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Russia Expels 35 US Diplomats

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Fri, 30/12/2016 - 22:29
Russia Expels 35 US Diplomats
by Stephen Lendman
Responding to new US sanctions, Russia declared 35 US diplomats persona non grata, expelling them from the country once approved by Putin - the same number of Russian officials Obama ordered out of America for fraudulent reasons the previous day.
On Friday, Sergey Lavrov issued a statement, saying “(w)e, of course, cannot leave unanswered the insults of the kind, reciprocity is the law of diplomacy and foreign relations.”
“Thus, the Russian Foreign Ministry and officials of other authorities have presented to the Russian president suggestions regarding announcing persona non grata 31 personnel of the US Embassy in Moscow and four diplomats from the Consulate General in St. Petersburg.”
He’ll likely approve the move straightaway, along with a proposal to ban US diplomats from using two facilities in Moscow - a Serebryany Bor vacation house and a Dorozhnaya Street warehouse.
Explaining further, Lavrov added  “Obama accusing Russia of all mortal sins, trying to blame us for the failure of its foreign policy initiatives, among other things, has put forward additional accusations without any grounds whatsoever that the Russian state was behind attempts to meddle in the US election campaign, which led to the defeat of” Hillary Clinton.
“Yesterday, the US administration, without providing any facts or evidence announced a new wave of sanctions against the Russian Federation.”
“Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), some other Russian agencies and individuals were sanctioned. The sanctions also covered our diplomats. Thirty-five people working in Washington and San Francisco (31 in Washington and four in San Francisco) have to leave the US before the end of the day on January 1.”
Russian New York and Maryland compounds Obama ordered closed were used by Russian children during the winter holiday period.
“We are forbidden to use the property that is the state property of the Russian Federation,” Lavrov explained. 
“This is one dacha for the recreation of our staff members in Washington and the second dacha for the recreation of our staff members in the Russian mission to the UN.”
Lavrov blasted Obama for his deplorable actions, including absurdly calling Russian compounds used for recreation spy nests.
Moscow didn’t interfere in America’s election. Claims otherwise are disgraceful Big Lies. A days earlier Foreign Ministry statement accused Washington of supporting terrorists in Syria while punishing Russia for combating them.
Putin should declare Washington’s entire neocon infested diplomatic core persona non grata and expel the lot of them - awaiting to see how Trump intends operating.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Assad Hopes Conflict Resolution Possible When Trump Succeeds Obama

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Fri, 30/12/2016 - 22:06
Assad Hopes Conflict Resolution Possible When Trump Succeeds Obama
by Stephen Lendman
Throughout his deplorable tenure, Obama raped and destroyed one country after another - deploring peace, systematically rejecting it. Millions of casualties attest to his barbarity. He remains unaccountable for appalling high crimes.
Trump is untested. He’s yet to take office. It’s unknown what geopolitical course he’ll follow. Will he continue America’s longstanding imperial policy or go another way?
Will he be a warrior or peace president? Will his tenure be historic or disastrous? Will he do the right thing or continue the horrors of Obama, Bush/Cheney and the Clintons?
Humanity holds its breath to find out. Interviewed by Italy’s Canale 5, Assad expressed “cautious optimism” because it’s unknown what geopolitical way Trump will choose.
He’s hopeful for better Russia/US ties, saying “(g)ood relations between these two superpowers will benefit almost the entire world, including small states like Syria. In this regard, we can say that a solution for Syria is possible.”
Defeating terrorism remains the task at hand, supported by Obama and his rogue allies. “If you want to solve the problem of (modern) terrorism, you need to destroy its core, the (Saudi-based) ideology of Wahhabism,” he stressed.
In a separate Italian Il Giornale broadsheet statement, he blamed Western and rogue regional states for supporting terrorism. Halting its threat requires ceasing what they currently back, he stressed.
On December 29, Assad met with European Parliament and Russian upper house Federation Council MPs - in Damascus to show support for the Syrian people, congratulate them for liberating Aleppo, and stress their rejection of foreign interference in Syrian affairs.
Assad said their visit showed Syria, Russia and European countries have common interests. If EU ones want conflict resolution, it’s crucial they stop backing terrorists and rescind illegal sanctions, mostly harming ordinary Syrians.
It’s vital they support the right of the Syrian people to resolve their own internal issues, free from foreign interference, Assad stressed.
Russia and Iran are valued allies. It’s time for America and the West to get on board for peace, renouncing war, allying to eliminate the region’s terrorist threat by no longer supporting it.
That’ll be Trump’s challenge once  in office. Will he prove up to it or be just another dirty politician?
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Fighting for Fair Use and Safer Harbors: 2016 in Review

eff.org - Fri, 30/12/2016 - 11:29

In 2016 we witnessed the latest stretch in an ongoing struggle over the shape of copyright law and who it serves - between a law that respects and promotes innovation and free expression, and one that only serves the interests of large copyright holders. This year we welcomed a run of victories for fair use and Internet safe harbors, while looking toward some important battles yet to come. 

The fight for fair use heads to the Supreme Court in Lenz v. Universal 

After 9 years of battling it out in the lower courts, Stephanie Lenz, represented by EFF, has taken her fight for Internet fair use to the United States Supreme Court. In August, Lenz filed a petition asking the Court to overturn a part of the 2015 ruling from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that undermines the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s safeguards for users.

In 2007, Lenz first filed the “Dancing Baby” lawsuit after her YouTube video was taken down as the result of a bogus copyright infringement notice from Universal Music. Lenz’s video was a 29 second recording of her toddler dancing in her kitchen while Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” played, barely audible, in the background. Lenz argued that Universal’s takedown notice was precisely the kind of abuse that the DMCA’s safeguards are designed to prevent.

In 2015, the Ninth Circuit issued an important decision holding that copyright holders must consider whether alleged infringement is a fair use before sending a takedown notice. But the court also applied an entirely subjective standard that, we fear, will be read to allow rights holders to target content “based on nothing more than an unreasonable hunch, or subjective criteria they simply made up[.]” We don’t think this is what Congress intended, and Lenz has asked the Supreme Court to protect users’ fair use rights and overrule this part of the decision.

Supreme Court declines to overturn fair use ruling in Google Books case 

In April, the Supreme Court rejected the Authors’ Guild’s request to review the Second Circuit’s landmark fair use ruling in the Google Books litigation.  By declining to hear the appeal, the Supreme Court left in place a significant victory for fair use and brought an end to over a decade of litigation.

The Second Circuit found the Google Books project to be a highly transformative fair use of the authors’ copyrighted works, providing the public information to which they would not otherwise have access. The court’s opinion also affirmed that copyright law’s main purpose is to serve the public by facilitating access to knowledge and creative works, stating “[t]he ultimate goal of copyright is to expand public knowledge and understanding. . . Thus, while authors are undoubtedly important intended beneficiaries of copyright, the ultimate, primary intended beneficiary is the public, whose access to knowledge copyright seeks to advance by providing rewards for authorship.” 

Federal Jury finds Google’s use of Java APIs fair use in Oracle v. Google

In May, a federal jury unanimously agreed that Google’s use of Java APIs in the Android operating system was a fair use. Following on the heels of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit’s disappointing and dangerous decision that APIs are copyrightable, the fair use verdict ensures some degree of protection against copyright creep for software innovation and interoperability. But, as we’ve said before, it would be far better if the Federal Circuit had recognized that APIs are a system or method of operation and therefore not eligible for copyright protection. 

Oracle is appealing the decision to the Federal Circuit, and we’re hoping that, this time, the court makes the right call and upholds the jury’s verdict.

