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Censoring the Web Isn't the Solution to Terrorism or Counterfeiting. It's the Problem. - Wed, 26/11/2014 - 06:16

In politics, as with Internet memes, ideas don't spread because they are good—they spread because they are good at spreading. One of the most virulent ideas in Internet regulation in recent years has been the idea that if a social problem manifests on the Web, the best thing that you can do to address that problem is to censor the Web.

It's an attractive idea because if you don't think too hard, it appears to be a political no-brainer. It allows governments to avoid addressing the underlying social problem—a long and costly process—and instead simply pass the buck to Internet providers, who can quickly make whatever content has raised rankles “go away.” Problem solved! Except, of course, that it isn't.

Amongst the difficult social problems that Web censorship is often expected to solve are terrorism, child abuse and copyright and trade mark infringement. In recent weeks some further cases of this tactic being vainly employed against such problems have emerged from the United Kingdom, France and Australia.

UK Court Orders ISPs to Block Websites for Trade Mark Infringement

In a victory for luxury brands and a loss for Internet users, the British High Court last month ordered five of the country's largest ISPs to block websites selling fake counterfeit goods. Whilst alarming enough, this was merely a test case, leading the way for a reported 290,000 websites to be potentially targeted in future legal proceedings.

Do we imagine for a moment that, out of a quarter-million websites, none of them are false positives that actually sell non-infringing products? (If websites blocked for copyright infringement or pornography are any example, we know the answer.) Do we consider it a wise investment to tie up the justice system in blocking websites that could very easily be moved under a different domain within minutes?

The reason this ruling concerns us is not that we support counterfeiting of manufactured goods. It concerns us because it further normalizes the band-aid solution of content blocking, and deemphasises more permanent and effective solutions that would target those who actually produce the counterfeit or illegal products being promoted on the Web.

Britain and France Call on ISPs to Censor Extremist Content

Not content with enlisting major British ISPs as copyright and trade mark police, they have also recently been called upon to block extremist content on the Web, and to provide a button that users can use to report supposed extremist material. Usual suspects Google, Facebook and Twitter have also been roped by the government to carry out blocking of their own. Yet to date no details have been released about how these extrajudicial blocking procedures would work, or under what safeguards of transparency and accountability, if any, they would operate.

This fixation on solving terrorism by blocking websites is not limited to the United Kingdom. Across the channel in France, a new “anti-terrorism” law that EFF reported on earlier was finally passed this month. The law allows websites to be blocked if they “condone terrorism.” “Terrorism” is as slippery a concept in France as anywhere else. Indeed France's broad definition of a terrorist act has drawn criticism from Human Rights Watch for its legal imprecision.

Australian Plans to Block Copyright Infringing Sites

Finally—though, sadly, probably not—reports last week suggest that Australia will be next to follow the example of the UK and Spain in blocking websites that host or link to allegedly copyright material, following on from a July discussion paper that mooted this as a possible measure to combat copyright infringement.

How did this become the new normal? When did politicians around the world lose the will to tackle social problems head-on, and instead decide to sweep them under the rug by blocking evidence of them from the Web? It certainly isn't due to any evidence that these policies actually work. Anyone who wants to access blocked content can trivially do so, using software like Tor.

Rather, it seems to be that it's politically better for governments to be seen as doing something to address such problems, no matter how token and ineffectual, than to do nothing—and website blocking is the easiest “something” they can do. But not only is blocking not effective, it is actively harmful—both at its point of application due to the risk of over-blocking, but also for the Internet as a whole, in the legitimization that it offers to repressive regimes to censor and control content online.

Like an overused Internet meme that deserves to fade away, so too it is time that courts and regulators moved on from website blocking as a cure for society's ills. If we wish to reduce political extremism, cut off the production of counterfeits, or prevent children from being abused, then we should be addressing those problems directly—rather than by merely covering up the evidence and pretending they have gone away.

