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16 Jul 09:25

A look at Chrome’s new tab design

by Ron Amadeo

Chrome is getting a major redesign soon, and this week new changes have started to land in the Chrome's nightly "Canary" build. Google is launching a new version of Material Design across its products, called the "Google Material Theme," and after debuting in Android P and, it's starting to roll out across other Google's major products. On Chrome, this means major changes to the tab and address bar. Remember, this is just a nightly build, so things could change before the stable release. But these changes line up well with previous Chrome redesign documents.

The first thing you'll notice is the tab bar. Tabs now have a rectangular shape with rounded corners instead of the trapezoidal shape of the current design. Tab separation has also undergone a lot of changes. With a single tab open, you won't see a distinct tab shape at all. The current tab is always white, and in single-tab mode, the background of the tab bar is white too so everything blends together. I like the general idea here: if you aren't using multiple tabs, there's no need to show all the tab-separation cruft.

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16 Jul 09:25

After indictment, Russian hackers’ lives “changed forever,” ex-ambassador says

by Cyrus Farivar

Enlarge / US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein (C) holds a news conference at the Department of Justice July 13, 2018 in Washington, DC. Rosenstein announced indictments against 12 Russian intelligence agents for hacking computers used by the Democratic National Committee, the Hillary Clinton campaign, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and other organizations. (credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

On Friday, the Office of the Special Counsel handed down an indictment of several Russian intelligence officers that federal authorities say were critical in the operation to sway the 2016 presidential election.

Given that the United States lacks an extradition treaty with Russia and that the defendants are unlikely to have many Stateside assets, what meaningful effect does going through the motions of a prosecution have?

Experts say that there are a few primary objectives to this type of indictment: first and foremost, the indictment is likely to make the defendants' lives harder if they ever want to leave Russia. Countries that do have an extradition treaty with the United States will now be on notice in case any of these guys show up. A secondary objective is to alert both the American public and the Russian government just how much the Special Counsel knows.

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14 Jul 00:09

HBO has ordered a science fiction series from Joss Whedon

by Andrew Liptak

Joss Whedon is headed back to television. Variety reports that HBO has ordered a series called The Nevers, which he will write and direct. It will be about a “gang of Victorian women who find themselves with unusual abilities,” and who will face off against “relentless enemies.”

The announcement comes as HBO is figuring out what will follow its blockbuster fantasy show Game of Thrones, which is scheduled to air its final season in 2019. The network has seen critical success but a ratings drop for its science fiction show Westworld. Several Game of Thrones spin-off shows are in the works, with a pilot order for a prequel already moving forward. But several other projects are in the works or under development as well, indicating that the...

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13 Jul 18:53

Open offices are as bad as they seem—they reduce face-to-face time by 70%

by Beth Mole

Enlarge / Looks like someone has a case of the Mondays. (credit: Getty | Ian Nicholson)

Tearing down walls and cubicles in offices may actually build up more barriers to productivity and collaboration, according to a new study.

Employees at two Fortune 500 multinational companies saw face-to-face interaction time drop by about 70 percent, the use of email increase between 22 percent and 56 percent, and productivity slip after their traditional office spaces were converted to open floor plans—that is, ones without walls or cubicles that ostensibly create barriers to interaction. The findings, published recently in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, suggest that removing physical dividers may, in fact, make it harder for employers to foster collaboration and collective intelligence among their employees.

Many companies have waged a so-called “war on walls” to try to create such vibrant workspaces, the authors Ethan Bernstein and Stephen Turban of Harvard wrote. But, “what they often get—as captured by a steady stream of news articles professing the death of the open office—is an open expanse of proximal employees choosing to isolate themselves as best they can (e.g. by wearing large headphones) while appearing to be as busy as possible (since everyone can see them).”

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13 Jul 15:40

Immigrant Mothers Are Staging Hunger Strikes to Demand Calls with Their Separated Children

by Debbie Nathan

As the July 26 deadline approaches for the government to reunite some 3,000 immigrant parents and children separated under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” program, one immigrant detention center in South Texas has been releasing a few people weekly, after they pass their “credible fear” interviews, in which they describe why they are afraid to return to their countries and need asylum. Those who remain have begun resisting the hurtful and disordered conditions of their captivity, some with extreme measures such as hunger strikes.

The Port Isabel Service Processing Center is located about 35 miles from Brownsville and minutes from the Gulf of Mexico, on lonely potholed roads. The facility feels isolated even before one enters its double razor wire-enclosed grounds. Inside, according to detainees, the isolation feels so overwhelming that some have resorted to extreme measures.

The Intercept has spoken to two dozen detainees at Port Isabel since late June. All are women, though the detention center also houses men. Many women complain of feeling completely cut off from the outside world. In some areas of Port Isabel, they say, televisions are turned on, mainly to telenovelas and soccer games — but when immigration-related news comes on, guards lower the volume or change the channel.

It is extremely difficult for the detainees to talk with people outside of Port Isabel by phone. They or their callers must pay for the calls, but speaking over the prison phones is like talking through cellophane or foil. Words tend to be incomprehensible, requiring extremely slow speech, exaggerated diction, and shouting. And calls are frequently dropped.

Everyone complains about the food. On one visit to Port Isabel, I saw a detainee being given her regulation lunch: two slices of white bread with two slices of deli meat without condiments, a small apple, and a 6-ounce bottle of something that resembled Kool-Aid. Breakfast has about the same number of calories, and so does dinner. There are no snacks, no coffee. The same food is served day in and day out. Detainees report that they find the food distasteful and say they still feel hungry after eating. The women who spoke to The Intercept say they are losing weight, and those whose families send them money supplement Port Isabel’s diet with ramen noodles and junk-food snacks for sale at inflated prices in the commissary. But many inmates have no money.

Front of Port Isabel Detention Center.

The front entrance of the Port Isabel Detention Center.

Photo: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Hunger Strikes and Other Desperate Measures

Other inmates have abandoned the food because they are staging hunger strikes. One woman told me that she had been allowed to call her child only once in several weeks of detention. She went on a hunger strike — una huelga de hambre,  as she called it — for two days. As a result, she said, she had gotten one call each day for the previous three days. She said that a rolling hunger strike has been occurring at Port Isabel for the past two weeks, with some 15 women fasting for a couple of days, then eating while another impromptu group fasts. Port Isabel has not made public the number of people it is detaining, but one woman said that each women’s dorm has 25 people in it, and there are five dorms.

Mothers in Port Isabel walk around in a constant state of grief and anxiety, some displaying symptoms of post-traumatic-stress disorder. Most have had only a handful of calls with their children. One said she has been separated from her 12-year-old since early June and has not talked to him even once — nor does she know where he is, except that he is in New York state. Several told me that they have a hard time remembering what day or date it is. Hours after she was released on bond from Port Isabel last week, one woman recalled how she and other detainees got together, discussed their problems remembering what had happened to them even as recently as the day before, and decided as a group to request a visit to the facility’s psychologist. “We were worried we were losing our minds,” she said.

Another women told me that a woman “went crazy” last week, “probably because she couldn’t take the separation from her child anymore.” She became so aggressive in a common room, and so frightening to the other detainees, that she was taken away, possibly, the detainee said, to solitary confinement — a place that the hunger-striking women have been threatened with if they continue fasting.

Several women have reported that they have spoken to volunteer lawyers, including from nonprofit legal assistance organizations such as KIND, or Kids in Need of Defense, and PROBAR. The lawyers have cautioned the women not to sign papers presented to them by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, because such papers may give ICE permission to deport the women with or without their children. It seems that many of the women are heeding the lawyers’ warnings and not signing. One woman told me that when she refused to sign, the ICE official yelled at her. She still did not sign.

But along with resistance has come profound demoralization. A detainee contacted me Wednesday to report that a woman in her dormitory was sitting on her bed sobbing because she had not been reunited with her child, who is 4 years old — though the deadline for reuniting children under age 5 was earlier this week. “They told her she will be joined with him during the ‘second trip’ — el segundo viaje,” the detainee said.