Appeals court affirms Vimeo has no obligation to monitor or investigate user uploads

This June, responding to one of several recent attacks on the DMCA’s safe harbors for Internet intermediaries, the Second Circuit ruled that online video site Vimeo had no obligation to investigate or monitor its users’ uploads for copyright infringement.

Recording company Capitol Records sued Vimeo back in 2014, arguing that the DMCA’s safe harbors did not cover pre-1972 sound recordings (which aren’t covered under federal copyright law) and that even if the safe harbors did apply, Vimeo should lose its protection for failing to investigate potentially infringing uploads. The Second Circuit roundly rejected Capitol Records’ arguments, finding that the safe harbors did apply, and that Vimeo had no duty to monitor user uploads for infringement. In so doing, the Second Circuit handed a significant win to users and online platforms in the ongoing battle over the scope of the safe harbors.

If the decision had come out the other way, it would have been disastrous for competition and free expression online. An obligation that platforms monitor all user-generated content would impose a substantial economic burden on small and non-commercial platforms and would almost certainly lead to overzealous filtering and restriction of users’ activities online.

Appeals court gives music sampling some room to breathe in VMG Salsoul v. Ciccone

The Ninth Circuit’s holding in VMG Salsoul v. Ciccone that copyright law’s “de minimis” doctrine does in fact apply to music sampling was a long overdue departure from the Sixth Circuit’s 2005 Bridgeport Music decision. In Bridgeport, the Sixth Circuit foreclosed application of the doctrine to sound recordings, making music sampling a risky and expensive enterprise. This year the Ninth Circuit gave music sampling back some much needed breathing room in holding that Madonna’s use of a .23 second sample of a Salsoul Orchestra song was “de minimis” and therefore not infringing.

But 2016 wasn’t all victories for users. In BMG v. Cox Communications, for example, a judge in the Eastern District of Virginia held that an Internet service provider (ISP) might have to cut off someone’s Internet access on the basis of mere allegations of infringement, or else lose the legal protections that ensure ISPs can’t be held liable for infringement by their customers.  EFF, along with Public Knowledge and the Center for Democracy and Technology, filed a brief in support of Cox’s ongoing appeal, asking the Fourth Circuit to consider the importance of Internet access in daily life in determining when copyright law requires an ISP to cut off someone’s connection.

We’re glad to see that some courts are pushing back against copyright holders’ demands to shape the law to serve their own interests. In 2017 we’ll continue the fight to ensure that copyright law works for all of us.

This article is part of our Year In Review series. Read other articles about the fight for digital rights in 2016.

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Related Cases: Oracle v. GoogleLenz v. UniversalCapitol v. VimeoAuthors Guild v. Google, Part II: Fair Use Proceedings
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Secure Messaging Takes Some Steps Forward, Some Steps Back: 2016 In Review

eff.org - Fri, 30/12/2016 - 10:10

This year has been full of developments in messaging platforms that employ encryption to protect users. 2016 saw an increase in the level of security for some major messaging services, bringing end-to-end encryption to over a billion people. Unfortunately, we’ve also seen major platforms making poor decisions for users and potentially undermining the strong cryptography built into their apps.

WhatsApp makes big improvements, but concerning privacy changes

In late March, the Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp introduced end-to-end encryption for its over 1 billion monthly active users.  The enormous significance of rolling out strong encryption to such a large user-base was combined with the fact that underlying Whatsapp’s new feature was the Signal Protocol, a well-regarded and independently reviewed encryption protocol. WhatsApp was not only protecting users’ chats, but also doing so with one of the best end-to-end encrypted messaging protocols out there. At the time, we praised WhatsApp and created a guide for both iOS and Android on how you could protect your communications using it.

In August, however, we were alarmed to see WhatsApp establish data-sharing practices that signaled a shift in its attitude toward user privacy. In its first privacy policy change since 2012, WhatsApp laid the groundwork for expanded data-sharing with its parent company, Facebook. This change allows Facebook access to several pieces of users’ WhatsApp information, including WhatsApp phone number, contact list, and usage data (e.g. when a user last used WhatsApp, what device it was used it on, and what OS it was run on). This new data-sharing compounded our previous concerns about some of WhatsApp’s non-privacy-friendly default settings.

Signal takes steps forward

Meanwhile, the well-regarded end-to-end encryption app Signal, for which the Signal Protocol was created, has grown its user-base and introduced new features.  Available for iOS and Android (as well as desktop if you have either of the previous two), Signal recently introduced disappearing messages to its platform.  With this, users can be assured that after a chosen amount of time, messages will be deleted from both their own and their contact’s devices.

Signal also recently changed the way users verify their communications, introducing the concept of “safety numbers” to authenticate conversations and verify the long-lived keys of contacts in a more streamlined way.

Mixed-mode messaging

2016  reminded us that it’s not as black-and-white as secure messaging apps vs. not-secure ones. This year we saw several existing players in the messaging space add end-to-end encrypted options to their platforms. Facebook Messenger added “secret” messaging, and Google released Allo Messenger with “incognito” mode. These end-to-end encrypted options co-exist on the apps with a default option that is only encrypted in transit.

Unfortunately, this “mixed mode” design may do more harm than good by teaching users the wrong lessons about encryption. Branding end-to-end encryption as “secret,” “incognito,” or “private” may encourage users to use end-to-end encryption only when they are doing something shady or embarrassing. And if end-to-end encryption is a feature that you only use when you want to hide or protect something, then the simple act of using it functions as a red flag for valuable, sensitive information. Instead, encryption should be an automatic, straightforward, easy-to-use status quo to protect all communications.

Further, mixing end-to-end encrypted modes with less sensitive defaults has been demonstrated to result in users making mistakes and inadvertently sending sensitive messages without end-to-end encryption.

In contrast, the end-to-end encrypted “letter sealing” that LINE expanded this year is enabled by default. Since first introducing it for 1-on-1 chats in 2015, LINE has made end-to-end encryption the default and progressively expanded the feature to group chats and 1-on-1 calls. Users can still send messages on LINE without end-to-end encryption by changing security settings, but the company recommends leaving the default “letter sealing” enabled at all times. This kind of default design makes it easier for users to communicate with encryption from the get-go, and much more difficult for them to make dangerous mistakes.

The dangers of unsecure messaging

In stark contrast to the above-mentioned secure messaging apps, a November report from Citizen Lab exposes China’s WeChat messenger’s practice of performing selective censorship on its over 806 million monthly active users.  When a user registers with a Chinese phone number, WeChat will censor content critical of the regime no matter where that user is. The censorship effectively “follows them around,” even if the user switches to an international phone number or leaves China to travel abroad. Effectively, WeChat users may be under the control of China’s censorship regime no matter where they go.

Compared to the secure messaging practices EFF advocates for, WeChat represents the other end of the messaging spectrum, employing algorithms to control and limit access rather than using privacy-enhancing technologies to allow communication. This is an urgent reminder of how users can be put in danger when their communications are available to platform providers and governments, and why it is so important to continue promoting privacy-enhancing technologies and secure messaging.

This article is part of our Year In Review series. Read other articles about the fight for digital rights in 2016.

 

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Most Young Gig Economy Companies Way Behind On Protecting User Data: 2016 In Review

eff.org - Fri, 30/12/2016 - 07:10

"Sharing" or "gig economy" companies like Uber and Airbnb continued to grow in 2016, meaning their data protection and privacy practices came into sharp focus as millions of Americans turned to these young companies for everything from rides to the airport to renting an apartment instead of a hotel room.

Customers are entrusting these companies—including others like Lyft, TaskRabbit, and Instacart—with enormous amounts of sensitive information about their habits and lives. To access the services offered, or to offer services via company apps, individuals are disclosing data about where they live and shop, what they buy, where they sleep, and where they travel.

