December 08, 2018 we can't both be right.

webshit weekly

An annotated digest of the top "Hacker" "News" posts for the first week of December, 2018.

A Programmer's Introduction to Mathematics
December 01, 2018 (comments)
A Google wrote a book trying to teach math to computer programmers. Hackernews skips to the back to check for answers. Not finding any, they attempt to rectify the omission using the only tool they know: Github. One Hackernews declares that mathematics suffers from a 'lack of rigor,' unlike computer programming. I weathered this irony storm long enough to see that the next thread contained Hackernews arguing about the proper way to operate books. Further deponent readeth not.

I quit Instagram and Facebook and it made me happier
December 02, 2018 (comments)
A journalist abandons social media and writes an article about it, which contains a link to the journalist's Twitter account in the byline. Hackernews also deletes their accounts on all their employers' services, then bemoans the preponderance of websites where unpopular opinions are deplatformed. The complaints are made on "Hacker" "News", a web forum that automatically removes unpopular posts. The surviving opinion is that social media sucks because of the users.

Quora User Data Compromised
December 03, 2018 (comments)
Some webshits spill the beans. Hackernews briefly wonders why webshits had the beans to begin with, but immediately pivots to bitching about the tools they use to keep track of the trillions of passwords they just can't help creating.

Announcing Open Source of WPF, Windows Forms, and WinUI
December 04, 2018 (comments)
Microsoft dumps another box of junk at the charity shop. Hackernews immediately wants to know whether these unpopular garbage libraries can be shoehorned into whatever operating system Hackernews is currently using. The real question, says Hackernews, is whether Microsoft will ever open-source any software that people actually care about. The question nobody asks is "who cares?"

Canada has arrested Huawei’s global chief financial officer in Vancouver
December 05, 2018 (comments)
The Canucks toss a suit in the hoosegow. Hackernews would like to know how laws work, and does not let a lack of ability stop them from lecturing endlessly on international law, political conspiracy theories, and the ethical characteristics of nations. One Hackernews claims that someone died of blockchains, which is the closest thing to technology anyone posts.

Goodbye, EdgeHTML
December 06, 2018 (comments)
Mozilla looks forward to coming in second in a two-browser race. This thread is designated as the Monthly Firefox Opinion Repository, with the same eight complaints as all the other threads even tangentially related to Mozilla: My preferred extension was deprecated; I can't live without this obscure feature; it's too slow; I don't like the development tools; it's not made by Apple; it's not made by Google; it's funded by Google; my computer is old. Neither this comment thread nor the original article will influence anyone's opinion, either on "Hacker" "News" or at Microsoft.

Facial recognition: It’s time for action
December 07, 2018 (comments)
Microsoft announces a new lobbying campaign. Hackernews is ecstatic that technocrats are unilaterally declaring policy, as this system is much cheaper and more effective than outmoded and obviously ridiculous alternatives, such as democracy. The rest of the comments are Hackernews eagerly reading political tea leaves or angrily demanding that Microsoft be given authority to conduct capital punishment against anyone who inconveniences them.


December 07, 2018

Data Knightmare (Italian podcast)

DK 3x13 - Facebook Files

Il Parlamento britannico ha pubblicato le 250 pagine di mail sequestrate la scorsa settimana. Sintesi: tutto il male che si pensava di Facebook non era nemmeno abbastanza. E poi una tirata personale contro quelli che "i dati non mentono mai"...

by Walter Vannini

December 06, 2018


K'as-tu Fais De Nous?

Qu’as tu fais de nous?
WTF coucou?
Qu’as tu fais de nous?
WTF coucou?

Acid est la tribe
Cyberpunk le game
Sur des reseaux de bribe
On fait monter le fame
Meme pas besoin de files
Isoles sur l’iles
On fait un tour au grotte
Pour pas que la story capotte

Qu’as tu fais de nous?
WTF coucou?
Qu’as tu fais de nous?
WTF coucou?

Si la police nous ajoute
Nouvelle vie nouveau compte
On tourne le dos au toute
On delete sans honte
Meme pas besoin d’ecrire
Tu peux m’entendre rire
En tour de face a face
Qui brise la glace

Qu’as tu fais de nous?
WTF coucou?
Qu’as tu fais de nous?
WTF coucou?

24 heures pour dechiffre
On dirait une invitation
La story que t’as balance
Cryptokids une seul nation
Celle des rave et du reve
Hilife a plein poumons
Le flux n’as pas de treve
Et en suede il mange du saumon

by Sakrecoer

Bretton Woods Project

World Bank’s vision of work leaves it isolated from the international community

During the World Bank and IMF Annual Meetings in Bali, Indonesia, the Bank published its flagship World Development Report (WDR) 2019, which explored the changing nature of work.

The report triggered widespread indignation due to its support for labour market deregulation and its claim that concerns about automation are “unfounded” (see Observer Summer 2018). Rather than complementing current understandings on the future of work, the report’s recommendations clashed with key actors in the international community.

Indeed, in contrast to a recent IMF working paper warning of the dangers of automation, the WDR claimed that anxieties about the impact of technology on employment and inequality are “on balance unfounded”. Additionally, despite being released on the same month as a landmark report warning that we have 12 years to limit climate change, the WDR failed to mention just transition policies. Moreover, the Bank’s claim that “burdensome regulations also make it more expensive for firms to rearrange their workforce to accommodate changing technologies” contradicted its own WDR 2013, which stated that labour regulations had little or no impact on employment levels.

The critical responses to the WDR from wide-ranging communities, including feminists, international organisations, trade unions and diverse civil society groups alike drew further attention to the Bank’s isolated status for supporting private sector expansion at the expense of workers’ rights.

Feminists at loggerheads with Bank’s verdict

Responding to the WDR’s disregard for existing gender inequalities within the labour market, gender experts Shahra Razavi and Silke Staab highlighted that “no reference is made to the critical role of unpaid care work in building human capabilities.” Indeed, an International Labour Organisation (ILO) report this year confirmed that women perform 76.2 per cent of global unpaid care work and that – in spite of this work making a substantial economic and societal contribution – it remains mostly invisible and unaccounted for in economic decision-making.

Razavi and Staab further stated that the WDR, “remains wedded to a rather narrow neoclassical view of human capital…without considering the bearing and raising of children that creates the basic foundation which education and experience may enhance.” This analysis chimes with Elisabeth Prügl’s critique of the World Bank, which recently laid out the Bank’s role in crafting a version of a neoliberal hegemony with a “feminist face” (see Observer Autumn 2018).

Indeed, in reference to the WDR, international policy advisor for women’s rights at ActionAid International, Wangari Kinoti, stated, “efforts to increase women’s participation in labour while simultaneously weakening labour protections and ignoring the stark realities of the exploitation of women’s paid and unpaid labour represent the dismantling of decent work and international human rights standards. They will deepen and broaden gender inequalities.”