On Thursday, ICE responded to questions about conditions at Port Isabel by emailing a link to a press release, saying that all eligible parents had been reunited with their children by 7 a.m. that day. A woman at Port Isabel told me that the mother of the 4-year-old was taken out of the facility at dawn. The day before, other women had been trying to console the mother. That was difficult, however, because detention rules do not allow the women to hug each other or even to sit on one another’s beds.

ICE did not respond to questions about the hunger strikes at Port Isabel.

I interviewed two women who were released last week from Port Isabel after passing their credible fear interviews. In one case, the woman — who The Intercept is giving the pseudonym Karin  because she fears retaliation — said she was working for a rich family whose daughter is infertile. The family patriarch told Karin that his daughter wanted her two children because “we can give them a better life than you can.” Karin protested that if the family tried to take her kids, she would call the police. The man laughed, she said, and told her that they control the police, and that Karin would be arrested if she complained.

At La Posada, the church shelter in San Benito where Karin and another woman were staying after they were released from Port Isabel, I saw firsthand what condition the two women were in after weeks of detention at the facility.

At first, Karin was unable to speak. Instead, she simply hugged me for several long seconds. The ambient temperature was tropical, but the second woman hugged me as if she were freezing and trying to burrow into something warm. She stayed that way, gripping me tightly, for a few minutes with her head down, and she wept. Then, straightening up, she said she wanted to get back to her child and family in Maryland, and get “healthy again in my mind.”

Top photo: Vehicles leave the Port Isabel Detention Center on June 26, 2018, in Los Fresnos, Texas.

The post Immigrant Mothers Are Staging Hunger Strikes to Demand Calls with Their Separated Children appeared first on The Intercept.

13 Jul 11:32

We Drank Beer And Threw Axes. What Could Go Wrong?

by Mimi Montgomery
Enjoy a drink (or two)? Instead of going to a bar, now you can down some beverages while doing unusual activities. We tried a few to see what the buzz is about. Axe-Throwing At Brookland’s Bad Axe Throwing, you can get tipsy while wielding sharp objects. Packed with guys who appear well acquainted with the rules […]
13 Jul 10:07

Facebook changes privacy settings after outing members of a closed medical support group

by Russell Brandom

A closed group for women at genetic risk for breast cancer wasn’t as private as its members thought, according to a new report from CNBC.

The BRCA Sisterhood group was created as a support network for women with the BRCA gene, a mutation that greatly increases the risk of breast cancer, often resulting in preemptive mastectomy. The group was listed as “private” because of the sensitivity of the issue. But while the content of the group was closed to outsiders, the group’s membership was broadly visible, inadvertently revealing sensitive medical information.

Sisterhood members became aware of the loophole through a Chrome extension that allowed one of the members to download detailed information for thousands of members in a matter of...

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13 Jul 10:05

Don’t Give the DHS Free Rein to Shoot Down Private Drones

by India McKinney

When government agencies refuse to let the members of the public watch what they’re doing, drones can be a crucial journalistic tool. But now, some members of Congress want to give the federal government the power to destroy private drones it deems to be an undefined “threat.” Even worse, they’re trying to slip this new, expanded power into unrelated, must-pass legislation without a full public hearing. Worst of all, the power to shoot these drones down will be given to agencies notorious for their absence of transparency, denying access to journalists, and lack of oversight.

Back in June, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing on the Preventing Emerging Threats Act of 2018 (S. 2836), which would give the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice the sweeping new authority to counter privately owned drones. Congress shouldn’t grant DHS and DOJ such broad, vague authorities that allow them to sidestep current surveillance law.

Now, Chairman Ron Johnson is working to include language similar to this bill in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). EFF is opposed to this idea, for many reasons.

The NDAA is a complicated and complex annual bill to reauthorize military programs and is wholly unrelated to both DHS and DOJ. Hiding language in unrelated bills is rarely a good way to make public policy, especially when the whole Congress hasn’t had a chance to vet the policy.

But most importantly, expanding the agencies’ authorities without requiring that they follow the Wiretap Act, Electronic Communications Privacy Act, and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act raises large First and Fourth Amendment concerns that must be addressed.

Drones are a powerful tool for journalism and transparency. Today, the Department of Homeland Security routinely denies reporters access to detention centers along the southwest border. On the rare occasions DHS does allow entry, the visitors are not permitted to take photos or record video. Without other ways to report on these activities, drones have provided crucial documentation of the facilities being constructed to hold children. Congress should think twice before granting the DHS the authority to shoot drones down, especially without appropriate oversight and limitations.

If S. 2836 is rolled into the NDAA, it would give DHS the ability to “track,” “disrupt,” “control,” “seize or otherwise confiscate” any drone that the government deems to be a “threat,” without a warrant or due process. DHS and DOJ might interpret this vague and overbroad language to include the power to stop journalists from using drones to document government malfeasance at these controversial children’s detention facilities.

As we said before, the government may have legitimate reasons for engaging drones that pose an actual, imminent, and narrowly defined “threat.” Currently, the Department of Defense already has the authority to take down drones, but only in much more narrowly circumscribed areas directly related to enumerated defense missions. DHS and DOJ have not made it clear why existing exigent circumstance authorities aren’t enough. But even if Congress agrees that DHS and DOJ need expanded authority, that authority must be carefully balanced so as not to curb people’s right to use drones for journalism, free expression, and other non-criminal purposes.

EFF has been concerned about government misuse of drones for a long time. But drones also represent an important tool for journalism and activism in the face of a less-than-transparent government. We can’t hand the unchecked power to destroy drones to agencies not known for self-restraint, and we certainly can’t let Congress give them that power through an opaque, backroom process.

12 Jul 19:27

ICE contracts bring in millions for U.S. colleges

Northeastern’s $2.7-million contract is one of several.
12 Jul 17:54

Maryland’s GOP Governor Recently Opposed Trump on Immigration, but His Record Tells a Different Story

by Rachel M. Cohen

Maryland’s Republican Gov. Larry Hogan made national headlines in June when he recalled his state’s National Guard unit of four soldiers from the southern U.S. border. The only GOP governor to call back troops in protest of President Donald Trump’s child separation policy, he has touted the move as a sign of his commitment to stand up to a remarkably unpopular president.

The governor, who is up for re-election this year, has reveled in his reputation as a moderate Republican, and currently boasts a 69 percent approval rating among Maryland residents who, just two years ago, overwhelmingly voted for Hillary Clinton. But in a year in which Democrats, leaning into opposition to Trump, are expected to have the upper hand come November, Hogan’s re-election is all but guaranteed. Maryland politics can be volatile: When Hogan was elected in 2014, his Democratic opponent was leading by 13 points at this stage of the race. And immigrant rights groups say his recent grandstanding with the National Guard is an exception to a long and hostile record on immigration, one that includes calling for greater cooperation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and restricting the entry of Syrian refugees into the state.

“Unfortunately, Gov. Hogan has not been a good friend of the Latino and immigrant community,” said Gustavo Torres, the president of CASA in Action, a group that advocates on behalf of immigrants on the electoral level. “He’s been extremely quiet in moments when we needed real leadership, and other times he has attacked immigrants using the same talking points about criminals and danger the president relies on.”

The state has a sizable immigrant population. In 2015, nearly 1 million foreign-born individuals lived in Maryland, comprising about 15 percent of the state’s population. According to the American Immigration Council, nearly 42 percent of Maryland’s building maintenance workers and groundskeepers are immigrants, as are a quarter of all state health care workers.

Ben Jealous, the Democratic nominee in the gubernatorial race and former NAACP president, has been a vocal immigrant advocate in the state. In 2013, the Baltimore Sun named Jealous “Marylander of the Year,” in part for his work helping to pass the state’s DREAM Act, which grants in-state college tuition to undocumented students. On his campaign website, Jealous has pledged to work with the legislature to pass a sanctuary state bill, make Maryland welcoming for refugees, defend DREAMers, and champion a pathway to citizenship on the federal level. He was arrested at a White House immigration protest last year.

Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1 in Maryland, and the party is hoping to mobilize anti-Trump voters.

Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1 in Maryland, and the party is hoping to mobilize anti-Trump voters, seizing on the national momentum for a “blue wave” election. With two-thirds of Americans opposed to Trump’s immigration policies, immigration may well be a motivating issue for Maryland voters come November. According to a poll released in mid-June, the No. 1 issue for nearly half of Maryland Democrats is removing Trump from office. Jealous’s political strategy is to try and link a popular governor to an unpopular president.

“Donald Trump’s policies are extreme and racist, and it’s even more important that we have governors with courage and experience to move us forward no matter what happens in Washington,” Jealous told The Intercept.  

As Josh Kurtz, an editor at Maryland Matters, put it, Hogan may have more difficulty “inoculating himself from President Trump and the Republican Congress” on immigration, given that it’s an emotionally salient issue that’s easier for average voters to understand. “If this issue remains so raw in the months ahead — and it could — swing voters, unreliable Democratic voters and new voters could all be reminded of the things they don’t like about the GOP,” wrote Kurtz.

Most voters have not been paying attention to the details of Hogan’s immigration record, so whether or not immigration plays a major role in the election will depend on how much Jealous decides to focus on it, said Daniel Schlozman, a political science professor at Johns Hopkins University. “It’s not impossible for immigration to be a major issue,” he said. “It just requires taking a record in bits and pieces and figuring out how to tell the voters what it means.”

Hogan’s re-election campaign website does not make any mention of immigration or immigrant communities. Amelia Chasse, a Hogan spokesperson, told The Intercept that the governor has “consistently called on Congress and the federal administration to work in a bipartisan manner to enact comprehensive immigration reform, and has repeatedly stood up to the Trump administration on immigration related issues that could impact Maryland.” Chasse cited Hogan’s removal of the National Guard troops last month and his opposition to the president rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program as examples, both of which put the governor in line with most centrist Republicans. Chasse also pointed to the governor’s marriage to Yumi Hogan, a first-generation American who emigrated from South Korea.

Jealous has not yet taken Hogan to task on immigration, but Jerusalem Demsas, Jealous’s campaign spokesperson, indicated that the issue might become central to the campaign. “From his time as President of the NAACP to when he co-chaired the successful effort to pass the Maryland DREAM Act, Ben has stood up for immigrant families,” Demsas wrote in an email. “He will be no different during this campaign and when he is governor.”

Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous, left, speaks with Alvin Pierce as he greets voters outside a polling place, Tuesday, June 26, 2018, in Baltimore. Jealous and Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker lead a crowded Democratic primary field to win a nomination to face popular Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in the fall. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous, left, speaks with Alvin Pierce as he greets voters outside a polling place, Tuesday, June 26, 2018, in Baltimore.

Photo: Patrick Semansky/AP

Hogan, who was first elected in 2014, has tried to strike a delicate balance on immigration issues. As a Republican governor in a strong blue state, he’s tried to both distance himself from Trump and skirt the heated battles many of his red-state counterparts have leaned into; Hogan often reminds his constituents that immigration is an issue largely under the federal government’s purview.

That hasn’t stopped him from weighing in on a number of issues at the intersection of immigration and state policy, however. On the 2014 campaign trail, for example, he came out in opposition to Maryland’s policy of allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses. He acknowledged he’d be unlikely to repeal it as governor, given the veto-proof Democratic majority in the Maryland legislature.

Upon taking office in January 2015, Hogan instructed the state-run Baltimore City Detention Center to provide ICE agents with 48 hours’ notice before an undocumented immigrant targeted for deportation was set to be released, so that feds could assume custody and try to remove them from the country. Hogan defended this move, saying he was merely complying with the Obama administration’s policy. The Washington Post editorial board praised Hogan’s stance as “common sense” and “responsible.”

But Hogan’s predecessor, Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, had bucked the Obama administration on a similar, more extreme policy in 2014, instructing the Baltimore jail not to automatically cooperate with ICE’s request to hold immigrants beyond their scheduled release from custody — what is commonly known as a detainer request. Other cities and states, including New York City and Connecticut, took similar measures at the time.

Later on in Hogan’s first year, over the objection of activists and faith leaders, he told the federal government that more Syrian refugees would not be welcome in Maryland. Hogan cited “safety and security” concerns. (He was joined by governors in 29 other states, most of them Republican, who demanded an end to Syrian refugee resettlement.) When then-Secretary of State John Kerry and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson sent Hogan a joint letter to reassure him that the vetting process was exhaustive and comprehensive, Hogan dismissed it, saying his position on Syrian refugees is “not going to change.”

Asked to comment on the issue, Chasse pointed out that the governor asked for more stringent vetting procedures, but that “the state has no authority over refugee resettlements.”

Immigrant rights activists say things deteriorated even further after Trump was elected.

First came Trump’s travel ban on refugees and citizens of Muslim-majority countries in January 2017. “Hogan was very quiet, very silent. He didn’t take any lead at all on responding to the attacks against Muslims,” said Torres of CASA in Action. While people all over the country poured into airports and the streets to protest the president’s executive order, Marylanders were upset by their Republican governor’s silence. Hundreds protested outside his home in Annapolis in February demanding he speak up and denounce the travel ban. Hogan dismissed the pressure, saying he’s “focused on solving Maryland problems” and that he doesn’t see protesting Trump’s policies as “his role.”

A month later, as activists in the state began to ramp up efforts to protect immigrant communities from the Trump administration, Hogan came out to say that efforts to limit cooperation with ICE were “absurd” and that he would do all in his power to kill the legislature’s attempt to pass a so-called sanctuary bill.

Hogan was referring to the Maryland Law Enforcement and Governmental Trust Act of 2017, which would have curtailed state law enforcement agencies from disclosing nonpublic records to ICE, and barred state officials from asking crime victims or suspects about their immigration status. The measure was broadly supported by the state’s Latino, Asian, and black caucuses, as well as a host of progressive advocacy groups. “Maryland is different from most states in that we allow undocumented residents to obtain driver’s licenses,” testified the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Victor Ramirez, a Prince George’s County Democrat. “We must assure those residents that their information is safe and will not be used for immigration purposes.”

Hogan made his opposition to the bill clear, vowing to veto it immediately should it land on his desk. When the Maryland House of Delegates passed a version of the Trust Act, Hogan released a statement calling it an “outrageously irresponsible bill” that will “endanger” Maryland citizens.

To gin up opposition to the Trust Act, Hogan pointed to a recent scandal in the Maryland suburb of Rockville involving two undocumented immigrants. On March 17, 2017, two male students were arrested for allegedly raping a 14-year-old girl in the bathroom. Both students were undocumented, and one was already in deportation proceedings. Montgomery County, where Rockville is located, had implemented sanctuary policies for immigrants in 2014, and Hogan quickly cited the students facing rape charges as a reason for why the legislature should avoid bringing similar policies statewide. (The Montgomery County policy stated that officials would not honor ICE detainer requests without adequate probable cause.) U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions also cited the Rockville rape charges as reason to block any sort of sanctuary bill.

The scandal was enough to help kill the Trust Act.

But the case fell through. The rape charges were dropped less than two months after the state’s attorney investigated the allegations. “The Hogan administration immediately accused the progressive immigrant policies in Montgomery County as being the cause for the crime, when in reality the teenagers were not guilty,” said Torres. The scandal was enough to help kill the Trust Act, which ended up floundering in the Senate.

Hogan sent out a fundraising letter shortly thereafter asking conservatives for help fighting “a far left agenda and the worst instincts of an increasingly liberal and out-of-touch state legislature.” As evidence of that, Hogan blasted Democrats for “focusing their efforts on trying to make our state a safe haven for criminals here illegally.” He went further, saying “we cannot allow Maryland to become a sanctuary state. Our local law enforcement should be doing more — not less — to make sure criminals here illegally are turned over to federal immigration officials. The rule of law must come first and we will do whatever we can to stop any so-called ‘sanctuary bills’ that would limit how jails and police could assist federal authorities.”