In 2016, we published our annual Who Has Your Back report, which took a close look at policies and practices of gig economy companies and found much to be desired. On the whole, gig economy companies haven’t caught up with the rest of the tech industry in safeguarding user data against unwarranted government access demands. When the government comes knocking, most gig economy companies—whether home rental services, car sharing, or on-demand labor—aren’t promising to stand by their users.

Half of the companies we reviewed didn’t require a warrant before turning over customer data to law enforcement. Most of the companies we reviewed haven’t issued transparency reports providing information about the number of government data requests they get. There were some exceptions. Uber and Lyft earned our highest marks for best practices in transparency over their handling of user data.

But in December, Uber made a change in its iPhone app that undermined user privacy. The company removed an option to limit location tracking of its customers to “While Using,” a privacy setting in the iOS that provides users control of when their information is shared with the app. When you need a ride and open the Uber app, you are asked for location data and given the option of providing this “Always” or “Never.” The company took away the option of providing location data only while using the app. Choosing “Always” enables Uber to track your location for five minutes after you leave the vehicle. Sorry, but that’s just creepy and unnecessary. We’ve asked Uber to restore the “While Using” choice.

Unfortunately the Uber location tracking change is part of a disturbing trend among software makers that we saw continue in 2016 to take away, or at least limit, the ability of users to opt out of functionality that automatically gobbles up your personal information—such as location data and browsing history.

Two other examples stand out in the past year. Microsoft has aggressively pushed its Windows 10 upgrade on customers, using tactics that went from annoying to downright malicious. If that’s not troubling enough, consumers who upgrade find that once installed, Windows 10 sends an unprecedented amount of usage data back to Microsoft, particularly if users opt in to “personalize” the software using the OS assistant called Cortana. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of data sent back: location data, text input, voice input, touch input, webpages you visit, and telemetry data regarding your general usage of your computer, including which programs you run and for how long. Unless you’re an enterprise user, no matter what, you have to share at least some of this telemetry data with Microsoft and there’s no way to opt-out of it.

The second example involves the note-taking app Evernote. The company adopted a new privacy policy in December that allows some employees to read user content for the sake of improving its machine learning technology. Want to avoid the company’s prying eyes? Apparently there’s no clear way to do so if you want to continue using the service.

As our review shows, it is incumbent upon users to be mindful of what and how much information they give up in order to participate in the digital marketplace and to vote with their feet to platforms that do a better job of protecting user privacy.

 

This article is part of our Year In Review series. Read other articles about the fight for digital rights in 2016.  

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Putin Announces Ceasefire in Syria

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Fri, 30/12/2016 - 04:07
Putin Announces Ceasefire in Syria
by Stephen Lendman
Designated terrorist groups are excluded. Combating them continues until Syria is free from their scourge. 
On December 29, Vladimir Putin said “(r)eports have just arrived that several hours ago there was a development that we all have looked and worked for for so long.”
“Three documents have been signed. A ceasefire between the Syrian government and the armed opposition is the one. A package of measures to control the ceasefire is the other. There is also a declaration of readiness to enter peace talks on Syrian conflict settlement.”
“No doubt, the agreements reached are fragile and demand special attention and assistance with the goal of preservation and development.” 
“But nevertheless, this is a notable result of our joint work, efforts of the Defense Ministry, the Foreign Ministry and our partners in the regions.”
“They did a very great job jointly with partners from Turkey. We know that most recently a trilateral meeting of foreign ministers of Russia, Turkey and Iran was held in Moscow where the three countries undertook commitments both on control and guarantees of peaceful settlement in the Syrian Republic.”
“As we understand very well, all the agreements reached are very fragile, they demand special attention and patience, a professional approach to these issues and a constant contact with our partners.”
A trilateral Russia, Iran, Turkey alliance for peace is the most hopeful possible conflict resolution sign since Obama launched naked aggression in March 2011.
As long as he remains in office, it’s unattainable. Trump citing trillions of dollars wasted on endless wars, creating a Middle East “mess,” perhaps indicates he’s willing to cooperate with the trilateral partners in restoring peace to war-torn Syria.
He called Obama’s regime change policy a failure, opposes supporting Middle East terrorists, vowed to combat them cooperatively with Russia - a good thing, to coin his phrase, if he follows through responsibly.
Liberating Aleppo was a major turning point toward ending conflict altogether, though it won’t  come easily or quickly - if US-led NATO’s not on board, not at all for the foreseeable future.
According to Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, ceasefire is supported by over 60,000 fighters from opposition groups - ISIS, al-Nusra and other designated terrorist ones excluded.
If cessation of hostilities holds in various parts of the country, Russia intends scaling back its aerial operations, Shoigu added.
Russian, Iranian and Turkish foreign ministers will meet in Astana, Kazakhstan ahead of peace talks, hopefully able to succeed this time.
According to Sergey Lavrov, a draft Security Council resolution is being prepared, affirming the ceasefire agreement. “We will inform (SC) members of the work we have done and answer their questions,” he explained.
Russia, Turkey and Iran will act as ceasefire guarantors - scheduled to begin at midnight local time on December 30.
It’ll take time to see if it’s working after many previous failed attempts, along with near-certain US efforts to obstruct things during Obama’s final days in office, complicit with his rogue allies.
Putin’s announcement is good news. Russia remains committed to achieve cessation of hostilities and conflict resolution.
If Erdogan is on board, a big if, and if Trump intends war on terrorism cooperatively with Russia, abandoning Washington’s regime change agenda, the biggest if, all things positive are possible.
Sergey Lavrov expressed hope that “after the Donald Trump administration takes office, it will also be able to join these efforts.” What a refreshing change if things turn out this way.
Still, with neocon lunatics infesting Washington and other key NATO capitals, plans with good intentions can be torn asunder, reversing hard-won gains to square one.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Palestinian MK Stripped of Immunity to Prosecute Him Unjustly

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Fri, 30/12/2016 - 03:53

Palestinian MK Stripped of Immunity to Prosecute Him Unjustly
by Stephen Lendman
Longstanding ruthless Israeli treatment of Palestinians for not being Jews shows why granting them self-determination is vital - freeing them from occupation harshness.
On Wednesday, extremist Knesset members stripped Joint (Arab) List MK Basel Ghattas of parliamentary immunity, breaching Israel’s 1951 Members Immunity, Rights and Duties Law, letting them perform their duties without fear of legal actions.
MKs won’t face criminal or civil responsibility for any act performed while doing their jobs - unless extremist parliamentarians change the rules to target one of their members irresponsibly.
Ghattas was arrested uncharged on allegations of smuggling cell phones, SIM cards and documents to two political prisoners unjustly accused of terrorism - a common charge, targeting legitimate resistance against Israeli viciousness.
“There is no doubt that this extreme step, its timing and character, match the populist sound waves of House Committee members,” said Ghattas.
“It raises heavy suspicions of bias in the Attorney General’s judgment while making the decision to submit the request, even though I came forward for questioning and answered all the investigators’ questions after I announced clearly that I will cooperate with any legal investigative act necessary at any time.”
On December 18, he visited Ketziot prison, met with prisoners Walid Daka and Bassel Basra, denied giving them cell phones and other equipment, explained envelopes he handed them contained political material only.
Palestinian MKs are prime targets for persecution. They’re powerless as Knesset members, little more than potted plants in a body dominated by extremist Jewish lawmakers.
Israeli Attorney General Avihai Mandelblit’s comments showed what Ghattas is up against, saying “there is a solid and strong basis of evidence against him of committing crimes of bringing equipment into a prison...to harm national security or aid a terrorist organization.”
“Immunity does not protect (MKs) if they commit crimes that are not connected to their public mission as an elected, representative MK.”
Following harsh detention in police custody for six days, he was judicially sentenced to 10 days under house arrest, pending further disposition of his case.
He’s allowed to participate in Knesset votes only if heavily guarded. A statement released on his behalf at the time of his arrest called it “vengeful and arbitrary…because police, Netanyahu and (public security) minister Erdan want a photo of an Arab MK in handcuffs.”
“The arrest is a political move and is not necessary to the investigation. Fairness obligates to treat an Arab public representative just like a Jewish one, and that is not the situation here.”
According to the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, around 7,000 Palestinians languish under horrific conditions as political prisoners in Israel’s gulag.
Included are 720 uncharged and untried administrative detainees, 400 children and 64 women.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Kerry's Israel/Palestine Vision