Related Issues: Free SpeechInternational
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NATO's Dark Side - Wed, 26/11/2014 - 05:24
NATO's Dark Side
by Stephen Lendman
US-led NATO reflects pure evil. Threatening world peace. Seeking global dominance through one ravaged country at a time.
Comprised of over 70 members and partners. Over one-third of world nations. On every continent except Antarctica. Doing America's bidding. 
Run by its Deputy Secretary-General, Alexander Vershbow. A former Assistant Defense Secretary for International Security Affairs. 
Clinton's National Security Council European Affairs director. A former US ambassador to Russia.
Calling Moscow "more an enemy than partner." Diplomacy isn't his long suit. Intends Alliance measures to counter nonexistent Russian aggression.
Claims it "marks a turning point in decades of (NATO) efforts to draw Moscow closer." Intends stepped up US presence close to its borders.
Modernizing its neighbors militarily. "(U)pgrading" joint exercises. "(S)eiz(ing) the opportunity…Creat(ing) the reality on the ground. Accept(ing) membership of aspirant countries."
America's dirty hands run things. NATO is a US-led killing machine. A war-making alliance. A global outlaw.
Ludicrously saying it "promotes democracy. (E)ncourages cooperation." Seeks "to build trust." Prevent conflict.
Settle disputes peacefully. Truth is polar opposite. It bears repeating. Wants world dominance through one ravaged country after another.
Deplores peace. Prioritizes war. Threatens humanity's survival. Outrageously claims Russia wants force replacing the rule of law.
Its lower house State Duma Speaker, Sergey Naryshkin, wants America expelled from NATO. Urges European nations to act.
Calls expulsion "a fantastic proposal." What better way to curtail militarism. Achieve world peace, security and stability, he says.
NATO's collective security commitment is code language for war readiness. Against governments Washington wants ousted. Replaced with ones it controls.
Inventing nonexistent enemies. Turning allies into assets. Bullying them to go along with its imperial project.
Claiming an urgency to defend them. Despite no existing threats. Urging Ukraine to stand firm against Russia. Protect its territory.
Naryshkin believes Ukraine's "forcible European integration" may trigger a continental neo-Nazi upsurge.
Warning Europeans against letting this happen. Not underestimating dangerous Ukrainian radicalization.
"We are told that the role of Ukrainian radicals is exaggerated, but then why their elated attitude to Nazi abettors and an outright aggression against other nationalities are also seen more frequently in the conduct of official Kiev authorities," he asked? 
"We in Russia do not want a hotbed of neo-Nazism to appear in Europe." It runs things in Ukraine.
Except where Donbas freedom fighters prevent it. Putting their bodies on the line for democratic rights everyone deserves. 
At Sunday's Parliamentary Assembly's Annual Session, NATO's Committee on the Civil Dimension of Security proposed a draft resolution.
Pledging increased political, economic, material and technical support for Ukraine. Increased sanctions on Russia.
Refuse recognition of legitimate Crimean self-determination. Recognized under international law. 
Saying the "Alliance's door would remain open for further enlargement." To achieve Washington's goal of global policeman.
Its agenda fosters instability. Permanent wars. Ousting independent governments. Replacing them with pro-Western stooge ones. Puppets America controls.
Institutionalizing hardline rule. Preventing democracy at all costs. Inventing threats to advance its imperial agenda. 
Wanting increased military spending for more wars. Calling it collective defense.
Washington intends more covert and overt military aid for Ukraine. For genocidal Donbas war. Ramped up full force. Including against noncombatant men, women and children.
According to a US official, "(o)ur first radars for the detection and suppression of mortar detachments have been already delivered there, with a few more expected soon." 
"We are also delivering military equipment and technology surplus, particularly, high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle (Humvees) and other vehicles." 
"We have already allocated $100 million for these purposes and hope we will be able to spend tens of millions (more) on training (Ukrainian military personnel). We're discussing the provision of funds with Congress."
Other NATO countries are supplying military aid. Intending greater than ever Donbas area carnage.
Including against ethnic Russians. Allowing Donbas slaughter means Crimea is next, says Paul Craig Roberts.
Threatening Russia's security more than ever. Global wars start this way.
Hitler could have been stopped long before WW II began. Western nations did nothing to prevent his Austrian Anschluss. Sudetenland annexation.
On September 30, 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain declared "peace for our time."
Fools alone believed it. Wise men knew otherwise. Chamberlain returned from Munich. Waving Hitler's agreement. It wasn't worth the paper it was written on.
Hitler knew it. Chamberlain pretended otherwise. So did others. Foolishly. Hard reality awaited. WW II followed. Tens of millions perished.
America is a much more formidable adversary. Does WW III loom? Will Russia not intervene in time to stop it? Pay too dear a price.
The time to act is now. Later may be too late. Conflicts once begun have a life of their own. The best way to defuse them is intervening before they spin out-of-control.
Given Washington inexorable drive East, its reckless hegemonic agenda, drawing a red line now is key to preventing greater conflict.
Will Russia step up to the plate and act? Will China join it cooperatively? America is a world-class bully. 
Beating up on defenseless adversaries. One after another. Russia and China allied match its might. Perhaps enough for an effective deterrent.
If Syria falls, Iran is next. If Kiev crushes Donbas resistance, expect NATO membership to follow. 
Putting US bases on Russia's borders. What Moscow categorically won't tolerate. The time to prevent it is now.
It bears repeating. Later may be too late. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Ukraine joining NATO depends on fulfilling membership criteria.
"Our policy is the same. The door is open for countries" wishing to join, he said.
"I remember the summit in Bucharest where we decided that Ukraine will become a member, and that decision still stands, of course, providing that Ukraine fulfills the criteria for membership and providing that Ukraine so will," he added.
Its illegitimate oligarch president Petro Poroshenko intends a referendum on accession.
Perhaps rigged like Ukraine's farcical presidential and parliamentary elections. Rubber-stamping regime policy.
Challenging Russia irresponsibly. Risking open conflict if accession plans go forward.
It bears repeating. The time to stop reckless policy is before it spins out-of-control. 
Ideally diplomatically. If unsuccessful by whatever it takes. Drawing a red line with teeth may be all that's needed.
Washington may think twice before confronting Russia belligerently. At least at this time.
Kiev's puppet government does nothing without US consent. For sure on war and peace issues. 
Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov calls Ukraine's drive to join NATO hugely destabilizing.
"I'm sure that what the Ukrainian leadership announced will lead to further aggravation of the situation in Ukraine," he said.
"This will not ensure security in Ukraine and this will not improve the Ukrainian people's life."
"This is the result of illusions, the Ukrainian leaders and many people in the West live in, the illusions that the geopolitical Western game is all of this and people’s life is nothing."
"I regret that these leaders are enthralled by such illusions." They portend bad thing to follow. Fascists operate this way.
Their latest anti-Russian diktat intends removing any mention of Soviet Russia's Great Patriotic War (1941 - 45). Affecting Ukraine greatly. 
On Tuesday, Ukrainian National Memory Institute director Volodymy Vyatovich announced the decision, saying:
"…Soviet-era propaganda and primarily (mythology) about the Great Patriotic War" should be removed from textbooks and other educational materials.
No nation paid more dearly in lives lost and mass destruction than Soviet Russia. Its war effort contributed hugely to defeating Nazi Germany. 
Things might have turned out differently without it. Russian lower house State Duma International Committee chairman, Ivan Kvitka, denounced Kiev's increasing recklessness, saying:
"They have already denied their Soviet past. Now they are denying the feat of their fathers and grandfathers." 
"I don't think attempts to deny their own roots could bring Ukraine closer to Europe."
At "the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, Ukraine had a population of about 41 million, whereas by the end of the war there were only 27 million people" left.
"More than ten million Ukrainians died defending their families, their homeland from fascism." 
"And Kiev wants its citizens to forget about this irreplaceable loss. No wonder the Nazi ideology is flourishing in the present-day Ukraine on such background."
Council of Europe Secretary-General Thorbjorn Jagland called Kiev's wall under construction on its border with Russia unacceptable.
It "destroys the fate of people and their families," he said. "It is necessary to strengthen an idea of a 'Common European Home.' "
Illegitimate prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk calls the wall project and related facilities a step toward "Ukraine's integration into NATO."
"(B)ecause a state that doesn't control its border can't be a member of a defense bloc," he claims.
Kiev finds new ways to prove its pariah state status. Naked aggression against Donbas civilians explains best.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

