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West Turns a Blind Eye on Kiev Aggression

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Fri, 03/02/2017 - 03:21
West Turns a Blind Eye on Kiev Aggression
by Stephen Lendman
Ukraine’s naked aggression on its Donbass residents largely ebbed after Minsk II peace talks concluded two years ago, Kiev straightaway breaching terms agreed on.
Fighting again flared up heavily last Friday, continuing daily, regime forces using heavy weapons against Donbass, including in residential areas.
Commenting on Facebook, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova blasted Western nations, saying “(s)ome people’s job is to turn a blind eye on tanks.”
Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) Deputy Defense Minister/spokesman Eduard Basurin blasted OSCE leadership in cahoots with Kiev putschists, saying the agency’s operatives “in the territory controlled by Kiev’s forces connive with neo-Nazis, who carry out artillery and tank strikes on homes in Donetsk, Makeyevka and Yasinovataya. 
“We have an impression that some OSCE officials contribute to the worsening of the situation by informing the Ukrainian forces when they should deal strikes to hit life support infrastructures in Donbass, and when to attack repair teams that are trying to eliminate disruptions in electric, gas and water supply for large cities.”
US-installed NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg blamed Donbass freedom fighters for Kiev’s aggression, saying “(w)e call for an immediate return to the ceasefire.” 
“We call on Russia to use its considerable influence over the separatists to bring the violence to an end” - an outrageous comment, ignoring Kiev’s aggression and right of Donbass freedom fighters to defend their territory and residents.
In response, Russia’s mission at NATO headquarters in Brussels accused Stoltenberg of ignoring reality on the ground, saying “(h)ow about call(ing) (on) Kiev (to end) its offensive operations in Donbass and giving up the idea of a military solution (to) the conflict.”
“NATO’s strong political and practical support…promised to Ukraine merely encourages the party of warmongers” to keep waging aggression.
Putin addressed the crisis, saying Kiev portray itself as a “victim” to maintain Western support. It’s “leadership needs money. And it is better to ask the EU, European states, the US and international institutes for money (by) presenting itself as a victim of aggression.”
It one-sidedly supported Hillary during America’s presidential campaign. US-anointed president Poroshenko “need(s) to mend ties with the current US administration…It’s always easier to drag (it into) solving Ukrainian problems and establish a dialogue this way.”
Attacking Donbass also aims to distract internal attention from deplorable economic and social conditions, harming most Ukrainians enormously - suffering as well under brutal fascist dictatorship.
Despite agreeing to Minsk provisions, Poroshenko and his Nazi-infested regime reject them. Blaming Donbass freedom fighters for Kiev’s aggression is “a pretext…not to implement them,” Putin explained.
Geopolitically, it’s an effort to undermine possible Russia/US rapprochement by portraying Moscow as a backer of nonexistent Donbass aggression.
“(O)ur position is well-known,” said Putin. “It was provoked by the Ukrainian side.” Donbass freedom fighters responded in self-defense - their right under international law to counter naked aggression.
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.

White House Puts Iran on Notice Over Its Legitimate Missile Tests

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Thu, 02/02/2017 - 22:34
White House Puts Iran on Notice Over Its Legitimate Missile Tests
by Stephen Lendman
On Wednesday, Trump’s National Security Advisor Michael Flynn irresponsibly lashed out against Iran’s recent legitimate ballistic missile tests.
Without justification, he claimed they “undermine security, prosperity and stability throughout and beyond the Middle East that puts American lives at risk.”
He cited Security Council Resolution 2231, making the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA nuclear deal) binding international law.
It called on Iran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”
Fact: Iran’s missile technology, development and testing are entirely legitimate, violating no Security Council resolution or other international law.
Fact: It’s ballistic and other missiles aren’t designed to carry nuclear warheads.
Fact: Iran threatens no other nations - not America, Israel or any others. Claims otherwise are Big Lies. Its government promotes regional and world peace, abhors nuclear weapons, urging their abolition.
Fact: America, NATO, Israel and their rogue partners alone threaten world peace, stability and security. It’s unknown whether Trump intends continuing the imperial madness of his predecessors. He indicated not. Judge him by his actions, not his rhetoric.
Failing to stop the positioning of thousands of heavily armed US-led NATO forces on Russia’s borders, a hostile act, isn’t encouraging.
Nor was a commando raid on Libya massacring civilians or Secretary of State Rex Tillerson indicating he intends pursuing regime change in Venezuela, seeking what he called a “transition to democratic rule…” - something America badly needs, not Venezuela with the hemisphere’s most vibrant democracy.
Months before becoming Trump’s chief White House strategist, Steve Bannon said “(w)e’re going to war in the South China Sea in five to 10 years. There’s no doubt about that.” He called Beijing and Islam America’s two greatest threats. It’s unknown if his views are unchanged, given his high administration post.
Trump’s UN envoy Nikki Haley indicated dirty business as usual with Ukraine’s putschist regime will continue, discussed in a previous article. 
The country shares a near-1,500 mile land and sea border with Russia. Rick Rozoff earlier explained Ukraine is “the decisive linchpin in plans by the US and its NATO allies to effect a military cordon sanitaire, severing Russia from Europe.
If Trump intends pursuing this plan, rapprochement with Moscow is impossible, unlikely with Michael Flynn irresponsibly bashing Iran.
Russia, China and Iran are allies. Hostility toward one affects relations with the others.
Tehran’s ballistic missile program is solely for defense, not offense, given hostility towards its government by Washington, Israel, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states.
Arms control experts agree. It’s entirely legitimate, violating no international laws or agreements. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov concurred, saying its missile testing doesn’t breach SC Res. 2231.
Flynn lied claiming “Iran is now feeling emboldened. The Obama Administration failed to respond adequately to Tehran’s malign actions - including weapons transfers, support for terrorism, and other violations of international norms.”
It’s unclear what steps the Trump administration intends taking. It appears recklessly embarking on confrontational relations with Iran, instead of respecting its sovereignty and normalizing things once and for all after seeking regime change for 37 hostile years, in part to please Israel.
A Final Comment
On Wednesday, a statement by 220 Iranian lawmakers pledged “full-fledged support” for the nation’s military, saying “the reinforcement of the defense capabilities of the Islamic Republic of Iran in line with deterrence strategy” is vital to ensure the country’s security.
On Tuesday, Washington called an emergency Security Council session on Iran, a hostile act, at its conclusion, US UN envoy Nikki Haley sounded like Samantha Power, ranting:
“I will tell the people across the world that is something you should be alarmed about. The United States is not naive. We are not going to stand by. You will see us call them out as we said we would, and you are also going to see us act accordingly.”
Not an encouraging sign. It remains to be seen what action Trump intends taking.
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.

Glaring NYT Hypocrisy

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Thu, 02/02/2017 - 22:27
Glaring NYT Hypocrisy
by Stephen Lendman
The self-styled newspaper of record notoriously features biased reporting and fake news, not the real thing on virtually all issues mattering most.
It’s one-sided anti-Trumpism is disgraceful, abandoning a fair and balanced assessment of his campaign rhetoric, pledges and agenda so far in office.
There’s plenty to criticize if done accurately and responsibly. There’s also room for praising what he gets right. He’s only been in office two weeks, his full agenda yet to unfold.
His executive order suspending entry into America was deplorable, targeting six Muslim nations, banning entry from a seventh, Syria, indefinitely on the phony pretext of preventing domestic terrorist attacks from all seven.
Supplying armored vehicles to anti-Syria terrorists, masquerading as moderates, is a prescription for continued war, not resolution.
Failing to denounce US-installed Ukrainian putschists, waging war on their own people suggests no relief for beleaguered Donbass residents.
Approving a commando raid on Yakla village, Yemen, resulting in the massacre of defenseless men, women and children was indefensible. So is continuing drone war on the devastated country and elsewhere.
Times criticism of last Sunday’s raid ignored its support for all US imperial wars, waged on countries threatening no one, responsible for millions of casualties, a catastrophic refugee crisis, and unspeakable human misery.
Earlier Times reports lacked outrage about devastating wars waged by the Clintons, Bush/Cheney and Obama - including genocidal sanctions on Iraq, responsible for the deaths of 5,000 children under age five monthly. 
Only Trump is singled out for criticism. The hypocrisy is obvious.
A separate Times report blasted his “dark view of Islam.” In stump speeches and other comments, he referred to its radicalized elements, wanting Islamic extremists kept out of America.
Washington has had a “dark view” of Islam for time immemorial, portraying Muslims irresponsibly as violent, gun-toting terrorists, especially since the 1990s, notably post-9/11.
It’s not something new under Trump. Obama bombed seven Muslim countries, waged imperial wars in multiple theaters, exceeding the worst of Bush/Cheney.
So far, Trump’s bombing is confined to drone wars, warranting justifiable criticism, especially if he fails to end imperial conflicts still raging, an unlikely prospect, making him a war criminal like his predecessors.
Criticizing him while failing to demand accountability for high crimes committed by the Clintons, Bush/Cheney and Obama is glaring hypocrisy - longstanding at The New York Times.
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.