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Thu, 29/12/2016 - 23:24
Kerry’s Israel/Palestine Vision
by Stephen Lendman
Kerry’s vision for Israeli/Palestinian peace was too little, too late to matter after eight years of one-sided Obama administration support for the Jewish state. 
His remarks included something old and something new - too much of the former, too little of the latter, lip service only, not an honest, equitable way to resolve longstanding conflict. 
America under Obama’s leadership and all previous US presidents failed to do what’s most important - grant official recognition to Palestinian statehood within pre-June 1967 borders, East Jerusalem as its capital, and its diaspora population having the right of return.
Kerry’s address was a meaningless 11th hour gambit after eight Obama years of futility, accomplishing nothing toward resolving decades of Israeli/Palestinian conflict - rhetoric with no policy initiatives backing it. Talk without action is hollow.
Obama entered office two days after Israel’s Cast Lead slaughter ended. He partnered in Israel’s 2012 Pillar of Cloud and 2014 Protective Edge aggression. He endorsed Israeli state terror against defenseless Palestinians, blaming them for its high crimes.
He did nothing to advance an equitable and just peace, nothing supporting Palestinian self-determination based on pre-June 1967 borders, nothing denouncing merciless occupation harshness, nothing recognizing the right of oppressed people to resist Israeli tyranny, nothing holding the Jewish state accountable for decades of Nuremberg-level high crimes.
Claiming a “two-state solution is the only way to achieve a just an lasting peace between the Israelis and Palestinians” reflects long ago outdated thinking - unattainable today with Israel controlling over 60% of West Bank land, its most valued areas, while claiming Jerusalem as its exclusive capital and maintaining Gaza’s blockade, solely for political reasons, not security ones.
One state for all its people is the only equitable and feasible way forward today. Nothing else can work. Nor can anything without international community punitive action against Israel for failing to treat Arabs and Jews equally.
Rule by occupation, colonization, apartheid and state terror assures endless conflict. Enforcing international law with teeth is the only way to change things. Peace talks are futile, stillborn each time announced, the greatest hoax in modern times.
They’re an insult with one side holding supreme power, the other having none at all, along with Israeli-collaborative PA governance betraying its own people.
The only language Israel understands is force. It’s time to exert it politically, economically and financially. Occupation harshness has no legitimacy. Palestinian self-determination is fundamental - free from Israel’s iron-fisted rule. 
Arab rights are as sacrosanct as Jewish ones. Peace is unattainable without treating everyone in Palestine and Israel equitably.
Kerry’s address was a worthless exercise a few weeks ahead of Trump succeeding Obama, perhaps intending to be more pro-Israeli than his predecessors.
Yesterday he tweeted “(s)tay strong Israel, January 20th is fast approaching,” signaling whatever Obama and Kerry say or do in their waning days won’t matter. 
Things will change when he enters office - maybe for the worst, Israeli interests served exclusively at the expense of what Palestinians deserve.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Reactions to Kerry's Israel/Palestine Speech

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Thu, 29/12/2016 - 23:08
Reactions to Kerry’s Israel/Palestine Speech
by Stephen Lendman
It was too little, too late after eight years of one-sided Obama support for Israel. Kerry offered dishonest lip service alone for long-suffering Palestinians, achieving nothing toward resolving decades of conflict.
Coming in the waning days of Obama’s tenure, his address was meaningless. America’s policy toward Israel remains unchanged, likely hardening under Trump, Palestinian rights ignored entirely.
Netanyahu reacted as expected, calling Kerry “biased,” his speech a “great disappointment.” His office issued a statement, saying “(j)ust like the resolution that John Kerry advanced at the United Nations, the speech he delivered was biased against Israel.”
“For more than an hour Kerry dealt obsessively with the settlements and almost did not touch on the source of the conflict  - Palestinian opposition to the existence of a Jewish state with any borders.”
Fact: Israel consistently blames others for its own wrongdoing, its high crimes threatening regional and world peace.
On national television, Netanyahu ranted, saying “(t)his is what the secretary of state has to focus on in one of his final speeches, for an entire hour.” 
“The entire Middle East is in flames. Entire countries are collapsing. Terrorism is rampant, and for an entire hour the secretary of state attacks the only democracy in the Middle East maintaining stability, not only for our Jewish and Arab citizens but also contributes to stability in our region.”
“Maybe Kerry hasn't noticed that Israel is the only place in the Middle East where Christmas can be celebrated safely and peacefully. This unfortunately doesn't interest the US Secretary of State.”
What utter rubbish, truth turned on its head, Netanyahu’s arrogance and duplicity clear to see - a thuggish rogue state head, an embarrassment to legitimate governance.
Extremist education minister Naftali Bennett shamelessly said “we will not establish another terrorist state in the heart of (Israel).”
According to Joint (Arab) List MK Ahmad Tibi, Kerry’s speech “will not leave (its) mark in history if the administration does not (officially) recognize” Palestinian statehood before Obama leaves office.
Trump absurdly claimed Israel is treated “very, very unfairly,” adding he’s “very, very strong on Israel,” stopping short of stating a position on continued Israeli settlement expansions.
Separately, he tweeted “(w)e cannot continue to let Israel be treated with such total disdain and disrespect. They used to have a great friend in the US…”
AIPAC blasted Kerry’s speech, calling it “a failed attempt to defend the indefensible,” adding:
He “placed overwhelming, disproportionate blame for the failure to advance peace on our ally, Israel, while neglecting numerous Israeli peace offers and Palestinian refusal to resume direct talks.”
Fact: Israel rejects peaceful conflict resolution, Palestinian statehood and affording Arabs the same rights as Jews.
Fact: Its longstanding slow-motion genocide policy calls for maximum land with minimum Arabs - furthered by state-sponsored terror.
Reactions from Congress were mixed. Republicans reacted harshly. House Speaker Paul Ryan said after allowing Res. 2334 to pass, affirming the illegality of Israeli settlements, “Kerry has no credibility on Israeli-Palestinian peace.”
Other Republicans accused him of “abandon(ing) Israel,” delivering a “pointless tirade,” a “delusional” effort, a “path to pain,” not peace, a “charade,” a “disastrous (exercise showing) willful ignorance,” embarrassing Israel while looking forward to change once Trump assumes power.
Democrats were largely disappointed, tempering their criticism of Kerry while affirming their support for Israel - ignoring its apartheid ruthlessness.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Netanyahu to Be Investigated for Bribery and Fraud