Handing capital more power to erode labour share

Civil society voices joined forces at a Civil Society Policy Forum event during the World Bank and IMF Annual Meetings in Bali to discuss the then-draft report, which they argued supports harmful policies of deregulation. Kate Lappin from France-based Public Services International stated, “If we don’t address the fact that technology is pushing down the value of labour in the economy…we will end up with an environment where capital [has] increased power against labour.”

Responding to its publication, which took place just days after the event, Oxfam stated that the WDR’s central rationale – deregulation – is discredited, and that it casts serious doubts over the Bank’s commitment to inequality reduction (see Observer Spring 2018).

In contrast to the WDR, the World Inequality Report 2018, a World Inequality Lab annual publication on global inequality trends, identified that better paying jobs are key to addressing sluggish income growth of the poorest half of the population, adding that “healthy minimum-wage rates are important tools to achieve this.” The report further stressed that the “global top 1% earners has captured twice as much of that growth as the 50% poorest individuals.” This is a fact of particular concern ten years on from the financial crisis, as David M. Kotz notes that the seeds of systemic crisis stem from growing inequality and a financial sector absorbed in risky activities and a series of large asset bubbles.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), which represents 207 million workers, issued a scathing written response to the WDR. The confederation avowed that the report is in denial of challenges such as the existing global inequality crisis, at times contradicted its own findings, and failed to acknowledge the Sustainable Development Goals, concluding that “together, this excludes the WDR 2019 as a serious contribution to discussions on the future of work.”

ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow stated that, “Support for further deregulation will only reinforce strategies of platform companies to subvert employment relationship rules, increase precarious work, pay poverty wages and undermine workers’ rights.” An ITUC report earlier this year found that workers in the informal economy are particularly vulnerable to abuses, as they are exposed to inadequate and unsafe working conditions and often earn less.

The World Bank against the tide

Adding to these voices, the ILO issued a response questioning the approach to some key issues addressed in the Bank’s report. The reaction specified that they “remain concerned about the WDR’s approach to labour market institutions, regulations, the informal economy and social protection,” adding that, “a world with deregulated labour markets combined with minimal social assistance and social insurance would have high human and economic costs.”

On the WDR’s mention of Universal Basic Income (UBI), the ILO stated that the report does not provide sufficient detail to show how a UBI would guarantee the minimum social coverage. Indeed, earlier this year the ILO issued a report arguing that while some UBI proposals can enhance redistribution and social justice, others could result in the corrosion of social protection and reinforcement of a small-state neoliberal model.

A consultation leaving a bitter taste

The superficial consultation process during the report drafting supported long-standing criticisms that the Bank is unwilling to listen to external voices. The WDR’s publication followed a year-long effort from coalitions and organisations around the world to highlight the inadequacy of its initial findings and recommendations and attempts to re-shape its findings in line with international standards.

Once the draft WDR was published in early 2018, its failings were widely documented by academics, trade unions, networks, and national and international press. A letter was sent from six global unions and over 80 civil society groups, think tanks and academics, asking that the WDR, “be rewritten to instead promote decent work and inequality reduction, and that this be made clear when the report is presented to the Executive Board.” Despite these efforts, the final report remains strikingly similar to the initial drafts, with only a small handful of alterations, such as a U-turn on support for zero-hour contracts. This approach brings into question the extent to which the World Bank has addressed concerns about its knowledge production raised in the 2006 Deaton Report, which accused the Bank of having a self-referential approach to research and learning that, “rises almost to the level of parody” (see Observer Summer 2018).

by Miriam Brett

World Bank’s investment in Seven Energy in Nigeria once again calls Bank’s due diligence into question

Please find fully formatted PDF version here.

paper coverHere’s a question: If you were entrusted with $325 million of public money, would you invest it in a company whose flagship contract involved operating a scheme that was allegedly designed to loot billions of dollars from state oil revenues? Would it make a difference to your decision if these allegations had been made by the state’s head banker, the governor of its central bank?

And here’s another question: If you decided to invest, would you withdraw your investment if 10 per cent of your company’s shares were later listed in a worldwide freezing order as assets that had been obtained through the illegal diversion of oil revenues, for the benefit of the country’s then oil minister and her cronies?

If your answers are “Yes”, “Yes” and “No”, then your prospects of getting a job at the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC, the Bank’s private investment arm) or the World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) are looking good, as an October report by Corner House, Global Witness, HEDA and ReCommon explains.

This is not a hypothetical example: between 2014 and 2016, both the IFC and MIGA made investment calls that chimed exactly with these decisions, investing almost a quarter of a billion dollars in Seven Energy, an oil and gas company operating in Nigeria. According to the IFC, the investments constituted its “largest equity financing in the oil and gas sector in Africa.” On 1 May 2014, the IFC committed $75 million to an equity investment in Seven Energy International Limited (SEIL, or Seven Energy). Registered in Mauritius, Seven Energy operates in Nigeria through subsidiaries, one of which is Septa Energy Nigeria Limited (Septa). Clock the name – it will feature prominently in what follows – and also note that the IFC was fully aware of the existence of Septa at the time of its investment; indeed, the project’s summary specifically stated that, “within Nigeria, [Seven Energy] operates and trades as ‘Septa Energy’.” Septa has since been renamed Seven Exploration and Production Limited.

A further investment of $30 million was made in Seven Energy at the same time through the IFC African, Latin American and Caribbean Fund, which is managed by the IFC’s Asset Management Company. A few months later, in October 2014, the IFC provided yet more funds through an anchor investment, designed to shore up investor confidence, of up to $50 million in Seven Energy’s inaugural bond issue. In September 2015 MIGA provided a $200 million guarantee for an investment in Accugas Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Seven Energy.

The Governor speaks out

In September 2013, seven months before the IFC made its first investment in Seven Energy, Lamido Sanusi, the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, reported in a letter to Nigeria’s president that some $20 billion of dollars in oil revenue had been diverted from the government’s central bank account “in gross violation of the law”. Twenty billion dollars is over ten times Nigeria’s 2014 annual health budget.

Sanusi detailed several mechanisms that he held potentially responsible for this wholesale looting of the public purse. Among them were oil contracts known as Strategic Alliance Agreements (SAAs), under which the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation assigned its financing and operating role in a number of oil fields to private sector companies.

Sanusi named two companies, both founded by oil traders Kola Aluko and Jide Omokore, that had benefitted from SAA deals. One was Atlantic Energy, the other – and, at this point, those at the IFC doing due diligence on Seven Energy should have pricked up their ears – was Seven’s wholly-owned Nigerian subsidiary, Septa, which had been granted an SAA covering three oil fields in November 2010.

