October 13, 2019

Bordermonitoring.EU

NEWSLETTER #3.2019

In der neunten Ausgabe unseres Newsletters fassen wir, wie gewohnt, den aktuellen Stand des Grenzregimes in Ungarn, auf der Balkanroute, in Bulgarien, der Türkei und in Italien zusammen. Zuallerallererst werden wir in diesem Newsletter jedoch näher auf ein Phänomen eingehen, welches bisher – zumindest im deutschsprachigen Raum – noch weitestgehend unbekannt ist: Bootsflüchtlinge im Kanal … NEWSLETTER #3.2019 weiterlesen

by ms

October 12, 2019

Institute of Network Cultures

Patricia de Vries: ‘Het Internet’, in real life-fetisjisme en Søren Kierkegaard

(oorspronkelijk gepubliceerd op de website van de Nederlandse Boekengids, 11 oktober 2019)

https://www.nederlandseboekengids.com/20191011-patricia-de-vries/

Het internet is niet alleen alomtegenwoordig, ook boezemt het ons steeds meer angst in: zijn onze data wel veilig, en kunnen we nog wel zonder onze smartphone? Patricia de Vries gaat online met Søren Kierkegaard, de angstfilosoof par excellence, en laat zien dat we de invloed van het internet pas kunnen begrijpen als we het als deel van onze werkelijkheid beschouwen.

Waar cyberspace eerst de mogelijkheid van een utopische ruimte leek voor te stellen, lijkt het internet vandaag de dag meer op het paard van Troje. Van de talloze internetkritieken is de meest voorkomende dat een handjevol sociale media- en tech giganten het internet domineert en astronomisch rijk is geworden door onze persoonlijke gegevens te verzamelen, op te slaan en te gebruiken als handelswaar. Wij zijn geen gebruikers van het internet, wij worden gebruikt door the Big Five: Facebook, Apple, Google, Microsoft en Amazon. Wij zijn het product, en de inkomstenbron. Het scala aan beangstigende scenario’s waar deze situatie toe kan leiden spant van kleine rampen tot dystopische vergezichten: van aan individuele levensstijlen gekoppelde verzekeringspremies en inkomensafhankelijke vliegticketprijzen, tot onderdrukking door harteloze en vrekkige werkgevers of zelfs door rechts-radicale despotische politieke regimes.

In een tweede populaire vorm van internetkritiek staat een angst voor de invloed van ons internetgebruik op de kwaliteit van ons leven en cerebraal welbevinden centraal. Dergelijke ‘internetangst’ heeft zich gedurende het afgelopen decennium gemanifesteerd in een groeiende stapel boeken. Ergens onderaan die stapel ligt The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet Is Killing Our Culture (2007) van Andrew Keen. Boeken over internetangst vonden een paar jaar later een groot publiek, met onder meer The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains, van Nicholas Carr (2010) en Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other (2011) van Sherry Turkle. Carr stelde dat ons geheugen en onze cognitieve vermogens eroderen wanneer we urenlang van de ene webpagina naar de andere springen. Turkle waarschuwde voor de psychosociale gevaren die schuilen in onze toenemende afhankelijkheid van technologie voor betekenisvol sociaal contact, waardoor we continu alleen zijn – zelfs in gezelschap. Naarmate deze afhankelijkheid toeneemt, zouden mensen het vermogen verliezen om authentieke en betekenisvolle relaties met elkaar te hebben. We staan aan de vooravond van een ‘robotmoment’, stelt zij, waarna robots plaats zullen maken voor ‘real life interactions’.

Ergens bovenaan de stapel boeken over internetangst ligt The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power (2018) van Shoshana Zuboff, waarin zij ervoor waarschuwt dat techgigant Google met onze gegevens toegang krijgt tot ons dagelijks leven, onze ‘realiteit’, waardoor het ons gedrag kan voorspellen en – uit winstbejag of machtswellust – kan beïnvloeden. In Zullen we contact houden. Hoe we de geest uit ons wereldbeeld verwijderen – een recente Nederlandstalige vertegenwoordiger van het genre – stelt ook Rob van Gerwen dat zich een zogenaamde ‘dementificatie van ons wereldbeeld’ voltrekt, gekenmerkt door het verlies van onze geest en subjectiviteit. De menselijke leefwereld wordt steeds meer gestuurd door een voortdurende mechanisering en kwantificering, versterkt door een neoliberale marktstructuur en ‘de digitale wereld’. Van Gerwen ontwaart een ‘digitale wereld’ die is losgezongen van de ‘leefwereld’. In deze digitale wereld maken de algoritmen van Twitter, Facebook en Google de dienst uit. In zijn boek beschrijft hij wat dat met onze geest en subjectiviteit doet. Hij schetst een somber beeld waarin mensen wrijvend over oplichtende rechthoeken veranderen in ‘smartphone-zombies’. Voortdurend afgeleid door binnenkomende WhatsAppberichten en notificaties van socialemedia-apps, hebben we geen echte aandacht meer voor elkaar. We zijn continu ‘online’ en als gevolg daarvan altijd ‘afwezig’, meent Van Gerwen. We lopen rond, of erger nog, we fietsen en rijden rond, met onze ogen gericht op onze apparaten. Voorrang verlenen we alleen aan onze smartphones: menselijke verstandhoudingen zijn ontdaan van oogcontact en lichamelijke en geestelijke aanwezigheid. Doordat we almaar ‘online’ zijn verleren we zelfs het converseren, want gesprekken op het internet bestaan vooral uit losse expressies of emotioneel commentaar gekenmerkt door slordig taalgebruik. En dit zijn volgens Van Gerwen slechts enkele van de zorgwekkende gevolgen voor onze dementerende geest en verdrukte subjectiviteit.

In de verschillende uitingen van internetangst ligt het accent steeds net anders, maar het refrein luidt al tien jaar hetzelfde: het internet helpt alles wat werkelijk van waarde is naar zijn grootje, en wij graven, scrollend en klikkend, ons eigen graf. Internetangst kent een lange voorgeschiedenis, met een vrijwel ongewijzigde structuur. Wetenschappers, schrijvers en critici buigen zich al eeuwenlang over de consequenties van technologische ontwikkelingen op het menselijk leven. Kort samengevat luidt de formule: de opkomst van een specifieke technologie wordt verketterd door haar in verband te brengen met negatieve effecten op onze cognitieve vermogens en de sociale vaardigheden van met name toekomstige generaties. Bovenal is de angst voor afnemende autonomie en (keuze)vrijheid een gouwe ouwe binnen zulke technologiekritieken.

De veronderstelde negatieve effecten van ‘het internet’ worden dikwijls in de schoenen van een of meerdere technologiegiganten geschoven. Zonder die vervloekte platformmonopolisten en hun slimme dragers zou het echte leven er beter uit zien. We zouden weer wat rechterop lopen, en wat meer aandacht hebben voor elkaar. We zouden weer moeilijke boeken lezen en goede gesprekken voeren tijdens de lunchpauze. Onze filterbubbels zouden kunnen barsten en polarisatie en fragmentatie zouden plaats kunnen maken voor een breed gedragen waardesysteem. Misschien zouden we ons weer wat vaker vervelen, wat de deur zou kunnen openen naar nog veel meer groots en moois. Kortom: de manier waarop wij de wereld waarnemen zou niet langer afhankelijk zijn van de algoritmen van op winst beluste internetbedrijven.

Maar een fixatie op ‘het internet’ als almachtige overheerser veronderstelt een vals dualisme tussen de digitale of virtuele wereld enerzijds en de werkelijke wereld anderzijds. Die visie laat weinig ruimte voor een problematisering van ‘het internet’ als onderdeel van de complexe en rommelige socio-technische kluwen waarin wij leven, die onder meer bestaat uit grootheden als geografische locatie, kapitaal en arbeid, politiek en economie, maar ook uit kleinere eenheden, zoals u en ik – en alle verwachtingen, ideeën, verlangens en aspiraties van de voornoemde betrokken spelers. Belangrijker nog: we hangen maar al te gemakkelijk de oorzaak van onze angsten op aan iets dat buiten onszelf ligt en daarmee buiten ons bereik. Deze gedachte onderzocht de grote angstfilosoof Søren Kierkegaard al. Door angsten buiten onszelf te plaatsen verliezen we de onderliggende oorzaken van onze angsten uit het oog, want zoals hoogtevrees niet over hoogte gaat, zo heeft internetangst geen directe betrekking op het internet.

Kierkegaard over angst

In Het begrip angst beweert Kierkegaard dat momenten van angst onvermijdelijk een fundamenteel onderdeel zijn van het menselijk bestaan en zelfs dat ons begrip van de wereld geworteld is in angst. Anders gezegd, onze relatie tot de wereld – onze kennis ervan, ons handelen in de wereld en onze ideeën erover – zijn gegrond in angst. Hoewel we angst in het lichaam voelen, en in het hier en nu ervaren, is het een toekomstgerichte emotie. In De ziekte tot de dood stelt Kierkegaard dat angst wordt gevormd door het onbekende, door iets waar we geen kennis mee durven te maken. Dat kan angst zijn voor een mogelijkheid van het bestaan of een angst voor jezelf. De voorwaarde voor angst, zo betoogt hij, is de onmogelijkheid om in de toekomst te kunnen kijken; het is de openheid en onbekendheid van de toekomst die ons angst inboezemt.

Kierkegaards visie op angst ligt besloten in zijn idee van menszijn. In De ziekte tot de dood stelt hij dat de mens zelf een verhouding is, namelijk een verhouding tot het zelf. Deze zelfverhouding stelt een synthese tussen eindigheid en oneindigheid voor, tussen het tijdelijke en het eeuwige, tussen noodzakelijkheid en mogelijkheid. Volgens Kierkegaard wordt deze synthese door God gedragen en door de mens gesteld. Doordat de mens een verhouding is, een synthese van tegenstellingen, is hij vatbaar voor angst. Mogelijkheid, oneindigheid en het eeuwige maken dat de toekomst radicaal open en onbepaald is. De mens heeft wat dat betreft niets in de melk te brokkelen. Onder meer sekse, etniciteit, economische klasse, geografische positie, burgerschap, gezondheid, en uiteindelijk sterfelijkheid begrenzen de mogelijkheden van de mens, maar deze begrenzingen zijn nooit absoluut noch allesomvattend. Mogelijkheid omvat al het mogelijke, en ‘al’ omvat zelfs het ondenkbare, onkenbare en onvoorstelbare. Zou dat niet zo zijn, dan zou de toekomst in zekere mate berekenbaar, voorspelbaar en waarschijnlijk worden. Angst is daarom ook mogelijkheid van verandering, het mogelijke verlies van iets en het begin van iets anders – het toekomstige, het onvermoede. De onvoorspelbaarheid van de toekomst weerhoudt mensen er niet van haar te voorspellen, maar dat verandert echter niets aan de fundamentele openheid van de toekomst, benadrukt Kierkegaard. Wat maakt angstwekkende toekomstvisioenen over het internet een populair genre? Wat winnen we als straks alles verloren gaat aan het internet? In Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now (2013) beweert Douglas Rushkoff dat apocalyptisch denken houvast biedt. En, nog belangrijker, het geeft inhoud en richting aan een open en onvoorspelbare toekomst. Dit is wat er gaat gebeuren. We staan nu hier. Op deze manier gaan we ten onder. Speculeren over waar het heen gaat met het internet biedt die illusie van houvast in een onstandvastig leven. Maar daarmee kom je niet van je angst af, je moet er namelijk doorheen, meent Kierkegaard.

Internetangst als IRL-fetisjisme

Angst komt voort uit een scheve verhouding van de mens tot zichzelf, een scheefstand in de synthese waarbij de ene kant van de tegenstelling de boventoon voert ten opzichte van de andere. Wanneer iemand zich bijvoorbeeld verliest in grenzeloze fantasieën en dromen, wanneer hij denkt dat hij onbegrensd is, is er sprake van een gebrek aan eindigheid, en een teveel aan oneindigheid. En omgekeerd, wanneer je nadruk legt op je beperkingen en op noodzakelijkheid, kun je verzanden in determinisme, fatalisme of nihilisme. Wat dan ontbreekt is een gevoel van verbreding, van mogelijkheid. In angstige toekomstvisioenen lijkt er dan ook sprake van een wanverhouding tussen het eindige en het oneindige, noodzakelijkheid en mogelijkheid. Meer concreet: internetangst berust op een vals dualisme tussen de virtuele en de werkelijke wereld, waarin de nadruk met name op de virtuele wereld komt te liggen. Dat leidt iemand als John Cheney-Lippold, auteur van We Are Data: Algorithms and the Making of Our Digital Selves (2017), ertoe te stellen dat we worden onderworpen aan een ‘algoritmische regeringsvorm met biopolitieke dimensies’. En diezelfde wanverhouding verklaart waarom Jamie Susskind in Future Politics: Living in a World Transformed by Tech (2018) beweert dat ‘we will be who the algorithms say we are.’

Er bestaat ook een schat aan literatuur die het denken in termen van online versus offline en mens versus machine problematiseert. Dominic Fox, bijvoorbeeld, hoort in de tegenstelling tussen technologie en verbeeldingskracht vooral de echo’s van een romantisch humanisme. Technologieën die zijn ontworpen om onze geestelijke ervaring te verrijken, zouden die uiteindelijk juist verarmen. Het probleem met dergelijke tegenstellingen is dat zij een complexe verhouding samenvatten in een tweedimensionaal verhaal over hoe we onze geest en verbeelding hebben verloren aan de sirenen van het gemak. Nathan Jurgenson spreekt in dit verband van een in real life– of IRL-fetisj. Deze kijk op de wereld maakt een hard onderscheid tussen mens en machine, tussen objectiviteit en subjectiviteit, tussen virtualiteit en werkelijkheid, offline en online, en tussen ervaring en informatie. Online wordt begrepen als niet-offline, als niet-aanwezig, als ergens anders. Waar offline staat voor ‘echt’, ‘authentiek’ en ‘werkelijk’, wordt online afgedaan als ‘virtueel’ en ‘niet-werkelijk.’ IRL-fetisjisten klagen dat mensen, en vooral millennials, de rug hebben gekeerd naar het ‘echte leven’. Ze hebben werkelijk contact ingeruild voor online contact, en echte vrienden voor Facebookvrienden. Volgens de fetisjisten leeft de toekomstige generatie daardoor in simulacra: iedereen heeft een eigen virtuele werkelijkheid in zijn tas zitten die we overal mee naartoe slepen en vervolgens op tafel leggen. IRL-fetisjisme laat zich daarom beschrijven door een fixatie op de ‘werkelijkheid’, ‘het echte leven’ en de ‘ongemedieerde ervaring’. De IRL-fetisjist schept graag op dat hij niet of niet meer op Facebook zit, geen Instagramaccount heeft, niet aan Twitter doet en nog nooit van TikTok heeft gehoord. Hij wil niet langer beïnvloed worden door de algoritmen van sociale mediagiganten; hij is de internetverslaving de baas. Met zijn telefoon diep in de tas en volledig uitgelogd, staat hij met beide voeten in het ‘echte’ leven. IRL-fetisjisme is een wanverhouding tussen het eindige en het oneindige. De wanverhouding bestaat er onder meer in dat er magische krachten aan het ‘echte’ en het ‘werkelijke’ worden toegeschreven. Er is inmiddels zelfs een verdienstelijke markt ontstaan die zich richt op de IRL-fetisjist, bestaande uit stapels boeken en publicaties over de magie van verveling, en reisjes naar Digital Detox Camps waar je met je partner, vrienden of het hele gezin eindeloos lang stenen op elkaar kunt stapelen, ver weg van een wifi-signaal.

It’s complicated

Internetangst stelt ons voor de taak om werk te maken van de wanverhouding tussen begrenzing ten koste van verbreding, tussen mogelijkheid en noodzakelijkheid. Wanneer we de digitale wereld en de leefwereld als verstrengeld zien, als een synthese, kunnen we genuanceerder naar het internet kijken. Dan kunnen we zien dat het internet geen monoliet is. En dat onze online bezigheden onlosmakelijk verbonden zijn met wat we offline doen. De echte wereld is juist een synthese van online en offline, van mens en machine, van lichamelijkheid en virtualiteit. Het internet is het echte leven: het is de scheiding tussen offline en online die ‘on-echt’ en ‘on-werkelijk’ is.

In It’s Complicated (2014) bespreekt Danah Boyd de typische Grote Verhalen die over de internetgeneratie worden verteld. Het onlinegedrag van jongeren blijkt al gauw gecompliceerder te zijn dan vaak wordt beweerd. It’s Complicated verlegt de aandacht naar wat jongeren uit hun smartphones halen en de betekenis die zij aan online-zijn toeschrijven: zo biedt de smartphone een manier om weerstand te bieden aan de druk en beperkingen die zij op school en thuis ervaren. Tegelijkertijd vormen apps hangplekken voor vriendengroepen waarmee jongeren hun leefwereld delen: ze zoeken er steun bij elkaar, en vinden de mogelijkheid om zich zonder de bemoeienissen van ouders uit te drukken – vaak in een eigen taal. Ze maken geregeld gebruik van verschillende socialemediaplatforms waarop ze vorm geven aan verschillende persona’s. Dat neemt niet weg dat dezelfde smartphone een middel tot (cyber)pesten kan zijn en toegang biedt tot de goorste uithoeken van het internet. Bovendien, aangezien socialemediaplatforms zichtbaar zijn voor derden, en de gedeelde data doorzoekbaar is, dienen jongeren ook rekening te houden met de mogelijke langetermijngevolgen van hun online presentatie. Impressiebeheer en groepsdruk spelen hierbij een belangrijke rol. Het internet, legt Boyd uit, is hierbij noch het probleem noch de oplossing – het is inderdaad gecompliceerd. Dat punt is sterk en actueel: de overspannen bezorgdheid van ouders en leraren duidt niet alleen op bekommernis over de toekomstige impact van ‘het internet’ van nu, maar laat ook zien dat zij het internetgedrag van jongeren veroordelen aan de hand van overtuigingen, verwachtingen en ideeën uit hun eigen generatie en leefwereld. Daarmee riskeert hun zorg niet alleen een morele vingerwijzing te worden, maar dragen zij ook onbedoeld bij aan angstbeelden over ‘het internet’.

Beweging op de plaats

Kierkegaard stelt de taak om kennis te maken met angst, en om onze angsten te leren kennen dienen we onze innerlijke bewegingen, onze zelfverhouding, te doorgronden – onze verhouding tot verandering te ontrafelen. Wie met een kierkegaardiaans oog naar internetangst kijkt, beseft hoezeer de angst die we op het internet projecteren samenhangt met de bestaansonzekerheid die we in onszelf terugvinden. Angst is de botsing tussen de menselijke zoektocht naar houvast, rede en zekerheid – desnoods in apocalyptische verhalen – en de oorverdovende stilte van de toekomst. Zou het kunnen dat het IRL-fetisjisme van Van Gerwen en de zijnen symbool staat voor hun eigen angst voor het verlies van grip op de werkelijkheid? Angst voor vervreemding van het bekende? Is het wellicht een angst voor de mogelijkheid om zelf dement te worden?

Werk maken van internetangst begint met beweging. ‘Beweging ter plaatse’ welteverstaan, een begrip dat centraal staat in Kierkegaards denken over het zelf. Kierkegaard drukt beweging vaak uit met begrippen zoals ‘geloofssprong’, of de ‘beweging van oneindigheid’, en doelt dus niet op voorwaartse beweging, noch op lineaire of progressieve veranderingen. Beweging heeft geen doel, noch een adres of bestemming: beweging ter plaatse, legt Kierkegaard uit, ‘beweegt zich niet van de plaats waar het is noch komt het ergens aan’. In zekere zin is beweging ter plaatse een manier om stilstand tegen te gaan, om te voorkomen dat je vastloopt in ofwel noodzakelijkheid ofwel mogelijkheid.

