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11.21.17

Links 21/11/2017: LibreELEC (Krypton) v8.2.1 MR, Mesa 17.3.0 RC5

Posted in News Roundup at 5:03 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

  • Why the open source community needs a diverse supply chain

    Diversity and inclusivity in the technology industry—and in open source communities more specifically—have received a lot of coverage, both on Opensource.com and elsewhere. One approach to the issue foregrounds arguments about concepts that are more abstract—like human decency, for example.

    But the “supply chain” metaphor works, too. And it can be an effective argument for championing greater inclusivity in our open organizations, especially when people dismiss arguments based on appeals to abstract concepts. Open organizations require inclusivity, which is a necessary input to get the diversity that reduces the risk in our supply chain.

  • Is your company an open source parasite?

    Getting involved in the open source projects that matter to a company, in other words, gives them more ability to influence their future today, even as dependence on a vendor results in putting one’s future in the hands of that vendor to resolve on their timetable. It’s simply not smart business, not if an open source alternative exists and your company already depends upon it.

    In sum, the GitHub contributor counts should be much higher, and not merely for those in the business of selling software (or tech, generally). Any company defined by software—and that’s your company, too—needs to get more involved in both using and contributing open source software.

  • How Open Source Tech Helps Feds Solve Workforce Turnover Issues

    Just as a mainframe from decades ago might be ready for retirement, the IT staff who originally procured and installed that system might also be preparing for a new phase in their lives. It’s up to the current and next generation of government IT employees to prepare for that eventuality, but there are indications they may not be ready, despite evidence that older IT professionals are retiring or will soon be leaving their positions.

    Unfortunately, a skills gap exists even among younger generation IT workers. Agencies are scrambling to find personnel with expertise in cloud service management, cybersecurity, technical architecture and legacy technologies, such as common business-oriented language (COBOL) and mainframes, among other areas. At the same time that many workers are getting ready to retire, leaving behind a wealth of knowledge, many younger IT professionals are struggling to gain the knowledge they will need to take their agencies into the future.

  • Introducing Fn: “Serverless must be open, community-driven, and cloud-neutral”

    Fn, a new serverless open source project was announced at this year’s JavaOne. There’s no risk of cloud lock-in and you can write functions in your favorite programming language. “You can make anything, including existing libraries, into a function by packaging it in a Docker container.” We invited Bob Quillin, VP for the Oracle Container Group to talk about Fn, its best features, next milestones and more.

  • Events

    • Debian seminar in Yokohama, 2017/11/18

      I had attended to Tokyo area debian seminar #157. The day’s special guest is Chris Lamb, the Debian Project Leader in 2017. He had attended to Open Compliance Summit, so we invited him as our guest.

  • SaaS/Back End

    • Overclock Labs bets on Kubernetes to help companies automate their cloud infrastructure

      Overclock Labs wants to make it easier for developers to deploy and manage their applications across clouds. To do so, the company is building tools to automate distributed cloud infrastructure and, unsurprisingly, it is betting on containers — and specifically the Kubernetes container orchestration tools — to do this.

      Today, Overclock Labs, which was founded two years ago, is coming out of stealth and announcing that it raised a $1.3 million seed round from a number of Silicon Valley angel investors and CrunchFund — the fund that shares a bit of its name and history with TechCrunch but is otherwise completely unaffiliated with the blog you are currently reading.

  • Databases

    • MariaDB Energizes the Data Warehouse with Open Source Analytics Solution

      MariaDB® Corporation, the company behind the fastest growing open source database, today announced new product enhancements to MariaDB AX, delivering a modern approach to data warehousing that enables customers to easily perform fast and scalable analytics with better price performance over proprietary solutions. MariaDB AX expands the highly successful MariaDB Server, creating a solution that enables high performance analytics with distributed storage and parallel processing, and that scales with existing commodity hardware on premises or across any cloud platform. With MariaDB AX, data across every facet of the business is transformed into meaningful and actionable results.

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

    • AT&T Wants White Box Routers with an Open Operating System [Ed: AT&T wants to openwash its surveillance equipment]

      AT&T says it’s not enough to deploy white box hardware and to orchestrate its networks with the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) software. “Each individual machine also needs its own operating system,” writes Chris Rice, senior vice president of AT&T Labs, Domain 2.0 Architecture, in a blog post. To that end, AT&T announced its newest effort — the Open Architecture for a Disaggregated Network Operating System (dNOS).

  • BSD

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

    • GCC 8 Feature Development Is Over

      Feature development on the GCC 8 compiler is over with it now entering stage three of its development process.

      SUSE’s Richard Biener announced minutes ago that GCC 8 entered stage three development, meaning only general bug fixing and documentation updates are permitted.

  • Public Services/Government

  • Licensing/Legal

    • Mastodon is Free Software, But It Does Not Respect Free Speech

      Mastodon was always known to be tough on Nazis; it was known that they were strict on free speech only to a degree. After the treatment that I received yesterday, however, I can no longer recommend Mastodon. It may be Free software, but it’s very weak on free speech.

    • Open-source defenders turn on each other in ‘bizarre’ trademark fight sparked by GPL fall out

      Two organizations founded to help and support developers of free and open-source software have locked horns in public, betraying a long-running quarrel rumbling mostly behind the scenes.

      On one side, the Software Freedom Law Center, which today seeks to resolve licensing disputes amicably. On the other, the Software Freedom Conservancy, which takes a relatively harder line against the noncompliance of licensing terms.

      The battleground: the, er, US Patent and Trademark Office. The law center has demanded the cancellation of a trademark held by the conservancy.

  • Openness/Sharing/Collaboration

  • Programming/Development

    • Swift code will run on Google’s Fuchsia OS

      A few days ago, there was a flash-in-the-pan controversy over Google “forking” Apple’s open-source programming language Swift. After a few minutes of speculation over whether Google was going to make its own special flavor of the language for its own purposes, Swift’s creator Chris Lattner (who now works at Google) helpfully clarified the situation:

    • Brilliant Jerks in Engineering

      This are numerous articles and opinions on the topic, including Brilliant Jerks Cost More Than They Are Worth, and It’s Better to Avoid a Toxic Employee than Hire a Superstar. My colleague Justin Becker is also giving a talk at QConSF 2017 on the topic: Am I a Brilliant Jerk?.

      It may help to clarify that “brilliant jerk” can mean different things to different people. To illustrate, I’ll describe two types of brilliant jerks: the selfless and the selfish, and their behavior in detail. I’ll then describe the damage caused by these jerks, and ways to deal with them.

      The following are fictional characters. These are not two actual engineers, but are collections of related traits to help examine this behavior beyond the simple “no asshole rule.” These are engineers who by default act like jerks, not engineers who sometimes act that way.

    • [Older] The missing career path for software developers

      You started hacking on technology thrilled with every stroke of the key, making discoveries with every commit. You went about solving problems, finding new challenges. You were happy for a while, until you hit a plateau. There was a choice to be made. Continue solving the same problems or start managing others. You tried it out, and hated it. Longing to focus on technology, not people, you turned to your open source project. When it became successful, you became an open source maintainer but ended up overwhelmed and burned out. Hoping to get back to doing work that fascinates you, you went work for yourself. Lacking experience running a business, you’re crushed with all the decisions you need to make. You’re nearing burnout — again. It feels like you’re on a hamster wheel.

    • Exploring the Linguistics Behind Regular Expressions

      Regular expressions inspire fear in new and experienced programmers alike. When I first saw a regular expression — often abbreviated as “regex” — I remember feeling dizzy from looking at the litany of parentheses, asterisks, letters, and numbers. Regular expressions seemed nonsensical, impenetrable.

    • Uber Pyro: an open source ‘probabilistic’ language

      Online transportation company Uber has released its open sourced Pyro – a homegrown probabilistic programming language that has been developed internally.

    • Dirk Eddelbuettel: RcppClassic 0.9.9
    • RcppEigen 0.3.3.3.1

      A maintenance release 0.3.3.3.1 of RcppEigen is now on CRAN (and will get to Debian soon). It brings Eigen 3.3.* to R.

Leftovers

  • Science

  • Hardware

    • Marvell Technology to buy chipmaker Cavium for about $6 billion

      In another consolidation move in the semiconductor industry, chipmaker Marvell Technology announced it will acquire competitor Cavium Inc. for approximately $6 billion. It’s estimated that the combined company will generate about $3.4 billion in annual revenue.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • How an unpaid UK researcher saved the Japanese seaweed industry

      The tasty Japanese seaweed nori is ubiquitous today, but that wasn’t always true. Nori was once called “lucky grass” because every year’s harvest was entirely dependent on luck. Then, during World War II, luck ran out. No nori would grow off the coast of Japan, and farmers were distraught. But a major scientific discovery on the other side of the planet revealed something unexpected about the humble plant and turned an unpredictable crop into a steady and plentiful food source.

      Nori is most familiar to us when it’s wrapped around sushi. It looks less familiar when floating in the sea, but for centuries, farmers in Japan, China, and Korea knew it by sight. Every year, they would plant bamboo poles strung with nets in the coastal seabed and wait for nori to build up on them.

    • Denying the Imperium of Death

      The tens of thousands of American deaths from drug overdoses are a measure of the hopeless desperation left behind by the soul-starving socio-economic system of late-stage capitalism, writes poet Phil Rockstroh.

    • GP numbers crash as equivalent of 1,000 full-time NHS doctors quit last year

      The NHS has lost the equivalent of 1,000 full-time GPs in the past year as workload pressures and funding squeezes drive out senior doctors who are increasingly looking for flexible freelance work.

      Official figures for GP numbers in England show that numbers collapsed by 3.5 per cent since September 2016, from 34,495 full-time equivalent GPs to 33,302 in September this year.

      While there are around 41,324 doctors working in general practice, 500 fewer than two years ago, the pressures of the job mean they are increasingly working less than the NHS definition of “full-time”.

  • Security

    • MuddyWater: Hackers target Middle Eastern nations using fake NSA, Kaspersky documents

      An unknown hacker group has been targeting Middle Eastern countries as well as others such as India, Pakistan, US and Georgia as part of what appears to be a massive cyber-espionage campaign. On Monday (20 November), the Saudi Arabian government’s national cyber security center reportedly confirmed that the kingdom had been targeted by hackers since February.

      The hacker group, dubbed MuddyWater, used fake documents, purporting to be from the NSA, Russian cybersecurity firm Kasperksy and the Iraqi government, among others, to trick victims into clicking on malicious documents. Security experts at Palo Alto Networks, who uncovered the campaign, said that the hackers are making use of a PowerShell-based first-stage backdoor called “POWERSTATS”.

    • Drone-Maker DJI Offers Bug Bounty Program, Then Threatens Bug-Finder With The CFAA

      Far too many companies and industries out there seem to think that the best way to handle a security researcher finding security holes in their tech and websites is to immediately begin issuing threats. This is almost always monumentally dumb for any number of reasons, ranging from the work these researchers do actually being a benefit to these companies issuing the threats, to the resulting coverage of the threats making the vulnerabilities more widely known than they would have been otherwise.

    • Security updates for Monday
    • Reproducible builds folks: Reproducible Builds: Weekly report #133
    • Windows, Mac and Linux all at risk from flaws in Excel file reader library
    • Some ‘security people are f*cking morons’ says Linus Torvalds

      Linux overlord Linus Torvalds has offered some very choice words about different approaches security, during a discussion about whitelisting features proposed for version 4.15 of the Linux kernel.

      Torvalds’ ire was directed at open software aficionado and member of Google’s Pixel security team Kees Cook, who he has previously accused of idiocy.

      Cook earned this round of shoutiness after he posted a request to “Please pull these hardened usercopy changes for v4.15-rc1.”

    • Free Software Principles

      Ten thousand dollars is more than $3,000, so the motives don’t add up for me. Hutchins may or may not have written some code, and that code may or may not have been used to commit a crime. Tech-literate people, such as the readers of Linux Magazine, understand the difference between creating a work and using it to commit a crime, but most of the media coverage – in the UK, at least – has been desperate to follow the paradigm of building a man up only to gleefully knock him down. Even his achievement of stopping WannaCry is decried as “accidental,” a word full of self-deprecating charm when used by Hutchins, but which simply sounds malicious in the hands of the Daily Mail and The Telegraph.

    • New warning over back door in Linux

      Researchers working at Russian cyber security firm Dr Web claim to have found a new vulnerability that enables remote attackers to crack Linux installations virtually unnoticed.

      According to the anti-malware company, cyber criminals are getting into the popular open-source operating system via a new backdoor.

      This, they say, is “indirect evidence” that cyber criminals are showing an increasing interest in targeting Linux and the applications it powers.

      The trojan, which it’s calling Linux.BackDoor.Hook.1, targets the library libz primarily. It offers compression and extraction capabilities for a plethora of Linux-based programmes.

    • IN CHATLOGS, CELEBRATED HACKER AND ACTIVIST CONFESSES COUNTLESS SEXUAL ASSAULTS
    • Bipartisan Harvard panel recommends hacking [sic] safeguards for elections

      The guidelines are intended to reduce risks in low-budget local races as well as the high-stakes Congressional midterm contests next year. Though most of the suggestions cost little or nothing to implement and will strike security professionals as common sense, notorious attacks including the leak of the emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair, John Podesta, have succeeded because basic security practices were not followed.

    • Intel Chip Flaws Leave Millions of Devices Exposed

      On Monday, the chipmaker released a security advisory that lists new vulnerabilities in ME, as well as bugs in the remote server management tool Server Platform Services, and Intel’s hardware authentication tool Trusted Execution Engine. Intel found the vulnerabilities after conducting a security audit spurred by recent research. It has also published a Detection Tool so Windows and Linux administrators can check their systems to see if they’re exposed.

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Ignoring Washington’s Role in Yemen Carnage, 60 Minutes Paints US as Savior

      In one of the most glaring, power-serving omissions in some time, CBS News’ 60 Minutes (11/19/17) took a deep dive into the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, and did not once mention the direct role the United States played in creating, perpetuating and prolonging a crisis that’s left over 10,000 civilians dead, 2 million displaced, and an estimated 1 million with cholera.

      Correspondent Scott Pelley’s segment, “When Food Is Used as a Weapon,” employed excellent on-the-ground reporting to highlight the famine and bombing victims of Saudi Arabia’s brutal two-and-a-half year siege of Yemen. But its editors betrayed this reporting—and their viewers—by stripping the conflict of any geopolitical context, and letting one of its largest backers, the United States government, entirely off the hook.

      [...]

      To compound the obfuscation, 60 Minutes doesn’t just omit the US role in the war, it paints the US as a savior rescuing its victims. The hero of the piece is American David Beasley, the director of the UN’s World Food Programme, the organization coordinating humanitarian aid. “The US is [the World Food Programme]’s biggest donor, so the director is most often an American. Beasley was once governor of South Carolina,” Pelly narrates over B-roll hero shots of Beasley overseeing food distribution.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Nebraska approves controversial Keystone XL pipeline with conditions

      On Monday, the Nebraska Public Service Commission issued its final order (PDF) on the fate of energy company TransCanada’s controversial Keystone XL pipeline. The commission conditionally approved the pipeline, but it ordered the pipeline to be moved east of Nebraska’s ecologically sensitive Sandhills region.

      The condition sets up a hurdle for TransCanada—now the company needs to seek the approval of different local landowners, according to The Washington Post. Still, the approval likely means Keystone XL will be able to deliver tar sands crude oil from Alberta, Canada to refineries in Texas in the near future. Reuters called the Nebraska approval “the last big regulatory obstacle” to the completion of the pipeline.

    • Delhi smog levels drop from severe to very poor—you know, half-marathon weather

      Despite extremely dangerous levels of air pollution smothering Delhi and creating “gas chamber” conditions, thousands took to the streets to run a half marathon Sunday. Most ran without masks that would filter out harmful pollution.

    • If you liked the Cambrian Explosion, you’ll love the Ordovician Radiation

      Over half a billion years ago, during the Cambrian geological period, life on Earth started to get a lot more interesting. Thanks to the rise in free oxygen generated mostly by photosynthesizing algae, lifeforms could draw much more energy out of the environment. That meant the rise of multicellularity and the beginnings of a world full of the macro-sized plants and animals we know and love. That moment, full of weird-ass animals like Anomalocaris, is called the Cambrian Explosion.