EFF to Court: Don’t Waste Time, A “Picture Menu” is Not Patentable - Wed, 26/11/2014 - 04:26

Yesterday, EFF filed an amicus brief at the Federal Circuit urging it to confirm that U.S. Patent No. 6,585,516 improperly claims ineligible abstract ideas. In the brief, we argue that the patent on using picture menus stored in a database to create meals should never have been granted in the first place. But more importantly, EFF argues that the Federal Circuit should confirm that quick, early decisions as to patent eligibility are vital to clearing our system of bad patents.

U.S. Patent 6,585,516, owned by DietGoal Innovations, LLC, is a pretty typical bad patent. It’s got a complex-sounding title (“Method and system for computerized visual behavior analysis, training, and planning”), a few practically-meaningless flow charts (look at all the arrows!), and a claim that says not much more than “showing pictures of meals on a computer so people can pick what to eat that day” (this is not actually the text of the claim, but it is a fair paraphrase).

DietGoal is also a typical troll. Since 2011 it’s sued over 70 different companies, including restaurant chains such as Pita Pit, Taco John’s, and Panda Express. This is a favorite tactic of trolls: go after those who rarely encounter patent litigation in hopes that they won’t fight back.

But at least one defendant did fight back: Bravo Media. Bravo was sued for offering the public recipes (and presumably pictures) from its “Top Chef” show. Unlike many defendants faced with a troll lawsuit, Bravo did not just settle. Instead, Bravo filed, and won, a motion for “summary judgment” (a court procedure that can end the case before it goes to a jury). The court found the patent invalid because it claimed matter that is ineligible for patent protection.

DietGoal appealed that decision, but given the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Alice v. CLS Bank regarding what patents can and can not cover, and a recent Federal Circuit opinion, we don’t expect DietGoal’s patent to survive. In fact, when Alice was decided, we used DietGoal’s patent as our example of the kind of patent that was destined to be thrown out. We said as much in our amicus brief.

But more importantly, we urge the Federal Circuit to recognize that courts should decide motions about whether patent claims are abstract (and therefore, invalid) as quickly as possible. Trolls, even when they have a patent that is likely invalid, often get to repeatedly sue companies because it is too expensive to fight back. Unfortunately, settling with a troll is often cheaper than fighting. The courts, however, can make it easier for defendants to fight by recognizing that whether a patent claims ineligible abstract ideas is often something that can be decided early, without massive expenses and without giving the troll the opportunity to extort settlement.

We filed the amicus brief on behalf of a diverse group of non-profits and industry associations: Application Developers Alliance, the Computer and Communications Industry Association, EFF, Engine Advocacy, the National Restaurant Association, and Public Knowledge.

