Via Democracy Now
In a major new report, the International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations details a global crackdown on peaceful protests through excessive police force and the criminalization of dissent. The report, “Take Back the Streets: Repression and Criminalization of Protest Around the World,” warns of a growing tendency to perceive individuals exercising a fundamental democratic right — the right to protest — as a threat requiring a forceful government response. The case studies detailed in this report show how governments have reacted to peaceful protests in the United States, Israel, Canada, Argentina, Egypt, Hungary, Kenya, South Africa and Britain. The report’s name comes from a police report filed in June 2010 when hundreds of thousands of Canadians took to the streets of Toronto to nonviolently protest the G-20 summit. A senior Toronto police commander responded to the protests by issuing an order to “take back the streets.” Within a span of 36 hours, more than 1,000 people — peaceful protesters, journalists, human rights monitors and downtown residents — were arrested and placed in detention. We are joined by three guests: the report’s co-editor, Abby Deshman, a lawyer and program director with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association; Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union; and Hossam Bahgat, an Egyptian human rights activist and the founder and executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.
My Interpreter Saved My Life. Now The Taliban Want To Kill Him, And The Us Is Stalling On His Visa. This Isn’t Right
US army soldier Matt Zeller with his Afghan interpreter Janis Shinwari. Photo: From Matt Zeller
Via The Guardian
Five years ago, my Afghan interpreter Janis Shinwari saved my life in a firefight against the Taliban. Ever since then, I’ve been trying to save his as the Taliban placed him on a kill list for his service to the US military.
Afghan and Iraqi interpreters are promised that if they give the United States military one year of “faithful and valuable service”, they and their immediate families will receive Special Immigrant Visas to come to the United States. Janis has served our military for the past nine years. He has more than earned his place in America, so you can imagine our joy when after years of pleading with the State Department, the US embassy in Kabul issued him and his family US visas two weeks ago.
But this past Saturday, everything came crashing down. Janis called me at 2am in a panic. After giving him and his family their salvation, the State Department revoked it only two weeks later without any explanation.
I spent the next few days calling the US embassy in Kabul and State Department to no avail. After total silence, they finally told me that his visa was revoked for reasons they could not legally address. I investigated further and had my worst suspicions confirmed: in the two weeks since the State Department issued his visa, an anonymous “informant” contacted the US government and claimed all sorts of things about Janis. The informant’s bogus claims eventually reached an analyst at the National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC) in Washington DC who promptly put a security hold on Janis’ visa, prompting the State Department to revoke it all together.
It’s fairly common for the Taliban to read the US news. I can’t help but think that they learned of our successful efforts to secure Janis his visa via the extensive coverage our efforts generated. They used to call our base in Afghanistan and claim all sorts of lies about our interpreters in an attempt to get us to fire them. The Taliban are almost certainly the source of the anonymous tip and now they have more time to hunt him and his family down and kill them.
If NCTC and the State Department were to go and check the validity of the source of whatever information prompted this revocation, I am certain it will turn up as not credible at all. The US government took years to review his information and after all that time they felt that he was good to go for a visa. And yet, suddenly, in the last two weeks, a magic piece of information that causes a revocation of his visa has just now come to light? I don’t buy it. This development does not pass the logical plausibility test. If he was a bad guy, he would have killed me in the firefight and not two Taliban fighters.
After the State Department issued him his visas, he did what anyone in his situation would do – what I would do too – he sold his house, his possessions, and quit his job because he was told he was on his way to his new life in America. Now, he literally has nothing but the promise our nation made to bring him and his family to the US for his near decade of faithful, honorable, and heroic service to the US military. Apparently, the US government feels its perfectly routine and justified to break that promise.
Since his case attracted a large amount of US and international media attention, I fear it has only further raised his profile and his target for Taliban attacks. Any delay in his travel to the US raises the prospects of Taliban reprisal against him and his family. By revoking his visa, the US is literally endangering his life.
I fear at this point we can only save Janis by shaming the US government into doing the right thing.