Syria Rejects Proposed Russian Drafted Constitution

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Thu, 02/02/2017 - 22:16
Syria Rejects Proposed Russian Drafted Constitution
by Stephen Lendman
In February 2012, Syrian overwhelmingly approved a new Constitution - 89.4% in favor, 9% opposed, 1.2% of ballots invalidated - despite ongoing war, opposition boycotts, threats, and anti-Assad media campaigns.
Turnout was an impressive 57.4%, given the risks most Syrians took to vote. The Constitution includes 157 articles. Among other reforms, political pluralism was established for the first time, as well as presidential term limits and press freedom.
In March 2016, Assad said “(w)e in Syria assume that the term political transition means the transition from one constitution to another, and a constitution is what defines the form of the needed political composition in the next stage.” 
“Thus, the transition period must be under the current constitution, and we will move on to the new constitution after the Syrian people vote for it.”
“(T)transitional structure or transitional format is a government formed by various Syrian political forces - opposition, independent, the current government and others.”
They alone will determine Syria’s future, free from outside interference, notably from Washington, NATO, Israel, Saudi Arabia and other rogue Arab states.
On January 30, Syrian ambassador to Russia Riad Haddad said his government is studying Moscow’s proposed  constitution, “ready(ing) to hold consultations” on its text.
Sergey Lavrov said the document  “attempts to bring together and find shared points in those approaches that were outlined to us both by representatives of the government and representatives of the opposition, including all those present here, over the past several years.”
At the same time, he added Russia intends imposing its draft on none of the parties involved in working for conflict resolution.
After studying the its provisions, Damascus rejected Article 40, calling for decentralized “people’s societies.” During peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan last week, Syria’s lead negotiator Bashar al-Jaafari said the notion of federalism would be decided “by all Syrians and not…unilaterally by a single component,” adding:
All ideas, “even one as crazy as federalism, must be put to a democratic vote. It is completely unacceptable for a group of people to create a statelet and call it federalism,” referring to Kurdish sought autonomy and various Islamic groups wanting the same thing.
Damascus wants its sovereignty and territorial integrity protected. Syrians alone will decide how their nation is to be governed, including any changes to its current Constitution.
They want to remain free, independent and secular, what they’ve been fighting for since March 2011.
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.

Brexit Vote: UK Parliament Supports Invoking Article 50

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Thu, 02/02/2017 - 22:03
Brexit Vote: UK Parliament Supports Invoking Article 50
by Stephen Lendman
Last June, most Brits voted by non-binding referendum for Brexit. Parliament alone gets to decide if Britain remains in or leaves the EU, not British voters.
Things dragged on for months without resolution. A previous article explained UK Prime Minister Theresa May may be opposed, not supportive as she publicly stated.
Beginning a two-year exit process requires invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. It hasn’t yet been done, not by former Prime Minister David Cameron or current incumbent Theresa May, in office since July 13 last year.
She’s been foot-dragging to delay things - Brexit perhaps on a slow track to oblivion as I suggested in a previous article.
Parliamentarians may or may not be supportive when all is said and done at a much later date, voting on Wednesday to trigger Article 50 by a 498 - 114 majority. It’s for Theresa May to initiate the two-year process, which may or may not conclude with Britain leaving the EU.
It can go either way depending on what she and other dominant figures in Britain want and how negotiations with the EU go. During prime minister’s questions, she said she’ll publish a white paper on February 2, indicating the government’s plans going forward.
Tough negotiations remain on trade, immigration, agricultural protectionism and other contentious issues - with no certainty on how things will end, whether Brexit will happen or unravel along the way.
UK inaction over seven months since last June’s referendum at the least shows no rush to separate from Europe. Obama strongly opposed it. Trump approves, calling it “a good thing,” letting Brits take “back their country.”
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.

Invasive Digital Border Searches: Tell EFF Your Story

eff.org - Thu, 02/02/2017 - 07:52

Following President Trump’s confusing executive order on terrorism and immigration, reports surfaced over the weekend that border agents at airports were searching the cell phones of passengers arriving from the Middle East, including U.S. permanent residents (green card holders). We’re concerned that this indicates an expansion of the already invasive digital practices of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which is why we’re asking for your digital border search stories.

CBP has for some time now had a practice of demanding from both Americans and foreigners social media information and access to digital devices, which store on the devices themselves highly personal information and communications or link to cloud-based apps with equally sensitive data.

Last week, for example, we wrote about complaints by Muslim American citizens that CBP accessed public posts by demanding social media handles, and potentially accessed private posts by demanding cell phone passcodes and perusing social media apps. Border agents also allegedly physically abused one man who refused to hand over his unlocked phone.

CBP has also searched or attempted to search the digital devices of journalists, including a Wall Street Journal reporter who is an American citizen. Other Americans are also subject to seizure and search of their digital devices at the border, including one Iranian-American dual citizen who was returning to the U.S. from vacation to Niagara Falls and on whose behalf we wrote an amicus brief.

Last fall, we submitted comments to CBP opposing a proposal, which was approved in December before President Trump took office, to ask foreign visitors from Visa Waiver Countries voluntarily to disclose their social media handles. And CNN reported recently that the Trump Administration is contemplating requiring all foreign visitors “to disclose all websites and social media sites they visit, and to share the contacts in their cell phones.”

Given these recent developments, we’re worried that the invasiveness and frequency of device searches and investigations into the digital lives of travelers are increasing.

As part of our work to combat what we believe to be unconstitutional practices at the border, and to better understand how the Trump Administration’s new policies may be changing border practices, we would like to hear your stories.

Please let us know if a U.S. official at the border examined your cell phone, laptop, or other digital device; asked for your device’s passcode or ordered you to unlock or decrypt it; or asked for your social media handles.

We would like to hear from everyone, but especially if you are a citizen or permanent resident (green card holder) of the United States.

Please tell us:

  • Your legal status in the U.S. (citizen, permanent resident, visa holder).
  • What airport or border crossing you were at.
  • What devices you had with you.
  • What border agents specifically demanded (including social media handles and passcodes) or what they specifically looked through.
  • Whether border agents recorded any information.
  • Whether border agents stated or suggested that compliance with their demands was voluntary or mandatory.
  • Whether border agents threatened you in any way.
  • Whether border agents stated any reasons for their demands.

You can write to us at borders@eff.org. If you want to contact us securely via email, please use PGP/GPG. Or you can call us at +1-415-436-9333.

Related Cases: United States v. Saboonchi
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Indefensible: the W3C says companies should get to decide when and how security researchers reveal defects in browsers

eff.org - Thu, 02/02/2017 - 06:40

The World Wide Web Consortium has just signaled its intention to deliberately create legal jeopardy for security researchers who reveal defects in its members' products, unless the security researchers get the approval of its members prior to revealing the embarrassing mistakes those members have made in creating their products. It's a move that will put literally billions of people at risk as researchers are chilled from investigating and publishing on browsers that follow W3C standards.

It is indefensible.

When the W3C embarked on its plan to create a standardized DRM system for video on the World Wide Web, EFF told them it was a bad idea, pointing out that such a system could be covered under Section 1201 of the DMCA, which provides for criminal and civil penalties for people who tamper with DRM, even for legitimate purposes, including security disclosures, accessibility adaptation for people with disabilities, and making innovative, competitive products and services (almost every other country has its own version of this law).

The W3C told us that they were only concerned with the technological dimension of the work, not the legal ones -- if the problem was the DMCA, we should do something about the DMCA (we are).