Related Issues: PatentsPatent Trolls
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Systemic Injustice in America - Tue, 25/11/2014 - 22:35
Systemic Injustice in America
by Stephen Lendman
Monday's grand jury exoneration of Ferguson, MO police officer Darren Wilson didn't surprise. Injustice triumphed.
A previous article called justice in America a four-letter word. Killer cops mock it. Nearly always with impunity. A badge lets them brutalize and kill. 
Blacks, Latinos, ethnic minorities and Muslims suffer most. They're targets of choice. Police violence occurs multiple times daily across America.
In big cities. Small ones. Urban areas. Rural ones. Militarized police make their own rules. Operating extrajudicially.
Killing with impunity. On August 9, officer Darren Wilson murdered 18-year-old Michael Brown. In cold blood. Without probable cause.
Brown was unarmed. Posed no threat. Had no criminal record. An independent autopsy showed he was shot six times. 
Ferguson police lied. Claiming Brown's shooting followed an altercation he initiated. Saying he tried to grab officer Wilson's gun.
He wasn't close enough to do it. No powder burns on his hands, arms or body proved it. 
Forensic evidence showed Brown was either walking away from officer Wilson or had his hands raised in a "don't shoot" position. Eyewitnesses confirmed the same thing.
At the time, ACLU staff attorney Nusrat Choudhury said killing  Brown raised disturbing questions about how often police brutalize unarmed black and Latino men in America.
"(F)ar too often," she stressed. Rarely ever are cops held accountable. More on this below.
Obama failed to express outrage. Ignored systemic police violence and brutality in America. Nearly always with impunity.
Saying "we are a nation built on the rule of law. (W)e need to accept that this decision was the grand jury’s to make."  
"There are Americans who agree with it, and there are Americans who are deeply disappointed…"
Dismissively asking everyone protesting the grand jury's decision "to do so peacefully." Ludicrously "appeal(ing) to the law enforcement officials in Ferguson and the region to show care and restraint in managing peaceful protests that may occur."  
"Understand, our police officers put their lives on the line for us every single day," he said. Protecting privilege from beneficial social change. Equity and justice for all don't matter.
Obama lied claiming "enormous progress in race relations over the course of the past several decades."
Jim Crow thrives. America is separate and unequal. Its human and civil rights record is by far the world's worst. 
Most unprincipled. Most dismissive of rule of law principles. Fundamental democratic values.
Responsible for virtually every crime imaginable and then some. More police state than democracy. More battleground than homeland.
Fundamental constitutionally guaranteed rights don't matter. They're disappearing in plain sight. Cops have license to kill.
Anyone can be arrested, charged, prosecuted, and imprisoned for any reason or none at all. Others can be detained indefinitely. Uncharged. Untried. Denied due process and judicial fairness.
Innocence is no defense. Wilson's guilt didn't matter. Federal, state and local authorities operate extrajudicially.
On July 2, 1964, Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law. It was more hype than reality. Things today are worse than ever in modern times.
Johnson's statement at the time rang hollow. Calling Civil Rights Act legislation a "proud triumph."
"Americans of every race and color have died in battle to protect our freedom," he said. 
They died for imperial lawlessness. More than ever today. Johnson didn't explain. Nor presidents succeeding him.
"Americans of every race and color have worked to build a nation of widening opportunities," he said. For America's rich, well-born and able alone. 
"Now our generation of Americans has been called on to continue the unending search for justice within our own borders," he added. 
It's selectively given. America has the best democracy money can buy.
"We believe that all men are created equal," said Johnson. "Yet many are denied equal treatment."
The vast majority today. A select few benefit. At the expense of all others.
"We believe that all men have certain unalienable rights," said Johnson. Denied for America's most disadvantaged.
Rule of law principles are ignored. Democracy is pure fantasy. Wealth, power and privilege alone matter. Popular needs and rights go begging. For people of color most of all.
Public outrage followed Brown's exoneration. Center for Constitutional Rights Executive Director Vincent Warren was clear and unequivocal, saying:
"It’s difficult to see how anyone in the community can have faith in the system at this point: the failure to indict sends the clear message that it's open season on people of color." 
"All resistance must be viewed through that lens, and the focus must remain on the injustice of a white police officer getting away - yet again - with killing a young unarmed Black man." 
"We stand with the community in anger and in mourning. We stand with the people in the streets of Ferguson…" 
"(J)ust as the world stood with protesters in (Egypt's) Tahrir Square, in Gaza," and elsewhere. "The world must learn: Black lives matter."
ACLU Missouri Executive Director Jeffrey Mittman said the following:
"The grand jury's decision does not negate the fact that Michael Brown's tragic death is part of an alarming national trend of officers using excessive force against people of color, often during routine encounters." 
"Yet in most cases, the officers and police departments are not held accountable."
"(W)e must confront the profound disconnect and disrespect that many communities of color experience with their local law enforcement."
Reflecting "us vs. them" injustice. A national disgrace. At federal, state and local levels.
Amnesty International USA Executive Director Steven Hawkins stopped short of condemning injustice, saying:
"Today, a St. Louis County grand jury declined to indict Police Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager, in August."
"The community response to Mike Brown's death, and the response that is likely still to come, mark a pivotal moment in the human rights movement and in US history."
"It's a moment of passion, of frustration, and of activism."