Kortom: een manier om begrenzing en verbreding tegelijk te denken en daarnaar te handelen. Terwijl zijn tijdgenoten zich concentreerden op overkoepelende denksystemen en theorieën van vrijwel alles, verzette Kierkegaard zich tegen dit soort filosofie door in zijn schrijven anti-systemisch te denken. Dit deed hij onder meer door zichzelf tegen te spreken, verschillende posities in en binnen zijn oeuvre in te nemen, evenals door te schrijven in verschillende stijlen en genres. Zodoende spiegelt de vorm van zijn oeuvre zijn overtuiging dat we ‘denken’ en ‘zijn’ moeten synthetiseren. Door middel van een constant spel van posities en standpunten desoriënteert hij zijn lezers en helpt hij hen open te staan voor andere perspectieven en verschillende manieren van denken. Kierkegaards eigenzinnige opvatting van beweging is niet alleen een theoretisch construct. Bewegen – of preciezer, wandelen – was essentieel voor de manier waarop hij zijn filosofie leefde, zowel een eerbetoon aan zijn grote inspirator, Socrates, als een manier om stagnatie, vernauwing en verlamming in zijn denken te voorkomen. Zo voerde Kierkegaard tijdens zijn wandelingen door Kopenhagen regelmatig socratische gesprekken met zijn stadsgenoten.

Beweging ter plaatse kan weerstand bieden aan cultuurpessimisme, internetdeterminisme, en heimwee naar een geromantiseerd verleden. Aan zijn schoonzuster schrijft Kierkegaard dat hij elke dag van zijn kwalen wegloopt en hij geen gedachte kent die zo omslachtig is dat je er niet omheen kunt lopen. Beweging is wat vorm geeft aan de vormloosheid van de toekomst. Voor Van Gerwen en de zijnen, die het verlies van de geest en subjectiviteit aan het internet betreuren, zal het wellicht een geruststelling zijn te weten dat je iets wat je niet bezit ook niet kunt verliezen. Mocht ook beweging ter plaatse geen rust bieden: online kun je stapelstenen bestellen.

by Geert Lovink

October 11, 2019

Tomb, the Crypto Undertaker 2.7

… – Changes: Fixed getent parsing of passwd and notation of conditionals normalised. A few other minor fixes and documentation improvements.

by Jaromil

Bretton Woods Project

2019 Annual Meetings Preamble

As finance ministers prepare to meet at the upcoming IMF and World Bank Annual Meetings in Washington DC from 18-20 October, the Bretton Woods Institutions (BWIs) – if not those negatively impacted by their policies – will mark their 75th anniversary amid a challenging global economic environment and a rapidly changing geopolitical landscape.

More than a decade on from the global financial crisis, rising inequality continues to cause misery as the richest hoard more wealth than ever before, while the global economy is headed towards a “synchronised slowdown.” The UN Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) Trade and Development 2019 Report noted that, at a time when countries are failing to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), “The world economy is heading into troubled waters, with recession in 2020 now a clear and present danger.” This year’s World Economic Forum Global Risks Report (GRR) underscored that, “Geopolitical and geo-economic tensions are rising among the world’s major powers,” and that “these tensions represent the most urgent global risks at present.”

Recognising these dire circumstances, in her maiden speech the newly-crowned IMF managing director, Kristalina Georgieva, warned that, “If the global economy slows more sharply than expected, a coordinated fiscal response may be needed.” Similarly, World Bank president David Malpass cautioned that, “In June, the World Bank Group forecast that the global economy in 2019 would grow at 2.6 per cent, the slowest pace in three years. We now expect growth to be even weaker than that.” Tell-tale signs that the global economy is wandering into another financial crisis are mounting. The yield curve inverted, as ongoing trade struggles between the US and China are heightened by the possibility of a currency war, while concerns around a potential Eurozone recession grow.

Failure on leadership processes: So much for a new multilateralism

Serving as prime examples of the failures of today’s multilateralism, this year saw two leadership ‘contests’ at the IMF and World Bank go unchallenged, keeping the antiquated ‘gentleman’s agreement’ firmly in place (see Observer Spring 2019, Autumn 2019). Following Christine Lagarde’s surprise July resignation, a fractured Europe grappled with internal splits, and in spite of significant opposition from civil society and ex-IMF staff, the IMF announced that Bulgarian economist, Kristalina Georgieva, who ran unopposed, would become IMF Managing Director from 1 October (see Observer Autumn 2019).

The BWIs’ leadership contests and the expected announcement of failure of the IMF’s 15th quota reform at this Annual Meetings (see Observer Summer 2019, Update 79) should not be viewed in isolation, but through the lens of what the GRR asserts are deepening fissures in the international system” that threaten the stability of the global system. As the BWIs wrestle to stay relevant within a broader ‘crisis of multilateralism’, more attention must be paid to their own role in helping to create it (see Observer Summer 2019).

BWIs out of their depth on climate crisis

The inability of global leaders to tackle the impending climate disaster illustrates that concerns about multilateral paralysis are well-founded. Important questions remain about whether the BWIs are equipped to adapt to the rapidly-changing environment, and, in particular, whether Malpass – hand-picked by a US administration hellbent on frustrating climate action – will deliver. In fact, to the extent Malpass has acknowledged the existence of climate change at all in his six months in office, it’s mainly with respect to adaptation and disaster response. While important, this agenda largely ignores the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, outlined in last year’s IPCC report. While the Bank’s new president may seek to bury his head in the sand on the need for rapid mitigation efforts, civil society intends to once again highlight the Bank’s role as a key financier of fossil fuel projects over its 75-year existence, including through a mobilisation due to take place outside the World Bank on Friday at noon local time, where climate groups will demand that the Bank stops funding and provide other support for fossil fuels.

After largely taking a conservative stance in recent years to establishing when and how climate issues are considered ‘macro-critical’, the Fund finds itself relatively ill-equipped to begin dealing with the potential impact of climate mitigation policies on the global economy, with outgoing Bank of England Governor Mark Carney warning that a chaotic shift to a low-carbon economy could result in a ‘climate Minsky moment’, i.e. a sudden collapse of carbon assets (see Observer Summer 2019). CSOs will be pressing the Fund on its plans to deal with climate risk from what energy analysts at Carbon Tracker have dubbed the ‘inevitable policy response’ to climate change; they will also demand that the Fund and other multilateral actors acknowledge the need for debt relief for countries who are increasingly affected by catastrophic storms super-charged by a climate breakdown these same countries did little to cause.

Delusion deepens on private sector as development actors

The Bank’s Maximizing Finance for Development (MFD), which explicitly privileges the private sector in development finance, remains a mainstay of the Bank’s approach (see Observer Summer 2017). UNCTAD’s report captures the continued reliance on market-based solutions, describing it as “tapping the hearts, minds and wallets of the moneyed elite.” The private sector bias prevails despite ample evidence of the dangerous equality and fiscal impacts of key elements of its approach, including public-private partnerships (see Observer Summer 2019). The findings of April’s Overseas Development Institute report, which stressed that efforts to increase development finance through ‘blending’ of public and private funds are not credible, even under its own premises, continue to be ignored. The report found projections on how much private finance could be catalysed “unrealistic” and that “every $1 of public money invested in this way mobilises just $0.37 of private finance in LICs [Low-income Countries] and just $0.75 in all developing countries.” Given Malpass’s 1980s-like references in his recent speech on the wonders of liberalisation and the power of entrepreneurship, this privatisation train is unlikely to change course anytime soon.

IDA19 replenishment

Civil society will be closely following developments of the 19th replenishment of the International Development Association (IDA, the World Bank’s low-income lending arm). Donors to and borrowers from IDA will meet immediately after the Annual Meetings to finalise the IDA19 policy framework and further discuss funding (see Observer Autumn 2019). Unfortunately, many will be following from afar as the mechanisms for substantive discussions between civil society, IDA Deputies and borrowing countries remain inadequate. Challenges notwithstanding, civil society will call for more ambition in the ‘Special Themes’, such as the Jobs and Economic Transformation, and hopes to see progress in addressing concerns about IDA’s Private Sector Window. As the World Bank released its draft strategy on Fragility Conflict and Violence (FCV, see Observer Autumn 2019), it continues to be an increasing focus of the Bank and Fund, including in IDA19, as reflected in the numbers of panels dedicated to it at these Annual Meetings.

Growing debt crisis in need of urgent international attention

The most recent World Bank analysis revealed that external debt stock of low- and middle-income countries rose 5.2 per cent in 2018 to $7.8 trillion, and that by the end of 2018, the debt stock of IDA countries more than doubled from a decade earlier. These developments are taking place as a colossal shadow banking sector swells, amid equity market instability and rising levels of household debt throughout the world.

Most recently, debt campaigners have accused the IMF of encouraging reckless lending by extending $93 billion in loans to 18 financially troubled countries. The Fund’s recent role in Argentina, for example, raises questions around whether the institution has learned from the past, and whether it can fulfill its institutional mandate of ensuring financial stability. After overseeing the worst debt crisis in the country’s history in 2001, Argentina has once again fallen into a technical default, after the IMF increased its initial loan to $57 billion in September 2018, making this its largest-ever loan programme (see Observer Winter 2018).

Reflection and reform

Seventy-five years after the establishment of the Bank and Fund, the world faces unprecedented challenges in a context where coordinated multilateral action is becoming increasingly difficult. That said, given the current multilateral system and its well-documented imbalances are in part responsible for the crisis to which it must now respond, support for the status quo is clearly not an option. The 75th anniversary of the BWIs provides those interested in fundamental reform an opportunity to consider the legacy of these pivotal institutions, as well as what better a better international system may look like.

In an effort to facilitate these important discussions, the Bretton Woods Project, together with Georgetown University’s Center for the Advancement of the Rule of Law in the Americas (CAROLA) and the Bank Information Center, warmly invites you to a one-day conference on 21 October to consider possibilities for reform to build a more just and ecologically sustainable global economic order (RSVP here).

The post 2019 Annual Meetings Preamble appeared first on Bretton Woods Project.

by Miriam Brett

Institute of Network Cultures

Amsterdam Design Manifesto Nominated for the Simon Mari Pruys Prize

The Amsterdam Design Manifesto by Mieke Gerritzen and Geert Lovink is one of three nominees for the Simon Mari Pruys Prize for design criticism.

The Pruys jury, consisting of Kirsten Algera (design historian, critic and editor-in-chief of MacGuffin magazine), Jan Boelen (rector at Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design), and Hicham Khalidi (director of the Van Eyck, Maastricht), nominated the following texts:

Florian Cramer – ‘Welcome to the Crapularity: Design as a Problem’. The text is a provocative argument for the design of problems instead of solutions.

Mieke Gerritzen and Geert Lovink – ‘Made in China, Designed in California, Criticized in Europe. Amsterdam Design Manifest‘. Well-written overview of the inflation of design: “the discipline has been democratized from cross-discipline to anti-discipline”.

Alice Twemlow – ‘Conflicting Definitions of Key Terms’. This timely essay convincingly shows that design history can serve as a mirror for contemporary design issues.

The winner will be announced during the Pruys-Bekaert Event, Saturday 16 November at 19.30 at TENT, Witte de Withstraat 50, Rotterdam.The Pruys-Bekaert Event takes place during the Design Chewing Festival, which runs from 15‒17 October at TENT. Admission to the festival permits access to the Pruys-Bekaert Event.

More information can be found here.

by Barbara Dubbeldam

October 09, 2019

Centro de Autonomia Digital

mumble_tails



Introduction

In a digital world, internet calls have become an alternative for global communications at low cost; they are used daily by millions of people. While the benefits of this technology are obvious, the implications related to privacy are unknown by most users. So, it is worth asking if someone could monitor, record or listen to these calls.

The threat model and the proposed solution for it will be explained in the first section. The traditional communication model versus an autonomous one is schematized through images. The use of the proposed solution is explained in a practical way in the second section of the article. Finally, the conclusions and recommendations are presented at the end.

Terminology

Mumble : A client-server system that allows audio communications between two or more people through the Internet.

Tails: A live operating system aimed at preserving privacy and anonymity based on Linux and Tor. If you do not know how to install it, it is recommended to follow the official documentation.

Tor: Tor is a distributed network that allows anonymity on the Internet. It is commonly used through their browser, which allows you to access websites anonymously. Additionally, Tor allows exposing TCP services that are accessible only within the Tor network known as Hidden Services or Onion Services.

VoIP: Voice over IP (VoIP) communication allows establishing voice calls through data networks, the most common use is through the Internet.

Disclaimer

The following article is a conceptual proposal that has not been sufficiently tested yet, so it is recommended to use it at your own risk.

Problem Description

IP telephony services such as Skype, Hangouts, WhatsApp and others allow quick and cheap communications globally. While the benefits thereof are evident; there are also implications related to privacy. The aforementioned centralize the communications of billions of people. For example, Microsoft, in the case of Skype, or Google, in that of Hangouts, have full access to all communications that cross their servers, as can be seen in Image 1.



Image 1: Traditional VOIP scheme.


For this reason, if the communication is not end-to-end encrypted, these companies can spy on their users' calls. If they were encrypted, providers would not be able to listen to the communications but would have access to their metadata. Which would allow them to know who communicates with whom, how long the call lasts, the members involved, their geolocation, their IP address, and so on.

The solution proposed in this article seeks to allow two or more people to communicate avoiding the risks stated above. For example, the communication would be carried out without anyone else knowing that it existed. To achieve this goal, the combination of Mumble systems and Tails will be used.

Tails is an operating system based on Linux and Tor that, among other things, allows instant messaging and encrypted mail. These technologies combined with the Tor anonymity network allow to hide the data and metadata of the communications; however, Tails does not provide the ability to have secret voice communications. Unlike text, voice ones usually work using the UDP protocol that is not compatible with Tor.

Mumble is an audio conference system used as a complement for online video games and meetings over the Internet. It has the feature of using low bandwidth and working well with low latency connections. In addition Mumble, unlike other VoIP solutions, is compatible with the TCP protocol, so it can work with Tor.

Proposed Solution

Bash scripts were developed to automate the installation of Mumble in Tails, both in persistent mode and in amnesia. These scripts also configure a Tor hidden service for the Mumble server. The name of the hidden service serves as the address to which the conversation participants will have to connect. As one of the participants will run the Mumble server, no one outside the conversation will know that the communication occurred, as can be seen in Image 2.



Image 2. Solution Mumble with Tails.


The scripts are described below:

setup-mumble.sh

  1. Update the apt repository.
  2. Install Mumble client and server.
  3. Configure the Hidden Service.
  4. Show in screen the Hidden Service address and copies it to the clipboard.

In persistence mode, copy all configurations of the Mumble server and the Hidden Service to the persistence folder.

purge-mumble.sh

  1. Removes the Mumble and Hidden Service configuration.
  2. Eliminates the packages for the mumble-server, mumble, and the dependencies that are not needed anymore.

restore-mumble.sh

  1. To be used only in persistence mode.
  2. Copies the configuration for Mumble and Hidden Service from the persistence volume to the respective location expected by these services.
  3. Restarts Tor to expose Mumble trough the Hidden Service.
  4. Shows in screen the Hidden Service address and copies it to the clipboard.

Hands On

Boot Tails operating system and in the welcome screen configure a root password.



Image 3: Greeting Tails screen


Be sure to copy the shell scripts to an accessible place such as /home/amnesia/mumble-scripts.

In persistence mode, it is recommended to copy the scripts to /home/amnesia/Persistent/mumble-scripts so that they would be accessible after reboot.

Open a console.

Become root using the sudo command.

sudo -i

Give execution permissions with the following command:

chmod 755 /home/amnesia/mumble-scripts/*.sh

To configure the Mumble server run:

/home/amnesia/mumble-scripts/setup-mumble.sh

At the end of the command execution there would be an ".onion" address shown in the screen, as it can be seen in the red box in the following image. The ".onion" address is also copied to the clipboard so it could be easier to share.



Image 4: Execution of the setup-mumble.sh


It is important to notice that in image 4, the options "Install Only Once" and "Install Every Time" would be presented. The first option is useful if Mumble is going to be used only once; the second option is recommended if Mumble will be used on a recurring basis so it would always be accessible.

In the Applications menu, under the Internet section, the Mumble program is accessible as shown in image 5:



Imagen 5: Mumble execution.


Note: As an alternative, the command `mumble` can be executed from the command line with an unprivileged user.

Share the ".onion" address with other conference participants. For this, use the communication tools provided by Tails, such as, encrypted chat, secure mail or others.

Configure Mumble

The first time Mumble is executed, the voice configuration wizard will be launched. If headphones are not used, it is recommended to select "push to talk" option on the "Voice Activity" window as seen in image 6. This way, the microphone will be activated only when the push button is pressed and that will solve most of the echo problems that could happen.



Image 6: Select the push to talk option in Mumble.


Once the wizard has finished, a new connection should be configured. For this, select "add new" and setup the following information as seen in image 7.

Setup the connection configuration as follows:

  1. Label: Connection name.
  2. Address: The .onion address.
  3. Port: Leave the default.
  4. Username: Put an user alias, it can be anything.

In the third step you should click on "connect". After this, a certificated error message will be presented. This message can be ignored, as authentication with the server is managed by the Hidden Service.



Image 7: Configure Mumble connection.

Once these steps are finished, both Alice and Bob will be able to talk with each other as seen in image 15.



Image 8: Established connection and connected clients.


Conclusions

This solution uses the security, privacy and anonymity features of Tails, and combines them with Mumble to offer acceptable secure communications. If the local Internet provider tries to spy the communication, they could know Alice is using Tor, but not what for. Since there is no VoIP provider, that adversary is eliminated from the thread model.

This is not a perfect solution and there are some considerations that need to be taken into account. The use of Tor could delay the voice communication and this could make the conversations overlap. For this solution to work, it is important that only one person speaks at the same time.

The upload bandwidth should be taken into account because it is a full-duplex connection. This is a very important consideration for the person running the server as she would need to create n communication channels. If Alice is the person hosting the server with 4 people, then she would need to start 4 communication channels.

Basic Linux command line knowledge is necessary because this is not a complete solution, but a proof of concept. To improve the user's experience, a future version should include a graphic interface as part of a packaged solution.

The Tails operating system offers secure communications for chat and email, but lacks a solution for real time VoIP. The scripts presented here could be used as an input for the Tails project to take into account for future versions.