      The Cambrian Explosion gets a lot of play because it was the first time multicellular creatures ruled the planet. What few people (other than geologists and paleontologists) realize is that there was an even crazier time for early life. It came during the Ordovician period, right after the Cambrian came to a close 485 million years ago. The Ordovician Radiation, also called the Great Ordovician Diversification Event (GOBE), saw a quadrupling of diversity at the genus level (that’s the category one step above species). Life also started occupying new ecological niches, clinging to plants floating in the ocean’s water column and burrowing deep into the seabed.

  • Finance

    • Consumers Want Tech Firms to Take On the Banks

      Nearly 60 percent of U.S. bank customers are willing to try a financial product from tech firms they already use, according to a survey conducted by consultant Bain & Co. For younger respondents, the interest was especially high. About 73 percent of people age 18 to 34 said they would try a tech firm’s credit card, deposit account, investment or mortgage.

    • The uncertainty of Brexit

      A lot has happened on Brexit in recent weeks and this post sets out what some general views as to where we are now in this adventure (or misadventure, depending on taste).

      There is one thing which is more likely than not: the United Kingdom will, by automatic operation of law, cease to be a member of the European Union on 29 March 2019.

      This is regardless of there being a deal or not.

    • Bitcoin hits $13,000 on Zimbabwe exchange

      Mining requires huge amounts of electricity, and Golix says that energy prices in the region are simply too high to make the process cost effective.

    • Why Bitcoin Costs Nearly Twice as Much in Zimbabwe as the Rest of the World Right Now

      The surge has been fueled by Zimbabwean investors seeking a safe haven from domestic banks amid the country’s ongoing political, financial and monetary woes. While Zimbabwe once had its own currency, it began using a mix of currencies from stable economies including the U.S. dollar in 2009 after hyperinflation made its own note nearly worthless.

    • Bitcoin Demand Surges in Zimbabwe Following Successful Coup

      According to Golix, it has processed over $1 million worth of transactions in the past 30 days, a sharp increase from its turnover of $100,000 for the entire year of 2016.

      According to Golix co-owner Taurai Chinyamakobvu, the prices for Bitcoin are determined by supply and demand. The sellers of the digital currency are paid in US dollars that are deposited electronically. The money, however, can only be converted into hard cash at a sizeable discount on the black market.

    • Amid soaring drug prices, FDA reverses stance and cracks down on cheap imports

      The agency sent in criminal investigation agents with search warrants for computer files and any paperwork related to sales of foreign drugs. The agents also took files on customers and the stores’ financial records. They left behind a letter for store owners to sign, acknowledging that the practice of importing foreign medicines is illegal.

      Although none of the stores has closed due to the activity, the owners are spooked by the turn of events—and puzzled by the timing.

      Bill Hepscher, co-owner of Canadian MedStore, which owns six of the nine raided storefronts, said that the FDA’s actions “worr[y]” him. For years, his stores have helped patients with valid prescriptions order the medicines they need at steeply discounted prices compared with those in the States. The stores don’t dispense the drugs, rather they simply arrange for the medicines to be delivered directly to the customers’ homes. Hepscher estimates that he has about 10,000 customers a year.

    • Top German Judges Slam EU Plans To Create Global Court To Enforce Corporate Sovereignty

      A few weeks ago, we wrote how many — even the US Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer — seem to think it’s time for corporate sovereignty, also called “investor-state dispute settlement” (ISDS), to go. For some reason the European Commission disagrees. As Techdirt readers may recall, after receiving a bloody nose in a public consultation about corporate sovereignty, the Commission announced to great fanfare that it was “replacing” ISDS with something called the Investment Court System (ICS). In fact, this amounted to little more than putting lipstick on the ISDS pig, since ICS suffered from the same fundamental flaw: it gave companies unique rights to sue countries in a supra-national court. T

    • MEP and QC begin legal proceedings to release Brexit studies

      Lawyers representing Molly and Jolyon Maugham of the Good Law Project have written again to David Davis and Philip Hammond giving them 14 days to release in full government studies into the economic impacts of Brexit. If they refuse to make the documents publicly available, they will start judicial review proceedings in the High Court.

      The letter points to the fact that, following a Labour motion which pressed the government into agreeing to release the documents to a government committee, recent government statements ‘leaves it wholly uncertain what information will be made public, and when’.

      Molly and Jolyon Maugham QC are demanding that 58 sectoral impact studies be released as well as a Treasury report comparing the predicted economic impacts of Brexit with potential benefits of alternative free trade agreements. They say the information must be made publicly available in its entirety without redaction.

    • Belief that customs system will be ready for Brexit ‘borders on insanity’

      One of the world’s biggest logistics companies, whose clients include Rolls-Royce, Airbus and Primark, has said it is “bordering on insanity” to think new Brexit customs systems will be in place for 2019.

      Leigh Pomlett, the executive director of CEVA Group, which specialises in road, air and ocean-going freight, said Downing Street and the Treasury did not understand how difficult it would be to have a system in place in 15 months’ time, when the UK leaves the EU.

      “It is just the urgency of this that worries me. It takes me longer to negotiate a supply chain contract than we have here. Arguably, it is already too late,” he said.

      CEVA employs 6,000 people in the UK and counts supermarkets, car manufacturers, food producers and pharmaceutical companies including GlaxoSmithKline among its clients.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Can Facebook, Twitter Crack Down on Deception?
    • EFF Wins Over Patent Troll Trying To Silence EFF Calling Its Patent Stupid

      Earlier this year we wrote about the EFF going to court in California to protect it against an Australian patent troll, GEMSA, who objected to EFF naming a GEMSA patent one of EFF’s “Stupid Patents of the Month.” Apparently GEMSA sued in Australia, didn’t properly serve EFF, and then got an injunction in Australia, which it threatened to enforce in California. EFF went to court using the all important SPEECH Act, which bars foreign judgments from being enforced in the US if they are in conflict with the First Amendment.

      GEMSA, perhaps not surprisingly, declined to show up in the California court, leading EFF to move for default. A magistrate judge initially recommended against this, arguing that the court did not have personal jurisdiction over GEMSA. EFF asked the court to try again, and in a extraordinarily detailed and careful ruling, Judge Jon Tigar rejects the magistrate’s recommendation and gives EFF the default judgment it sought. We’ve complained in the past that often the problem with default judgments is that courts are only too willing to just grant them if one party declines to show up for the case. This is not one of those situations. Tigar goes out of his way to explore pretty much every possible argument that GEMSA might have for why the court shouldn’t have jurisdiction, for why the SPEECH Act should not apply and for why EFF’s post may have been defamatory. And one by one by one, he points out why GEMSA is wrong and EFF is right. I won’t repeat all the reasoning here, in part because there are so many different elements, though it’s a fun and quick read in the filing.

    • How China made Victoria’s Secret a pawn in its ruthless global game

      Victoria’s Secret staff are said to believe their emails are being watched. To which seasoned business travellers to China might respond: why do you think we’ve been carrying burner phones and disposable laptops there for years?

    • Angry Lawyer Already Engaged In A SLAPP Suit Promises To Sue More Critics, Use His Machine Gun If Sanctioned

      Earlier this year, we mentioned the Texas lawyer Jason Lee Van Dyke in relation to a story in which Twitter, ridiculously, banned Ken “Popehat” White after he wrote about threats from Van Dyke. We had written about Van Dyke years earlier when he sued the Tor Project because a revenge porn site was using Tor. We also noted that that case involved a guy who had been declared the leader of a hate group, Kyle Bristow — and appeared to involve Van Dyke deliberately and knowingly “serving” the wrong party. The revenge porn site that Van Dyke claimed he was targeting had sarcastically provided Bristow’s address as its address to mock Van Dyke, and Van Dyke then claimed he had properly “served” the revenge porn site by serving it on Bristow.

    • Orchid Labs Unveils Open Source Protocol to Fight Internet Surveillance and Censorship

      Orchid Labs, a company headquartered in San Francisco, has launched the private alpha version of its blockchain-based Orchid network, which is said to allow users to access the Internet free of censorship, restrictions and surveillance.

    • Majid Majidi’s Beyond The Clouds screening, buzz on film censorship dominate Day 1

      A cloud of concern seems to hang around the International Film Festival in Goa — regarding increasing film censorship and no reason for banning films this year (so far three films have been dropped from IFFI: S Durga, Nude, Saawan).

    • Trial Set To Start For Journalist Facing Decades In Prison For Covering Inauguration Day Protests

      There’s little more chilling to First Amendment freedoms than the possibility of spending decades in jail for documenting a protest that turned into a riot. But that’s exactly what independent journalist Alexi Wood is facing. Traveling from Texas to Washington DC to document anti-Trump protests on Inauguration Day, Wood was “kettled” and arrested along with the protestors he was covering. He wasn’t the only journalist to be detained for hours and hit with charges, but most of the others have seen their charges dismissed.

    • Ulysses versus the censors

      Ulysses is a book that has inspired books. Indeed, there is something of a Ulysses industry, with books dedicated to the controversies around the publication and the numerous court cases instigated by it. Yet despite the fuss over the printed word, it was the 1967 film version of the tale which shocked Irish sensibilities most. Denounced by the authorities as being ‘subversive to public morality’, it remained banned in Ireland for more than three decades, having the dubious honour of the longest film ban in the history of the Irish state. The film proved controversial globally, even inspiring a walkout protest at the Cannes Film Festival, with the audience of critics who booed the film denounced as ‘illiterates’ by a festival official. The use of the word ‘fuck’, coupled with a nude man shown from behind, was too much for some.

    • North Korea’s Socialist Mother’s Day Comes Under Censorship
    • North Korea likely to launch ballistic missile before year-end: spy agency
    • North Korea Slowly Goes Online
    • Sanctions prevent Google from North Korea operations: Eric Schmidt

      Alphabet Inc. chairman says DPRK would be less dangerous opponent if “better connected to the world”

    • Google’s Censorship of Sputnik and RT ‘Very Dangerous’ – Psychologist
    • Google will ‘de-rank’ RT articles to make them harder to find – Eric Schmidt
    • Algorithmic Censorship: Google News to ‘De-Rank’ RT, Sputnik

      “Good to have Google on record as defying all logic and reason: facts aren’t allowed if they come from RT,” said Editor-In-Chief Margarita Simonyan.

      In the face of an ongoing outcry regarding alleged Kremlin meddling in U.S. electoral processes, Alphabet’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt said that the parent company to Google News would begin to reduce the presence of Russian state-owned media sites that had previously been given normal placement on the search company’s news and advertising sites.

  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Confidentiality clubs becoming more common in Indian patent disputes

      The Delhi High Court at the end of October allowed Ericsson’s request to create a confidentiality club to limit access to documents in a patent dispute with Xiaomi.

    • Skype becomes victim of Chinese censorship, disappears from App Stores
    • Skype Removed From Apple’s App Store in China
    • Skype disappears from app stores in China, including Apple’s
    • Microsoft’s Skype Gets Pulled from Apple China App Store
    • The Good, the Bad, and the Unspeakably Ugly: A Reason Surveillance Reform Bill Primer

      Before the year’s end Congress needs to decide what it’s going to do about Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which permits the federal government to engage in surveillance of foreign targets that are not on U.S. soil, secretly and without warrants.

      Section 702 amendments sunset at the end of the year if Congress does not act to renew it. These amendments were originally passed in 2008 and renewed in 2012.

    • US Senate takes aim at “warrantless surveillance”

      The US Congress still hasn’t passed any legislation to reign in what critics call “warrantless surveillance” of US citizens by the nation’s multiple spy agencies. But there are now five proposals on the table aimed in that direction.

      The latest, introduced last week, is the Senate version of the USA (United and Strengthening American) Liberty Act of 2017, which at least some privacy advocates say is a marked improvement over a House bill of the same name that was introduced in early October 2017.

    • US Sleepwalking into Renewing Vast NSA Surveillance Law

      Several bills that would extend the US government’s ability to grab and search vast numbers of communications without a warrant – including users’ data from companies such as Google and Facebook – are marching toward passage in Congress with little public attention or debate.

      US law currently allows these activities under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which was adopted in 2008. As former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed, Section 702 is the basis for two enormous warrantless snooping programs: one in which the government demands communications from US-based internet companies, and one in which it allegedly scans massive amounts of the internet traffic that flows between the US and other countries. Although the government cannot legally target people in the US for this monitoring, it scoops up untold quantities of their correspondence “incidentally.”

    • Nothing you can do stops this code from watching you online

      Have you ever typed something into a search box on a website and then thought better of it? New research shows that 482 sites may be passing on that information anyway.

      We have long known that information we provide online can be tracked. A website you visit might have hundreds of scripts running in the background; some deposit cookies, others track you to other websites. The variety of tracking tools mean it is almost impossible to know what happens to your data when you visit a site.

      But all of these seem tame compared with what Steven Englehardt and his colleagues at Princeton University found after combing through hundreds of websites to examine the scripts they were running: the widespread use of a type of script, called a session replay, that logs everything you do on a website, including what you type…

    • No, you’re not being paranoid. Sites really are watching your every move

      If you have the uncomfortable sense someone is looking over your shoulder as you surf the Web, you’re not being paranoid. A new study finds hundreds of sites—including microsoft.com, adobe.com, and godaddy.com—employ scripts that record visitors’ keystrokes, mouse movements, and scrolling behavior in real time, even before the input is submitted or is later deleted.

      Session replay scripts are provided by third-party analytics services that are designed to help site operators better understand how visitors interact with their Web properties and identify specific pages that are confusing or broken. As their name implies, the scripts allow the operators to re-enact individual browsing sessions. Each click, input, and scroll can be recorded and later played back.

    • Why We’re Helping The Stranger Unseal Electronic Surveillance Records

      Consider this: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has been going around talking about “responsible encryption” for some time now— proselytizing for encryption that’s somehow only accessible by the government—something we all know to be unworkable. If the Department of Justice (DOJ) is taking this aggressive public position about what kind of access it should have to user data, it begs the question—what kind of technical assistance from companies and orders for user data is the DOJ demanding in sealed court documents? EFF’s client The Stranger, a Seattle-based newspaper, has filed a petition with one court to find out.

    • Brooklyn Judge’s Ruling Raises Bar for Covert Cellphone Tracking

      A Brooklyn judge has ruled that the police need an eavesdropping warrant to covertly track the cellphones of criminal suspects, raising the bar in New York for the use of a surveillance device that is facing challenges across the United States.

    • Microsoft attempts to provide internet in Puerto Rico with unused TV frequencies

      The company’s introduction of its white spaces on the island comes as it makes moves to expand the technology to rural parts of the U.S., where [I]nternet service have not kept pace with urban and suburban areas.

    • We Can’t Trust Facebook to Regulate Itself

      The more data it has on offer, the more value it creates for advertisers. That means it has no incentive to police the collection or use of that data — except when negative press or regulators are involved. Facebook is free to do almost whatever it wants with your personal information, and has no reason to put safeguards in place.

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Sheriff’s Office To Pay $3 Million For Invasive Searches Of 850 High School Students

      It’s been barely a month since news came to us of the Worth County (GA) Sheriff’s Department’s search of an entire school’s worth of high school students. Over 800 students were searched without a warrant, subjected to invasive pat downs that included breasts and genitals by Sheriff Jeff Hobby and his deputies.

      Sheriff Hobby thought there might be drugs in the school, but despite the search of hundreds of students and the use of drug dogs, no drugs were found. A class action lawsuit [PDF] alleging multiple rights violations brought by some of the students was filed in June. In October, Sheriff Hobby and two of his deputies were indicted for sexual battery and false imprisonment.

    • British MPs appeal to end US extradition battle of ‘hacker’ Lauri Love

      More than 70 British MPs have pledged support for Lauri Love, an alleged computer hacker currently battling extradition to the US – where he faces up to 99 years in prison.

      A letter sent on 17 November, addressed to UK prime minster Theresa May and attorney general Jeremy Wright QC, argued Love should be tried for any alleged crimes in the UK.

    • The Justice Department Continues to Roll Back Civil Rights Protections

      In a speech on Friday, the attorney general signaled that he will rescind more civil rights guidance from the Obama era.

      On Friday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions strongly hinted that he isn’t done trying to roll back the civil rights gains made during the Obama administration.

      In a speech before the conservative Federalist Society’s National Lawyers Convention, Sessions described an internal Justice Department memo he signed prohibiting his department from issuing “improper” guidance documents. According to the document, “Effective immediately, Department components may not issue guidance documents that purport to create rights or obligations binding on persons or entities outside the Executive Branch (including state, local, and tribal governments). The document also stated the Justice Department will no longer issue guidance that “effectively bind private parties without undergoing the rulemaking process.”