I will do whatever I have to to save his life. The United States military doesn’t leave a solider behind. Janis is a member of my unit – a brother in arms – still trapped in Afghanistan. I will not leave him behind.
The fight over patent reform has turned into a two-front war. On one front, the technology sector is united in opposition to patent trolls. On the other front, major technology companies are fighting among themselves about a proposal to make it easier to invalidate low-quality patents.
Companies such as Microsoft, Qualcomm and IBM that have a lot of patents don’t like this latter idea, perhaps because it would make it easier to invalidate their own patents. But that’s precisely why the proposal is a good idea: There are way too many broad, low-quality patents. And while some of those patents are held by trolls, many of them are held by large incumbent companies. A reform agenda that focuses exclusively on trolls might stop trolling but it will leave larger firms free to continue abusing the system.
In the 1980s, Gary Reback was an attorney at Sun Microsystems, one of the hottest startups of its day. In a classic Forbes article, he described the day that a group of IBM patent attorneys visited Sun to demand that they license IBM’s patents. They presented a list of seven patents that Sun allegedly infringed. Sun’s lawyers inspected the patents and told the IBM lawyers that six of the seven patents were likely invalid. And Sun clearly hadn’t infringed the seventh, they said.
“OK,” an IBM lawyer responded, according to Reback. “Maybe you don’t infringe these seven patents. But we have 10,000 U.S. patents. Do you really want us to go back to Armonk [IBM's New York headquarters] and find seven patents you do infringe?” Sun wrote IBM a check.
This is the problem of patent thickets: when a large company holds so many patents that it becomes impossible to innovate without infringing numerous patents. Acquiring patents is a slow and expensive process, so incumbent technology firms will always have a lot more patents than up-and-coming firms. Patent thickets owned by IBM, Microsoft and other incumbent technology companies act as a tax on innovation, transferring wealth from today’s innovators to the innovators of the past.
The problem has gotten worse since the courts lowered the bar on patent quality in the 1990s. Microsoft, for example, has been granted more than 20,000 patents in the past decade. That has enabled Microsoft to force 80 percent of Android vendors (by market share) to pay Microsoft royalties to use software created by Google. That’s not because Google stole Microsoft’s source code. Rather, it’s because Microsoft has so many broad patents that every modern operating system infringes many of them.
Killing Bad Patents
A good first step toward cleaning up the mess would be to create an expedited process for invalidating patents that were granted erroneously. In 2011, the financial services industry convinced Congress to include an expedited process for invalidating business method patents in that year’s patent reform legislation. But the provision was limited to patents affecting the financial services industry.
This year, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Judy Chu (D-Calif.) have proposed expanding this program, known to insiders as the covered business method (CBM) program to cover many more patents. When defendants are accused of infringing low-quality business-method patents (which are often also software patents), they would have a new, less expensive process to get the patent office to invalidate them.
But companies that own a lot of these patents hate this idea. On Thursday, a coalition of companies and industry groups signed a letter to congressional leaders opposing expansion of the CBM program. The signers included Adobe, IBM, Microsoft, Qualcomm and Xerox. Adobe has received about 1,800 patents from the patent office, and the rest have thousands, if not tens of thousands, of patents.
“Subjecting data processing patents to the CBM program would create uncertainty and risk that discourage investment in any number of fields where we should be trying to spur continued innovation,” these companies argue.
Yet many real-world innovators have the opposite perspective. Matt Levy is a patent attorney at the Computer and Communications Industry Association, which counts firms such as Google, Facebook, Samsung, Red Hat and Yahoo as members. Levy contends that the arguments of Microsoft and its allies are disingenuous.
“If your patents are valid, then you have nothing to worry about,” Levy wrote in a Monday blog post. “The PTO won’t review a patent under CBM review unless it decides that the patent is likely invalid.”
“The signers of this letter aren’t worried about stifling innovation,” Levy concluded. “They’re worried that their junky patents won’t be as easy to sell to trolls.”