But the W3C has a tried-and-true method for resolving conflicts between open standards and technology law. In the W3C's earliest days, it wrestled with the question of software patents, and whether to allow its members to assert patents over the standards they were creating. In the end, the W3C became an open standardization trailblazer: it formulated a patent policy that required its members to surrender the right to invoke their patents in lawsuits as a condition of participating in the W3C process. It was a brilliant move, and it made the W3C the premier standards body for the web.

We proposed that the W3C should extend this existing policy to cover the world's DRM laws. We suggested that W3C members should have to surrender their DMCA 1201 rights, making legally binding promises not to use DRM law to attack security researchers, technologists adapting browsers for disabled people, and innovative new entrants to the market.

This proposal has picked up steam. Hundreds of security researchers have endorsed it, as have dozens of W3C members, from leading research institutions like Eindhoven, Oxford and Lawrence Berkeley Labs to leading nonprofits that work for disabled people, like the UK's Royal National Institute for Blind People, Vision Australia, Braillenet in France, and Benetech in the USA; and browser vendors like Brave and cryptocurrency companies like Ethereum. This measure has also been integrated into the leading definition of an "open standard."

But last weekend, the W3C signalled that it would ignore all of these concerns, and instead embrace and extend the legal encumbrances created by its DRM work, creating a parallel working group that would develop "voluntary guidelines" for its members to employ when deciding whether to use the legal rights the W3C has created for them with EME to silence security researchers.

Companies can and should develop bug bounty programs and other ways to work with the security community, but there's a difference between companies being able to say, "We think you should disclose our bugs in this way," and "Do it our way or we'll sue."

Under almost every circumstance in almost every country, true facts about defects in products are always lawful to disclose. No one -- especially not the companies involved -- gets to dictate to security researchers, product reviewers and users when and how they can discuss mistakes that manufacturers have made. Security facts, like most facts, should be legal to talk about, even if they make companies unhappy.

By its own admission, the W3C did not set out to create a legal weapon that would give companies the unheard-of power to force silence upon security researchers who have discovered critical flaws in products we all entrust with our financial details, personal conversations, legal and medical information, and control over our cameras and microphones.

Considered separately from DRM standardization, this new project would be most welcome. The W3C is just the sort of place where we'd like to see best practices guidelines for offering incentives to use managed disclosure processes.

But in creating a DRM standard, the W3C has opted to codify and reinforce the legal weaponization of DRM law, rather than dismantling it. Bad enough that the W3C has summarily dismissed the concerns of new entrants into the browser market and organizations that provide access to disabled people -- but in the case of security concerns, they've gone even further. When it comes to security concerns, the W3C has departed from the technological standards business to become legal arms dealers.

We at EFF call on the W3C to reconvene its earlier negotiations to defang the legal consequences of its DRM work, and in so doing to transform its security disclosure work from a weapon to a normative guideline. It's one thing to help companies figure out how to make an attractive offer to the researchers who investigate browser security, but it's another thing altogether to standardize browser technology that empowers companies to sue the researchers who decline to take them up on the offer.


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Texas’ Overbroad Cyberbullying Bill Could Silence Unpopular Speech

eff.org - Thu, 02/02/2017 - 04:26

Online harassment is a serious problem. But censorship is not the solution. Thus, EFF has long opposed anti-harassment rules that would chill and punish lawful online speech. And courts have long struck down such laws for violating the First Amendment.

EFF now opposes a new Texas bill that would target online harassment of youths. Students most in need of protection—including those expressing unpopular opinions or documenting sexual assault—could find themselves facing disciplinary action or even expulsion. While we sympathize with the intention of the authors, trampling on fundamental free speech rights isn’t the solution to harassment.

This bill has many flaws, but we emphasize four in our letter to the Texas legislature.

School Discipline

The Texas bill would expand the power of school officials to discipline youths for “cyberbullying.” The bill’s vague and overbroad definition of that term would include a single email from one student to another that “infringes on the rights of the victim at school.” Those “rights” are not defined.

School officials might use this new power to silence unpopular speech by the very students that some legislators may wish to protect. Suppose that in a current events class, one student said they oppose gay marriage or Black Lives Matter protesters. Suppose further that in response, the leader of that school’s Gay-Straight Alliance or NAACP chapter sent the first student a critical email that concluded, “I wish you would keep your opinion to yourself.” School officials might determine that the second student’s email infringed on the first student’s right to speak in class, and thus impose discipline for sending the email.

School Expulsion

The bill authorizes expulsion from school of a student who engages in bullying that encourages another student to commit suicide. This rule would not take into account the expelled student’s intentions, the consequences of their actions, or how a reasonable student would have interpreted the expelled student’s words.

Suppose in the hypothetical above that the second student’s email had said, “Why don’t you jump off a bridge so we don’t have to listen to your opinions?” The student who sent the email could be expelled, though they meant “jump off a bridge” rhetorically, the recipient did not attempt any self-harm, and the rest of the student body, familiar with the students involved, would have known the suggestion was not serious.

The bill also authorizes expulsion of a student who releases intimate visual material of another student. The expelled student might have had no previous relationship with the depicted student; for example, they may have forwarded along an image they received from someone else. The expelled student may have intended no harm, caused no harm, or had consent from the depicted person. The released images might be newsworthy; for example, the victim of a sexual assault might release images of their assailant’s crime. The bill authorizes expulsion without regard to any of these considerations.

It bears emphasis that school expulsion is highly disruptive to the educational and other needs of expelled children. And all too often, expulsion and other school discipline disproportionately impacts minority and LGBT youths.

Unmasking Anonymous Bloggers

The bill authorizes subpoenas to investigate potential legal claims arising from any undefined “injury” to a minor before a lawsuit is ever filed. This new process would threaten the First Amendment right to communicate anonymously on the Internet. This right is especially important for people who belong to unpopular groups or who express unpopular messages, who might otherwise stay silent rather than risk retaliation.

In the hypothetical above, suppose the second student anonymously blogged about the classroom comments of the first student, and concluded, “only a jerk would say this in class.” The first student might try to use the bill’s pre-suit subpoena process to unmask the anonymous blogger, based on the pretext of a highly dubious defamation claim. The risk of unmasking would silence many anonymous speakers.

Defending Against a Damages Lawsuit

The bill would authorize civil lawsuits against a student who sent an email to another student that encouraged them to commit suicide. Again, this is far too broad, because it does not take into account the speaker’s intentions, the message’s consequences, and the response of a reasonable person to the message.

Moreover, the bill would impose damages liability upon the parents of a minor who sent a prohibited email, whether or not the parents had anything to do with the email. Most parents do not require their adolescent children to obtain parental permission before sending emails, text messages, and posts to social media. Nor should they.

Conclusion

Any new laws against online harassment must be carefully and narrowly drawn to ensure they do not inadvertently harm the people they are intended to protect, and do not chill or punish lawful online speech. The Texas cyberbullying bill fails both of these tests.

Read EFF’s full letter to the Texas legislature.


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Kiev Escalates War on Donbass