Source Code

In this section, we share the source code developed for this solution.

setup-mumble.sh

back
#!/bin/bash

TORRC_ROOT=/etc/tor
ETC_ROOT=/etc
HSDIR_ROOT=/var/lib/tor
PERSISTENT_DEVICE=/dev/mapper/TailsData_unlocked
PERSISTENT_ROOT=/home/amnesia/Persistent

# Hidden Service port
HS_PORT=64738

MUMBLE_SERVER_STATUS=-1
TOR_STATUS=-1

ONION_URL='-'

## Validating Tor service status
TOR_STATUS=$(systemctl is-active tor)
echo "Tor service status ${TOR_STATUS}"

if [ "${TOR_STATUS}" == "inactive" ];
then
    echo "Starting Tor service"
    systemctl start tor
    sleep 5
fi

## Install Mumble Client and Server
apt-get update
apt-get install mumble-server mumble -y

## Configure Hidden Service script for Mumble
echo "Backing up original torrc configuration"
cp -pv ${TORRC_ROOT}/torrc ${TORRC_ROOT}/torrc.orig

echo "Configure Hidden Service for Mumble in torrc"
sed -e "/#HiddenServicePort 22 127.0.0.1:22/a \
\\\\n\
# Mumble hidden service configuration.\n\
HiddenServiceDir ${HSDIR_ROOT}/mumble-server/\n\
HiddenServicePort ${HS_PORT} 127.0.0.1:${HS_PORT}" \
    < ${TORRC_ROOT}/torrc.orig \
    > ${TORRC_ROOT}/torrc

## Configure Mumble Server script to listen only on localhost
echo "Backing up original Mumble Server configuration"
cp -pv ${ETC_ROOT}/mumble-server.ini ${ETC_ROOT}/mumble-server.ini.orig

echo "Configure Mumble Server to bind to localhost"
sed -e "s/#host=/host=localhost/" \
    < ${ETC_ROOT}/mumble-server.ini.orig \
    > ${ETC_ROOT}/mumble-server.ini

## Validating Mumble server service status
MUMBLE_SERVER_STATUS=$(systemctl is-active mumble-server.service)
echo "Mumble Server status ${MUMBLE_SERVER_STATUS}"

if [ "${MUMBLE_SERVER_STATUS}" == "active" ];
then
    echo "Restarting Mumble Server"
    systemctl restart mumble-server.service
fi

## Validating Tor service status, make sure it is running.
TOR_STATUS=$(systemctl is-active tor)
echo "Tor service status ${TOR_STATUS}"

if [ "${TOR_STATUS}" == "active" ];
then
    echo "Restarting Tor service"
    systemctl restart tor

    for i in {1..6}
    do
        if [ -f ${HSDIR_ROOT}/mumble-server/hostname ];
        then
            echo "Mumble Hidden Service hosted successfully!!!"
            break
        fi

        echo "Mumble Hidden Service not yet running, please wait... attempt ${i}/6"
        sleep 5
    done

    if [ -f ${HSDIR_ROOT}/mumble-server/hostname ];
    then
        ONION_URL=$(cat ${HSDIR_ROOT}/mumble-server/hostname)
        echo ${ONION_URL} | xclip -selection c
        echo "******************************************************************"
        echo "Onion HiddenService URL: ${ONION_URL} was copied to clipboard"
        echo "******************************************************************"
        echo
        echo "************************************************"
        echo " Please run Mumble from a non-root shell"
        echo "************************************************"
    else
        echo "************************************************"
        echo "Mumble Hidden Service hosting failed!!!"
        echo "Please check the system and try again..."
        echo "************************************************"
    fi
fi

## Save data for persistent mode.
if [ -e ${PERSISTENT_DEVICE} ]
then
    echo "Saving Mumble settings"
    cp -avr ${HSDIR_ROOT}/mumble-server ${PERSISTENT_ROOT}
    cp -pv ${ETC_ROOT}/mumble-server.ini ${PERSISTENT_ROOT}
    cp -pv ${TORRC_ROOT}/torrc ${PERSISTENT_ROOT}
fi

restore-mumble.sh

back
#!/bin/bash

TORRC_ROOT=/etc/tor
ETC_ROOT=/etc
HSDIR_ROOT=/var/lib/tor
PERSISTENT_ROOT=/home/amnesia/Persistent
ONION_URL='-'

# Move folder and files needes from Persistent location to respective
# OS locations for order to host Mumble hidden service.
cp -avr ${PERSISTENT_ROOT} ${HSDIR_ROOT}
cp -pv ${PERSISTENT_ROOT}/mumble-server.ini ${ETC_ROOT}
cp -pv ${PERSISTENT_ROOT}/torrc ${TORRC_ROOT}

## Restart Tor service to initialize Mumble hidden service
echo "Restarting Tor service"
systemctl restart tor

for i in {1..6}
do
    if [ -f ${HSDIR_ROOT}/mumble-server/hostname ];
    then
        echo "Mumble Hidden Service hosted successfully!!!"
        break
    fi

    echo "Mumble Hidden Service not yet running, please wait... attempt ${i}/6"
    sleep 5
done

## Get the Mumble Hidden Service URL and display it to the user
if [ -f ${HSDIR_ROOT}/mumble-server/hostname ];
then
    ONION_URL=$(cat ${HSDIR_ROOT}/mumble-server/hostname)
    echo ${ONION_URL} | xclip -selection c
    echo "******************************************************************"
    echo "Onion HiddenService URL: ${ONION_URL} was copied to clipboard"
    echo "******************************************************************"
    echo
    echo "************************************************"
    echo " Please run Mumble from a non-root shell"
    echo "************************************************"
else
    echo "************************************************"
    echo "Mumble Hidden Service hosting failed!!!"
    echo "Please check the system and try again..."
    echo "************************************************"
fi

purge-mumble.sh

back
#!/bin/bash

ETC_ROOT=/etc
TORRC_ROOT=/etc/tor
HSDIR_ROOT=/var/lib/tor
PERSISTENT_DEVICE=/dev/mapper/TailsData_unlocked
PERSISTENT_ROOT=/home/amnesia/Persistent

# Starting the purge
echo "Stopping Mumble Server"
systemctl stop mumble-server.service

echo "Purging mumble"
apt purge mumble mumble-server -y
apt autoremove -y

echo "Restoring torrc"
cp -pv ${TORRC_ROOT}/torrc.orig ${TORRC_ROOT}/torrc

echo "Removing Mumble hosting file"
rm -r ${HSDIR_ROOT}/mumble-server

echo "Restarting Tor service"
systemctl restart tor

# Purge data for persistent mode.
if [ -e ${PERSISTENT_DEVICE} ]
then
    echo "Purging persistent data for Mumble"
    rm -f ${ETC_ROOT}/mumble-server.ini.orig
    rm -f ${PERSISTENT_ROOT}/mumble-server.ini
    rm -rf ${PERSISTENT_ROOT}/mumble-server
fi

Data Knightmare (Italian podcast)

DK 4x05 - Tutti globali col culo degli altri

Con la scusa di tornare a parlare di Google e diritto all'oblio, vediamo che le piattaforme vogliono gestire un mercato globale senza pagarne il prezzo.

by Walter Vannini

October 08, 2019

Andy Wingo

thoughts on rms and gnu

Yesterday, a collective of GNU maintainers publicly posted a statement advocating collective decision-making in the GNU project. I would like to expand on what that statement means to me and why I signed on.

For many years now, I have not considered Richard Stallman (RMS) to be the head of the GNU project. Yes, he created GNU, speaking it into existence via prophetic narrative and via code; yes, he inspired many people, myself included, to make the vision of a GNU system into a reality; and yes, he should be recognized for these things. But accomplishing difficult and important tasks for GNU in the past does not grant RMS perpetual sovereignty over GNU in the future.

ontological considerations

More on the motivations for the non serviam in a minute. But first, a meta-point: the GNU project does not exist, at least not in the sense that many people think it does. It is not a legal entity. It is not a charity. You cannot give money to the GNU project. Besides the manifesto, GNU has no by-laws or constitution or founding document.

One could describe GNU as a set of software packages that have been designated by RMS as forming part, in some way, of GNU. But this artifact-centered description does not capture movement: software does not, by itself, change the world; it lacks agency. It is the people that maintain, grow, adapt, and build the software that are the heart of the GNU project -- the maintainers of and contributors to the GNU packages. They are the GNU of whom I speak and of whom I form a part.

wasted youth

Richard Stallman describes himself as the leader of the GNU project -- the "chief GNUisance", he calls it -- but this position only exists in any real sense by consent of the people that make GNU. So what is he doing with this role? Does he deserve it? Should we consent?

To me it has been clear for many years that to a first approximation, the answer is that RMS does nothing for GNU. RMS does not write software. He does not design software, or systems. He does hold a role of accepting new projects into GNU; there, his primary criteria is not "does this make a better GNU system"; it is, rather, "does the new project meet the minimum requirements".

By itself, this seems to me to be a failure of leadership for a software project like GNU. But unfortunately when RMS's role in GNU isn't neglect, more often as not it's negative. RMS's interventions are generally conservative -- to assert authority over the workings of the GNU project, to preserve ways of operating that he sees as important. See for example the whole glibc abortion joke debacle as an example of how RMS acts, when he chooses to do so.

Which, fair enough, right? I can hear you saying it. RMS started GNU so RMS decides what it is and what it can be. But I don't accept that. GNU is about practical software freedom, not about RMS. GNU has long outgrown any individual contributor. I don't think RMS has the legitimacy to tell this group of largely volunteers what we should build or how we should organize ourselves. Or rather, he can say what he thinks, but he has no dominion over GNU; he does not have majority sweat equity in the project. If RMS actually wants the project to outlive him -- something that by his actions is not clear -- the best thing that he could do for GNU is to stop pretending to run things, to instead declare victory and retire to an emeritus role.

Note, however, that my personal perspective here is not a consensus position of the GNU project. There are many (most?) GNU developers that still consider RMS to be GNU's rightful leader. I think they are mistaken, but I do not repudiate them for this reason; we can work together while differing on this and other matters. I simply state that I, personally, do not serve RMS.

selective attrition

Though the "voluntary servitude" questions are at the heart of the recent joint statement, I think we all recognize that attempts at self-organization in GNU face a grave difficulty, even if RMS decided to retire tomorrow, in the way that GNU maintainers have selected themselves.

The great tragedy of RMS's tenure in the supposedly universalist FSF and GNU projects is that he behaves in a way that is particularly alienating to women. It doesn't take a genius to conclude that if you're personally driving away potential collaborators, that's a bad thing for the organization, and actively harmful to the organization's goals: software freedom is a cause that is explicitly for everyone.

We already know that software development in people's free time skews towards privilege: not everyone has the ability to devote many hours per week to what is for many people a hobby, and it follows of course that those that have more privilege in society will be more able to establish a position in the movement. And then on top of these limitations on contributors coming in, we additionally have this negative effect of a toxic culture pushing people out.

The result, sadly, is that a significant proportion of those that have stuck with GNU don't see any problems with RMS. The cause of software freedom has always run against the grain of capitalism so GNU people are used to being a bit contrarian, but it has also had the unfortunate effect of creating a cult of personality and a with-us-or-against-us mentality. For some, only a traitor would criticise the GNU project. It's laughable but it's a thing; I prefer to ignore these perspectives.

Finally, it must be said that there are a few GNU people for whom it's important to check if the microphone is on before making a joke about rape culture. (Incidentally, RMS had nothing to say on that issue; how useless.)

So I honestly am not sure if GNU as a whole effectively has the demos to make good decisions. Neglect and selective attrition have gravely weakened the project. But I stand by the principles and practice of software freedom, and by my fellow GNU maintainers who are unwilling to accept the status quo, and I consider attempts to reduce GNU to founder-loyalty to be mistaken and without legitimacy.

where we're at

Given this divided state regarding RMS, the only conclusion I can make is that for the foreseeable future, GNU is not likely to have a formal leadership. There will be affinity groups working in different ways. It's not ideal, but the differences are real and cannot be papered over. Perhaps in the medium term, GNU maintainers can reach enough consensus to establish a formal collective decision-making process; here's hoping.

In the meantime, as always, happy hacking, and: no gods! No masters! No chief!!!

by Andy Wingo

n-gate.com. we can't both be right.

webshit weekly

An annotated digest of the top "Hacker" "News" posts for the first week of October, 2019.

Boris Johnson uses search terms in interviews to hide negative articles?
October 01, 2019 (comments)
An Internet accuses a clod of being a secret genius. Hackernews is skeptical that anyone could possibly derail the almighty Google search results, despite half of them spending a significant portion of their lives trying to work out how to do exactly the same thing. Everyone here involved (Boris Johnson, Google, and Hackernews) has their degree of competence massively overestimated, and then Hackernews goes deep trying to divine the moral compasses of people thousands of miles away and uninterested in the opinion of Hackernews.

Hong Kong protest safety app banned from iOS store
October 02, 2019 (comments)
Apple maintains its title of "most courageous computer vendor" by immediately capitulating to the despots who control their industrial supply line. In line with this principled bravery, they cement their legacy of fearlessness by immediately reversing their policy the instant someone criticizes it. Hackernews delights at the opportunity to overlay Chinese anti-insurrection laws atop Apple's App Store policies and attempt to discern the shortest path to publishing a cellphone program that complies with the letter of the resulting policy while completely ignoring its intent. A few Hackernews point out that neither the Chinese dictators nor the App Store executive vice presidents are beholden to their own regulations, but they're distractedly hushed by those engrossed in the game.

Attorney General will ask Zuckerberg to halt plans for end-to-end encryption
October 03, 2019 (comments)
Some government bureaucrats, who possess no understanding of encryption, networks, computers, or telephony, attempt to concern-troll a corporation with a track record of never being held accountable by any government. The bureaucrats seem convinced that being able to talk to someone else without some cops eavesdropping will somehow hurt children. Hackernews isn't sure if this is true. That is to say, some Hackernews are unconvinced that the safety of children is the primary concern of the bureaucrats, and other Hackernews are unconvinced that privacy will necessarily cause harm to children. Nobody in the respective governments or the corporation in question is interested in the opinions of any other party in this conversation, but Hackernews has a good time trying to reverse-engineer everyone else's intentions. Later, Hackernews tries to decide if jerking it to pictures of naked kids emboldens sickos to move on to actually interfering with alive kids, or if there's just a basic percentage of child-fucking that we just have to accept is going to happen in human society.

Pricing niche products
October 04, 2019 (comments)
Some nerds with a specific hobby spend a lot of money on it. Hackernews, experts on economics and associated psychological treatises, weigh in on the correct methods for charging money to do things. When considering the method of determining optimum price for a consumer product relative to the market for that product, nobody remembers to suggest raising venture capital to overpay for the entire production run, then writing a cellphone program to allow people to rent the products while you file for an IPO and hope you can pay back your investors with the resulting stock sale. Sadly, this omission may be due to the entirety of Hackernews yelling at each other about which keyboard is best, whether any keyboards are even good, and what kind of an idiot even needs a keyboard, given that your Macbook Pro already came with one.

Google, Xiaomi, and Huawei affected by zero-day flaw that unlocks root access
October 05, 2019 (comments)
The Gros Michel operating system experiences a resurgence of Panama disease. The main producer advises distributors to switch cultivars, but most stores are just going to have to rely on existing stocks until the supply line catches up or the bottom falls out of their stock. Hackernews experiments with blaming the people who noticed the infection, but mostly just gripes about the fact that the farmers aren't very good at their jobs. Other Hackernews suggest switching to a different fruit. A Rust Evanglism Strike Force member, disheveled and lost, feebly waves a banner, but is bowled over by a light breeze of downvotes and does not get back up.

Stack Overflow Inc. Fiasco: Timeline
October 06, 2019 (comments)
An Internet who is obsessed with a web forum types eighteen hundred words about the web forum operators continuing the war against their own users. The web forum in question is extremely important to Hackernews, since it serves as a substitute for an actual education. It's not possible to tell if Hackernews is mad that people have opinions about how they are treated on the internet or if Hackernews is mad that someone is threatening the Codex Decuplus, from which all nodeledge stems. The argument is determined to be a perfect platform from which to announce an utter disinterest in "politics," which is a word that Hackernews understands to mean "any issue that does not directly affect a meaningful percentage of the FAANG companies' boards of directors." The reasoning is that if those boards are unaffected, Hackernews is unlikely to be directly affected now or in the foreseeable future, so the people who are raising this issue are irrelevant twerps. The users of the web forum are urged to ignore this distraction and get back to cataloging the text that Hackernews will be pasting into VS Code next week.

Apple Hides Taiwan Flag in Hong Kong
October 07, 2019 (comments)
Apple continues dauntlessly to stand up for its corporate values: Accessibility (the Chinese government has access to Apple's product management), Education (we'll teach you to stand up for yourselves), Environment (these changes should result in a marked decrease in tear gas canister expenditure), Inclusion and Diversity (Apple will equitably narc on dissidents from all walks of life), Privacy (Apple will do its utmost to assist you in keeping your beliefs to yourself), and Supplier Responsibility (never has a computer vendor been more responsible to the nation of its suppliers). Hackernews is infuriated by the idea that there may exist an entity with enough power to dictate terms to a tech company, since only tech companies are possessed of the divine right. The resulting freakout calls into question the rule of law, the practice of sovereign treaty, how powerful a country must be before it's worth taking their government seriously, who should be in charge of reinventing statehood from first principles, and which companies are best suited to standing up to oppressors. Apple takes no note of this dialogue; its policy remains steadfast. Whether an old person falls over or a young person stands up, Apple will call the cops.

by http://n-gate.com/hackernews/2019/10/07/0/

October 03, 2019

Bretton Woods Project

Tout change et rien change pas: Global power and IMF leadership

Since their creation in 1944, dominant global powers at the World Bank and IMF, also known as the Bretton Woods Institutions (BWIs), have established a ‘gentleman’s agreement’, which stipulates that a European citizen leads the IMF and a US-citizen heads the World Bank (see Inside the Institutions, What is the gentleman’s agreement?). After Christine Lagarde submitted her resignation as IMF Managing Director on 16 July (see Observer Summer 2019), that ‘agreement’ was upheld yet again with Bulgarian national Kristalina Georgieva, the World Bank chief executive, assuming the position of managing director on 1 October after ‘running’ unopposed.  This is despite over 100 civil society organisations (CSOs) submitting an open letter to the executive directors and governors at the Fund, calling for a fair, open and democratic selection process. The Fund and Bank continue to undermine their legitimacy by adhering to this arrangement. While the world’s economic balance of power has shifted dramatically since the inception of the BWIs, their internal voting mechanisms and power structures nevertheless remain largely intact (see Observer Spring 2019).

The struggle for Western dominance

In 1990, when the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union imploded, the economic weight of Western Europe was roughly similar to that of Asian countries, as well as the block comprised of the United States (US), Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The US, Australia and Canada had a joint output of $6.6 billion, while Asia, including China, added $6.3 billion, and Western Europe $6.0 billion to the world economy. At the start of the 21st century, however, economic power changed swiftly from West to East and the economies of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US were 40 per cent smaller than Asian countries in terms of total GDP by 2015. The world had changed for good. Considering that the G7 states today contribute to less than 50 per cent of global GDP and current quota shares of non-G7 states comprise over 50 per cent of the Fund’s quota-based resources, it is clear that under the current system, a minority of countries with a minority of economic weight choose what is best for the majority, making the institution a parody of itself and a neocolonial policy weapon. What remains is the struggle for leadership between the West and the East, as aptly illustrated by the recent so-called trade war between China and the United States.

In spite of these developments, imbalanced IMF vote shares remain intact, the veto power of the United States is still in place, and the influence of the US Congress on IMF policies remains a cornerstone. The choice of leadership candidate is made by European countries with support of other G7 countries and ignores the rest of the world. In 2009, after the London Summit of the G20, the IMF agreed to “adopt an open, merit-based and transparent process for the selection of IMF management.” Clearly, they did not mean it, nor did the Northern governments, as is evident from the IMF’s leadership selection process.

Is it impossible to adopt an open, merit-based and transparent process for the selection of IMF management, even if the voting rights are skewed in favour of the few and rich? Must Europe be over-represented? Must the selection process remain undemocratic, opaque and illegitimate in the name of supposedly pro-democracy, ‘non-interventionist’ economic policies? Or is the clearly flawed process maintained as an economic foreign policy tool by the Global North and, as such, an instrument of international economic domination?

One way in which the IMF could try to claw back legitimacy is by radically redistributing the vote shares of member states. Regrettably – adding weight behind demands to reform the governance structures and challenge US dominance – a recent US Treasury proposal quashed the scheduled 15th Review of Quotas (see Observer Summer 2019). The IMF could have a leadership selection process to redeem itself somewhat by encouraging all member states to put forth candidates or by opening the process to self or non-state nominations. The ‘argument’ that other candidates might challenge the Fund’s free market economics underlines the ideologically-driven nature of the current system.

G7 countries are struggling to grow as other Southern countries are growing at a fast pace. Meanwhile, others face mounting debt problems yet again as a result of declining commodity prices (see Dispatch Spring 2019) and concerns about an impending global recession. The current dominant powers have no moral ground to lead the IMF if it is to fufill its original, intended purpose: Keep a stable world economy and prevent a crisis like that of the1930s. It did not do so in 2008 and it is not doing so now.


by Oscar Ugarteche, Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

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by Luiz Vieira

EIB’s draft energy plan proposes ending finance for fossil fuels after 2020

The European Investment Bank’s (EIB) management published a draft version of its new energy policy in July, which – if approved by the multilateral development bank’s board – would see it discontinue nearly all finance for fossil fuels from 2021.

