive: FBI Seizes Control of Russian Botnet

      FBI agents armed with a court order have seized control of a key server in the Kremlin’s global botnet of 500,000 hacked routers, The Daily Beast has learned. The move positions the bureau to build a comprehensive list of victims of the attack, and short-circuits Moscow’s ability to reinfect its targets.

      The FBI counter-operation goes after “VPN Filter,” a piece of sophisticated malware linked to the same Russian hacking group, known as Fancy Bear, that breached the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign during the 2016 election. On Wednesday security researchers at Cisco and Symantec separately provided new details on the malware, which has turned up in 54 countries including the United States.

    • Two-step authentication in Firefox Accounts
    • Parrot 4.0 Now Available, Eudora Email Code Open-Sourced, Firefox Now Offers Two-Step Authentication and More

      Mozilla began offering two-step authentication for Firefox this week. If you enable it, you’ll need to use an additional security code to log in. Mozilla is using the authentication standard TOTP (Time-based One-Time Password) to implement this feature. If you don’t see a “Two-step authentication” panel in your Preferences, see this page for further instructions on how to enable it.

    • Firefox Finally Offers Two Factor Auth to Protect Your Passwords

      Mozilla is rolling out two factor authentication for Firefox accounts and if you sync passwords using Firefox Sync you should enable it immediately.

      The option for two factor authentication should show up in your Firefox account settings in a few weeks, but you can skip the wait by clicking this link. Do that and you should see the option for two-factor authentication, as shown above.

    • Now Make Your Firefox Account Safer With New Two Factor Authentication

      It seems that tech giants, finally, are gearing up to make portals more secure. In an announcement made yesterday, Mozilla has announced two-factor authentication for Firefox accounts. It is an optional security feature that will require inserting authentication code after signing in your Firefox account with your credentials.

      The newly introduced two-step verification feature is based on the commonly used Time-based One-Time Password (TOTP)-based standard. Currently, the feature is available with Duo, Google Authenticator, and Authy. Users will need to install these apps to receive the authentication code.

    • Navigating the container security ecosystem

      SJ Technologies partnered with Sonatype for the DevSecOps Community 2018 Survey. The survey was wildly popular, receiving answers from more than 2,000 respondents representing a wide range of industries, development practices, and responsibilities. One-third of respondents (33%) came from the technology industry, and banking and financial services was the second most represented group (15%). 70% of all respondents were using a container registry. With so many respondents utilizing containers, a deeper dive into container security is in order.

    • New VPNFilter malware targets at least 500K networking devices worldwide
    • VPNFilter Malware Attacks Routers, Mitigations for Spectre Variant 4, OnePlus 6 Phone and More

      There’s a new type of malware called VPNFilter, which has “has infected at least half a million home and small business routers including those sold by Netgear, TP-Link, Linksys, MicroTik, and QNAP network storage devices”. This code is intended to “serve as a multipurpose spy tool, and also creates a network of hijacked routers that serve as unwitting VPNs, potentially hiding the attackers’ origin as they carry out other malicious activities”. See the story on Wired for all the details.

    • 500,000 Routers Are Infected With Malware and Potentially Spying On Users
    • 500,000 Routers In 54 Countries Hacked To Create Massive Botnet Army
    • PassProtect Tells You If Your Password Is Compromised

      A compromised password can’t protect you. PassProtect is a Chrome extension that notifies you whenever a password you enter is exposed, giving you the chance to change it.

      Data breaches happen all the time, and the result is usually a bunch of usernames and password floating around the web. Attackers use these lists to access accounts, so it’s important to change your passwords after a breach. Most users can’t keep track of it all, however.

      Which is where PassProtect come in. Using data from Have I Been Pwned, Troy Hunt’s database of compromised passwords, PassProtect lets you know when a password you use was part of a recent breach.

    • PassProtect warns Chrome users when their username or passwords get pwned

      Data breaches happen all the time. When they do, it’s invariably bad, with countless people ensnared. The MySpace breach, for example, impacted nearly 360 million. LinkedIn impacted 165 million more. One tool helping to mitigate the aftermath is Okta’s new Chrome plugin, PassProtect.

    • Reproducible Builds: Weekly report #160

      This week’s edition was written by Bernhard M. Wiedemann, Chris Lamb, Levente Polyak and Mattia Rizzolo & reviewed by a bunch of Reproducible Builds folks on IRC & the mailing lists.

    • Security updates for Thursday
  • Defence/Aggression
    • The U.S. and the Fate of the World

      Americans ought to be more honest about U.S. military interventionism. There ought to be a serious debate about it. Instead there seems to be three, entrenched foreign policy camps who never talk to each other.

      The first is made up of avowed imperialists. They are easy to recognize, because they happen to be in power. They are the people for whom there is no such thing as a bad war. They have likely committed the United States to regime change in Iran. And they are currently spearheading an overly aggressive approach in attempting to defuse tensions with a nuclear-armed North Korea—an approach that will probably backfire in the end. This camp would also be the strongest to deny that there is any such thing as U.S. imperialism.

      Then there are people who totally reject imperialism in any form, committed by any country, as a grave error. These are the people who recognize that there must be other values that bind relationships between nations—shared values premised on international law, human rights, Individual and spiritual freedom, and the rule of law.

    • Bolton Trying to Convince Trump to Topple Iran

      Now that the Trump administration has derailed the Iran nuclear deal, the old issue of regime change in Iran is back again. National Security Advisor John Bolton is obviously the chief regime-change advocate in the administration, and there is every reason to believe he has begun to push that policy with Donald Trump in his first month in the White House.

      Bolton was part of the powerful neoconservative faction of national security officials in the George W. Bush administration that had a plan for supporting regime change in Iran, not much different from the one Bolton is reportedly pushing now. But it was a crackbrained scheme that involved the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK) exiled terrorist organisation that never had Bush’s support.

      Bolton may find history repeating itself, with Trump resisting his plan for regime change, just as Bush did in 2003.

    • Yulia Skripal and the Salisbury WUT

      It was happy to see Yulia alive and looking reasonably well yesterday, if understandably stressed. Notably, and in sharp contrast to Litvinenko, she leveled no accusations at Russia or anybody else for her poisoning. In Russian she spoke quite naturally. Of the Russian Embassy she said very simply “I am not ready, I do not want their help”. Strangely this is again translated in the Reuters subtitles by the strangulated officialese of “I do not wish to avail myself of their services”, as originally stated in the unnatural Metropolitan Police statement issued on her behalf weeks ago.

      “I do not wish to avail myself of their services” is simply not a translation of what she says in Russian and totally misses the “I am not ready” opening phrase of that sentence. My conclusion is that Yulia’s statement was written by a British official and then translated to Russian for her to speak, rather than the other way round. Also that rather than translate what she said in Russian themselves for the subtitles, Reuters have subtitled using a British government script they have been given.

      It would of course have been much more convincing had Sergei also been present. Duress cannot be ruled out when he is held by the British authorities. I remain extremely suspicious that, at the very first chance she got in hospital, Yulia managed to get hold of a telephone (we don’t know how, it was not her own and she has not had access to one since) and phone her cousin Viktoria, yet since then the Skripals have made no attempt to contact their family in Russia. That includes no contact to Sergei’s aged mum, Yulia’s grandmother, who Viktoria cares for. Sergei normally calles his mother – who is 89 – regularly. This lack of contact is a worrying sign that the Skripals may be prevented from free communication to the outside world. Yulia’s controlled and scripted performance makes that more rather than less likely.

    • Who is Luis Posada Carriles, the anti-Castro militant known as ‘Bambi’?

      Luis Posada Carriles, considered a hero among members of the Cuban exile community for his role in the Bay of Pigs invasion and for his attempts to overthrow the late Fidel Castro, died Wednesday.

      The Cuban exile militant and CIA agent was 90.

      Here are some details on the life and times of Posada Carriles who was considered a terrorist by both the Cuban government and the United States’ FBI.

      ▪ He was born in Cinfuegos, Cuba, on Feb. 15, 1928.

      ▪ Posada Carriles studied medicine and chemistry at the University of Havana, where he first ran into a young Fidel Castro, and then worked as a supervisor for the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company.

    • Ex-CIA operative, militant Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles dies at 90

      Former CIA operative and militant Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles, who was accused of organizing a string of 1997 Havana hotel bombings and a 1976 Cuban airline bombing that killed 73 people, has died. He was 90.

      Posada, who had been diagnosed with throat cancer about five years ago, died Wednesday at a care home for elderly veterans in Broward Country, north of Miami, according to Arturo Hernandez, a lawyer for the hardline exile.

    • Thus Passed a True American-Made Terrorist

      Luis Posada Carriles should have died in a cell at Leavenworth. He was an anti-Castro terrorist on the CIA payroll. He was accused of committing atrocities in our name, and on our dime, throughout Central America and the Caribbean – including, it was alleged, being intimately involved with the 1976 bombing of a Cubana Airlines plane just after takeoff from Barbados in which 73 people were killed including the entire Cuban fencing team.

    • Former CIA operative and militant Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles dies at 90

      Former CIA operative and militant Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles, who was accused of organizing a string of 1997 Havana hotel bombings and a 1976 Cuban airline bombing that killed 73 people, has died. He was 90.

      Posada, who had been diagnosed with throat cancer about five years ago, died Wednesday at a care home for elderly veterans in Broward Country, according to Arturo Hernandez, a lawyer for the hard-line exile.

    • Former CIA, Anti-Castro Militant Luis Posada Carriles Dead At 90

      Former Central Intelligence Agency operative and militant Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles, who was accused of organizing a string of 1997 Havana hotel bombings and a 1976 Cuban airline bombing that killed 73 people, has died. He was 90.

      Posada, who had been diagnosed with throat cancer about five years ago, died Wednesday at a care home for elderly veterans in Broward Country, north of Miami, according to Arturo Hernandez, a lawyer for the hardline exile.

      “An extraordinary life has ended,” Hernandez told The Associated Press. “It’s a very sad morning for me, to say farewell to such a great man.”

    • Former CIA Officials Assess Russia

      Winston Churchill stated in 1939 that Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. Today, as then, Russian actions and intentions remain the subject of intense scrutiny in the West. To examine the state of American analysis of Russia, the Center for the National Interest convened a high-level panel of former veteran CIA officials on May 22. The speakers included George Beebe (Director for Intelligence and National Security at the Center for the National Interest, former director of the CIA’s Russia analysis and a former Special Advisor to Vice President Cheney), Milton Bearden (a former CIA officer who was a station chief in Pakistan where he played a central role in training and arming the Afghan mujahideen to battle the Soviet military) and Peter Clement (the former Deputy Director for Analytic Programs at the CIA and a professor at Columbia University). The meeting was moderated by Paul J. Saunders, the executive director of the Center for the National Interest and a former Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs in the George W. Bush administration.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting
    • Dana Rohrabacher, GOP congressman, defends ‘honorable’ WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange

      WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange received praise Wednesday from Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, during an interview in which the congressman recalled their meeting last summer inside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.

      “He’s a very honorable man,” Mr. Rohrabacher, 70, told CNN.

      “Deep staters believe that he’s a bad guy and an evil person,” the congressman continued. “I don’t.”

      Mr. Assange, 46, was granted asylum from Ecuador in 2012 in lieu of being extradited abroad and potentially charged by U.S. prosecutors in connection with publishing classified documents released through his WikiLeaks website. Mr. Assange risks being arrested if he leaves the Ecuadorean Embassy, however, and has remained on the property ever since.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature
    • EPA boots reporters from meeting on chemicals called a PR disaster

      But the latest controversy is one the agency’s own making. This morning, Pruitt was speaking at a workshop convened to discuss the handling of specific chemical contaminants that have been found in water supplies. The EPA was already under fire for what appeared to be an attempt to stall a report that suggests these chemicals were more toxic than previously thought, so the workshop provided an opportunity to show that the agency took the risks seriously. Instead, the EPA started a brand-new controversy by specifically excluding CNN and the AP from Pruitt’s speech and by having security physically escort a reporter out of the building.

    • EPA’s War On Journalists Is Not A Good Look

      The Obama administration was terrible when it came to how it treated journalists, acting vindictively against many journalists, and opening up investigations that created massive chilling effects on journalism. While some supporters of our previous President insisted that these actions were necessary due to the journalists “leaking” or revealing sensitive information, that’s a ridiculous claim. A journalist’s job is to report on things, including revealing the kind of information a government would prefer be kept secret. And, more importantly, normalizing a government at war with the journalists who cover it was bound to be abused even more going forward.

      And that brings us to the current administration, whose attacks on journalists have been frequent as well, though of a different, more clumsy nature. While the last administration focused on keeping secrets and launching chilling investigations, this one seems focused on name calling and hamfisted attempts at shutting out the media in the most obvious and petty of ways. Neither approach is good, but the current administration’s attacks on journalists are so blatant and so stupid, it just makes people wonder what they’re so afraid of.

    • Focus on Pruitt’s Scandals Obscures Environmental Degradation Under Trump

      Scott Pruitt sure is busy these days. The climate change-denying head of the Environmental Protection Agency has been renting out a DC condo on the cheap from an energy lobbyist; installing a $43,000 soundproof booth for his telephone calls; passing out improper pay raises to aides; jet-setting around the world on first-class flights; hitting up Disneyland and the Rose Bowl with his oversized $3 million, 20-person security detail; receiving police escorts to trendy DC restaurant Le Diplomate; and even having a fancy dinner in Rome with Vatican treasurer, climate denier and recently charged child sexual abuser George Pell.

      What’s more, Pruitt’s staffers at the EPA have continued to cover up for their boss: Pruitt’s lavish travel schedule is only released after the fact, and he holds few press conferences compared to his predecessors. All told, he is under 12 different federal investigations, and has been grilled by members of both Senate and House committees. In Pruitt’s Senate hearing, New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall remarked that “your scandals are a mere sideshow distracting us from the long-lasting devastating your leadership is making on human health and the environment.”

      Indeed, while Pruitt seems to have adjusted well to the culture of gratuitous and unprecedented graft and corruption inside the Trump cabinet, the media’s focus on Pruitt’s dizzying array of personal scandals obscures his absolute contempt for his agency’s stated mission: environmental protection. Pruitt, along with President Trump, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, has quietly been dismantling a multitude of environmental regulations while pushing a number of fossil fuel-friendly policies that will certainly have disastrous long-term effects on the environment and public health.

  • Finance
    • Bitcoin’s stupendous power waste is green, apparently — bad excuses for Proof-of-Work

      Bitcoin uses as much electricity as all of Ireland. And everyone else is starting to notice — and they’re not happy.

    • Trump blasts ‘spoiled’ Canada and Mexico over NAFTA talks

      U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday railed against Mexico and Canada’s efforts in renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), saying both neighbours have been “very difficult.”

      “NAFTA is very difficult. Mexico has been very difficult to deal with. Canada has been very difficult to deal with … but I will tell you that in the end we win,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “We will win, and we’ll win big.

      “We’ll get along with Mexico, we’ll get along with Canada. But I will tell you, they have been very difficult to deal with. They’re very spoiled — because nobody has done this. But I will tell you that what they ask for is not fair.”

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics
    • What Happens If Republicans Keep Control Of The House And Senate?

      Imagine this scenario: In November’s elections for the U.S. House, Democrats win the national House vote by a few percentage points and gain nearly 20 additional House seats, by both winning open seats and defeating some longtime GOP incumbents. In the Senate, Democrats pick up Nevada; win races in states President Trump carried in 2016, including in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and West Virginia; and only narrowly lose in the GOP strongholds of Indiana, Missouri and Tennessee.

    • Why Ohio’s Congressional Map is Unconstitutional

      National and state GOP officials conspired to redraw Ohio’s map to exclude Democratic voters.

      We all know how representative democracy is supposed to work — each election cycle, citizens vote to determine which elected officials will represent them in Congress. That’s not what’s happening in Ohio, where Republicans designed the state’s redistricting map to keep their party in office in violation of voters’ constitutional rights.

      Today, the ACLU filed a lawsuit seeking to replace Ohio’s gerrymandered map with one that reflects the will of voters and complies with the Constitution before the 2020 elections.

      How did Ohio become one of the most egregious examples of partisan gerrymandering in modern history? It’s a sordid tale involving high-level Republican operatives, a secret “bunker,” a rushed vote, and enormous consequences for our democracy.

      Here’s what you need to know.

    • Media Delegitimize Venezuelan Elections Amid Complete Unanimity of Outlook

      Nicolás Maduro was successfully re-elected president of Venezuela on Sunday, receiving 5.8 million of the 8.6 million ballots cast, on a turnout of 46 percent. His nearest challenger, Henri Falcon, received 1.8 million votes. The process was watched over by 150 international observers from over 30 countries, among them former Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, who said (Telesur, 5/20/18): “I do not have any doubt about the voting process. It is an advanced automatic voting system.”

      [...]

      Apart from spelling the president’s name wrong, the only source that could be an “independent” observer quoted was the Washington-based, State Department–funded conservative group Freedom House, a rather questionable example of an “independent observer.”