"It's within this moment that officials in Ferguson and throughout the United States must stand up to ensure that each individual's human rights -including the right to freely express themselves in the form of peaceful protest - are respected, protected and fulfilled."
"Amnesty is calling upon law enforcement officers to facilitate peaceful protests."
"We are calling on them to bear in mind their role as partners and protectors of community, seeking to do no harm."
"We are calling on them to protect peaceful assemblies, even if a small minority tries to turn a peaceful protest into a violent one."
"That's what human rights looks like."
Congressional Black Caucus chairwoman Marcia Fudge (D. OH) expressed outrage saying:
"The Ferguson Grand Jury's decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown is a miscarriage of  justice." 
"It is a slap in the face to Americans nationwide who continue to hope and believe that justice will prevail."
"This decision seems to underscore an unwritten rule that Black lives hold no value; that you may kill Black men in this country without consequences or repercussions."  
"This is a frightening narrative for every parent and guardian of Black and brown children, and another setback for race relations in America."  
"My heart goes out to Michael Brown's loved ones, and to the loved ones of all the Michael Browns we have buried in this country." 
Murdered by killer cops with impunity. Michael Brown's family expressed profound disappointment "that the killer of our child will not face the consequences of his actions."
Family lawyer, Benjamin Crump, said other legal options will be explored going forward.
Brown's family "do(esn't) trust this prosecutor. They never did from the beginning."
"And they are going to try to see if they can do something to get some positive change out of this because they understand this system needs to be changed."
A separate federal civil rights investigation into what happened remains ongoing. Officials claim evidence so far fails to support a case against Wilson.
Doing so must show intent to violate Brown's civil rights.
A second federal inquiry is examining whether Ferguson police violated fundamental civil rights protections.
Through excessive force. Searches and arrests. Treatment of detainees. Overall discriminatory practices.
Police in majority Black Ferguson employ a handful of minority officers only.
Brown's family may sue. Most likely under the so-called 1983 provision of federal civil rights law.
Probably claiming Wilson deprived Brown of his constitutionally guaranteed rights. While working as an officer "under cover of state law."
Proof "beyond a reasonable doubt" is required. Same as in criminal cases. Guilt would force Wilson to pay financial damages to Brown family members. 
Hardly just compensation for Michael's death. Losing a loved one matters most.
St. Louis prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch coordinated his efforts with White House and Department of Justice officials.
Denouncing public "speculation" of his version of what happened. Ignoring hard truths. They bear repeating.
Brown was unarmed. Posed no threat. Had no criminal record. An independent autopsy showed he was shot six times. 
Ferguson police lied. Irresponsibly blaming Brown for initiating an altercation. No evidence proved it. 
Truth is polar opposite. Politics trumped justice. America's judicial system works this way.
The American Bar Association (ABA) says grand juries review evidence to determine "whether there is probable cause to return an indictment." 
Critics say they rubber stamp prosecutorial aggressiveness. They have "extraordinary investigative powers." Developed since the 1950s. According to the ABA:
"This wide, sweeping, almost unrestricted power is the cause of much criticism." 
Prosecutors take full advantage of a rigged system they control. Manipulating proceedings for outcomes they want. 
Leaving targets unfairly vulnerable to indictments. Others like police officer Wilson unjustly exonerated.
The Fifth Amendment originally applied only to federal courts in criminal cases. Supreme Court rulings included states and municipalities. Under the Fourteenth Amendment's due process clause. 
Grand juries originated during Britain's early history. Reflecting deep-rooted Anglo-American tradition. 
The process initially served to protect accused defendants from overly-zealous English monarchy prosecutions.
Though nominally independent, they only hear cases prosecutors choose. Able select witnesses. Exclude ones they wish. 
Grant discretionary immunity. Conduct virtually all questioning. Grand jury members may ask their own after witnesses testify.
Their job is solely to judge what prosecutors present. Decide if enough evidence warrants indictments or exonerations.
Proceedings are conducted in secret. No one may disclose what goes on. Unless ordered to do so judicially. 
Anyone may be subpoenaed. Must answer questions unless a specific privilege is claimed. Such as lawyer/client confidentiality or self-incrimination. 
Lawyers can't represent their clients while testifying. Double jeopardy doesn't apply to grand juries.
If prosecutors fail to get indictments, they need Criminal Division Attorney General permission to try again. Targets remain vulnerable.
Zealous prosecutors can charge defendants on rejected charges. Or new ones. The process can continue for years.
The ABA asks, "What protection does a target have against witnesses lying to the grand jury (perhaps for leniency on existing or threatened charges), or against the use of unconstitutionally obtained evidence? None." 
Law Professor Mark Kadish says "grand jur(ies) (give) prosecutors extraordinary powers…" Providing "incredible pretrial and trial advantages…(E)specially where those powers are otherwise unavailable through authorized civil discovery tools."
Especially post-9/11. Prosecutors want grant jury indictments. Manipulate proceedings to get them. 
Leave targeted subjects vulnerable on their own. Or in the case of Darren Wilson, rig evidence for exoneration.
At fault is failed system. Rigged against justice. Convicting innocent victims. Exonerating killer cops.
Mocking judicial fairness. Denying equal protection for everyone. Showing contempt for rule of law principles.
Especially for America's most vulnerable. For sure not in Ferguson, MO Monday night.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Rain or Shine: Bay Area Internet Users Take the Net Neutrality Fight to City Hall - Tue, 25/11/2014 - 08:40