According to online news site Euractiv, under the draft policy EIB would no longer finance, “upstream oil or gas production, coal mining, infrastructure dedicated to coal, oil and natural gas, and power generation or heat production from fossil fuel sources”. Exceptions could be made for very high-efficiency gas plants and heating boilers that are included in building renovation schemes. However, the EIB released a revised draft on 27 September, which civil society organisations (CSOs) claim contains a number of loopholes that potentially leave the door open for financing fossil fuels.

“The second draft of the energy policy is much weaker than the initial draft,” commented Xavier Sol of Belgium-based CSO Counter Balance. “Indeed, it opens up new loopholes on gas, and provides a window of opportunity for a last rush of dirty energy projects to be financed in the next year. In that context, NGOs who are part of the Fossil Free EIB campaign call on the most progressive EIB shareholders to stand firm in support on an ambitious energy policy, and to approve the initial draft as proposed by the EIB in July 2019.”

The EIB’s board began debating the proposed policy on 10 September, with a final decision expected in mid-October. If approved in its initial form, the policy would provide a new benchmark for other multilateral development banks, including the World Bank, as they seek to articulate their joint-approach to alignment with the Paris Agreement (see Observer Spring 2019).

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by Jon Sward

Critical reflections on World Bank’s draft Fragility, Conflict and Violence Strategy

By 2030, more than half of the world’s poor will live in fragile and conflict-affected settings (FCAS). Recognising this worsening fragility, conflict and violence (FCV) landscape, the World Bank has doubled its lending and grants to FCAS to $14 billion from 2014 to 2018. As the World Bank is now eliciting feedback on its 2020-2025 Strategy for Fragility, Conflict and Violence, this piece critically appraises the proposed FCV agenda.

In its strategy, the Bank proposes a diversified approach to address “the drivers, or underlying causes, of FCV and the dynamics that keep countries or sub-regions trapped in fragility.” Adopting analysis from the 2018 United Nations-World Bank Pathways for Peace report, drivers involve (problematic) structures, (weak) institutions, and (bad) behaviours of a variety of actors who breed and fuel fragility through “mutually reinforcing incentive structures and vested interests.” The challenge then, involves positively changing incentives and influencing behaviours.

Amidst wide ranging proposals, the Bank suggests this requires careful prioritisation and sequencing of initiatives with multistakeholder commitment, transformational methodologies and coordinated public and private sector-driven development solutions. It involves building state institutions, promoting private enterprise, and mitigating FCV impacts on the most vulnerable. All levels – community, sub-national, state, regional – must be engaged.

Is the analysis solid?

The Bank’s analysis of FCV trends, drawing on expansive evidence-based research from many reputable institutions, is hard to dispute. The conclusions of what drives fragility, that development in FCV contexts requires different approaches, and that FCV context analysis must inform strategy, are profoundly important, but not new insights. The global policy dialogue with its New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States promulgated similar messages over the last decade.

A key problem running across the Bank’s FCV analysis – and even that of the United Nations – is the continuing absence of reflection upon the impacts and implications of neoliberal economic policies on these very drivers of conflict and fragility. Well-documented adverse impacts include increased inequality and poverty, lowering of human development indicators and even growth – the Bank’s principal objective – all of which are now increasingly reasons for uprisings in many parts of the world.

While this is consistent with analyses and proposals of scholars, practitioners and activists, critical issues are left wanting. Promoting conflict sensitivity and requiring corporate social responsibility are vital. But to what extent will such efforts genuinely transform power asymmetries that multinational companies wield in relation to vulnerable communities and weak governments? How will the economic drivers of fragility, such as macro-economic shocks, inequalities and unemployment, be tackled? This will require engaging the deep structures of underdevelopment. While the Bank’s increased financing suggests a system-wide, embracing of FCV, how will it transform its own orthodox development theory and economic policy directives rooted in financially driven incentives to bring needed changes to structures, institutions and behaviours in FCV countries? How consistent is the Maximizing Finance for Development flagship programme with such goals (see Observer Autumn 2018)? How will it address the fact that it is remains an important financier of fossil fuels (see Observer Spring 2018)?

Critically, the concept note is silent on what the Pathways for Peace report recognised as a core driver of conflict and its developmental results in FCV contexts – horizontal inequalities (actual and perceived) between groups. This is a deeply political issue, and the Bank’s mandate disallows its engagement in politics. Yet, we know that development, and therefore the Bank’s programmes and activities, cannot be separated from politics.

Is the Bank best suited to play these proposed roles?

The strategy “requires an expanded [Bank] footprint, one that ensures the right skills are in the right place at the right time.” This is concerning firstly because we need international community commitments to national ownership in peacebuilding, statebuilding and development honoured. Rather than creating new international structures and capacities in and through the Bank to work on FCV, why not 1) invest resources in promoting inclusive, democratic national leadership to tackle the issues, and 2) acknowledge the strong UN and international non-governmental organisation presence in most FCV settings, step back and support these? A critical role that is appropriate for the Bank is in ensuring conflict- and fragility sensitive economic policy is delivered through its loans and grants.

In closing, the Bank’s strategy proposals offer important avenues to address elements of FCV. Analysis suggests that they do not go far enough however, to address systemic challenges within the global development system itself. Critically, more innovation is needed to address the interconnected challenges of FCV, and it is likely to lie in efforts that foster transformation, engage endogenous diversities in societies, and forge inclusive, resilient social contracts.


by Erin McCandless, University of Witwatersrand, South Africa

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by Luiz Vieira

IMF Ecuador agreement undermines workers’ rights

On 1 March, Ecuador’s economy and finance minister, together with the central bank manager, submitted a letter of intent to the IMF requesting $4.2 billion in support via a three-year Extended Fund Facility agreement. The resulting IMF loan agreement not only structurally undermines labour protections for the most vulnerable workers in Ecuador (see Observer Spring 2017), but also side-lines our democratic and participatory institutions constitutionally mandated to deal with these crises.

In July, the IMF completed its first compliance review of Ecuador’s finance and development policies with the Extended Facility agreement, making previously confidential elements public for the first time. This included details made public by the release of the Article IV review of the commitments made by Ecuador relating to the loan agreement with the Fund, which was first developed in 2016 and updated in March 2019. The conditions of the loan involve commitments that constitute international obligations by Ecuador, which, according to Article 2.1 of the Vienna Convention, gives the agreement the status of an international treaty. My organisation’s and others’ reading of Article 84 of Ecuador’s Constitution gives rise to the conclusion that the agreement should have been considered and approved by the National Assembly, in order to ratify its validity and bring it into force. Despite this, the government has kept secret the fundamental details of the agreement, resulting in legal action by human rights organisations in Ecuador to request deferment of the agreement and that the question of its legality be referred to the Constitutional Court.

Elements under consideration

A first element to be considered are the commitments adopted under the theme of “adjustment of the public wage bill,” in which Ecuador is advised to address a public wage restriction through dismissal of public sector employees with temporary contracts and to “harmonize the wages of newly hired public employees with those in the private sector, which are currently generally lower than public sector wages.” The Article IV details the way in which the reduction would be made with the aim of “moderating the increase in labour costs in the private sector,reducing the public wage bill and through the reduction of the minimum wage in the private sector. Annex IV stipulates that the reduction could be made by revising the payment of contingency funds – a benefit to which all salaried workers are entitled – or by reducing the percentage of profit-sharing that Ecuadorian law provides to workers in the private sector.

A second element that demonstrates the regressive character of the labour policies adopted by the state as a result of its commitments under the agreement is the inclusion of references to flexibilisation of the labour market, or, as mentioned in the letter of intent, of “adapting to market and social conditions, carefully rolling back the current constraints that result in less opportunities for the unemployed.” The Article IV report describes the proposed labour market reforms as “essential”, despite them including methods that are presently prohibited by Ecuador’s labour laws, as a result of labour becoming extremely precarious in the 1990s and 2000s. The Article IV also notes that Ecuador should change its legislation relating to labour market stability, seeking to reduce the costs of redundancies, supposedly to enable the free contracting and promotion of workers. Subsequently, the government revealed that it is preparing an adjustment to the law to promote productivity, the contents of which adhere to IMF conditionalities relating to the changes in contracting arrangements.

Within less than 15 days from the announcement of the reforms, the National Wage Council was tasked with implementing the changes to the labour contracts – an act that would require the reform of secondary legislation – in at least three substantive areas: first, the flexibilisation of the work day, after allowing work days exceeding 12 hours, if agreed with by employee and employer, without changing the 40-hour work week; second, approval of contracts that extend the probation period from three months to three years for new contracts; and third, modification of Article 17 of the Employment Code by removing the clause that stipulates that labourers contracted as casual labour would receive a wage increase of up to 35 per cent of the value of the hourly minimum wage.

All these changes amount to a retrogression in the present labour standards provided for in the constitution and labour legislation, which are being applied without any oversight from the National Assembly and excludes the participation of civil society and unions in the implementation of the agreement with the IMF.


by David Suárez, Centro de Derechos Económicos y Sociales

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by Emma Burgisser

Shut out of IDA19, civil society organisations disappointed with proposals

During the October World Bank and IMF Annual Meetings, donors and borrowers will meet to continue negotiations around the 19th replenishment of the International Development Association (IDA19), the World Bank’s low-income country arm. Every three years, donors replenish IDA resources and review its policy framework in ‘deputy meetings’ with borrowers and Bank management. The IDA19 replenishment, set to conclude this December, will cover the fiscal package from 2021-2023. During the IDA18 replenishment, $75 billion of funding was agreed for 2017 to 2020 (see Observer Winter 2017).

In a summary of the second replenishment deputies meeting in Addis Ababa in June, donors and borrowers stated that, although $86 billion was needed for IDA19 to maintain the level of per capita support achieved in IDA18, several donors felt this target was “unrealistic”. Instead, a “base” target of $80 billion was touted as “appropriate” by some, with others raising concerns over low levels of non-concessional financing in this scenario.

Lacking ambition on ‘Special Themes’

The proposed policy commitments from the June deputies meeting maintained the five ‘Special Themes’ established in IDA19: Jobs and Economic Transformation (JET); Fragility, Conflict and Violence (FCV); Gender; Governance and Institutions; and Climate Change.

However, many civil society organisations (CSO) were unconvinced by the proposed policy commitments. For instance, Jolie Schwarz, of US-based CSO Bank Information Center expressed disappointment “with the lack of ambition in the policy commitments presented in Addis”, adding and “[we] hope that the draft IDA agreement discussed at the next meeting…in October reflects the feedback the Bank has received from civil society, and that it sets more ambitious targets in these priority areas.”

Responding to commitments in the JET ‘Special Theme’, Leo Baunach of the International Trade Union Confederation suggested that IDA19 should track the contribution of lending to quality jobs and shared prosperity to ensure “coherence with international labour standards.”

In a letter to the UK’s Department for International Development, UK-based CSOs working on climate and environmental issues called for more robust policy commitments to “assist IDA countries to pursue development pathways that are both low carbon, pro-poor and responsive to a rapidly changing climate,” including an increased focus on energy access via off-grid and mini-grid investments in IDA countries where electricity access rates are low.

Meanwhile, the proposed IDA19 policy package around the gender special theme focused on implementing the World Bank’s 2016-2023 Gender Strategy, an approach that has been much-criticised by feminist academics and women’s rights organisations (see Observer Autumn 2018Spring 2016).

Private Sector Window causes concerns

Donors at the Addis Ababa meeting emphasised the role of IDA financing to “facilitate leveraging of resources from others, including the private sector,” through the Private Sector Window (PSW), which uses IDA resources to finance International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Bank’s private sector arm, and Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, the Bank’s guarantee arm, in IDA countries. This renewed commitment comes after US Rep. Maxine Waters, chair of the House Financial Services Committee, stated in April that, “The PSW is likely to prioritize financial returns over positive development impacts, which will be difficult to monitor” (see Observer Summer 2019, Summer 2017).

This year’s reports by UK-based think thank the Overseas Development Institute in April and CSO Stamp Out Poverty in March challenged the Bank’s assertion that blended finance will catalyse trillions of dollars in low-income countries, echoing long-standing concerns over the IFC’s track record on development outcomes, particularly in FCV states (see Observer Autumn 2019, Autumn 2018).

Nadia Daar, with Oxfam International’s Washington DC office, commented, “We remain deeply concerned about the IFC’s increased support for commercial for-profit schools and hope IDA’s private sector window will exclude such options.”

Ad-hoc civil society engagement

The IDA19 replenishment process has also been heavily criticised for not including a formal consultation in the review of its policy framework, leaving CSOs to rely on providing ad hoc input.

“There is definitely scope for the Bank and its donors to make the IDA replenishment process more transparent and participatory,” Daar reflected. She added, “While…the IDA Forum is a good step forward, IDA documents are not released in a timely way, and civil society has always been shut out of the formal IDA Deputy meetings.”

Schwarz emphasised that, “Civil society in IDA countries, in particular, should be sought out and included in the replenishment process – both to provide feedback on the progress made as a result of policy commitments and targets set during past replenishment negotiations, as well as to guide IDA’s agenda for the future.”

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by Ella Hopkins

Guinean communities’ complaint against IFC-financed bauxite mine enters dispute resolution

Thirteen Guinean communities have entered a dispute resolution process to try to agree settlement in relation to alleged land grabbing resulting from a bauxite mine supported by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank’s private sector arm. The dispute resolution process will be convened by the IFC’s Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO), its independent accountability mechanism.

In February, the communities filed a complaint with the CAO related to the mine run by Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinée (CBG), which, according to a March article by US-based civil society organisation Inclusive Development International (IDI), received a “$200 million loan to expand the venture’s mining operations” in 2016. CBG is a joint venture between the Guinean government, US aluminium corporation Alcoa, Anglo-Australian mining company Rio Tinto and Guernsey-registered Dadco. Guinea has the world’s largest reserves of bauxite, which is used to produce aluminium.

In its August assessment report, the CAO noted that complainants raised, “concerns about land grabbing, land rehabilitation and land return, along with issues regarding impacts on water and the environment that have had major consequences on the Complainants’ livelihoods.”

“The lands on which we and our ancestors have lived and farmed for centuries have been almost totally consumed by CBG,” said Mamadou Lamarana Bah, one of the complainants, in IDI’s aforementioned article. “With no more land, no more forests, no more water, how are we going to survive?”

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by Jon Sward

Links between Amazon deforestation and World Bank exposed

In late August, with forest fires raging on a historic scale in the Brazilian Amazon, the gap between the rhetoric and reality of the World Bank Group’s (WBG) approach to forests was exposed in little over 24 hours.

Tweeting from the Group of Seven (G7) Summit in Biarritz, France, on 26 August, WBG President David Malpass noted, “I was…glad to see that the Amazon fires are a key priority for @G7 attendees & I share in their concerns. The @WorldBank Group is ready to work with our partner governments at all levels to scale up activities to protect forests & support sustainable development.” Malpass was referring to a $22 million aid package announced at the G7 to help fight the fires in the Amazon – which was ultimately declined by Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro.

On 27 August, meanwhile, online news site The Intercept published a story linking major donors to US President Donald Trump to accelerated deforestation in the Amazon and exposing the role that the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the World Bank’s private sector investment arm, is playing in this process.

In 2015, IFC made a $30 million equity investment in Hidrovias do Brasil, a company which – The Intercept article notes – operates a “shipping terminal at Miritituba, deep in… the Brazilian state of Pará”. This port is a critical cog of a wider transport corridor in the Brazilian Amazon that has been recently developed to export soybeans – and has resulted in accelerated deforestation, according to The Intercept‘s expose. According to Brazilian news outlet Exame, IFC’s 2015 investment was part of a larger fundraising effort by Hidrovias do Brasil, 80 per cent of which was invested in the Tapajós-Amazonas river corridor between the city of Miritituba and the port of Vila do Conde, in Pará. The Intercept article added that the IFC’s own Environment and Social Review had identified deforestation as a risk of the investment: “the construction of the Miritituba port, close to still-intact areas of the Amazon forest, is likely to… accelerate conversion of natural habitats into agricultural areas, particularly for soy production.”

The Amazon fires – many of which were set by opportunistic farmers to clear land for farming and ranching – unfolded in the wake of the publication of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Special Report on Climate Change and Land on 8 August. The report laid bare the importance of the Amazon and other forests in the fight against climate change – and in preserving vital natural ecosystems more generally. As noted by online news site Carbon Brief’s summary of the IPCC report’s findings, “The largest source of CO₂ losses [associated with land] from 2007-16 was tropical deforestation.” A separate study from the World Resources Institute in 2018 found tropical deforestation in the three years prior to the study was 63 per cent higher than in the preceding 14 years, and noted, “If tropical deforestation were a country, it would rank third in carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions, only behind China and the [US].”

World Bank lending: A history of forest failures

IFC’s investment in Hidrovias do Brasil is not an outlier. As lawyer and writer Bruce Rich pointed out in his 2013 critique, Foreclosing the Future: The World Bank and the Politics of Environmental Destruction, despite the continued evolution of the Bank’s environmental and social standards, the net impact of many Bank projects continues to be the destruction of biodiversity hotpots.

Rich highlighted a 2011 report from the Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group, which was commissioned by then-Bank president Robert Zoellick to investigate the impact of 20 World Bank projects between 1994-2004 on tiger habitats in Asian countries, following the Bank’s support for a high-profile ‘tiger summit’ in St Petersburg in 2010. Rich writes, “The… study found that three-quarters of the projects…directly threatened tiger habitats; and two-thirds also created, or were exposed to, indirect threats. … Bank funded projects were harming tiger habitats despite existing environmental policies, which appeared in many cases to be ignored. Even more significantly, the Bank’s policies – even when followed – could not protect against the major causes of environmental destruction.”

A recent op-ed by Ladd Connell from US-based civil society organisation (CSO) Bank Information Center in development news site Devex shows that little has changed: Despite the creation of the Bank’s Forest Action Plan, which covers 2016-2020, “Current projects in Indonesia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia, and Brazil seem poised to drive deforestation.”

A letter signed by 77 CSOs in November 2017 called for the Bank to take steps to better prioritise forests and the rights of forest peoples in its lending, and to make its country Forest Notes – which are supposed to articulate the nexus between Bank lending and borrower countries’ forest resources – open to consultation (see Observer Winter 2017-2018).

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by Jon Sward

Tunisia Commission seeks reparations for human rights violations from IMF and World Bank

On 16 July, Tunisia’s Truth and Dignity Commission sent memoranda to the World Bank and the IMF, as well as to France, seeking reparations for Tunisian victims of human rights violations. The Commission claimed that the IMF and World Bank bear “a share of responsibility” in social unrest linked to structural adjustment policies. The Commission was established in 2013 by then-President Moncef Marzouki following the Tunisian Revolution of 2011, with the purpose of investigating gross human rights violations committed by the Tunisian State since 1955 and to provide compensation and rehabilitation to victims.

The memorandum to the IMF and World Bank referred to the period from the 1970s to 2011, and claimed both institutions pushed the Tunisian government to freeze wages and recruitment in the civil service, and reduce subsidies on basic consumer goods, which, it maintained, led to various social crises and conflicts (see BWP briefing, Lessons unlearnt). This included the 1983 bread riots, which were a series of violent demonstrations triggered by a rise in the price of bread that occurred due to subsidy cuts that were conditions of an IMF loan programme. In relation to that particular episode alone, the Commission received 1,230 individual complaints, relating to 85 murders, 213 gunshot wounds, 932 arrests and imprisonments with systematic use of torture, as well as several rapes of minors, including in prison.

The Commission found that, not only was the Tunisian state responsible for these serious human rights violations, but also the World Bank and IMF, which, “through loan conditions and structural adjustment plans imposed inappropriate policies that were at the root of the serious violations that followed the popular uprisings.” The Commission called for three acts of reparation: apology, financial compensation to victims, and cancellation of Tunisia’s multilateral debt to these institutions. Tunisia is currently close to closing its four-year $2.8 billion IMF loan programme agreed in 2016, which once again has been accused of imposing generic recommendations, “without considering the consequences on social stability and cohesion” (see Observer Spring 2019, Spring 2018).