Congress Tries Again
On Monday, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, released a discussion draft of a new patent reform bill. It includes a number of reforms designed to discourage patent trolling. It expands the CBM program, but only slightly. It doesn’t allow a broad range of business method patents to be reviewed, as the Schumer and Issa/Chu proposals do.
The Goodlatte draft would make it harder for small, non-practicing entities to enforce their patents. Given how much these firms have abused the patent system, that’s probably a good thing. But by itself, anti-troll legislation will merely cause the holders of broad, low-quality patents to look for different ways to profit from them. Trolling might become unprofitable, but it will be as profitable as ever for large companies to build packet thickets and impose an innovation tax on every new company in their industries.
To permanently fix the patent system, there needs to be an efficient process to invalidate the many patents that shouldn’t have been granted in the first place. It’s not a surprise that companies who own many of these patents oppose this idea. But as long as those patents are on the books, they’ll be used against genuine innovators.
Companies Opposing The Goodlatte Draft
ActiveVideo Networks, Inc.
Advanced Technology Ventures
Allison Transmission, Inc.
Architecture Technology Corporation
Beckman Coulter, Inc.
BGC Partners, Inc.
Biotechnology Industry Organization
Brash Insight Corp.
BSA – The Software Alliance
California Healthcare Institute (CHI)
Cantor Fitzgerald L.P.
Cleveland Medical Devices Inc.
Colorado Technology Consultants
The Cummins Allison Corporation
Donohue Consulting, Inc.
The Dow Chemical Company
DR Systems, Inc.
Eatoni Ergonomics, Inc.
Eli Lilly & Company
Embedded Systems LLC
Entrepreneurs for Growth
Entropic Communications, Inc.
ExploraMed Development, LLC
Fairfield Crystal Technology
Fallbrook Technologies Inc.
ForSight VISION4, Inc.
Foundry Newco XII, Inc. (d/b/a Twelve)
GearMax USA Ltd.
General Nanotechnology LLC
Global Network Computers
Great Lakes Neuro Technologies Inc.
Illinois Tool Works Inc.
Inventors Network of the Capital Area
IP Pipeline Consulting, LLC
Irwin Research & Development, Inc.
Johnson & Johnson
Lauder Partners, LLC
Licensing Executives Society (USA & Canada), Inc.
Medical Device Manufacturers Association
MH Systems, Inc.
Miramar Labs, Inc.
Morgenthaler Ventures-Life Sciences
National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)
Neodyne Biosciences, Inc.
NeuroWave Systems Inc.
NuGEN Technologies, Inc.
OL2, Inc. (OnLive)
Orbital Research Inc.
Patent Office Professional Association
Power Auctions LLC
Procter & Gamble
Prometheus Research, LLC
Rearden Companies, LLC
Restoration Robotics, Inc.
Software Partners LLC
Soleon Robotics LLC
The Foundry LLC
TM Technologies, Inc.
U.S. Business and Industry Council
Some people measure a society’s condition by the lifestyles of the rich and famous — and those people are usually the rich and famous. For the rest of humanity, a society’s success is measured by the living conditions of the poorest. And who exactly the “poorest” are.
This letter, posted on September 19th by a combat veteran named Jason, speaks volumes of what American poverty looks like on the side streets of our society, and of the people who sleep on them.
“My name is Jason. I turned 35 less than a week ago. My first job was maintenance work at a public pool when I was 17. I worked 40-hours a week while I was in college. I’ve never gone longer than six months without employment in my life and I just spent the last three years in the military, one of which consisted of a combat tour of Afghanistan.
Oh, and I’m now on food stamps. Since June, as a matter of fact.
Why am I on food stamps?
The same reason everyone on food stamps is on food stamps: because I would very much enjoy not starving.
I mean, if that’s okay with you:
…Mr. or Mrs. Republican congressman.
…Mr. or Mrs. Conservative commentator.
…Mr. or Mrs. “welfare queen” letter-to-the-editor author.
…Mr. or Mrs. “fiscal conservative, reason-based” libertarian.