When it comes to limiting law enforcement and corrections entanglement with immigration enforcement, “Governor Hogan has had a largely obstructionist track record,” the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland said in a statement. In addition to his stated desire to reject refugees from Syria, the civil liberties group pointed to Hogan’s vocal opposition to the Trust Act, which “would have implemented a range of reasonable safeguards for Maryland’s immigrant communities,” including ensuring that state and local policies do not run afoul of Fourth Amendment protections, and stopping Maryland from contributing to any Trump Muslim registry.

Immigrant advocates have also blasted Hogan for his silence on Trump’s decision to end temporary protected status, or TPS, a form of relief that allows citizens of countries undergoing turmoil or recovering from natural disasters to stay in the United States. Most TPS recipients hail from El Salvador, Honduras, and Haiti, and over 20,000 live in Maryland. The cancelation of TPS means citizens of those countries will lose their protected status by September 2019. The chair of Maryland’s Democratic Party, Kathleen Matthews, issued a statement at the start of 2018 calling on the governor to “use the bully pulpit” he has to fight for TPS immigrants in his state.

“Many of these people have lived here for more than 20 years,” said Torres. “The president is canceling this extraordinary program, and Gov. Hogan has been very quiet. This is going to have a huge impact on our economy.” Chasse, Hogan’s spokesperson, did not specifically address the concern about TPS.

“I think a lot of people assume that Larry Hogan is good on a host of issues, when he really has been missing in action,” said Jay Hutchins, the executive director of the Maryland Working Families Party. “Everything is moving so quickly and ramping up, and we’re losing a lot of ground. There’s just absence of real leadership.”

According to recent polls, Maryland voters are not necessarily swayed by Hogan’s law-and-order immigration rhetoric. A Washington Post-University of Maryland poll released in March found that 75 percent of Maryland residents said they thought having local police more actively identify undocumented immigrants for potential deportation would likely deter immigrants from informing police of crime. Seventy-one percent said immigration enforcement should be left mainly to the feds.

Some advocates, like Torres of CASA in Action, go so far as to argue that Hogan’s tendency to frame immigration issues largely in terms of crime and safety could come back to bite him in November, like it did for Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie in Virginia last November.

“The same thing happened in Virginia. The Republican candidate used the same language and it backfired,” Torres said. “I think that will happen here in Maryland. People are going to vote against someone who is so weak for our community.”

Top photo: Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan speaks at a news conference in Annapolis, Md., Tuesday, April 10, 2018, after the end of the state’s 2018 legislative session.

The post Maryland’s GOP Governor Recently Opposed Trump on Immigration, but His Record Tells a Different Story appeared first on The Intercept.

12 Jul 17:51

Europeans Have Brought Thousands of Pounds of Ice to a DC Park to Make Americans Feel Bad

by Mimi Montgomery
Have you recently found yourself in Farragut Square puzzling over what those two, brightly colored boxes standing side-by-side are? No, it’s not part of some avant-garde art display, and no, it’s not a new mini poke shop or pop-up bar. They’re just filled with ice. Blame the Europeans. In another attempt to remind us Americans […]
12 Jul 17:50

Metro Board Approves Sale Of Downtown Headquarters

by Natalie Delgadillo
Metro Board Approves Sale Of Downtown Headquarters The agency hopes the sale will be a financial boon. [ more › ]
12 Jul 16:03

The D.C. Council Passed A Bill Extending Payment Deadlines For Traffic Tickets, But Will The Mayor Pay For It?

by Natalie Delgadillo
The D.C. Council Passed A Bill Extending Payment Deadlines For Traffic Tickets, But Will The Mayor Pay For It? Regardless, some provisions of the bill will be enacted, money or no money. [ more › ]
12 Jul 13:06

An experiment in people-moving: Transit agency buys electric double-decker bus

by Megan Geuss

Enlarge / This electric double-decker bus from Alexander Dennis and Proterra will be put into service with Foothills Transit by 2019. (credit: Alexander Dennis)

On Thursday, a Los Angeles county transit agency purchased the first all-electric double-decker bus in North America. The bus will be made with batteries from electric bus designer Proterra, and the carriage of the bus will be designed by Alexander Dennis, the company that supplies double-decker buses in London, Hong Kong, Auckland, Singapore, Toronto, Ottawa, Seattle, and Mexico City.

Buses are prime candidates for electrification: their diesel counterparts are considerably polluting, and buses travel extremely predictable routes at relatively low overall speeds, so range anxiety can be eliminated with route planning and heavier, more powerful batteries. Proterra has been making electric bus batteries for years, and the company recently broke a record for electric buses by traveling 1,101.2 miles on a single charge.

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12 Jul 12:03

Metro ready to add Red Line service, end Grosvenor turnback | WTOP

The "Grosvenor turnback" leaves riders headed to or from White Flint, Twinbrook, Rockville or Shady Grove stations cramming onto fewer trains. Metro has been pressed to restore full service. (WTOP/Dave Dildine)

WASHINGTON — Metro would run all rush-hour Red Line trains to Shady Grove, doubling service through Rockville, under a recommendation set to be voted on Thursday by the Metro Board.

The measure would settle a long-running debate, and if it’s approved, Metro would run trains every four minutes on the Red Line between Shady Grove and Silver Spring starting in late December, rather than turning around every second train at Grosvenor-Strathmore. The Metro Board approved funding for the change last month.

The complete end of the so-called Grosvernor turnbacks on the Red Line has been a priority for Maryland and Montgomery County, even as Metro has cut scheduled service on other lines. A rider survey found a significant majority wanted increased service, Metro said, which is expected to cost $2.5 million per year.

Despite the interest, Metro staff project the increased service would not increase ridership at White Flint, Twinbrook, Rockville and Shady Grove.

While Metro staff had raised concerns about whether Shady Grove could handle the extra traffic, an analysis concludes that better oversight of rail operations at the station and yard there would ensure trains could run as scheduled every four minutes at the height of rush hour. Metro still plans to look into possible future switch and track upgrades there, as well as additional elevators or escalators in the station, with initial recommendations to be identified over the next year.

Since a civil rights analysis finds the additional service would provide a disproportionate benefit to wealthier riders over low-income riders, the changes would also include the extension of some additional Red Line trains past Silver Spring to Glenmont.

The additional service there would consist of two trains between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. on weekdays in addition to some other trains recently extended past Silver Spring to Glenmont between 6:30 a.m. and 7:15 a.m. as well as 6:30 p.m. and 7:45 p.m.

Even with that, the changes present a disproportionate benefit for wealthier riders, Metro found, since some Red Line trains would continue to turn back toward the District at Silver Spring.

However, the civil rights analysis concluded that additional service to Glenmont “is not practical,” since it might require additional off-peak Red Line service that could add more significant operational costs.

The Title VI civil rights report also cites Metro’s unrelated moves to run more eight-car trains on other lines as more 7000 Series cars arrive, and to make it easier for riders to buy weekly bus passes at Metro station fare machines as additional services that could benefit minority and low-income riders that help justify approving the Red Line service changes.

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12 Jul 11:39

Now Members Of Congress Are Sticking Their Noses In Initiative 77 Battle

Photo by kelly bell photography.

A day after a majority of D.C. councilmembers introduced a bill to repeal Initiative 77, some Congressional Republicans are also looking to stymie its implementation.

The measure, which passed with more than 55 percent of the vote during the June primary, will gradually eliminate the tipped minimum wage by increasing it until it meets the regular minimum wage in 2026.
Currently, tipped employees earn a lower minimum wage plus tips. If their takeaway doesn't equal the regular rate, the employer must make up the difference.

After Initiative 77 passed, opponents promised that the fight had only just begun. And now, the battleground has expanded from the John A. Wilson Building to Capitol Hill.