The Commission’s attempts to hold the IMF and World Bank accountable were strengthened by a September report of the UN independent expert on foreign debt and human rights, Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, which argued that international financial institutions can be held responsible in international law for complicity with economic reforms that violate human rights. Focusing on IMF-mandated austerity, the report argued that there is a solid legal basis on which to say that, “in principle, austerity policies during times of recession are incompatible with obligations to guarantee the enjoyment of human rights.”

In an accompanying press release, Bohoslavsky commented, “Although States are the main guarantors of human rights, international financial institutions can also be held responsible if they are complicit in prescribing policies with probable negative impacts on human rights.”

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by Emma Burgisser

World Bank China project raises ‘crimes against humanity’ concerns

In August, the World Bank issued a statement that it had received a number of inquiries regarding its 2015 $50 million education project in Xinjian, China, announcing that it is “actively looking into the questions raised” and committed to taking action if warranted.

The investigation was prompted by a letter from US lawmakers in August to World Bank president David Malpass alleging that the Chinese government is interning over a million Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Turkic Muslims in mass internment camps, claiming that, “such actions may constitute crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Chinese government”. The letter raised concerns about whether funds from the project loan, which specifically intended to assist ethnic minorities with technical and vocational education, could have been used “in the mass internment system or for the involuntary internment of ethnic minorities for ‘vocational education’”. This became particularly worrisome, according to the letter, when Bank funding continued “even after it was clear that mass internment was occurring and that the Chinese government was spreading propaganda in defense of its policies.”

Following the letter, Foreign Policy magazine reported that schools benefiting from the Bank project had bought $30,000 worth of “barbed wire, gas launchers, and body armor”, noting it was unclear on the source of that funding. Foreign Policy also reported that in July, a World Bank employee raised numerous issues relating to the project as red flags and suggested the case should be referred to the Inspection Panel (the Bank’s independent accountability mechanism) for investigation, but that “these concerns went unheeded”.

James Millward of Georgetown University commented to UK newspaper The Independent that, “The likelihood of any World Bank-funded project being associated with the concentration camps, or entities directly running the camps, is high.”

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by Emma Burgisser

October 02, 2019

Trasformatorio

Ex Nihilo

About the first part of the residency of RE in the Nederlands
Amsterdam 17-30 September

RE arrived in time at Shipol Airport with a flight from Catania. She is a blonde woman, she is born sicilian and is bilingual sicilian-german from her mother side. She has acedemy of arts background, a direct way of dealing with all kind of people and a very strong will. She has developed her talent in the years after her diploma with stubborn focus and hard will. She is ready for The Nederland and she looks around.

When I finally got, after many years, the chance of organising residencies in Amsterdam I had no doubt that the first one had to be her.

We know each other since around 2013. We shared together the experience of the first trasformatorio lab and with her companion Giuseppe Morgana they have been the backbone of the last two labs made in sicily and one of the reasons of their success.

But I wanted to have RE here, as first of we hope many artists we can present and introduce properly to the dutch public,for artistic reasons.

RE does not work from a concept. She has many sources of inspiration in wich she dives with in depth fascination but this is not the core of her effectiveness. She works the concept through, like a path to a place were something has to happen, like a folk story, like a misguiding suggestion from a crook. Her thought becomes first action and matter and color, at last, like in a magic mirror finds a name.

In the years I have learned that her art has forms, a necessity, is grounded into coherence and consistency but no words are necessary before the action to realise it. RE channels impressions through her rich palette of media and asks the world to say the last word on the result. Her titles are then a good closing act for the effort, and come from her preliminary fascinations, but as in a ritual they are results. Touches of a bell or of a gong, to dispell the force she kept a bay. Yet there is nothing automatic in her doing.

Often her pieces are left to the environment while in the process of making. She did a bit the same in my studio last week, using rain and dust and the drying of the layers braking up. Found substances, that are inclobated in the colors are often incompatible chemically, they cross with unpredictable effects and sometimes I find myself surprised that she knows how to fix them, in unexpected moments, addig one substance or another to the mix. Images gets imagined then, growing layer by layer, by the gesture and feedback with her mind and the atmosphere in the room: RE acting in light trance hanging over the piece and images forming and disappearing in the process.

She works with a fascination, an idea, often for months. And then mixes incompatible chemicals and strange substances directly on the support, touching it, with long brushes or the fingers, using all kind of found material, plants, lacks, soap, glue. The piece “emerges” from her actions like a small wonder.

I saw her paintin in her big house atelier in Milazzo, in front of the Eolian island in the province of Messina with similar intensity and cromatic effectiveness.

It has been in this days a great pleasure to work out in my studio near the Wateringshaans, taken by philosophical thoughts, encounters, found objects and my apparently casual looks in the evening when I would pass to see how she was doing.

Avidly, incessantly, she transformed what she found, in the way we have learned together to do and produced 3 very good pieces as a preparation, a worm up, for the rest of the stay, in Groningen, organised by Hans “Hansko” Visser and the Ceda and Olgica Foundation.

Presentation of her woork in Groningen is scheduled for Sunday 13th of October, from 15.00 onwards, with live/life-boat-instant-composed-music by carefully selected improvisers.

As far as presenting the whole of the work we will try to get a good spot, so all interested people are invited to come.

As Hansko says, “we will have bread and wine”

So I should not forget to give you all a bit of links and context here they are:

New pieces

RE-Ex Nihilo

Ex Nihilo, mixed media on wallpaper and found frame (about 80×50 cm)

De Lichtheid, mixed media on wallpaper framed in found double glass (about 20×110 cm)

  • She worked on a big installation, titled “Numero Cinque”. Is a Mixed media assemblage of 9 found drawers, with the 9 pieces interconnected in precise schematics, (about 220×311, the square will hang in diagonal. The ispiration comes from the air of the Marci Panis I suppose…

RE – Numero Cinque (work in progress)

RE – Numero Cinque, work in progress, early stage

Trasformatorio Residencies are an effort to make artists that participated in Trasformatorio site specific lab, in particular those coming from south mediterranean areas to come to present their work in the Nederland. We think the best way to introduce them is to ask the artists to make new work using our studios as prime matter.

We are activelly looking for partnerships.

Contact Federico (fredd@dyne.org) if you like to participate or help.

by trasformatorio

Data Knightmare (Italian podcast)

DK 4x04 - Google e Pirro

Google non è tenuto a deindicizzare tutte le versioni nazionali per applicare il diritto all'oblio, solo quelle di tutti i Paesi UE. Ai colonizzatori digitali che spingono per un mondo soggetto solo alle loro regole, la UE ricorda che gli Stati esistono. E con gli Stati, i diritti e le leggi.

by Walter Vannini

Vlax

October 01, 2019

Vlax

Trasformatorio

Danza per Giampilieri

In 2019 we got into a great adventure.

The place was Giampilieri, a small village hidden between the sea and the mountain in the metropolitan aarea of Messina, Sicily.
Artists from all over the world, gathered there at the last minute for the Trasformatorio lab had the chance to know the people, the stories, the troubles and the incredible vitality of the village. It has been a great ride.

Tomorrow is going to be a recurrence of 10 years from the tragic events that has filled with sorrow the harts and with scars the landscape.

I am sure there will be time to think and mourne and celebrate. Our friends will be glad to know we stand with them, happy to see now soo many traces of Giampilieri in our work since and of our work in the new directions you all took. The whole village is keeping transforming, with his own colors and energies, and is inimmaginable and moving.

There is a lot of love to share for the living in Giampilieri. And we will make more road together of this we are all sure.

Please accept again, as memory of the part we shared, of the walks, of the sounds, of the stories, of the visions and the laughter, of the tears and the smiles, our biggest hug.

the whole of Trasformatorio

Sept 30 2019

by trasformatorio

n-gate.com. we can't both be right.

webshit weekly

An annotated digest of the top "Hacker" "News" posts for the last week of September, 2019.

Almost one in five men admits to having no close friends, a survey has found
September 22, 2019 (comments)
Some webshit pollsters decide that 18% of men are friendless. There might be more information, but News Corp failed to make a case for getting money in return for finding out what the Times thinks about webshit pollsters. Hackernews recounts their efforts to find and foster friendship, all of which centers around internet comments. Later in this series of internet comments, some Hackernews accuse others of being deviated mutants. The largest comment thread centers around the difficulty of getting people to keep liking you as you age into adulthood but continue participating in "Hacker" "News".

Serverless: slower and more expensive
September 23, 2019 (comments)
A webshit finds some more expensive hosting. Hackernews helpfully explains that the proper way to use this kind of hosting is to throw all your shit in the trash and rewrite it to work only with this specific hosting provider. Some Hackernews suspect this is not the best possible path forward, but other Hackernews assure them that it works really well for organizations who have realized computers are hard and it's much simpler to base your entire business on blind faith in an internet-based bookstore department store freelance surveillance contractor.

Bike crash left Spokane man unconscious, so his Apple Watch called 911
September 24, 2019 (comments)
An elderly person falls off a bicycle and is rescued by jewelry. This is regarded as noteworthy, even though my butler would have worked just as well for the purpose. Hackernews tries to figure out if this is just a cynical viral marketing piece from the jewelry manufacturer, a notoriously slow-selling and impoverished business known for its inability to move product. Hackernews bickers over whether failure to acquire this specific jewelry constitutes rank negligence, then bickers over which brand of jewelry is the most responsible purchase. Poor people are, of course, welcome to just die in an alley somewhere for free.

WeWork and Counterfeit Capitalism
September 25, 2019 (comments)
An Internet takes a close look at a ridiculous startup (business model: "Uber for desks"). Hackernews, analyzing the analysis, consistently fails to read even one sentence past a bit that makes them mad enough to post internet comments. In particular, the author dares to compare a shitty amoral turf-building exercise with Amazon, which is an unassailably ethical and sound business which does not in any way exploit a single human being.

What do executives do, anyway?
September 26, 2019 (comments)
An internet finds out how leadership works. Hackernews knows better, and loudly proclaims the correct answers. We are treated to a lesson in effectiveness from a Y Combinator veteran founder/CEO whose publicly-traded company has never turned a profit. The rest of the comments are Hackernews naming corporate executives and then armchair quarterbacking the companies for which the executives work. No technology is discussed.

Microplastics found in 93% of bottled water tested in global study
September 27, 2019 (comments)
Some scientists find some trash in some water. Hackernews tries to ascertain whether this is a reasonable possibility, relying on important scientific resources like some hiking webshit comments about cooking in beer cans, Thai street vendors, and television magicians. The rest of the comments are from Hackernews making assumptions about the study in the article, arguing with those assumptions, and never checking any of them.

Microsoft has removed the “use offline account” option when installing Windows
September 28, 2019 (comments)
Some idiots on Reddit confuse each other about bad software. Hackernews angrily insists that the mentioned feature is not gone, it's just hidden behind a different, unrelated feature, with no indication that's where it went. Some discussion arises as to whether this is still a dick move, but Hackernews is hesitant to criticize the software decisions of a company that makes their text editor and issue tracker. The customer service decisions are a separate matter, and after several hundred comments whining about Xbox support, we're finally left with the few brave souls who remember the last six thousand times Microsoft actively abused its customers, and wonder if maybe nothing's really changed in Redmond.

Starship Prototype Unveiled
September 29, 2019 (comments)
Elon Musk teaches a remedial course designed to remind journalists how correctly to worship Elon Musk. The author of this article failed the course, because we're reminded of the fact that Musk's company is parading around intent to take randos to the moon while completely failing to deliver on government contracts to take actual astronauts into space at all. Hackernews, however, passed the course with flying colors, turgidly murmuring the engine specifications while scrambling to disregard the efforts of hundreds of real engineers and ascribe their work to some idiot who likes to argue with strangers on Twitter.

In Defense of Richard Stallman
September 30, 2019 (comments)
Some webshit is angry about an elderly moron being held accountable. The argument goes that we should tolerate decades of pedo apologism, creepy behavior, and general asshattery because the author agrees with some legal opinions of the creep in question. It is this moron's right, so the argument goes, to act and think like a shithead, because otherwise we might not have got a specific legal document, which a subset of computer nerds finds valuable. Hackernews takes this weak-ass argument and with it builds a springboard from which to dive into an open cesspit, finally freed of the requirement that they act like human beings even for a moment. None of the comments presented in this thread are new, and none of them are interesting. It's just several hundred adult human beings, furious that someone might be judged on the content of their character, instead of the topic they told you to consider.

by http://n-gate.com/hackernews/2019/09/30/0/

September 29, 2019

Vlax

September 28, 2019

Centro de Autonomia Digital

analysis_novaestrat

On September 16, ZDNet in collaboration with vpnMentor published an article showing that 20.8 million user records including almost the complete population of Ecuador was publicly exposed in a database that anyone on the internet could access. In the following days, more information has been made public, investigations have started, discussions have been had - but some questions are not being answered, and the governmental response seems mostly focused on looking strong, while not necessarily taking effective action.

In this article, we would like to analyze this leak of data, understand what it means, the impact it can have, what kind of actions could have been taken to avoid it, and what should be done moving forward. We will always discuss the Ecuadorean data protection law that is currently being intensely discussed.

The information in this article is based only on publicly available information about the leak, combined with our long technical experience in the fields of security and privacy.

The goal of this article is not to attack any person or entity, but try to bring clarity into this event from a technical perspective. This clarity is necessary for us as a society to handle these kinds of incidents better in the future. Before we can discuss solutions, we have to clearly understand what happened.

Timeline

Based on current information, this is what the timeline of pertinent events looks like:

  • Sometime after December, 2017 - the information in the database was created or updated.1
  • Sometime before April 1, 2019 - the database was made publicly available.2
  • Sometime before September 7, 2019 - vpnMentor finds the problem and tries to contact Novaestrat about the publicly available data.3
  • September 7, 2019 - vpnMentor contacts EcuCERT and makes them aware of the problem.4
  • September 11, 2019 - the government of Ecuador is officially made aware of the problem, following protocol.
  • Some time after September 15, 2019 - the database was made private or taken down.
  • September 16, 2019 - the initial article on ZDnet was published, making the leak publicly known.
  • September 16, 2019 - officers of Novaestrat are raided and detained for questioning by the prosecutor general.
  • September 17, 2019 - officers of Novaestrat are released.

As is clear, there are several things about this timeline that are worrisome. Most importantly, the fact that the database was available since April. It's also problematic that it took at least 8 days from the initial report to the Ecuador government until the server was shut down. With this kind of vulnurability and data, every day is important.

It is unclear when the breach was actually closed. According to vpnMentors blog post, the problem was closed on September 11, 2019. However, according to the Shodan data, the ElasticSearch port was still open to the public as late as September 15, 2019. These conflicting data points makes it hard to know which perspective is correct and when the breach was actually closed.

The data

What makes this leak fairly unique is the amount of data leaked, combined with the proportion of the population being covered by this leak. We still don't know exactly what information the leak contains, since vpnMentor has mentioned that they haven't made public every kind of data point that could be found in the database.

The database contained roughly 20.8 million user records. These include some duplicated entries, old entries and entries for deceased individuals. It also contains information from 2019, which implies that the data has been continuously updated. 6.77 million entries are for children under the age of 18.

For all entries, this data includes the individuals name, cedula (the Ecuadorean ID number), place of birth, home address, gender and family information. It also contains email addresses, phone numbers, marriage information and level of education. For people with employment, it contains information about the employer, job title, salary information, and when the employment started and ended. It's implied that this information is historical as well as current.

For about 7 million people, it also includes bank information from BIESS, the Ecuadorean government social security bank. This includes the account status, current balance, financed amount, credit type and information about what branch the individual is using.

There are also 2.5 million entries about cars and car owners, including information such as license plate number, make, model, date of purchase, registration information and other technical information. It also contains the taxpayer number linked to the car, so that each car can be linked with its owner.

There is also information about companies, including their tax registration number (RUC), contact information, address and legal representative.

vpnMentor has stated that the database contains more information than the above. However, they have not divulged this kind of information because it is sensitive. This is extremely strange. They have not even talked about the _kind_ of information this is. That is something that they could reveal without revealing any specific instances of that information. The fact that they are not willing to reveal the kind of information that exists implies that the very existance of this information is extremely sensitive. Purely speculatively, this could involve information related to some kind of open criminal investigation or maybe some extreme type of governmental invasive measure.

Impact

A leak of this magnitude, with this kind of data, is extremely serious. Looking at the current scan of the NovaEstrat server in question, it's clear that this company has not put a lot of resources into securing their infrastructure. Since the data in question could have been available since at least April 1st, 2019, it is highly likely that the whole data dump has been available for sale on underground criminal networks for a significant amount of time. We have to assume that all the data is out there. This also makes the decision to not specify exactly what kinds of data that has been leaked suspect, since attackers will have this data - but the Ecuadorean population doesn't actually know what the attackers have.

What are the risks here? Someone with this kind of data can do many types of things. Many corporations could use this kind of data to do analysis of potential sales targets. This information is also very similar to the kind that ad networks collect in order to personalize advertisements. The information can be used for widespread phone and email phishing campaigns, trying to convince people to click on links or put in their passwords into hostile web sites. It can also be used to actively try to crack passwords, or reset passwords on web sites that allow you to do password resets using personal information.

More overt criminal activity such as different kinds of fraud are to be expected on a massive scale. This information can potentially be used to get access to the bank accounts of individuals, or other types of private information. It's not impossible that it can be used to fraudelently apply for credit cards and then massively overdraw these.

The initial article also mentioned the possibility of using this information for targeting. By identifying people with high incomes, this data also gives address and phone information, making it easy to target them for robbery, theft or kidnappings.

A leak of this magnitude, with this kind of breadth of data covering such a large population, will without a doubt lead to widespread criminal enterprises. It is likely that the cost to the Ecuadorean population will be in the range of billions of dollars over the next few years because of this leak.

Where did the data come from?

When it comes to this kind of leak, the first question is where the data came from. This company, Novaestrat, is a private company that apparently works to provide analytics services to the Ecuadorean market. It's unclear exactly what that means, and who their clients are.

The data itself seems to come from several different sources, including the Ecuadorean civil registry, the BIESS (the Ecuadorean government social security bank), AEADE (an assocation that seems to track car ownership), the secretariat of higher education, SRI (the IRS), and the national transit agency. It is possible there are more sources for the information, and it's possible that these are not the original source the data came from.

What is clear is that most of this data does not belong in the hands of a private entity. A lot of it is highly sensitive, and putting it together paints an extremely detailed picture of the whole Ecuadorean population.

Some sources claim that the information was sold by these puplic entities to Novaestrat, and that there are contracts that show these purchases. Whether it is actually possible for a public government entity to sell access to private databases like these is so far quite unclear. Several reports do claim that no computer intrusions are the source for the data. In that case, that would leave either legal sales of the data, or some kind of corruption.

Several government reports have claimed that this sale of data can be attributed to the previous government. However, the current government has been in place since 2017, and since the latest data is from 2019, it's unclear how the previous government could be blamed for this situation.

What could have been done?

A few days ago, we published an article about how organizations can avoid massive leaks in general. The recommendations and advice in this article would be appropriate for an entity to such as Novaestrat to take to heart. It is clear from public scans of the IP address in question that IT security is not the highest concern of this employer.

It seems clear that Novaestrat should not have had this data in the first place. Whatever entity that sells data has a responsibility that the data goes to a place where it will be properly taken care of. Assuming that the sale of all this data was in fact legally and correctly done, the seller should still have imposed conditions on how the data was secured and managed.

If Novaestrat did not have legal access to this data, it opens the questions of how the transfers actually happened. The institutions that are responsible for managing these original data bases need to do a thorough review of their policies and practicies in order to make sure that this kind of leak of data does not happen again. It is likely that separate legal investigations and processes against each one of the sources of data need to be started in order to find out how the data was actually leaked in the first place.

Since this was a very serious issues, and every day counts in this kind of situation, it seems like a problem that it took several days before the Ecuadorean government reacted to the problem. The discussions around this issue seems to imply that the reason they delayed was because they couldn't verify who the people reporting the vulnurability were. But when it comes to protecting the Ecuadorean population, the first step should be to see if the vulnurability is real. Who reports the problem is not relevant when it comes to this first step. So delaying several days for this reason seems irresponsible, and these protocols should be revised.