I do apologize for burdening you on the checkout line with real-life images of American-style poverty. I know you probably believe the only true starving people in the world have flies buzzing around their eyes while they wallow away, near-lifeless in gutters.
Hate to burst the bubble, but those people don’t live in this country.
I do. And millions like me. Millions of people in poverty who fall into three categories.
Let’s call them the “lucky” category, since conservatives seem to think people on welfare have hit some sort of jackpot:
Those living paycheck to paycheck? They’re a little lucky.
Those living unemployment check to unemployment check? They’re a little luckier.
Those living 2nd of the month to 2nd of the month? *ding* We’ve hit the jackpot!
The 2nd of the month being the time when funds gets electronically deposited onto the EBT card, [at least in NY] for those who’ve never been fortunate enough to hit that $175/month Powerball.
I fall into the latter two categories. But I’ve known people recently – soldiers in the Army – who were in the first and third. They were off fighting in Afghanistan while their wives were at home, buying food at the on-post commissary with food stamps.
And nobody bats an eye there, because it’s not uncommon in the military.
It’s not uncommon – nor is it shameful. It might be shameful how little service-members are paid, but that’s a separate issue.
The fact remains anyone at a certain income level can find it difficult from time to time to pay for everything. And when you’re poor you learn to make sacrifices. Food shouldn’t be one of them.
The whole concept is un-American. People living here, in the greatest country on Earth, with the most abundant resources, should be forced to go hungry because of the intellectual notion of fiscal conservatism and the ideological notion of self-reliance.
Are you fucking kidding me?
I didn’t risk my life in Afghanistan so I could come back and watch people go hungry in America. I certainly didn’t risk it so *I* could come back and go hungry.
Anyone who genuinely supports cutting food stamps is not an intellectual or an ideologue – they’re a bully.
And nobody likes a bully. Except other bullies.
It’s time for regular Americans to stand up to these bullies. Not cower in the corner, ashamed of needing help. Because if there’s one thing life has taught me, it’s that you never know when you’ll be the one in need.”
There are some who despise the American poor because in their minds, you’re not “poor” unless you look like this:
But the people who look like that live in the poorest nations on Earth. We can’t start applying those standards to our own society, because that’s the quickest way to become just like them. Standards slip from the bottom like a foundation sliding downhill. In America, we’re rarely OUT of food…we’re just out of food that won’t kill you.
Say what you will about the idea of “American exceptionalism,” but we have to draw the line somewhere. We have to draw the line at a place that we will not accept…a place we can look at and say “We’re better than THAT.”
Intellectuals like Rand Paul don’t see us as a society…they see us as a Petri dish for their thought experiments. And because they’re smart, a certain number of idiots will stand behind them.
But when we start believing that these guys
are fighting to come home to the living standards of these guys
then we truly have lost everything that it means to be American.
We owe soldiers like Jason a better nation than that.
Hackers have hit back in retaliation for US cyber-spying on Brazil but reportedly mistook the US space agency Nasa for the National Security Agency (NSA).
“Some activists decided to protest this US practice but it seems that they picked the wrong target,” a specialized blog of the Brazilian news portal Uol said.
“They hacked Nasa’s web page and left the message: Stop spying on us,” it said.
The hackers’ message also called on the United States not to attack Syria.
A Nasa spokesman confirmed that a Brazilian hacker group last week posted a political message on a number of Nasa websites.
“At no point were any of the agency’s primary websites, missions or classified systems compromised,” said Nasa spokesman Allard Beutel.
“We are diligently taking action to investigate and reconstitute the websites impacted during web defacement incident,” he said.
The attack followed recent disclosures that the NSA spied on Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s email communications and on the state-run energy giant Petrobras.
The disclosures were based on documents obtained by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.
Brasilia slammed the alleged spying as “unacceptable” and demanded explanations from Washington.
Ms Rousseff postponed a state visit to Washington in protest over allegations of US cyberspying on her country.
Ms Rousseff announced the decision after discussing the espionage row with US President Barack Obama Monday in a telephone call.
I take no credit for these, all pics care of Reddit user caporcea