      Behind this bureaucratic language is an attack on the civil rights legacy of the Obama-era Justice Department. Throughout the Obama administration, the Department of Justice worked with state and local governments to protect civil rights and liberties by suggesting practical ways, for example, to eliminate gender bias in policing, legally enforce fines and fees, and dismantle the school to prison pipeline. Sessions has indicated that he may “repeal and replace” these policies, which will roll back important efforts to ensure equal protection for all under the law.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

    • Will Congress Bless Internet Fast Lanes?

      As the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) gets ready to abandon a decade of progress on net neutrality, some in Congress are considering how new legislation could fill the gap and protect users from unfair ISP practices. Unfortunately, too many lawmakers seem to be embracing the idea that they should allow ISPs to create Internet “fast lanes” — also known as “paid prioritization,” one of the harmful practices that violates net neutrality. They are also looking to re-assign the job of protecting customers from ISP abuses to the Federal Trade Commission.

      These are both bad ideas. Let’s start with paid prioritization. In response to widespread public demand from across the political spectrum, the 2015 Open Internet Order expressly prohibited paid prioritization, along with other unfair practices like blocking and throttling. ISPs have operated under the threat or the reality of these prohibitions for at least a decade, and continue to be immensely profitable. But they’d like to make even more money by double-dipping: charging customers for access to the Internet, and then charging services for (better) access to customers. And some lawmakers seem keen to allow it.

    • Trump administration files suit to block AT&T/Time Warner merger

      The Trump administration’s Department of Justice (DOJ) today filed a lawsuit to block AT&T’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner Inc.

      AT&T has been the nation’s largest pay-TV company since it acquired DirecTV in 2015. Acquiring Time Warner and its stable of popular TV programming would give the company too much control over programming and distribution, the DOJ said.

      Together, AT&T and Time Warner would attempt to impede competition from online video distributors and raise prices on rivals that want access to Time Warner programming, the DOJ alleged.

    • Disgusted With Charter Spectrum Merger, Lexington To Build Entirely New Fiber Network

      When Charter Spectrum acquired Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks in a blockbuster $69 billion merger last year, the company promised the deal would result in all manner of “synergies” and consumer benefits. But as is the case with most telecom megamergers, most of these acquired users say the deal only resulted in significantly higher prices — and somehow even worse customer service than the historically awful service the company was already known for. In many areas, users say they’ve been socked with price hikes up to 40% for the exact same service.

    • FCC Chairman to Seek Repeal of Net Neutrality Rules (Report)

      The news of the proposal — expected to be unveiled on Tuesday — drew immediate criticism from public interest groups. They warn that the removal of the regulations will invite telecom companies to block or throttle traffic, or to sell “fast lanes” to internet providers willing to pay for speedier access to the consumer. Fight for the Future, which has been waging a campaign to preserve the rules, has been warning that Pai will seek to eliminate most of the rules altogether.

    • FCC is expected to unveil its plan to destroy net neutrality during Thanksgiving week

      The FCC’s next meeting, where it votes on proposals, is December 14th. That’s when it’s expected to vote on its plan to reverse net neutrality. There’s no firm date on when the proposal will be announced, but the commission usually details its plans for each meeting several weeks ahead of time, and, as of this year, publicly reveals the text of what it’ll be voting on, too. Scheduling the net neutrality announcement for Thanksgiving week may be a coincidence, but it certainly seems like the FCC is trying to release this plan at a time when it’ll be harder for net neutrality advocates to give it their full attention.

    • FCC will reveal vote to repeal net neutrality this week

      The important point, as we’ve said before, is that once the genie is out of the bottle, getting it back in is almost impossible and for our readers outside the US, don’t think this doesn’t affect you – everything that passes through US servers will be affected in some way and will knock on to you.

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Copyrights

      • The Sad Legacy Of Copyright: Locking Up Scientific Knowledge And Impeding Progress

        We’ve repeated this over and over again, but the Constitutional rationale for copyright is “to promote the progress of science” (in case you’re wondering about the “useful arts” part that comes after it, that was for patents, as “useful arts” was a term that meant “inventions” at the time). “Science” in the language of the day was synonymous with “learning.” Indeed, the very first US copyright law, the Copyright Act of 1790 is literally subtitled “An Act for the Encouragement of Learning.” Now, it’s also true that the method provided by the Constitution for the promotion of this progress was a monopoly right — locking up the content for a limited time. But the intent and purpose was always to promote further learning. This is why, for years, we’ve questioned two things: First, if the monopoly rights granted by copyright are hindering the promotion of learning, should they still be Constitutional? Second, if the goal is the promotion of learning, shouldn’t we be exploring if there are better methods to do that, which don’t involve monopoly rights and limiting access. And this, of course, leaves aside all the big questions about how much copyright has changed in the past 227 years.

      • UK Government Publishes Advice on ‘Illicit Streaming Devices’

        The UK’s Intellectual Property Office has today published advice on so-called ‘Illicit Streaming Devices’. Noting the importance of ensuring that copyright holders get paid, the IPO warns that ‘Kodi boxes’ and ‘Android TV boxes’ present a threat to child welfare while presenting an electrical safety hazard to the public. If you have one, you should wipe it clean now, the government says.

      • Kodi-Addon Developer Launches Fundraiser to Fight “Copyright Bullies”

        Shani, the developer of the popular Kodi-addon ZemTV, is asking the public for help so he can defend a lawsuit filed by American satellite and broadcast provider Dish Network. A proper defense is needed to avoid a bad precedent, he stresses. “The fight is rigged against the little guy, they are trying to make something illegal that shouldn’t be illegal.”

PTAB Inter Partes Reviews (“IPRs”) Are Essential in an Age When One Can Get Sued for Merely Mocking a Patent

Posted in America, EFF, Patents at 12:41 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Reexaminations (akin to but not identical to IPRs) can help weed out “stupid patents” like the one below

US patent 6368227 B1
USPTO patent ‘quality’ (US 6368227 B1)

Summary: The battle over the right to criticise particular patents has gotten very real and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) fought it until the end; this is why we need granted patents to be criticised upon petitions too (and often invalidated as a result)

THE USPTO, prior to some recent reforms, had been granting a lot of dubious patents on software — patents which were later invalidated by PTAB, the appeal board which is half a decade old (US patents typically last two decades).

“GEMSA wrote to EFF accusing us of “false and malicious slander.” It subsequently filed a lawsuit and obtained an injunction from a South Australia court purporting to require EFF to censor itself.”
      –EFF
We are very gratified to see PTAB’s growth and the crackdown on software patents. Earlier today I saw this press release about a new software patent on brain segmentation (my field of research). Do examiners seriously think that computer vision is anything but software and reducible to mathematics? Did words like “brain” and fancy jargon like “dynamic atlas” make them think that this is not an algorithm? This is where PTAB comes handy and such “stupid patents” (as the EFF calls them) get invalidated as though they were never granted.

Yesterday we saw this press release about Axon potentially losing its patent lawsuit (patent aggression against a practising rival [1, 2) after intervention by PTAB. To quote: “The U.S. Patent Office previously had rejected Axon’s attempts to invalidate Digital’s Patent No. 9,253,452 (the “’452 Patent”) through two separate petitions for inter partes review (“IPR”). This was Axon’s final attempt to invalidate the ‘452 Patent before the Patent Office. Despite its loss before the Patent Office, Axon desperately sought to convince the Court to maintain the stay of the litigation to avoid answering to Digital and a jury for its willful infringement of Digital’s ‘452 Patent. On Friday, November 17, 2017, the Court rejected Axon’s request and lifted the stay of the litigation. In ruling on the motion regarding the stay, the Court found that the evidence submitted by Digital “weigh heavily against continuing the stay of the ‘452 patent” and that “the Court denies Defendant’s [Axon’s] request to continue the stay of this case with respect to the ‘452 patent.” The Court has set a hearing for December 14, 2017, to discuss a schedule for moving the case forward to trial.”

“We declined and filed a suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California seeking a declaration that EFF’s post is protected speech.”
      –EFF
This is not about software, but still, it’s interesting to see if PTAB can defuse and disarm the aggressor. It’s no secret that many of the millions of US patents (a total which exceeds 10 million) are of questionable quality, especially those that have not yet expired (because the patent bar was lowered).

PTAB is very scary to patent trolls and other aggressors, whose apologist Dennis Crouch tries hard to help. This week, as usual, he travels almost 150 years back in time to scrape something which looks like an argument against PTAB. As a reminder, Crouch spent a great deal of time trying to discredit and/or slow down PTAB (his PTAB-bashing posts were almost a daily occurrence some months back) ahead of a Supreme Court’s decision on it. Shortly before this, Crouch wrote about these ridiculous design patents that we mentioned a month ago and said:

I previously wrote about Columbia Sportswear design patent verdict and damages award against Serius. The patent – D657,093 – covers a wavy-pattern as part of a heat reflective material. Post trial, the court has now issued an emergency Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) enjoining Serious from initiating a reexamination of the design patent — finding that the reexamination could improperly “avoid the jury’s verdict in this case.”

Just look at that design. It’s outrageous that a patent would be granted on that and any sane reexamination would immediately invalidate the patent.

Zach Snyder patent

“Just look at that design. It’s outrageous that a patent would be granted on that and any sane reexamination would immediately invalidate the patent.”The worrying thing is, if one is big and wealthy enough (like the EFF) and decides to criticise ridiculous patents, there’s a risk of getting sued. It happened several times to the EFF and, as we’ve covered before, the EFF eventually won the case (albeit at a great expense, namely legal fees). To quote TechDirt, which is itself subjected to a SLAPP lawsuit: “GEMSA, perhaps not surprisingly, declined to show up in the California court, leading EFF to move for default. A magistrate judge initially recommended against this, arguing that the court did not have personal jurisdiction over GEMSA. EFF asked the court to try again, and in a extraordinarily detailed and careful ruling, Judge Jon Tigar rejects the magistrate’s recommendation and gives EFF the default judgment it sought. We’ve complained in the past that often the problem with default judgments is that courts are only too willing to just grant them if one party declines to show up for the case. This is not one of those situations. Tigar goes out of his way to explore pretty much every possible argument that GEMSA might have for why the court shouldn’t have jurisdiction, for why the SPEECH Act should not apply and for why EFF’s post may have been defamatory. And one by one by one, he points out why GEMSA is wrong and EFF is right. I won’t repeat all the reasoning here, in part because there are so many different elements, though it’s a fun and quick read in the filing.”

The EFF has just written about it as well: “A federal judge has ruled that EFF need not obey an Australian injunction ordering EFF to take down a “Stupid Patent of the Month” blog post and never speak of the patent owner’s intellectual property again.

“It should be OK to criticise patents that should not have been granted, but in a country as litigious as this (the US is notorious for litigiousness) the above legal action can cause “chilling effect”; it would lead organisations such as the EFF to fear of “slander” (defamation/libel) lawsuit when stating the simple truth.”“It all started when Global Equity Management (SA) Pty Ltd (GEMSA)’s patent was featured as the June 2016 entry in our Stupid Patent of the Month blog series. GEMSA wrote to EFF accusing us of “false and malicious slander.” It subsequently filed a lawsuit and obtained an injunction from a South Australia court purporting to require EFF to censor itself. We declined and filed a suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California seeking a declaration that EFF’s post is protected speech.”

It should be OK to criticise patents that should not have been granted, but in a country as litigious as this (the US is notorious for litigiousness) the above legal action can cause “chilling effect”; it would lead organisations such as the EFF to fear of “slander” (defamation/libel) lawsuit when stating the simple truth.

Chinese Patent Policy Continues to Mimic All the Worst Elements of the American System

Posted in America, Asia, Patents at 11:38 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

This will crush Chinese innovation

Chinese flag

Summary: China is becoming what the United States used to be in terms of patents, whereas the American system is adopting saner patent policies that foster real innovation whilst curtailing mass litigation

THE USPTO, together with US courts, may have done what’s necessary to stave off at least some patent trolls. With software patents on the rocks, venue-shifting becoming tough and various other notable factors, patent trolls either go out of business [sic] or move somewhere else. Some of them go to China.

Even China, based on yesterday’s blog post, is lost in an appalling trap of a patent gold rush. The Chinese government now signals that competing/emergent players (those which compete against state-connected giants) are to be banned. From the blog: “While many past customs enforcement campaigns have focused on foreign rights owners (often big international brands), this one was carried out on behalf of domestic tech companies. China Daily explains that it is part of the government’s plan to “nurture Chinese companies with IP advantages in their exported goods”. In planning the “Soaring Dragon” operation, the Shenzhen authorities selected patent owners that were deemed “capable of independent innovation” – Huawei and ZTE chief among them.”

“The Chinese government now signals that competing/emergent players (those which compete against state-connected giants) are to be banned.”So put another way, a quarter million products were denied access to the market. Who exactly benefits from that? “Whatever the details behind the numbers GACC is publicly promoting,” it concludes, “the message is clear: if you’re an innovative Chinese company and your patents are being infringed, the customs services is one of the tools at your disposal. The more proactive they become, the more potent a remedy this will be, especially for the likes of Huawei and ZTE.”

Those are massive corporations. They now shield themselves with a massive number of low-quality patents, just like in the US. This actually suppresses innovation and reduces competition. It’s like ITC in the US.

Earlier today Watchtroll wrote about ITC action against Apple — action which, as we explained before, would likely go nowhere. ITC, like the above Chinese equivalent, guards the domestic giants.

China will never admit anything like that and with tight control over the media it’s already perfuming the above action. Watch how the Chinese official news site (government site in English) calls embargoes “Reforms open up fair playing field” (a euphemisms salad). “Officials said such ordinances,” the short report says, “meant to encourage enterprises to increase their brand-building awareness and improve product quality, had partly played a positive role.”

“Those are massive corporations. They now shield themselves with a massive number of low-quality patents, just like in the US.”In whose favour? Giants such as Huawei and ZTE? They basically use government-enforced protectionism in the same way Apple tried to guard itself from devices imported from China, Taiwan and Korea. Apple is still stockpiling patents and as we explained a couple of days ago, we expect it to become the next BlackBerry in the sense that it will litigate when little/no market is left for "i" devices. The Microsoft-connected patent troll Finjan already does exactly that (except it was never successful) and it’s is still at it, based on today’s press release. The good news is, victims of this troll are fighting back and challenging the patents. As for BlackBerry, in the absence of Kokes it carries on chasing companies with legal actions, albeit it looks like it explores doing so via intermediaries. As IAM explained yesterday:

Teletry is described as “an independent operating company with expertise in building relationships between patent holders and licensees in the wireless technology industry”. It is headed up by Kasim Alfalahi, who will be known to just about everyone who reads this blog as the former chief IP officer of Ericsson and the current CEO of Avanci, the IoT licensing platform.

Avanci is one of several businesses that sit within the Marconi Group, which was created earlier this year. Another is PanOptis, the NPE which, among other assets, owns a number of patents previously held by Ericsson. Although it is not entirely clear, it looks as if Teletry has been specifically created for the BlackBerry venture – it does not have its own website as far as I can tell and the only mention of it on the Marconi website is the press release announcing the BlackBerry deal.

Aside from Alfalahi, there are a number of other very well-known patent deal makers on the Marconi roster, including: former Google and Motorola Mobility patent transactions rainmaker Kirk Dailey; Eric Reifschneider, previously with Qualcomm; and Fred Telecky, once of Texas Instruments and most recently head of the licensing operation at PanOptis.

[...]

For the following ones, though, both parties will be expecting a return. If Kokes was right about the strength and breadth of the BlackBerry portfolio, outsourcing a large part of the smartphone licensing business to Teletry will free internal deal makers at the company to chase businesses in other verticals. That, in turn, should hasten the arrival of royalties into the company’s coffers – something that will undoubtedly please investors. The hook-up with Teletry may not have been a move that BlackBerry entered into entirely willingly, but it could be one that bears significant fruit.

Stick a fork in BlackBerry. It’s a patent troll by proxy now, for the actual business is just virtually dead. Now that we know what Teletry actually is, our predictions turn out to have been accurate all along. They’re just “managing” “portfolios” of patents (as per this press release from yesterday) and doing so by aggressive/proactive means, notably lawsuits. But will they succeed in the current atmosphere in the US?