Sanusi argued that the use of SAAs was “illegal and unconstitutional”. He also questioned why Seven and Atlantic had been selected as SAA contractors, when, in his view, neither company had experience in crude oil production and both lacked the financial resources to bring any capital of their own to the table. The allegations are denied by Seven and Atlantic.

Arresting developments

Sanusi also detailed his concerns in a testimony to the Nigerian Senate in February 2013. Shortly after, he was dismissed from his post. But the issues that he raised have not gone away.

Fast forward to November 2018 and many of the individuals involved in the controversy over the missing oil revenues are now feeling the judicial heat:

  • Diezani Alison-Madueke, the former oil minister who approved the SAA deals, is currently on bail in the UK after being arrested on suspicion of bribery and corruption. She denies the charges.
  • Kola Aluko, the former oil trader who was Seven’s Deputy CEO at the time that its SAA contract was negotiated, is also under investigation in the UK and has been charged with money laundering in Nigeria. He denies any impropriety.
  • Jide Omokore, a close associate of Aluko, has been charged with money laundering in relation to Atlantic’s SAA contract. He also denies the charges.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government of Nigeria has obtained a freezing order which lists 10 per cent of Seven Energy’s shares as assets to be frozen. The shares are said to have been obtained with the illegally diverted proceeds of crude oil lifted under Atlantic’s SAA contract and invested in Aluko’s name.

In the US, the Department of Justice has also moved to seize $144 million in assets said to have been bought with monies looted from the Nigerian government by Aluko, Omokore and Alison-Madueke.

A fine mess?

Our report makes no allegations against Seven Energy and readily records that the company has consistently denied wrongdoing.[i] Its concern is solely with the World Bank Group’s decision to invest in Seven Energy and the adequacy of the IFC’s and MIGA’s due diligence procedures.

The allegations made by Sanusi raised not just one red flag but several. The question is: how did the Bank deal with them?

If you were working at the IFC and tasked with undertaking due diligence on the IFC’s investment in Seven, how would you have assessed the risks? You might take the view that natural justice precludes you from taking any of the listed prosecutions and criminal investigations into account: after all, no-one has yet been convicted of anything and Seven itself has not been charged with any offense. But this would be to misunderstand the purpose of due diligence. No-one is asking you to act as judge and jury: it is for the courts to decide whether or not any criminality has occurred. But due diligence does require an assessment of the risks that related prosecutions and investigations pose to an investment and to the institutions that make the investment.

In this case, one hopes that the IFC and MIGA were following the developments closely. Because, as things currently stand, the IFC is a major shareholder in (and MIGA a guarantor of) a company that is claimed by the Nigerian government in court pleadings to be partly owned by two suspected criminals who are alleged to have used Seven Energy as a vehicle for laundering stolen oil funds.

We do not know how the IFC assessed the financial and reputational risks of its investment in Seven Energy. Despite its professed commitment to transparency, which it describes as “fundamental to fulfilling its development mandate and strengthening public trust”, the IFC does not release its due diligence reports. But we do know that the IFC’s rules require it to assess “integrity risk issues” (related to “the institutions and persons” involved in a given investment) and that these risks are supposed to be monitored “throughout the life of the project or engagement”.

We also know what information was available to anyone with access to the internet at the time that the IFC made its investment in Seven Energy and MIGA issued its guarantee, as the timeline in our report clearly demonstrates. So we are in a good position to make our own assessment of the reputational and financial risks and to judge, on the basis of common sense, whether or not the Bank’s investments were reasonable and justifiable.

And because the IFC’s rules require it to take account of money laundering risks, we are also in a position to take a view on whether or not the Bank has adequate anti-money laundering controls and procedures in place. A benchmark (albeit a low-bar benchmark) might be that set by UK law, namely, the requirement to have controls and procedures that are sufficiently robust to prevent money-laundering. To ensure prevention, the trigger for action on the part of a bank or other financial institution is not proof of criminality but “reasonable grounds for knowing or suspecting” that a person is engaged in money laundering. This would seem to be an appropriate test for whether or not the IFC should have blocked or withdrawn from the investment.

We put a series of questions to the IFC:

  • When did the IFC first learn of the allegations made by Governor Sanusi?
  • Did the IFC commission its own legal review of the SAA’s constitutionality?
  • Did the IFC’s due diligence include an assessment of Aluko’s role as co-CEO of Septa Energy in negotiating the SAAs?
  • Did the IFC seek and obtain credible assurances that no Nigerian public official had a beneficial interest in Seven Energy?
  • When did IFC become aware of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s claim that Aluko currently owns 10 per cent of Seven Energy?
  • What steps did it take – and when – to satisfy itself that Aluko had not used Seven Energy as a money laundering vehicle for illegally-obtained funds?

The IFC did not respond to these specific questions. Instead, it told us that “prior to investing in Seven Energy, IFC conducted comprehensive due diligence as is standard for our investments.” This is hardly reassuring. Under the Bank’s own internal rules, due diligence is not supposed to be a “one off” event: It must be conducted throughout the lifetime of an investment, not just prior to investing.

Far from avoiding unwarranted risk, the IFC’s “comprehensive due diligence” has led to a situation where the Bank is a major shareholder in a company that is alleged to be partly owned by two suspected criminals who are said to have laundered stolen oil funds through the company.

Quite where that places the World Bank is one for the lawyers. But, should the prosecutions of Alison-Madueke, Aluko and Omokore succeed, it is surely not unreasonable to conclude that the IFC might find itself accused of having profited from money laundering and, thus, of unlawful enrichment. Watch this space.

This briefing is based on a longer report: Nicholas Hildyard, The World Bank, Red Flags and the Looting of Nigeria’s Oil Revenues. The IFC’s investment in Seven Energy: What would have been your call? Corner House Research, United Kingdom, October 2018.


Nicholas Hildyard works with The Corner House. He is author of Corrupt but Legal: Institutionalised Corruption and Development Finance (Counterbalance) and Licensed Larceny: Infrastructure, Financial Extraction and the Global South (Manchester University Press).

by Luiz Vieira

World Bank and IMF Annual Meetings marred by clampdown on People’s Global Conference

Through decades of collective action, civil society has made headway in making governments, donor agencies, and multilateral platforms commit to conceding some space for civil society organisations (CSOs) to articulate the perspectives and demands of their constituencies in policy dialogues. United Nations agencies, global and regional forums, international financial institutions and multilateral development banks have introduced various ‘CSO engagement mechanisms’ to prove their transparency, accountability, and effectiveness.