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Thu, 29/12/2016 - 22:55
Netanyahu to Be Investigated for Bribery and Fraud
by Stephen Lendman
Last June, Israeli police quietly began examining allegations of Netanyahu accepting about $1.1 million from accused French fraudster Arnaud Mimran in 2009.
His case in France was called the “heist of the century.” Netanyahu’s office denied receiving illegal donations, accusing Mimran of distracting attention from his own case.
Netanyahu’s wife Sara faced possible charges of using public funds for personal use. Rejecting police chief Roni Alsheich’s recommendation, Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit declined to press charges while continuing to probe her activities.
Separately, Jerusalem’s Labor Court found her guilty of subjecting former employee Guy Eliyahu to humiliating treatment. Judge Dita Pruginin fined her around $30,000 in damages.
Following months of police inquiry into undisclosed Netanyahu financial activities, Attorney General Mandelblit approved opening a formal criminal investigation into alleged bribery and fraud.
Netanyahu’s spokesman responded, saying “(s)ince (his) victory in the last elections and even before, hostile elements have made heroic efforts to attempt to bring about [Netanyahu’s] downfall, with false accusations against him and his family.” 
“This (latest attempt) is absolutely false. There was nothing and there will be nothing.”
Last year, Israeli State Comptroller Joseph Shapira reported evidence of significant Netanyahu financial improprieties, saying a criminal investigation is warranted.
Shapira indicated his expenditures for two personal residence in Jerusalem and Caesarea were excessive and improper without integrity or transparency. Large sums were involved.
He used government funds for various personal expenses, including food, hospitality, cleaning, maintenance, electrical work, makeup, hairstyling and personal travel. Shapira barely stopped short of calling him a thief.
He spent hundreds of thousands of shekels on food alone, even though his official residence employed a chef.
His office employees at times were forced to pay for his personal expenses - without reimbursement, Shapira saying:
“When a PMO employee is forced to pay from his own pocket for an expenditure by the prime minister, this is improper administration, and it makes no difference whether the sum is large or small.”
He spent $20,000 on his weekend residence for water alone, another $2,500 for ice cream, over $100,000 to install a bed in his plane for a five-hour flight.
His budgeted expenses “were made without a process that analyzed needs of determined estimated” amounts needed, Shapira explained.
“This did not meet a single criteria for the rules of proper management, and hurt the ability to carry out proper auditing and oversight.”
An Israeli Justice Ministry spokeswoman said an inquiry into Netanyahu’s financial affairs remains ongoing. It’s “neither confirmation nor denial of what has been alleged.”
“The attorney-general, the police and prosecutors are working in close cooperation and a public announcement will be made in due course about the investigation.”
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

WSJ Rage Over Kerry's Israel/Palestine Speech

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Thu, 29/12/2016 - 22:40
WSJ Rage Over Kerry’s Israel/Palestine Speech
by Stephen Lendman
WSJ editorials and opinion columns diverge greatly from its news coverage, the former largely reflecting owner Rupert Murdoch’s corrosive effect on legitimate journalism.
Responding to Kerry’s Wednesday speech, its editors headlined “Kerry’s Rage Against Israel,” calling it a “verbal assault (divorced from) reality (in Israel) he shows no evidence of comprehending.”
Fact: Longstanding brutal occupation harshness reflects “reality” in Palestine, along with Israeli Arab citizens denied rights afforded solely to Jews.
WSJ: Kerry made “Israeli-Palestinian peace a major goal of his tenure,” blaming its failure on Palestinians, at the same time disgracefully calling Hamas a “terrorist group sworn to Israel’s destruction,” responsible for “start(ing) wars with Israel.”
Fact: Washington’s idea of peaceful conflict resolution is unconditional Palestinian surrender to Israeli demands, leaving millions terrorized under brutal occupation harshness in perpetuity - their land stolen, their fundamental rights denied.
Fact: Israel waged three preemptive wars of aggression on Gaza since December 2008 - Palestinian victims blamed for its high crimes.
WSJ: “In 2000 then-President Bill Clinton brought Israeli and Palestinian leaders to Camp David to negotiate a final peace agreement, only to watch Palestinians walk away from an offer that would have granted them a state on nearly all of Gaza and the West Bank. That failure was followed by another Palestinian terror campaign.”
Fact: In July 2000, Clinton hosted Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat. Barak insisted Arafat sign a “final agreement” and declare an “end of conflict.” 
Agreeing would have renounced any legal claim to Palestine land. Nothing was put in writing. No documents or maps were presented. 
Barak wanted Palestinian land divided into four isolated bantustans, surrounded by expanding settlements and other Israeli controlled territory. 
He offered terms no responsible leader would accept, demanding unconditional surrender to Israel’s ultimatum. Arafat refused and was unfairly blamed. 
It likely led to his November 2004 death, murdered by Ariel Sharon to install a subservient Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas anointed in May 2005.
WSJ: Israeli leaders “made repeated peace overtures to the Palestinians only to be met with violence and rejection.”
Fact: Throughout its sordid history, Israel rejected peaceful conflict resolution, demanding Palestinian subservience to its interests - brutalizing an entire population into submission in flagrant violation of core international laws.
WSJ: “…Jewish settlements are not the main obstacle to peace. If they were, Gaza would be on its way to becoming the Costa Rica of the Mediterranean. The obstacle is Palestinian rejection of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state in any borders.”
Fact: Utter rubbish! Palestinians have been brutalized viciously for nearly seven decades. Israel blockaded Gaza for political, not security reasons, suffocating its two million residents, creating a humanitarian disaster, turning the Strip into the world’s largest open-air prison, waging wars of aggression at its discretion. 
Fact: Hamas’ January 2006 election victory affirmed it as Palestine’s legitimate government - not the Israeli controlled PA.
Fact: Its leadership justifiably seeks Palestinian statehood within pre-June 1967 borders. It rejects Israel’s “right” to brutalize Palestinians unaccountably.
Journal editors like their scoundrel media counterparts consistently blame Palestinians for decades of Israeli high crimes. So have US administrations and most congressional members since Israel’s 1948 creation.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Dark Skies for International Copyright: 2016 in Review

eff.org - Thu, 29/12/2016 - 13:56

It's hard to imagine that a year ago we were celebrating "positive movement" towards reforms to European copyright law, expecting that the European Commission would be soon proposing new copyright exceptions and other measures to modernize Europe's aging copyright regime. Instead, what we got was a proposal to force user-generated content websites to do deals with copyright holders to scan and filter users' uploads, along with a proposal to give news publishers the power to impose a link tax on third-party websites such as news aggregators.

There were also few legislative sops thrown to users and creators—a slight relaxation of national barriers to online TV services within Europe and some narrowly-drafted exceptions to allow text and data mining by research organizations, online illustration for teaching, and preservation of cultural heritage by libraries and archives. But the headline threats of the European Commission's proposal—the upload filtering and the link tax—outweigh these modest benefits. Thankfully the deal is not quite yet done, and negotiations over compromises to the European Commission's proposals will continue into the New Year.

Users didn't fare much better in the European courts. The European Court of Justice, in a particularly bad decision, ruled that a website that merely links to copyright-infringing material can be held liable for copyright infringement. We predicted at the time that the decision would result in new copyright lawsuits against websites for innocently hosting such links, and it hasn't taken long for this to prove true. TorrentFreak reported this month on one such case, in which a website operator was held liable for linking to another website which reproduced a Creative Commons–licensed photo without including attribution of the photographer, as required by the license. The success of the World Wide Web was built upon the freedom to link to external resources without permission—a freedom that this atrocious series of court decisions has now curtailed.

2016 wasn't a year noted for its bright sides, but if there are any for international copyright, it must be in the defeat of the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the United States, which would otherwise have locked down many of the worst aspects of U.S. copyright law such as its life-plus-70-year copyright term, its prohibition on DRM circumvention, and its outlandish civil and criminal penalties for copyright infringement. Even this victory, though, is proving a little bitter, as several of the TPP countries are continuing moves to ratify the agreement and to amend their laws as if in preparation for it to come into force. Thankfully the implementing legislation that we have seen so far has been conditional on the unlikely circumstance of the TPP coming into effect (we originally reported that Japan's implementation would be unconditional, but have since learned otherwise).