      [...]

      The extraordinary similarity and negative tone across Western media should not surprise anyone. As I detailed in Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting, there have been enormous cuts to foreign reporting, leading to a situation where only a tiny cadre of journalists create the news we hear from other countries. Media copy and paste from news organizations like Reuters and Associated Press, which themselves employ many cheaper local journalists.

      In Venezuela, these journalists are not neutral actors, but come from the highly partisan local media, affiliated with the opposition, leading to a situation where Western newsrooms see themselves as an ideological spearhead against Maduro, “the resistance” to the government.

    • CIA Knew Torture Was Extorting Bad Intelligence — Kept Doing It Anyway

      In February, we wrote about how Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged “mastermind” of the 9/11 attacks, has yet to stand trial — 17 years after the devastating attacks on the World Trade Center’s twin towers and the Pentagon.

      The reason for the delay, Mohammed’s attorney David Nevin asserts, is the government’s desire to hide the details of the torture and rendition program his client and many others were subjected to in the early years of the “war on terror.”

      [...]

      The CIA’s record of torture is front and center in the media again. This time because President Donald Trump’s new CIA Director, Gina Haspel, played a key role in the agency’s program of “enhanced interrogation” (i.e., torture). Haspel was head of station in at least one of the CIA’s black sites in Thailand where torture took place, and also held multiple senior roles at the CIA Counterterrorism Center, which oversaw the torture program.

      She was also involved in the destruction of the video recordings of the torture sessions and was less than forthcoming recently with members of Congress who asked about her role in that action.

      Nevertheless, the Senate confirmed her. The fact that Haspel, who played a key role in the CIA torture program, made it through the confirmation process fairly easily, signals, at the very least, that the agency should have no problem continuing to shield itself from any outside scrutiny of its treatment of terror suspects in the years after 9/11.

      Ominously, president Trump who has said he would “bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding,” said Monday that “America is reasserting its strength” by putting Haspel in charge of the agency.

    • Haspel, the CIA, Government and Morality

      In his comments on Gina Haspel (“At the CIA, Immorality Is Part of the Job,” op-ed, May 17), Fay Vincent suggests that morality is at best tangentially related to the rule of law. The great tradition of Western jurisprudence would strongly disagree. Moses and Jeremiah, Plato, Aristotle, Jesus, St. Paul, St. Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Barth, Bonhoeffer, Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr.—all uniformly affirmed that justice, morality and positive law are intimately connected in any good society. Statecraft, certainly no less than war, must be conducted within the confines of legal norms connected to…

    • With Haspel Sworn In as CIA Director, Let’s Stop Pretending That Her Atrocities Run Counter to American Values

      Although Gina Haspel’s nomination received the fewest supporting votes of any previous CIA director nominee, on Monday morning she was sworn in to head the agency. Introducing Haspel, Trump stated that “instead of apologizing for our nation, we are standing up for our nation.” He spoke these words knowing that Haspel oversaw the CIA’s first black site in the “war on terror,” where two Muslim prisoners were waterboarded repeatedly. Why? Because torture is American.

      Prior to her confirmation, there seemed to be three common mainstream responses to Haspel’s nomination: 1) The torture she oversaw wasn’t torture/was acceptable under the circumstances; 2) Those who were tortured provided valuable intelligence, therefore justifying this abuse; and 3) Torture is “un-American” because it is morally and legally impermissible.

    • Pompeo says there is no ‘deep state’ at State Department or CIA

      Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that he “does not believe there is a deep state” at the State Department or the CIA — contradicting President Donald Trump’s repeated assertion that there are forces within the government conspiring against him.

    • Mike Pompeo says there is no ‘deep state’ at CIA or State Department

      US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday said that there was no “deep state” in either the CIA or the State Department.

  • Censorship/Free Speech
    • Victory For The First Amendment: Court Rules That Government Officials Who Tweet to the Public Can’t Block Users Who They Disagree With

      Lawsuit Against President Trump Brought by Twitter Users He Blocked

      New York, New York—President Donald Trump’s blocking of people on Twitter because they criticize him violates the First Amendment, a federal judge in New York ruled today in a resounding victory for freedom of speech and the public’s right to communicate opposing political views directly to elected officials and government agencies.

      The ruling comes in a lawsuit filed by the Knight First Amendment Institute alleging the president and his communications team violated the First Amendment by blocking seven people from the @realDonaldTrump Twitter account because they criticized the president or his policies. The seven individuals include a university professor, a surgeon, a comedy writer, a community organizer, an author, a legal analyst, and a police officer.

      The plaintiffs were blocked by Trump on Twitter shortly after they posted tweets to the @realDonaldTrump account that were critical. President Trump and the other defendants conceded that they did so because they disliked the viewpoints the plaintiffs expressed in their tweets. U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald ruled that such viewpoint-based exclusion is “impermissible under the First Amendment.” The ruling is a win for the public’s right to speak out to public officials and engage with other members of the public on social media.

      In an amicus brief filed on behalf of the plaintiffs, EFF argued governmental use of social media platforms to communicate to and with the public, and allow the public to communication with each other, is now the rule of democratic engagement, not the exception. As a result, First Amendment rights of both access to those accounts and the ability to speak in them must apply in full force.

    • Facebook Moderation Ramps Up In Germany And Everything Keeps Getting Worse For Its Users

      Germany’s new hate speech law — and its intersection with social media platforms — has been a disaster. Subjecting platforms to millions of Euros in fines for each violation, the push to cleanse the (German) internet of hate speech has resulted in plenty of predictive content policing. When not nuking legal criticism or satire mocking intolerant speech, the new law is creating a moderating nightmare for Facebook and other social media services.

      The German wing of Facebook’s moderation employs 1,200 moderators who forward anything borderline to Facebook’s legal team, who then forward close calls they can’t make to another outsourced team of lawyers well-versed in German law. That’s a lot of money spent to avoid 50 million euro fines, but likely necessary given the law’s demand illegal content be removed within 24 hours. Facebook may have to the money to do this, but other platforms simply don’t have the resources. Compliance will result in Germans being given fewer services to choose from, all in the name of “protecting” Germans from hateful speech.

      But is the law really serving the German people? Or is it a legislative feel-good effort of marginal utility with the possibility of collecting massive fines the ribbon on top? Linda Kinstler’s long article on Facebook’s proactive moderation efforts in Germany suggests the general public doesn’t need these extra protections as much as the government seems to think they do.

    • Censorship concerns over water contamination hearings in Washington

      The second day of an EPA summit in Washington, D.C. on water contamination is hitting home here in the Capital Region.

      On Tuesday, the mayor of Hoosick Falls was sitting in on the summit but others were barred.

      There was some censorship concerns have come to the forefront surrounding the need for more information on water contamination.

      A report by the EPA is not being released and many people affected by contamination were not granted seats at that summit. There have even been reports of the media being barred from the meetings.

    • ‘Stop This BLATANT CENSORSHIP’: The Poor, Confused Souls Sending Their YouTube Complaints to the FCC

      The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which oversees telecommunications like radio, TV, and the internet in the U.S., doesn’t regulate content on online platforms like YouTube. But that hasn’t stopped people from sending complaints about the video site to the federal agency—and they’re every bit as unhinged as you’d expect.

      Gizmodo submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for all complaints that the FCC has received about YouTube. We received 81 pages of grievances featuring everyone from PizzaGate conspiracy theorists to anti-nudity crusaders. YouTube, which is owned by Google, has cracked down on extremist content in recent months, doing everything from removing ISIS propaganda videos to demonetizing conspiracy theory channels. YouTube has even banned neo-Nazi channels like Atomwaffen altogether.

    • Conservative Principles Don’t Justify Silencing Conservatives
    • ‘Internet safety’ just means internet censorship

      At the end of a week in which the House of Commons defeated Labour’s draconian plans to regulate the press, the Tories revealed their own draconian plans to regulate the internet. The culture secretary, Matt Hancock, has pledged to make Britain ‘the safest place in the world’ to be online. But when the world’s ‘safest’ internet is currently found in China, where access is heavily restricted and censored by the state, it becomes clear how terrifying the government’s safety agenda really could be.

      Digital secretary Margot James told Sky News the government would order social-media firms to take down any ‘abusive’ content immediately. Fines for non-compliance could run up to four per cent of a firm’s global turnover, which could mean up to £1 billion for the largest firms. Just as clampdowns on press freedom are often justified with tough talk against the press barons, the war on social media is presented as a fight against the new social-media oligarchs. But, in truth, clampdowns on big tech are really just a proxy for clampdowns on us, the users. After all, it is we, the public, who actually produce all the supposedly vile, offensive and abusive content that social-media companies will be ordered to censor.

  • Privacy/Surveillance
    • Privacy Statement

      This Privacy Statement is intended to describe this web site’s privacy practices and provide information about the choices you have regarding the ways in which information collected by this web site is used and disclosed.

    • An FUQ for the GDPR

      Today is Privmas Eve: the day before Privmas, aka GDPR Day: the one marked red on the calendars of every company in the world holding an asset the GDPR has suddenly made toxic: personal data. The same day—25 May—should be marked green for everyone who has hated the simple fact that harvesting personal data from everybody on the internet has been too damned easy for too damned long for too damned many companies, and governments too.

      Whether you like the GDPR or not (and there are reasons for both, which we’ll get into shortly), one thing it has done for sure is turn privacy into Very Big Deal. This is good, because we’ve had damned little of it on the internet and now we’re going to get a lot more. That’s worth celebrating, everybody. Merry Privmas!

    • Facebook Wants Your Nudes For Their New Anti-Revenge Porn Tool [Updated]

      the program still requires users to share nudes with a group of reviewers on Facebook….

    • Revenge porn: Facebook teaming up with Government to stop nude photos ending up on Messenger, Instagram

      If you’ve had a nude photo taken, you might be nervous about where it could end up.

      Your phone may be hacked or a relationship turn sour, meaning the “revenge porn” picture could be made public without your say so.

    • Data privacy in Sailfish OS is enhancing even further as GDPR comes into effect
    • Five Years After Snowden, Michigan Set to Be First State to Impede NSA’s Warrantless Surveillance

      On the heels of the fifth anniversary of whistleblower Edward Snowden’s disclosure of classified National Security Agency (NSA) documents to journalists, one state legislature has recently taken steps to hold the government agency accountable for its warrantless surveillance programs by making it illegal for state and local governments, including law enforcement and public utilities, to support the NSA’s warrantless spying on American citizens.

    • Michigan Takes On The NSA With New Law, But Probably Won’t Have Much Of An Impact

      In the months following the appearance of the Snowden leaks, several state legislatures attempted stiff arm snooping feds by introducing bills prohibiting collect-it-all programs from being deployed against Americans by the NSA. Most targeted the NSA’s warrantless collection of metadata, creating a warrant requirement for the collection of data within the state’s borders.

      Others were a bit more creative, forbidding state law enforcement from participating in federal surveillance efforts or, in the case of Utah, where a new NSA data center was being built, forbidding the state’s water supply from being used in data collection efforts (to cool the agency’s many, many servers).

      In Michigan, one of these laws is actually being enacted. As the Washington Examiner reports, the effective date of the Fourth Amendment Rights Protection Act is nearly five years to the day from the first Snowden leak.

    • TOR Anonymity: Things Not To Do While Using TOR

      The awe-inspiring internet has its nightmares for the ones who get stalked and harassed in the digital world. They can’t get away from the predicament; one possible recourse is to go anonymous while using the internet with the help of various tools available. Name it, VPN, TOR, or you can use a proxy server for your anonymity needs.

      Apart from all these available options, TOR stands out first in the line when we compare the level of anonymity provided by various tools. The Onion Router project is regarded as the best cloak for those people who want to hide on the internet.

    • Many Of Those Desperate GDPR Emails You’ve Been Getting Are Violating A Different EU Regulation

      As we careen wildly into a post-GDPR world at the end of this week, you’ve probably already been inundated with tons upon tons of emails from various companies where you either have an account or have been signed up for their mailing list. Some of these emails likely note that they want you to confirm that you want to remain on their list because of the GDPR. Others pretend they’re just checking in with you for the hell of it. According to an expert in EU regulation, many of these emails probably violate another EU regulation, one designed to make spamming illegal. As for the others? They’re almost certainly not necessary under the GDPR and appear to be people misunderstanding the GDPR “out of an abundance of caution.”

    • Tech firms can’t keep our data forever: we need a Digital Expiry Date

      However, as government surveillance is emerging as a growing threat – especially in surveillance states like China or Iran – the long-term data storage enacted by all of the top tech companies is a dream come true for any current or future authoritarian state.

    • It’s Time to Break Up Facebook

      And it’s not just Republicans who have taken advantage of Facebook’s invasive features. Far from it: During the 2012 campaign, President Barack Obama’s reelection team built an app that extracted the same types of data in the same fashion as the Cambridge Analytica data in question, with one critical difference: Obama’s team extracted nearly five times the information.

      According to Carol Davidsen, a member of Obama’s data team, “Facebook was surprised we were able to suck out the whole social graph, but they didn’t stop us once they realized that was what we were doing.” [...]

    • China’s Black Mirror ‘social credit’ has already stopped 11m from taking flights

      Social Credit will ensure that “discredited people become bankrupt,” said Hou Yunchun, former deputy director of the development research center of the State Council, according to Global Times.

      [...]

      By the end of April the scheme which is expected to be fully rolled out by 2020 is said to have prevented 11.14m flights being taken and 4.25m high-speed train journeys were refused.

    • No one’s ready for GDPR

      After four years of deliberation, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was officially adopted by the European Union in 2016. The regulation gave companies a two-year runway to get compliant, which is theoretically plenty of time to get shipshape. The reality is messier. Like term papers and tax returns, there are people who get it done early, and then there’s the rest of us.

    • Mark Zuckerberg’s appearance before European Parliament yields an empty spectacle

      The result, for anyone who has been paying attention to the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, was a strong sense of déjà vu. In response to questions about data privacy, Zuckerberg said Facebook was reviewing thousands of apps that once had broad access to user information, and the process would take months to complete. Terrorism? Nearly all posts promoting al-Qaeda and ISIS are removed automatically through systems powered by machine learning. Disinformation? Facebook is working to remove the economic incentives for publishing fake news, which addresses the majority of people posting it. And monopoly power? The average person uses eight different apps to communicate, Zuckerberg said — without noting, as usual, that Facebook owns three of them.

    • Police use of Amazon’s face-recognition service draws privacy warnings

      The service, which Amazon markets under the name Rekognition, can recognize as many as 100 people in a single image and can compare images against databases containing tens of millions of faces. Company executives describe deployment by law enforcement agencies as common use case.

    • European Union Grills Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg Over His ‘Digital Monster’

      At a hearing in the European Parliament in Brussels, legislators sought explanations about the growing number of false Facebook accounts and whether Facebook will comply with new EU privacy rules, but many were left frustrated by Zuckerberg’s lack of answers.

    • Zuckerberg’s European Parliament testimony criticised

      Mr Zuckerberg spent 22 minutes going through the huge number of questions put to him during the session and was able to pick and choose which to give answers to.

      Several of the politicians expressed frustration at this, and one accused Mr Zuckerberg of having “asked for this format for a reason”.

  • Civil Rights/Policing
    • The Border Patrol Was Monstrous Under Obama. Imagine How Bad It Is Under Trump.

      The ACLU and the International Human Rights Clinic have obtained disturbing documents detailing Border Patrol abuses.

      On a December morning, Border Patrol agents confronted a 15-year-old high school student named Jahveel Ocampo at a rest stop in California while she and her friends were on their way to the mountains to see the winter’s first snow. Jahveel was a young child when she came to the United States from Mexico with her parents, and she grew up undocumented in southern California. She was a mother to a 2-year-old child, who was a U.S. citizen.

      An agent in a blue jacket asked whether Jahveel was an “illegal.” He handcuffed her and drove her to a Border Patrol station in the border town of Campo. There, he slapped her twice on the buttocks and ordered her into a cell. He and another male agent told her to sign an “order of voluntary departure,” a deportation order. She refused.

      Then the threats began. One agent said, in Spanish, according to the complaint she filed later, “Right now, we close the door, we rape you and f*** you. If you cooperate with us, we can deport you to Mexico. Otherwise, we will take you to jail and deport your entire family.” They told her that her child would end up in foster care.

      Terrified and alone, Jahveel signed.

    • Mugshots.com Operators Arrested For Letting Money Influence Editorial Decisions

      Earlier this month Ars Technica reported on the arrest of the alleged operators of Mugshots.com, a website that does what it says on the tin: hosts mugshots. The issue is, the site operators didn’t just host mugshots; they also charged people to have their mugshots removed from the site through a companion site, Unpublisharrest.com.

      Assuming the arrest warrant is fairly stating things, the site’s operators may not have had the best of intentions in running their site the way they did. According to the facts alleged they were more interested in making money by charging people to have their pictures removed from their site than in serving as any sort of public records archive.

      [...]