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Thu, 02/02/2017 - 03:26
Kiev Escalates War on Donbass
by Stephen Lendman
Obama-installed putschists instituted a reign of terror on Ukrainians in February 2014 after usurping power illegitimately, committing sweeping human rights violations - with full US support and encouragement.
How Trump intends dealing with Kiev remains to be seen. His UN envoy Nikki Haley’s comment isn’t encouraging, affirming “the United States’ support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine” - despite the illegitimacy of its coup d’etat regime. 
Backing it would show Trump’s no different from Obama, pursuing imperial madness while claiming to be non-interventionist.
Overnight Tuesday, Ukrainian Forces shelled the Donbass Avdeevka/Yasinovataya/Donetsk airport area.
Civilian homes and infrastructure were damaged, casualties reported on both sides. Kiev continues regular Minsk ceasefire agreement violations, Donbass freedom fighters blamed for their high crimes.
What’s going on is related to possible improved US/Russia relations under Trump, Kiev putschists wanting rapprochement undermined.
On Wednesday, Ukrainian minister of war, Igor Pavlovsky, admitted government forces launched an offensive on Donbass, saying:
“Today, no matter what, meter by meter, step by step and seizing the opportunity, our boys are heroically moving forward.” They’re getting smashed like earlier, scores killed so far, others wounded.
Commenting on what’s going on, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “(w)e are dealing with provocative actions by the armed forces of Ukraine and individual groups” - flagrantly violating Minsk, wanting it undermined.
Since January 28, heavy fighting raged, much like during the height of 2014-15 hostilities. Reporting from Donetsk, journalist Dawid Hudziec said “(o)ver the past two days, the situation has deteriorated.”
“The Donetsk People’s Republic alone has reported more approximately a thousand shellings a day…”
DPR leader Alexander Zakharchenko cited the “Trump factor” behind Kiev’s current offensive, saying “Ukraine started the escalation of fighting because Russia and America are heading for a rapprochement. To be more precise, they are attempting to” undermine it.
Conditions are “very difficult,” he explained, adding Ukrainian forces “suffered big losses” and “won’t (break) through.”
Servey Lavrov pointedly said “(e)verybody knows who is leading the situation in Ukraine into a dead end. The latest provocations by the regime in Kiev are a fresh confirmation of this.”
“Even the deeply biased German press has recognized that the man behind all this is Poroshenko, for whom it is very important to aggravate the situation to make everybody remember about Ukraine.” 
“It is a matter of his conscience. He put his signature to the Minsk Accords, and he is obliged to comply with them.”
Putin spokesman Peskov stressed the urgency of Russia/US dialogue, given what ongoing in Ukraine, besides efforts to resolve Syria’s conflict, talks now scheduled to resume in Geneva on February 20.
Peskov said Putin and Trump only touched on Ukraine briefly during their phone conversation last week. Much more attention needs to be paid to deteriorating conditions.
Russian upper house Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matviyenko has “no doubt that sooner or later, there will be a trial over the people who are at war in Donbass with their own people.”
In closed-door session, the Security Council unanimously called for “an immediate return to a ceasefire regime.” It endorsed a Ukrainian-drafted statement, the aggressor, omitting Russian objections.
Kiev never observed Minsk ceasefire terms. Its current escalation may kill it altogether.
A Final Comment
The neocon/CIA-connected Washington Post outrageously blamed “Russian-backed forces in (Donbass for) launch(ing)” the offensive Kiev initiated - saying they’re “raining down…grad rockets and heavy artillery…on Ukrainian army positions…”
As usual, WaPo reported things backwards. Donbass freedom fighters responded to Kiev’s aggression, acting in self-defense as entitled to do under international law.
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.

Trump v. CNN

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Thu, 02/02/2017 - 03:17
Trump v. CNN
by Stephen Lendman
Cable television’s first news network, founded in 1980 by media mogul Ted Turner, is now its least reputable, its credibility in tatters, its ratings way down since Trump’s election.
MSNBC also lost viewership. Fox News gained it at the expense of its rival cable news networks.
It’s clear what’s happening. Trump supporters are boycotting CNN and MSNBC for one-sidedly supporting Hillary, denigrating the candidate emerging triumphant in November.
It may get worse for CNN, according to a Politico report, quoting an unnamed White House official, likely press secretary Sean Spicer, saying “(w)e’re sending surrogates to places where we think it makes sense to promote our agenda” - acknowledging a CNN boycott, adding it’s not permanent.
Spicer and senior Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway haven’t appeared on CNN in weeks. Spicer said he’s answering the networks questions during press briefings, adding he won’t “engage with people who have no desire to actually get something right.”
After his inauguration, Trump blasted CNN, calling it “fake news.” Since then, top administration officials appear on cable and broadcast Sunday shows regularly, CNN excluded.
The network’s State of the Union host Jake Tapper, said “(w)e invited the Trump White House to offer us a guest to provide clarity and an explanation of what the president just did, especially given so much confusion, even within its own government by those who are supposed to carry out this order, (but it) declined our invitation.”
The Obama administration “treat(ed) (Fox News as) an opponent,” according to its 2009 communications director Anita Dunn. Still, his White House officials occasionally appeared on the network.
Politico said “Fox News did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A CNN spokeswoman declined to comment.”
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.

Trump Picks Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Wed, 01/02/2017 - 22:59
Trump Picks Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court
by Stephen Lendman
On Tuesday, Trump nominated US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the Supreme Court seat left vacant after Antonin Scalia’s mid-February 2016 death, saying:
“When Justice Scalia passed away suddenly last February, I made a promise to the American people: If I were elected president, I would find the very best judge in the country for the Supreme Court.”
“I promised to select someone who respects our laws and is representative of our Constitution and who loves our Constitution and someone who will interpret them as written.”
Gorsuch earned a BA at Columbia University, a JD at Harvard Law School (graduating in the same class as Obama), and a PhD in Law from Oxford.
His mother, Anne Gorsuch Burford, served as Reagan’s EPA administrator from May 1981 - March 1983.
Gorsuch is a constitutional originalist, believing law interpretation should be consistent with its original meaning.
He opposes all forms of assisted suicide, twice ruling against the Obamacare contraception mandate, never on abortion.
In 2009, his book titled “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia” argued against both practices, morally and legally, saying “(i)t is an argument premised on the idea that all human beings are intrinsically valuable and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong” - showing where he’ll likely stand on abortion if a Roe v. Wade challenge reaches the High Court.
In Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores (later Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores before the Supreme Court), challenging Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate, Gorsuch sided with the company’s sought religious exemption - permitting it to operate according to its religious beliefs.
In Yellowbear v. Lampert, he supported the plaintiff’s right to practice his faith in prison. In Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Loretta Lynch, he said immigration officials exceeded their authority in interpreting cases preceding judicial rulings, especially since courts expressed skepticism about applying a new rule retroactively.
In United States v. Nichols, he criticized the Supreme Court’s “non-delegation doctrine,” relating to limits on how much legislative power Congress can delegate to the the Executive Branch.
In Pleasant Grove City v. Summum, he said displaying a Ten Commandments monument in a public part doesn’t obligate government to include other symbols or representations of other religions.
In Energy and Environmental Legal Institute v. Joshua Epel, he argued that Colorado’s renewable energy mandates don’t violate the commerce clause by putting out-of-state coal companies at a disadvantage.
He supports the death penalty in states where it’s legal. He believes statutes should be interpreted literally. He opposes judicial activism, saying cases shouldn’t be decided based on “moral convictions (of judges) or the policy consequences they believe might serve society best.”
All High Court members, including the recently deceased Antonin Scalia, attended Harvard or Yale law schools. If Gorsuch’s nomination is approved, tradition will remain unchanged. He’s a former Justice Anthony Kennedy law clerk (from 1993 - 1994.)
Ruth Bader Ginsburg graduated from Columbia Law School after transferring from Harvard.
Gorsuch is a former GW Bush Deputy Associate Attorney General. In 2006, Bush nominated him to serve as a Tenth Circuit judge. From 1995 - 2005, he practiced law for Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel, becoming a partner in 1998.
In private practice, he argued against class action lawsuits by shareholders in Dura Pharmaceuticals v. Broudo. He supports money-controlled elections, calling funds given politicians a “fundamental right.”
Together with Trump when nominated, he called Justice Scalia “a lion of the law,” adding “it is for Congress and not the courts to write new laws. It is the role of judges to apply, not alter, the work of the people’s representatives.”
In a 2016 lecture, he said judges should strive “to apply the law as it is, focusing backward, not forward, and looking to text, structure, and history to decide what a reasonable reader at the time of the events in question would have understood the law to be.”
In an earlier essay, he said “American liberals have become addicted to the courtroom, relying on judges and lawyers rather than elected leaders and the ballot box, as the primary means of effecting their social agenda on everything from gay marriage to assisted suicide to the use of vouchers for private-school education.”
“This overweening addiction to the courtroom as the place to debate social policy is bad for the country and bad for the judiciary.”
Since the High Court’s 1789 founding, its rulings show allegiance to power, not “we the people.”
Privilege alone matters. The prevailing fiction about America’s founders establishing an egalitarian system representing all citizens equitably is polar opposite reality.
The nation was always ruled by men (more recently including women), not laws. They lie, connive, misinterpret laws, and pretty much do what they please for their own self-interest and powerful constituents.
Michael Parenti calls the Supreme Court America’s “aristocratic branch…the activist bastion of laissez-faire capitalism…oppos(ing) restrictions on capitalist power, support(ing) restrictions on the civil liberties of persons who agitated against that power.”
America’s Supremes are supremely pro-business, pro-privilege, serving as guardians of entrenched power. 
Gorsuch represents business as usual. If confirmed, he’ll almost certainly protect privilege over the general welfare.
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.