It it too much to hope for a rosier dawn next year? The last twelve months in copyright give us yet another reason to hope for a better 2017, and all the more motivation to play our part in making it happen.

This article is part of our Year In Review series. Read other articles about the fight for digital rights in 2016.

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Efforts to Undermine Trump Continue

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Thu, 29/12/2016 - 04:51
Efforts to Undermine Trump Continue
by Stephen Lendman
Against long odds, Trump defeated Hillary decisively. Yet efforts to undermine his legitimacy continue.
Deep pro-Hillary forces are aligned against him, including Wall Street, America’s intelligence establishment, and vast majority of its deplorable media, at war with him since announcing his candidacy last year.
He won. They lost, but it’s not over, not as long as interests far more powerful than sitting presidents, aspirants or successful candidates for America’s highest office have final say on what they will or won’t accept.
Trump won’t be inaugurated until January 20. He has no public record, so it’s unknown what he’ll do until he begins governing.
It’s why I cut him some slack compared to Hillary, her record as first lady, US senator and secretary of state revealing the extreme danger she poses. 
Whether Trump turns out better or worse remains to be seen. Campaign rhetoric and policymaking usually diverge considerably.
Trump’s success since announcing his presidential candidacy in mid-June 2015 is virtually unprecedented in America.
A business tycoon celebrity with no public service overcame overwhelming opposition to become America’s 45th president once sworn in next month. 
How he intends governing will be the measure of his legacy, but for now, efforts to undermine him remain unrelenting, almost certain to continue once in office.
Disruptive inauguration day protests are planned, aiming to rain on his parade straightaway on the most important day of his life, even with no chance of preventing his swearing in.
Jill Stein’s misguided recount scam did enormous damage to Green Party credibility, accomplishing nothing but shaming herself.
Ahead of the December 19 Electoral College vote, documentary film maker turned coup plotter Michael Moore told GOP electors via Twitter he’d pay their fines if they defected to Hillary.
He’s at it again, taking to Facebook, citing five must-do things this week to undermine Trump. “Let’s get to work,” he said. “All hands on deck.” His rant barely stopped short of urging insurrection, saying:
“1. MAKE YOUR PRESENCE KNOWN.” Contact your senators and congressmen during the holiday break while they’re home. Tell them to “AGGRESSIVELY fight the Trump agenda” - even though at this point it’s unknown.
“2. WRITE TO THE DNC TONIGHT.” Support Rep. Keith Ellison as new chairman - even though he’s more regressive than progressive, more neocon than liberal, a Muslim supporting endless US Middle East aggression. Apparently so does Moore given his strong support for war goddess Hillary.
“3. FORM YOUR OWN RAPID RESPONSE TEAM.” Maybe he wants them armed with automatic weapons. “I will send out instructions immediately as to what we all must do,” he blustered. Is he operating from a military-style command-and-control center for political combat?
“4. MAKE PLANS NOW TO BE AT THE INAUGURATION WEEKEND PROTESTS! We need millions in the streets in DC,” he ranted. Doing what we won’t know until he sends instructions? Does he have storming the White House in mind and/or the inaugural platform to prevent Trump’s swearing in?
“5. YOU SHOULD RUN FOR OFFICE.” Relatively few are cut out for or are interested in becoming part of America’s corrupt system.
I’ve stressed repeatedly. It’s too debauched to fix. Voting is a waste of time. The only solution is nonviolent grassroots revolution. Nothing else can work.
Moore is no patriot. Supporting coup d’etat actions to undermine Trump shows what he really stands for.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Destructive US-Led NATO Middle East Agenda

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Thu, 29/12/2016 - 04:26
Destructive US-Led NATO Middle East Agenda
by Stephen Lendman
Washington prioritizes militarism, conquest, occupation, colonization and exploitation - longstanding ruthless policies. Adam Smith, in his “Wealth of Nations,” long ago explained how America operates today, saying:
“All for ourselves and nothing for other people seems in every age of the world to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.”
Russia’s intervention in Syria last year, at the behest of its government, was Washington’s first serious regional post-Cold War challenge - its regime change agenda sustaining a humiliating body blow.
Will Trump authorize more diplomacy and less war? Will he normalize ties with Russia and  cooperate with Putin in combating terrorism - stepping back from America’s imperial agenda, focusing on regime change in one country after another?
How he’ll govern awaits his ascension to power. In the meantime, Obama’s deplorable agenda continues. A previous article commented on Russia’s stinging yearend rebuke.
Its Foreign Ministry acknowledged the futility of dealing with an adversarial regime - undermining its good faith efforts for peace in Syria and Ukraine, along with “looking for ways to harm Russia.”
Days earlier, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “(n)early all levels” of US/Russia dialogue is frozen. “We do not talk to each other, or we do it to a minimum,” he explained.
On Tuesday, Sergey Lavrov blasted what he called “Obama administration attempts to further wreck Russia/US cooperation.” He rebuffed Kerry’s latest Israeli/Palestine peace plan, presented on December 28, based on his one-sided/failed 2014 framework proposal.
He warned against forcing America’s agenda on Quartet and Security Council members. According to Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov,  mending ties with Washington won’t come easily or quickly.
Given Obama’s hostility throughout much of his tenure, “trust is out of the question,” Ryabkov stressed, adding he expects US policy will change under Trump. He believes “there won’t be so explicit attempts to play the anti-Russian card.”
He called Obama’s agenda a “dirty and unseemly game.” Once Trump is inaugurated, work with his administration will begin.
Separately, Ryabkov called a co-sponsored British/French draft Security Council resolution for additional sanctions on Syria “categorically unacceptable to us.”
“Nothing will come of this,” he stressed. Along with Washington, Britain and France likely want Assad punished for successfully challenging their imperial agenda along with considerable Russian help.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Congress Gives FOIA a Modest but Important Update For Its 50th Birthday: 2016 in Review

eff.org - Thu, 29/12/2016 - 02:19

Year after year, federal agencies worked behind the scenes to thwart any attempt to reform the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). In 2016, Congress finally came through and successfully amended the 50-year-old transparency statute with the goal of improving our ability to oversee our government.

For FOIA’s golden anniversary, EFF and other transparency advocates were hoping for a comprehensive set of reforms (our wishlist is here). Although what Congress ultimately passed wasn’t half as robust, the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016 represents some of the most pronounced changes to the law in roughly a decade.

The biggest change: “the presumption of disclosure.”

FOIA now explicitly limits officials' discretion to withhold records by requiring agencies to disclose them by default, with a couple of exceptions. The agency can hold back if it can point to a law other than FOIA that prohibits disclosure. The agency can also withhold the records if it can articulate exactly how disclosure would harm a specific interest protected by FOIA’s exemptions, such as an individual’s private medical records or classified military files.

EFF is cautiously optimistic that the presumption of disclosure rule will lead to greater transparency.

Other features of the reform bill:

  • The All-in-One FOIA Portal. The law mandates that the federal government create a central online portal that will allow anyone to file a FOIA request with any agency.
  • No More Outdated Regs. The law also requires all federal agencies to update their FOIA regulations before the end of 2016 to reflect the current law. This was a small but essential requirement, as many agencies’ regulations were woefully out of date, ignoring changes to FOIA passed by Congress from as far back as 2007.
  • The 25-Year “Deliberative Process” Clock. The law now includes a 25-year limit on agencies’ claims that records would disclose internal decision-making, in what is known as the deliberative process privilege, and required agencies to give requesters more time to appeal denied requests.