“Stick a fork in BlackBerry. It’s a patent troll by proxy now, for the actual business is just virtually dead. Now that we know what Teletry actually is, our predictions turn out to have been accurate all along. “Today’s post from IAM, regarding RPX, says it’s a “tough market reality” and RPX is therefore moving to China. Many patent trolls are moving to China (good riddance!) and the only ones who complain about it are the patent ‘industry’. Technology companies are vastly relieved that all this nuisance is moving as far away as possible.

As a reminder, RPX was imploding somewhat earlier this year. Here’s the latest:

On a recent quarterly earnings call, RPX CEO Marty Roberts told analysts that the firm is looking to expand its presence in China in 2018. The exact dimensions of the aggregator’s planned investment aren’t known as of yet, but when you speak with senior IP executives inside Chinese companies one thing becomes clear very quickly: saying you want to be in China and actually being there are two very different things. If RPX really does want to take advantage of the opportunities the country presents it will need to be very serious about building a long-term project that may not immediately bear fruit.

We don’t yet know whether RPX plans to expand the coverage of its existing defensive aggregation model to China (perhaps by targeting more Chinese patents for acquisition), or whether it might seek to provide some different services designed specifically for Chinese clients. As a service provider with a defensive mission and a large portfolio, it could potentially provide a tailored service that helps Chinese entities gain freedom to operate in overseas markets and defends them against NPEs. However, the decrease of the NPE threat in the US, together with the emergence of the IPR system, have already brought down the costs of defence there – this is something that impacts Chinese companies as much as it does anyone else.

That last sentence is pretty revealing. RPX was directly profiting from a lot of troll activity (IAM uses the euphemism “NPE”) and now that trolls are ebbing away (or moving to China) those who offered a so-called ‘solution’ to it (for large corporations) fail to find themselves.

11.20.17

Links 20/11/2017: Why GNU/Linux is Better Than Windows, Another Linus Torvalds Rant

Posted in News Roundup at 4:20 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

  • Desktop

    • A soft push for the fairer sex

      International Centre for Free and Open Source Software (ICFOSS), an autonomous institution under Government of Kerala and Society for Promotion of Alternative Computing and Employment (SPACE), an NGO promoting free software, have been conducting ‘Women Hackers,’ a project to bring more women into free software. The programme involves intensive residential workshops on college campuses.

      It was during one such hackathon that the idea for ‘I install’ was put forward by the students of LBS College of Engineering, Kasaragod. A GNU/Linux installation camp, the event aims to promote the idea of taking control over the technology that you use. Those students who received training at the hackathon will be part of ‘I install’ where they impart their learning to other students.

  • Server

    • 6 Reasons Why Linux is Better than Windows For Servers

      A server is a computer software or a machine that offers services to other programs or devices, referred to as “clients“. There are different types of servers: web servers, database servers, application servers, cloud computing servers, file servers, mail servers, DNS servers and much more.

      The usage share for Unix-like operating systems has over the years greatly improved, predominantly on servers, with Linux distributions at the forefront. Today a bigger percentage of servers on the Internet and data centers around the world are running a Linux-based operating system.

    • All the supercomputers in the world moved to Linux operating systems

      In the June 2017 Linux system stood at 498 computers from the list of TOP 500.

  • Kernel Space

    • Linux 4.15 Is A Huge Update For Both AMD CPU & Radeon GPU Owners

      Linux 4.15 is shaping up to be a massive kernel release and we are just half-way through its merge window period. But for AMD Linux users especially, the 4.15 kernel release is going to be rocking.

      Whether you are using AMD processors and/or AMD Radeon graphics cards, Linux 4.15 is a terrific way to end of the year. There are a number of improvements to make this release great for AMD customers.

    • The Linux Kernel Is Still Rectifying The Year 2038 Problem

      The Linux kernel is still working to rectify the Year 2038 problem whereby the time values stored as signed 32-bit integers will wrap around.

      If you somehow are not familiar with the Year 2038 “Y2038″ problem, you can learn more via Wikipedia.

      The Linux kernel has been receiving fixes and workarounds for years now through many Y2038 commits to work through the many different areas of the kernel that are relying upon 32-bit signed ints for storing time values. With Linux 4.15, this work has continued.

    • The Big Changes So Far For The Linux 4.15 Kernel – Half Million New Lines Of Code So Far

      We are now through week one of two for the merge window of the Linux 4.15 kernel.

      If you are behind on your Phoronix reading with the many feature recaps provided this week of the different pull requests, here’s a quick recap of the changes so far to be found with Linux 4.15:

    • Intel 2017Q3 Graphics Stack Recipe Released

      Intel’s Open-Source Technology Center has put out their quarterly Linux graphics driver stack upgrade in what they are calling the latest recipe.

      As is the case with the open-source graphics drivers just being one centralized, universal component to be easily installed everywhere, their graphics stack recipe is just the picked versions of all the source components making up their driver.

    • Intel Ironlake Receives Patches For RC6 Power Savings

      Intel Ironlake “Gen 5″ graphics have been around for seven years now since being found in Clarkdale and Arrandale processors while finally now the patches are all worked out for enabling RC6 power-savings support under Linux.

    • LVFS makes Linux firmware updates easier

      Traditionally, updating a BIOS or a network card’s firmware in Linux meant booting into Microsoft Windows or preparing a MS-DOS floppy disk and hoping everything would work correctly after the update. Periodically searching a vendor website for updates is a manual and error-prone task and not something we should ask users to do. A firmware update service makes it simpler for end users to implement hardware updates.

    • GNU Linux-libre 4.14-gnu: -ENOFIRMWARE is now available

      GNU Linux-libre 4.14-gnu sources and tarballs are now available at
      http://www.fsfla.org/selibre/linux-libre/download/releases/4.14-gnu/ .
      It didn’t require any deblobbing changes since -rc6-gnu. Binaries are
      expected to show up over the next few days.

      The biggest change in this release is that the firmware subtree was
      removed upstream (thus the codename -ENOFIRMWARE), removing from the
      Linux kernel distribution a few pieces of Free firmware, and a number of
      non-Free ones. Alas, there are still a few pieces of non-Free firmware
      remaining in Linux 4.14; hopefully this problem will be addressed in a
      future release, and Linux will then be Free Software again. For the
      time being, it still requires some cleaning up to be Free Software, and
      plenty of additional cleaning up to meet the GNU Free Software
      Distribution Guidelines.

      The larger problem, that several drivers in Linux will not work at all
      unless you provide them with pieces of proprietary software, is not
      affected by this move: the drivers still refuse to work, a number of
      them for no good reason, and the non-Free firmware is still demanded by
      the upstream drivers, it is just distributed separately. This avoids
      legal problems for distributors of the kernel Linux, who refrain from
      distributing the non-Free firmware. However, that a number of drivers
      and corresponding firwmare are updated in lockstep suggests that they
      might actually be a single program, in spite of running on separate CPUs
      and having pieces distributed separately, and it might even be the case
      that the firmware happens to be a derivative work of the kernel. If
      that is so, those who distribute them together, or even just the
      firmware by itself, might be in violation of the terms of the GNU GPL,
      the Linux license, and thus losing their license to distribute Linux!

    • GNU Linux-libre 4.14-gnu Released, Still A Battle Deblobbing Driver Firmware
    • Linus Torvalds: ‘I don’t trust security people to do sane things’

      Linus Torvalds has offered his thoughts on Linux security approaches, branding some security professionals as “f*cking morons” for focusing on process-killing rather than debugging.

      Torvalds, the creator and principal developer of the Linux kernel, does not often pull his punches when it comes to the kernel’s behaviors and security.

      The engineer carried on the tradition over the weekend, as Google Pixel developer Kees Cook submitted a pull request for hardened usercopy changes for v4.15-rc1, which according to Cook, narrows areas of memory “that can be copied to/from userspace in the face of usercopy bugs by adding explicit whitelisting for slab cache regions.”

    • Linux creator slams security bods
    • Why Linus is right (as usual)

      Last year, some security “hardening” code was added to the kernel to prevent a class of buffer-overflow/out-of-bounds issues. This code didn’t address any particular 0day vulnerability, but was designed to prevent a class of future potential exploits from being exploited. This is reasonable.

      This code had bugs, but that’s no sin. All code has bugs.
      The sin, from Linus’s point of view, is that when an overflow/out-of-bounds access was detected, the code would kill the user-mode process or kernel. Linus thinks it should have only generated warnings, and let the offending code continue to run.

    • Linux Foundation

      • Kube-Node: Let Your Kubernetes Cluster Auto-Manage Its Nodes

        As Michelle Noorali put it in her keynote address at KubeCon Europe in March of this year: the Kubernetes open source container orchestration engine is still hard for developers. In theory, developers are crazy about Kubernetes and container technologies, because they let them write their application once and then run it anywhere without having to worry about the underlying infrastructure. In reality, however, they still rely on operations in many aspects, which (understandably) dampens their enthusiasm about the disruptive potential of these technologies.

        One major downside for developers is that Kubernetes is not able to auto-manage and auto-scale its own machines. As a consequence, operations must get involved every time a worker node is deployed or deleted. Obviously, there are many node deployment solutions, including Terraform, Chef or Puppet, that make ops live much easier. However, all of them require domain-specific knowledge; a generic approach across various platforms that would not require ops intervention does not exist.

  • Applications

  • Desktop Environments/WMs

    • K Desktop Environment/KDE SC/Qt

      • Announcing Season of KDE 2018

        KDE Student Programs is pleased to announce the 2018 Season of KDE for those who want to participate in mentored projects that enhance KDE in some way.

        Every year since 2013, KDE Student Programs has been running Season of KDE as a program similar to, but not quite the same as Google Summer of Code, offering an opportunity to everyone (not just students) to participate in both code and non-code projects that benefits the KDE ecosystem. In the past few years, SoK participants have not only contributed new application features but have also developed the KDE Continuous Integration System, statistical reports for developers, a web framework, ported KDE Applications, created documentation and lots and lots of other work.

        For this year’s Season of KDE, we are shaking things up a bit and making a host of changes to the program.

      • [LabPlot] Improved data fitting in 2.5

        Until now, the fit parameters could in principle take any values allowed by the fit model, which would lead to a reasonable description of the data. However, sometimes the realistic regions for the parameters are known in advance and it is desirable to set some mathematical constrains on them. LabPlot provides now the possibility to define lower and/or upper bounds for the fit parameters and to limit the internal fit algorithm to these regions only.

    • GNOME Desktop/GTK

      • [GNOME] Maps Towards 3.28

        Some work has been done since the release of 3.26 in September. On the visual side we have adapted the routing sidebar to use a similar styling as is used in Files (Nautilus) and the GTK+ filechooser.

  • Distributions

    • New Releases

      • MX 17 Beta 2
      • SparkyLinux 4.7 “Tyche” Out Now with Latest Debian GNU/Linux 9 “Stretch” Updates

        Powered by a recent kernel from the long-term supported Linux 4.9 series, version 4.9.51, SparkyLinux 4.7 is now available for download (see link below) with all the updates pushed upstream in the software repositories of the Debian GNU/Linux 9 “Stretch” operating system series as of November 17, 2017.

        This version comes with the Xfce 4.12.3, LXDE 0.99.2, and Openbox 3.6.1 graphical environments, the latest Calamares 3.1.8 graphical installer, as well as Mozilla Firefox 52.5.0 ESR, Mozilla Thunderbird 52.4.0, LibreOffice 5.2.7, VLC Media Player 2.2.6, Pidgin 2.12.0, Transmission 2.92, HexChat 2.12.4, and DeaDBeeF 0.7.2.

    • Red Hat Family

      • Red Hat OpenStack platform 12 imminent, paves way for Kubernetes in platform 13

        Enterprise Linux vendor Red Hat is poised to release its OpenStack Platform 12. It’s the first step in a longer vision to ultimately deploy via Kubernetes.

        Red Hat released Fedora 27 last week offering containers and the latest GNOME, but for big business, it’s the next OpenStack release to watch out for.

        Red Hat announced OpenStack Platform 12 at the OpenStack Summit in Sydney earlier this month, with the release expected within weeks.

      • Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform 3.7 boosts AWS, Kubernetes integration

        Red Hat recently unveiled OpenShift Container Platform 3.7, the latest version of its Kubernetes container application platform, which includes native integrations with Amazon Web Services (AWS) Service Brokers.

        Modern applications made for digital transformation are dependent on a combination of component and microservices, making consistency across cloud providers difficult. The company said the newest platform is intended to address this challenge by allowing IT companies to connect any application running on OpenShift to a host of services, regardless of where the service runs.

      • Finance

      • Fedora

        • Review: Fedora 27 Workstation

          On the whole there are several things to like about Fedora 27. The operating system was stable during my trial and I like that there are several session options, depending on whether we want to use Wayland or the X display server or even a more traditional-looking version of GNOME. I am happy to see Wayland is coming along to the point where it is close to on par with the X session. There are some corner cases to address, but GNOME on Wayland has improved a lot in the past year.

          I like the new LibreOffice feature which lets us sign and verify documents and I like GNOME’s new settings panel. These are all small, but notable steps forward for GNOME, LibreOffice and Fedora.

          Most of the complaints I had this week had more to do with GNOME specifically than Fedora as an operating system. GNOME on Fedora is sluggish on my systems, both on the desktop computer and in VirtualBox, especially the Wayland session. This surprised me as when I ran GNOME’s Wayland session on Ubuntu last month, the desktop performed quite a bit better. Ubuntu’s GNOME on Wayland session was smooth and responsive, but Fedora’s was too slow for me to use comfortably and I switched over to using the X session for most of my trial.

          Two other big differences I felt keenly between Ubuntu and Fedora were with regards to how these two leading projects set up GNOME. On Ubuntu we have a dock that acts as a task switcher, making it a suitable environment for multitasking. Fedora’s GNOME has no equivalent. This means Fedora’s GNOME is okay for running one or two programs at a time, but I tend to run eight or nine applications at any given moment. This becomes very awkward when using Fedora’s default GNOME configuration as it is hard to switch between open windows quickly, at least without installing an extension. In a similar vein, Ubuntu’s GNOME has window control buttons and Fedora’s version does not, which again adds a few steps to what are usually very simple, quick actions.

          What it comes down to is I feel like Ubuntu takes GNOME and turns it into a full featured desktop environment, while Fedora provides us with just plain GNOME which feels more like a framework for a desktop we can then shape with extensions rather than a complete desktop environment. In fact, I think that describes Fedora’s approach in general – the distribution feels more like a collection of open source utilities rather than an integrated whole. Earlier I mentioned LibreOffice can work with signed documents, but Fedora has no key manager, meaning we need to find and download one. Fedora ships with Totem, which is a fine video player, but it doesn’t work with Wayland, making it an odd default choice. These little gaps or missed connections show up occasionally and it sets the distribution apart from other projects like openSUSE or Linux Mint where there is a stronger sense the pieces of the operating system working together with a unified vision.

          The big puzzle for me this week was with software updates. Linux effectively solved updating software and being able to keep running without a pause, reboot or lock-up decades ago. Other mainstream distributions have fast updates – some even have atomic, on-line updates. openSUSE has software snapshots through the file system, Ubuntu has live kernel updates that do away with rebooting entirely and NixOS has atomic, versioned updates via the package manager, to name just three examples. But Fedora has taken a big step backward in making updates require an immediate reboot, and taking an unusually long time to complete the update process, neither of which benefits the user.

          Fedora has some interesting features and I like that it showcases new technologies. It’s a good place to see what new items are going to be landing in other projects next year. However, Fedora feels more and more like a testing ground for developers and less like a polished experience for people to use as their day-to-day operating system.

        • Mark McIntyre: How Do You Fedora?

          Mark McIntyre is a geek by birth and Linux by choice. “I started coding at the early age of 13 learning BASIC on my own and finding the excitement of programming which led me down a path of becoming a professional coder,” he says. McIntyre and his niece are big fans of pizza. “My niece and I started a quest last fall to try as many of the pizza joints in Knoxville. You can read about our progress at https://knox-pizza-quest.blogspot.com/” Mark is also an amateur photographer and publishes his images on Flickr.

    • Debian Family

      • MiniDebconf in Toulouse

        I attended the MiniDebconf in Toulouse, which was hosted in the larger Capitole du Libre, a free software event with talks, presentation of associations, and a keysigning party. I didn’t expect the event to be that big, and I was very impressed by its organization. Cheers to all the volunteers, it has been an amazing week-end!