      Taken together, the arrest warrant concludes, the site operators are guilty of extortion and conspiracy to commit extortion. But to prove extortion prosecutors must show that the accused threatened a victim either with violence, the accusation of a crime, or the exposure of a secret, if they didn’t pay the accused. Yet the defendants are accused of none of these things. Not only is there no issue of threatened violence, but what the site operators are alleged to have done in no way involves revealing a secret or accusing another of a crime. Instead it is the state that has already accused the site operators’ purported “victims” of a crime, and its having done so is no secret. The state’s accusation against these people became public when it originally released the mugshots, meaning there is nothing that the site operators could have been threatening to reveal that wasn’t already revealed.

      This apparently sloppy reading of the extortion statute, compounded with the 2015 statutory language giving mugshots a sort of magical status that prevents them from being treated as an ordinary public record, represents a chilling incursion on protected First Amendment activity. It’s one thing to impose liability for publishing content that isn’t lawful, perhaps because it’s defamatory, infringing, or somehow intrinsically wrongful unto itself. But it’s another thing entirely to impose liability for publishing content that is entirely lawful – especially, as in this case, when it is not only lawful but a public record.

    • There’s now only one US state where mug shots aren’t public records

      The South Dakota measure is certain to provide fresh material for the online mug shot business racket. These questionable sites post mug shots, often in a bid to embarrass people in hopes of getting them to pay hundreds of dollars to have their photos removed. The exposé I did on this for Wired found that some mug shot site operators had a symbiotic relationship with reputation management firms that charge for mug shot removals.

      That said, South Dakota’s attorney general, Marty Jackley, hailed the legislation, which was supported by the South Dakota Newspaper Association.

      “The release of criminal booking photographs to the public will result in greater transparency in the criminal process, enhance public safety, and will further assist the media and the public in the proper identification of individuals in the criminal process,” he said.

    • The Attorney General Thinks Police Having To Follow The Constitution Leads To Violent Crime Increases

      Attorney General Jeff Sessions is an old-school law and order man. He wants asset forfeiture returned to its former glory — no longer questioned by all and sundry for its ability to enrich law enforcement agencies without making much of a dent in criminal activity. He wants drug sellers jailed for as long as possible, suggesting the last time he read a policy paper was sometime during the mid-1980s. And he thinks people questioning law enforcement efforts should be ashamed of themselves, what with the dangers faced occasionally by officers whose workplace can’t even crack the Top 10 Deadliest Jobs in America list.

      [...]

      Second, Sessions shows he doesn’t care about police misconduct or public accountability by maligning those who demand accountability as “radicals.” This suggests Sessions is more interested in a docile nation than upholding his duties as Attorney General, which (used to) include investigating and prosecuting officers who abuse their power.

      Finally, his portrayal of the rise in violence in Chicago as the direct result of a consent decree is both dishonest and ugly. The consent decree dealt with the Chicago PD’s stop-and-frisk tactics. The PD agreed to revamp its policies after a 2015 report by the ACLU found the program disproportionately targeted black residents. In other words, Sessions is claiming requiring cops to behave Constitutionally results in increased criminal activity.

    • Promoters of Saudi Prince as Feminist Reformer Are Silent on His Crackdown on Women

      Nor did MBS’s biggest court stenographer, Thomas Friedman, find room in his latest column in his latest column (5/22/18) to note the crackdown. Given Times opinion page editor James Bennet was clear his paper was axiomatically “pro-capitalism” (3/1/18), one wonders whether he views Latin American socialists as uniquely worthy of condemnation, whereas Middle East petrol dictatorships that invest in American corporations and hosts glossy tech conferences deserve nuance and mild “reform” childing. We have to “get rid of” the former, and the latter simply need “guidance” from the US—their respective human rights records a total non-factor.

      CBS ran a 50-second story on the “emancipating” MBS’s crackdown on its web-only news network, CBSN (5/21/18), and an AP story on its website (5/19/18), but CBS News has thus far aired nothing on the flagrant human rights violation on any of the news programs on its actual network, and certainly nothing in the ballpark of its most-watched prime time program, 60 Minutes.

      If influential outlets like the Times opinion section and CBS News are going to help build up bin Salman’s image as a “reformer” and a champion of women’s rights, don’t they have a unique obligation to inform their readers and viewers when the image they built up is so severely undermined? Shouldn’t Bennet’s editorial board and Friedman—who did so much to lend legitimacy to the Saudi ruler’s PR strategy—be particularly outraged when he does a 180 and starts arresting prominent women’s rights advocates? Will 60 Minutes do a comparable 27-minute segment detailing these arrests and their chilling effect on activism?

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality
    • No, The FTC Is Not Going To Do A Good Job Policing Net Neutrality

      We’ve noted repeatedly how broadband ISPs aren’t just trying to kill net neutrality, they’re trying to kill nearly all state and federal oversight over giant telecom monopolies entirely. From language buried in the net neutrality repeal aimed at preventing states from protecting consumers, to attempts to neuter the FCC and shovel all remaining oversight to an FTC ill-suited to police telecom operators, the end goal really is little to no real oversight of some of the least liked, least competitive companies in any industry.

      While this is all being portrayed as “regulatory modernization” by ISPs and their armies of consultants and allies, former FCC Boss Tom Wheeler has gone so far as to call the effort a “fraud.” Wheeler was quick to note that not only does the FTC lack rule-making authority, it can only act against an ISP if it can be very clearly shown that the ISP’s actions were “unfair or deceptive.” That’s tricky to do in the net neutrality era where anti-competitive behavior is often disguised as “reasonable network management.”

    • Two sitting Senators were among the people whose identities were stolen in FCC comments from anti-Net Neutrality bots

      The botmasters who ran the anti-Net Neutrality campaign went so far as to steal the identities of two sitting US Senators, Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Pat Toomey (R-PA), who have written to the FCC demanding to know exactly what the fuck the Commission is going to do about it.

    • Two Senators Say Their Identities Were Stolen During Net Neutrality Repeal

      Throughout 2017, an unidentified culprit easily abused a lack of basic protections at the FCC website to flood the net neutrality proceeding with fake comments. In some instances the scammers used the identities of real people (like myself) to support the unpopular effort. In other instances, the names of dead people were hijacked for the same purpose.

  • Intellectual Monopolies
    • Considerations Regarding a Canadian Patent Collective

      In its 2018 budget, the Government of Canada pledged CDN$85.3 million over five years to support an ambitious new intellectual property (IP) strategy, including CDN$30 million for the formation of a Canadian “Patent Collective.” This paper explores the possible structure and goals of such a collective, as well as potential risks and challenges of each. It concludes that appreciable technology development by Canadian firms is not likely to be achieved through the proposed patent collective, but that such a collective could assist Canadian firms by facilitating their participation in existing international defensive patent networks. The paper recommends that the proposed Canadian patent collective avoid the acquisition and aggregation of patents, and instead focus its limited resources on three supportive functions for Canadian industry: assisting Canadian firms, through subsidies or other resource commitments, to participate in existing international defensive patent networks; encouraging Canadian universities and research institutions to focus on commercially relevant “translational” research; and assessing the potential benefits of facilitating patent sharing or pooling arrangements in select Canadian industries, and offering administrative and infrastructural support for such efforts.

    • Competition Advocacy and the Patent System: Promoting Competitive Markets for Technology

      Current efforts at patent reform, through vehicles such as legislation, regulation, and appellate caselaw, are often met with advocacy advancing competing concerns reflecting the interests of discrete and separate groups of market participants. These viewpoints may not necessarily align with the policy goal of promoting consumer welfare. Historically, competition advocacy by competition authorities has been one mechanism for advocating for reforms that advance consumer welfare. Competition authorities such as the Federal Trade Commission have a lengthy history of empirical research and policy advocacy regarding the patent system. This paper reviews that advocacy and examines the circumstances under which competition advocacy has been employed. It observes that advocacy has been directed to two markets in which the patent system impacts competition: patents influence competition in the market for goods that embody them and patents are also themselves articles traded in technology markets. Regarding the latter form of competition, advocacy has been used to address legal doctrines that give rise to transaction costs and market failures in the market for the trade and license of patent rights.

    • Nike’s latest patent turns your workout clothes into towels

      Lets face it, going to the gym may be good for our health, but the amount of perspiration that we produce while exercising can bring a host of challenges at times. No one enjoys the feeling of sweat dripping into our eyes and too much moisture can make it difficult to grip kettlebells, weightlifting bars, or other exercise equipment, let alone interact with touchscreen devices. Thankfully, Nike is looking for ways to alleviate these challenges by potentially creating a new line of workout clothes designed to perform at a high level, while also offering athletes a way to wipe away excess sweat too.

    • Protecting Pfizer’s and Microsoft’s Patents in China Is Not ‘Our’ Concern

      OK, so Rampell tells us that we should not be concerned about a trade deficit that costs in the neighborhood of 2 million manufacturing jobs. Instead, we should be concerned that China is not as protectionist as she wants it to be when it comes to the intellectual property claims of our software and pharmaceutical companies.

      And why exactly should those of us who don’t own lots of stock in Microsoft and Pfizer care if China doesn’t pay them licensing fees and royalties? If we think through the economics here, this means that other things being equal, lower payments to these companies mean a lower-valued dollar, which would improve our trade balance on manufactured goods. What’s the problem here?

      Actually, the story gets even better. Suppose that China doesn’t honor the patents of Pfizer and other drug companies, so that it produces generic version of new drugs that sell for hundreds of dollars for a course of treatment, instead of the hundreds of thousands of dollars that these companies demand for the patent-protected product (equivalent to tariffs of tens of thousands of percent). Suppose it sells these generic versions to people in the United States, or just lets them come to China for their treatment.

      This would save patients in the United States enormous amounts of money, and possibly save lives. This is what free trade is all about.

    • Trademarks
      • Topical Trade Marks: Lionel Messi Tells Massi To Get On Its Bike
      • Trademark and branding pitfalls in a hashtag culture

        In July 2017 the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issued a new Exam Guide to address the basis for rejecting a US trademark application known as ‘merely informational matter’. The timing coincided roughly with that of President Donald Trump’s now-infamous “covfefe” tweet and the dozens of trademark applications for COVEFE that followed within hours, for everything from beer to investment advice. Shortly after the USPTO issued the new Exam Guide, Twitter debuted a longer character limit (from 140 to 280 characters) and hashtags such as #MeToo and #TakeAKnee covered many a social media feed.

    • Copyrights
      • Despite US Criticism, Ukraine Cybercrime Chief Receives Few Piracy Complaints

        In response to alleged failures by Ukraine in the fight against online piracy, last year the MPAA, RIAA and other groups asked the U.S. Government to impose sanctions while the European Commission warned that Ukraine risks damaging relations with the EU. But according to the head of Ukraine’s cyber-police unit, complaints received by him are few in number and are actually going down.

Walmart, Bank of America, Allied Security Trust (AST) and the Rush for ‘Blockchain’ Patents

Techrights - Thursday 24th of May 2018 06:55:52 AM

Basically a type of software patents, plus the ‘pop culture’ hype…


Reference: What is the Difference Between a Blockchain and a Database?

Summary: The hoarding of patents on novel-sounding code has reached ridiculous levels; very large corporations and even patent trolls arm themselves with such patents, hoping to make returns by means of litigation or an ‘arms trade’

THE USPTO was quick to embrace buzzwords and hype and so was the EPO (although their choices of acronyms and words vary somewhat). Both have allowed algorithms to become patentable provided some buzzword like “AI”, “cloud” or “4IR” got added.

“It means that the only real solution here is to not grant such patents in the first place (no matter who to).”Yesterday, based on the news (e.g. [1, 2, 3]), patents on surveillance from Walmart became known. They’re being marketed as “Blockchain-based” although nothing there suggests that Section 101 is inapplicable. There were also a couple of articles yesterday about Bank of America (BoA) [1, 2] with its latest “Blockchain Patent”. Well, as reported here a few years back, BoA is hoarding bogus software patents on blockchains (maybe an effort to sue rivals/threats to the status quo). It’s not alone. Notorious patent trolls have been busy trying to lay their hands on these patents. It means that the only real solution here is to not grant such patents in the first place (no matter who to). It’s a disaster in the making, just waiting to happen.

“These entities help distract and detract from actual efforts to reform the system. They even hoard software patents.”Yesterday the Allied Security Trust (AST) made a rebound in the news; we had not heard from it in a long time. In fact we last wrote about it a couple of years ago and quite a bit nearly a decade ago, e.g. [1, 2]. AST is one of those ‘pools’ (or ‘cartels’) which claim to be “defensive”. But there’s no such thing as a “defensive” patent because patents do not work this way. Here is the press release [1, 2] just published by AST in many outlets along with very shallow coverage, e.g. [1, 2].

To quote one such ‘article’:

A coalition of companies, including Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Uber Technologies Inc., is getting ready to buy an array of patents to defend against potential infringement suits.

Allied Security Trust (AST), a nonprofit group that buys patents to protect its members from infringement threats, said it will hold another fixed price patent buy in July.

Like LOT Network, which we wrote about quite a lot lately, Google is a big participant. Who benefits really? This one article about it (from WIPR) speaks of “AI and blockchain” in its headline. AST claims to be a “nonprofit”, but obviously there’s turnover and it’s connected to highly profitable companies. Like OIN, for example, AST serves to perpetuate the status quo rather than tackle it.

How about Fortress IP? A few days ago IAM said that RPX‘s co-founder had moved there. To quote:

According to a recent news report Fortress IP is putting together a $400 million “patent troll” fund in what looks like a significant capital raising exercise. Beyond the amount they’re looking to raise, however, details in the story are relatively scant and it’s not clear if the new fund signals a shift in investment strategy by the group led by RPX co-founder Eran Zur. There has been a rumour in the market for several months that Fortress IP team is looking to build its coffers to maximise opportunities to invest in and lend to patent-rich companies.

They want to “invest in and lend to patent-rich companies.” In other words, very large and wealthy companies with an extensive fleet of lawyers.

What we’re seeing here is a large (and growing) number of shells, led by very gigantic corporations, seeking to ‘protect’ members from patents by playing a shell game. These entities help distract and detract from actual efforts to reform the system. They even hoard software patents.

Stupid Blogs, Stupid Lawsuits, and Stupid Patents

Techrights - Thursday 24th of May 2018 06:15:13 AM


Original

Summary: The stupidity of the patent microcosm, which would like to see everything in the world patented and which would gleefully smear or even sue its critics (the EFF was sued several times for libel over its “Stupid Patent of the Month” series)

GRANTING patents just for the sake of having more granted patents would be missing the point; that should be obvious. The more patents an office grants in error, the lower the perceived value of all. The EPO ignores such common sense, whereas the USPTO belatedly adopts it. A lot of US patents got invalidated in recent years, many of which after lengthy and expensive court battles. This left the perceived value of many others (tested neither by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board nor the courts) low enough to merit no lawsuit or ‘assertion’ attempts.

“A lot of US patents got invalidated in recent years, many of which after lengthy and expensive court battles.”Patent maximalists aren’t happy. Watchtroll is furious and frustrated. It has been posting lots of unrelated cruft/dross lately, not about patents or even so-called ‘IP’. But yesterday Mr. Quinn (Watchtroll himself) was once again quote-mining Iancu — the second time in a week — to smear the status quo in the gradually-healed US patent system. Mr. Quinn then proceeded to his latest attack on judges, courts etc. The headline this time around (yesterday) was: “Did the Supreme Court intentionally destroy the U.S. patent system?”

He has been producing many headlines like this, especially in recent weeks. It is becoming rather laughable at this stage. An outsider who isn’t from the patent microcosm might as well say, “what a stupid blog!”

To us, Watchtroll has always been like the ‘Fox News’ of the patent microcosm.

Speaking of stupid blogs, how about Patently-O, which has been feeding Watchtroll with links? As it turns out, there’s a stupid new lawsuit against the USPTO. “Hyatt has filed a new mandamus action against the USPTO,” Patently-O said yesterday, “as the next step in the 40+ year battle over his microcomputer patent applications. Hyatt has over 300 patents applications pending before the USPTO.”

“To us, Watchtroll has always been like the ‘Fox News’ of the patent microcosm.”So what? Anyone can submit an application. That doesn’t mean anything. Patently-O recently gave attention also to a publicity stunt class-action lawsuit over PTAB. If it suits Patently-O‘s agenda, then hey, why the heck not?

Last but not least, in light of Facebook’s history of patent aggression, the EFF’s Joe Mullin has just announced the latest “Stupid Patent of the Month,” alluding to “poor-quality Internet patents” from Facebook. As Mullin put it:

Earlier this month, Facebook announced that it will wedge its way into an already-crowded corner of online commerce. The social networking site plans to use its giant storehouse of personal data to create a dating service, promising to help users find “meaningful relationships,” not just “hookups,” as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg put it.

It remains to be seen whether Facebook’s new service be a “Tinder-killer” that users flock to, or a flop for a company that’s long been beset with privacy concerns. But there’s one thing Facebook, its competitors, and its detractors should all be able to agree on. When a new dating service launches, it should rise or fall based on whether it can win the trust of users—not an arbitrary race to the Patent Office.