Trump Supplying Armored Vehicles to Anti-Syrian Forces

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Wed, 01/02/2017 - 22:50
Trump Supplying Armored Vehicles to Anti-Syrian Forces
by Stephen Lendman
All anti-government forces in Syria are terrorists. No moderates exist. Does Trump want conflict resolution or continued war?
According to Pentagon spokesman Col. John Dorrian, “(w)e have provided armored sport utility vehicles to the Syrian Arab Coalition using existing authorities, in the interest of helping protect our partnered force from the (IS) improvised-explosive device threat.”
“The decision was made by military commanders, and has been in the works for some time.” Were heavy weapons sent with them, used at least largely against government forces?
So-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are terrorists. Helping them risks undermining conflict resolution.
According to SDF spokesman Talal Sello, US armored vehicles arrived for the first time, the Trump administration authorizing them. 
“Before we used to receive light weapons (and) ammunition...With these armored vehicles, we’ve entered a new phase (in US) support. It's a sign.”
Sello said SDF elements met with Trump representatives, “who had promised…extra support.” Throughout the conflict, Washington supported all anti-government terrorist groups.
In January, US Air Mobility Command General Carlton Everhart said the Pentagon increased its airdrops of weapons, munitions, equipment and supplies to militant groups, claiming they’re moderates when none exist.
Does Trump want war or peace? Supporting anti-government forces isn’t encouraging.
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.

Trump's National Trade Council Director Calls TTIP Dead

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Wed, 01/02/2017 - 22:38
Trump’s National Trade Council Director Calls TTIP Dead
by Stephen Lendman
The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is TPP’s counterpart - both measures constituting assaults on personal freedoms.
They’re anti-consumer, anti-ecosanity, jobs-killing corporate sweetheart deals, letting them operate unaccountably at the expense of the general welfare.
They empower profit-making over human health, welfare, labor rights, digital freedom and virtually all other consumer protections.
Interviewed by the Financial Times on Tuesday, Trump’s chief trade advisor, Peter Navarro, called the euro an “implicit Deutsche Mark.”
Accusing Germany of currency manipulation, he said its undervaluation gives the country an advantage over its main trading partners, calling its policy a major problem in negotiating a US trade deal with European countries - pronouncing TTIP dead.
“It does the American economy no long-term good to only keep the big box factories where we are now assembling ‘American’ products that are composed primarily of foreign components,” he said. 
“We need to manufacture those components in a robust domestic supply chain that will spur job and wage growth.” 
Germany “continues to exploit other countries in the EU as well as the US,” he maintains, adding the Trump administration will pursue bilateral trade deals, favoring America.
Germany is the dominant EU country, the world’s 4th largest economy (after America, China and Japan), an exporting powerhouse, 2nd largest to China, taking full advantage of low euro valuation.
“The German structural imbalance in trade with the rest of the EU and the US underscores the problem,” Navarro claimed. He called the Brexit vote the death knell of a US/EU deal.
He supports an import tax, retaliation likely to follow from affected countries, if implemented.
“I worry about the actual impact America’s trade deficit in goods is having on our rates of economic growth and income growth,” he said.
America’s 2016 trade deficit was a whopping $666 billion - up from $531.5 billion in 2015.
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.

NYT Blasts Trump's Executive Actions

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Wed, 01/02/2017 - 22:18
NYT Blasts Trump’s Executive Actions
by Stephen Lendman
The Times is militantly anti-Trump, blasting him irresponsibly throughout the campaign season, continuing its assault post-election, still unrelenting since he took office.
Its unstated concern is over how he’s challenging some long established policies - like killing TPP, TTIP to follow according to his chief trade advisor, wanting Obamacare repealed and replaced, as well as saying he’d like to improve relations with Russia.
The Times: He’s “pumping out executive orders and memorandums aimed at turning his campaign pledges into action…”
“He has issued more than a dozen orders and memorandums, often without significant review by Congress or federal lawyers, and always with little regard for the agencies responsible for overseeing the outcome.”
Fact: Though not constitutionally authorized, executive orders in America are longstanding, issued by presidents to set forth and manage administration policies - subject to congressional or legal challenge.
Nearly all presidents used them, beginning with George Washington, issuing 8 EOs. Lincoln issued 48, Theodore Roosevelt 1,081, Woodrow Wilson 1,803, Franklin Roosevelt the all-time EO issuer with 3,522.
Bill Clinton issued 364, GW Bush 291 and Obama 275. Trump has a long way to go to catch or surpass them. Obama issued more presidential memoranda than any other US president. 
Combined with EOs, he issued more executive actions than any US president since Harry Truman, including the imposition of illegal sanctions on Russia and Iran. No Times outrage followed.
All presidents rely heavily on advisors and administration officials, Trump no exception. The Times saying he’s “pumping out executive orders and memorandums” on his own without review is utter nonsense.
They’re written by lawyers in clear, precise, detailed language so they’ll hold up under legal scrutiny - even though at times they can judicially be ruled unconstitutional if challenged in federal courts.
The Times wants Trump denigrated and delegitimized, his agenda undermined. In contrast, it supported Obama’s worse crimes, along with the horrors committed by the Clintons and Bush/Cheney.
Trump blasted media “dishonesty,” “lying” and “fake news” numerous times. In three January 28 tweets, he said:
“The failing @nytimes has been wrong about me from the very beginning. Said I would lose the primaries, then the general election. FAKE NEWS!”
“Th(e) coverage about me in the @nytimes and the @washingtonpost has been so false and angry that the times actually apologized to its…..”
“...dwindling subscribers and readers.They got me wrong right from the beginning and still have not changed course, and never will. DISHONEST.”
He justifiably explained both publications, others, and most television news produce “false and angry” reports about him.
He’s using his bully pulpit to fight back - reaching over 23 million followers via Twitter alone, the number growing daily.
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.

Leaked TISA Safe Harbor Proposal: the Right Idea in the Wrong Place

eff.org - Wed, 01/02/2017 - 10:03

A new leak of the Electronic Commerce chapter [PDF] of the Trade in Services Agreement from the November 2016 negotiating round has exposed a brand new U.S. government proposal on Internet intermediary safe harbors. The proposal, which the European Union is shown as opposing, is a rough analog to 47 U.S.C.§ 230, enacted as part of the Communications Decency Act (known simply as "Section 230", or sometimes as CDA 230).

Section 230 is one of the most important provisions of U.S. law for online platforms that host users' speech. It provides a shield protecting online intermediaries against a range of laws that would otherwise that would otherwise hold them responsible for what their users say or do online. Although there are exceptions to this law—for example, the immunity does not protect platforms' hosting of user-generated material that infringes copyright (which is governed by the weaker DMCA safe harbor)—Section 230 remains an invaluable catalyst to innovation and free expression online, and a major reason for the success of U.S. Internet platforms around the world. 

The existence of a U.S. proposal for TISA based on Section 230 had been rumored for some months, and when asked directly about it last October the USTR did confirm its existence to EFF. However, we had not seen a copy of the text until now. Like Section 230, the provision excludes intellectual property rights and criminal law enforcement, but otherwise provides:

  1. [N]o Party may adopt or maintain measures that treat a supplier or user of an interactive computer service as an information content provider in determining liability for harms related to information stored, processed, transmitted, distributed, or made available by the service, except to the extent the supplier or user has, in whole or in part, created, or developed the information.
  2. No Party shall impose liability on a supplier or user of an interactive computer service on account of:
    1. any action voluntarily taken in good faith by the supplier or user to restrict access to or availability of material that is accessible or available through its supply or use of the interactive computer services and that the supplier or user consideres [sic] to be harmful or objectionable; or
    2. any action taken to enable or make available the technical means that enable an information content provider or other persons to restrict access to material that it considers to be harmful or objectionable.

Although we usually talk about Section 230 in the context of the protection that it provides platforms for hosting or republishing the speech of users (paragraph 2 above), it also does the reverse—protecting them from liability for removing users' speech from their platforms, provided that they do so in good faith (paragraph 3 above). This so-called "Good Samaritan" provision affirms that online platforms are entitled to choose what user content they do or don't wish to host, and allows technology providers to provide tools for platform owners to use in exercising that choice. Without this legal clarity, Internet intermediaries could face legal consequences for choosing not to host or provide access to content that they find objectionable on their platforms or networks.