      • DebConf Videoteam sprint report – day 0

        First day of the videoteam autumn sprint! Well, I say first day, but in reality it’s more day 0. Even though most of us have arrived in Cambridge already, we are still missing a few people.

        Last year we decided to sprint in Paris because most of our video gear is stocked there. This year, we instead chose to sprint a few days before the Cambridge Mini-Debconf to help record the conference afterwards.

  • Devices/Embedded

Free Software/Open Source

  • Sustainable Open Source is About Evolution as a Group

    The role of a CMO in a software company is fundamentally different from that in any other category. We have a really interesting role in marketing and technology, and it’s one of education and guidance. There used to be a place 20 years ago where, as a marketer, you would come up with a simple pithy message and buy a bunch of advertising and people would believe it.

    That’s not true anymore. Now we have to position ourselves alongside the architectures and the thought leadership that our customers are interested in to prove our value.

  • Reveal.js presentation hacks

    Ryan Jarvinen, a Red Hat open source advocate focusing on improving developer experience in the container community, has been using the Reveal.js presentation framework for more than five years. In his Lightning Talk at All Things Open 2017, he shares what he’s learned about Reveal.js and some ways to make better use of it.

    Reveal.js is an open source framework for creating presentations in HTML based on HTML5 and CSS. Ryan describes Gist-reveal.it, his project that makes it easier for users to create, fork, present, and share Reveal.js slides by using GitHub’s Gist service as a datastore.

  • Font licensing and use: What you need to know

    Most of us have dozens of fonts installed on our computers, and countless others are available for download, but I suspect that most people, like me, use fonts unconsciously. I just open up LibreOffice or Scribus and use the defaults. Sometimes, however, we need a font for a specific purpose, and we need to decide which one is right for our project. Graphic designers are experts in choosing fonts, but in this article I’ll explore typefaces for everyone who isn’t a professional designer.

  • Events

  • Web Browsers

    • The Fox Hunt – Firefox and friends compared

      So what should you use? Well, it depends. You want extensions, the entire repertoire as it’s meant to be? Go with Pale Moon, but be aware of the inconsistencies and problems down the road. However, another piece of penalty is less than optimal looks. If you are more focused on speed and future development, then it’s Firefox, as it offers the most complete compromise. The add-ons will make it or break it. Waterfox makes less sense, because the margins of benefit are too small.

      My take is – Firefox. It’s not ideal, but Pale Moon does not solve the problem fully, it combines nostalgia with technicals, and that’s a rough patch, even though the project is quite admirable in what it’s trying to do. Alas, I’m afraid the old extensions will die, and the new ones won’t be compatible, so the browser will be left stranded somewhere in between. But hopefully, this little comparison test gives you a better overview and understanding how things work.

      Finally, we go back to the question of speed. We’ve seen how one flavor of Fox stacks against another, but what about Chrome? I will answer that in a follow-up article, which will compare Chrome to Vivaldi, again based on popular demand, and then we will also check how all these different browsers compare using my small, limited and entirely personal corner of the Web. Stay tuned.

    • Firefox Private Browsing vs. Chrome Incognito: Which is Faster?

      Firefox Quantum is the fastest version of Firefox we’ve ever made. It is twice as fast as Firefox 52 and often faster than the latest version of Chrome in head to head page load comparisons. By using key performance benchmarks, we were able to optimize Firefox to eliminate unnecessary delays and give our users a great browsing experience.

      Most browser performance benchmarks focus on the use of a regular browsing mode. But, what about Private Browsing? Given that Private Browsing use is so common, we wanted to see how Firefox’s Private Browsing compared with Chrome’s Incognito when it came to page load time (that time between a click and the page being fully loaded on the screen).

  • SaaS/Back End

  • Pseudo-Open Source (Openwashing)

  • BSD

    • Intel Icelake Support Added To LLVM Clang

      Initial support for Intel’s Icelake microarchitecture that’s a follow-on to Cannonlake has been added to the LLVM/Clang compiler stack.

      Last week came the Icelake patch to GCC and now Clang has landed its initial Icelake enablement too.

  • Public Services/Government

    • 2018 is Year for Open Source Software for Pentagon

      The US Pentagon is set to make a major investment in open source software, if section 886 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 is passed.

      The section acknowledges the use of open source software, the release of source code into public repositories, and a competition to inspire work with open source that supports the mission of the Department of Defense.

  • Programming/Development

    • How startups save buckets of money on early software development

      Moving along, we have to segue with a short modularity lesson. More specifically, how modularity applies to software.

      Essentially, all products and services become cheaper and more plentiful when all the processes involved in production become modularised.

Leftovers

  • Hardware

    • Microsoft’s Surface Book 2 has a power problem

      Microsoft’s Surface Book 2 has a power problem. When operating at peak performance, it may draw more power than its stock charger or Surface Dock can handle. What we’ve discovered after talking to Microsoft is that it’s not a bug—it’s a feature.

  • Health/Nutrition

    • 15 dead, 5 hurt in a stampede for food aid in Morocco

      Moroccan state TV channel 2M reports that at least 15 people have died and 5 others have been injured in a stampede as food aid was being distributed in a southern village.

      It said the stampede took place Sunday in the village of Sidi Boulalam, in the southern province of Essaouira.

      Distributions of food aid are common in the North African nation, notably in remote parts of the country. They are organized by private sponsors and groups as well as by the authorities.

    • The lobbies of glyphosate: a danger to the health of Europeans and of their democracy

      On November 9, nine citizens were summoned before a Brussels tribunal for a peaceful action to denounce the European lobbies of the agro-chemical sector and their overweening influence in the EU negotiations on the ban on glyphosate, a carcinogenic pesticide notably commercialized by Monsanto. The report by the NGO “Corporate Europe Observatory” shows that these lobbies of the agro-chemical sector have been particularly active in the debates during the last 6 months.

      A bunch of Belgian activists decided to face down the powerful lobbies through symbolic non-violent actions. Their affinity group was named the “Zoological Assemblage for the Liberation of Nature”, better known by its French acronym “EZLN” in a clear reference to the Mexican Indigenous rebel “Zapatista Army for National Liberation” that has the same acronym in Spanish (“Ejercito Zapatista de Liberación Nacional”). While the context and the causes are much different, the Belgian EZLN activists have been inspired by the Mexican rebels. They borrow the poetic language of their communiqués, as well as their determination in the struggle from below against those in power, building from below “a world in which many worlds fit”.

      On March 9, 70 activists held a hilarious action denouncing the power of these lobbies. They entered the corridors of the European Crop Protection Association’ headquarter in Brussels, disguised as animals with the ecological slogan “We are the nature that defends itself”. This 5-minute tour of the building left some straw, stickers and some red water paint on the windows, but nothing was broken. Eight months later, nine of these activists faced trial in the main tribunal of Brussels.

    • Compulsory licencing proposed in the Netherlands to enforce lower prices for medicines

      ‘For rare conditions, this monopoly on medicines is strongly exacerbated by the European regulations that came into force in 2000 for orphan drugs. These are medications for conditions that occur in the European Union in less than five out of every 10,000 inhabitants. In addition to protection by patents, a company has additional protection such as ten years’ market exclusivity after licensing. This means that no medicines based on the same mechanism of operation for the disease in question may be put on the market during that period. The regulation has strongly encouraged the development of new orphan drugs. It has however also had the perverse effect of medicines being investigated and licensed for narrow and restricted indications in order to obtain the status of an orphan drug, while the study results indicate that its efficacy is broader.’

  • Security

  • Defence/Aggression

    • Undercounting the Civilian Dead

      During the “war on terror,” the U.S. government has understated the number of civilians killed (all the better to manage positive perceptions back home). But a new report underscores the truth, says ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar.

    • With Trump Silent, Sanders and Dems Demand Aid for Iranian Earthquake Victims

      As the death toll from the “horrific” earthquake that struck the Iran-Iraq border earlier this week climbs above 500, and as President Donald Trump remains entirely silent on the matter, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and four Democratic senators sent a letter on Thursday to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson demanding that the White House waive certain sanctions on Iran and allow aid to reach those desperately in need.

      “After earthquakes in 2003 and 2012, the United States demonstrated its compassion and goodwill by offering assistance to the Iranian people and allowing private relief donations,” the senators wrote. “This time should be no different.”

      While the 7.3 magnitude quake affected both Iran and Iraq, Iran bore the brunt of the overall destruction and casualties.

    • The Breakthrough: Used as ‘Guinea Pigs’ by the U.S. Military, Then Discarded

      Soldiers are shown racing through a smoke screen, to which tear gas had been added by surprise to test their powers at detecting its presence, during a drill at Fort Dix, New Jersey, in 1941. They also were given a sniff of four world war gases — phosgene, chloropicrin, mustard and lewisite. (Bettmann Archive/Getty Images)

      When we think of the harm that befalls soldiers during wartime, specific images come to mind. The fallout from scientific experiments — especially those carried out by our own government — isn’t one. But that was the reality of tens of thousands of military men in the 1940s, who were poisoned with mustard gas by the U.S. government to see how their bodies would react. It took decades to bring to light the vast scope of the experiments, and it couldn’t have been completed without the work of two NPR journalists.

      For years, veterans were sworn to secrecy about the tests, prohibited from even discussing them with doctors. While this curtain was lifted in the 1990s, and Congress and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs promised medical care and services, many vets didn’t get it. NPR reporter Caitlin Dickerson and research librarian Barbara Van Woerkom found records for and called hundreds of vets who were used in these experiments, and their work paved the way for the men — who are now well into their 80s — to receive the care and recognition they needed.

    • Yemen’s Collective Starvation: Where Money Can’t Buy Food, Water or Medicine

      Yemen is in the grip of the world’s worst famine and public health crisis, with all aid to Sana’a and the north presently blocked by the closure of the aiport and closest port, al-Hodeidah. The airport of Sana’a has been closed to all except aid flights since August 2016 and even to aid since the renewed Saudi blockade in retribution for the Houthi (Al-Ansar) missile directed at Riyadh. For good measure, the Saudi Coalition then struck the radio navigation tower of Sana’a airport, eliminating the possibility of any aid traffic, with the brave and hypothetical exception of relying solely on the pilots’ sight, as the runways and terminal still are intact. Al-Hodeidah, the Red Sea port with the closest and most direct route to Yemen’s capital Sana’a, has been ceremonially “re-opened,” but no aid ships have as yet received permission to dock and unload their cargoes. International aid groups, for most of the millions in Yemen, are their only hope for food, clean water, medicine, and other essentials for life.

  • Transparency/Investigative Reporting

    • Trump and WikiLeaks: Five things to know

      The revelation this week that Donald Trump Jr. corresponded with WikiLeaks during the presidential campaign has added a new wrinkle to the competing probes into Russian interference.

      Legal experts say the development is likely to intensify scrutiny of Trump’s eldest son, who is already under the microscope for a controversial June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer.

      Separately, a pair of senators revealed Thursday that Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, had received correspondence about WikiLeaks prior to the election. They said Kushner has not yet turned over those documents to congressional investigators.

    • Journalism Made Possible Because of the Freedom of Information Act

      If the Freedom of Information Act were a person, who would it be? That’s a real question I asked our newsroom this week, because that’s the kind of thing I randomly think about.

      Really, though, I asked this of our newsroom because I genuinely want you to care about FOIA. And I thought that if I could get inside our reporters’ heads — to understand what they envision when that acronym comes up, be it Dwight from “The Office” or whoever — I could help you put a metaphorical face on a law that is not only fundamental to the work we do as investigative journalists but is also essential to our democracy. Plus, if you have a face to associate with FOIA, maybe that would help it stick in your brain.

      If you’re unfamiliar, the Freedom of Information Act is a law that allows anyone — yes, including you — to request records and documents from the government. This could mean, for example, a homeowner filing a request for records of government spending in their town, a lawyer filing for environmental assessments of a property or a journalist filing for records of incident reports in a prison. Although filing a FOIA request seems pretty straightforward — technically, all you need to do is send a letter or email to the FOIA officer detailing your request — we can vouch for the fact that, sometimes, the process can be anything but.

    • Why progressives should support wikileaks

      Some rights reserved.History is replete with disquieting figures, it is often difficult to know whether they deserve our support or mistrust. Julian Assange seems increasingly to be one of these figures. When I started writing about whistleblowers a few years ago, there was genuine sympathy for whistleblowers across international public opinion, and one sensed a common feeling of indignation at the repression whistleblowers suffered. But during the last few months, something seems to have changed. There now seems to be a real mistrust – if not outright hostility – with regard to Assange. The same cannot be said for Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning: they each continue to receive widespread support from journalists, academics, and various advocates for human rights and freedom of the press. But what little support remains for Assange is now much more distanced and qualified.

      Indeed, I get the impression that a kind of “WikiLeaks bashing” has taken hold: journalists, academics, and intellectuals have not only begun to distance themselves from Assange; they now question, attack, and discredit him on the slightest pretext.

  • Environment/Energy/Wildlife/Nature

    • Manitoba NDP floats idea of loans to help switch to electric vehicles

      The Manitoba NDP is pitching a plan to encourage people to ditch their fossil-fuel burning vehicles and switch to electric.

      The plan was included in the opposition NDP’s alternative throne speech, released Friday ahead of the Progressive Conservative government’s throne speech, which Lt.-Gov. Janice Filmon is expected to read on Tuesday.

      The NDP plan includes a zero-interest, government-backed loan for the purchase of electric vehicles, which would be paid back over the life of the vehicle. Under the plan, the province would pool revenue from its upcoming carbon tax, which would then be doled out to Manitobans as repayable loans.

    • Scientists Issue Dire Warning on Climate Change & Key Researcher Urges “Changes in How We Live”

      At COP23, the International Energy Agency predicts U.S. oil production is expected to grow an an unparalleled rate in the coming years—even as the majority of scientists worldwide are saying countries need to cut down on fossil fuel extraction, not accelerate it. Meanwhile, a group of 15,000 scientists have come together to issue a dire “second notice” to humanity, 25 years after a group of scientists issued the “first notice” warning the world about climate change. We speak with the co-author of this report, Kevin Anderson, one of the world’s leading climate scientists. Anderson is deputy director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and professor of energy and climate change at the University of Manchester in Britain. The report is entitled “Can the Climate Afford Europe’s Gas Addiction?”

  • Finance

    • Aussies increasingly turn away from retail stores to online shopping: report

      Australians are turning to online shopping after disappointing experiences with bricks and mortar stores and the inability to find a product while shopping instore, according to a new study.

    • Some Instacart workers to strike over pay that can be as low as $1 per hour

      Seated at a dimly-lit bar, a gregarious man dressed in a scarf and beanie of his favorite local sports team, explained to Ars last week why he and some of his fellow Instacart shoppers plan on not working this Sunday and Monday.

      “We’re going to sign up for shifts and then when it’s time, if I’m working from 10am to 1pm on [November 19], the first order, I’m going to decline it, not accept the batch,” he said, using Instacart’s term for multiple pickups at a single retail location. “They’ll kick us off and we’ll continue to do that until they kick us off [for the day].”

      The man, who goes by Ike, declined to let Ars use his full name for fear of reprisal—he also doesn’t want unwanted scrutiny from his colleagues at his full-time public sector job.

    • The House Just Voted to Bankrupt Graduate Students

      Republicans in the House of Representatives have just passed a tax bill that would devastate graduate research in the United States. Hidden in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is a repeal of Section 117(d)(5) of the current tax code, a provision that is vital to all students who pursue master’s degrees or doctorates and are not independently wealthy.

    • Working for former masters in Madagascar: a ‘win-win’ game for former slaves?

      Despite being formally illegal since the 1970s, sharecropping is one of the more common working agreements between landowners and their labourers in the highlands of Madagascar. Sharecropping agreements are often represented as a sort of win-win game by both landowners and tenants, particularly for rice cultivation, the main agricultural sector of the island. They have allowed otherwise landless families to install themselves in fertile regions for anywhere from a few years to several generations while keeping two-thirds of the production for themselves. At the same time, landowners, without moving a finger, obtain rice to satisfy domestic consumption or to resell, prevent others from illegally occupying their land, and maintain a strong emotional and economic link to the land of their ancestors (tanindrazana) and their family tombs, a crucial benefit if they have moved to urban areas.

    • Fund Local News to Fight Inequality

      After the reporters in New York decided to unionize, Ricketts took just a week to decide that the entire venture —including the local newsrooms in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. — was no longer worth it for him. The decision to shut down the sites reminded reporters of what they know all too well: there’s a crisis in funding journalism, especially the local kind. And many times, the money that does come in is dictated by whims of the ultra-wealthy.