Photo by Steve Rhodes; CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

"We want information to flow like water,” protesters yelled outside San Francisco City Hall in the pouring rain, rallying in support of keeping the Internet open.  The rally was in advance of a public forum inside City Hall on the looming net neutrality debate.

The San Francisco Bay Area has been one of the most vocal places in the nation in the fight for net neutrality, and there's a reason: Internet openness is crucial to the path-breaking artists, technologies, and businesses that thrive in this state.

The Bay Area is home to some of the world’s most recognized technology companies and bleeding-edge inventors and creators. And although this region certainly has a heavy stake in the outcome of the FCC’s net neutrality decision, the vast majority of policy conversations are happening in DC.

That’s why EFF collaborated with other local and national organizations at San Francisco City Hall last Thursday to host “Bay Area Speaks: A People’s Hearing on the Future of the Internet.” Joined by Former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, librarians, public officials, and environmental activists, hackers, entrepreneurs, and educators, everyday Internet users from diverse Bay Area communities packed the room at City Hall to testify on why Internet openness is central to our lives.

The Rally

Corporate telecom puppet by David Solnit

The evening began with a rally outside. Holding up a giant puppet of a suit holding a money bag labeled “I$P” and a briefcase that read “net profit,” demonstrators braved the rain Thursday evening to make sure their voice is heard.  Protestors projected giant images in front of City Hall that read “Information Flows Vs. Slow Lanes” and “Net Freedom vs. Corporate Control.”

And as the rain poured, the net neutrality rally was joined in front of City Hall by demonstrators calling for justice for 43 disappeared students in Mexico. Back and forth in solidarity, activists shared the stage. Common threads emerged on corruption, transparency, and the centrality of organizing online for all projects of social justice and political change. A theme was clear: when corporations or governments control how we access information and connect to each other, democracy loses.

Inside City Hall

Jennifer Johns sings to a packed room.

The room was packed. Silently, Oakland musician and activist Jennifer Johns walked to the front before breaking out into a powerful song that brought the room to a focused attention.

EFF’s Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry kicked off the event, helping to remind us that only a few short months ago the FCC proposed a set of rules that would have given Internet providers clearance to charge websites to reach users faster.

But millions of people took action.

“And what happened?” McSherry asked the room. “The world changed. The FCC heard us load and clear… and last week we learned that the President heard us loud and clear.” The week before the hearing, net neutrality activists experienced a huge gain in momentum when President Obama came out in full support of bright-line net neutrality rules that would protect the open Internet, leaving the FCC to re-write their proposal.

Despite having received invitations, none of the FCC Commissioners made it to San Francisco for the night. Still, long time public interest champion and former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps flew in from Washington D.C. to speak. He reminded us what a world without net neutrality will looks like:

“If Internet service providers can unilaterally decide what news we can hear and what news we can’t, who can advocate online and who can’t, who can get the word out about rallies like the one here tonight… If they can decide that online fast lines will become the playground of the few rather than the common right of all of us, then we are in for real trouble in this country. And we will not be able to solve any of the problems that this country faces right now.”

Internet Users Shared Their Stories

Privacy info. This embed will serve content from

We heard from librarian Amy Sonnie, outreach director for Oakland Public Libraries, who pointed out, ”Net neutrality is critical for intellectual and academic freedom in the digital age.” Public interest advocates like Ana Montes from The Utility Reform Network, and Malkia Cyril from Media Action Grassroots Network, spoke out. Internet entrepreneurs and technologists like Dan Jasper CEO of Bay area ISP and Tim Pozar of joined the call for FCC rules that will protect net neutrality.

We heard from public officials like Oakland City Council President Rebecca Kaplan, Chris Witteman from the California Public Utilities Commission, and San Francisco Chief Officer of Innovation Jay Nath, all talking about how local governments are fighting for net neutrality rules that will protect local Internet users.

Musicians and artists spoke out. As Thao Nguyen, a popular independent musician put it, “It is plain to see now more than ever, that no musician can release a record, reach listeners or to grow a fan base without the ability to share their work unimpeded on the Internet.”

An organizer from Greenpeace shared how the centrality of the open Internet to their political organizing, Naomi Most from the Noisebridge hackerspace in San Francisco talked about the Internet has a level playing field, and advocacy interests of all stripes joined us: a representative from Engine Advocacy talked about the needs of startups, Paul Goodman of the Greenlining Institute talked about why net neutrality is an issue of particular importance for racial justice, and Dave Steer, advocacy director at Mozilla, talked about why they continue to fight for an open Internet.

We Will Continue to Fight

Throughout this year four million Internet users commented to the FCC demanding regulators enact real, clear net neutrality rules that will prohibit Internet providers from speeding up or slowing down how we access parts of the web.  Over 99% of the comments in the rulemaking were calling on the FCC to craft the kinds of rules that will protect Internet users from censorious and discriminatory conduct by Internet service providers.

To be more specific, Internet users are asking the FCC to change the way the service of providing access to the Internet is classified under federal law. Right now, the FCC legally considers Internet access to be an “information service,” but legally the FCC is only allowed to enact meaningful net neutrality consumer protections if Internet  access is reclassified as a “telecommunications service” (under Title 2 of the 1934 Communications Act). As Dave Steer from Mozilla put it, “Full Title II reclassification is the cleanest, simplest path forward.”

The policies might seem complicated, but the concept isn’t. New political blogs, artist websites, startups, or growing businesses that can’t afford expensive fees for better service will face new barriers to success, leaving users with even fewer options and a less diverse Internet.

The future of the Internet is our future. It is why Bay Area activists stood with signs of giant cell phones and laptops in the rain outside San Francisco City Hall last Thursday.