North Carolina Representative Mark Meadows and Alabama Representative Gary Palmer introduced riders that would prevent D.C. from using its locally raised funds to carry out Initiative 77, as first flagged by Fenit Nirappil of the Washington Post.

To legislate D.C. policy, lawmakers on Capitol Hill often add policy riders, extra provisions that don't necessarily have to do with the bill at hand. That's how Congress prevents D.C. from funding abortions and allowing the sale of recreational marijuana, for instance.

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton said in a statement that local issues like Initiative 77 "should be decided solely by D.C., not unaccountable members of Congress trying to interfere in the District’s local affairs."

She points out that Meadows and Palmer, both Republicans, have made previous efforts to legislate on D.C.-specific issues, like budget autonomy and the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act. Neither Meadows' nor Palmers' offices have returned requests for comment.

"They can keep on trying, but we will keep on defeating them," Norton said. "I will be going to the Rules Committee to testify against these offensive riders and I ultimately intend to defeat them.”

If the Rules Committee, run by Republicans, allows one or both of the riders to be included in what's commonly called D.C.'s appropriations bill, it has to pass the House and Senate to become law.

The riders put Meadows, the leader of the House Freedom Caucus, and Palmer on the same side of Initiative 77 as D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, more than half of the D.C. Council, and the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington.

Proponents of 77 wasted no time in pointing that out.

"This is a deeply undemocratic move by Republicans in Congress to strip D.C. voters of their right to home rule," said One Fair Wage DC spokesperson Diana Ramirez in a statement. "Sadly, seven members of D.C. Council have aligned themselves with the effort to overturn Initiative 77. D.C. voters don't like it when Congress disregards the will of the people, and they won't forget it if Council stoops to their level."

On Tuesday, One Fair Wage released a video showing clips of Bowser and Council Chairman Phil Mendelson telling Congress to respect the will of the people after voters passed Initiative 71, which legalized recreational marijuana in the District.

Not long ago, @MayorBowser and @ChmnMendelson were upset that Republicans in Congress wanted to overturn the will of DC voters.

Now seven members of Council, including Mendelson, are threatening to do the very same thing.

— One Fair Wage DC (@dconefairwage) July 10, 2018

Bowser has not publicly come out in favor of the repeal, saying on Tuesday that she had yet to see the legislation. Still, her office opposes what Meadows and Palmer are doing.

"There is no good reason for Congressmen who don’t represent Washingtonians or our values to meddle in our local issues, particularly when there is so much happening at the federal level requiring their focus," said Anu Rangappa, her communications director, over email.

Kathy Hollinger of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington similarly told the Post she opposed Congressional interference.

The council will consider the repeal effort when it returns from summer recess in September.

Seven Councilmembers Co-Introduce Bill To Repeal Tipped Minimum Wage Ballot Initiative
D.C. Councilmembers Planning Bill To Repeal Initiative 77
10 Things You Should Know About Initiative 77 And The 2018 D.C. Primary
D.C. Voters Approve Initiative 77, Ballot Measure That Eliminates Tipped Wage
Initiative 77 Doesn't Just Affect Servers. Why Haven't We Heard From Delivery Drivers, Nail Technicians, Bellhops, And Others?
You've Heard Of Initiatives 71 and 77. What Happened To 72-76?

12 Jul 11:35

BooksLink: Instagram, Facebook


Link: Instagram, Facebook

12 Jul 11:34

Street network orientation in major cities

by Nathan Yau

Using OpenStreetMap data, Geoff Boeing charted the orientation distributions of major cities:

Each of the cities above is represented by a polar histogram (aka rose diagram) depicting how its streets orient. Each bar’s direction represents the compass bearings of the streets (in that histogram bin) and its length represents the relative frequency of streets with those bearings.

So you can easily spot the gridded street networks, and then there’s Boston and Charlotte that are a bit nutty. Check out Boeing’s other chart for orientation of major non-US cities.

See also Stephen Von Worley’s color-coded maps and Seth Kadish’s charts from 2014 that showed the same thing but used Census data instead of OpenStreetMap.

Tags: directions, streets

12 Jul 11:34

This sun-chasing robot looks after the plant on its head

by James Vincent

Back in school I remember learning that plants are “heliotropic,” meaning they grow towards light. I always found this oddly touching; as if those green tendrils stretching out to the sun proved the plant itself was yearning to live. And why not? That is why they do it.

But what if plants could do more than stretch? What if they could move like animals, independently of their roots? Evolution hasn’t got there yet, but it turns out humans can help. Chinese roboticist and entrepreneur Sun Tianqi has made it happen: modding a six-legged toy robot made by his company Vincross to carry a potted plant on its back.

The resulting plant-robot hybrid looks like a leafy crab or a robot Bulbasaur. It moves towards the sunshine when needed, and...

Continue reading…

12 Jul 11:30

Papa John's founder John Schnatter resigns as chairman of company's board after apologizing for racial slur

Papa John's founder John Schnatter has resigned as chairman of his company's board after admitting and apologizing for using the N-word during a May conference call.

The company said in a statement late Wednesday night that it will appoint a new chairman in the coming weeks. Olivia Kirtley will act as the company’s lead independent director, it added.

News of Schnatter's resignation came shortly after Yahoo Sports reported that the Major League Baseball had indefinitely suspended its Papa Slam promotion — a campaign that both sides have collaborated on since 2016.

The MLB confirmed the suspension to CNBC.

Schnatter's conference call in May came to light after Forbes magazine detailed the incident in an article on Wednesday. The report said Schnatter was on a call with marketing agency Laundry Service when he tried to downplay comments he made about the National Football League and allegedly said, “Colonel Sanders called blacks n-----s."

Schnatter complained that the KFC founder never faced public backlash. The call was a role-playing exercise for Schnatter to prevent future public relations fumbles.

Shares of Papa John's fell by as much as 5.9 percent to a new 12-month low of $47.80 a share in intraday trading Wednesday — erasing $96.2 million in market value. The stock recovered somewhat, closing down 4.8 percent at $48.33 a share. Papa John's is down 13 percent so far this year while Domino's shares are up 48.5 percent.

11 Jul 22:44

Federal court rules that TSA agents can’t be sued for false arrests, abuse, or assault

by Chaim Gartenberg

TSA agents and security screeners can’t be sued for false arrests, abuse, or assault, according to a ruling from a federal appeals court in Pellegrino v. the United States of America Transportation Security Administration, reports travel news and advice site The Points Guy.

According to the US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, TSA officials have sovereign immunity while working in their official functions as screeners and security agents under the Federal Tort Claims Act. While that law ordinarily doesn’t cover law enforcement officers, the court ruled in a 2-1 decision that TSA agents aren’t considered law enforcement and therefore are covered under the law.

Per the court’s decision, TSA searches are considered “administrative...

Continue reading…

11 Jul 22:44

Federal Court Says Taking People's Drivers Licenses Away For Failure To Pay Court Fees Is Unconstitutional

by Tim Cushing

Good news out of Tennessee, via Christian Farias: a federal court has struck down the state's modern debtor's prison system.

In Tennessee, if you fail to pay court fines and other fees associated with an arrest or imprisonment for more than a year, your driver's license is revoked. While it may not be as punitive as rounding up debtors and locking them up again (which obviously severely restricts their ability to pay off their debt), it basically serves the same purpose. Someone without a valid driver's license will find their ability to earn income restricted. Driving to and from work with a revoked license just raises the risk of being fined or arrested, placing residents even further away from settling their debts with the government.

The lawsuit was brought by two men who've been unable to make regular payments and have been placed even further behind by having their licenses taken away. Their struggles are briefly described in the court decision [PDF]:

In short, Thomas and Hixson both live in severe poverty and both owe court debt related to past criminal convictions. Thomas is totally and permanently disabled. Hixson has spent time in recent years living in a homeless shelter after a period of incarceration. Each man struggles to afford the basic necessities of life and is unable to pay the court debt assessed against him. Because they failed to pay their court debt for over a year, Thomas and Hixson have both had their driver’s licenses revoked by TDSHS [Tennessee Dept. of Safety and Homeland Security].