    • Capitalism Is Not the Only Choice

      Since the breakup of the Soviet bloc and China’s turn toward free markets, many economists have pronounced an “end of history,” where capitalism reigns supreme as the ultimate form of economy. Perhaps “there is no alternative” to a globalized neoliberal economy, as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher often said. Indeed, free markets in which individuals compete to get what they can while they can are glorified in popular culture through reality shows such as Shark Tank.

      [...]

      Economy is not just something that happens to us, a sea in which we swim or sink. Rather we are all part of multiple economies, some in which we are the main actors—such as our household economies—and others in which we are the extras—such as venture capital markets.

    • TPP, Indo Pacific, QUAD: What’s Next to Contain China’s Rise?

      After throwing Obama’s TPP out of the window, Asia experts in Washington were busy looking for alternatives to TPP which excluded China. Lo and behold, they found the term “Indo Pacific”! Trump dutifully brandished the term like a new toy before leaving for his longest tour to Asia. Indo Pacific became vogue in the media overnight. To spice up the alphabet soup, QUAD (comprising the US, Japan, India and Australia) was served up as a new strategy to slow, if not thwart, China’s rise as the predominant economic powerhouse in Asia Pacific.

      There are two problems with that geostrategy. One, Trump is agnostic about multilateral trade arrangements, to put it mildly. Two, Australia, Japan and India, the other three co-conspirators in QUAD, have China as their largest trade partner. They aren’t about to jeopardize their trade relations with China by ganging up with America to antagonize Beijing. As one commentator put it : “Whatever their problems with China, America will not be the answer.”

    • House to vote on giving Amazon $53 billion deal to become main Pentagon supplier

      Members of the US House of Representatives and Senate Armed Services committees announced Wednesday that they have reached agreement on the proposed $700 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the annual defense spending bill. This astronomical figure—an $80 billion increase over spending in 2016 and roughly $26 billion more than was requested by President Donald Trump—is a clear signal that the US will expand its ongoing wars around the world and is preparing to engage in far broader conflicts potentially involving North Korea, Iran, Russia, and China.

      The NDAA will now be voted on by the House of Representatives, where it has been rubber-stamped every year since 1961, before being signed into law by Trump. While reporting by the bourgeois press on the NDAA has been limited overall, a key section of the bill, titled “Procurement Through Commercial E-Commerce Portals,” has been almost entirely overlooked. This section establishes the framework whereby Amazon will be able to corner the market for Defense Department procurements worth roughly $53 billion, and its inclusion in the NDAA is a product of the direct links connecting Amazon with the state and military-intelligence apparatus.

    • Bitcoin Price Crosses $8,000 To Reach A New All-time High
    • Live blog: EU agencies leaving London after Brexit

      The EU27 countries today decide the new homes of the European Medicines Agency and the European Banking Authority, with multiple rounds of voting behind closed doors in Brussels.

      The EMA is the biggest prize and the first to be decided, with 16 countries bidding to host the drugs regulator. Attention then turns to the banking authority, with EU officials picking between eight bidders sometime after 7 p.m.

      National governments have been promising anything in exchange for votes behind closed doors — from support for the new Eurogroup presidency to NATO troops.

    • London loses EU agencies to Paris and Amsterdam in Brexit relocation

      London is losing the European Medicines Agency to Amsterdam and the European Banking Authority to Paris, in one of first concrete signs of Brexit as the UK prepares to leave the European Union.

      The two cities were selected to host the agencies after tie breaks that saw the winner selected by drawing a name from the ballot box.

      The Dutch capital beat Milan when lots were drawn after three rounds of Eurovision-style voting on Monday had resulted in a dead heat.

      Paris won the race to take the European Banking Authority from London, after the favourite Frankfurt was knocked out in the second round.

  • AstroTurf/Lobbying/Politics

    • Tech beefs up lobbying amid Russia scrutiny

      Facebook, which disclosed that Russian groups bought over 3,000 ads on its platform, recently hired Luke Albee to lobby on matters of “election integrity,” according to a lobbying disclosure form this month.

    • My fear and fury in the eye of the Russia-Leave storm

      Last week, nearly one year on from the first stories about possible collusion between Donald Trump and the Kremlin, Theresa May stood up and finally talked about Russia. The country had “weaponised” information, she said. It had planted “fake stories and photoshopped images”, and it had our society and institutions in its sights.

      It was a watershed moment. Finally, the government was acknowledging that Britain is not uniquely insulated from what is a global firehose of disinformation, lies and fake news – from Russia and other actors.

      And then, just a few hours later, I clicked a link on Twitter. It was from Leave.EU’s official account – the Ukip-allied Brexit campaign headed by Nigel Farage. “WATCH @carolecadwalla takes a hit as the Russian conspiracy deepens.”

      Leave.EU is now the subject of two Electoral Commission investigations into potentially illegal sources of funding, the first of which followed an article I wrote in March. They’ve been calling me crazy for months and I thought this would be more of the same. But it wasn’t. The video was a clip from the film Airplane!, in which a “hysterical” woman is told to calm down and then hit, repeatedly, around the head. The woman – my face photoshopped in – was me. And, as the Russian national anthem played, a line of people queued up to take their turn. The last person in the line had a gun.

      [....]

      It was clearly unacceptable. And yet it was accepted. It remained on a “public” forum – beyond the reach of any law enforcement agency, immune to public opprobrium – for 42 hours. And it did its job: Leave.EU launders extremist content. It tests the ground. It gets unpalatable ideas out into the mainstream – racism, islamophobia, homophobia, death threats to journalists – and it normalises them.

    • ‘Grab-Em-by-the-Pussy’ President Slammed for Grand Hypocrisy as Trump Goes After Franken

      Critics were quick to label President Donald Trump a hypocrite late Thursday after the president—who’s been accused by more than a dozen women of sexual misconduct—took to Twitter to take aim at Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who has been accused of groping a woman without her consent.

    • Bill Maher: Al Franken Is Not Like Roy Moore, Kevin Spacey, Donald Trump

      The late-night comedian said Franken “did a bad thing” but shouldn’t be “lumped in” with other high-profile figures.

    • Revenge Is a Rotten Way to Run a Country

      Yielding to one of the basest of human impulses, Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are subverting Western society and democracy.

    • Stacking the Bench

      Talley is only 36 — and extraordinarily unqualified. He was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee last week for a lifetime position on the Alabama federal bench and will be voted on by the full Senate as early as this week. As The New York Times reported, Talley has never tried a case, has practiced law for just three years and was unanimously deemed “not qualified” by the American Bar Association — a distinction given to only four nominees since 1989. Talley also provides plenty of media-distracting fodder: He’s a horror novel writer, once belonged to a ghost-hunting group and is a right-wing blogger who has disparaged “Hillary Rotten Clinton.” Talley also pledged his “financial, political and intellectual” support to the NRA after the Newtown shooting. Even so, he refused during questioning by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), to say he would recuse himself from cases involving guns.

      The subplot to this story, however, began to unfold Monday when The New York Times reported that Talley failed to disclose in his Senate questionnaire, or during his hearing, or when specifically discussing his contact with White House lawyers, that he happens to be married to Ann Donaldson, the chief of staff to White House counsel Donald McGahn. Talley told the senators in his testimony that he regularly advised judicial candidates in his current role as deputy assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Policy. He should know better than most that he is expected to be transparent. This is not a small oversight.

    • Sanders: Trump Spewing ‘Total Nonsense’ Over GOP Tax Giveaway for Billionaires

      “Democrats,” Sanders told Jake Tapper on CNN’s Face The Nation, “have been shut out of this process just as they were shut out of the healthcare legislation process.”

      Going further, Sanders said that Trump “should understand” exactly what’s going on and why Democrats, as well as a large majority of the U.S. public, do not like or trust what the Republicans in Congress are attempting to do with what they call “tax reform” but which progressive critics have identified—and numerous analyses have shown—as nothing more than a “tax scam” that gives to the rich at the expense of the lower- and middle-classes.

    • Under GOP Plan, Wealthy Foreign Investors Benefit Nearly Three Times More Than US Taxpayers

      If the Senate Republicans’ latest version of their tax overhaul bill passes, foreign investors will receive a financial benefit nearly three times larger than all U.S. taxpayers combined, according to a new analysis released Saturday.

      In its updated analysis, the non-partisan Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) found that while U.S. households would receive $8 billion in net benefits from the plan, wealthy overseas investors would capture an astonishing $22 billion.

      “By 2027,” the anlysis states, “foreign investors would benefit more than American households overall under the bill as written. While some households would pay more and others would pay less, in 2027 the average net effect for U.S. households would be a tax cut of $8 billion, which is much smaller than the $22 billion benefit to foreign investors.”

    • When Will Democrats Stop Being Losers?

      Much was made of the “blue wave” some saw on November 7th. Blue ripple is more like it. Don’t expect those results to translate into a 2018 landslide for Democrats, unless the Party figures out what it’s for, not simply what it’s against.

      Most of the Party leaders are only too eager to tell you what an idiot Trump is, or how mean Ryan, McConnell and the rest of the conservative wrecking crew is. But they are loath to tell you what, exactly, they, themselves stand for.

      Oh, yes, you will hear some vaguely progressive platitudes, especially around election time, but in terms of real, specific and substantive stands on behalf of the middle class and poor Americans, there’s more rhetoric than substance.

      And yes, the Democratic Party Platform is one of the most progressive since the New Deal. But it’s also the greatest story never told, and you won’t hear many of those progressive ideals pushed by or embraced by the Party’s leaders. The fact is, much of what is progressive found its way in there from the Bernie delegates, and—as politicians know—Party platforms are where popular, but inconvenient ideas go to die.

    • Mugabe agrees to stand down as Zimbabwe president: source

      Robert Mugabe agreed on Sunday to resign as Zimbabwe’s president hours after the ruling ZANU-PF party fired him as its leader following 37 years in charge, a source familiar with the negotiations said.

    • ‘Russiagate’ Zealots (Mainly Democrats) Have Become a Major Threat to US National Security

      Cohen argues that America is now in unprecedented danger due to two related crises. A new and more dangerous Cold War with Russia that is fraught with the real possibility of hot war between the two nuclear superpowers on several fronts, including Syria. And the worst crisis of the American presidency in modern times, which threatens to paralyze the president’s ability to deal diplomatically with Moscow. (To those who recall Watergate, Cohen points out that, unlike Trump, President Nixon was never accused of “collusion with the Kremlin” or faced reckless, and preposterous, allegations that the Kremlin had abetted his election by an “attack on American democracy.”)

      What Trump did in Vietnam last week was therefore vitally important and courageous, though uniformly misrepresented by the American mainstream media. Despite unrelenting “Russiagate” attempts led by Democrats to impeach him for “collusion with the Kremlin” (still without any meaningful evidence), and perhaps even opposition by high-level members of his own administration, Trump met several times, informally and briefly, with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Presumably dissuaded or prevented by some of his own top advisers from having a formal, lengthy meeting, Trump was nonetheless prepared. He and Putin issued a joint statement urging cooperation in Syria, where the prospects of a US-Russian war had been mounting. And both leaders later said they had serious talks about cooperating on the crises in North Korea and Ukraine.

      What Trump told the US press corps after his meetings with Putin was even more remarkable—and defiantly bold. He reiterated his longstanding position that “having a relationship with Russia would be a great thing—not a good thing—it would be a great thing.” To this Cohen adds that it would be an essential thing for the sake of US national security on many vital issues and in many areas of the world, and should be the first foreign-policy principle of both political parties. Trump then turned to “Russiagate,”saying that Putin had again denied any personal involvement and that in this Putin seemed sincere. Trump quickly added that three of President Obama’s top intelligence directors—the CIA’s John Brennan, Office of National Intelligence’s James Clapper, and the FBI’s James Comey—were “political hacks,” clearly implying that their declared role in “Russiagate” had been and remains less than sincere. He also suggested that Russia had been too “heavily sanctioned” to be the national-security partner America needs, a point Cohen reminded listeners he himself had made many times.

  • Censorship/Free Speech

    • Radio Free Asia Cambodian journalists charged with providing information to foreign nation

      The two former RFA reporters were detained for questioning last Tuesday after police discovered they had rented a hotel room in Phnom Penh, which they were suspected of using as an office in continuing to provide news about the country

    • Censorship packaged as cyber transparency in China’s new website

      China’s military on Sunday launched a website inviting the public to report leaks and fake news, as well as illegal online activities by military personnel, the latest step in a push to ensure Communist Party control over the internet.

      Beijing has been ramping up measures to secure the internet and maintain strict censorship, a process that accelerated ahead of the party’s five-yearly National Congress that took place in October.

    • The Chinese Communist Party’s guide to moral living

      The censorship order handed down from the Chinese Communist Party earlier this year reads like a decree from a Puritan: depictions of underage drinking, gambling and extreme violence are not permitted online; images of scantily clad people and portrayals of homosexuality are off-limits; spiritual figures and beliefs cannot be satirized.

      [...]

      Some of Xi’s measures build on existing tools of control: The official state news agency issued an update to its style guide in July, banning the use of crude language and online slang in news reporting; internet censors shut down scores of blogs in June for their sensationalist coverage of celebrity gossip; other information channels, including school textbooks and street billboards, promote traditional virtues like honesty, obedience and filial piety, which are hailed as the foundation of a good society.

    • This week, Russian citizens have been arrested for intolerance towards Cossacks

      Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison for preparing (non-existent) acts of terrorism in Crimea, has spent the past two weeks in solitary confinement. Sentsov had been moved to the White Bear prison colony in the Labytnangi settlement (in Yamalo-Nenetsky autonomous district) where he was immediately placed in solitary confinement. This is how the prison carried out a decision by the pre-trial detention centre in Irkutsk, where Sentsov had formerly been held, who had decided the prisoner had been in serious violation of regulations, but had not had time to punish him.

      In Chelyabinsk, environmental activist Irina Mochanova is under criminal investigation for using violence against a representative of the authorities while holding a one-person protest in front of president Putin’s car as it drove past. The activist was protesting against the construction of the Tomino copper mining plant.

      [...]

      Russian law enforcement haven’t forgotten about the dangerous criminals who exploit the internet for their nefarious purposes. Krasnodar blogger Leonid Kudinov has again been jailed for posting a video containing a swastika. In the video, Kudinov urges the police to stop using Article 20.3 of the Administrative Law Code against activists, and to take into account the context in which Nazi symbols may be used.

    • Removal of statues is not intolerance or censorship

      They are laudable reappraisals of what persons, values, ideas and events we wish to honor and affirm publicly and officially.

      The purpose of removing a statue to a museum (or qualifying its presence with additional information) or of renaming a building is not to rewrite or deny history, to change the past, or to prevent people from affirming, discussing, or propagating the ideas and values represented by the memorial.

    • Atul Kasbekar: “We don’t have any censorship issue so we can push the envelope more”

      “We don’t have any censorship issue so we can push the envelope more. Although we are not making a controversial series but people on this forum are enjoying the fact that they can use bad language and just insert sex scenes, even if it doesn’t need it. After going through so much of repressed censorship people have just gone berserk with the freedom.”

    • Nick Cave reject Israel boycott calls

      Nick Cave, the dark poet of rock, says he’s taking a “principled stand” against activists working to ostracise the Jewish state and people who tried to boycott his performances in the country.

      At a press conference on Sunday, the Australian spoke about the logistical challenges of playing in Israel then said musicians also endure pressure from an international movement known as BDS that seeks to ostracise Israel by lobbying corporations, artists and academic institutions to sever ties with the Jewish state.

    • Nick Cave playing Israel shows to “take a stand” against censorship

      Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds end their European tour with a pair of controversial shows in Israel, on November 19-20, at Tel Aviv’s Menorah Arena. Roger Waters, Thurston Moore, and Tunde Adebimpe spoke out against Cave’s decision to play Israel in an open letter, saying “don’t go – not while apartheid remains.” Radiohead’s Israel show back in July attracted similar furor and protests from Waters and Moore, among others, and was also defended by Michael Stipe.