Unfortunately, well before it built and launched an actual dating service, Facebook engaged in just such a race. The company applied for a stupid patent on “social dating” back in 2013, and earlier this year, the Patent Office granted the application.

[...]

To be fair to Facebook, the company may have felt compelled to get its own stupid patent because there are so many other stupid online dating patents out there. In a phenomenon that’s the patent equivalent of “mutually assured destruction,” many tech companies have stockpiled poor-quality Internet patents simply to have a threat to fight off other companies’ poor-quality Internet patents. This arms race, of course, costs many millions of dollars and benefits no one other than patent system insiders.

In the world of online dating, wasteful, anti-competitive patent litigation isn’t just theoretical. Earlier this year, Match Group sued up-and-comer Bumble for patent infringement. The suit was brought shortly after Match reportedly tried to purchase Bumble. And in 2015, Jdate sued Jswipe, accusing their competitor of infringing U.S. Patent No. 5,950,200, which tried to claim the idea of notifying people that they “feel reciprocal interest for each other.” It was a basic patent that sought to encompass just about the whole concept of a dating service.

We cannot stress strongly enough that we’re not against patents; we are pro patent quality. We believe that the number of patents should be limited based on strict scope and merit thresholds. Sites like Watchtroll, on the other hand, want us to believe the lie that the more patents get granted, the better off innovation will be. In practice, overpatenting has the exact opposite effect. People who are genuinely interested in innovation and contribute to innovation often ask for restrictions on patent scope, fearing the prospect of unwanted lawsuits.

Perpetuating the Big Lie That Unitary Patent (UPC) is About to Kick Off

Techrights - Thursday 24th of May 2018 05:29:52 AM

The EPO wrote this (below) more than two years ago

Summary: The (in)famous old lie about UPC being “just around the corner” is still being circulated, mainly if not only by patent law firms which stand to benefit from a litigation Armageddon in Europe

“TEAM BATTISTELLI” (EPO management) is expected to lie a lot. About nearly everything. The same goes for “Team UPC,” basically a subset of law firms, primarily those that profit from litigation, patent trolls and so on. These people do not care about Europe; they just want to ensure that Europe keeps attracting lots of ruinous lawsuits, necessitating a lot of lawyers.

“These people do not care about Europe; they just want to ensure that Europe keeps attracting lots of ruinous lawsuits, necessitating a lot of lawyers.”Lies about the Unified Patent Court (UPC) have become very routine. Left unaddressed, many people risk falling for them. Many inside Team UPC already live in an echo chamber, surrounded by mutually-reinforcing messages; they live in a bubble, to put it rather bluntly. Today we present some new examples of it (from earlier this week).

Yesterday, rather unsurprisingly, IP Kat was propping up Team UPC’s Kool-Aid (probably Bristows’) in order to advance the UPC’s agenda. This blog should be renamed “CIPA Kat” as this is what it basically got reduced to after the founder (Jeremy) had left. This is what they wrote:

In the aftermath of the ratification of the UPCA by the UK last month, Kluwer Patent Blog has published an interview with Bruno van Pottelsberghe, Professor at the Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management and a former chief economist of the EPO. In ‘EU should bring Unitary Patent system under its control’, Van Pottelsberghe discusses the benefits of the Unitary Patent regime to the business community, NPO concerns, German stance, and the role of EPO.

We already wrote several responses to this Kluwer Patent Blog ‘article’; so did many commenters (those that managed to survive the censorship regime of Kluwer Patent Blog — a regime which became even tougher some months ago, shortly after commenters had criticised the UPC and articles about the UPC).

“Lies about the Unified Patent Court (UPC) have become very routine.”In addition to this, some Battistelli-friendly French law firm propped up the UPC in France days prior to Bristows joining in. Surely enough, Stanislas Roux-Vaillard (Hogan Lovells) has just joined in [1, 2] by stating:

Importantly, this Order does not specify which law should be applied by the French courts during the UPC transitional period; it will be for French courts to decide whether they should apply the substantive provisions of the UPC or the French law (the latter solution being the recommendation of the Preparatory Committee’s interpretative note) for issues like the Bolar exemption.

Notice the tenses; they insinuate inevitability and persist with some arrogant certainty that the UPC will actually start and the only remaining questions are some minor technicalities. That is very far from it. Robert Burrows from Bristows is meanwhile obsessing over Bulgaria as if the UPC’s fate has much to do with a small economy without many EPs (32 EPs granted last year and 20 the year prior to that). Merely keeping the perception of momentum?

“Merely keeping the perception of momentum?”An article by Wolfgang Schönig and Robert Grohmann (Morrison & Foerster LLP) has just stated (in the headline even) that “Germany Is Lingering To Ratify” (as if it’s just a matter of time, as per the definition of the word linger). To quote:

While some commentators struggle with how membership of the UPC is compatible with the stated BREXIT aim of “taking back control”, when essentially signing up to a European patent litigation system does exactly the opposite, others emphasise that the UPC is nothing but a logical evolvement of the European Patent Convention, an international patent system that (despite its name) is not exclusive to EU Member States, and that the UPC may be open to non-EU countries, too.

[...]

It remains to be seen whether timing will prevent the UK from participating in the UPC.

It’s not about timing. And the UPC is an EU thing; just check the underlying text. These people keep lying about it because law, to them at least, is just some ‘pesky’ thing to be worked around rather than be respected. The above sentence also puts forth the wrong question, a loaded question. This wrongly assumes or wants us to believe Unitary Patent will happen (and only the UK’s participation is up in the air). It won’t happen and thus the UK’s participation is irrelevant a question/conundrum.

“It won’t happen and thus the UK’s participation is irrelevant a question/conundrum.”Abigail Woodhouse, an attorney from a law firm, persists with using tenses like “will” in relation to the UPC; as though it’s inevitable and likely imminent; From this long new article titled “Patents and trademarks in 2018″:

Woolhouse: On World IP Day, 26 April 2018, the UK became the 16th Member State to ratify the Unified Patent Court Agreement (UPCA), which defines a new two-part patent system comprising the Unitary Patent (UP) and a new court, the Unified Patent Court (UPC). The UP will be a single patent right in up to 25 Member States of the EU and enforceable in the UPC by single judgement effective in all UPCA member states. Importantly, the UPC will also have jurisdiction over conventional European Patents. This system will endure and run alongside the UP, thus requiring proprietors to actively opt-out if they wish to avoid the UPC’s jurisdiction. It is quite possible that the UP and UPC could be in action before Brexit in March 2019. As it now stands, Germany is the only remaining mandatory party required to ratify before the new system can be brought into effect.

But no, the UK cannot participate in such a system and without the UK there’s no UPC; this is in fact one of the considerations to be taken into account by the FCC in Germany. It’s in the constitutional complaint.

“Notice how pretty much all of the above (pro-UPC spin) comes from the legal ‘industry’ as opposed to the real industry which actually makes and sells things.”Do facts no longer matter? These people keep perpetuating falsehoods and myths like “IP” (above), corresponding to a propaganda term, “Intellectual Property” (not the same as actual laws, such as patent law). Stephan Kinsella wrote a great deal about this propaganda term and his latest podcast about it came out yesterday.

The matter of fact is, the UPC would serve nobody but these law firms and their largest clients, many or most of which aren’t even European.

Yesterday, Philipp Cepl and Kokularajah Paheenthararajah (DLA Piper) wrote about Düsseldorf in relation to increase in liability risks. To quote some bits:

In its two recent decisions, the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court redefined the requirements for the infringement of second-medical-use patents. Besides the cases of “purposeful preparation” of a medicament for the protected use, now, a direct infringement also “in some other way” may be considered if the medicament is objectively suitable for the patented use and the supplier takes advantage of external circumstances, which ensure that the offered medicament is used for the patented purpose. Thus, the recent case law increases liability risks for the infringement of secondmedical-use patents.

[...]

The recent case law of the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court increases the risks of liability for the infringement of second-medical-use patents since a direct infringement now also has to be taken into account if due to external circumstances it is evident that the medicament will be used for the patented purpose.

The main field of application of this case law are cross-label-use cases as pointed out by the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court, where only a carve-out will not be sufficient to prevent liability anymore. Besides that, also such cases may become more relevant where guidelines of medical associations or directives (e. g. of the German Joint National Committee or the Medical Chamber) may recommend certain diagnostic or therapeutic procedures, which may not be explicitly mentioned in the SmPC or package leaflet and the execution of which may realize the protected teachings of the patent. Also here it is to be expected that irrespective of the existing patent protection physicians will generally comply with such scientifically justified and practiceoriented recommendations at least insofar as they reflect medical standards.

Imagine how much worse it might (or would) get in Düsseldorf if Team UPC ever got its way and litigious firms/trolls dragged the whole of Europe into such German courts. Also yesterday (afternoon) Thorsten Bausch wrote about the Federal Court of Justice of Germany. A blog colleague wrote about the Court of Appeal of Barcelona (Spain). Both pertain to patent cases — ones in which the only party guaranteed to win is the legal ‘industry’.

Notice how pretty much all of the above (pro-UPC spin) comes from the legal ‘industry’ as opposed to the real industry which actually makes and sells things. That in its own right ought to serve as a reminder of who crafted the UPCA and pushes the hardest for UP/UPC.

EPO Validation in Former French Colonies That Have Zero European Patents

Techrights - Thursday 24th of May 2018 04:32:24 AM

All about Benoît, not the Office


Like much of the EPO’s Web site, annual results too are being personified

Summary: The strategy of the EPO seems to be centered around the interests of Benoît Battistelli and his political career rather than that of the EPO; validation deals and dubious 'Inventor Awards' seem to be part of this pattern

Corruption at the EPO has become almost banal; and yes, at this stage we can loosely throw around the “c” word (corruption) if not worse words. The President misuses the EPO’s budget, he gets together with former French colonies that have zero European Patents (EPs), and awards are being granted to literal frauds. We have never ever seen anything remotely like this at the USPTO. Or any other patent office for that matter…

“We have never ever seen anything remotely like this at the USPTO.”Yesterday there was this article from southeast Asian media about Battistelli’s agreement with “Morocco, Moldova, Tunisia, and Cambodia” (almost all are former French colonies). It said this:

In January 2017, the government of the Kingdom of Cambodia and the European Patent Organization (EPO) entered into an agreement on validation of European patents. The agreement came into effect on March 1, this year and makes Cambodia the first Asian country to grant validation to European patents. Similar agreements have come into force between the EPO and Morocco, between the EPO and Moldova, and between the EPO and Tunisia in the last three years.

[...]

For European patent applicants, one of the key advantages that the validation offers is that it will now be possible for them to cover up to 44 countries – European states as well as Morocco, Moldova, Tunisia, and Cambodia – with a single European patent application. For Cambodia, it is an opportunity as the validation of EU patents offers incentives for its owners to consider investing in Cambodia. The validation agreement could significantly improve Cambodia’s competitiveness and attract more European investors.

It’s hard to see what value the EPO derives from this, especially given the fact that Cambodia has no EPs; the other nations too barely have any EPs. These deals are generally viewed (e.g. by EPO insiders) as purely political stunts, set up by Battistelli to benefit Battistelli and his political associates.

“These deals are generally viewed (e.g. by EPO insiders) as purely political stunts, set up by Battistelli to benefit Battistelli and his political associates.”Speaking of southeast Asia, yesterday there was this promotional ‘article’ (more like a press release) about a company from Thailand (for perspective, the number of granted Thai EPs was 61 last year and 60 the prior year):

Pipper Standard, Thailand’s leading brand of natural household cleaning products, has been granted multiple patents by the European Patent Office for its proprietary fermented fruit technology.

“We are thrilled that our innovative technology has been awarded three patents by the European Patent Office,” said Peter Wainman, Chairman and CEO of Equator Pure Nature Co., Ltd. (EPN), manufacturer of Pipper Standard products. “This further underscores our role as a leader in the global movement away from chemical cleaners towards safe, natural, non-toxic products. To our knowledge, we are the only natural cleaning brand in the world with patented technology.”

If only they knew that patent quality at the EPO has sunk and many EPs are thus unproven and are of questionable use (e.g. in courts).

Saint-Germain’s Poisonous Legacy of “Toxic Loans”: The Cautionary Tale of SIDRU and Its “Toxic Loans”

Techrights - Thursday 24th of May 2018 03:55:59 AM

Summary: The town where the EPO‘s President (Battistelli) is a deputy mayor has a track record of financial hardship and alleged financial misconduct, attributed to the same financial practices Battistelli has just implemented at the EPO

The cautionary tale which follows concerns the Syndicat Intercommunal de Destruction des Résidus Urbains (SIDRU), a communal waste disposal service which is a joint enterprise of fifteen municipalities in the Greater Paris region, including the township of St. Germain-en-Laye.

An official report into the affairs of the SIDRU was issued in 2012 by the competent local public audit body (Chambre Régionale des Comptes d’Île de France). PDF document can be found here [PDF] (local copy [PDF]).

“Between 2003 and 2007, that is to say under Lamy’s chairmanship, SIDRU concluded a number of loan contracts with various banks.”This report confirms that from 1999 onwards the chairman of the SIDRU was none other than the late Emmanuel Lamy, the longtime Mayor of St. Germain-en-Laye from 1999 until 2017.

Between 2003 and 2007, that is to say under Lamy’s chairmanship, SIDRU concluded a number of loan contracts with various banks.

The loans were related to the financing of a new intercommunal waste processing and incinerator facility Azalys located in Carrières-sous-Poissy.

The Azalys incinerator had initially been financed with a conventional loan totalling around € 49 million at a fixed interest rate of about 5%.

After some time the SIDRU management came to the conclusion that the interest rate was too high. During the period 2003 to 2007 it was decided to “swap” the original fixed interest loan for a number of more sophisticated “structured debt products”. These “structured debt products” took the form of adjustable-rate loans whose interest rates were indexed to the movements of foreign exchange rates between the Euro and other currencies.

Back in 2003, or even in 2007 before the collapse of Lehman Brothers, such “structured debt products” may have seemed like a good idea.

“DEPFA has since been “wound down”. It achieved notoriety in 2008 after it ran into liquidity problems as a result of the economic and financial turmoil in the United States which in turn unleashed shock-waves in the German financial sector and ultimately necessitated a multi-billion bailout of its parent company Hypo Real Estate.”Or at least it was comparatively easier for the snake-oil salesmen pushing them to dazzle prospective customers by exaggerating the claimed advantages while downplaying the risks.

However as chaos and instability engulfed the financial markets in 2008, the unfortunate customers all too often woke up to find that what had been sold to them as sophisticated “structured debt products” had suddenly metamorphosed into “toxic loans” saddling them with dire financial consequences which in many cases still remain to be resolved.

One of the SIDRU loans negotiated by Lamy in 2007 was with the DEPFA Bank, the Dublin-based public-sector financing subsidiary of the German Hypo Real Estate (HRE).

DEPFA has since been “wound down”. It achieved notoriety in 2008 after it ran into liquidity problems as a result of the economic and financial turmoil in the United States which in turn unleashed shock-waves in the German financial sector and ultimately necessitated a multi-billion bailout of its parent company Hypo Real Estate.

“The interest rate of the DEPFA loan rose dramatically in 2011, jumping from 13.35% to 25% in March, then reaching 34% in April and eventually hitting a peak value of 55% in August 2011!”The loan which Lamy concluded with DEPFA for a tranche of SIDRU’s debt was scheduled to run for a ten year period.

For the first year from 15 December 2008 to 15 December 2009 a fixed rate of interest of 3.68% was to be charged.

For the remaining 9 years the interest rate on the loan depended on the difference between the exchange rate of the Euro in US Dollars and the exchange rate of the Euro in Swiss francs and it was to be calculated based on the following formula:

4.68 + 1.7 x max (0; EURUSD – EURCHF)

The arrangement turned out to be catastrophic when instability in the global financial markets unexpectedly led to both a strong rise in the Euro against the Dollar and a strong rise in the Swiss Franc against the Euro.

The interest rate of the DEPFA loan rose dramatically in 2011, jumping from 13.35% to 25% in March, then reaching 34% in April and eventually hitting a peak value of 55% in August 2011!

The fluctuation of the interest rates on the DEPFA loan between December 2009 and December 2014 can be seen in a graphic posted on the website of the opposition group Saint-Germain Autrement.

In July 2011 SIDRU decided to suspend its payments on the DEPFA loan.

“In July 2011 SIDRU decided to suspend its payments on the DEPFA loan.”The controversy surrounding the DEPFA loan and other “toxic loans” dragged on [PDF].

After the local elections in 2014 Lamy was replaced as Chairman of SIDRU by Jean-Frédéric Berçot, the Deputy Mayor of the neighbouring municipality of Poissy.

Following SIDRU’s suspension of payments in July 2011 the matter of the DEPFA loan eventually ended up in court.

“On 4 November 2016 the Court of Appeal of Paris issued a final judgment against SIDRU and ordered it to pay DEPFA all outstanding debts plus other charges which in total amounted to just over € 20 million!”On 4 November 2016 the Court of Appeal of Paris issued a final judgment against SIDRU and ordered it to pay DEPFA all outstanding debts plus other charges which in total amounted to just over € 20 million!