The state believes this is an effective deterrent and one of the only ways to guarantee repayment of fines. In fact, a spokesperson for TDSHS has already stated that the ruling is "disappointing" and the agency is reviewing its "legal options." This suggests TDSHS thinks license revocation works, rather than just disproportionately punishes the poorest residents of the state. The district court, however, disagrees with this assessment.

A scheme that revoked the driver’s licenses of non-indigent court debtors after one year of nonpayment would pass rational basis review, because the threat of revocation would plausibly serve as a method for coercing those people into paying their debts. (First Memorandum at 36–37.) Under the Griffin line of cases, however, the court must specifically consider whether the scheme’s lack of an indigence exception is itself rational. Revocation would not be an effective mechanism for coercing payment from a truly indigent debtor, because no person can be threatened or coerced into paying money that he does not have and cannot get. (Id. at 37.) The numbers bear that ineffectiveness out. From July 1, 2012, to June 1, 2016, TDSHS revoked 146,211 driver’s licenses for failure to pay fines, costs and/or litigation taxes; only 10,750 of those people—about 7%—had their licenses reinstated. (Docket No. 64 ¶¶ 107–08.) If Tennessee’s revocation law were capable of coercing people into paying their debts in order to get their licenses back, it would be doing so. The overwhelming majority of the time, it is not.

This is part of the court's analysis of the law and its legality. As precedent holds, a law that affirmatively punishes poor people for being poor is unconstitutional, as it violates both Due Process and Equal Protection principles. Tennessee's law fits the criteria.

Under a long and well-established line of Supreme Court precedents, a statute that penalizes or withholds relief from a defendant in a criminal case, based solely on his nonpayment of a particular sum of money and without providing for an exception if he is willing but unable to pay, is the constitutional equivalent of a statute that specifically imposes a harsher sanction on indigent defendants than on non-indigent defendants.

The court's lengthy examination of the law is worth reading -- especially by federal judges in other states with laws like these. But this is the upshot: the law makes bad situations worse, driving poor people further into poverty. In addition, the state's records show it is completely ineffective on its own terms -- either as a deterrent against non-payment or an efficient way to collect on debts owed.

Ultimately, the court need not determine if the driver’s license revocation law would fail rational basis review based on its sheer ineffectiveness alone, because, as applied to indigent drivers, the law is not merely ineffective; it is powerfully counterproductive. If a person has no resources to pay a debt, he cannot be threatened or cajoled into paying it; he may, however, become able to pay it in the future. But taking his driver’s license away sabotages that prospect.


In short, losing one’s driver’s license simultaneously makes the burdens of life more expensive and renders the prospect of amassing the resources needed to overcome those burdens more remote.

The court then goes on to note the cycle created by this revocation -- which can lead to additional arrests and/or fines -- just digs a deeper hole for the state. It creates additional debts that have almost zero chance of being repaid. It's nothing more than doubling down on what already isn't working.

Fortunately, there are some on the law enforcement side welcoming this ruling.

Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich praised the decision.

“This ruling will give relief to those drivers whose licenses are revoked only because they lack the financial resources to pay their fines and court costs," Weirich said in a statement. "Our hope is that this will be a positive step toward rehabilitation since offenders getting their driving privileges restored will make employment more feasible. Also, it will reduce our daily caseload and allow us to focus even more on violent crimes and property crimes.”   

The attorneys for the pair of residents -- Claudia Wilner and Josh Spickler -- are hoping this ruling results in another favorable ruling in the near future. The pair is also suing on behalf of the 250,000 state residents who've had their licenses revoked for not paying traffic tickets. As it stands now, the state has sixty days to come up with a plan for reinstating all revoked licenses affected by this ruling and submit it to the court for approval. Reinstatement may be stayed during the inevitable appeal, but for now, the state cannot continue to revoke licenses when someone has shown an inability to pay.

It's a big decision, even if its jurisdictional reach is limited to the state of Tennessee. If this is upheld on appeal, it will cover the four states that make up the Sixth District. Although this has been slightly altered in recent years, Ohio still engages in this practice. In Michigan, a state appeals court judge blocked a similar law late last year. (That decision is currently being appealed.) Kentucky is the only state in the district without a law like this on the books, putting it a step ahead of its district competition.

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11 Jul 22:34

Elon Musk says he will fund fixing Flint’s foul water

by Jonathan M. Gitlin

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty)

For around four years now, the water supply to the city of Flint, Michigan, has been contaminated with lead. Now, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has promised to help. Replying to a request on Twitter, Musk pledged to fund remediation work to houses with contaminated water supplies.

For some time now, people on Twitter and elsewhere have been calling on Musk to turn his attention to this domestic scandal; those calls having escalated in response to his high-profile interest in the rescue of 12 children and their soccer coach from a cave network in Thailand.

As is usually the case with plans that are barely an hour old, the details are thin as of now. But Musk—tweeting from China—told people in Flint to reply to his tweet with test results showing contamination above the recommended limits, at which point he would arrange having a water filter fitted for them. (We should note that it's actually the EPA, not the FDA, that sets limits on environmental pollution exposure, and that the state of Michigan has already been supplying water filters to affected residents.)

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11 Jul 19:32

I don’t have enough work for my employees and it’s stressing me out

by Ask a Manager

A reader writes:

I am the owner of a small business and responsible for my team of three employees. As a tour operator, our work is seasonal, with a very busy period for seven months of the year and little to do for the other five.

During the quiet period, I feel a huge amount of stress to create work for the employees to keep them busy. So much so, it interferes with the quality of work I produce (I take care of sales for the tour operator and community directly with clients; the employees look after the operational side of things).

I dread going into my workplace every morning having enough work only for one employee, knowing the other two would be sitting there twiddling their thumbs. It gets me all panicky and I know that for them, it must be boring and demotivating.

The workload is such that one employee would be sufficient during the quiet months, with three at our peak. I have thought about seasonal employees but don’t think this would be a good fit for our small business. Sourcing and training new staff members every year would be a drain of my time and money.

I have researched into the problem and know that many suggest getting other tasks out of the way that normally don’t get accounted for, such as filing and organizing. We’ve done all that at the beginning of the slow season and now I’m at a loss as to what to projects to give them. So much so, I gave everyone a month off in the middle of the slow season just to give myself a break from the stress of it.

I wish I could relax a little and enjoy the slow season before things get mad again later in the year, but every day I now dread going into work and having to pluck out of thin air things for the employees to do. It would be a lot more productive for me to use that time developing the business. What do I do?

You were on the right track with that one-month vacation. Do more of that!

If you don’t need them there right now … let them not be there.

If there are five months of the year where you really only need one person and you don’t want to hire seasonally — and thus you need to pay people year-round even if you can’t keep them busy — why not let them take more time off? A lot more time off?

If you divided this five-month period evenly, you’d need each of the three people to work about seven weeks during that time. The remaining time would be a huge amount of paid time off to offer … but you’re paying them as it is right now, and having to devise ways to occupy them is making your life worse. The whole point of paying people is to help your business and make your life easier. If you’re going to pay them regardless, why not structure it in a way that doesn’t make things harder on you?

Plus, you’ll likely to be able to attract and retain really strong people if you’re offering that much paid vacation per year.

I know that it might sound crazy to give people three months of paid vacation a year. But really, you are already paying them for months where you don’t need them, and if that’s the model that’s right for you, why not make it easier on you (and awesome for them)?

If you did this, you’d want to talk to a lawyer about creating a contract that protects you — so that you don’t have people taking the months of paid vacation and then quitting right when they’re supposed to come back. But a lawyer can help you structure it so that you’re both protected and everyone’s being fair with each other.