And as the net neutrality debate looms in Washington D.C., we will continue to speak out, raise our voice, and we won’t stop fighting until we get the kinds of policies that will serve the information needs of our communities. Stay tuned. It’s not over yet.

var mytubes = new Array(1); mytubes[1] = '%3Ciframe src=%22// allowfullscreen=%22%22 frameborder=%220%22 height=%22315%22 width=%22560%22%3E%3C/iframe%3E'; Related Issues: Net NeutralityStudent and Community Organizing
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Hagel Sacking Suggests More War - Tue, 25/11/2014 - 07:46
Hagel Sacking Suggests More War
by Stephen Lendman
On Monday, Pentagon controlled Stars and Stripes said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel resigned under pressure. Code language for sacking.
"(A)fter bruising midterm elections. (A)mid mounting criticism of (Obama's) security and foreign policies."
Hawks want more wars than already. Stepped up belligerence in ongoing ones. In February 2013, Hagel succeeded Leon Panetta.
The former Obama CIA director/Clinton White House chief of staff sees an ongoing "30-year war." Beyond current theaters.
Obama erred, he said. He "lost his way." By not maintaining more US troops in Iraq, he believes. A residual force able to confront internal opposition.
By rejecting advice from top aides. Including himself. By failing to sufficiently arm anti-Assad forces sooner. With heavier weapons.
By not acting (based on Big Lies claiming) Assad used chemical weapons.
Panetta barely stopped short of urging troops on the ground in Syria. He questioned Washington's credibility. 
Especially with Obama in charge. His determination "to stick this out." 
He has "to jump in the ring and fight it out for the next two years," said Panetta.
Like other past and current Washington officials, he believes US imperial priorities matter most. Means justify ends.
Might justifies right. Regardless of harm to others. No matter the consequences. Hagel apparently wasn't uber-hawk enough.
It remains to be seen who replaces him. Administration sources said removing him came after weeks of discussions.
The New York Times said he "often struggled to articulate a clear viewpoint…(W)as) widely viewed as…passive…"
Skeptical about Obama's Iraq war. Brought in "to manage the Afghanistan combat withdrawal and the shrinking Pentagon budget in the era of budget sequestrations."
Uncomfortable about stepped up war? Perhaps so. An unnamed administration official said "(t)he next couple of years will demand a different kind of focus."
Code language for more war. In Iraq and Syria. Maybe Iran. Perhaps confronting Russia over Ukraine. Arming its puppet government with heavy weapons. Covertly and overtly.
Violating Geneva and Minsk agreements. Risking all-out regional conflict. Perhaps global war if not stopped in time.
Was Hagel sacked to pursue the unthinkable? Who'll take the job to do what demands avoiding? According to The Times, possible replacements include:
Former Obama Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy. A key Panetta advisor. Highest ranking woman in Pentagon history.
Currently a Boston Consulting Group senior advisor. Harvard Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs senior fellow. Center for a New American Security (CNAS) board member.
Former Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter. Serving as DOD's chief operating officer.
A former Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. In five years of Pentagon service, he led two major national security strategy/budget reviews. Held its two key positions under the top job.
Senator Jack Reed (D. RI). A former House member. West Point graduate. His spokesman saying he's not interested. He "loves his job and does not wish to be considered for secretary of defense or any other cabinet post," he said.
Other names mentioned include current Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work. Former Navy Secretary. Former marine achieving the rank of colonel. Current Nuclear Deterrent Enterprise Review Group chairman.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. Army Secretary John McHugh. Former Senator Joe Lieberman. 
The Times said "Hagel struggled to fit in with Mr. Obama's close circle…(W)as viewed as never gaining traction…"
(A)ter a bruising confirmation fight (with) former Senate colleagues…(F)or seeming tentative in responding to sharp questions."
Largely played number two to Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey. Critics said he failed to inspire confidence of Pentagon commanders. 
Had a propensity to commit gaffes. Like calling Islamic State fighters a "threat not just to the United States, but to the civilized world."
Confronting them "is a humanitarian issue of great consequence for all the world," he said. "And I think great powers understand they have responsibilities in this area."
In October, Hagel wrote a critical letter to National Security Advisor Susan Rice. On administration Syrian policy. 
Warning it was in jeopardy. "(I)n danger" of unraveling. For failing to clarify intentions toward Assad.
Hagel was tight-lipped about his comments. Saying only:
"We owe the president and we owe the National Security Council our best thinking on this. And it has to be honest and it has to be direct."
"(F)ighting (in Syria) can go on for years and years to what end," he asked?
"It's in our interest not to have an unstable Middle East." Current threats must be managed while focusing on "longer-term strategies and objectives."
Hagel was exactly the kind of defense secretary Obama wanted, said The Times. One who wouldn't write a book criticizing  administration policy after leaving office.
He "spent his time…largely carrying out" Obama's wishes, said The Times. Including downsizing US Afghanistan forces. Waging Iraq war III. Bombing Syria.
His aides said he expected to serve throughout Obama's second term. It remains to be seen what agenda his successor follows.
Hagel focused heavily on administration Asian/Pacific policies. Military downsizing plans. He opposed the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
As a senator, he rejected containing Iran. Called sanctions ineffective. 
At the same time, said his "top priority" was planning military contingencies on Iran. Doing "whatever it takes" to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons.
In late August 2002, he confronted then Secretary of State Colin Powell, asking:
"What is going on here? You guys say you're not going to war. You're going to war! You're going to have to occupy Iraq for years."
"So why did we invade Iraq," he asked? I believe it was the triumph of the so-called neo-conservative ideology, as well as the Bush administration's arrogance and incompetence that took America into this war of choice." 
"This ideology presented a myopic vision of a democratic Middle East that would inject a large permanent American force presence in the region to act as the guarantor of a regional realignment." 
"They believed that by taking the relatively easy step of toppling Saddam, they could begin to realize this vision through the use of America's unequaled military power, thereby establishing America's preeminence in the Middle East and bolstering the defense of Israel." 
"They obviously made a convincing case to a president with very limited national security and foreign policy experience, who keenly felt the burden of leading the nation in the wake of the deadliest terrorist attack ever on American soil."
"It is shocking how little Congress or the media challenged the Bush administration."
He favored engaging Iran and Syria. Let their people decide their future.
Policymakers "took (their) eye off the ball on Afghanistan," he said. Overextended America's military presence.
He voted no on designating Iran's Revolutionary Guards as terrorists. Said Iraq under Saddam wasn't developing nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.
Had no connection to Al-Qaeda. Was developing missiles. "(B)ut not to reach the US," he said.
He opposed military escalation in Iraq. Thought his job was ending ongoing wars. Not escalating them. Or launching new ones.
Perhaps that best explains his sacking. Obama continues multiple direct and proxy wars. 
After "agree(ing) (with allies and Kabul) that this is the year we will conclude our combat mission in Afghanistan," he authorized business as usual.
Through at least through 2015. Likely throughout his second term. Perhaps for another 13 years. Under presidents succeeding him.
America's longest war looks like its forever one. Other regional conflicts rage without end. Perhaps Hagel wanted none of it.
Voicing opposition to administration policy. Assuring he had to go. It remains to be seen who replaces him. 
What agenda will be followed. Whether rhetoric straightaway will explain. Odds favor more wars, not less. 
At a time most Americans want them ended. Not with Obama in charge. Or whoever succeeds him. 
Permanent war is longstanding US policy. No end of conflicts loom.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Stupid Patent of the Month: Who Wants to Buy Teamwork From Penn State? - Tue, 25/11/2014 - 07:10