Such gestures, however, have been overshadowed by the increased stifling of movements and organisations, as recently demonstrated by the clampdown on dissent during the 2018 Annual Meetings of the IMF and World Bank, which took place in Bali, Indonesia, in October. While the red carpet was rolled out for high-ranking state officials and big business interests in Nusa Dua, social movements and CSOs were subjected to blatant violations of their rights to free expression and assembly by the government of Indonesia for attempting to participate in independently organised side events.

Konfrontasi in Bali

Outside the Bank and Fund spaces, government-sponsored repression descended on the Peoples’ Global Conference against IMF-World Bank (PGC), an independent initiative of 34 Indonesian and international social movements and non-governmental organisations. The PGC represented grassroots communities and sectors that have been excluded from the development process in their respective countries and have suffered from rights violations associated with the policies and programmes of the IMF and World Bank (see Observer Autumn 2017, Autumn 2018).

A week before the PGC was scheduled to begin, the Bali Intelligence Police denied the local organisers a permit for the conference scheduled at the Radio Republik Indonesia. The organisers were told by hotel establishments that the police had instructed them to refuse services to the PGC. Anonymous numbers blasted a series of text messages maligning the PGC as “anti-development” and threatening the lives and security of coordinators. Hoax event posters were seen around Bali, linking the PGC to outlawed radical Islamic organisations, such as Hizb ut-Tahrir, seemingly to justify the escalation of violence against the conference and its organisers.

Meanwhile, the national police insisted on a new set of ludicrous requirements, such as copies of passports and the itineraries of PGC’s international delegates, as well as details of the conference’s programme. This harassment soon morphed into physical violence against organising members of the PGC. In the early morning of October 11, a local militia attacked the Bali Legal Aid office in Denpasar and chased away PGC youth volunteers staying there. Intelligence personnel were also seen around the hotels where PGC delegates were staying, taking their pictures and videos without consent.

A win for resilient peoples’ movements

While the Indonesian government succeeded in disrupting the event, the PGC earned the recognition as the people’s alternative forum to the official IMF-WBG meetings. With good flexibility, creativity, quick wit, and firm political resolve, the PGC broke the imposed silence in Bali.

Civil society groups at the Bali International Convention Center (BICC) – the official Annual Meetings venue – held a lightning rally to denounce Indonesia for attacking the PGC and shutting down public activities. The rally exposed the pretence of hospitality, openness, tolerance, and good governance peddled by the Indonesian Government with complicity of the IMF and World Bank.

Seemingly to avoid embarrassment, Bank and IMF staff and the Indonesian police swiftly herded the protesters into a holding room and offered to host the PGC, all expenses paid. Meanwhile, outside the negotiation room, security personnel armed with guns peeping out of their Batik shirts harassed the demonstrators and denied entry to six West Papuans seeking to register at the official Civil Society Policy Forum. Despite these apparent attempts to co-opt the event’s independence, the PGC organisers stood firm and continued.

Upon regrouping, PGC organisers and participants jointly decided to proceed with the activities, albeit scaled down and decentralised to avoid further police sabotage. At least 250 individuals attended discussions, workshops, and solidarity actions held in different venues around Bali. PGC statements and mass actions were extensively covered by both local and international media. Civil society, peoples’ movements, and individuals across the globe expressed their support for the PGC. Towards the end of the week, the PGC issued a declaration calling on organisations to build a strong peoples’ front to contest international financial institutions in every arena of struggle.

Another low for global governance diplomacy

Infringement of civil liberties and freedoms by a host country during an international meeting is not unprecedented. Complete bans on protests were imposed during the IMF and World Bank Annual Meetings in Dubai in 2003, as well as the 2006 Annual Meetings in Singapore. Last year, the Argentine government revoked the accreditation of 63 civil society members a few days prior to the 11th World Trade Organisation Ministerial meetings in Buenos Aires. The extreme actions undertaken by the Indonesian government bring global governance diplomacy to another low and reinforces a worrying precedent for all future international meetings.

This year marks the 20th Anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights defenders. Ironically, harassment, criminalisation, enforced disappearances, and at times, killings of frontline defenders are on the rise. Multilateral institutions and organisations ostensibly acknowledge the importance of civic participation and social accountability in development and have promised to advance civil society inclusion and empowerment. By failing to prevent reprisals against defenders, the IMF and particularly the World Bank in relation to its projects, have not only failed to uphold their human rights obligations, but also significantly contributed in fostering a climate of intimidation that dissuades civil society organisations from exercising their role as development actors (see Observer Spring 2016, Winter 2018).

The 2021 Annual Meetings of the IMF and World Bank will be in Marrakech, Morocco. In light of the current global democratic deficit, global civil society should press the IMF and World Bank and the future host country to honour their legal commitments to respect peoples’ rights to organise and mobilise, including through independent conferences and protest actions, and concretely demonstrate ways to allow the exercise of such rights without fear of reprisals. We call on peoples’ movements everywhere to forge solidarities, push back attacks on fundamental human rights and carve their own democratic spaces of engagement and resistance in the face of adversity and repression.

by Ivan Phell Enrile, Asia Pacific Research Network (APRN) and the People Over Profit campaign. Enrile, representing APRN, was part of the international coordinating committee of the Peoples’ Global Conference against IMF-World Bank and is speaking from his direct experiences.

by Emma Burgisser

Bretton Woods Institutions’ instrumental gender approach ignores structural elephant in the room

The approach the IMF and a number of member states have recently taken to address gender inequality appears to be mostly instrumental, rather than anchored in a human rights-based approach that frames the achievement of gender equality as a goal in and of itself. The report I submitted a few weeks ago to the United Nations General Assembly, building on decades of feminist work and analysis, documents the shortcomings of this approach and how austerity, still often prescribed by the IMF, continues to hit women hardest.

The instrumental approach is in serious conflict with the intrinsic importance of gender equality as a key component of human rights standards, particularly in light of the economic policies proposed and promoted by international financial institutions (IFIs) in recent years. While some research shows that securing certain human rights is good for growth and for the distribution of its benefits, there is no conclusive evidence to show that gender equality is always good for growth. In fact, other evidence shows that gender inequality can be conducive to some forms of economic growth.

Cambodia, for example, has seen impressive economic growth over the last two decades, attributed to garment and footwear exports, which account for a massive 80 per cent of its export earnings. While the labour force for this industry is composed almost entirely of women, the gender wage gap in the country more than doubled between 2004 and 2009, raising the question of whether Cambodia’s competitive advantage is reliant at least in part on the very structures that maintain and exacerbate gender discrimination and inequality.

While instrumental justifications could in theory complement human rights-based arguments if governments actually ensure that the fruits of growth are fairly distributed, global trends suggest that this is not happening and that we are moving towards ever increasing inequality.