A PDF file of the judgment can be found here [PDF] (local copy [PDF]).

The judgment underlined the personal responsibility of Emmanuel Lamy in the affair.

“The SIDRU is an informed party to the contract, whose director, Emmanuel Lamy, Mayor of the commune of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, ENArque, head of mission for general economic and financial control for the Ministry of Finance, had all the skills required to understand and analyse the possible consequences of both a strong rise in the Euro against the Dollar and a strong rise in the Swiss Franc against the Euro even if such a scenario had been presented as unlikely”.

In a statement published in the “Free Opinion” column of issue no. 697 [PDF] of the Journal de Saint-Germain the opposition group Saint-Germain Autrement spoke in terms of a “damning judgment” against Lamy: “SIDRU: le jugement accable E. Lamy”.

Links 23/5/2018: DragonFlyBSD 5.2.1 and Kata Containers 1.0 Released

Techrights - Wednesday 23rd of May 2018 07:05:03 PM

Contents GNU/Linux Free Software/Open Source
  • How open-source computing is making AI affordable

    computing and the cloud have brought many previously unaffordable IT options to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The same is becoming true of artificial intelligence (AI), although it brings new challenges to all sizes of company.

    Even though many of the commercial, high-profile products are aimed at Global 2000 companies, and others marketed at SMEs are perhaps heavier on hype than intelligence, the smarter smaller organisations can learn, build on and use AI techniques right now, with those same open-source and
    .

  • Free Ebook Offers Insight on 16 Open Source AI Projects

    Open source AI is flourishing, with companies developing and open sourcing new AI and machine learning tools at a rapid pace. To help you keep up with the changes and stay informed about the latest projects, The Linux Foundation has published a free ebook by Ibrahim Haddad examining popular open source AI projects, including Acumos AI, Apache Spark, Caffe, TensorFlow, and others.

    “It is increasingly common to see AI as open source projects,” Haddad said. And, “as with any technology where talent premiums are high, the network effects of open source are very strong.”

  • Open source image recognition with Luminoth

    Computer vision is a way to use artificial intelligence to automate image recognition—that is, to use computers to identify what’s in a photograph, video, or another image type. The latest version of Luminoth (v. 0.1), an open source computer vision toolkit built in Python and using Tensorflow and Sonnet, offers several improvements over its predecessor.

  • Finally: Historic Eudora email code goes open source

    The source code to the Eudora email client is being released by the Computer History Museum, after five years of discussion with the IP owner, Qualcomm.

    The Mac software was well loved by early internet adopters and power users, with versions appearing for Palm, Newton and Windows. At one time, the brand was so synonymous with email that Lycos used Eudora to brand its own webmail service. As the Mountain View, California museum has noted, “It’s hard to overstate Eudora’s popularity in the mid-1990s.”

  • The Computer History Museum Just Made Eudora Open Source
  • Openlab: what it is and why it matters

    Six months on from its announcement at Openstack Summit Sydney in late 2017, community testing project OpenLab is in full swing.

    OpenLab was initially formed by Intel, Huawei and the OpenStack foundation as a community-led project for improving SDK support and also introducing other platforms like Kubernetes and Cloud Foundry to the Openstack environment. Ultimately the idea is to improve usability in hybrid and multi-cloud environments.

    Melvin Hillsman sits on the governance board along with Dr Yih Leong Sun of Intel and Chris Hoge from the Foundation. Hillsman moved from Rackspace to Huawei to work specifically on the project.

    “The reason we think Openlab is important is, basically, Openstack for some time has been very specific about testing and integration for Openstack services, focusing only on the projects started at Openstack,” Hillsman tellsComputerworld UK at the Openstack Vancouver Summit. “It’s been working very well, it’s a robust system. But for me as a person in the user community – my getting involved in Openstack was more on the operator-user side.

  • Open source innovation tips for the customer-driven economy

    New technologies, ranging from big data and blockchain to 3D printing, are giving rise to new opportunities and challenges for companies today. To stay competitive, organizations need to become more intelligent, customer-centric, and increasingly agile to cope with changing business demands.

    The worry for many companies which are trying to innovate is that while the speed and scope of applications are expanding rapidly, the variety and complexity of technology is increasing simultaneously, putting pressure on their IT infrastructure.

    Speaking at the SUSE Expert Days 2018 held in Singapore recently, Dr Gerald Pfeifer, VP of Products and Technology Program, SUSE, told attendees that these prevailing trends have come together to make Open Source the primary engine for business innovation.

  • Qualcomm is able to release the Snapdragon 845 source code in 6 weeks

    Qualcomm‘s latest high-end system-on-chip, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, was announced at the Snapdragon Tech Summit back in December. The chipset offers 4 Kryo 385 (A75 “performance”) and 4 Kryo 385 (A55 “efficiency”) CPU cores, the latest Adreno 630 GPU, the Spectra 280 ISP, the Hexagon 685 DSP, the Snapdragon X20 LTE modem, and a new Secure Processing Unit (SPU). The Snapdragon 845 SoC is a powerhouse in benchmarks and it is already available in devices like the Samsung Galaxy S9/S9+, Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S, and the OnePlus 6. Developers on our forums have been itching to get their hands on a device with Qualcomm’s latest and greatest, but there’s just one thing that has made some developers worry about the future of development on the platform: The lack of publicly available source code for the kernel, HALs, framework branches, and more on the CodeAurora Forums.

  • SaaS/Back End
    • Kata Containers 1.0

      The 1.0 release of Kata Containers is here! Thank you to the more than 40 individuals who have contributed to the first release of Kata Containers and to developing the Kata community.

    • VM-container chimera Kata Containers emerges from lab

      The open source Kata Containers project, an effort to combine the security advantages of virtual machines with the deployment and management advantages of software-based containers, hit its 1.0 milestone on Tuesday.

      Forged from a merger of Intel’s Clear Containers and Hyper’s runV announced last December, Kata Containers delivers an Open Container Initiative (OCI)-compatible runtime that addresses the downside of traditional container architecture, a shared kernel.

    • Kata Containers Project Releases 1.0 to Build Secure Container Infrastructure
    • Kata Containers 1.0
    • OpenStack Makes its Open Source CI/CD Platform Available to the Wider World

      The OpenStack Foundation made Zuul, an open source continuous integration/continuous development (CI/CD) platform, into an independent project. Zuul also released version 3 of its software.

      Zuul was originally developed for OpenStack CI testing and has since attracted contributors and users across many different organizations, including BMW, GoDaddy, OpenLab, and Wikimedia. It’s the third project to be managed by the OpenStack Foundation, joining OpenStack and Kata Containers.

    • Kata Containers 1.0 Released, Formerly Intel Clear Containers

      Back in December was the announcement of Intel’s Clear Containers being spun into a new project called Kata Containers in collaboration with other organizations. Kata Containers has now reached their version 1.0 milestone.

      Kata Containers 1.0 is now available for this container technology designed for offering a secure and scalable container experience built atop Intel VT technology.

    • What’s new in OpenStack?

      As OpenStack Foundation Chief Operating Officer Mark Collier referenced in his opening keynote, the uses which OpenStack is seeing today expand far beyond what most who were involved in the early days of the project could have ever imagined. While OpenStack started out primarily in the traditional data center and found many large-scale users, particularly in the telecommunications industry, who were using it to manage huge installations of traditional x86 server hardware, the flexibility of OpenStack has today allowed it to thrive in many other environments and use cases.

      Today, we see OpenStack powering everything from academic and research projects to media and gaming services, from online retail and e-commerce to manufacturing and industrial applications, and from finance to healthcare. OpenStack is found in all of these different places not just because it is cheaper than using the public cloud, not just because it makes compliance with various regulations easier, but because its open source code makes it flexible to all sort of different situations.

  • Databases
    • Should Red Hat Buy or Build a Database?

      For a decade, at least, observers of the company have speculated about whether Red Hat would or should enter the database market. The primary argument, one made in this space eight years ago, has historically been that Red Hat is de facto leaving potential dollars on the table by limiting itself to operating platform and immediately adjacent markets. In a more recent piece, analyst Krishnan Subramanian adds that Red Hat is at risk because databases represent a control point, one that the company is effectively ceding to competitors such as AWS or Microsoft.

  • Oracle/Java/LibreOffice
    • LibreOffice 6.1 Beta Arrives Next Week for Second Bug Hunting Session on May 28

      Now that the first bug hunting session, which took place last month on April 27 for the alpha milestone, was a success leading to 91 bugs (8 of them marked as critical and 4 already fixed) being reported by those who attended the event, it’s time for a second bug hunting session at the end of May to discover and squash more of those pesky bugs and issues that may block the release of LibreOffice 6.1.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)
  • Funding
    • Tidelift Raises $15M Series A From General Catalyst, Foundry, & Others

      This morning Tidelift, a startup focused on helping developers work with open source technology, announced that it has closed a $15 million Series A round of funding co-led by General Catalyst, Foundry, and Matthew Szulik, the former CEO of Red Hat, a public open source-centered technology company.

      The subscription-powered startup has an interesting business model which we’ll dive into shortly, but it’s worth noting that the open source space as a whole is quite active. It’s something that Crunchbase News covered last year, describing how startups working with open source software have enjoyed a dramatic rise in investor interest.

      That puts Tidelift in the midst of a trend.

    • Tidelift lands $15M to deliver professional open-source support

      Tidelift Inc. is raising $15 million as it looks to boost its unique open-source software model that sees companies pay for professional support of their favorite projects, allowing those that maintain them to get compensated too.

      The Series A round was led by the investment firms General Catalyst and Foundry Group, as well as former Red Hat Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Matthew Szulik. The company was able to attract the investment after coming up with a novel idea for maintaining the most popular open-source software projects in a way that benefits both the users and those who help to create them.

      It works like this: Companies pay a subscription fee that entitles them to professional-grade support, similar to the kind of commercial subscriptions offered by firms such as Red Hat, Cloudera Inc. and Docker Inc. A part of these fees are then used to pay the developers who maintain the software. The net result, at least in theory, is that everyone is happy, as companies enjoy the benefits of professional support at lower rates than they might expect from an established firm, and the developers of the software are finally rewarded for their efforts.

  • BSD
    • DragonFlyBSD 5.2.1 Released

      While DragonFlyBSD 5.3/5.4 is exciting on the performance front for those making use of the stable DragonFly operating system releases, DragonFlyBSD 5.2.1 is available this week.

      This is the first and perhaps only point release over DragonFly 5.2.0 that premiered back in April. DragonFlyBSD 5.2 brought stabilization work for HAMMER2 to make it ready for more users, Spectre and Meltdown kernel work, and months worth of other important updates.

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC
  • Public Services/Government
    • Do European Governments Publish Open Source Software?

      From time to time I come across news articles about Governmental bodies in Europe adopting the use of Open Source Software. This seems to be a slowly increasing trend. But if European Governments make software for themselves, or are having it made for them, do they publish that software as Open Source?

      This was a question that came up in a meeting at one of my clients. To find an answer, I asked my friends at the FSFE NL-team and did a Quick Scan. Here are the results.

      The short answer: Yes, they do!

      The longer answer: read on.

  • Programming/Development
Leftovers
  • Bill Gates Tries and Fails To Install Windows Movie Maker In Epic 2003 Email Rant
  • Science
    • Tempow raises $4 million to improve Bluetooth

      French startup Tempow has raised a $4 million funding round. Balderton Capital led the round, with C4 Ventures also participating. The company has been working on improving the Bluetooth protocol to make it more versatile.

  • Health/Nutrition
    • Africa Takes Steps For Access To Medicines: Conference To Fight Fakes, Develop Local Production

      A week after African ministers of health adopted a treaty for the establishment of an African Medicines Agency, an international conference held on the side of the World Health Assembly denounced the rampant and increasing issue of fake medicines in Africa, and the lack of adequate action and political will. The Benin president said Benin’s efforts to fight traffickers is so far unsupported, and called developed countries to commit to the fight. Other speakers insisted on the importance of local production of medicines, and the need for biting legislation to defeat fake medicines.

      [...]

      The AMA was praised at the OIF conference, which was meant to bring to the international attention the issue of falsified and sub-standard medicines, everywhere in the world, but in particular in francophone Africa, and what is needed to curb the rampant criminal trade.

      Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS, opening the conference, said Africa is bearing 25 percent of the global weight of disease, but only produces about 3 percent of the medicines it needs. He called for a criminalisation of fake medicines manufacturers and distributors.

    • 50 Years Of Global Health Progress – Interview With IFPMA Head Thomas Cueni

      Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, in his inaugural speech at the World Health Assembly this week, explained that partnerships are a key strategy for the WHO to ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages. He added that the WHO is engaging with the private sector as a crucial partner in achieving health for all. Thomas Cueni, IFPMA’s Director General, in an interview with Health Policy Watch on the occasion of the IFPMA’s 50-year anniversary, explains how the research-based biopharmaceutical industry together with IFPMA have contributed to the huge strides in health progress over 50 years. He explains the major leaps forward, setbacks and mistakes, as well as how industry is part of the solution, as “do-ers” and partners in global health progress. Cueni also talks about pricing and cost of R&D.

  • Security
    • efail: Outdated Crypto Standards are to blame

      I have a lot of thoughts about the recently published efail vulnerability, so I thought I’d start to writeup some of them. I’d like to skip all the public outrage about the disclosure process for now, as I mainly wanted to get into the technical issues, explain what I think went wrong and how things can become more secure in the future. I read lots of wrong statements that “it’s only the mail clients” and the underlying crypto standards are fine, so I’ll start by explaining why I believe the OpenPGP and S/MIME standards are broken and why we still see these kinds of bugs in 2018. I plan to do a second writeup that will be titled “efail: HTML mails are to blame”.

      I assume most will have heard of efail by now, but the quick version is this: By combining a weakness in cryptographic modes along with HTML emails a team of researchers was able to figure out a variety of ways in which mail clients can be tricked into exfiltrating the content of encrypted e-mails. Not all of the attack scenarios involve crypto, but those that do exploit a property of encryption modes that is called malleability. It means that under certain circumstances you can do controlled changes of the content of an encrypted message.

      [...]

      Properly using authenticated encryption modes can prevent a lot of problems. It’s been a known issue in OpenPGP, but until know it wasn’t pressing enough to fix it. The good news is that with minor modifications OpenPGP can still be used safely. And having a future OpenPGP standard with proper authenticated encryption is definitely possible. For S/MIME the situation is much more dire and it’s probably best to just give up on it. It was never a good idea in the first place to have competing standards for e-mail encryption.

      For other crypto protocols there’s a lesson to be learned as well: Stop using unauthenticated encryption modes. If anything efail should make that abundantly clear.

    • Comcast Leaked Customer Wi-Fi Logins in Plaintext, Change Your Passcode Now

      A Comcast Xfinity website was leaking Wi-Fi names and passwords, meaning now is a good time to change your Wi-Fi passcode.

      The site, intended to help new customers set up new routers, could easily be fooled into revealing the location of and password for any customer’s Wi-Fi network. A customer ID and a house or apartment number was all would-be attackers needed to get full access to your network, along with your full address.

    • Update Fedora Linux using terminal for latest software patches
    • Patch for New Spectre-Like CPU Bug Could Affect Your Performance
    • container_t versus svirt_lxc_net_t
    • Linux Redis Automated Mining For Worm Analysis and Safety Advice [Ed: Rather old an issue]

      Since Redis has not authorized the disclosure of the attack method of root authority of Linux system, because of its ease-of-use, the hacking behaviors of mining and scanning of Linux services by using this issue have been endless. Among the many cases that handle this problem to invade the server for black production, there is a class of mining that USES this problem and can automatically scan the infected machine with pnscan. The attack has always been there, but it has shown a recent trend of increasing numbers, which has been captured many times, and we’ve been able to do a specific analysis of it.

    • Turla cyberespionage group switched to open-source malware [Ed: Crackers share code, so let's badmouth FOSS?]

      The Turla cyberespionage group has implemented some new tactics over the last few months incorporating some open-source exploitation tools instead of relying solely on their own creations to run campaigns.

      ESET researchers found that starting in March the Turla has been leveraging the open-source framework Metasploit to drop the group’s proprietary Mosquito backdoor. The group has periodically used open-source hacking tools for other tasks, but ESET believes the group has never before used Metasploit as a first stage backdoor.

    • A Complete Beginner’s Guide to Not Getting Hacked

      Crackers are so to speak the evil hackers. Although these very often also do not offer the possibilities in order to do justice to the descriptions of the media. Then there are the would-be hackers, also called ScriptKiddies who use themTrojan2 and pre-programmed programs to get into computers and do damage.

      The “Kiddie” leads is a departure from the English “kid” (child), since young people are often behind such attacks. Due to their young age and lack of experience, ScriptKiddies often do not even know what they are doing. Let me give you an example. I have seen ScriptKiddies that use methods to intrude into Windows NT Calculator tried to break into a Linux machine. ScriptKiddies are often bored teenagers who try to have fun with the first tool. These tools are usually so simply knitted that actually, each normal, somewhat educated user can serve them.