EFF is a supporter of the Section 230 safe harbor, and we would also support its extension to the other TISA countries that presently lack similar protections for Internet intermediaries in their law. Just to give two examples from countries that are amongst TISA's negotiating parties, Turkey frequently threatens Internet platforms such as Facebook and Twitter with liability for the speech of their users, and in Estonia an online news publication was held liable in defamation for anonymous comments submitted by users. Such claims against Internet platforms would fall flat in the United States, thanks to the Section 230 safe harbor.

But it's for this reason, probably, that Europe is opposing the TISA proposal. Like the United States, Europe goes into trade negotiations with the express objective of maintaining its existing laws, and Europe's equivalent to CDA 230, its E-Commerce Directive, simply doesn't measure up to this U.S. proposal. Although Europe is also considering adopting a Good Samaritan provision to clarify that providers will not become liable for user content by reason of steps they take to filter out and eradicate illegal content on their platforms, there is no similar proposal to expand safe harbor protection for user content that intermediaries leave online. Indeed, if anything, Europe is planning to lump intermediaries with additional responsibility for user content.

It's likely, then, that this proposal is either dead in the water, or else that it will be considerably watered down before TISA is finalised, if ever. And there in a nutshell lies the reason why EFF, despite our support for Section 230, can't support the inclusion of this provision in a closed, secret trade agreement such as TISA. It is by pure good fortune that we have been able to read this first draft of the USTR's proposal thanks to the document being leaked. But unless and until it is leaked again, we will remain blind to any changes that may be wrought in the back and forth of TISA's closed-door negotiations, which might well end up twisting the proposal beyond recognition.

EFF commends the USTR for the intent of its proposal. We too have promoted the extension of Section 230-style safe harbor protection around the world, through our Manila Principles on Intermediary Liability. But until trade agreements can be made more open and inclusive, they are the wrong tool to promote such an important policy for the global Internet.


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Categories: Aggregated News

Stupid Patent of the Month: A Lyrics Website With User Interaction

eff.org - Wed, 01/02/2017 - 09:03

Song lyrics are some of the most searched-for topics on the Internet. This has lead to fierce competition among lyrics sites. If you scroll to the bottom of one of these websites, you’ll see the claim: “Song discussions is protected by U.S. Patent No. 9,401,941.” We are honoring this “song discussions” patent as January’s Stupid Patent of the Month.

The patent (we’ll call it the ’941 Patent) is owned by CBS Interactive and discloses a “computer-implemented system” for “processing interactions with song lyrics.” It explains that other websites display lyrics in a “static form” and suggests there is a “lack of mechanisms for increasing the engagement of users with song lyrics.” The patent suggests allowing users to interact with lyrics by allowing them to “select[] a segment,” displaying a “menu of options,” and allowing the user to enter an “interpretation of the selected line.”

The patent dates back to an application filed in February 2011. Although it is 23 columns long, in our view the patent does not describe any software or Internet technology that was remotely new or innovative at that time. Rather, it describes common and mundane features, such as a  “menu of options,” “user-inputted text” and a “user interaction database,” and applies these features to a lyrics website. That should not be enough to get a patent.

In fairness, the ’941 Patent’s claims were significantly narrowed during prosecution. While the Patent Office often does a poor job searching for prior art, the examiner in this case did at least find the Rap Genius website (now known as Genius). As a result, CBS narrowed its claims to require that the website suggest possible comments to users based on what others have commented in the past. This means most lyrics websites likely won’t infringe the patent.

But the ’941 Patent should not have been granted even in its narrowed form. Online annotations were certainly not new. And there was nothing revolutionary in 2011 about suggesting entries to a user based on previous user data. (To take just one example, autocomplete for Google search debuted in 2004.) Simply applying these techniques to a song lyric website should not have been patentable. Indeed, the patent itself notes that its methods could be applied to any form of text.

Ultimately, patents like this one reflect the near total failure by the Patent Office to police obviousness in software and Internet patents. Any website will involve multiple design decisions. It requires choices regarding user accounts, passwords, encryption, cookies, software languages, advertising, user interface/user experience, database structure, APIs, server architecture, etc. Given the number of choices, major websites usually reflect a unique combination of those decisions.

But giving someone a patent merely for having a unique combination of features is absurd. The patent system is supposed to reward innovation that we wouldn’t have without the incentive of a patent. It should not reward routine web development with a 20 year monopoly.

This month’s patent is similar to the patent on filming a yoga class or Amazon’s infamous patent on white-background photography. In both of those cases, the examiner found some prior art but the applicant persisted by adding mundane features to the claims until the examiner could not find documentary evidence of those exact features. An applicant can effectively game the system by adding elements so obvious no one would ever write them down in a reference. Together with Public Knowledge, EFF recently filed an amicus brief [PDF] asking the Supreme Court to consider the obviousness standard in patent law and to reaffirm that examiners can reject common sense combinations of known elements.

Leaving aside obviousness, the ’941 Patent should also have been rejected under Alice v. CLS Bank. Routine web development decisions should be considered “generic” computer processes that are insufficient to elevate an abstract idea to patent eligibility. A patent application like this one, with rote recitations of basic computer functions and a bunch of boxes and lines in a flow chart, should at least draw a searching analysis under Alice. Yet the Patent Office never even raised Alice and subject matter eligibility during prosecution. We have submitted multiple rounds of comments (1, 2, 3, and 4) to the Patent Office asking it to be more diligent in applying Alice.

Fortunately, the ’941 Patent has never been asserted in litigation. But software patents like it are the raw materials behind the rise of patent trolling. Ultimately, we need broad patent reform so such patents are not issued in the first place.


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Categories: Aggregated News

Filing and Draining the Swamp

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Wed, 01/02/2017 - 04:16
Filling and Draining the Swamp
by Stephen Lendman
Appointing generals and billionaires to top administration posts isn’t what most people consider “draining the swamp.”
In fairness, judge them by their actions. Most aren’t in office yet, Senate Dems holding up confirmations - one of many appalling examples of how America is run.
Trump’s EO on “Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Appointees” is an action deserving praise. It bans every executive agency appointee from: 
  • lobbying any US government official for two years after returning to private life, and the agency they worked in for five years;

  • lobbying America on behalf of any foreign government or political parties; or

  • accepting gifts from registered lobbyists or lobbying organizations for the duration of” their public service.