The FOIA reforms have already had an impact. One of EFF’s allies, the National Security Archive, had been fighting in court for years to disclose a volume of the CIA’s Bay of Pigs invasion history. The CIA had long claimed that the document could not be released on grounds that it would reveal internal decision-making, i.e. deliberative process. After the law passed, the CIA reversed course and released the document to the Archive. You can read the newly released history here.

We’d like to wish a Very Sunshiny New Year to Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) for getting the bill to President Obama’s desk and fixing parts of our nation’s transparency law. But we’ll be clinking our champagne flutes to the coalition who worked with us all year, which included: Project On Government Oversight, National Security Archive, Sunshine in Government Initiative, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, American Society of News Editors, ACLU, and, of course, the Sunlight Foundation.

And to the incoming agency heads, we’ll FOIA you in January.

This article is part of our Year In Review series. Read other articles about the fight for digital rights in 2016.

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Kerry's One-Sided Vision of Israeli/Palestinian Peace

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Wed, 28/12/2016 - 23:21
Kerry’s One-Sided Vision of Israeli/Palestinian Peace
by Stephen Lendman
Decades of intermittent peace talks achieved nothing but continued occupation harshness for nearly half a century.
Oslo was a Palestinian Versailles, unilateral surrender. Israel wants all valued Judea and Samaria areas developed for Jews alone. It claims Jerusalem, a UN-designated international city, as its exclusive capital.
Palestinians got nothing for renouncing armed struggle, recognizing Israel’s right to exist, and agreeing to leave major unresolved issues for later final status talks. They’re still waiting after nearly a quarter century.
Major issues include an independent sovereign Palestine free from occupation, the right of return, settlements, borders within pre-June 1967 lines, resource rights, Gaza’s blockade, political prisoners, along with East Jerusalem as Palestine’s future capital.
Kerry’s earlier shuttle diplomacy excluded peace in our time. It was pretense, old wine in new bottles, smoke and mirrors deception. A Hamas statement called it “based upon an American-Zionist agenda which sees settlements devour land and the Judaization of Jerusalem and holy sites.”
Kerry endorses “national divisions,” serving Israeli interests exclusively, Palestinian rights ignored like always.
Any plan letting Israel annex settlements amounts to legitimizing years of land theft. Palestine belongs to Palestinians. They’ll settle for 22% of their historic homeland.
Israel wants all valued areas Judaized, Palestinians excluded, a prescription for endless conflict. Washington is no honest broker. Francis Boyle once said Israel “never demonstrated even one iota of good faith when it came to negotiating a two-state solution with the Palestinians.”
Nor did America earlier going back decades, throughout Obama’s tenure and from whatever Kerry proposes in his dubious December 28 initiative - presenting what the State Department calls a “comprehensive vision” for achieving Israeli/Palestinian peace.
Calling himself “a lifelong friend of Israel,” his address will likely update his March 2014 “framework document,” warmed over past failure serving Israeli interests exclusively, enough to give US diplomacy more of a bad name than already.
It’ll likely be the basis for January 15 Paris peace conference discussions, dozens of international foreign ministers involved. A conflict resolution plan will likely be drafted for adoption by the Quartet and Security Council before Obama leaves office on January 20 if things go as planned.
Kerry’s Wednesday address, followed by mid-January Paris talks, will be his last hurrah. 
A trilateral Russia, Iran, Turkey alliance on achieving cessation of hostilities and conflict resolution in Syria excludes Washington, NATO and their rogue Middle East allies - obstacles to peace, not supporters.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

US Colluded with Palestinians Before UN Settlements Vote?

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Wed, 28/12/2016 - 23:10
US Colluded with Palestinians Before UN Settlements Vote?
by Stephen Lendman
According to a document published by the Arabic Al-Youm Al-Sabaa broadsheet, John Kerry and national security advisor Susan Rice told a Palestinian delegation headed by Saeb Erekat and intelligence chief Majed Faraj in Washington that the Obama administration would abstain on SC Res. 2334 if its wording was balanced - 10 days before last Friday’s vote.
The five-page Arabic document discussed the meeting between both sides. If authentic, it indicates US involvement in wanting the resolution adopted - no surprise given its abstention. 
It affirmed the illegality of Israeli settlements, what’s been known for nearly half a century, no world community action ever taken to halt Israeli lawlessness, on this or any other issue affecting Palestinians and regional peace.
The day before the Security Council vote, the Israeli Hebrew language Walla broadsheet published a similar report. Both sides denied colluding ahead of Res. 2334’s adoption - failing to prevent leaks of their meeting.
According to the document Al-Youm Al-Sabaa published, Kerry promised “full (US) cooperation,” saying he’d deliver an address explaining Washington’s position - provided Palestinians agreed with principles he presented in his 2014 framework proposal. 
The talk intended days earlier was postponed until December 28.
In 2014, Israel accepted Kerry’s plan with objections. Palestinians didn’t respond either way. A same day article explained it one-sidedly favored Israel, Palestinian rights ignored like always.
The leaked document called Trump hostile to Palestinian interests. Rice asked Erekat how the PA would respond if he moves America’s embassy to Jerusalem and supports Israel’s annexation of West Bank land.
Erekat reportedly said Palestinians would join 16 UN agencies they’re not currently members of, disavow recognition of Israel, freeze security, diplomatic and economic relations with the Jewish state, make its regime responsible for managing matters the PA now handles, as well as urging Arab countries to expel US ambassadors.
Kerry’s address won’t likely surprise. Nor will what comes out of January’s Paris peace conference - results at least largely favorable to Israel at the expense of fundamental Palestinian rights.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Russia and Turkey Agree on Syria Ceasefire

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Wed, 28/12/2016 - 22:58
Russia and Turkey Agree on Syria Ceasefire
by Stephen Lendman
According to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu (press) Agency, Moscow and Ankara agreed on cessation of hostilities in Syria in all areas with no jihadist presence.
It’s effective at midnight on December 29, based on provisions of UN Security Council Resolution 2254 - calling for ceasefire and diplomatic conflict resolution.
It excludes continuing anti-terrorism operations against ISIS, al-Nusra and likeminded groups. If implemented, conflict resolution talks will take place in Astana, Kazakhstan - Moscow and Ankara acting as guarantors of any agreement reached.
Last week, Moscow hosted a trilateral Russia, Iran and Turkey meeting, their foreign ministers agreeing to work cooperatively toward resolving conflict in Syria diplomatically.
Sergey Lavrov called the format “the most effective one,” saying he and his Iranian and Turkish counterparts agreed on the urgency of “terminat(ing) violence, combat operations, unhampered delivery of humanitarian aid and the start of an inclusive political process incorporating all Syrian parties concerned without any preconditions.”
“Regretably…our (international) counterparts” seem bent on polar opposite policies, favoring war, not resolution, he added.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said “experts are working on the text of the Moscow declaration on immediate steps toward resolving the Syrian crisis. This is a thorough, extremely necessary document.”
Previous efforts involving Washington, Britain and France failed, why their foreign ministers were excluded from talks in Moscow, as well as continuing ones.
Tass said Lavrov and Turkish Foreign Minister Melvut Cavusoglu “held intense phone conversations devoted to (resolving) the Syrian crisis” - in preparation for meeting next month in Astana.
Cavusoglu separately spoke with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. America’s involvement after Obama leaves office depends on whether Trump intends combating terrorism or continues support like the current administration.
Turkey agreed to cooperate with Russia and Iran against ISIS, al-Nusra and other terrorist groups it supported throughout years of war.
Erdogan has lots of proving to do given his deplorable actions so far. On Tuesday, he claimed “confirmed evidence,” showing Washington and its coalition partners support ISIS and other terrorist groups.
“They give support to terrorist groups including Daesh,” he said. “It's very clear. We have confirmed evidence, with pictures, photos and videos.”
He remarks sound like the pot calling the kettle black. Turkey and Saudi Arabia have been Washington’s key allies in waging naked aggression on Syria, using imported terrorists as imperial foot soldiers.
Obama, the Saudis, Qataris, NATO and Israel remain committed to regime change. It’s unclear what Turkey intends given Erdogan’s hostility to Assad throughout nearly six years of war.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Obama to Announce Sanctions on Russia for Nonexistent US Election Hacking