      [...]

      According to Blendrit, co-founder at Tactica “One thing is clear: this language culture is constantly evolving, and many words find their way into the media, where they have a completely different meaning. Just as our most famous word, “hacker”, has fared.”

    • More Meltdown/Spectre Variants
    • Spectre V2 & Meltdown Linux Fixes Might Get Disabled For Atom N270 & Other In-Order CPUs

      There’s a suggestion/proposal to disable the Spectre Variant Two and Meltdown mitigation by default with the Linux kernel for in-order CPUs.

      If you have an old netbook still in use or the other once popular devices powered by the Intel Atom N270 or other in-order processors, there may be some reprieve when upgrading kernels in the future to get the Spectre/Meltdown mitigation disabled by default since these CPUs aren’t vulnerable to attack but having the mitigation in place can be costly performance-wise.

    • Linux 4.17 Lands Initial Spectre V4 “Speculative Store Bypass” For POWER CPUs

      Following yesterday’s public disclosure of Spectre Variant Four, a.k.a. Speculative Store Bypass, the Intel/AMD mitigation work immediately landed while overnight the POWER CPU patch landed.

    • New Variant Of Spectre And Meltdown CPU Flaw Found; Fix Affects Performance
    • Ubuntu 18.04 LTS Gets First Kernel Update with Patch for Spectre Variant 4 Flaw

      Canonical released the first kernel security update for its Ubuntu 18.04 LTS (Bionic Beaver) operating system to fix a security issue that affects this release of Ubuntu and its derivatives.

      As you can imagine, the kernel security update patches the Ubuntu 18.04 LTS (Bionic Beaver) operating system against the recently disclosed Speculative Store Buffer Bypass (SSBB) side-channel vulnerability, also known as Spectre Variant 4 or CVE-2018-3639, which could let a local attacker expose sensitive information in vulnerable systems.

    • RHEL and CentOS Linux 7 Receive Mitigations for Spectre Variant 4 Vulnerability

      As promised earlier this week, Red Hat released software mitigations for all of its affected products against the recently disclosed Spectre Variant 4 security vulnerability that also affects its derivatives, including CentOS Linux.

      On May 21, 2018, security researchers from Google Project Zero and Microsoft Security Response Center have publicly disclosed two new variants of the industry-wide issue known as Spectre, variants 3a and 4. The latter, Spectre Variant 4, is identified as CVE-2018-3639 and appears to have an important security impact on any Linux-based operating system, including all of its Red Hat’s products and its derivatives, such as CentOS Linux.

  • Defence/Aggression
    • A New Flotilla Steams Towards Gaza

      Elizabeth Murray is aboard a new flotilla to highlight the illegality of the 12-year old blockade that is choking the people of Gaza.

      [...]

      Elizabeth Murray served as Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East in the National Intelligence Council before retiring after a 27-year career in the U.S. government, where she specialized in Middle Eastern political and media analysis. She is a member of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

    • An Alarming Tip About a Neo-Nazi Marine, Then An Uncertain Response

      It was Oct. 29, 2017, when Ed Beck decided he had to contact the military police.

      For weeks, Beck had been tracking the online life of a 21-year-old lance corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps. He said he had concluded the young man, a North Carolina native named Vasillios Pistolis, was deeply involved in neo-Nazi and white supremacist activities.

      Beck said he had compiled an exhaustive dossier on the young Marine, tracing the evolution of Pistolis’ racist worldview over recent years and linking him to violent altercations at the bloody white power rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last August. The most recent piece of evidence, Beck said, was a fresh video that appeared to show Pistolis standing alongside a leader of the Traditionalist Worker Party, a fascist group, during a confrontation with an interracial couple at a restaurant in a suburb of Nashville, Tennessee.

      Beck was well positioned both to be offended by Pistolis’ alleged conduct and to report it: Beck had served in the Marines from 2002 through 2006, including a tour in Iraq. In fact, he’d been assigned to the 2nd Marine Logistics Unit, the same unit in which Pistolis was serving.

      Beck said he contacted the authorities at the unit’s headquarters, Camp Lejeune, a large Marine Installation on the North Carolina coast, and spoke briefly with an investigator for the post’s military police.

    • Drones Don’t Wear Uniforms. They Should.

      The video from Gaza starts with a just-visible multirotor drone juxtaposed against a remarkably blue sky. A group of TV journalists in blue helmets stand at the bottom of the frame, looking up at it. It hangs there for a second, and then tear gas canisters fall from it, issuing waving tails of white smoke. The canisters come to earth immediately in front of the cameras, and the reporters begin to run in all directions, coughing. The camera looks to the blue sky again, and the little black dot recedes, mysteriously, into the distance.

      Welcome to the next stage of the drone revolution.

      Israel may have become the first-ever nation observed using armed consumer drones in a real-world setting on March 12, when a Lebanese news network ran footage (probably dating from March 9) of one dropping tear gas on Gazan protesters. The deployment of drones against crowds of protesters — even armed ones — raises new and worrying questions about legality, identification, and purpose. Such usage may be unavoidable, but the international community at the very least needs to establish — and enforce — legal and ethical standards as soon as possible.

    • Real-Life CIA Card Game Makes Toppling Governments Fun!

      Maybe it’s because I’m a games journalist, but I really do believe that everything is a game. It’s just that some games have vastly higher stakes than others. There’s a big difference between The Game of Life the board game and The Game of the Life the experience of existing in this world.

      And you know who’s even better at turning incredibly serious real-world events into the most dangerous games? The Central Intelligence Agency. That’s why we were saddened but not at all surprised to learn there’s a card game being made based on real-life CIA tactics.

    • Forced to Choose Between a Job — and a Community

      After high school, Arnett joined the U.S. Marine Corps, in 1999. His unit, the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines — the storied Suicide Charley — took him to the other side of the world: South Korea, Japan, Thailand. In the spring of 2003 he was an infantryman in the invasion of Iraq, spending five months in country — Baghdad, Tikrit, Najaf.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting
    • WikiLeaks suspect Joshua Schulte accused of leaking to reporters from behind bars: Reports

      A former CIA employee suspected of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks was accused Monday of sharing secrets with reporters involving the government’s case against him.

      Joshua Schulte, 29, violated a September 2017 protective order barring him from discussing elements of his case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Laroche argued in Manhattan federal court Monday, local media reported.

      “It is clear the defendant is discussing the search warrants,” Mr. Laroche said, according to New York Daily News.

      Mr. Schulte was arrested last year on federal child porn charges, though it only emerged last week that prosecutors also suspect he leaked top-secret CIA hacking tools published by WikiLeaks in 2017 under the label “Vault 7.”

    • GOP lawmaker: Julian Assange is a ‘very honorable man’

      Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) praised WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in an interview published on Wednesday, calling him honorable.

      “He’s a very honorable man,” Rohrabacher told CNN.

      The California congressman visited Assange last August at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to discuss the 2016 hacking of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), which Assange has said he believes was an “inside job” and not perpetrated by the Russian government.

      After his meeting with Assange, Rohrabacher said there was no evidence to suggest the hacking of the DNC was spearheaded by the Kremlin.

    • A GOP congressman’s lonely quest defending Julian Assange

      President Trump’s secretary of state has dubbed Julian Assange’s group WikiLeaks a “hostile intelligence service.” Trump’s national security adviser once called on the US to use WikiLeaks for “target practice.” And his attorney general asserted that the arrest of Assange remains a “priority” for the United States.
      But Rep. Dana Rohrabacher sees Assange differently.
      “He’s a very honorable man,” Rohrabacher told CNN.

      Rohrabacher, a California Republican facing a potentially difficult re-election this fall, occupies an unusual space in politics. He’s an unapologetic defender of someone viewed as a villain in Washington and a sharp skeptic of the widely held view in Congress and from US intelligence agencies that Russia meddled in the US elections.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature
    • We Examined 885 European Cities’ Plans To Tackle Climate Change — Here’s What We Found

      Around the world, cities endeavor to cut greenhouse gas emissions, while adapting to the threats – and opportunities – presented by climate change. It’s no easy task, but the first step is to make a plan outlining how to meet the targets set out in the Paris Agreement, and help limit the world’s mean temperature rise to less than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

      About 74% of Europe’s population lives in cities, and urban settlements account for 60-80% of carbon emissions – so it makes sense to plan at an urban level. Working to meet carbon reduction targets can also reduce local pollution and increase energy efficiency – which benefits both businesses and residents.

      But it’s just as important for cities to adapt to climate change – even if the human race were to cut emissions entirely, we would still be facing the extreme effects of climate change for decades to come, because of the increased carbon input that has already taken place since the industrial revolution.

    • The Netherlands Announces Ban On Coal, Plans Close Of 2 Power Plants By 2024

      The Netherlands has announced that it will ban the use of coal for electricity generation from 2030 onwards, and that the two oldest plants must close by the end of 2024, in a move that Germany utility company RWE has deemed “ill judged.”

    • City Trees Are Disappearing

      Forests are essential to combating climate change. They drink up huge amounts of planet-heating carbon from the atmosphere and provide shelter for species struggling to adapt to global warming. For that reason, experts have called for measures to protect forests. But what about trees in cites? We hear much less about them. Yet the trees that line streets and backyards are just as important as those in the forest — actually, maybe even more so. And we are losing them, too.

      New research suggests that American cities and their surrounding areas have been losing as many as 36 million trees a year. That might not sound like a lot when you think about the number of trees in our nation’s forests, but those trees have a powerful impact on health and well-being — and on climate change.

  • Finance
    • Amid Affordable Housing Dispute, Conservatives Seek a Home in Chicago

      When news broke last week that a proposed affordable housing development on Chicago’s Northwest Side had likely been put on hold, Ammie Kessem, a Republican candidate for state representative, vowed on Facebook that it wasn’t the end of the story. Democrats, Kessem wrote, would pay for pushing the plan — including 45th Ward Ald. John Arena, its chief sponsor, and Kessem’s opponent, state Rep. Robert Martwick.

      Martwick, she wrote, “cannot continue to hide on this subject. … The people are going to hold you accountable for it come November.”

      Kessem’s opposition to building the affordable housing complex in her neighborhood has been a central part of her campaign for the Illinois House. And she’s had help.

    • A Guide for Digging Through Trump’s Financial Disclosures

      When President Donald Trump’s latest financial disclosure form was released last week, we dropped what we were doing and started digging.

      We found a few things, including some newly registered companies and a jump in revenue for Trump Productions, which helped produce shows like “The Apprentice” and the lesser-known dating show, “Donald J. Trump Presents: The Ultimate Merger.”

      We’ve decided to show how we did it so you can help us go deeper. Below are tips and tricks for finding noteworthy items buried in the 92-page disclosure.

      First, some background. Trump’s financial disclosure form, which he files each year with the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, provides the most detailed account available of the president’s finances, from his sprawling business empire to individual payments made to his personal attorney, Michael Cohen. The forms are the best window we have into his financial holdings. (His tax returns would also be helpful, but he hasn’t released those.)

      To see newly created companies, we put Trump’s new disclosure form next to last year’s form. That’s how we found T Retail LLC, an “online retail business; startup” that’s listed in the 2018 disclosure, but not in the 2017 one.

    • The ‘Black Hole’ That Sucks Up Silicon Valley’s Money

      The San Francisco Bay Area has rapidly become the richest region in the country—the Census Bureau said last year that median household income was $96,777. It’s a place where $100,000 Teslas are commonplace, “raw water” goes for $37 a jug, and injecting clients with the plasma of youth —a gag on the television show Silicon Valley—is being tried by real companies for just $8,000 a pop.

      Yet Sacred Heart Community Service, a San Jose nonprofit that helps low-income families with food, clothing, heating bills, and other services, actually received less in individual donations from the community in 2017 than it did the previous year. “We’re still not sure what it could be attributed to,” Jill Mitsch, the funds development manager at Sacred Heart, told me. It’s not the only nonprofit trying to keep donations up—the United Way of Silicon Valley folded in 2016 amidst stagnant contributions.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics
    • The Tired Trope of Blaming Trump on ‘Liberal Smugness’

      In an attempt to understand the coalition that gave Trump his narrow victory, for the past year and a half the press has spun a whole new subgenre of stilted, tautological feature reporting on how Trump supporters support Trump (FAIR.org, 2/15/17).

      And in their opinion sections, corporate media have fared no better. They have routinely given platforms to those who claim, with little to no firm evidence, that Trump’s election and his steady (though historically low) popularity (as well as his predicted eventual reelection) are all partly if not wholly the fault of liberal smugness and left-wing political correctness run amok.

    • Giuliani’s New Stance On Russian Collusion: So What? It’s Not Illegal.

      His client insists there was “NO COLLUSION” with Russia to win the presidency, but Donald Trump’s lead lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, has a new theory of the case: What’s the big deal if he did?

      In a recent interview with HuffPost, Giuliani initially disputed the notion that Trump’s daily citing, in the final month of his campaign, of Russian-aligned WikiLeaks and its release of Russian-stolen emails constituted “colluding” with Russia.

      “It is not,” Giuliani said.

      Then he switched tacks.

    • ‘Collusion’ and the insane media divide
    • Yes, a Reasonable Prosecutor Would Have Ordered an Investigation of the Trump Campaign

      We’re rapidly reaching a point in the Russia investigation where partisan opinion revolves almost entirely around unproven assertions. On the anti-Trump left (and parts of the Never Trump right) there exists a burning conviction that Robert Mueller “has the goods” — that there is strong evidence of criminal collusion by Trump and/or his campaign, and critics of the investigation intend to either block Mueller before he can deliver his final report or discredit his conclusions to save the Trump presidency.

      Conversely, among the president’s supporters, there is now a presumption that the entire Russia investigation was and is a bad-faith effort by the “deep state” to create an “insurance policy” against a Trump victory — that there was never reason to investigate Trump, and each new revelation about a different investigatory technique (national-security letters, informants, FISA applications, etc.) is proof of additional wrongdoing.

  • Censorship/Free Speech
  • Privacy/Surveillance
    • Tor Hidden Services

      When people write privacy guides, for the most part they are written from the perspective of the client. Whether you are using HTTPS, blocking tracking cookies or going so far as to browse the internet over Tor, those privacy guides focus on helping end users protect themselves from the potentially malicious and spying web. Since many people who read Linux Journal sit on the other side of that equation—they run the servers that host those privacy-defeating services—system administrators also should step up and do their part to help user privacy. Although part of that just means making sure your services support TLS, in this article, I describe how to go one step further and make it possible for your users to use your services completely anonymously via Tor hidden services.

    • Google sued for ‘clandestine tracking’ of 4.4m UK iPhone users’ browsing data

      Google is being sued in the high court for as much as £3.2bn for the alleged “clandestine tracking and collation” of personal information from 4.4 million iPhone users in the UK.

      The collective action is being led by former Which? director Richard Lloyd over claims Google bypassed the privacy settings of Apple’s Safari browser on iPhones between August 2011 and February 2012 in order to divide people into categories for advertisers.

    • Google Sued For Secretly Collecting Data Of 4.4 Million iPhone Users

      Google has been accused of “clandestine tracking” of 4.4 million iPhone users in the UK and is facing a lawsuit in the high court for as much as £3.2 billion.

    • FBI repeatedly overstated encryption threat figures to Congress, public

      The FBI has repeatedly provided grossly inflated statistics to Congress and the public about the extent of problems posed by encrypted cellphones, claiming investigators were locked out of nearly 7,800 devices connected to crimes last year when the correct number was much smaller, probably between 1,000 and 2,000, The Washington Post has learned.

    • FBI Admits It’s Been Using A Highly-Inflated Number Of Locked Devices To Push Its ‘Going Dark’ Narrative

      Call it a lie. Call it a misrepresentation. Call it a convenient error. Call it what you want. Just don’t call it a fact. Devlin Barrett at the Washington Post delivers a bombshell: the thousands of phones the FBI supposedly just can’t crack despite a wealth of tech solutions at its disposal? It’s nowhere near as many as consecutive FBI directors have claimed.

      [...]

      The FBI’s count was inflated by bad software and sloppy recordkeeping. But it had no incentive to fix it. Even if the error was never detected by the methodology test, someone should have asked how the FBI’s stash of locked phones suddenly exploded from less than 900 to nearly 8,000 in 18 months. But, given the IG’s findings about its slow-walked search for outside tech solutions in the Apple court battle, any red flags were probably ignored in favor of pushing the most dramatic “going dark” narrative possible. Why ask why? Just go with the more jaw-dropping number, even if there’s no physical evidence to back the claim.

    • Ministry of Defence calls for registry of AI experts

      THE UK’S MINISTRY OF DEFENCE has suggested that the government should build a registry of security-cleared artificial intelligence and robotics experts, who can be called-up should Queen and country ever require their services.

      That’s according to a new Ministry of Defence Joint Concept Note entitled Human and Machine Teaming. It also laments the UK’s technical skills shortages and calls for ‘a register of security-cleared UK nationals’ with AI and robotics expertise.