What should be done?

When an incident like this happens, protecting the people involved should be priority number one. After that, investigations and possible assignment of guilt can happen. For the Ecuadorean people, the first thing to do would be to set up a service that would allow individuals to see if they were affected by the leak, and what kind of information about them was leaked. Once that's done, procedures to protect the population should be put in place.

The problem with this kind of leak is that most of the data in it is not something you can change. Ideally, every person in Ecuador should change their legal names, the names of their parents and children, their cedula, work place, salary, car, bank account information and much more. Obviously that is not in any way realistic. So that means that the kind of attacks we discussed above will be continue to be possible for many years.

There are some ways of mitigating these risks. Individuals can be more careful when they receive emails and phone calls. Institutions should revise their internal procedures for how they authenticate clients. The Ecuadorean government should institute an insurance policy for everyone impacted by this breach, that will help when someone is subjected to identity theft, fraud or other kinds of attack.

But, the sad reality is, it is hard or even impossible to guard against most of the coming attacks. The cat is out of the bag.

In terms of investigation, the first goal should be to understand _how_ this happened, so that these problems can be avoided in the future. This implies starting investigations in the places where we can find the most helpful information. But not with the goal of assigning guilt. Investigating Novaestrat is certainly one important part, but it's also important to investigate organizations that Novaestrat had business relationships with, and also the public entities where this information came from. Without these investigations it will be hard to see how to stop it from happening again.

Data protection law

Immediately after this leak was made public, the government announced that they are working on a data protection law and that they are close to presenting this to parliament. They have apparently been working on this for the last 8 months.

While having strong data protection laws are extremely important, and it would be good for Ecuador to make progress on this issue, pushing through legislation the same week as a large leak has been announced is not the right time to do it. Legislation lasts for a long time, and it has many repercussions to society. When an incident happens, the instinct is for politicians to want to appear strong and use it as a moment to push their own agenda. But this does not help the population.

If Ecuador really wants to have the legal tools necessary to stop these kinds of problems in the future, it's important that everyone take their time to work on this legislation. It should not be rushed through. There needs to be debate where civil society, private businesses and the population is involved. Data protection is a hugely complex subject, and getting it right is not trivial. So even though the urge to push it through right now is very strong, our recommendation is to take the time to evaluate it with cool heads. The future of the country will be better off by doing it right.

A related issue is the current move of the government to unify all public data under one governmental service, CNT. While this in theory can lead to stronger security, if the organization in question knows how to manage the data correctly, that is not at all the only possibility. In some cases it doesn't make a difference, and sometimes having all the data in the same place, leads to one big target, instead of many smaller ones.

Conclusions

When a leak of this magnitude happens, it's sometimes hard to wrap your head around all the angles. It's easy to leap to conclusions and miss aspects of the story. But that means we might not have the information we need to form informed and proper decisions based on an event like this.

In this post we have tried to summarize the aspects of this case, what the implications are and what some of the lessons for the future are. This is an important subject, and we need to continue the discussions. But we need to do that with all the information at hand.

Addendum

On Tuesday, September 24 - after this article was written, but before it was published - Ran Locar and Noam R from vpnMentor announced that the same data had been found in the hands of another organization. This organization was selling subscriptions to the data, and it had been updated as recently as August 2019. During the day, several other mentions of websites where the same or similar data could be found were published. It is unclear if all of these refer to the same collection of data, or whether it's more than one organization outside of Novaestrat that has access to the information.

The team from vpnMentor further added that the organization in question was breached in January 2019. They are clear that we need to assume that all the data in these collections are out there.

Based on these news, we can deduce that more than one organization was sold or given access to this data in some way - and that this access continued until at least August 2019. We also know that the data is in the hand of criminal organizations or groups. This means that the data is out there, it will be used and it's too late to put the cat back in the bag. The current goal has to be mitigation, helping citizens and finally stopping the further flow of data.

References

  1. We know this because the database contains information about Julian Assange, and his citizenship was registered around December 2017. According to the article, the database contains information from 2019 as well, so it's likely updates continued after December 2017.
  2. This can be deduced by using Shodan's history function through the Developer API. Looking up 207.246.114.186 tells us that the first time Shodan registered the port 9200 (which is the ElasticSearch port), was on April 1st, 2019. This doesn't mean the port couldn't have been open before, just that this was the first time Shodan saw it.
  3. The original article (on September 16), claims the server was discovered two weeks earlier, sometime around September 2. Later reporting claims the server was discovered on September 6. The article also mentions that they tried to contact Novaestrat. Other articles mention that vpnMentor only contacted EcuCERT after failing to contact Novaestrat. vpnMentor claim that they were doing "ethical scanning" of the internet, something that is not unusual or suspect. Indeed, many security firms do the same kind of work regularly.
  4. As can be read in the El Comercio interview with Arcotel (link in references).

September 27, 2019

Centro de Autonomia Digital

otrv4_summit



OTRv4 Summit

What is PETS2019?

The Privacy Enhancing Technologies Symposium (PETS) is an annual event, that holds each year informative talks of privacy experts from around the world, who present and discuss the latest advances and perspectives on privacy research. The 19th edition of PETS was organized and held by the KTH University in Stockholm, Sweden, from July 16th to 20th, 2019.

PETS and other similar events, are of vital importance because every year they show the progress of the Academy in terms of cryptography, security, privacy and anonymity in the digital world, also presenting the work and research carried out by institutions from all over the world, among which are the universities of Luxembourg, Princeton, Waterloo, US Naval Research Laboratory, United States Army Research Laboratory, Florida International University, Cambridge University, University of Iowa, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Penn State University, South Carolina, University of Hamburg, among many other worldwide education and research centers.

The first publications on these topics began in 1977, with the paper "Non-Discretionary Access Control for Decentralized Computing Systems" by Paul A. Karger from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). This continued through the years until in 2000 when it was decided to hold the first workshop around theses topics. It was called "Workshop on Design Issues in Anonymity and Unobservability" in the International Computer Science Institute in Berkeley, California. From then on, each edition of PETS has become an international reference for topics related to security and privacy.

Among the goals of PETS is to present entertaining talks that add technical and informative value. Each paper, corresponding to a talk presented during the event, is published in the Proceedings on Privacy Enhancing Technologies (PoPETs).

Among the many conversations that took place, there were some talks that caught our attention due to their content and focus. In this edition, the talks were oriented to Off-the-Record messaging, anonymous communication, social networks, online deniability, databases, online tracking, machine learning, differential privacy, metadata management, traffic analysis, user experience and privacy, and others.

PETS is also an opportunity to attend other events related to privacy, such as the OTRv4 summit, which was held together with the symposium. But, what is the OTRv4 summit?

OTRv4 Summit

The version 4 of the Off-the-Record messaging protocol (OTRv4) has been in development and design for the past 2 years. As it is almost ready to be published and implemented by the community, it was decided to hold a formal meeting around it, since it is the messaging protocol which other protocols are based upon (such as Signal). The idea of ​​the OTRv4 summit was not to focus only on the design and ideas behind OTRv4, but also to talk about secure messaging protocols in general.

The talks offered during the summit mainly focused in the importance of security and privacy properties for the online world, the role of that user experience takes place in them and new ideas for a secure group chat MLS. It was an interesting event in which people discussed their ideas on different topics, such as what privacy means for the community, for the business environment, from the perspective of human rights, for government agencies, etc.

As it was a great success as a co-located event in PETS, it has been planned to do another summit next year. The global idea and the main goal of this event for the privacy and crypto community is to learnabout new ideas, approaches and concepts related to secure messaging, so that we can provide users an adequate digital security.

As stated, the OTRv4 summit presented a broad set of conversations from different perspectives on secure messaging. The general program was:

  • 9:00 - 9:10: Welcome by Sofía Celi
  • 9:10 - 10:00: Talk bout "Introduction to secure messaging and OTRv4" by Sofía Celi
  • 10:05 - 10:50: Talk about "Secure Messaging, Wire and MLS" by Raphael Robert
  • 10:55 - 11:30: Presentation about "Remote attestation and deniability: challenges and opportunities" by Lachlan Gunn
  • 11:35 - 12:00: Talk about "Why is secure messaging and deniability important: the case of Ola Bini" by Sofía Celi

Introduction to secure messaging and OTRv4

Secure-messaging is the most fundamental privacy problem in cryptography: how can parties communicate in such a way that nobody knows who said what.

That is a quote from the paper "The Moral Character of Cryptographic Work", by the cryptographer Phillip Rogaway of the Department of Computer Science at the University of California, published in December 2015. In this premise, Sofía Celi from CAD covered an introduction to secure messaging and how the OTRv4 protocol allows it. Secure communication in the digital world is one in which people can start conversations with the assurance that no one outside the conversation can read the messages of any participant.

During the presentation, Celi did a tour of the OTR protocol and talked about the motivations that inspired the cryptographers Ian Golberg; Nikita Borisov of the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada; and Eric Brewer, currently a professor at the University of Berkeley, Califnornia, to create a protocol that allows secure communications. These digital conversations were defined to be as the real-world conversations: they should not give proof of the any of authorship of the participants, in contrast to what the Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) protocol does. She also analyzed the cryptographic concepts of the protocol, the secure and privacy properties, the current status of the Signal protocol, and the importance for users of security and privacy properties implemented in cryptographic protocols.

The main secure properties that OTRv4 implements to improve the communications security are, forward secrecy, post-compromise security and deniability. Forward secrecy is the property of OTR which indicates that if one of the security keys used to encrypt a message is compromised, then, previously sent messages cannot be decrypted since a new security key is generated for each message sent. This is possible through the use of the Diffie-Hellman algorithm. The post-compromise security property ensures that messages that are sent in the future are not compromised if one of the keys gets compromised, since each security key is unique for each message. This property is allowed due to the use of the Double-Rachet algorithm. On the other hand, deniability is the property of OTR that allows any of the participants in a conversation to deny anything that was said in that conversation or that they have participated on it as signatures does not give proof of the participant’s authorship.

Celi also talked about the progress of the development of OTRv4, why it was necessary to implement the new version of it and, in addition, about limitations, current issues and next steps in the development of the protocol.

Secure Messaging, Wire and MLS

The presentation made by Raphael Robert, head of security of the Wire application, talked about the efforts that the cryptographic community is doing to create a secure group chat by default. This is a very important issue for the current secure messaging applications, which need to provide adequate security and privacy properties to their users. This effort is called Messaging-Layer-Security or MLS.

MLS is a security layer to encrypt end-to-end messages in two to many size chat groups. During his talk, Robert detailed the efforts made by the Wire team in the implementation of a chat with this layer and provide appropriate properties for its users. He also talked about the advances in the security of its servers and the audits that are carried out by the cryptographic teams, a controversial issue questioned by the community.

Remote attestation and deniability: challenges and opportunities

The cryptographer and postdoctoral researcher Lachlan Gunn of the Safe Systems Group of the University of Aalto, Finland, presented a summary of his research "Circumventing Cryptographic Deniability with Remote Attestation" made together with Ricardo Vieitez and N. Asokan, from the University of Aalto.

The research has two central points. The first on how, with hardware assistance, a cryptographic adversary can use remote attestation to generate a non-deniable transcript of any protocol that implements deniability and performs sender authentication (like OTR). What this generates is proof of authorship of messages that are exchanged during a conversation. The second point was around showing ways on how to improve deniability in the protocols that implement it, even against a cryptographic adversary capable of attesting. The research focused on how, in particular, attestation can be used to restore deniability by frustrating real adversaries.

One of the most instructive moments of the presentation was when Gunn made a demo using the Signal protocol, indicating the results of his research.

Why is secure messaging and deniability important: the case of Ola Bini

As last talk, Celi made a presentation in which she explained the great importance of having secure conversations in the digital world and deniability, while talking about the case of the software developer Ola Bini, a collaborator in the securitycommunity and one of collaborators on the design of the OTR protocol in its version 4. Bini is presecuted in Ecuador for his knowledge and it is the subject of accusations that are not supported by any kind of evidence. This shows a violation of his right to a fair process in accordance with the Ecuadorian law.

If you are interested in knowing more about the OTRv4 Summit, you can visit the following links:

Data Knightmare (Italian podcast)

DK 4x03 - Libra? No, grazie.

Francia e Germania danno il due di picche a Libra la criptomoneta di Facebook (che non è cripto e non è moneta ma vabbé). Un bel paletto nel cuore delle ambizioni coloniali di El Zucko Supremo. Certo, sarebbe stato bello vedere la stessa fermezza anche quando si è trattato di diritti degli utenti, ma è un buon passo. Aspettiamoci però che l'Impero colpisca ancora.

by Walter Vannini

Vlax

September 26, 2019

Vlax

September 25, 2019

Vlax

September 24, 2019

Vlax

September 23, 2019

Vlax

The average article/post in the information age: BIG CATCHY BULLSHI...

The average article/post in the information age:

BIG CATCHY BULLSHIT

bullshit, bullshit ? Bullshit!

bullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitMoralbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitIdentitybullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullIdentityshitbullshitbullshitbullshitMoralbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitIdentitybullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitIdentitybullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitIdentitybullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullMoralshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitMoralbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitbullshitIdentitybullshitbullshit

  • Bullshit

  • Another bullshit

  • Some more bullshit

Conclusion: (MoralMoralMoral) shitload of bullshit

#bullshit #everywhere

by Robert Biloute - on diaspora-fr.org

n-gate.com. we can't both be right.

webshit weekly

An annotated digest of the top "Hacker" "News" posts for the third week of September, 2019.

3D Ken Burns Effect from a Single Image
September 15, 2019 (comments)
An academic creates a method for automatically making pictures less interesting. The author then shows up in the comments to argue with Hackernews about how many of them clicked on the video. Then, Hackernews nitpicks the terminology, resulting in a collaborative catalogue of all the various ways that filmmakers can make pictures less interesting to look at.

The boring technology behind a one-person Internet company
September 16, 2019 (comments)
A webshit goes on at length about the same tools all other webshits use. Hackernews is relieved to see that any website exists which was not created via résumé-driven development methodologies, so they recount the stories of their own failed résumé-driven development projects. Other Hackernews, horrified at the prospect of a programmer understanding how the entire program works, insist that actual full-stack development is the demesne of monks (after decades of study) or geniuses (after reading three medium.com articles like this one). Those of you who are reading this week's article to hear about the copyright cult ousting the pedo apologist will be disheartened to learn that this story received hundreds more votes than that one.

Gitlab More Than Doubles Valuation to $2.75B Ahead of Planned 2020 IPO
September 17, 2019 (comments)
A webshit company celebrates the acquisition of more debt, and looks forward to paying it back some day. Hackernews either loves the company's product or uses this article as a place to file bug reports. Either way, several Gitlabs arrive in the comments to bask in the adulation and/or make excuses for the shortcomings. A third of the comments are in threads complaining about other people not using the product enough. Some of the comments are complaints that Hackernews is not mean enough to the company.

Colorado Town Offers 1 Gbps for $60 After Years of Battling Comcast
September 18, 2019 (comments)
Some assholes lost a bid for regulatory capture. Hackernews decides the important next step is for all of them to report what their internet bill is and how fast their connection is supposed to be. After a while that fails to turn into a conversation, so they decide to invent utility service markets from first principles, then move on to incorrecting one another about economics vocabulary.

Stripe’s new funding round values company at $35B
September 19, 2019 (comments)
Stripe (business model: "Uber for PayPal") celebrates the acquisition of hundreds of millions of dollars of debt. One of the founders arrives in the comments, so Hackernews takes turns declaring that they use the product. The rest of the comments are bug reports.

ColorBox by Lyft Design
September 20, 2019 (comments)
Lyft (business model: "Uber for cars") runs out of useful webshit development tasks and just starts registering domains for dumb shit. Dumb shit is firmly in Hackernews' wheelhouse, so the link is upvoted to the heavens, but there's nothing useful or interesting about it, so nobody has anything to say. The result is a vote:comment ratio in excess of 10:1. All of the comments are enthusiastic bikeshedding from people who spend all their time caring about color science instead of working.

Why I Write Games in C (yes, C)
September 21, 2019 (comments)
An apostate gives the finger to received wisdom. Hackernews vacillates between insisting that the author is a moron who has never actually done any of the things in the article and competing for the title of Most Restrictive Runtime Target. Soon, it becomes possible to divide Hackernews into the ones whose software has been held accountable to some sort of quality standard and the web programmers. Especially entertaining in this comment thread are the Go aficionados who pride themselves in their knowledge of how to work around most of the language's features.

by http://n-gate.com/hackernews/2019/09/21/0/

September 22, 2019

Vlax

September 21, 2019

Vlax

September 20, 2019

Trasformatorio

RE – Trasformatorio Residency

Flown in from the volcanic center of the Mediterranean to the northern comforts RE is in Amsterdam for the first FORLMAL Trasformatorio residency out of Sicily.

The concept is developed in connection with Hansko Visser, Dierk Roosen and NDSM Treehouse but, since the venue in north of Central Station is a bit late opening, is taking place for now in FBP studio: in Marcusstraat 52.

RE will start exploring and transforming starting out from the themes available in the dying cultural landscape of heavily gentrified Amsterdam, starting from sowers and garbage as a good artist should. So far we attempted the rescue of a huge rat and failed, found a behive of dead bees abandoned below a luxe condo and noted the brand new Lotus parked in its garage.

RE will move at the end of the month to Groningen for a 2 week intensive transformation organised by Hansko Visser named temporarily ” modern icons for the non-saintly, floating” and realise a more complex work for the northern city.

During her work in A-town you can reach her via fredd: consider donations in old windows and good stories.

RE – Artist web site 

The press release is here: REsidency-pers-nl

UPDATE
The
opening of her exposition in guerrilla gallery “Pilot” on the canal of the Spilsluizen in Groningen will be on Sunday 13th of October, from 15.00 onwards, with live/life-boat- instant-composed-music by carefully selected famous improvisers.

A beautiful gift to the town, to celebrate its last horeca-free zone!(dutch for gentrified leisure) 

We will have bread and wine.

For more information 

www.facebook.com/events/830217834041867

www.re-artist.eu |www.saatchiart.com/RE

www.ceda-i-olgica.net |http://trasformatorio.net

the artist

Selfie of the artist in between two dudes

A secret location

photo by Hansko Visser

Notes on the floaters

photo by Hansko Visser


by trasformatorio

Dyne.org video channel

September 18, 2019

Data Knightmare (Italian podcast)

DK 4x02 - La disruption del colon

L'ennesima inutile startup ha ottenuto vinto contro LinkedIn in una causa che ha stabilito che lo scraping di un sito è legale. Negli USA, forse. Nella UE, non proprio. E rida poco la startup, perché lo stesso giudice ha detto, incidentalmente che i dati dei profili LinkedIn non appartengono a LinkedIn, ma ai titolari dei profili.

by Walter Vannini

September 17, 2019

The Syllabus

We have launched! Plus: Best of the Week

We have launched! Plus: Best of the Week
September 10 - 16, 2019 *
We have launched: the-syllabus.com

You can finally personalise your syllabus - by topic and by media type. And there are now  nine different editions to choose from by filling a form on our site. See the footnote for more details.

Do follow us on Twitter.

ACADEMIC

Was Keynes a Socialist? | Edward W. Fuller | Cambridge Journal of Economics
"This paper presents unexplored evidence that shows Keynes was a non-Marxist socialist from 1907 until his death in 1946...Skidelsky has misinterpreted Keynes’s political philosophy."

There is No Privacy Paradox: How Cognitive Biases and Design Dark Patterns Affect Online Disclosure | Ari E. Waldman | Current Opinion in Psychology
"[The essay surveys] the cognitive biases and design tactics platforms use to manipulate users into disclosing information...Current law allows this manipulative and anti-consumer behavior to continue."

Heidegger and Husserl on the Technological-Scientific Worldview | Corijn van Mazijk | Human Studies
"This paper discusses the relation between the later Husserl and the later Heidegger regarding their criticisms of modern science and technology....Core aspects of Heidegger’s analyses can be traced back to Husserl."