The order is “enforceable…by any legally available means,” including “debarment proceedings within any affected executive agency or civil judicial proceedings for declaratory, injunctive, or monetary relief.”
What’s unclear is whether loopholes in the EO can be used to circumvent the intent of this order, such as former government officials returning to private life spending less than 20% of their time lobbying to avoid registering as the Lobbying Disclosure Act requires. 
Executive orders are detailed, precise, and easily understood. They’re supposed to be legal - written by lawyers, but you don’t have to be one to understand what they cover.
Here’s the text of Trump’s “Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Appointees EO:
“By the authority vested in me as President of the United States by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including section 301 of title 3, United States Code, and sections 3301 and 7301 of title 5, United States Code, it is hereby ordered as follows:     “Section 1. Ethics Pledge.  Every appointee in every executive agency appointed on or after January 20, 2017, shall sign, and upon signing shall be contractually committed to, the following pledge upon becoming an appointee:     As a condition, and in consideration, of my employment in the United States Government in an appointee position invested with the public trust, I commit myself to the following obligations, which I understand are binding on me and are enforceable under law:    1. I will not, within 5 years after the termination of my employment as an appointee in any executive agency in which I am appointed to serve, engage in lobbying activities with respect to that agency.     2. If, upon my departure from the Government, I am covered by the post-employment restrictions on communicating with employees of my former executive agency set forth in section 207(c) of title 18, United States Code, I agree that I will abide by those restrictions.     3. In addition to abiding by the limitations of paragraphs 1 and 2, I also agree, upon leaving Government service, not to engage in lobbying activities with respect to any covered executive branch official or non-career Senior Executive Service appointee for the remainder of the Administration.     4. I will not, at any time after the termination of my employment in the United States Government, engage in any activity on behalf of any foreign government or foreign political party which, were it undertaken on January 20, 2017, would require me to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, as amended.     5. I will not accept gifts from registered lobbyists or lobbying organizations for the duration of my service as an appointee.     6. I will not for a period of 2 years from the date of my appointment participate in any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to my former employer or former clients, including regulations and contracts.     7. If I was a registered lobbyist within the 2 years before the date of my appointment, in addition to abiding by the limitations of paragraph 6, I will not for a period of 2 years after the date of my appointment participate in any particular matter on which I lobbied within the 2 years before the date of my appointment or participate in the specific issue area in which that particular matter falls.     8. I agree that any hiring or other employment decisions I make will be based on the candidate's qualifications, competence, and experience.     9. I acknowledge that the Executive Order entitled ‘Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Appointees,’ issued by the President on January 28, 2017, which I have read before signing this document, defines certain terms applicable to the foregoing obligations and sets forth the methods for enforcing them. I expressly accept the provisions of that Executive Order as a part of this agreement and as binding on me. I understand that the obligations of this pledge are in addition to any statutory or other legal restrictions applicable to me by virtue of Government service.     Sec. 2. Definitions. As used herein and in the pledge set forth in section 1 of this order:     (a) ‘Administration’ means all terms of office of the incumbent President serving at the time of the appointment of an appointee covered by this order.     (b) ‘Appointee’ means every full-time, non-career Presidential or Vice-Presidential appointee, non-career appointee in the Senior Executive Service (or other SES-type system), and appointee to a position that has been excepted from the competitive service by reason of being of a confidential or policymaking character (Schedule C and other positions excepted under comparable criteria) in an executive agency.  It does not include any person appointed as a member of the Senior Foreign Service or solely as a uniformed service commissioned officer.     (c) ‘Covered executive branch official’ shall have the definition set forth in the Lobbying Disclosure Act.     (d) ‘Directly and substantially related to my former employer or former clients’ shall mean matters in which the appointee's former employer or a former client is a party or represents a party.     (e) ‘Executive agency’ and ‘agency’ mean "executive agency’ as defined in section 105 of title 5, United States Code, except that the terms shall include the Executive Office of the President, the United States Postal Service, and the Postal Regulatory Commission, and excludes the Government Accountability Office. As used in paragraph 1 of the pledge, ‘executive agency’ means the entire agency in which the appointee is appointed to serve, except that:
(1) with respect to those appointees to whom such designations are applicable under section 207(h) of title 18, United States Code, the term means an agency or bureau designated by the Director of the Office of Government Ethics under section 207(h) as a separate department or agency at the time the appointee ceased to serve in that department or agency; and
(2) an appointee who is detailed from one executive agency to another for more than 60 days in any calendar year shall be deemed to be an officer or employee of both agencies during the period such person is detailed.     (f) ‘Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, as amended’ means sections 611 through 621 of title 22, United States Code.     (g) ‘Foreign government’ means the ‘government of a foreign country,’ as defined in section 1(e) of the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, as amended, 22 U.S.C. 611(e).     (h) ‘Foreign political party has the same meaning as that term has in section 1(f) of the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, as amended, 22 U.S.C. 611(f).     (i) ‘Former client’ is any person for whom the appointee served personally as agent, attorney, or consultant within the 2 years prior to the date of his or her appointment, but excluding instances where the service provided was limited to a speech or similar appearance.  It does not include clients of the appointee’s former employer to whom the appointee did not personally provide services.     (j) ‘Former employer’ is any person for whom the appointee has within the 2 years prior to the date of his or her appointment served as an employee, officer, director, trustee, or general partner, except that ‘former employer’ does not include any executive agency or other entity of the Federal Government, State or local government, the District of Columbia, Native American tribe, or any United States territory or possession.     (k) ‘Gift’
(1) shall have the definition set forth in section 2635.203(b) of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations;
(2) shall include gifts that are solicited or accepted indirectly as defined at section 2635.203(f) of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations; and
(3) shall exclude those items excluded by sections 2635.204(b), (c), (e)(1) & (3), (j), (k), and (l) of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations.     (l) ‘Government official’ means any employee of the executive branch.     (m) ‘Lobbied’ shall mean to have acted as a registered lobbyist.     (n) ‘Lobbying activities’ has the same meaning as that term has in the Lobbying Disclosure Act, except that the term does not include communicating or appearing with regard to:  a judicial proceeding; a criminal or civil law enforcement inquiry, investigation, or proceeding; or any agency process for rulemaking, adjudication, or licensing, as defined in and governed by the Administrative Procedure Act, as amended, 5 U.S.C. 551 et seq.     (o) ‘Lobbying Disclosure Act’ means sections 1601 et seq. of title 2, United States Code.     (p)  ‘Lobbyist’ shall have the definition set forth in the Lobbying Disclosure Act.     (q) ‘On behalf of another’ means on behalf of a person or entity other than the individual signing the pledge or his or her spouse, child, or parent.     (r) ‘Particular matter’ shall have the same meaning as set forth in section 207 of title 28, United States Code, and section 2635.402(b)(3) of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations.     (s) ‘Particular matter involving specific parties’ shall have the same meaning as set forth in section 2641.201(h) of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations, except that it shall also include any meeting or other communication relating to the performance of one’s official duties with a former employer or former client, unless the communication applies to a particular matter of general applicability and participation in the meeting or other event is open to all interested parties.     (t) ‘Participate’ means to participate personally and substantially.     (u) ‘Pledge’ means the ethics pledge set forth in section 1 of this order.     (v) ‘Post-employment restrictions’ shall include the provisions and exceptions in section 207(c) of title 18, United States Code, and the implementing regulations.     (w) ‘Registered lobbyist or lobbying organization’ shall mean a lobbyist or an organization filing a registration pursuant to section 1603(a) of title 2, United States Code, and in the case of an organization filing such a registration, ‘registered lobbyist’ shall include each of the lobbyists identified therein.     (x) Terms that are used herein and in the pledge, and also used in section 207 of title 18, United States Code, shall be given the same meaning as they have in section 207 and any implementing regulations issued or to be issued by the Office of Government Ethics, except to the extent those terms are otherwise defined in this order.     (y) All references to provisions of law and regulations shall refer to such provisions as in effect on January 20, 2017.     Sec. 3. Waiver. (a) The President or his designee may grant to any person a waiver of any restrictions contained in the pledge signed by such person.     (b) A waiver shall take effect when the certification is signed by the President or his designee.     (c) A copy of the waiver certification shall be furnished to the person covered by the waiver and provided to the head of the agency in which that person is or was appointed to serve.     Sec. 4. Administration. (a) The head of every executive agency shall establish for that agency such rules or procedures (conforming as nearly as practicable to the agency’s general ethics rules and procedures, including those relating to designated agency ethics officers) as are necessary or appropriate:
(1) to ensure that every appointee in the agency signs the pledge upon assuming the appointed office or otherwise becoming an appointee; and
(2) to ensure compliance with this order within the agency.     (b) With respect to the Executive Office of the President, the duties set forth in section 4(a) shall be the responsibility of the Counsel to the President or such other official or officials to whom the President delegates those duties.     (c) The Director of the Office of Government Ethics shall:
(1) ensure that the pledge and a copy of this Executive Order are made available for use by agencies in fulfilling their duties under section 4(a);
(2) in consultation with the Attorney General or Counsel to the President, when appropriate, assist designated agency ethics officers in providing advice to current or former appointees regarding the application of the pledge; and
(3) adopt such rules or procedures (conforming as nearly as practicable to its generally applicable rules and procedures) as are necessary or appropriate:
(i) to carry out the foregoing responsibilities;
(ii) to apply the lobbyist gift ban set forth in paragraph 5 of the pledge to all executive branch employees;
(iii) to authorize limited exceptions to the lobbyist gift ban for circumstances that do not implicate the purposes of the ban;
(iv) to make clear that no person shall have violated the lobbyist gift ban if the person properly disposes of a gift as provided by section 2635.206 of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations;
(v) to ensure that existing rules and procedures for Government employees engaged in negotiations for future employment with private businesses that are affected by their official actions do not affect the integrity of the Government's programs and operations; and(vi)   to ensure, in consultation with the Director of the Office of Personnel Management, that the requirement set forth in paragraph 8 of the pledge is honored by every employee of the executive branch;     (d) An appointee who has signed the pledge is not required to sign the pledge again upon appointment or detail to a different office, except that a person who has ceased to be an appointee, due to termination of employment in the executive branch or otherwise, shall sign the pledge prior to thereafter assuming office as an appointee.     (e) All pledges signed by appointees, and all waiver certifications with respect thereto, shall be filed with the head of the appointee's agency for permanent retention in the appointee's official personnel folder or equivalent folder.     Sec. 5. Enforcement. (a) The contractual, fiduciary, and ethical commitments in the pledge provided for herein are solely enforceable by the United States by any legally available means, including any or all of the following: debarment proceedings within any affected executive agency or civil judicial proceedings for declaratory, injunctive, or monetary relief.     (b) Any former appointee who is determined, after notice and hearing, by the duly designated authority within any agency, to have violated his or her pledge may be barred from engaging in lobbying activities with respect to that agency for up to 5 years in addition to the 5-year time period covered by the pledge. The head of every executive agency shall, in consultation with the Director of the Office of Government Ethics, establish procedures to implement this subsection, which shall include (but not be limited to) providing for factfinding and investigation of possible violations of this order and for referrals to the Attorney General for his or her consideration pursuant to subsection (c).     (c) The Attorney General or his or her designee is authorized:
(1) upon receiving information regarding the possible breach of any commitment in a signed pledge, to request any appropriate Federal investigative authority to conduct such investigations as may be appropriate; and
(2) upon determining that there is a reasonable basis to believe that a breach of a commitment has occurred or will occur or continue, if not enjoined, to commence a civil action on behalf of the United States against the former officer or employee in any United States District Court with jurisdiction to consider the matter.    (d) In such civil action, the Attorney General or his or her designee is authorized to request any and all relief authorized by law, including but not limited to:(1) such temporary restraining orders and preliminary and permanent injunctions as may be appropriate to restrain future, recurring, or continuing conduct by the former officer or employee in breach of the commitments in the pledge he or she signed; and
(2) establishment of a constructive trust for the benefit of the United States, requiring an accounting and payment to the United States Treasury of all money and other things of value received by, or payable to, the former officer or employee arising out of any breach or attempted breach of the pledge signed by the former officer or employee.     Sec. 6. General Provisions. (a) This order supersedes Executive Order 13490 of January 21, 2009 (Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel), and therefore Executive Order 13490 is hereby revoked. No other prior Executive Orders are repealed by this order. To the extent that this order is inconsistent with any provision of any prior Executive Order, this order shall control.     (b) If any provision of this order or the application of such provision is held to be invalid, the remainder of this order and other dissimilar applications of such provision shall not be affected.     (c) The pledge and this order are not intended to, and do not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party (other than by the United States) against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.     (d) The definitions set forth in this order are solely applicable to the terms of this order, and are not otherwise intended to impair or affect existing law.    (e) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:
(1) the authority granted by law to an executive department, agency, or the head thereof; or
(2) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.     (f) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.”
DONALD J. TRUMP
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.