      The document sets out the Ministry’s vision of the future in a world where artificial intelligence is critical to national defence.

      With development of both AI and robotics shifting from the public sector to the private sector, ‘civil commercial investment in AI and robotic technologies, and the recruitment of subject matter experts’, is vastly outstripping the resources available to nation states.

    • President Trump Thinks Basic Phone Security Is Simply Too Inconvenient

      For the past year much has been made of the President’s unwillingness to adhere to anything close to reasonable security when using his mobile phones. Whereas the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) and the National Security Agency usually work in concert providing state leaders with “hardened” devices that are heavily encrypted, routinely updated, and frequently swapped out, Trump has refused to use these more secure DMCC-S devices (effectively a Samsung Galaxy S4 device utilizing Samsung’s Knox security architecture) because they apparently infringe on his ability to Tweet.

    • Folks are shocked – shocked – that CIA-backed Amazon is selling face-recog tech to US snoops, cops

      The American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday expressed dismay that Amazon Web Services has been urging US government agencies to use its Rekognition API for state-sponsored facial recognition.

      The advocacy organization published emails obtained over a six-month investigation documenting marketing efforts by Amazon employees to convince officials in Orlando, Florida, and Washington County, Oregon, to deploy its cloud-based image analysis tech.

    • Amazon Teams Up With Law Enforcement to Deploy Dangerous New Facial Recognition Technology

      Amazon, which got its start selling books and still bills itself as “Earth’s most customer-centric company,” has officially entered the surveillance business.

      The company has developed a powerful and dangerous new facial recognition system and is actively helping governments deploy it. Amazon calls the service “Rekognition.”

      Marketing materials and documents obtained by ACLU affiliates in three states reveal a product that can be readily used to violate civil liberties and civil rights. Powered by artificial intelligence, Rekognition can identify, track, and analyze people in real time and recognize up to 100 people in a single image. It can quickly scan information it collects against databases featuring tens of millions of faces, according to Amazon.

    • ACLU Obtains Documents Showing Amazon Is Handing Out Cheap Facial Recognition Tech To Law Enforcement

      It’s already been deployed to several areas around the country, with Amazon acting as the government’s best friend a la AT&T historic proactive cooperation with NSA surveillance efforts. The documents [PDF] obtained by the ACLU show Amazon has been congratulated by local law enforcement officials for a “first-of-its-kind public-private partnership,” thanks to its deployment efforts. On top of providing deployment assistance, Amazon also offers troubleshooting and “best practices” for officers using the tech. It has even offered free consulting to agencies expressing an interest in Rekognition.

      These efforts aren’t surprising in and of themselves, although Amazon’s complicity in erecting a law enforcement surveillance structure certainly is. Amazon is looking to capture an underserved market, and the more proactive it is, the more market it will secure before competitors arrive. To further cement its position in the marketplace, Amazon is limiting what law enforcement agencies can say about these public-private partnerships.

    • FBI Admits It Inflated Number of Supposedly Unhackable Devices

      We’ve learned that the FBI has been misinforming Congress and the public as part of its call for backdoor access to encrypted devices. For months, the Bureau has claimed that encryption prevented it from legally searching the contents of nearly 7,800 devices in 2017, but today the Washington Post reports that the actual number is far lower due to “programming errors” by the FBI.

      Frankly, we’re not surprised. FBI Director Christopher Wray and others argue that law enforcement needs some sort of backdoor “exceptional access” in order to deal with the increased adoption of encryption, particularly on mobile devices. And the 7,775 supposedly unhackable phones encountered by the FBI in 2017 have been central to Wray’s claim that their investigations are “Going Dark.” But the scope of this problem is called into doubt by services offered by third-party vendors like Cellebrite and Grayshift, which can reportedly bypass encryption on even the newest phones. The Bureau’s credibility on this issue was also undercut by a recent DOJ Office of the Inspector General report, which found that internal failures of communication caused the government to make false statements about its need for Apple to assist in unlocking a seized iPhone as part of the San Bernardino case.

  • Civil Rights/Policing
    • Should AI Always Identify Itself? It’s more complicated than you might think.

      The Google Duplex demos released two weeks ago—audio recordings of the company’s new AI system scheduling a hair appointment and the other of the system calling a restaurant—are at once unsettling and astounding. The system is designed to enable the Google personal assistant to make telephone calls and conduct natural conversations, and it works; it’s hard to tell who is the robot and who is the human. The demos have drawn both awe and criticism, including calls that the company is “ethically lost” for failing to disclose that the caller was actually a bot and for adding human filler sounds, like “um” and “ah,” that some see as deceptive.

      In response to this criticism, Google issued a statement noting that these recordings were only demos, that it is designing the Duplex feature “with disclosure built-in,” and that it is going “make sure the system is appropriately identified.” We’re glad that Google plans to be build transparency into this technology. There are many cases, and this may be one of them, where it makes sense for AIs or bots to be labeled as such, so that people can appropriately calibrate their responses. But across-the-board legally mandated AI- or bot-labeling proposals, such as a bill currently under consideration in California, raise significant free speech concerns.

      The California bill, B.O.T. Act of 2018 (S.B. 1001), would make it unlawful for any person to use a social bot to communicate or interact with natural persons online without disclosing that the bot is not a natural person. The bill—which EFF opposes due to its over-breadth—is influenced by the Russian bots that plagued social media prior to the 2016 election and spambots used for fraud or commercial gain. But there are many other types of social bots, and this bill targets all of them. By targeting all bots instead of the specific type of bots driving the legislation, this bill would restrict and chill the use of bots for protected speech activities. EFF has urged the bill’s sponsor to withdraw the proposal until this fundamental constitutional deficiency is addressed.

    • Jeff Sessions Wants Police to Use Stop and Frisk Without Reasonable Suspicion

      The attorney general’s recent comments reaffirm his support for unconstitutional policing.

      Attorney General Jeff Sessions has claimed that the settlement of a lawsuit brought by the ACLU of Illinois against the Chicago Police Department resulted in approximately 236 additional victims killed and over 1,100 additional shootings in 2016 alone. This represents a new low for Sessions. He is wrong on the facts — there was no ACLU lawsuit — and wrong on what is required by the Constitution.

      This is not the first time Sessions has been wrong on the facts and argued for bias-filled unconstitutional policies that have been abject failures. He said nothing when the president expressly encouraged police officers not to worry about injuring suspects during arrests. In one of his first actions, he sought to back out of a consent decree imposed on the Baltimore Police Department, but the judge in the case refused his request. He has opened no investigations of systemic policing abuse since taking office, even refusing to act on a scathing report issued by the Justice Department on the Chicago police.

      The ACLU of Illinois did not sue the Chicago Police Department. A lawsuit was not necessary. It wrote a report, backed up by the department’s own data, demonstrating that its stop-and-frisk policy was unconstitutional and ineffective. The policy was characterized by random stops conducted under circumstances where there was no reasonable suspicion that any criminal activity was occurring or had occurred with respect to the person or people being stopped.

    • The Supreme Court Favors Forced Arbitration at the Expense of Workers’ Rights

      The #MeToo movement has offered an important lesson on the collective power of voices joining together to take on individual experiences of injustice. On Monday, the Supreme Court dealt a huge blow to precisely this kind of collective power, ruling against the ability of workers to join together to take on employment discrimination and abuse.

      The court ruled that employers are free to force workers who have been victims of unfair labor practices into private arbitration to address their claims — even in cases where workers sought to bring a collective legal action. The decision came in a case about failure to pay overtime, but its implications are far broader and extend to many of the claims of harassment and discrimination that have surfaced thanks to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.

      Arbitration contracts are agreements to bring any future legal dispute through a private system rather than through the public courts. Employees are often required to sign such agreements along with a raft of paperwork on their first day on the job, and many have no memory of signing them.

      The Supreme Court has long held that employers are free to enforce arbitration agreements for individual lawsuits. Monday’s decision extended that principle to cases brought on behalf of a “class” of individuals who claim they were harmed in the same way by discriminatory or unfair policies and seek to bring a single legal action on behalf of the group.

      [...]

      The court’s decision — which Justice Ginsburg, in dissent, called “egregiously wrong” — tips the scales even further in favor of employers and large corporations, at the expense of workers.

    • Chicago Wins ‘Most Corrupt City’ Award Due In No Small Part To Its Awful Redlight Camera System

      We’ve talked a great deal about my home city of Chicago, largely for the myriad of awful, corrupt practices it has put in place around topics that we cover here. For instance, we have an alderman trying to shore up the city budget by taxing the shit out of Uber and Lyft, our Mayor thought it was a great idea to have his own private email accounts to conduct business, and a red light camera system so hilariously geared towards bilking money from citizens that the courts have tossed out huge swaths of the tickets it generated, which led the city to decide to make it barely less corrupt by a measure of tenths-of-seconds worth of leeway for drivers crossing the intersection.

      Now, you might be thinking that all of this effort to be corrupt and insidious seems like a waste. Wouldn’t it be far easier, you might be thinking, to simply run the city in a sensible way? Wouldn’t that actually require less effort and be better for the people of Chicago? Perhaps, but then Chicago wouldn’t have received the prestigious award of “most corrupt city”, as it did this past week.

    • As new CIA chief takes helm, torture questions in Thailand remain

      With her formal swearing-in on Monday by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, as President Donald Trump looked on, Gina Haspel has made history as the first female director of the Central Intelligence Agency and for now has outrun a controversy over torture in Thailand — a country outside her seven career postings at points officially undisclosed in Africa, Europe and beyond.

      In addition to English, Haspel speaks Russian and Turkish. Like a character in a spy novel, she has left no digital fingerprints from a 33-year clandestine career. She recently recounted to the U.S. Senate intelligence committee some “real life” adventures. “I excelled in finding and acquiring secret information that I obtained in brush passes, dead drops or in meetings in dusty alleys of Third World capitals,” she said.

    • The Belhaj case shows British intelligence agencies are out of control

      For years, Britain’s three security and intelligence agencies – the Secret Intelligence Service, commonly known as MI6; the domestic Security Service, MI5; and GCHQ, the worldwide communications eavesdropping agency – have insisted they are accountable to ministers, that they are responsible to democratically-elected politicians. And for years, ministers have insisted that the agencies are properly accountable to them.

      We all now know what some of us have been saying for a very long time: such assertions are myths. The Prime Minister herself has admitted it.

      On 13 December 2005, Jack Straw, then foreign secretary responsible for MI6, told the Commons Foreign Affairs committee: “Unless we all start to believe in conspiracy theories and that the officials are lying, that I am lying, that behind this there is some kind of secret state which is in league with some dark forces in the United States …There is simply no truth in the claims that the United Kingdom has been involved in rendition full stop, because we never have been”. Straw added that the British government was not compliant in rendition, nor did it turn a blind eye to it.

    • Canadians Subject to CIA Brainwash Experiments Seek Damages

      The Survivors Allied Against Government Abuse (SAAGA) group met in Montreal, Canada, on May 20. “The government should offer an apology and there should be recognition of the injustice that was done,” said Gina Blasbalg, a patient at the institute in 1960.

      Dr. Ewen Cameron, who co-founded the World Psychiatric Association, served as director of the Allan Memorial Institute psychiatric hospital between 1943 and 1964.

      Cameron oversaw ‘depatterning’ and ‘psychic driving’ experiments which attempted to erase a patient’s memories and reprogram them with new thoughts, according to CBC News.

      Cameron tested experimental drugs such as LSD and PCP, medically induced sleep for extended periods, and also oversaw extreme forms of electroshock therapy and sensory deprivation. Many of his patient suffered brain damage as a result.

    • When the CIA Infiltrated a Presidential Campaign

      President Donald Trump seems to believe that FBI agents infiltrated his presidential campaign for political purposes, and has tweeted that the bureau’s actions could amount to a scandal “bigger than Watergate.”

      Trump hasn’t provided evidence to support these allegations, but regardless of their veracity, there is precedent for an American intelligence agency spying on a presidential campaign. It happened in the summer of 1964; the target was Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, and the perpetrator was the CIA, not the FBI.

    • Blood Will Tell

      Most mornings, the sky was still black when Mickey Bryan made the short drive from her house on Avenue O, through the small central Texas town of Clifton, to the elementary school. Sometimes her car was the only one on the road. The low-slung, red-brick school building sat just south of the junction of State Highway 6 and Farm to Market Road 219 — a crossroads that, until recent years, featured the town’s sole traffic light. Mickey was always the first teacher to arrive, usually settling in at her desk by 7 a.m. A slight, soft-spoken woman with short auburn hair and a pale complexion, she prized the solitude of those early mornings, before her fellow teachers appeared and the faraway sound of children’s voices signaled, suddenly and all at once, that the day had begun.

      [...]

      Joe was sent back to the same prison where he was previously held: Texas’ oldest penitentiary, known as the Walls Unit in Huntsville, where the state’s execution chamber is housed. In letters back home to his mother, his older brother and the few friends who remained in touch with him, Joe was circumspect, revealing little about his existence behind bars or the emotional toll of incarceration. By then, he no longer heard from many people he loved — including Jerry, his twin brother, who distanced himself after Joe’s first trial. Even his last remaining Clifton friends gradually faded away. Linda Liardon wrote to Joe every now and then, but eventually she let the correspondence languish. “I was busy raising my boys, and life moved on,” she said. “I’m ashamed to admit that. But after a while, I struggled with what to say.”

      Still, she was left with an uneasy feeling. After Joe’s first conviction, she told me, people had stopped talking about Judy Whitley’s death. “One rumor went around that maybe Joe killed her too,” she said. “I think wrapping all this violence up in one neat little package was comforting to people. Everyone could put this behind them and not have to think that maybe someone was out there who had gotten away with murder.”

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality
    • Senators Ask FCC Why It Did Nothing To Stop Their Names From Being Fraudulently Used During Net Neutrality Repeal

      Last year you’ll recall that somebody abused the nonexistent privacy protections at the FCC website to flood the net neutrality repeal proceeding with millions of fake comments. While the vast majority of real people oppose the repeal, a bad actor was able to either fraudulently use the identities of real people (like myself), or hijack the identities of dead people to spam the proceeding with bogus support. The goal: undermine public trust in the public comment period in order to downplay the massive opposition to the FCC’s handout to AT&T and Comcast.

      Up to this point, the FCC has done less than nothing to investigate the fraud or prevent it from happening again, largely because it aided the FCC’s agenda. In fact, the FCC went so far as to block a law enforcement investigation into who was behind the fraud.

  • Intellectual Monopolies
    • Oncology drives major pharma deals while immuno-oncology patent activity soars

      Cancer immunotherapy is an exciting, relatively new therapy that treats cancer by unleashing the power of the immune system. It has been hailed as one of the most promising advances in the treatment of cancer in recent times.

      Immuno-oncology research is growing at a rapid pace and for the last three years this has begun to translate into a patenting frenzy as players seek to stake their claim in this wide commercial landscape. In this month’s piece from Clarivate Analytics, Bob Stembridge – the company’s marketing communications manager – looks at what the data is telling us.

    • Trademarks
      • Tam’s unanswered questions of dilution and Section 7

        Scandalous, immoral and disparaging marks are all now fair game, but the question of dilution is less clear. A speaker at the INTA Annual Meeting also questioned why the government didn’t use Section 7 of the Lanham Act to bolster its argument in Tam

    • Copyrights
      • German Court: TV show may not use ‘bloopers’ from other network without permission

        In a judgment dated 20.04.2018 (case No. 6 U 116/17), the Higher Regional Court of Cologne found that short video clips taken from other networks’ TV shows for entertainment purposes are not permissible as a parody or a quotation and thus need to be licensed.

        NDR, a German public broadcaster, had created a series of TV shows titled “Top Flops”. The show featured “funny” sequences (‘bloopers’) taken from various other programs, including shows belonging to RTL’s commercial television network.

      • Copyright Being Used To Prevent Actress From Showing Her Own Demo Reel

        Lawyer Stephen Doniger seems to be going out of his way to file lawsuits that involve creative interpretations of copyright (and by “creative” I mean “wrong.”) You may recall that Doniger was the lawyer behind Playboy suing Boing Boing for copyright infringement for linking to an Imgur collection of Playboy centerfolds. That case went so poorly that the judge tossed it out in just two months. Before that, Doniger made a name for himself (I kid you not) being a fabric copyright troll, filing loads of lawsuits against companies offering similar designs on fabric. He’s also jumped in on the whole situation created by the “Blurred Lines” mess by filing a bunch of “sounds alike” copyright cases.

        It’s almost as if he’s filing all sorts of nutty copyright cases just to demonstrate for us just how ridiculous modern copyright law has become, and how far from its purpose it has strayed. Indeed, that’s about the only explanation I can find for a new filing by Doniger, as noted by the Hollywood Reporter, in which Doniger, representing director Robin Bain is suing actress Jessica Haid for using a clip of the film, Nowhereland in her own demo reel.