The International Trade Regime and the Quest for Free Digital Trade | Shamel Azmeh et al. | International Studies Review
"...a number of states, led by the United States, push for rules [on digital trade] as a way to discipline national internet policies and support trade in digital goods and services...[The] objectives of this campaign go beyond updating rules to better fit the “Internet age” into achieving further liberalization of trade in goods and services."

Trade Union Representation for New Forms of Employment | Monika Schlachter | European Labour Law Journal
"...Some self-employed persons, specifically those categorised as workers under a new form of employment, do need collective bargaining as much as employees do, as they find themselves in a comparably weak individual bargaining position."

O, The Roast Beef of Old England! Brexit and Gastronationalism | Jason Edwards | The Political Quarterly
"‘Gastronationalism’ is the idea that there are distinctive and authentic national food cultures that are threatened by the forces of globalisation...Different understandings of British food culture one more nativist, one more cosmopolitan have played a symbolic role in the debate on Brexit, [illustrating] the broader relationship between contemporary populist nationalism and gastronationalism."

Creating Competitive Advantage: the Growth of Independent Bookstores in the U.S. 2009–2018 | Samaher Baidis et al. | Publishing Research Quarterly
"Independent bookstores (often called “indies” or “independents”) sustained threats to their basic business model because of the growth of national bookstore chains and the proliferation of book sales online... [Yet] in spite of stiff online and brick-and-mortar competition and the recession, many independents were able to grow in size and importance."

Feeling at Home in Lonely Cities: an Emotional History of the West German Urban Commune Movement During the Long 1970s | Joachim C. Häberlen | Urban History
"In the 1970s, a commune movement emerged in West German cities. The article explores this movement as an attempt to create spaces for feeling ‘at home’ in cities that many people perceived to be alienating..."

Shut Up and Play: Black Athletes, Protest Politics, and Black Political Action | Christopher C. Towler | Perspectives on Politics
"Using the 2017 Black Voter Project (BVP) Pilot Study ... we find African Americans who strongly approve of Kaepernick’s protest engage in politics at elevated rates, even after accounting for alternative explanations..."

Legacies From a Holocaust of the Mind | Joanna D. Caytas | Review of European Studies
"Among the world’s most advanced biotopes of mathematics in the interwar period, the Lwów School suffered debilitating losses from Hitler’s genocide, wartime emigration, and the post-war brain drain of defections inspired by communism."

BOOKS

Ancient Greece and American Conservatism: Classical Influence on the Modern Right | John Bloxham | Bloomsbury Academic
"US conservatives have repeatedly turned to classical Greece for inspiration and rhetorical power. In the 1950s they used Plato to defend moral absolutism; in the 1960s it was Aristotle as a means to develop a uniquely conservative social science; and then Thucydides helped to justify a more assertive foreign policy in the 1990s."

Building Character: The Racial Politics of Modern Architectural Style | Charles L. Davis II | University of Pittsburgh Press
"[This book] traces the racial charge of the architectural writings of five modern theorists—Eugene Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc, Gottfried Semper, Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, and William Lescaze—to highlight the social, political, and historical significance of the spatial, structural, and ornamental elements of modern architectural styles."

Iran: A Modern History | Abbas Amanat | Yale University Press
"Drawing on diverse historical scholarship and emphasizing the twentieth century, [the book] addresses debates about Iran’s culture and politics. Political history is the driving narrative force, given impetus by Amanat's decades of research and study."

JOURNALISM & ESSAYS

Pay to Play (on Sex-Robot Technology) | Jessica Baldanza | Real Life
"Sex robots share the same imperatives as video games, gambling machines, and social media apps, implementing feedback reward structures."

Persian Wikipedia: an Independent Source or a Tool of the Iranian State? | Sina Zekavat | openDemocracy
“[The collaboration between Persian Wikipedia and the Iranian state] empowers the government to gradually move away from traditional censorship and move towards more complex and flexible censorship mechanism."

George Grosz and the Attempt to Stop Hitler's Rise With Art | Mary M. Lane | Time
"Yet Grosz still struggled to convince Americans that Hitler’s cultural clampdown was an obvious precursor to stamping out civil rights first for women, minorities and the press before finally eradicating them for all Germans."

VIDEOS

Be Careful What You Wish for: Exploring the Consequences of Electoral College Reform | Joshua B. Kaplan | University of Richmond
“A widely sought goal of liberals in the US, reform of the electoral is far more complicated than it sounds and will entail serious consequences nobody can really foresee.”

Shared Exploration: Music and the Visual Arts | Oliver Lee Jackson et al. | National Gallery of Art
“The conversation explores the relationship between music and the visual arts, ranging from shared experiences in Saint Louis in the 1960s to the present day."

Why Do We Love Evil? | Terry Eagleton, Susan Neiman, Stephen de Wijze | The Institute of Art and Ideas
“We may condemn tyrants and abhor serial killers, but we are obsessed with evil and violence... [The] average American child has seen 8,000 fictional murders by adulthood...Are we fascinated by evil, violent characters because they make life more exciting?”

PODCASTS

The CIA's Secret Search for Mind Control | Stephen Kinzer | Fresh Air
“During the early period of the Cold War, the CIA became convinced that communists had discovered a drug...that would allow them to control human minds. In response, the CIA began its own secret program, called MK-ULTRA, to search for a mind control drug that could be weaponized.”

Food Town USA: Seven Unlikely Cities that are Changing the Way We Eat | Mark Winne | New Books in Sociology
“Is there any interaction between food and community? In this podcast, Winne argues that both are embedded. And goes further: the central place to make sense of the complexities of a city is the food that is grown and sold in these areas.”

The Debt That Never Dies: China's Imperial Bonds | Cardiff Garcia | NPR
“Since the early part of the 20th century, the governments of the Imperial dynasty and the Republic of China that followed had been massively borrowing. A lot of foreign investors bought these bonds with a very attractive rates of return.”

MISCELLANEOUS

The European Economic Crisis from 2007 onwards in the Context of a Global Crisis of Overproduction of Capital – a Marxian Monetary Theory of Value Interpretation | Sascha Gander | Institute for International Political Economy Berlin
"...A Marxian monetary theory of value, with the characteristics of expansive capital accumulation and its limitations, facilitates a structural analysis of the European economic crisis from 2007 onwards."

The 1970s and the Politics of Political Realism | Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins | Duke Global Working Series
"[This report argues that] the best way to understand the nature of IR realist is to focus not just on the theories that inspire political realism, but its diverse political applications, which led to wide-ranging ways of thinking about what the role of the US in the world should be."

“When We’re Dead and Buried, Our Bones Will Keep Hurting”: Workers’ Rights under Threat in US Meat and Poultry Plants | Matt McConnell | Human Rights Watch
“[This document argues that] to realize its obligations under international human rights law, the US should stop pursuing the deregulation of maximum slaughter line speeds in the meat and poultry slaughtering and processing industry.”

Note from Evgeny Morozov, the publisher of The Syllabus 

We have – finally! – launched this week, so we no longer operate in semi-stealth mode. We are proud to give you the ability to build your own “living syllabus”. Not only can you choose the substance - we have 60 different “courses” - but also the form. You can specify your preferred media types (e.g. videos, podcasts or academic articles, etc.). We have also added some new curated “syllabi” to our growing list: five for specific topics (technology, economy, arts & ideas, global justice, and foreign affairs) and four for specific content types (academic articles, videos, podcasts, and journalism). There’s no need to choose one or the other: you can build your own syllabus and subscribe to the curated ones – the overlap will be minimal. Other exciting features are in development and will launch later this year: the archive, the ability to search and export your favorite pieces, and much more. Happy reading!

p.s. We will keep distributing the current "best of everything" syllabus for some time, until all of you have opted for one of the other options on offer. 
Copyright © 2019 The Syllabus, All rights reserved.


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September 15, 2019

n-gate.com. we can't both be right.

webshit weekly

An annotated digest of the top "Hacker" "News" posts for the second week of September, 2019.

Sunsetting Python 2
September 08, 2019 (comments)
Some Pythons promise, in small words so that Python programmers can understand them, that they're going to stop updating a version of their language Real Soon Now, honest this time, they swear on their mum. Hackernews chides the laggards and an argument breaks out about whether moving to the new version is the easiest thing ever conceived or else the most grueling six-month slog ever enforced.

94k Bitcoin (1B USD) transferred from unknown wallet to unknown wallet
September 09, 2019 (comments)
Bitcoin Idiots, LLC senses a disturbance in the Force. Hackernews indignantly nitpicks the description of this event, carefully laying out lengthy and proper definitions of terminology nobody cares about and spending hours performing economic analysis of the flow of midichlorians. Hackernews then proceeds to incorrect one another about the finer points of financial systems before holding forth on transaction confirmations, processing power required to cripple the system, and the mathematics of cryptography. You know, things that you have to know intimately when dealing with a totally valid currency that human beings will ever trust.

Uber lays off 435 people
September 10, 2019 (comments)
Uber (business model: "Uber for cars") appeases concerned investors with a massive staffing shakeup that sends shockwaves throughout the planet as it affects nearly two per cent of its workforce. Some Ubers arrive in the comment thread to cheerlead the shitcanning. Hackernews argues about whether it's better to write your own internet chat program or use one of the ten trillion indistinguishable internet chatting startup services.

Edward Snowden: Permanent Record
September 11, 2019 (comments)
An itinerant knowledge worker presses "print." Hackernews tries to decide if anything the author did mattered. Other Hackernews try to remember what, exactly, the author did.

California bans private prisons
September 12, 2019 (comments)
California snatches dinner from the mouths of children, forcing happy private-enterprise employees to get involved in the filthy bureaucracy of government. Hackernews thinks governments should get out of the law-enforcement business and back into the union-busting business where it belongs. Hackernews who are not from America struggle to understand the concept of putting people in cages for profit for extended periods, since most Europeans are accustomed to efficient, clean, publicly-funded death camps who have the best interest of the leader at heart.

Estimates that mineral levels in vegetables have dropped by up to 90% since 1914
September 13, 2019 (comments)
Some academics complain that there's not enough magnesium in the modern diet, but fail to recommend eating readily-available sources of dietary magnesium, such as helicopters and motorcycles. Hackernews cannot decide if high-yield farming, which feeds more people, is preferable to old-fashioned methods, which feed people more. Some Hackernews prefer to just rant about whatever book about hydroponics they read first, except for those who learned about it online. After that, dozens of comments arguing about agricultural methodology are presented by dozens of urbanite technology workers.

France and Germany Agree to Block Facebook's Libra
September 14, 2019 (comments)
The social media wing of Bitcoin Idiots, LLC are politely but firmly asked to leave. Some European Hackernews arrive to timidly suggest the possibility that some government regulation might be warranted in specific cases, and an absolute shitstorm ensues. Eonomics, financial theory, trade unions, and money are all reinveted from first principles (and in this case one of the principles is "let Facebook do whatever they want always").

by http://n-gate.com/hackernews/2019/09/14/0/

September 11, 2019

Data Knightmare (Italian podcast)

DK 4x01: Il GDPR mina la sicurezza?

Dice che il GDPR provoca falle di sicurezza a chi prende la mail da cui scrivi come una prova di identità. Poi dice che uno si butta a sinistra.

by Walter Vannini

September 09, 2019

The Syllabus

The Syllabus: Best of the Week

The Syllabus: Best of the Week

The Syllabus

Best of the Week

September 3 - 9, 2019*
Don't miss our other two editions: Technology and Economy

ACADEMIC

Capitalism and the Commons | Adam Arvidsson | Theory, Culture & Society

“Hard Times Make for Hard Arteries and Hard Livers”: Deindustrialization, Biopolitics, and the Making of a New Working Class | Gabriel Winant | Journal of Social History

The Milkmaid's Tale: Veganism, Feminism and Dystopian Food Futures | Angela Lee | Windsor Review of Legal and Social Issues

On Populists and Demagogues | Haig Patapan | Canadian Journal of Political Science

Law and Aesthetics in the Anthropocene: from the Rights of Nature to the Aesthesis of Obligations | Daniel Matthews | Law, Culture and the Humanities

Happiness Theory and Worker Cooperatives: a Critique of the Alignment Thesis | Mark J. Kaswan | Journal of Labor and Society

Billionaires, Organizations, and Federalism: Developments in the Study of American Inequality | Jacob M. Grumbach | The Journal of Politics

Accelerating the Transition to Alternative Fuel Vehicles through a Distributive Justice Perspective | Wissam El Hachem, Pietro De Giovanni | Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment

Banning Coal: Analyzing the Eradication of Coal in North America | Matthew Clark | Texas Environmental Law Journal

Memory, Heredity and Machines: from Darwinism to Lamarckism in Samuel Butler’s ‘Erewhon’ | Cristiano Turbil | Journal of Victorian Culture

BOOKS

The Anarchy: the East India Company, Corporate Violence, and the Pillage of an Empire | William Dalrymple | Bloomsbury Publishing

The Meritocracy Trap: How America's Foundational Myth Feeds Inequality, Dismantles the Middle Class, and Devours the Elite Hardcover | Daniel Markovits | Penguin Press

Guest House for Young Widows: among the Women of ISIS | Azadeh Moaveni | Random Press

Banned: Immigration Enforcement in the Time of Trump | Shoba S. Wadhia | NYU Press

JOURNALISM & ESSAYS

The Unsinkable Modernist | Martin Filler | The New York Review of Books

Everything We Do Not Know (on Fukushima) | Aaron Gilbreath | Guernica

Disaster for the People, Bonanza for the State | Carolyn L. White, Myles Mccallum | Places Journal

VIDEOS

The Genius Behind the Mask: Dalí’s Soft Self-Portraits | Denisse De Leon | The Dali Museum

Creating Community Through Housing | Donna Brown et al. | WGBH Forum Network

Marijuana Legalization: beyond Yes or No | Keith Humphreys | Maxwell School of Syracuse University

PODCASTS

How Music Transcends Political Polarization | Adam Gustafson | Democracy Works

Physics, Life, and the Adjacent Possible | Stuart Kauffman | Future Fossils

Hitler’s War with Anglo-America | Brendan Simms | History Extra

Building Socialist Architecture — with Architects for Social Housing | Geraldine Dening et al. | Below the Radar

REPORTS, DISSERTATIONS, MISCELLANEOUS

Trying Times: Rethinking Social Cohesion | Sophie Pornschlegel, Paul Jürgensen | Bertelsmann Stiftung

Strategic Deterrence Redux: Nuclear Weapons and European Security | Leo Michel, Matti Pesu | Prime Minister’s Office, Finland

The Concentration of Educational Investment in the US (1970-2018), with a Comparison to France | Cécile Bonneau | Paris School of Economics

* Best of the Week is our round-up of the recently published but overlooked gems in many of the topics that we track. You can also check two of our more specialized editions: Technology and Economy. For now, we only let you subscribe to Best of the Week but very soon we’ll give you the ability to design your own “syllabus” and receive it by email on a weekly basis. Do share your comments (admin@the-syllabus.com). To subscribe, just go to the-syllabus.com and enter your email address. And it's always a good idea to tell Gmail or your other email service to put us in your primary inbox. ~Evgeny Morozov
Copyright © 2019 The Syllabus, All rights reserved.


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The Syllabus: Tech

The Syllabus: Tech

The Syllabus

Technology
September 3 - 9, 2019*
Do not miss our other editions: Economy and Best of the Week

ACADEMIC

The Bitcoin: a Sparkling Bubble or Price Discovery? | Imad A. Moosa | Journal of Industrial and Business Economics

Beyond Breitbart: Comparing Right‐Wing Digital News Infrastructures in Six Western Democracies | Annett Heft et al. | Policy & Internet

Space Tourism in the Anthropocene | Sam Spector, James E. S. Higham | Annals of Tourism Research

Rethinking Copyright and Personhood | Christopher S. Yoo | University of Illinois Law Review

Digital Audiences and the Deconstruction of the Collective | Laurence Barry, Eran Fisher | Subjectivity

Leveraging European Infrastructures to Access 1 Million Human Genomes by 2022 | Gary Saunders et al. | Nature Reviews Genetics

Algorithmic Circulation: How Content Creators Navigate the Effects of Algorithms on Their Work | Angela Glotfelter | Computers and Composition

Copyright in Street Art, Graffiti, Porn and 'Mein Kampf'? | Ines Duhanic | Journal of Intellectual Property Law & Practice

Does Media Literacy Help Identification of Fake News? Information Literacy Helps, but Other Literacies Don't | S. Mo Jones-Jang et al. | American Behavioral Scientist
 

BOOKS

Rebooting AI: Building Artificial Intelligence We Can Trust | Gary Marcus, Ernest Davis | Pantheon

Dawn of the Code War: America's Battle against Russia, China, and the Rising Global Cyber Threat | John P. Carlin, Garrett M. Graff | PublicAffairs

The Age of Disruption: Technology and Madness in Computational Capitalism | Bernard Stiegler | Polity

JOURNALISM & ESSAYS

Cybernetics for the Twenty-First Century: an Interview with Philosopher Yuk Hui | Geert Lovink | e-flux

Please, My Digital Archive. It’s Very Sick | Tanner Howard | Lapham’s Quarterly

The Sidewalk Labs Deal Is Unconstitutional | Michael Bryant | Toronto Life

VIDEOS

Carpooling and the Economics of Self-Driving Cars | Michael Ostrovsky | Simons Institute

The Ethical Algorithm | Aaron Roth | Harvard Center for Mathematical Sciences and Applications

Discrete Automation | Mollie Claypool | The Conference 2019

PODCASTS

How Can Europe’s Economy Thrive in the Digital Age? | Reinhilde Veugelers et al. | Bruegel

Globalization and Robotics: Will AI Cripple the Global Workforce? | Richard Baldwin | WorldAffairs

Ramon Llull: the Medieval Prophet of Computer Science | Philip Ball | BBC Radio 4

REPORTS, DISSERTATIONS, MISCELLANEOUS

Über Influential?: How the Gig Economy's Lobbyists Undermine Social and Workers' Rights | Rachel Tansey, Kenneth Haar | Corporate Europe Observatory

Value Creation and Capture: Implications for Developing Countries (Digital Economy Report) | Torbjörn Fredriksson et al. | UNCTAD

Beyond Face Value: Public Attitudes to Facial Recognition Technology | Ada Lovelace Institute

UNDER THE RADAR
 
Huawei Eyes ProtonMail as It Searches for Gmail Alternative | Natalia Drozdiak | Bloomberg

Apple Taps Bond Market for First Time Since 2017 | Joe Rennison | Financial Times

China Hacked Asian Telcos to Spy on Uighur Travelers | Jack Stubbs | Reuters

*This edition, Technology, complements our other editions: Best of the Week and Economy (and don't forget about the Archive). For now, we only let you subscribe to Best of the Week but very soon we’ll give you the ability to design your own “syllabus” and receive it by email on a weekly basis. Do share your comments (admin@the-syllabus.com). To subscribe, just go to the-syllabus.com and enter your email address. And it's always a good idea to tell Gmail or your other email service to put us in your primary inbox. ~Evgeny Morozov
Copyright © 2019 The Syllabus, All rights reserved.