Ever wanted to own the latest in “teamwork” technology? Well, you’re in luck. On December 8, Penn State is holding a large patent auction, and one of the items is U.S. Patent 8,442,839. This patent purports to describe an improved collaborative “decision-making process.” As well as being a good example of a silly patent, this month’s winner highlights concerns with universities trying to monetize their patent portfolio. Why would a university, which presumably has a mission of promoting knowledge and innovation, sell an unsuccessful patent that has no value except to a troll?

First, a little background. In April this year, Penn State held its first patent auction. It offered exclusive licenses to dozens of patents but only received a single bid (meaning that it likely didn’t even recover the cost of holding the auction). This is consistent with experience at other schools. Evidence shows that the vast majority of technology transfer offices lose money for their university. Selling old patents brings universities little revenue but risks contributing to the wider economic harm from patent trolling. Indeed, over 60 universities (paywall) have sold patents to infamous patent troll Intellectual Ventures.

Many, including EFF, have expressed concerns with universities selling to patent trolls. To its credit, Penn State says that it does not want to foster patent trolling. And it has included some licensing terms that will discourage trolls from buying its patents (including a six month bar on filing infringement actions). But it is difficult to see how a patent like U.S. Patent 8,442,839 would have value to anyone but a troll.

The patent, titled “Agent-based collaborative recognition-primed decision-making,” includes a single independent claim. Steps include “receiving information regarding a current situation to be analyzed,” interacting to receive “assistance in the form of assumptions or expectancies about the situation,” and using “collected information to determine whether a decision about the situation is evolving in an anticipated direction.”

The patent reads a little like what might result if you ate a dictionary filled with buzzwords and drank a bottle of tequila. A typical passage explains:

Story building also involves information gathering, but it is more than cue-driven information investigation, because the agents are still unclear about what cues to investigate. Therefore, the key is to identify a collection of cues which the team needs to pay attention to. Our model adopts a combination of two mechanisms: hypothesis exploration and experience synthesization.

In other words: learn from experience. The patent examiner originally rejected the application as not directed to patentable subject matter. Penn State responded by amending its claim to “include a team-oriented computer architecture that transforms subject matter.” In other words, it took an abstract patent and said, “Do it on a computer.”

Fortunately, the Supreme Court has put a stop to this kind of nonsense. We think Penn State’s patent would be found invalid under Alice v. CLS Bank. But even invalid patents have value to patent trolls. This is because they can use the cost of litigation to extort settlements. Indeed when patent trolls are actually forced to litigate to the merits, they lose over 75% of the time.

We urge Penn State and all universities to be more responsible. Instead of selling patents that have little value except as litigation weapons, universities should focus on true technology transfer—partnering with others to bring new technologies into the world. And universities should end their opposition to patent reform. We have a petition calling on universities to support patent reform here. Sign it now!

Related Issues: PatentsInnovation
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