The Structural Adjustment Programmes of the IMF and the World Bank of the 1980s and 1990s were criticised for imposing harsh austerity measures that significantly and disproportionately impacted the poor and exacerbated inequality, including gender inequality. Yet, this is not just a critique of the past, because even in 2018, the IMF and World Bank continue to prescribe policies that undermine gender equality and the fulfilment of women’s human rights (see Observer Summer 2017, Spring 2018). Some of these include targeting food subsidies, privatising public utilities, downsizing social safety nets, and lowering public wages and the number of public jobs, along with labour deregulation, reductions in pensions, public service cuts and regressive tax regimes through the introduction of, or increases in, VAT, while reducing corporate tax rates (see BWP briefing, The IMF and Gender Equality and VAT).

The effectiveness of the IFIs’ approach to gender equality also raises important questions that are relevant to ongoing policy debates, such as the reduction of coverage of social protection benefits, contracting fiscal space for social services and investments in mega-infrastructure projects over those that are sustainable and gender-responsive. The IMF’s failure to address structural barriers to women’s enjoyment of economic and social rights, like violence against women and girls, and its continued silence about the impacts of illicit financial flows, regressive tax regimes and privatisation of public services that affect women’s human rights also reflect the IMF’s blind spots when it comes to gender just policy interventions.

Meanwhile, the IMF’s ‘gender work’ remains largely centred on the positive growth effects of closing gender gaps in labour force participation. While it might be the case that a specific policy that encourages women to enter into the paid labour force is good for growth, if entry is not on equal terms with men and no attention is paid to internationally agreed standards of ‘decent work’, it could lead to the reinforcement of gender inequality by building an economy around embedded structural inequalities in labour markets.

Similarly, while the 2016-2023 Gender Strategy of the World Bank takes into account some barriers to women’s economic participation, some argue that a more comprehensive understanding of women’s economic empowerment in work-related areas would be needed to achieve substantive equality, and that the Bank continues to push for the same macroeconomic policies as the IMF. The 2019 World Development Report on the changing nature of work constitutes the latest example of the Bank’s pro-business, growth-led agenda that undermines labour rights and gender equality, about which I wrote a letter to the Bank in August (see Observer Winter 2018).

It seems these institutions are neglecting both the ways in which the bulk of their macroeconomic policy prescriptions continue to undermine women’s rights and gender equality, and the macroeconomic and institutional enabling conditions required to foster gender equality. At the very least, IFIs should assess and address the harms caused to women’s rights by their own policy advice, enhance the voices of those impacted most, and support governments in progressively creating the fiscal space needed to deliver on their human rights obligations.

Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, United Nations Independent Expert on Foreign Debt and Human Rights

by Emma Burgisser

Civil society apprehensive as World Bank launches new Environmental and Social Framework

After years of preparation, the new World Bank safeguards for project lending – the Environmental and Social Framework (ESF) – came into force on 1 October, amidst lingering concerns that they will dilute the Bank’s environmental and social standards at a time when it is pivoting towards more risky project lending.

The rollout of the new ESF occured after the Bank’s shareholders agreed a general capital increase (GCI) in April for the International Bank of Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) – the Bank’s middle income lending arm – and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) – the Bank’s private sector investment arm (see Dispatch Spring 2018). The GCI will increase the Bank’s lending volume. The Bank will undertake more relatively risky lending in fragile and conflict-affected states (CAS) and lower-middle income countries, and will continue efforts to ‘de-risk’ and mobilise private sector investment (see Observer Summer 2017).

Despite a long period of consultation between 2012 and 2016 (see Observer Autumn 2016), and an extended process of creating ESF guidance notes for borrowers (see Observer Summer 2018), many civil society organisations (CSOs) remain unconvinced that the reform of the Bank’s safeguards has been for the better.

A race to the bottom? Vague clauses leave ESF open to interpretation

The World Bank’s new ESF includes ten new core ‘standards‘ with guidance notes for borrowers and ‘best practice’ notes for staff developed over the past two years to guide the ESF’s implementation. It will apply only to the Bank’s new project lending, not to existing project loans or to the Bank’s development policy lending.

The new framework includes a ‘use of country system’ provision, which stipulates that safeguards of borrowers may be used for Bank-funded projects if they are ‘materially consistent’ with the new ESF. Given the difficulty of assessing country systems – and the complexity of monitoring implementation of safeguards in such systems – CSOs are concerned that the widespread use of borrower systems could lead to a considerable dilution of safeguards in Bank-financed projects.

The outcome of the GCI negotiations presents further challenges to the ESF’s implementation, with the Bank set to take on more high-risk projects, as well as more projects in fragile political contexts. As independent researcher – and long-time CSO observer – Korinna Horta noted in an article for German-based website Development + Cooperation following the ESF’s launch, this will take place alongside an important shift in the Bank’s pre-project risk assessments: “A much used ESF term is ‘risk-based management’. It means that risks are only addressed as they emerge in the course of a project. …In the past, environmental impact assessments (EIAs) had to be [done beforehand and] made available to the public before the Bank’s Board could approve them.”

Horta added that, “civil-society organisations…are increasingly being threatened in many places. Indeed, activists run great personal risks when they campaign to protect vulnerable minorities and the environment from the detrimental impacts of large infrastructure projects,” funded by the Bank and other international financial institutions (see Observer Winter 2018).

Indeed, at a Civil Society Policy Forum event on the ESF during the World Bank and IMF Annual Meetings in Bali in October, Indonesian CSOs complained that under existing Bank safeguards, military police were often present in consultations about World Bank-financed projects, raising fears of reprisals for those who spoke out against proposed projects. Later in October, a proposed World Bank geothermal project in Indonesia attracted widespread opposition, with Indonesian CSOs claiming that the environmental and social assessment of the project was inadequate.

Given the challenges confronting the new ESF, CSOs remain unconvinced that it is fit for purpose if the Bank is to deliver on its mandate to implement policies that benefit the poorest.

by Jon Sward

The IMF in Argentina: Can an old dog learn new tricks?

In September, the IMF increased Argentina’s original $50 billion loan agreed in June, bringing the total programme to an unprecedented $57.1 billion over three years. The programme was agreed in the face of Argentina’s financial crisis, the underlying cause of which was a rapid build-up of public and external debt, accelerated by abrupt financial deregulation by the Macri government (see Observer Summer 2018).    

IMF policy prescriptions: treatment worse than the disease?

Through its programme, the IMF, which former Argentinian Central Bank Governor Alejandro Vanoli described in November as having “total control of economic policy”, prescribes a familiar policy mix with the aim of eliminating the primary fiscal deficit by 2019. To achieve this, the agreed IMF loan programme includes “an increase in [grain] export taxes, scaling back energy subsidies, containment of capital spending [that] will be compensated for by Private Public Partnership projects, limiting [tax] exemptions for cooperatives and mutual organizations, a reduction of discretionary transfers to provinces,” and, “a freeze in the new hiring of public employees”.