    • Fighting Censorship … With Trigger Warnings

      She was talking about a class she taught, Representations of Rape in Literature, and how her syllabus’s trigger warnings on the course’s violent content also called for an inclusive classroom — and specifically welcoming the inclusion of straight, cisgender men — in order to encourage debate and make sure every student felt welcome to share their opinions. The idea of calling for a safe space in the classroom and using trigger warnings, Spampinato said, wasn’t to stifle debate, as conservative pundits often charge, but quite the opposite: to foster “a diversity of opinions,” the same phrase that conservatives often use when claiming feminism or liberalism is intolerant of their views.

    • Iranian Official Threatens “Restrictions” on Social Media Networks That Reject State Censorship Policies

      A senior official representing Iran’s top internet regulation body has threatened to take action against social media applications that refuse to comply with the country’s strict censorship rules.

    • Chinese tech groups duel over violent video games
  • Privacy/Surveillance

    • Bug Or Feature? — Facebook Removes Delete Post Option From Desktop Website

      As Facebook enjoys an unchallenged position in the world of social networks, it keeps trying out new features in its web interface and mobile without any fear of losing the user base. Who can forget the company’s act of removing Messenger from the mobile apps and pushing it down the throat of users as a separate app!

  • Civil Rights/Policing

    • Democrats Missed A Chance To Draw A Line In The Sand On Sexual Misconduct
    • How algorithms are pushing the tech giants into the danger zone
    • School threatens to sue parents after they used Facebook to accuse teachers of failing to stop bullying
    • Wisconsin Police Gun Down Young Teen on Reservation

      According to multiple news reports, Pero — an 8th grader – was home from school with the flu when he left his house and encountered Deputy Brock Mrdjenovich. The Wisconsin Department of Justice stated that the Ashland County police department received a phone call just prior reporting that a male matching Pero’s description was walking down the street with a knife — a call that Department says that Pero made himself.

      When Mrdjenovich confronted Pero, the boy allegedly refused to drop the knife and even lunged twice at Mrdjenovich, causing Mrdjenovich to eventually shoot Pero twice — including at least once in the chest.

      [...]

      “Be clear,” writes The Root’s Kirsten West Savali, “Even if this child were holding a knife—which has not been proved—he did not deserve a bullet through his heart. But that is the state’s instinct when they see children of color as neither children nor human beings worthy of protection.”

      [...]

      Pero’s community is reeling from the violence he faced at the hands of those who are supposed to be trusted to keep the peace, and it is not surprising that they appear so far to doubt the details released by the Department of Justice on Pero’s motive, his alleged attack on an officer and the other actions leading to his murder. They aren’t wrong to be dubious, either: This isn’t an isolated incident, but a steady pattern of violence against communities of color.

    • This Is Where Hate Crimes Don’t Get Reported

      On Monday, the FBI released its latest tally of hate crimes in the U.S. Despite a 1990 law that mandates data collection on hate crimes, the FBI’s count remains only a fraction of what an annual national crime victims survey estimates the real number to be.

      The above map shows some of the gaps that remain in the data. It marks every law enforcement agency serving at least 10,000 residents that failed to report at all in 2016, that reported zero hate crimes, or that reported fewer than one hate crime per 100,000 residents.

      ProPublica’s reporting has shown that local jurisdictions often fail to properly recognize, investigate or prosecute hate crimes, and thus do not report them to the FBI.

    • The CIA’s House of Horrors: the Abominable Dr. Gottlieb

      The death (or possibly murder) of Frank Olson was but a hint of the enormous secret CIA program of research into techniques of mind alteration and control. The whole enterprise was assigned the code-name MK-ULTRA and was run out of the CIA’s Technical Services Division, headed in the 1950s by Willis Gibbons, a former executive of the US Rubber Company. In the division’s laboratories and workshops researchers labored on poisons, gadgets designed to maim and kill, techniques of torture and implements to carry such techniques to agonizing fruition. Here also were developed surveillance equipment and kindred tools of the espionage trade. All of these activities made the Technical Services Division a vital partner of the covert operations wing of the Agency.

      Within Technical Services MK-ULTRA projects came under the control of the Chemical Division, headed from 1951 to 1956 by Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, a New York Jew who received his doctorate in chemistry from California Tech. Born with a clubfoot and afflicted with a severe stammer, Gottlieb pushed himself with unremitting intensity. Despite his physical affliction he was an ardent square dancer and exponent of the polka, capering across many a dance floor and dragging visiting psychiatrists and chemists on terpsichorean trysts where appalling plans of mind control were ruminated amidst the blare of the bands.

    • U.S. Military And CIA Leaders May Be Investigated For War Crimes

      On November 3, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) informed the court’s Pre-Trial Chamber, ”[T]here is a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in connection with the armed conflict in Afghanistan.”

      In what Amnesty International’s Solomon Sacco called a “seminal moment for the ICC,” Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda asked the court for authorization to commence an investigation that would focus on US military and CIA leaders, as well as Taliban and Afghan officials.

      Bensouda wrote in a November 14, 2016, report that her preliminary examination revealed “a reasonable basis to believe” the “war crimes of torture and ill-treatment” had been committed “by US military forces deployed to Afghanistan and in secret detention facilities operated by the Central Intelligence Agency, principally in the 2003-2004 period, although allegedly continuing in some cases until 2014.”

      The chief prosecutor noted the alleged crimes by the CIA and US armed forces “were not the abuses of a few isolated individuals,” but rather were “part of approved interrogation techniques in an attempt to extract ‘actionable intelligence’ from detainees.” She added there was “reason to believe” that crimes were “committed in the furtherance of a policy or policies … which would support US objectives in the conflict of Afghanistan.”

    • A ‘Routine’ Stop Almost Ended My Career Before It Started

      BEING RANDOMLY STOPPED and questioned by the police is par for the course for black men in America. It’s an injustice so familiar that it barely registers as an injustice. That’s something I knew intellectually. Still, I was stunned when officers stopped me while walking on my law school campus back in the spring of 2011.

      From that stop and my subsequent complaint came a series of events that changed my life forever. That interaction led to the ruin of my reputation as a student and it almost ended my legal career before it started. Moreover, it confirmed for me, not just how unfairly people of color are treated by police, but the tremendous risk that comes with speaking up about that mistreatment.

      The law gives police officers incredible leeway when it comes to stops. Ever since Terry v. Ohio, the watershed 1968 Supreme Court case, officers have been permitted to stop and search anyone without probable cause, so long as the officer has a “reasonable suspicion” that the person is armed, or that he or she has committed, or is about to commit, a crime.

    • How (Not) to Cross the Street in Jacksonville

      Jacksonville, Florida, issues more tickets to pedestrians than all but five Florida counties. And it issues those tickets disproportionately to black pedestrians.

      The city’s population is 29 percent black, but black pedestrians received 55 percent of the pedestrian tickets issued from 2012 to July 2017. Looking at each type of ticket issued reveals even bigger disparities.

    • Infosec star accused of sexual assault booted from professional affiliations

      A well-known computer security researcher, Morgan Marquis-Boire, has been publicly accused of sexual assault.

      On Sunday, The Verge published a report saying that it had spoken with 10 women across North America and Marquis-Boire’s home country of New Zealand who say that they were assaulted by him in episodes going back years.

      A woman that The Verge gave the pseudonym “Lila,” provided The Verge with “both a chat log and a PGP signed and encrypted e-mail from Morgan Marquis-Boire. In the e-mail, he apologizes at great length for a terrible but unspecified wrong. And in the chat log, he explicitly confesses to raping and beating her in the hotel room in Toronto, and also confesses to raping multiple women in New Zealand and Australia.”

    • Exclusive: NYT White House correspondent Glenn Thrush’s history of bad judgment around young women journalists

      Sexual harassment claims against yet another powerful man in media inspired New York Times White House correspondent Glenn Thrush to post an impassioned note on his Facebook page in October, calling on his fellow journalists to stand by women entering the field.

      In the post, which linked to an article about the latest accusations against political journalist Mark Halperin, Thrush wrote, “Young people who come into a newsroom deserve to be taught our trade, given our support and enlisted in our calling — not betrayed by little men who believe they are bigger than the mission.”

      It was a noble statement — but some Washington journalists I spoke to say it rings hollow, given Thrush’s own behavior with young women in the industry.

      [...]

      The downfall of Hollywood titan Weinstein, has been a catalyst for a movement to stamp out workplace harassment, particularly the variety to pits powerful men against much-less-powerful women. They are facing consequences for their behavior like never before, including men in media. Halperin lost a coveted book deal. NPR news chief Michael Oreskes resigned. Leon Wieseltier lost funding for his new magazine. And Lockhart Steele, the editorial director of Vox Media, Vox’s parent company, was fired for misconduct.

      Thrush wasn’t my boss at Politico. He was a reporter and I was an editor. We were on different teams and hardly crossed each other’s paths. But he was an incredibly influential person in the newsroom and in political journalism, a world I was still trying to break into in a meaningful way at the time.

      It wasn’t that Thrush was offering young women a quid pro quo deal, such as sex in exchange for mentorship. Thrush, just by his stature, put women in a position of feeling they had to suck up and move on from an uncomfortable encounter.

    • Fascist salutes in Madrid mark anniversary of Spain’s dictator General Francisco Franco’s death

      Far-right supporters giving fascist salutes have held rallies to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Spain’s former dictator Generalissimo Francisco Franco, who died on 20 November 1975. Franco supporters gather every year to mark his death and that of José Antonio Primo de Rivera, founder of the nationalist Falange Española party, 42 years earlier. He was executed by the republican government on 20 November 1936, during the Spanish Civil War.

    • Libya: Enslaved Migrants Sold at Auction

      In Libya, human rights groups are accusing the government of looking the other way as migrants are sold at auction in a modern-day slave trade. New video obtained by CNN shows men at an unknown location in Libya auctioning off enslaved sub-Saharan African migrants. One grainy cell-phone video shows two enslaved men sold for 1,200 Libyan dinars—or about $800—as a man off-screen promises, “big strong boys for farm work”. The CNN investigation comes after the United Nations warned the EU over its support for Libya’s coast guard, as it turns back migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean and forces them into migrant camps, where they face “appalling” conditions.

    • Trump calls for Lynch suspension if anthem protest continues

      U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday said Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch should be suspended by the NFL if he continues to protest during the national anthem after Lynch sat during a rendition of the song before Sunday’s game in Mexico City.

  • Internet Policy/Net Neutrality

  • DRM/Antifeatures

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Copyrights

      • “The Commercial Usenet Stinks on All Sides,” Anti-Piracy Boss Says

        Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN has responded to last week’s Usenet related raids. The Hollywood-backed group describes Usenet as a refuge for pirates of all ilks, with uploaders, site owners and resellers working in tandem to facilitate copyright infringement. “It’s stinking on all sides,” Kuik says.

      • The Truth Behind the “Kodi Boxes Can Kill Their Owners” Headlines

        This week, tabloid headlines screamed that so-called “Kodi Boxes” are a threat not only to the entertainment industries, but also to life itself. Claiming that devices could kill their owners due to electrical safety standards failures, we took a look at the actual report. Forget just throwing set-top boxes in the trash, it looks like anything electrical without a brand name needs to be discarded immediately.

      • Danes Deploy ‘Disruption Machine’ to Curb Online Piracy

        Danish anti-piracy group RettighedsAlliancen is taking a scattered approach to combat piracy. The piracy ‘disruption machine,’ as they call it, distributes a list of hundreds of pirate sites to ISPs, ad-brokers, search engines, payment processors and other intermediaries, who all expected to take action in response. In the future, this could expand to social media sites and web browsers, the group envisions.

      • Kodi Addon Dev Says “Show of Force” Will Be Met With Defiance

        Cease-and-desist letters, hand-delivered this week to several Kodi developers by the world’s most powerful entertainment companies, were designed to intimidate. That’s the belief of an as-yet-untouched Kodi dev who informs TF that while many people in the scene are simple “one man bands”, most won’t be intimidated by these multi-billion dollar rivals.

“US Inventor” is a “Bucket of Deplorables” Not Worthy of Media Coverage

Posted in America, Patents at 5:39 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Paul Morinville sickened

Summary: Jan Wolfe of Reuters treats a fringe group called “US Inventor” as though it’s a conservative voice rather than a bunch of patent extremists pretending to be inventors

A VERY short while ago Jan Wolfe, who had been covering PTAB for a while, published this article about so-called ‘conservatives’ attacking PTAB. We wrote about it yesterday. These are not quite the classical Conservatives but anti-government groups that are also misogynist and racist — the uglier face of US politics that aligns with the anti-scientific party (GOP). "US Inventor" (covered here before) is mentioned by Wolfe, who is perhaps easily misled by the name of the group. These are the people who bully Michelle Lee and resort to terms like “drain the swamp”. They could only get less than a dozen people to gather for an illegal protest on USPTO premises, so why even pay attention to them?

From the article:

“It’s time for us to make patents great again,” Michael Caputo, an advisor to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, told those gathered. US Inventor, the group behind the protest Caputo now represents as a spokesman, is calling for the abolition of the U.S. Patent Trial and Appeal Board, an administrative tribunal run by the patent office that reviews the validity of patents.

The rallying cry marks an about-face for some conservatives, who broadly supported the board’s creation in 2011 as a way to rein in trial lawyers and “patent trolls,” who hold patents for the sole purpose of suing big companies for licensing fees.

“Things have really flipped when it comes to the conservative perspective on patents,” said Charles Duan, a lawyer with left-leaning consumer group Public Knowledge.

Much of the credit goes to activists who have convinced many conservatives that the real problem is not out-of-control litigation but how the tribunal designed to speed up resolving patent disputes favors big business over smaller rivals.

Public Knowledge is a reputable group that has existed for a long time. We don’t understand why Wolfe saw the need to give an impression of parity. To entertain “US Inventor” on patent matters is like entertaining the NRA on public safety matters. Better not done at all, in the name of quality control rather than censorship.

Team Battistelli’s Attacks on the EPO Boards of Appeal Predate the Illegal Sanctions Against a Judge

Posted in Europe, Law, Patents at 4:39 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A shocked Battistelli

Summary: A walk back along memory lane reveals that Battistelli has, all along, suppressed and marginalised DG3 members, in order to cement total control over the entire Organisation, not just the Office

LAST night we wrote about the EPO‘s latest attack on the boards, which have already been relegated to the ‘suburbs’ of Munich (Haar). It’s like Battistelli does not want these boards to exist, or wishes to overburden them to the point where they become useless for assurance of patent quality (prior art search and the like). He cannot legally knock them out of existence because of the EPC, but the EPC does not say anything about punishing them relentlessly, so Battistelli will probably get away with it. Now that his departure is almost imminent it’s ever more unlikely that he’ll lose his immunity and himself be subjected to disciplinary actions. 6 weeks from now he and Bergot will officially put the axe to long-term contracts. In other words, 6 months before he’s gone he’s totally destroying any prospects of the EPO ever recovering or salvaging the talent it once had.

Disturbing. To say the least.

We very much doubt the press will cover our findings regarding the Haar ‘party’, which is a sad display of irony if not black comedy. The press repeatedly ignores important stories and developments, as recently as weeks ago. Even comments on the matter might not get through. Here’s yesterday’s report of censorship in IP Kat (or maybe slow moderation by Bristows, or perhaps approval only after a complaint about it). “Censorship is never good,” the comment said. And yes, it’s about the boards. It often seems as though these matters cannot be brought up at IP Kat anymore, as people’s names cannot safely be mentioned (this limits useful debate). Truths are now “personal attacks”. To quote the comment at hand:

Why has my comment relating to recent case re entitlement of priority at the EPO not been accepted?

Is it because I mentioned the plea of a well known specialist about the fact that the EPO should only looking whether there is identity of invention?

I considered my comment as showing that the problem is not a specific one of British courts. No more, no less.

Censorship is never good.

We have meanwhile dug some archives and found the following letter from 3 years ago. We believe it demonstrates how, even before the ‘house ban’ of a judge (Battistelli broke the rules), the boards had come under attacks from Battistelli. This is for readers to judge:

DG3 nominees

Dear Mr Battistelli,

On 12.08.2014 you informed staff of your decision to reduce the “administrative tasks“ performed by the members of the Boards of Appeal and of the Enlarged Board of Appeal. The administrative tasks concerned are the participation in selection boards for procedures external to DG3 and in the work of other bodies under the Service Regulations. In practice, this decision heavily affects nominations in selection boards and in the Disciplinary Committee, where the staff representation used to rely on colleagues from DG3 to provide some independence in those procedures in the past.

As to the reasons, you referred to “possible consequences resulting from the discussion” on the interlocutory decision R 19/12 by the Enlarged Board of Appeal.