European Council President Hypes Nonexistent Threats

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Wed, 01/02/2017 - 04:00
European Council President Hypes Nonexistent Threats
by Stephen Lendman
Like America, the only geopolitical threats Europe faces are ones it invents, no others.
Not according to European Council President Donald Tusk, stoking fear irresponsibly, calling America under Trump, China and Russia threats to Europe.
Speaking in Tallinn, Estonia, his remarks mirrored what he said in a letter to EU heads of state. Without justification, he claimed challenges facing EU nations “are more dangerous than ever before in the time since the signature of the (1957) Treaty of Rome.” 
“Today we are dealing with (multiple) threats, which have previously not occurred, at least not on such a scale,” nonsensically citing:
  • China, especially in its offshore waters, where it has every right to defend against aggressive intrusions;

  • Nonexistent “Russia’s aggress(ion)…toward Ukraine and its neighbors;

  • “wars, terror and anarchy in the Middle East and in Africa” - US-dominated NATO fully responsible, he failed to explain;

  • “worrying declarations by the new American administration…” - Trump hasn’t interfered in the affairs of EU nations and shows no signs of doing it, so far at least;

  • “the rise in anti-EU, nationalist, increasingly xenophobic sentiment in the EU” - referring to movements like what propelled Trump to power in France, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and elsewhere, because previous governments made such a mess of things, people want change; and

  • growing anti-political union sentiment, again because of longstanding failed policies.

The EU is a flawed alliance, Brussels usurping power from member states, undermining their sovereignty, what ideologues like Tusk won’t admit.
All nations are much better off, waging peace, not war; cooperatively with all other countries responsibly; while governing independently from a higher external power, meddling in their internal affairs - especially Eurozone states with no control over their monetary and fiscal policies.
Tusk saying “(o)nly together can we be fully independent…(u)nited we stand, divided we fall” is utter rubbish.
The EU is a sinking ship. It’s only a matter of time before it crumbles because it’s too flawed to stand the test of time. Like the Berlin Wall (1961 - 1989), one day it’ll disintegrate.
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.

Hearing Thursday: American Fights to Continue Case Against Ethiopian Spyware

eff.org - Wed, 01/02/2017 - 02:15
Foreign Governments Must Be Held Accountable for Wiretapping Americans in the U.S.

Washington, D.C. – On Thursday, February 2, at 9:30 am, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the law firms of Jones Day and Robins Kaplan will urge an appeals court to let an American continue his suit against the Ethiopian government for infecting his computer with custom spyware and monitoring his communications for weeks on end.

With the help of EFF and the Citizen Lab, the plaintiff in this case found Ethiopian government spyware on his personal computer in Maryland several years ago. Our investigation concluded that it was part of a systemic campaign by the Ethiopian government to spy on perceived opponents.

The plaintiff uses the pseudonym of Mr. Kidane in order to protect the safety and wellbeing of his family both in the United States and in Ethiopia. Kidane is a critic of the Ethiopian government, and came to the U.S. over 20 years ago, obtaining asylum and eventually citizenship. He currently lives with his family in Maryland.

Kidane first brought suit against Ethiopia in 2014, but the federal court held that no foreign government could be held accountable for wiretapping an American citizen in his own home, so Kidane appealed to the U.S Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Jones Day partner Richard Martinez will argue Thursday that foreign governments should not be allowed to spy on Americans in America with impunity.  

WHAT:
Kidane v. Ethiopia

WHEN:
Thursday, February 2
9:30 am

WHERE:
E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse
333 Constitution Ave., NW
Washington, D.C.  20001
D.C. Circuit Courtroom 31

For more on Kidane v. Ethiopia:
https://www.eff.org/cases/kidane-v-ethiopia

Contact:  NateCardozoSenior Staff Attorneynate@eff.org
Share this: Join EFF
Categories: Aggregated News

Where's the Outrage Over US Imperial Wars?

sjlendman.blogspot.com - Tue, 31/01/2017 - 22:53
Where’s the Outrage Over US Imperial Wars?
by Stephen Lendman
Days of protests in America against Trump’s entry into America order smack of dark forces manipulating and agitating against him no matter what he does or doesn’t do.
Denigration of Muslims is longstanding in America, taken to a fever pitch post-9/11, wrongfully portraying them as gun-toting terrorists, using them as a pretext to smash one country after another, responsible for appalling levels of carnage and human misery?
Where’s the outrage over an issue dwarfing all others? Why aren’t people furious about imperial madness, possible nuclear war if not curbed?
Why aren’t they protesting against bloated military spending and America’s empire of bases - used as launching pads for more wars? 
Where’s the outrage over mega-corporations ruling the world, exploiting it for profits, harming millions, despoiling the environment?
Why aren’t people protesting against repressive laws, breaching international law, spurning constitutional rights, turning America into a police state - perhaps one more major 9/11-type false flag attack away from full-blown tyranny!
True enough, restricting or banning free travel to America by Muslims from designated countries is disgraceful. But the issue pales in importance compared to others the public largely ignores.
Why aren’t people protesting against what matters most? Where’s the outrage over bipartisan neocon lunatics infesting Washington?
Why is there mass silence over fantasy democracy masquerading as the real thing? What about deep poverty affecting millions, mass unemployment and underemployment, governance serving the privileged few at the expense of most others?
Where’s the outrage over the world’s richest country using its resources irresponsibly - for imperial wars, handouts to Wall Street and other corporate favorites, militarizing America against its own people, turning its inner cities into battlegrounds, enriching the few at the expense of so many?
Why aren’t people directing their anger against what most harms their rights, welfare and futures?
The main issue isn’t what Trump does or doesn’t do. It’s the appalling way America is run by its privileged class for its own self-interest exclusively - causing so much harm to so many at home and abroad.
Now that’s just cause for endless protests to change things!
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.

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