Eerily similar to the tried and failed Greek and 2001 Argentina programmes, but now with a much larger amount of money at stake, the new programme once again reflects the flawed economic theory that claims there is no alternative to austerity as a response to economic recession, and promises to restore market confidence in Argentina (see Observer Autumn 2018, Update 79). In fact, prescribing concurrent fiscal and monetary contraction for a consumption-based economy in recession with relatively high unemployment is more likely to be procyclical and further “deepen and extend Argentina’s recession”, according to business magazine Forbes’ Frances Coppola. Perhaps reflecting a lack of confidence in the IMF’s ability to avoid this happening, the peso lost 20 per cent of its value in the two-day period in August after Macri announced he was seeking to renegotiate the IMF loan. In response, Professor Daniela Gabor of University of West England Bristol commented on Twitter, “that ‘#IMF feeling’ when your star pupil does everything you ask and is doing worse than Turkey.”

Argentina’s past experience proves this approach has not worked – and is likely to make things worse in the short-term. Independent estimates suggest that it will “require at least $40 billion in the next 14 months” alone to keep Argentina solvent, with another $48 billion projected to be needed in 2019, and that is still considered optimistic by some. In its own first review of the loan programme in October, the IMF assessed Argentina’s debt as sustainable, “but not with a high probability”, seemingly acknowledging the likelihood of its baseline assumptions not holding true and Argentina once again becoming insolvent. This begs the question of why the IMF is not following its own 2017 advice on the necessity of underpinning debt sustainability assessments with “realistic – rather than heroic – assumptions”, where, “it is not feasible for the problem to be solved through further belt tightening,” and instead turning to sustainable debt restructuring, as long suggested by civil society organisations such as Belgium-based Eurodad.

Burdens of IMF loan conditionality

Without requiring upfront restructuring of Argentina’s current debt stock to private creditors, the programme will continue to “put the burden of adjustments entirely on the shoulders of Argentina’s population,” according to an October Eurodad blog, in particular on the poorest and most vulnerable. With the programme taking place in a context of a cost of living increase of 54 per cent during the past two years, mass public layoffs, a decline of 12 per cent in average salaries, quadrupling of gas tariffs and a six-fold increase in electricity rates, it should come as no surprise that only three months after its introduction, regional ministers declared a state of food emergency, while poverty was reported to be spreading “like wildfire” by October.

Responding to concerns raised in Argentina, in an October interview, the IMF’s Managing Director Christine Lagarde highlighted the programme’s social protection minimum spending floor as a safeguard for the most poor and vulnerable, and expressed hopes of enforcing a new “safety valve” in allowing increases in social spending, “if the situation improves”. Having calculated that the social spending floor in the current programme amounted to $6 for each of Argentina’s 13 million poor for the last six months of 2018, Argentinian civil society groups described these safeguards as “a mockery”. This reflects a wider civil society critique on the inadequacies of the Fund’s approach to social protection floors, which can exclude large numbers of poor people, as recently brought to the fore as the Fund designs its new ‘strategic framework on social spending’ (see Observer Summer 2018, Spring 2018).

As a predictable result of these policy choices, the country has been paralysed by mass general strikes and historic mobilisations under the banner, “no to the IMF, no to adjustment”. Despite the supposed urgent need for more belt-tightening, according to national newspaper the Buenos Aires Times, ahead of December’s G20 Summit, Argentina nonetheless found the resources to invest, “100 million pesos in the purchase of…180 shotguns, 15 million rubber bullets, 2,000 tear gas projectiles and police vests,” for the occasion (see Observer Winter 2018).

Thus, the IMF is choosing to continue to apply its old broken model in Argentina, insisting on a familiar adjustment programme, while many economists, civil society groups, trade unions and the United Nations continue to offer alternative solutions. One such example is the establishment of an international debt workout mechanism, another is the use of human rights impact assessments (as the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural rights recommended to Argentina in October) to guide macroeconomic reform programmes. The question is whether the IMF is capable of changing course.

by Emma Burgisser

IMF surveillance

The IMF was established in 1944 following the Great Depression of the 1930s and World War II, with the initial aim of seeking exchange rate stability within the international monetary system. The 1970s and 1980s witnessed an expansion of the IMF’s remit, to respond to countries’ balance of payments difficulties, most notably with the introduction of structural adjustment programmes. In 2012, the IMF’s mandate was broadened to include all macroeconomic and financial sector issues that it deemed to have a bearing on global stability (see Update 82). There are several mechanisms it relies on in order to deliver on its mandate, one of which is surveillance, established in Article IV of the Fund’s Articles of Agreement. The IMF conducts surveillance at the bilateral (member state) and multilateral (regional and global) levels.

At the member state level (there are 189 member states of the IMF), surveillance is designed to enable the IMF to continuously monitor a country’s fiscal policies and overall economic conditions and to identify perceived risks, which it classifies as posing present or future threats to global economic stability. Having identified such risks, surveillance recommendations include suggested policy adjustments to mitigate against perceived triggers and root causes of economic instability. This forms the basis for the Article IV consultations, which are described in more detail below. While the recommendations made by the Fund through Article IV consultation reports are not binding, bilateral surveillance is mandatory for both the IMF and all members, who have an obligation to consult with the Fund for this purpose. Additionally, in 2010, the IMF made it mandatory for 29 member countries, which it deemed to have systematically important financial sectors, to undergo financial stability assessments, known as the Financial Sector Assessment Program (FSAP), every five years.

Regional surveillance examines both economic developments within regions and the policies of currency unions. Every year, IMF staff hold separate consultations with the regional institutions responsible for common policies in four currency unions – the Euro Area, the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union, the Central African Economic and Monetary Union and the West African Economic and Monetary Union – including engagement with the IMF’s Executive Board. IMF staff also prepare separate Regional Economic Outlook reports, detailing recent economic developments as well as perceived opportunities and challenges for policymakers in countries in various regions.

The IMF conducts multilateral surveillance through periodic flagship reports in consultation with its Board. In its 2011 surveillance review, the IMF stated that “developing top-down approaches of globally (or area-wide) relevant aggregates and policies, and ensuring that they translate into bilateral surveillance, is essential to ensure multilateral consistency and relevance of policy recommendations.” The biannual World Economic Outlook examines trends within the global economy and undertakes growth projections, while the Global Financial Stability Report focuses on the stability of the international financial system and markets, highlighting perceived vulnerabilities that pose potential risks. The Fiscal Monitor, meanwhile, makes medium-term fiscal projections and examines global public finance developments. Additionally, the IMF analyses the external positions of 29 of the world’s largest economies plus the Euro Area in the External Sector Reports. Every year, the findings from all the multilateral reports are collated into the Global Policy Agenda, which proposes responses to perceived challenges for the IMF and its member states.