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The Syllabus: Economy

The Syllabus: Economy

The Syllabus

Economy

September 3 - 9, 2019*
Do see our other two editions: Technology and Best of the Week

ACADEMIC

Does the Structural Power of Business Matter in State Capitalism?: Evidence from China's Oil Politics under Xi Jinping | Xiaoguang Wang | Pacific Focus

International Trade and the Neoliberal Diet in Central America and the Dominican Republic: Bringing Social Inequality to the Center of Analysis | Marion Werner et al. | Social Science & Medicine

From Gross Domestic Product to Wellbeing: How Alternative Indicators Can Help Connect the New Economy with the Sustainable Development Goals | Lorenzo Fioramonti et al. | The Anthropocene Review

Public Procurement, Innovation and Industrial Policy: Rationales, Roles, Capabilities and Implementation | Elvira Uyarra et al. | Research Policy

The United States' National Debt and the Necessity to Prepare for Its Default | Donald D. A. Schaefer | Campbell Law Review

Rethinking the Regulation of International Foreign Investment: Recent Developments in Brazil, South Africa and India | Akshat Agarwal | Indian Journal of International Economic Law

The Faceless Coin: Achieving a Modern Tax Policy in the Changing Landscape of Cryptocurrency | Aaron Hsieh | University of Illinois Law Review

On the Necessity of Money in an Exchange-Constituted Economy: the Cases of Smith and Marx | Isabella M. Weber | Cambridge Journal of Economics

Cost-Nothing Analysis: Environmental Economics in the Age of Trump | Lisa Heinzerling | Colorado Natural Resources, Energy & Environmental Law Review

Welfare Capabilities: Evaluating Distributional Inequalities and Welfare Policy in Advanced Democracies | Adam Hannah et al. | Journal of European Social Policy

BOOKS

The Green New Deal: Why the Fossil Fuel Civilization Will Collapse by 2028, and the Bold Economic Plan to Save Life on Earth | Jeremy Rifkin | St. Martin’s Press

The Rise and Fall of OPEC in the Twentieth Century | Giuliano Garavini | Oxford University Press

The Birth of Energy: Fossil Fuels, Thermodynamics, and the Politics of Work | Cara New Daggett | Duke University Press Books

JOURNALISM & ESSAYS

How US Banks Took over the World | Liz Hoffman, Telis Demos | Wall Street Journal

Everything Must Go: Selling off—and Selling out—the Public Sector | Whitney C. Wimbish | The Baffler

Cancelling Student Debt Reduces the Racial Wealth Gap | Marshall Steinbaum | Current Affairs

VIDEOS

Fake News, Real Economy: Can Stories Drive Economic Events? | Robert J. Shiller et al. | Resolution Foundation

The US-China Trade Dispute: Where Things Stand | Wendy Cutler | Asia Society

Still Inventing the Wheel: Global Evidence and Experience on Impact Bonds to Date | Emily Gustafsson-Wright et al. | Blavatnik School of Government

PODCASTS

The Mont Pelerin Society and the Origins of Neoliberalism | Ola Innset | Ceteris Never Paribus

Trump, Greenland and the Longer Tale of American Real Estate | Ian Tyrrell et al. | Rear Vision

Multinational Cigarette Corporations and Jim Crow Capitalism | Nan Enstad | Who Make Cents?

REPORTS, DISSERTATIONS, MISCELLANEOUS

Fiscal Reform to Benefit State and Local Governments: the Modern Money Theory Approach | L. Randall Wray | Levy Economics Institute of Bard College

Are Special Economic Zones in Emerging Countries a Catalyst for the Growth of Surrounding Areas? | Susanne Frick, Andrés Rodríguez-Pose | Transnational Corporations

Social Networks and Tax Avoidance: Evidence from a Well-Defined Norwegian Tax Shelter | Annette Alstadsæter et al. | Columbia University

UNDER THE RADAR

Abu Dhabi’s ADNOC Inks $600m Pipeline Deal With Singapore Sovereign Wealth Fund | Ben Mack | Gulf Business

South Korea Proposes Investment Fund with Russia | Yonhap News Agency

* This edition, Economy, complements our other editions: Best of the Week and Technology (and don't forget about the Archive). For now, we only let you subscribe to Best of the Week but very soon we’ll give you the ability to design your own “syllabus” and receive it by email on a weekly basis. Do share your comments (admin@the-syllabus.com). To subscribe, just go to the-syllabus.com and enter your email address. And it's always a good idea to tell Gmail or your other email service to put us in your primary inbox. ~Evgeny Morozov
Copyright © 2019 The Syllabus, All rights reserved.


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September 08, 2019

/tmp/lab

Installer et utiliser Wekan pour les projets collectifs

TLDR: Nous avons installé un Wekan pour l’interhack et fourni le script BASH pour installer Wekan sur Debian sur le git interhack.

On ne présente plus le logiciel Wekan distribué sous license MIT, alternative bien connue à Trello, la référence en terme de Kanban.

Si vous avez sauté la case «Développement Agile», et que «kanban» ça ne vous dit rien, pas de souci : on vous explique.

C’est une méthode de développement on l’on prend des petits papiers qui représentent chacun une tâche. Puis on colle ces papiers dans les colonnes d’un tableau. En fonction des progrès du projet et de l’équipe, les papiers progressent de colonne en colonne, de “Todo” à “En cours” à “À tester” puis “Fini”, libre à vous de choisir le mode de tri et de circulation.

Wekan est une solution efficace pour virtualiser ce genre de tableaux. Développée avec Meteor, un framework Javascript orienté vers les applications temps réel et partagée, c’est assez fluide et rapide pour l’utilisateur et raisonnablement bien pensé en terme d’IHM comme on dit dans les écoles de développeurs sérieux, les autres diront UX.

De bonnes raisons de vouloir héberger son instance; dont acte avec https://wekan.interhack.space, une instance ouverte au public et plus précisément aux hackerspaces. Mais si l’utilisateur peut se réjouir du service, nous allons voir que côté hébergement la vie n’est pas si rose.

Nous avions déjà eu l’occasion d’auto-héberger un Wekan pour le /tmp/lab mais l’instance s’était avérée difficile à maintenir : elle plantait régulièrement et n’était pas mise à jour.

En lançant le projet nous avions donc en tête une meilleure prise en charge du monitoring et des backups, ce qui désormais nous est simplifié grâce à nos instances Proxmox, à Icinga2 et à Borgbackup.

Mais le plus difficile aura finalement été de trouver une solution d’installation qui nous satisfasse sur le plan de la sécurité et de la dette technique. Les options proposées par le projet n’avaient rien pour nous convenir. La pire est Univention dont le code n’est pas libre. Sandstorm est une solution libre (Apache) mais qui impose son environnement pour faire tourner de multiples applications dans un cadre fermé. Snap ne nous convenait pas dans le cadre de nos conteneurs LXC.

En conséquence, nous avons développé notre propre script d’installation pour Wekan qui vous permet d’auto-héberger en HTTP2/HTTPS votre instance Wekan sur Debian et qui se met toute seule à jour. Seule contrainte : utiliser une image Debian 9 Stretch, si vous voulez l’histoire complète c’est ici.

Nous aurions pu développer cette installation sous forme de script ansible mais l’expérience démontre qu’un script BASH est une solution bien plus conviviale pour des utilisateurs de tous niveaux.

Et vous noterez enfin que le code est hébergé sur l’instance git interhack car nous sommes en cours de migration depuis Github.

by alban

n-gate.com. we can't both be right.

webshit weekly

An annotated digest of the top "Hacker" "News" posts for the first week of September, 2019.

Leon Sans, a geometric typeface made with code
September 01, 2019 (comments)
A webshit writes some javascript to draw letters. Hackernews realizes that this has been done before (more completely, in better programming languages), the resulting font isn't particularly nice, and blind people can apparently go fuck themselves where this work is concerned, but the webshit-native nature of the project combined with the quality of inventing typesetting from first principles means that this is a hit.

Hong Kong protestors using Bridgefy's Bluetooth-based mesh network messaging app
September 02, 2019 (comments)
Some insurrectionists route around the IT department. Hackernews, seven thousand miles away in an air conditioned cubicle, critiques the license terms of the software the protestors use. The creators of the software show up in the comments to defend themselves, so Hackernews switches to critiquing the nature of revolution.

In a swipe at Chrome, Firefox now blocks ad trackers by default
September 03, 2019 (comments)
Mozilla convinces a tech rag that it blocks ad trackers, while still shipping Google Analytics directly with Firefox. A gullible person points out some ways to help Mozilla pretend to defend our privacy, and Hackernews immediately requests a method to send money to Mozilla while ensuring none of that money helps women or brown people. Almost half the comments on the article are debating the merits and methods to do exactly that. None of them will work, because they all depend on the idea that Mozilla accepts source code from strangers who do not work for Google. The rest of the comments are Hackernews arguing about whether it's possible (or even desirable) to network two computers without advertising appearing on at least both of them.

Google’s GDPR Workaround
September 04, 2019 (comments)
The web browser division of Bitcoin Idiots, LLC slings mud at the people who write most of the code they ship. This is a wonderful opportunity for Hackernews to go deep on describing the intricacies of their day jobs: tracking the living fuck out of anyone who knows anyone who walked past a computer once. A debate is held on whether laws should be obeyed or ignored upon the discovery that obeying them might require changes to existing software. Hackernews tries to come up with the ideal advertising scenario, and in the process recreates Maggie Nadler's 1972 short story "Latest Feature." Later, Hackernews tries to decide if laws are enough to protect people, or if they're useless without matching javascript implementations.

How to do a code review
September 05, 2019 (comments)
Google describes the process by which they shit out millions of lines of code per year. Hackernews experiences a significant emotional event, as every opinion they've ever had is validated somewhere in the resulting documents. Of special interest is the text cautioning the reader against permitting rampantly complex software, which is presumably how Google has released such elegantly svelte programs such as Chrome (which requires 8GB of RAM and 100GB of disk to compile) and Android (16GB RAM, 400GB disk). A large portion of the documents are technical in nature, so Hackernews doesn't have much to say, but they upvote it because it says "Google" in the title, so the vote:comment ratio is in excess of 4:1.

Everything I googled in a week as a professional software engineer
September 06, 2019 (comments)
A webshit runs out of tips about React to post. In the process, we discover that React is such a terrible pile of shit that even highly-qualified experts cannot reliably learn it. Hackernews responds with one hundred comments trying to remember the order of arguments when creating a symbolic link. Later, other Hackernews speculate on how people might have accessed information before Google was available to bring up the necessary StackOverflow link. How did people even read StackOverflow before Google? Type in a question and hope it autosuggests the right article? Nobody will ever know.

Malicious attack on Wikipedia – what we know and what we’re doing
September 07, 2019 (comments)
Wikipedia scolds ... someone ... for ... doing something ... and promises to fix it. Hackernews comes to the rescue by passing out free links to SQL dumps of a self-described encyclopedia that amounts to a zen garden made of bathroom stall graffiti. Later, Hackernews advise one another on the proper method to handle BGP peering, then they invent the wiki from first principles, only better, because it can't be DDOSed and it's totally free and natively distributed and built with lasers and shit. And a moat.

by http://n-gate.com/hackernews/2019/09/07/0/

September 07, 2019

Evgeny Morozov

The Epstein scandal at MIT shows the moral bankruptcy of techno-elites

The MIT-Epstein debacle shows ‘the prostitution of intellectual activity’. Time for a radical agenda: close the Media Lab, disband Ted Talks and refuse tech billionaires money

As the world wakes up to the power of big tech, we get to hear – belatedly – of all the damage wrought by the digital giants. Most of these debates, alas, don’t veer too far from the policy-oriented realms of economics or law. Now that the big technocracy wants to quash big tech, expect more such wonkery.

What, however, about the ideas that feed big tech? For one, we are no longer in 2009: Mark Zuckerberg’s sophomoric musings on transparency or the global village impress very few.

Related: Private jets, parties and eugenics: Jeffrey Epstein's bizarre world of scientists

Can we still trust what the intellectuals of the 'third culture' actually have to say, given what they have to sell?

Evgeny Morozov is a Guardian US columnist

Continue reading...

by Evgeny Morozov

September 02, 2019

The Syllabus

The Syllabus: Best of the Week

The Syllabus: Best of the Week

The Syllabus

Best of the Week

August 27 - September 2, 2019*
Don't miss our other two editions: Technology and Economy

ACADEMIC

Technological Elites, the Meritocracy, and Postracial Myths in Silicon Valley | Safiya Noble, Sarah T. Roberts | UCLA

The Geopolitics of Metals and Metalloids Used for the Renewable Energy Transition | André Månberger, Bengt Johansson | Energy Strategy Reviews

Beyond De Jure and De Facto Boundaries: Tracing the Imperial Geographies of US Law | Freya Irani | European Journal of International Relations

The Criminalization of Muslims in the United States, 2016 | Sarah B. Kaufman | Qualitative Sociology

Global Britain and the Narrative of Empire | Oliver Turner | The Political Quarterly

History of Science and Its Utopian Reconstructions | Matthew Paskins | Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A

The Historical Presidency: “an Ethnic Presence in the White House?”: Ethnicity, Identity Politics, and the Presidency in the 1970s | Joe Merton | Presidential Studies Quarterly

Global Rhythms: Setting the Stage for World Poetry in 1960s London | Jacob Edmond | University of Toronto Quarterly

Narrating Atrocity: Genocide Memorials, Dark Tourism, and the Politics of Memory | Sarah Kenyon Lischer | Review of International Studies                            

Bringing Machiavelli and Kant Back in on Morality and World Politics | Pavan Kumar | International Studies        

BOOKS

A History of Art History | Christopher Wood | Princeton University Press

Manufacturing Happy Citizens: How the Science and Industry of Happiness Control our Lives | Edgar Cabanas, Eva Illouz | Polity

Buzz: the Nature and Necessity of Bees | Thor Hanson | Basic Books

Fentanyl, Inc.: How Rogue Chemists Are Creating the Deadliest Wave of the Opioid Epidemic | Ben Westhoff | Atlantic Monthly Press

JOURNALISM & ESSAYS

How Germany’s Far-Right Is Gaslighting Architectural History: the Case of Potsdam’s Garrison Church | Philipp Oswalt | Frieze

On the Politics of Italics | Jumoke Verissimo | Literary Hub

Are Human Rights Taking Over the Space Once Occupied by Politics? | John Tasioulas | New Statesman

In Uno, Plures: How New Yorkers Fought Fascism in the 1930s | Mike Wallace | Dissent

VIDEOS

By Any Means Necessary: Racial Justice and Representation in the Arts | La Tanya S. Autry | Portland Art Museum

The EU in the Sahel – from Good Intentions to Europe First? | Morten Bøås | Norwegian Institute of International Affairs

Must the Superpowers Clash? Trade, Trump and the Future of US-China Ties in Asia | Daniel Russel et al. | Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy

How Liberals Normalized Conservative Ideas | Binyamin Appelbaum | New Economic Thinking

PODCASTS

Intellectual Vices and What to Do About Them | Quassim Cassam | Sean Carroll's Mindscape
 
The Practical Origins of Neoliberalism and Financialisation | Samuel Knafo | Political Economy for the End Times
 
Modernism is Bad, Really Bad | James Stevens | US Modernist Radio

REPORTS, DISSERTATIONS, MISCELLANEOUS

Road to Recovery: Addiction in Our Society – the Case for Reform | The Center for Social Justice

Beyond Generation Rent: Understanding the Aspirations of Private Renters Aged 35-54 | Kim McKee et al. | UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence

Zero Disenfranchisement: the Movement to Restore Voting Rights | Common Cause

* Best of the Week is our round-up of the best links across many of the topics on our radar. We also have two specialized editions: Technology and Economy. We are at almost 2000 subscribers now. The thirst for high-quality links is, perhaps, even greater than we imagined. Once we launch - in a few weeks - we'll give you the ability to build your own syllabus from more than 60 topics that we track. Do share your comments (admin@the-syllabus.com). To subscribe, just go to the-syllabus.com and enter your email address. For now, we just let you subscribe to the Best of the Week Edition; you'll have to click on Tech or Economy links in that email to see them. And it's always a good idea to tell Gmail or your other email service to put us in your primary inbox. ~Evgeny Morozov
Copyright © 2019 The Syllabus, All rights reserved.


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You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

The Syllabus: Economy

The Syllabus: Economy

The Syllabus

Economy

August 27 - September 2, 2019*
Do see our other two editions: Technology and Best of the Week

ACADEMIC

Opportunities and Risks of Localised Industrial Policy: the Case of “Maker-Entrepreneurial Ecosystems” in the USA | Greg Schrock, Laura Wolf-Powers | Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society
                           
Beyond Market, Firm, and State: Mapping the Ethics of Global Value Chains | Abraham A. Singer, Hamish van der Ven | Business and Society Review    

Financing Dispossession: Stocks, Bonds, and the Deportation of Native Peoples in the Antebellum United States | Claudio Saunt | Journal of American History                                                

Assessing the Efficacy of Consumer Boycotts of U.S. Target Firms: a Shareholder Wealth Analysis | Kasaundra M. Tomlin | Southern Economic Journal            

The Effects of Foreign Multinationals on Workers and Firms in the United States | Bradley Setzler, Felix Tintelnot | National Bureau of Economic Research        

Korean Tigers in Honduras: Urban Economic Zones as Spatial Ideology in International Policy Transfer Networks | Bridget Martin, Beth Geglia | Political Geography

A Sceptic’s Guide to Justice in International Tax Policy | Laurens van Apeldoorn | Canadian Journal of Law & Jurisprudence        

Ties That Bind and Grind? Investor Reactions to Politician Appointments to Corporate Boards | Omar El Nayal et al. | Journal of Management

Thinking in Rural Gap: Mobility and Social Inequalities | Luis Camarero, Jesús Oliva | Palgrave Communications

BOOKS

The Rise and Fall of OPEC in the Twentieth Century | Giuliano Garavini | Oxford University Press

The Case for People's Quantitative Easing | Frances Coppola | Polity

Money, Power, and the People: the American Struggle to Make Banking Democratic | Christopher W. Shaw | University of Chicago Press

Taking the Floor: Models, Morals, and Management in a Wall Street Trading Room | Daniel Beunza | Princeton University Press

JOURNALISM & ESSAYS

The 'Strange, Unduly Neglected Prophet' (on Silvio Gesell) | Greg Rosalsky | NPR

Buyouts, Not Bailouts: Public Banks As a Solution to the Next Crisis | Thomas Hanna | openDemocracy

The Shaky Case Against Wealth Taxation | Reuven Avi-Yonah | The American Prospect

How Segregated Housing Eroded the Wealth of Black Families | Prottoy A. Akbar et al. | VoxEU

VIDEOS

Financial Markets and Corporate Decisions | Bo Becker et al. | Swedish House of Finance

Capitalism Is Corrupted in the USA | Jonathan Tepper | Real Vision Classics

Neoliberalism, Chicago Boys, and the Americas | Christopher Rossi | Iowa City Foreign Relations Council

PODCASTS

The Long, Strange History of Public Ownership in the U.S. (and Beyond) | Thomas Hanna | Dead Pundits Society

Can a Capitalist Economy Solve the Climate Crisis? | Eamon Ryan, Richard Boyd-Barrett | Inside Politics
 
Heineken in Africa: a Multinational Unleashed | Olivier Van Beemen | By Any Means Necessary

REPORTS, DISSERTATIONS, MISCELLANEOUS

A Theory of Falling Growth and Rising Rents | Philippe Aghion et al. | Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco

Immigration and the Stock Market: How Immigration Policy Affects the Stock Prices of Firms That Employ Low-Skilled Workers | Jesse Bakera, Benjamin M. Blaub | The Center for Growth and Opportunity

Universal Basic Income (UBI) as a Policy Response to Current Challenges | Melissa S. Kearney, Magne Mogstad | The Aspen Institute

UNDER THE RADAR

Brazil Utilities Lean on Bonds to Finance Growth, Reducing State Role | Luciano Costa | Reuters

Saudi Arabia Pulls out the Stops to Draw More Tourists | Hadley Gamble, Emma Graham | CNBC

Norway’s $1tn Oil Fund Looks to Invest in Unlisted Groups | Richard Milne | Financial Times

* This edition, Economy, complements our other editions: Best of the Week and Technology (and don't forget about the Archive). We are at almost 2000 subscribers now. The thirst for high-quality links is, perhaps, even greater than we imagined. Once we launch - in a few weeks - we'll give you the ability to build your own syllabus from more than 60 topics that we track. Do share your comments (admin@the-syllabus.com). To subscribe, just go to the-syllabus.com and enter your email address. For now, we just let you subscribe to the Best of the Week Edition; you'll have to click on Tech or Economy links in that email to see them. And it's always a good idea to tell Gmail or your other email service to put us in your primary inbox. ~Evgeny Morozov
Copyright © 2019 The Syllabus, All rights reserved.


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You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.