As we understand it, the Enlarged Board decided in decision R 19/12 that the obligation imposed on the Vice-President DG3 (VP3), when acting as a high-ranking officer directly under the President, to consider and support efficiency and productivity goals to be reached by the Office may conflict with his duty, when acting as a member of the Enlarged Board of Appeal, to review decisions of the Boards of Appeal as an independent judge and, in so-doing, to contribute to the development of the case law as regards the protection of the procedural rights of the parties. In other words, the Enlarged Board saw in decision R 19/12 a potential conflict of interest between VP3′s managerial and judicial responsibilities.

We do not see such a general potential conflict in the involvement of DG3 members in selection boards, in the Disciplinary Committee or in other bodies under the Service Regulations, essentially because DG3 members have no managerial responsibilities in other DGs.

We therefore respectfully ask to be informed why you consider decision R 19/12 to be relevant to their involvement in those tasks.

We further respectfully ask to be informed why you considered that the obligation to consult the General Consultative Committee in accordance with Article 38 ServRegs did not apply to your decision.

As we now know, this Disciplinary Committee became a farce around that time. Grant Philpott, a thin-skinned advocate of software patents with background in the British Army, was Chairman of the notorious Disciplinary Committee (which ILO deemed to be unsuitably composed months after its union-busting activities had ‘decapitated’ SUEPO).

Those who pretend that the boards were “asking for it” or deserved punishment engage in artistic revisionism of history. Battistelli never wanted them. He wanted to destroy them, having already destroyed several other auditory jobs.

11.19.17

PTAB is Safe, the Patent Extremists Just Try to Scandalise It Out of Sheer Desperation

Posted in America, Courtroom, Patents at 5:53 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Tyranny of the patent microcosm continues to slip away

Kim to patent zealots
Nice try, patent zealots, but patent quality matters more than your ‘protection’ money

Summary: The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA), which gave powers to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) through inter partes reviews (IPRs), has no imminent threats, not potent ones anyway

THE Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) is a subject we get to revisit every weekend. A lot is happening there. Technology companies like PTAB, whereas law firms are trying to destroy PTAB, which really says a lot about whose interests are served by improved patent quality.

A few days ago the patent trolls’ lobby expressed its interest in an old proposal for slicing USPTO. By “independent” USPTO they just mean a private USPTO, i.e. a for-profit monopoly whose goal would be to maximise profit, potentially by lowering patent quality (a la EPO).

Quoting IAM:

The USPTO is one of the few federal agencies that actually makes a profit from its operations, versus the majority of other US federal agencies which require taxpayer dollars to carry out their delegated functions. At present, the USPTO collects filing fees from applicants for patents and trademarks, as well as additional fees for many other services. These fees cover the USPTO’s operations, including the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) and the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). Historically, however, the federal government has diverted excess fees collected by the USPTO away from that office and into unrelated government programmes – some estimates put the figure at more than $1 billion diverted from the USPTO since the early 1990s alone. With the enactment of the America Invents Act in 2011, the Patent and Trademark Fee Reserve Fund was created to hold all patent and trademark fees collected by the USPTO, with all allocations from the reserve fund to be determined by Congress under the USPTO’s annual appropriation amount.

Things as they stand at the moment aren’t pleasing to those who became accustomed to a venue-shifting, litigant-friendly system (favouring plaintiffs with patents that lack merit). Loopholes are being closed, patent scope is being tightened, trolls are turned away, and thousands of patents are being formally invalidated by PTAB.

Recently, some patent extremists went to the USPTO to literally burn patents there. They also attacked — viciously and repeatedly — the Director of the USPTO until she resigned. How low will they sink? How poor-quality a bunch of patents are they striving to protect? A couple of days ago Ian McCarthy wrote about “consumer generated intellectual property” — a bizarre term which is 4 offensive words (and lies) in a row. Incredible what these people can come up with! Some of them actually want computer-generated patents to be examined and accepted by computer algorithms alone. Maybe they want billions if not trillions of patents, rendering the entire purpose (and manageability) of the Office moot. A patent system without restrictions on quality would be ignored; quantity should barely even be a parameter to strive for. At all!

PTAB’s job is, quite generally, to ensure patent quality is preserved if not improved. So who would oppose it? The answer is obvious: those whose patents are of no value (and know their patents lack any value). They don’t want any legal scrutiny. By avoiding actual litigation (initiated by themselves) they can dodge such scrutiny, but PTAB is different. Their patents are constantly under threat even if they initiate no legal action but only threaten vulnerable companies.

A Web site of patent extremists has just spoken to a firm favoured among patent trolls. It’s about bashing PTAB. That’s their goal. On another day that site showed that PTAB rules/procedures got altered, albeit only after repeated pressure. To quote:

The Patent Trial and Appeal Board has revised the “Standard Operating Procedure 9 (SOP9)” for cases remanded from the Federal Circuit, including requiring panels to meet with the PTAB chief, deputy chief or a delegate to discuss remanded cases

The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) has revised the “Standard Operating Procedure 9 (SOP9)” directed to procedures for cases remanded from the Federal Circuit.

That does not seem to have changed anything so substantial; patent extremists are trying hard to sabotage PTAB and help trolls with shoddy patents. Will they succeed? We doubt it. Have they made any progress? Not so far. PTAB is still going strong, but that should not be taken for granted.

United for Patent Reform wrote the other day some words from the pro-PTAB group, High Tech Inventors Alliance. Its head, John Thorne, told the panel: “For those who are not aware of what #IPR is, it’s an opportunity for @uspto to correct its own mistakes.”

Yes, exactly.

Nothing wrong with that, right?

If the USPTO does its job (examination) properly, PTAB will not be necessary.

Yesterday (yes, a Saturday!) Watchtroll went on another PTAB rant, stating the obvious in an attempt to demonise those who dispute validity of patents, e.g./notably PTAB. Alluding a lot to i4i vs Microsoft, Watchtroll said this:

Microsoft argued that the standard for proving a patent invalid should be by a preponderance of the evidence because the PTO did not consider the software in question when it issued the patent. According to Microsoft, the patent on which i4i relies is invalid because of prior art using the technology before the application was filed with the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). Microsoft questioned why the “clear and convincing evidence” standard should apply even for issues that the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) did consider. Furthermore, Microsoft argued that the “clear and convincing evidence” standard is an unjust creation of the Federal Circuit.

i4i Limited Partnership maintained that Microsoft had infringed on a patent i4i received in 1998, US Patent No. 5,787,449. This patent makes clear that i4i claimed a particular “method and system for querying a structured document stored in its native format in a database, where the structured document includes a plurality of nodes that form a hierarchical node tree…” While the language may appear inscrutable to a layman, essentially i4i maintained that the XML-editing features in Microsoft Word infringed on i4i’s patent. In response to Microsoft’s argument, i4i argued that it did not sell a product which served as prior art and that only the product’s source code could meet the “clear and convincing evidence” standard. Since the source code was no longer available, this was a convenient interpretation for i4i. In addition, i4i strongly argued that the Court should use the “clear and convincing evidence” standard instead of the “by a preponderance of the evidence” standard supported by Microsoft.

We wrote several dozens of posts about this case. For Watchtroll it’s just another cheap excuse to claim that when it comes to patents the “Burden is on the Challenger” (to quote the headline). This wasn’t the only Watchtroll attack on PTAB lately. Watchtroll also spoke to patent maximalists in an effort to tilt a sense of expectation in Oil States, basically bashing PTAB ahead of a Supreme Court decision that can determine its fate. Such is the nature of that lobbying site.

For those who rely on the Supreme Court to stop PTAB, forget about it… it won’t happen. We have already explained the whys many times before. Some have attempted other tricks/shams/scams for bypassing PTAB, but loopholes like these will be no more (pretty soon). As one legal blog put it the other day, “Legislation to Curtail Sovereign Immunity in IPR May Be On the Way” (as reported elsewhere as well). To quote the background and the latest outcome:

A Native American tribe’s recent deal to obtain several pharmaceutical patents and seek dismissal of pending IPRs on the basis of sovereign immunity has piqued the public’s interest in sovereign immunity to IPR. The same tribe also recently asserted several other patents against Microsoft and Amazon, and may assert sovereign immunity from IPR there too. Prompted by the tribe’s actions, a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on what Congress can and should do about it. Although much of the hearing focused on what many perceive as the problem of tribal sovereign immunity in IPR—not the use of sovereign immunity to IPR by state universities—many of the proposed reforms would also target state universities. Whether any of these reforms will be enacted remains to be seen, but there are reasons to doubt their constitutionality.

[...]

The hearing also explored whether statutory changes could be made to permit IPR to go forward without participation of sovereign patent owners that refuse to waive their immunity. The hearing offered few details about how such changes would be implemented, or whether, for example, such a proceeding would resemble ex parte reexamination—a proceeding already available to challengers. Further, the hearing did not address how such a proceeding would address the Supreme Court’s ruling that sovereign immunity bars an agency from adjudicating a private party’s complaint against a sovereign, even where participation by the sovereign is optional.[3]

This hearing suggested that some in Congress are interested in curtailing the use of sovereign immunity in IPR, but whether state universities will be targeted in ways that raise constitutional concerns remains unclear. While state immunity from IPR provides a privilege that private citizens do not enjoy, that is not new, as states enjoy immunity from numerous types of actions.[4] As the Supreme Court has explained, states’ unique constitutional role “sets them apart” for special treatment.[5] Thus, a one-size-fits-all reform to IPR that addresses the concerns of some about tribal sovereign immunity, but also seeks to limit states’ rights, may not be constitutionally possible.

The above spoke about ex parte reexamination — a subject also explored earlier this month in another legal blog.

Overall, what we are seeing here is a clear trend in favour of PTAB, which is growing each year and becoming more effective at tackling a broader range of patents, setting precedents in the process. Don’t expect PTAB to vanish any time soon. The “USPTO Finalizes Rule for Privileged Communications in Trials Before the PTAB,” said another blog earlier this month, showing that the USPTO too recognises the long-term operation of the board. To quote:

The Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (“AIA”) provided for trials before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (“PTAB”) of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) in inter partes reviews, post-grant reviews, the transitional program for covered business method patents, and derivation proceedings. While patent agents are registered to practice before the USPTO, they are not attorneys. Therefore, it has been unclear whether attorney-client privilege prevents discovery in PTAB proceedings of communications between these non-attorney agents and their clients. Addressing this ambiguity, the USPTO just issued a final rule for trial practice before the PTAB that explicitly protects communications between patent agents or foreign patent practitioners and their clients. The amended rule becomes effective December 7, 2017.

That’s just three weeks from now.

In an effort to perhaps find something negative, patent maximalists are now measuring rates of rather irrelevant things. Instead of measuring the number of IPRs or successful invalidation they look at number of “stays” (in the legal sense). “Overall success rates of motions to stay district court litigation pending review at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board have dropped noticeably in the past fiscal year,” it says.

Well, district court litigation is relatively low profile and the number or proportion of “stays” does not say anything so interesting. It’s almost irrelevant. It’s like the ‘other’ “IPR” (the propaganda term that is meant to mislead, which these same patent maximalists use in relation to India). The interesting figures show that PTAB activity is growing or is at least stable (after year-to-year growth for half a decade).

“The flood of bad patents fueled an explosion of wasteful litigation in the tech industry,” United for Patent Reform quoted the other day, “brought by patent trolls that exist for no reason other than to make money filing lawsuits. #IPR has been a step toward reining in that problem…”

It has been happening more and more over time. Demand for PTAB has grown.

As we noted last week, the USPTO succumbed to bullying/pressure from patent extremists and the patent trolls' lobby, at least judging by the fact that it made PTAB less affordable. The patent maximalists wrote about that a few days later. dubbing it a “72% IPR request fee change”. To quote:

The USPTO has released a final rule detailing fee increases to go into effect in January. The combined cost of an inter partes review request and institution at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board will go up to $30,500

See how they’re trying to make PTAB less accessible, especially for small and vulnerable companies? Not good. If they cannot stop PTAB using Native American tribes and Justices, then maybe they can just price PTAB out of reach. There’s also the STRONGER [sic] Patents Act, which is an abomination that is going nowhere (so far). Rachel Wolbers mentioned it the other day. “This radical piece of legislation would leave startups without any of the tools they currently have to protect themselves from patent trolls,” she said.

Here’s more:

The real reason clever patent trolls are moving their patents to Indian tribes is to avoid the USPTO’s Inter Partes Review process, which provides startups with a quick and effective way to invalidate bad patents. Weakening the IPR process would cause the most damage to America’s startup ecosystem and we should not upend the good work done by the USPTO to improve patent quality.

Another potential threat to the current patent system would be the “STRONGER Patents Act” introduced by Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) in June. The bill would completely gut the IPR system and would overturn decades of Supreme Court precedent on patents. This radical piece of legislation would leave startups without any of the tools they currently have to protect themselves from patent trolls. Furthermore, it would make investing in a technology startup much riskier, deterring investment in a sector of the economy that has been steadily growing for a decade.

IAM does a rather poor job hiding the fact that it’s a think tank for patent radicals and trolls. Watch who it gave a platform to (in its own event): “One of our keynote speakers was Senator Chris Coons, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the author of the STRONGER Patents Act and one of the relatively few US legislators who demonstrates a keen understanding of the importance of strong IP rights to an innovation economy. In an engaging speech he called for Congress to take action to strengthen patent rights in the US. Here’s a part of what he had to say:”

Where were the engineers? Totally absent from these stacked panels and lobbying events, as usual.

Various ‘Conservative’ sites have also been lying about the STRONGER [sic] Patents Act, by which they attempt to destroy patent reform. The National Center’s Jeff Stier came up with this misleading headline under a month ago and here is what Heartland wrote some days ago. Notice who wrote it: “Seton Motley is the president of Less Government, a DC-based non-profit organization dedicated to reducing the power of government and protecting the First Amendment from governmental assault.”

So they basically stand for reckless markets in which patent extortion would be ‘normalised’ and not subjected to government intervention.

Going back to IAM, watch what it wrote when PTAB was invoked and ITC then got involved:

Interestingly, the separator technology on the line in this case, which LG Chem calls Safety Reinforced Separator (SRS), has previously been an IP moneymaker for LG Chem. It was able to license the technology to UBE Maxell, a Japanese joint venture, back in 2014 (not before UBE Maxell tried and failed to IPR one of the patents now being asserted against Amperex).

LG Chem is not the only company seeking to license-out battery-related technology. UBE itself assigned two US patents for a “Cell electrode sheet with displaced electrode depolarizing mixes” to a Japanese licensing firm called Ryujin Patent & Licensing in 2014. One of them is now facing an IPR filed by Dell, HP, Asus and LG Chem, indicating the range of companies it may be approaching as potential licensees.

This is an example where PTAB impedes actions not just by patent trolls with software patents but also large companies which try to tax everything. This kind of case is the reason we see growing support for PTAB even from large technology companies. As Washington is generally dominated by those companies and their lobbyists, expect PTAB to remain in tact (albeit, perhaps, more accessible to large and wealthy corporations).

Update on the EPO’s Crackdown on the Boards of Appeal

Posted in Europe, Patents at 5:20 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A shocked Battistelli

Summary: Demand of 35% increases from the boards serves to show that Battistelli now does to the ‘independent’ judges what he already did to examiners at the Office

EARLIER this month we wrote about the Haar party which chairs refuse to attend. Team Battistelli had the ‘brilliant’ idea of inviting EPO chairs to actually celebrate Battistelli’s attack on the EPC. How tactless a move.

“So basically, Battistelli is now doing to the boards the same thing he did to examiners: working them to death.”“As far as I can tell,” one source tells us, “there are still only two takers for [the] meet up [and] In other news, Battistelli ‘junior’ is demanding 35% increases from the boards on the basis of “concentrating on essentials”.

Battistelli ‘junior’ is “[t]he independent other president. Holder of secret delegated powers.”

So basically, Battistelli is now doing to the boards the same thing he did to examiners: working them to death. Neither patent nor service quality can be assured this way.

“It often seems like Battistelli wants the EPO to have no staff anymore.”How independent and impartial they must feel…

This has gotten as ridiculous as it can get. But also predictable. It often seems like Battistelli wants the EPO to have no staff anymore. Maybe he wants everyone replaced by useless computer programs and fresh graduates with only enough knowledge to help operate these. Or maybe Battistelli wants to just outsource most of the work to yet another French company. Or some French court (UPC in Paris).

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