How do the IMF’s Article IVs work?

Article IV activities begin with regular visits to the Fund’s member states. Although IMF staff monitor members’ economic outlooks continuously, these staff visits provide a more focused state-level examination and normally take place annually.

During visits, IMF staff typically meet with the member state government and central bank officials to discuss the states’ monetary, fiscal and regulatory policies, and perceptions of growth and exchange rate stability. IMF staff are recommended by IMF guidance to request meetings with parliamentarians and representatives of business, labour unions and civil society. Based on these meetings, staff complete country evaluations for wide-ranging policy recommendations for reforms, referred to as Article IV consultations. These staff reports are then shared with the member state governments for consultation.

In finalising the Article IV consultation, completed evaluations are followed by the presentation of the report to the IMF’s Executive Board. The Board then discuss the report and its views are summarised and presented in the final Article IV report in the Executive Board Assessment section alongside the staff report.

The publication of IMF surveillance has undergone changes following the introduction of its transparency policy in 2013, which states that publication of Article IVs are “voluntary but presumed” and a member state’s consent to publish is typically obtained on a “non-objection” basis. It has become standard practice for most member states to allow the IMF to release the final Article IV report and the views of the Board on its website. However, the publication of summaries remains at the discretion of individual member states. Indeed, a 2017 paper by the IMF revealed that seven countries evaluated in 2016 had not given the IMF permission to publish their reports. 

Why does IMF surveillance matter?

IMF surveillance reports are non-binding and member states do not have to act on the recommendations. Nevertheless, the IMF’s position at the apex of the international financial architecture and as a key determinant of both ‘sound’ economic policies and creditworthiness means that failure to follow advice can place countries in a precarious position in terms of access to IMF lending programmes, financial markets, investment outlook, and negatively impact their relationship with other international institutions. In such cases, as Domenico Lombardi and Ngaire Woods suggest, a state intending to borrow from the IMF may feel that the Fund has “bargaining power” to potentially enforce rules and policies through surveillance before approving any lending programmes. Even in cases where the IMF’s immediate lending leverage does not come into play, low-income countries (LICs) and emerging markets (EMs) may be motivated to implement the IMF’s advice to maintain perceptions of creditworthiness and build a good relationship. The IMF surveillance can therefore be significant in shaping countries’ macroeconomic policies, from tax structures and debt to the scale and scope of public sector provision of essential services.

The Fund has emphasised that “the ability to influence policy making” is “the cornerstone of effective surveillance”, and has highlighted the importance of increasing the influence of its surveillance over national policies to gain “traction”. More recently, it has indicated that effective surveillance must generate more “multilateral traction” to influence policymakers across multiple states.  In its 2014 surveillance review, the IMF found that its multilateral surveillance flagship reports were “highly valued” in surveys and interviews with country authorities and market observers. These surveys indicated that a large share of LICs and emerging markets see the IMF as their external advisor on macro-policy decision, with “no other institution coming close to  that position.” The review noted that the member country authorities interviewed had indicated that the greatest value-added of surveillance came from the Fund’s work on fiscal developments and policy, and that they were looking to the IMF for more “concrete and actionable” advice.

However, a study from November 2008 showed that in advanced economies, the influence of the IMF – particularly its surveillance activities – is limited by its perceived inability to integrate spillovers into its analysis and to adapt its advice so that assessments are thorough and relevant to individual countries. The IMF itself has even stated that advanced economies do not always find Article IV consultations practical, as they tend to have substantial “economic debate and scrutiny” of domestic policies. In its 2014 review, Fund indicated the priority for surveillance for advanced economies is labour market and fiscal reforms in order to “boost growth and restore sustainability”, while “public expenditure management and financial deepening” are priorities for LICs. A 2012 Guidance Note stipulates that the scope of surveillance in Article IV consultations in LICs is generally broader than is the case for other countries and can include areas like management of aid flows, natural resources, the promotion of financial deepening, and “macro-critical social issues” (such as poverty reduction and employment).

Labour unions, academics, UN bodies, activists and civil society organisations have long argued that the types of macroeconomic policies the IMF promotes through its surveillance – as well as lending – undermine the capacity of states to fulfil their human rights obligations, exacerbate inequalities within and between countries, and disproportionately hurt the poor and marginalised (see Observer Autumn 2018). More broadly, the IMF has faced accusations of promoting western capitalist interests through neoliberal economic orthodoxy in low-income countries and “co-opting elites” in these countries to support its surveillance recommendations. It has also received criticism for promoting an economic model based on accelerating financialisation, whereby markets are the primary means to organise the economy and society (see Observer Summer 2018).

Surveillance reviews

The IMF carries out a comprehensive review of its surveillance activities to identify areas for potential improvements, with the next review expected in 2020. In the last comprehensive review in 2014, the IMF highlighted a need to focus on improving responses to emerging challenges following the 2008 global financial crisis. It found that surveillance around financial and macroeconomic analysis was fragmented, and further efforts were needed to integrate bilateral and multilateral surveillance. In light of the review, the IMF made commitments to integrate analysis of risks and spillovers, continue accounting for growth and sustainability implications in advice, and achieve greater impact by strengthening policy dialogue.

The IMF has also increasingly incorporating what it deems to be “structural issues”, such as social protection, income and gender inequality. Using a piloting approach, the Fund has included analysis and recommendations on these issues in several Article IV reports since 2014. A 2017 civil society report found that in 2016, policy advice on gender issues was included in one out of five surveillance reports, while it had seldom received a mention in policy advice before 2015. In 2018, the IMF synthesised the lessons learned from its gender and income inequality surveillance pilots in three ‘how-to notes for IMF staff.

In response to this year’s interim surveillance review, the IMF Board emphasised that the piloting initiative had better integrated structural issues into macroeconomic analysis and highlighted that the IMF should extend coverage of macrofinancial surveillance and increase focus on debt vulnerability. The Board highlighted that the forthcoming comprehensive review should evaluate the traction of Fund surveillance in terms of proposed “take up” by member states and the importance of engaging with members and other stakeholders. The 2014 review stipulated that surveillance reviews will henceforth take place every 5 instead of 3 years, which means that the next review was due in 2019. However, the IMF’s 2019 work plan indicates that the next review is delayed by one year and now scheduled for 2020.

by Ella Hopkins

Doing Business 2019: World Bank’s tunnel vision obscures calls for reform

Once again, the World Bank has been under fire from civil society and academics for the Doing Business Report, its flagship text that monitors and ranks the business environment of 190 countries (see Observer Spring 2018).  After criticisms of fluctuating methodology and political motivation following Chile’s fall and India’s sudden jump in the rankings last year, civil society responses to Doing Business 2019 continue to raise concerns of bias towards business deregulation and low corporation taxes.