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Wed, 28/12/2016 - 22:15
Obama to Announce Sanctions on Russia for Nonexistent US Election Hacking
by Stephen Lendman
Obama seems bent on being as disruptive as possible during his waning days in office. 
Throughout his tenure, he inflicted more harm on more people at home and abroad than any previous US president, including wars of aggression in multiple theaters still raging, Trump inheriting the mess he made.
What further deplorable policies he intends until January 20 remains to be seen. 
According to the neocon Washington Post, he’s “close to announcing a series of measures to punish Russia for its (nonexistent) interference in the 2016 presidential election, including economic sanctions and diplomatic censure, according to (unnamed) US officials.”
Details are being finalized. They’re “expected to include covert action that will probably involve cyber-operations…” An announcement could come before the New Year’s holiday weekend.
Fact: Accusations without verifiable proof are groundless.
Fact: No credible evidence indicates Russian US election hacking. None exists. Everything claimed was fabricated - some of the worse kind of fake news.
Fact: Obama’s scheme combines sour grapes over Republicans winning the presidency and both houses of Congress, ending his tenure on a sour note, longstanding Russia bashing, and exerting pressure on Trump against normalizing ties, including cooperating with Putin in combating terrorism.
According to WaPo, imposing sanctions for alleged cyber attacks under existing law requires designating election infrastructure as critical and proving it was harmed, along with showing actions threatened US economic or national security. and stability.
Current law doesn’t cover overseas cyberattacks “influenc(ing) the electoral system,” said WaPo. Another consideration is making it hard for Trump to rescind what Obama imposes.
According to an unnamed senior administration official, “(p)art of the goal here is to make sure that we have as much of the record public or communicated to Congress in a form that would be difficult to simply walk back.”
In April 2015, Obama’s Executive Order blocked “property of certain persons engaging in significant malicious cyber-related activities.”
Legal considerations don’t stop US administrations or Congress from doing whatever they please - domestically or abroad.
On the one hand, previous sanctions helped more than harmed Russia by enabling it become more self-sufficient. New ones will be just as counterproductive.
According to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Trump will rescind up to 70% of Obama’s executive orders straightaway after taking office, adding:
“I think President Obama is beginning to figure out that his legacy is like one of those dolls that as the air comes out of it, it shrinks and shrinks and shrinks.”
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

Our Fight to Rein In the CFAA: 2016 in Review

eff.org - Wed, 28/12/2016 - 18:03

Laws enacted out of fear, not facts, are a recipe for disaster. That’s what happened with the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA)—the federal statute that makes it illegal to break into computer systems to access or alter information. The law’s notoriously vague language has confused courts, chilled security research, and given overzealous prosecutors broad discretion to bring criminal charges for behavior that in no way qualifies as breaking into a computer. And it’s out of touch with how we use computers today. We were hard at work in 2016 pushing courts to limit the CFAA to what Congress intended and advocating for reform that would rein the law back in. We’ve seen some minor victories as well as a few setbacks, but we anticipate a big fight next year against efforts to expand the law without correcting its many problems. We stand ready.

The CFAA was passed back in 1986—in the very early years of the Internet, long before the vast majority of people were even using email—after a House of Representatives report cited WarGames, a 1983 techno thriller staring Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy, as a "realistic representation of the automatic dialing and access capabilities of the personal computer." And because Congress was trying to solve a problem it didn’t fully understand, it gave us a law with incredibly vague language. The CFAA makes it illegal to intentionally access a “protected computer”—which includes any computer connected to the Internet—“without authorization” or in excess of authorization. But it doesn’t tell us what “without authorization” means. This language is so vague that, if not applied narrowly, it could criminalize routine online behavior like checking the weather while at work or using a family member’s Netflix password.

A few years back, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals clarified that terms of service violations—like using a work computer for personal reasons or creating a Facebook account with anything other than your real name—cannot give rise to CFAA liability. Two other circuit courts, the Second Circuit and Fourth Circuit, have since followed suit, along with numerous district courts across the country. But this year, we learned that even though the three most recent federal circuit courts to address the issue agree, federal prosecution guidelines still recommend pursuing an overbroad and constitutionally suspect interpretation of the statute in any jurisdiction that hasn’t explicitly rejected it. The government released the guidelines in a pending ACLU lawsuit, which challenges the CFAA on First Amendment grounds for chilling research into online discrimination. The guidelines make one thing clear: our fight against the government’s problematic interpretation of the CFAA is far from over. And we’re prepared to go to court to continue this fight.

Password sharing and the CFAA also came to a head in 2016. The Ninth Circuit issued two troubling decisions in July with reasoning that threatened to criminalize routine password sharing. We filed an amicus brief in both cases, U.S. v. Nosal and Facebook v. Power Ventures, urging the court to reconsider these dangerous holdings en banc. In our briefs, we pointed out how the two decisions, written by two different three-judge panels, were inconsistent not only with each other, but also with CFAA precedent and sound public policy. While the court declined to reconsider either case, both panels revised their decisions, attempting to walk back their holdings by clarifying that the decisions were limited to the “stark” facts before them. They say they really, really didn’t mean to criminalize all password sharing, just the particular instances of password sharing at issue in these cases—where both defendants had received “particularized notice” that the computer owner had “affirmatively revoked” their authorization to access the computers at issue. But because neither panel actually modified the flawed reasoning underlying these opinions, both cases still raise a host of questions about how the CFAA will be applied to password sharing and other types of terms of service violations in the future. We’ll be fighting to ensure that that the CFAA, a law meant to target computer break-ins, is not turned into a mechanism for enforcing terms of service violations across the board, and that these cases are limited to the very specific facts at issue—just as the judges said they should be. We’ll also keep advocating for reform clarifying that the CFAA is not and was never intended to be a massive computer misappropriation statute.

We also fended off yet another legislative proposal in 2016 that would have taken CFAA reform in the wrong direction. It was called the Botnet Prevention Act of 2016 and ostensibly directed at stopping botnets. But it was vague, its prohibitions were covered by existing law, and it would have empowered government officials to obtain court orders to force companies to “hack” computer users for a wide range of activity completely unrelated to botnets. Botnet, a portmanteau of “robot” and “network,” refers to a network of private computers or devices infected with malicious software and controlled without the owner’s knowledge. It appears that folks in Congress are worried about botnets. And there is some cause for concern, as illustrated by the Mirari botnet that took over insecure Internet of Things devices and “broke the Internet” in September. But the way to protect against the threat of botnets is by bolstering security research—not by passing yet another vague, fear-based law that would exacerbate the CFAA’s harshness, overbreadth, and confusion, and only further chill the important security research that will keep us all safe.

Because some representatives in Congress seem to think that expanding the CFAA is the way to address all of our “cyber” problems, we expect a fight on the horizon against further proposals to make this draconian law worse. Keep your ears open in 2017. We’ll need your help to reign in the CFAA—and to fight back against the same type of fear-based proposals that got us here in the first place.

This article is part of our Year In Review series. Read other articles about the fight for digital rights in 2016. 

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Related Cases: United States v. David NosalFacebook v. Power Ventures
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