        In short, Bain claims that Haid asked for permission to use clips in her demo reel and Bain refused (nice of him). She then got a copy of the film and gave it to another company to include it in her demo reel. Bain is now suing, claiming it’s an “unauthorized derivative work.” Indeed, the lawsuit claims that the clips in the demo reel “included a significant amount of unreleased footage from The Film, which taken together, encompassed the heart of The Film, as well as revealed the ending to The Film.”

      • EFF Presents Mur Lafferty’s Science Fiction Story About Our Fair Use Petition to the Copyright Office

        the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA 1201) makes it illegal to get around any sort of lock that controls access to copyrighted material. Getting exemptions to that prohibitions is a long, complicated process that often results in long, complicated exemptions that are difficult to use. As part of our ongoing to effort to fight this law, we’re presenting a series of science fiction stories to illustrate the bad effects DMCA 1201 could have.

        It’s been 20 years since Congress adopted Section 1201 of the DMCA, one of the ugliest mistakes in the crowded field of bad ideas about computer regulation. Thanks to Section 1201 if a computer has a lock to control access to a copyrighted work, then getting around that lock, for any reason is illegal. In practice, this has meant that a manufacturer can make the legitimate, customary things you do with your own property, in your own home or workplace, illegal just by designing the products to include those digital locks.

        A small bit of good news: Congress designed a largely ornamental escape valve into this system: every three years, the Librarian of Congress can grant exemptions to the law for certain activities. These exemptions make those uses temporarily legal, but (here’s the hilarious part), it’s still not legal to make a tool to enable that use. It’s as though Congress expected you to gnaw open your devices and manually change the software with the sensitive tips of your nimble fingers or something. That said, in many cases it’s easy to download the tools you need anyway. We’re suing the U.S. government to invalidate DMCA 1201, which would eliminate the whole farce. It’s 2018, and that means it’s exemptions time again! EFF and many of our allies have filed for a raft of exemptions to DMCA 1201 this year, and in this series, we’re teaming up with some amazing science fiction writers to explain what’s at stake in these requests.

Masking Abstract Patents in the Age of Alice/§ 101 in the United States

Techrights - Wednesday 23rd of May 2018 05:34:48 AM

Summary: There are new examples and ample evidence of § 101-dodging strategies; the highest US court, however, wishes to limit patent scope and revert back to an era of patent sanity (as opposed to patent maximalism)

AS noted in our previous post, software patents aren’t doing well in the US. The USPTO has become tougher on them, with or without the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) and the courts weighing in.

“Recent patents in New Hampshire,” published earlier this week in local media, reveal a little bit of information in the form of summaries. Some of these newly-granted (by USPTO) patents definitely sound like software patents. Having reviewed the media so far this week, we see other examples of it, including one from Accenture. “The newly issued patent,” it says regarding U.S. Patent No. 9,818,067, “is the latest in the worldwide intellectual property (IP) portfolio for Accenture, which includes more than 6,000 granted patents and pending patent applications.”

Many of these are just dubious software patents. How about this new example from Monday, which name-drops both “Blockchain” and “IoT” in the headline? It says:

HK-based AnApp’s founders are well-versed in computer hardware and software, holding more than 20 patents in semiconductor and electronics designs, and believe that the integration of IoT and blockchain will benefit our industries and daily lives.

Well, blockchains are software, but media hype about blockchains has been out of control lately, so the applicants hope it will make them sound innovative. The patent trolls’ lobby/Richard Lloyd has in fact just name-dropped all the misleading buzzwords which are often misused to patent software even in an age when software patents are not ponent (at least in courts). “AI, blockchain and IoT patents all on the shopping list for latest IP3 buying programme” is the headline and the summary adds more buzzwords, such as “virtual reality” and “automotive”. To quote:

Details of the latest iteration of IP3, the patent buying programme hosted by AST designed to give IP owners a quick and efficient way of selling their assets, were announced this morning with this year’s version open to non-AST members and focused on some of the hottest tech areas. On the shopping list for this year’s programme are patents in eight different categories including artificial intelligence, virtual reality, automotive, blockchain and Internet of Things (IoT).

They are simply trying to put new ‘clothing’ on abstract patents. Or ascribe algorithms to some device or vehicle they’re installed on…

How about this one as a new example? Or this new press release about “Two New Design Patents” (design patents are somewhat of a farce; applicants would be wise to rely on trademarks and copyrights instead).

Yesterday, in Above the Law, Gaston Kroub said that “[t]here is a vulnerable population hungry for IP advice,” but who are these vulnerable people? Victims of patent trolls or the ones patent law firms urge to sue just about everyone? The following loaded question is revealing:

3) There has been a lot of expressed concern about the declining value of U.S. patents, and the possible repercussions to the innovation economy. How do you think the clinic’s participants have adjusted or responded to the alleged malaise in the patent system?

There’s no such “malaise”; the quality of patents is being elevated and there’s nothing wrong with that. But they speak on behalf of the patent microcosm, not scientists.

Charlotte Tillett and Camille Arnold (Stevens & Bolton LLP, i.e. another law firm) has just published this new article alluding to the Supreme Court in relation to the pharmaceutical industry. To quote:

February saw the long-awaited Supreme Court hearing of Warner-Lambert v Generics t/a Mylan relating to the second medical use patent of pregabalin (Lyrica) for the treatment of pain. The judgement has huge importance to the pharmaceutical industry, clarifying the test for plausibility in patent applications, and determining the approach to take when applying for, or enforcing, second medical use patents.

[...]

The decision should come in the next few weeks, but what should companies do in the interim to protect their positions? Patent applications filed now run the risk of being found invalid for lack of plausibility later, should the Supreme Court enforce a higher threshold test. However, waiting to obtain further support for the patent application may be unwise, if there is a risk that another party may submit an application in the meantime.

Ultimately the decision will be a commercial one – if funding is required to progress research into the drug and cannot be acquired without a patent, then it will not be possible to wait to obtain clinical trials. However, if the Supreme Court does set a high bar for plausibility, funders may well be less inclined to accept patents that risk invalidity in the future.

Judging by many recent decisions from the Supreme Court (regarding patents), it’s not hard to guess the outcome; either way, the law firm above perpetuates the “research” (or R&D) myth. It’s common knowledge that much of the research money actually comes from government, e.g. university grants. In reality, for practical reasons, access to medicine is a lot more important than patents. We shall soon know if the Supreme Court maintains the consistency of its rulings.

PTAB’s Latest Applications of 35 U.S.C. § 101 and Obviousness Tests to Void U.S. Patents

Techrights - Wednesday 23rd of May 2018 05:01:38 AM

Summary: Validity checks at PTAB continue to strike out patents, much to the fear of people who have made a living from patenting and lawsuits alone

THE U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) now enjoys the scrutiny of the Patent Trial and Appeal Board, PTAB. It helps eliminate patents which were granted in error. Suffice to say, the patent microcosm is not happy about it. It keeps moaning about PTAB and about its application of US law, notably 35 U.S.C. § 101.

Yesterday, for example, this post about Praxair Distribution, Inc. v Mallinckrodt Hospital Products IP Ltd. was published by Kevin Noonan to say that a patent had been voided:

Last week, the Federal Circuit found all patent claims invalid for obviousness in an inter partes review, in Praxair Distribution, Inc. v. Mallinckrodt Hospital Products IP Ltd. But the Court did not render its decision without engendering a judicial disagreement between the majority and Judge Newman on the proper role of the printed matter doctrine in obviousness determinations.

Mallinckrodt’s patent-in-IPR, U.S. Patent 8,846,112, was directed to methods for providing nitric oxide gas as a treatment for dilating pulmonary blood vessels in neonates. However, the art recognized a side effect, pulmonary edema, for which infants with pre-existing left ventricular dysfunction (LVD) were at particular risk. A diagnostic assay (pulmonary capillary wedge pressure, or “PCWP”) having greater than a specific value was taught in Mallinckrodt’s patent to exclude infants at risk for this side effect. Claim 1 is representative of the claims invalidated by the Patent Trial and Appeal Board…

Noonan, noting Section 101 “fatigue”(whatever he intended by that), then resorted to propping up the habitual dissent from Newman:

As is frequently the case, Judge Newman makes the better argument. Perhaps due to Section 101 fatigue or because the Supreme Court’s penchant for ignoring the statutory silos of eligibility, anticipation, and obviousness is contagious, the majority’s decision imports the incoherence of eligibility law into the obviousness context (doing little to clarify the standards in either). And by extending the application of the printed matter doctrine to claims that don’t recite printed matter, this precedential decision has the capacity to make mischief (having the Court’s imprimatur) until such time that another panel can creatively avoid its application or in the unlikely event that the Federal Circuit considers the question en banc (an eventuality that seems likely only if the Court becomes enamored with this approach to invalidating claims on eligibility grounds under the auspices of an obviousness determination). Neither possibility can be particularly comforting to the patent community.

When he says “patent community” he means patent microcosm. They’re not happy.

Yesterday, once again at midday, Watchtroll covered the patent scam of Allergan and St. Regis Mohawk Tribe. Some patent lawyers seem rather eager to make themselves look like crooks rather than law professionals. The whole post was about this amicus brief:

Askeladden again submitted an amicus brief to the Federal Circuit on May 17, 2018 supporting the PTAB’s decision below. A copy of that amicus brief is available here.

Why should a massive corporation disguise itself as a tribe and find itself exempted from the law? PTAB, as the highest US court recently found, is perfectly within its right to revoke patents which should not have been granted. Even IAM, a patent maximalists’ site, isn’t denying it (Watchtroll has always been a lot more radical in its views). IAM has just advertised some upcoming ‘event’ about “The impact of Oil States and SAS Institute on your PTAB strategy” as if it’s a question of “strategy” rather than legality (they seek new strategies for working around the law).

“Why should a massive corporation disguise itself as a tribe and find itself exempted from the law?”At the start of this week a post by Michael Borella was also published regarding SAP America, Inc. v InvestPic, LLC — the latest reminder of many that software patents are worthless to PTAB in light of 35 U.S.C. § 101. To quote some relevant bits:

SAP America, Inc. (SAP) filed a declaratory judgment action in the Northern District of Texas, alleging that U.S. Patent No. 6,349,291 of InvestPic, LLC (InvestPic) was invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 101. The District Court invalidated the ’291 patent during the pleadings stage. InvestPic appealed the ruling to the Federal Circuit.

[...]

The Supreme Court’s Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank Int’l case set forth a test to determine whether claims are directed to patent-eligible subject matter under 35 U.S.C. § 101. One must first decide whether the claim at hand is directed to a judicially-excluded law of nature, a natural phenomenon, or an abstract idea. If so, then one must further decide whether any element or combination of elements in the claim is sufficient to ensure that the claim amounts to “significantly more” than the judicial exclusion. But generic computer implementation of an otherwise abstract process does not qualify as significantly more. On the other hand, a claimed improvement to a computer or technological process is typically patent-eligible.

[...]

Declaring the claims abstract, the Court moved on the second step of Alice. Here, InvestPic fared no better, as the Court stated “[w]e readily conclude that there is nothing in the claims sufficient to remove them from the class of subject matter ineligible for patenting and transform them into an eligible application,” and (subtlety invoking Berkheimer v. HP Inc.) “there are no factual allegations from which one could plausibly infer that they are inventive.” Particularly, all additional elements were either abstract themselves or (as recited in other claims) conventional computer components.

[...]

Even under a generous reading of Alice and its progeny, these claims might be found lacking. But the difficulty with cases like this one is how they are applied. We have seen how the Electric Power Group case has been broadly viewed by the courts and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to contend that virtually any invention involving collection, processing, and output of information is ineligible. Clearly, this is improper, it can be rebutted in many situations, but the process for doing so requires time and money — something that small companies might not have.

As we shall show in our next post, companies continue to seek new ‘clothing’ for abstract patents, basically making these appear more concrete than they really are.

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More in Tux Machines

Today in Techrights

today's leftovers

  • Debian XU4 images updated
    I've updated my Debian images for the ODROID XU4; the newest build was done before stretch release, and a lot of minor adjustments have happened since then.
  • Parrot 4.0 Ethical Hacking Linux Distro Released
  • FBI says Russians hacked [sic] hundreds of thousands of home and office routers

    The warning followed a court order Wednesday that allowed the FBI to seize a website that the hackers [sic] planned to use to give instructions to the routers. Though that cut off malicious communications, it still left the routers infected, and Friday’s warning was aimed at cleaning up those machines.

  • FBI tells router users to reboot now to kill malware infecting 500k devices

    Researchers from Cisco’s Talos security team first disclosed the existence of the malware on Wednesday. The detailed report said the malware infected more than 500,000 devices made by Linksys, Mikrotik, Netgear, QNAP, and TP-Link. Known as VPNFilter, the malware allowed attackers to collect communications, launch attacks on others, and permanently destroy the devices with a single command. The report said the malware was developed by hackers [sic] working for an advanced nation, possibly Russia, and advised users of affected router models to perform a factory reset, or at a minimum to reboot.

Software and Games: KStars, Opera, OpenStack, MariaDB and More

  • KStars 2.9.6 is Released!
    I'm glad to announce the release of KStars 2.9.6 for Windows, MacOS, and Linux. This is a minor bugfix release.
  • Opera 54 Browser Enters Beta with News on the Speed Dial, Update & Recovery Menu
    Opera has promoted its upcoming Opera 54 web browser to the beta channel, giving us a glimpse of what to expect from the final version, due for release sometime next month. Based on the open-source Chromium 67.0.3396.18 web browser, Opera 54 recently entered beta stages of development with a plethora of new features and improvements, among which we can mention a new Update & Recovery Opera menu page that makes it easier for users to update the web browser and reset it to its default state, including the ability to clear temporary data, such as cookies.
  • OpenStack at a Crossroads
    The OpenStack of a few years ago is dead, however. What has emerged from the hype cycle is a materially different foundation, mission and software stack, with a great deal of change still ahead of it.
  • The OpenStack Foundation grows beyond OpenStack
    The OpenStack Foundation has made a considerable change to its development process and governance structure by introducing two open source projects that are not part of the OpenStack cloud platform. This week, the organization launched version 1.0 of Kata Containers - a runtime system with an emphasis on speed and security, enabling users to boot a VM in as little as five seconds - and introduced a brand new project called Zuul, spinning out the software development and integration platform that has been used by the OpenStack community internally since 2012.
  • Oracle nemesis MariaDB tries to lure enterprise folk with TX 3.0
    Open-source database biz MariaDB has upped the ante in its war against Oracle, promising enterprise customers better compatibility with – and easier migration from – Big Red. The Finnish firm's latest offering, MariaDB TX 3.0, released for GA today, extends the number of use cases to include temporal processing and advanced data protection for sensitive and personally identifiable information, as well as Oracle compatibility. The broad aim is to tap into customers' grumbles over legacy vendor lock-in, while convincing the bigger customers that they can move to an open-source database without compromising performance.
  • The Humble Monthly Bundle just added two great Linux games
    For those that are interested, you can secure a copy of two great Linux games in the current Humble Monthly Bundle. Just added today are: Get Cook, Serve, Delicious! 2!! Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth
  • SC-Controller 0.4.3 Released, Support Steam Controller & Sony DS4 Over Bluetooth
    For those looking to manage your Steam Controller and other supported Linux gaming peripheral input devices outside of Steam, there is a new release of the independently-developed SC-Controller Linux user-space software. While Linux 4.18 is bringing the Steam Controller kernel driver, for those looking for a Steam Controller solution right now to enjoy this excellent gaming controller for now outside of Steam, SC-Controller fills that void.

Huawei, Fuchsia and More

  • Huawei will no longer allow bootloader unlocking (Update: Explanation from Huawei)

    "In order to deliver the best user experience and prevent users from experiencing possible issues that could arise from ROM flashing, including system failure, stuttering, worsened battery performance, and risk of data being compromised, Huawei will cease providing bootloader unlock codes for devices launched after May 25, 2018. [...]"

  • Fuchsia Friday: How ad targeting might be a hidden cost of Fuchsia’s structure
     

    Fuchsia, by its nature, comes with the potential for a handful of new opportunities for ad targeting. Let’s peer into the dark side of Fuchsia’s innovative features.

  • iPhone Quarter, ZTE Troubles, Facebook Troubles, Nokia Come-back
     

    So the past month or two? The Quarterly results cycle came in. The item often of great interest is the Apple iPhone performance. 52.2 million iPhones shipped and that gives roughly a flat market share compared to the year before, so about 14%-15%. I'll come and do the full math later of the quarterly data. That race is no longer in any way interesting.

    But two Top 10 smartphone brands ARE in the news. One who is facing imminent death and the other who is making a miraculous return-from-dead. So imminent death and current Top 10 brand first. ZTE. The Trump administration has put a massive squeeze on ZTE and the company is in serious trouble of imminent collapse. Then bizarrely, Trump reversed course and felt he needed to protect CHINESE employment (???) and after yet another typical Trump-mess, we now are at a Never-Neverland where Trump's own party Republicans are revolting against their President and well, ZTE may end up a casualty of this mess. We'll keep an eye on it.

  •