Aside from this, though, how about enlisting your employees in helping solve the problem? They’re probably aware that you’re trying to scrounge up work for them, and they might even feel uneasy about that (since they may not know that you’re committed to keeping them year-round and may worry that at some point you’re going to realize there’s not enough work and lay them off). Also, it sucks to feel like you’re being given busy work. Lay out the problem for them and ask for their ideas. Who knows — they might have great ideas about ways to use their time that you haven’t thought of, or they might have creative approaches to the time off question so that it’s not as extreme as what I’m proposing. But even if they don’t, they’ll likely appreciate a straightforward conversation, and it’ll be interesting to get their perspective. (And maybe they’ll tell you, “Hey, we will happily read and watch YouTube all day — if you’re cool with us doing that until you need us, problem solved.”)

I don’t have enough work for my employees and it’s stressing me out was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

11 Jul 18:15

Shocker: DOJ's Computer Crimes And Intellectual Property Section Supports Security Researchers DMCA Exemptions

by Mike Masnick

Well here's a surprise for you. The DOJ's Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) has weighed in to support DMCA 1201 exemptions proposed by computer security researchers. This is... flabbergasting.

In case you don't know, Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is the "anti-circumvention" part of the law. It's the part of the law that makes it infringement to get around any "technological measure" to lock down copyright covered material, even if breaking those locks has nothing whatsoever to do with copyright infringement. It's a horrible law that has created all sorts of negative consequences, including costly and ridiculous lawsuits about things having nothing to do with copyright -- including garage door openers and printer ink cartridges. In fact, Congress knew the law was dumb from the beginning, but rather than dump it entirely as it should have done, a really silly "safety valve" was added in the form of the "triennial review" process.

The triennial review is a process that happens every three years (obviously, per the name), in which anyone can basically beg the Copyright Office and the Librarian of Congress to create exemptions for cracking DRM for the next three years (an exemption -- stupidly -- only lasts those three years, meaning people have to keep reapplying). Over the years, this has resulted in lots of silliness, including the famous decision by the Librarian of Congress to not renew an exemption to unlock mobile phones a few years back. Many of the exemption requests come from security researchers who want to be able to crack systems without being accused of copyright infringement -- which happens more frequently than you might think.

Historically, law enforcement has often been against these exemptions, because (in general) they often appear to dislike the fact that security researchers find security flaws. This is, of course, silly, but many like to take a "blame the messenger" approach to security research. That's why this new comment from the DOJ's CCIPS is so... unexpected.

Many of the changes sought in the petition appear likely to promote productive cybersecurity research, and CCIPS supports them, subject to the limitations discussed below.

Incredibly, CCIPS even points out that those who are opposed to these cybersecurity research exemptions are misunderstanding the purpose of 1201, and that it should only be used to stop activity that impacts copyright directly. This is the kind of thing we've been arguing for years, but many companies and government agencies have argued that because 1201 helps them, no exemptions should be granted. But here, the DOJ explains that's not how it works:

Some comments opposing removal of any existing limitation on the security research exemption suggest, implicitly or explicitly, that the DMCA’s security research exemption itself poses a danger merely because it fails to prohibit a type of research to which the commenter objects. However, the purpose of the DMCA is to provide legal protection for technological protection measures, ultimately to protect the exclusive rights protected by copyright. As critically important as the integrity of voting machines or the safety of motorized land vehicles are the American public, the DMCA was not created to protect either interest, and is ill-suited to do so. To the extent such devices now contain copyrighted works protected by technological protection measures, the DMCA serves to protect those embedded works. However, the DMCA is not the sole nor even the primary legal protection preventing malicious tampering with such devices, or otherwise defining the contours of appropriate research. The fact that malicious tampering with certain devices or works could cause serious harm is reason to maintain legal prohibitions against such tampering, but not necessarily to try to mirror all such legal prohibitions within the DMCA’s exemptions.

There's a lot more in the comment, but... I'm actually impressed. Of course, the letter does note that part of the reason it wants this exemption is to enable security researchers to figure out how to crack into encrypted phones, but that's actually a reasonable position for the DOJ to take. Far better than seeking to backdoor encryption. Finding flaws is fair game.

All in all, this is a welcome development, having the DOJ's CCIPS recognize that security research is useful, and that it shouldn't be blocked by nonsense copyright anti-circumvention rules.

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11 Jul 16:38

Nintendo reportedly rolling out new, more hack-resistant Switch hardware

by Kyle Orland

Enlarge / A shot of some of the hardware used to discover the Fusée Gelée exploit, which is reportedly now fixed on newly sold Switch units. (credit: Kate Temkin)

Months ago, word leaked out to the public of an "unpatchable" exploit method that allowed Switch users to run custom firmware, homebrew code, and even pirated software on all existing hardware. Now, Nintendo is reportedly selling Switch systems that have been fixed at the factory to protect against this exploit.

The report comes from prolific Switch hardware hacker SciresM, who writes that at least some Switches currently on retail shelves are not vulnerable to the coldboot exploit known in hacking circles as "Fusée Gelée." SciresM suspects that Nintendo has used the iPatch system on the system's Nvidia Tegra chip to burn new protective code into the boot ROM, cutting off the USB recovery mode overflow error that previously let hackers in.

These boot-ROM iPatches are relatively simple for Nintendo to implement in the factory when the system is manufactured, but they are impossible to load onto the tens of millions of Switch units that had already been sold before the exploit was made public.

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11 Jul 16:19

Until real change is achieved, LGBTQ people in Japan have no reason to be grateful

On July 9, the city of Osaka will become the eighth municipality in Japan to issue documents recognizing same-sex partnerships.

On the one hand, it’s tempting to interpret this action as a step towards equality. Partnership recognition is largely symbolic, but even incremental progress can lead to real change.

But these performative gestures often become impediments to equity and equality, and the way in which such actions are acknowledged has a huge impact on more critical legislation: long overdue basic civil liberties like antidiscrimination policies, laws protecting and supporting transgender people, and same-sex marriage or civil unions.

When the first same-sex partnership in Japan was recognized in Shibuya in 2015, mayor Ken Hasebe called it “a first step.” So why, nearly three years later, are we still taking first steps?

Public opinion polls show that support for same-sex marriage has been steadily increasing in Japan, reaching a majority in 2015. According to a survey by the National Institute of Social Security and Population Studies, over 70 percent of those in their 20s approve of legal same-sex unions.

But even though Japan is ready for real change, it has yet to come — instead, we’re meant to react to decorative gestures like partnership recognition with gratitude. Until real change is achieved, LGBTQ people have no reason to be grateful.

It’s important to clarify what sort of “recognition” is being offered. Couples must both be over 20 years old and at least one individual must reside in the ward where the application is being made. If these requirements are met, both parties sign a document and pay an application fee of ¥300.

In return, they are issued a document legally allowing them — but not entitling them — to share rental accommodation and visit one another in hospital. Whether or not institutions honor this document is entirely at their own discretion, with no repercussion save for the threat of their names being released to the public.

What’s more, this document is ward-specific. As soon as a recognized couple leaves the boundaries of the granting municipality, their certificate turns back into a pumpkin — or rather, a meaningless piece of paper.

Seen through the fairy dust, a partnership certificate seems less like a legal agreement and more like a participant ribbon given out at sports day. It doesn’t actually do anything, and is designed to make the recipient feel appreciated at almost no expense to or effort from the donor.

Yes, partnership recognition has been hard-won thanks to the work of LGBTQ advocates and their allies, and such gestures can become important arguments for large-scale legislation, but they just as often become stalling tactics. When advocates accept but then later express dissatisfaction with these paltry offerings and continue to push for the civil rights they initially demanded for LGBTQ people, they are frequently regarded as greedy, impatient or having an alternative agenda.

Any of these outcomes result in negative sentiment that can ultimately undercut the small progress made by weak legislation. With that in mind, it’s imperative that partnership certificates should be regarded as a step, not a destination.

I’ve seen the same one-step-forward, two-steps-back game play out in my home country of Canada. Same-sex marriage was legalized in 2005, but the right to marry is only a small part of LGBTQ equality. To be achieved, it must be inclusive and comprehensive.

As eyes turn towards Japan as it prepares to host the 2020 Olympics, its people have an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to its key mandate: the promotion of a “peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.”

Can they come out winners? Sure. They just have to stop accepting participant ribbons.

Foreign Agenda is a forum for opinion on issues related to life in Japan.

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11 Jul 13:45

Hackers caught selling access to airport security systems for $10

by Russell Brandom

Researchers at McAfee’s Advanced Threat Research team have discovered that credentials for systems a major international airport are being sold on the dark web for just $10. Airport admins verified the authenticity of the credentials, which would have allowed control of “systems linked to security and building automation systems,” and resolved the issue after being informed by McAfee. Researchers withheld name of the airport for confidentiality reasons.

The stolen credentials were for airport’s remote desktop protocol (RDP), which allows employees to work through specific computers from outside the local network. RDP credentials are the perfect opening for cybercriminals, which has led to thriving dark web markets where stolen...

Continue reading…

11 Jul 12:09

'They thought they'd die': Ice shackled women for hours in hot van, suit says

Immigration authorities in California shackled nine women in a hot windowless van for hours, causing them to struggle for breath, faint and vomit, according to a new lawsuit that details claims of extreme suffering during a day-long journey last year.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, which filed the suit on Tuesday, alleged that the women were also denied food and water for roughly 12 hours during a 24-hour journey on a hot summer day in 2017, and that they experienced physical injuries, medical complications and psychological damage during the protracted transfer.

“The women all thought they were going to die, that they were going to experience their last breath together in that van,” said Vasudha Talla, an ACLU staff attorney.

“The stench, the heat, the crying, the screaming – it was very traumatic for the women,” Talla said, adding that the women were “treated like cargo”.

The lawsuit, which alleges a pattern of “burdensome and lengthy voyages”, is seeking records on transportation practices and policies. It comes at a time when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) and US border agents are facing intense scrutiny over their treatment of people in custody. The Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy led to the separation of thousands of children from their families, with the government failing this week to meet a court-ordered deadline to reunite them.

According to the ACLU and legal filings, the women were detained in a facility in Richmond in northern California when they were woken up in the early morning hours of 17 July 2017 and given little information about where they were going. One of the women, Floricel Liborio Ramos, detailed her account in a blogpost and in a formal claim with Ice, which the Guardian has reviewed.

Liborio Ramos, a 38-year-old mother of three, at first thought Ice was preparing to release her. But instead, officers shackled her wrists and ankles and transported her and other women to San Francisco, placing them in a cold room she described as an “ice box”, the claim said. The women eventually received a sandwich and water bottle at around 10.30am and were later transferred to another city, Gilroy, in a bus without access to a bathroom, Liborio Ramos said.

The women were put in a van that was dark, had no windows, no air circulation and no air vents and looked like it was “used for animals”, she continued. The driver ignored their cries for help, including from one woman who suffered from some kind of phobia and was screaming “in desperation”, the claim said. The shackled women tried to support each other and were blowing air on one other in an attempt to stay cool, Liborio Ramos said, but one of them began throwing up and fainted.

Floricel Liborio Ramos, left, with Vasudha Talla, an attorney.
Floricel Liborio Ramos, left, with Vasudha Talla, an attorney. Photograph: Courtesy ACLU of Northern California

When the fainted woman did not respond, the women thought she might have died, but the driver yelled at them to shut up and ignored their banging and pleas, the claim said, adding that he was texting and twice veered off the road.

Liborio Ramos said she believed they would all die and began to pray: “I thought about not seeing my children again, not saying goodbye.”

Hours later, they arrived in Fresno and were given food and water at around 10.30pm for the first time since the morning, Liborio Ramos said, adding that officers only unshackled one of her hands so she could eat. By the time they arrived and were processed at their destination in Bakersfield, about 300 miles south of their original location, a full day had passed, the claim said.

One woman was denied critical diabetes medication during the trip, and another rolled her ankle while being transferred, according to the filings.

The ACLU is also seeking records on G4S Secure Solutions, a contractor and private security company that provides Ice’s transportation services. G4S, which has faced scrutiny over its treatment of immigrants in the UK, did not immediately respond to an inquiry.

Ice declined to comment on the litigation. A spokesman said in an email that the agency “provides safe and humane conditions for all individuals in our custody and adheres to rigorous national standards regarding the transfer of detainees”.

In addition to separating families and moving people across the country, the Trump administration has dramatically escalated crackdowns on immigrant communities, which means there has probably been an increase in vehicle transfers. That made it all the more critical that detainees were treated humanely and safely when they are being transported, Talla said.

“They have an obligation … to provide people with a basic level of rights and care,” she said, adding that the ACLU had received a number of anecdotal reports about mistreatment in vehicles and would like concrete data about related complaints. “We believe that the issue is widespread.”

11 Jul 11:54

US cannot reunite dozens of child migrants

Child migrant Image copyright EPA
Image caption A young migrant child waiting to be processed in Texas after the government's suspended zero-tolerance policy

The Trump administration has said 27 young migrant children are "not eligible for reunification" with their parents, according to a court filing.

Twelve other children's mothers or fathers have already been deported from the US, said the government.

"Legitimate logistical impediments" are delaying reunions for many of the 102 children under five years old who were taken from parents, US officials say.

Nearly 3,000 children were split from undocumented adults entering the US.

The government was bound by a court order to reunite children aged five and under by 10 July.

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Media caption'It's been 50 days since I heard of my son'

The Department of Justice (DoJ) and American Civil Liberties Union's (ACLU) joint status report on Tuesday detailed why the 27 children cannot yet be reunited with their families.

The parents of 10 children were being still held in criminal custody after crossing the US border without papers, and have yet to be fully assessed, said the report.

Eight other children's parents have a "serious criminal history" including narcotics, human smuggling, murder and robbery.

Two other children cannot be reunited with parents because of a possible threat of child abuse.

Five children had been separated from adults who were not their parents.

Another child's parent is being treated for a communicable illness.

The location of another child's parent has been unknown for more than a year. Records show both parent and child might even be US citizens.

Some 75 of the 102 separated children have been determined eligible to be reunited with their families, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

But as of Tuesday afternoon, the government said it had only reunited four of those children with their parents.

It said it expected to reunite another 34 by the end of the day, in accordance with the deadline.

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Media captionTrump supporters talk family separations and border security

But 12 children cannot be immediately reunited with their families because their parents have already been deported.

For those children, the court filing says they "may be reunified if their parents can be located and if those parents request reunification".

The ACLU said it accepted that those parents in criminal custody cannot be reunited with their children yet.

But it said in many cases "the government is not in compliance with the clear deadline ordered by the Court".

The ACLU said: "For the [parents] who were deported without their children, [US government officials] have not even tried to contact them or facilitate their reunification by today."

What happens now?

The government will probably receive an updated order and deadline for reuniting these children.

Trump administration attorneys have requested a "flexible schedule" for reuniting or removing children since "pieces of this process are out of [the government's] hands".

The filing notes that the government agencies and ACLU are working together to locate parents in immigration detention facilities.

US government officials recently told four immigrant mothers they must pay for DNA tests to be reunited with their children, an immigrant shelter in El Paso, Texas, where the women are staying, told the Daily Beast.

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Media captionFeeling what it's like to cross the US border

At a hearing on Monday in San Diego, California, a federal judge agreed with the government that some cases "will necessitate additional time".

The government is still mandated to reunite the remaining children aged five to 17 - numbering as many as 2,900 - with their parents by 26 July.

Meanwhile, a court in Los Angeles has rejected the Trump administration's request to allow the long-term detention of illegal immigrant children.

Under a 1997 agreement, child migrants can only be detained for 20 days.

The federal judge said the administration's request to extend that limit was "a cynical attempt" to shift immigration policymaking to the courts.

Another 10,000 or so migrant children currently in US custody entered the country without parents, undertaking the long and dangerous journey alone or with strangers.

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Media captionCisary Reynaud has not spoken to his daughter since they were separated