The report highlights so-called ‘improvers’ – countries the World Bank considers to have implemented the most business-friendly regulatory laws across ten areas. In practice, this means countries that are deemed to have cut “unnecessary red tape”, like minimising regulations around construction permits and merging or eliminating taxes. This year’s report includes in its top ten improvers China, which abolished its business tax, and Togo, which lowered its corporate tax rate.

Responding to criticism from independent evaluations, the World Bank has adapted the report’s methodology, but it remains under question (see Inside the Institutions). Commenting on Chile earlier this year, former World Bank Chief Economist Paul Romer stated that he did not have “confidence in the integrity” of the rankings and suggested that the data may been unfairly skewed towards some countries over others. He later retracted his comments and resigned.

Doing Business and inequality

This year’s Doing Business ranking highlights Hungary’s corporate tax rate reduction, now the lowest rate in the European Union, as a positive reform. This reflects the ranking’s promotion of low taxes on business through its tax rate sub-indicator, which gives a higher score to countries that have a total tax and contribution rate equal to or lower than 26.1 per cent of profit (see Observer  Winter 2017). The ranking also criticises Oman’s increased corporate income tax rate for making it “more difficult to do business” while rewarding Cyprus’ abolition of property tax, in contrast to advice in a recent IMF blog.

The report runs in stark contrast to Oxfam’s Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index, launched at this year’s annual meetings. Nadia Daar of Oxfam International commented that, “While Doing Business encourages a ‘race to the bottom’ on corporate taxation, Oxfam’s index asks governments to consider the equity outcomes of their policy choices and scores countries worse if their tax policies are regressive. Singapore, Bahrain, Latvia, Lithuania, and Mauritius rank among the highest for tax policies by Doing Business 2019, but those same countries come close to the bottom of Oxfam’s tax pillar. The Bank wants to remain relevant to today’s pressing issues, yet its flagship product continues to reward governments for policies that worsen inequality.”

While the Bank removed an earlier indicator that rewarded the undermining of labour rights (see Update 66), this year, in the Labour Market Regulation Annex, it warned of “cumbersome labor regulatory framework[s],” and cautioned that, “labor markets may not operate effectively if overregulated.”

Peter Bakvis of the ITUC noted that, “The World Bank claims to promote inclusive, sustainable economic growth while Doing Business continues its hostile stance towards labour rights.” He added that the World Bank’s “stubborn refusal to address considerable criticism over the purpose and methodology of the Doing Business rankings shows that it’s sticking to tunnel vision over reform.”

by Ella Hopkins

IMF and World Bank’s support for privatisation condemned by UN expert

An October report by Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, on the effect of privatisation on human rights, has heavily criticised the World Bank and IMF’s aggressive promotion of it, arguing that widespread privatisation of public goods in many societies is “systematically eliminating human rights protections and further marginalising those living in poverty.”

Following in the footsteps of numerous UN reports, this report warned against a “tsunami of unchecked privatisation” that has transformed arguments for fiscal deficit reduction into an ideology of governance that devalues public goods and services (see Observer Spring 2017, Autumn 2017). The IMF and World Bank, it claims, are at the heart of this process.

World Bank paves the way for financialisation

A 1992 World Bank report stated that, “There are virtually no limits on what can be privatized.” More than two decades later and the Bank’s Private Participation in Infrastructure Database – which tracks projects in 139 countries – lists $1,758 billion in total private investment. Indeed, commenting on the Bank’s Billions to Trillions and subsequent Maximizing Finance for Development agendas – which explicitly prioritise private financing and private sector solutions – Alston noted that these result in “profitable enterprises being reserved to the private sector and unprofitable activities remaining publicly financed” (see Observer Summer 2017).

The report argues that voluminous materials promoting this “entirely one-sided solution to development financing” make no mention of its human rights implications, adding weight to the wealth of civil society resistance towards the Bank’s leveraging of private sector investment (see Observer Summer 2017, Winter 2017-18). For example, earlier this year, 5,700 Indonesian women activists fought to ensure the government’s compliance with the Indonesian Supreme Court’s decision to ban water privatisation in Jakarta, which was initially introduced following World Bank advice (see Observer Autumn 2018).

Alston’s report also noted that – unlike the tracking of business performance – impact studies on human rights and poverty were rare for private sector projects. A 2017 report by Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, lamented that while, “Infrastructure, if well-conceived and implemented, is vital for the realisation of many human rights … human rights are rarely given more than lip service [in] the macho world of mega-infrastructure” (see Observer Summer 2017).

A central recommendation in Alston’s report is a call to “reverse the presumption, now fully embraced by actors such as the World Bank, that privatization is the default setting and that the role of the public sector is that of a last-resort actor that does what no one else can or wants to do.”

IMF and privatisation: A hidden friendship

In 2014, when asked about the legacy of IMF’s Structural Adjustment Programmes, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde responded, “Structural adjustment? That was before my time, I have no idea what it is. We don’t do that anymore.” In contrast, the Alston report declared that while the Fund “claims to have introduced major changes to some of its Washington Consensus-era policies, the emphasis on the privatization of a range of public sector enterprises and activities continues to feature prominently.”

The report includes an appraisal of ten recent African Article IV staff reports – the Fund’s tool for conducting economic surveillance at a country level (see Inside the Institutions) – revealing that the IMF promoted privatisation in six cases, with most of the remaining governments already demonstrating a commitment to public private partnerships (PPPs) and associated projects. Awkwardly for the IMF, these findings were published just days after the IMF released a note warning against PPPs, emphasising that, “while in the short term, PPPs may appear cheaper than traditional public investment, over time they can turn out to be more expensive and undermine fiscal sustainability.”

Alston’s report further highlighted the indirect way in which privatisation can be promoted, whereby fiscal consolidation encourages governments to retreat from direct service provision. According to new research by Brussels-based civil society network Eurodad, 23 of the 26 IMF loans approved in 2016 and 2017 aimed to achieve fiscal consolidation, with 30 structural conditions in these programmes explicitly calling for privatisation measures.

by Miriam Brett

Civil society calls for more protection of human rights defenders in development as IFC publishes position

In October, the International Finance Corporation (IFC, the private sector arm of the World Bank) released a statement expressing its position on client retaliation against civil society and project stakeholders. According to the text, the “IFC does not tolerate any action by an IFC client that amounts to retaliation – including threats, intimidation, harassment, or violence – against those who voice their opinion regarding the activities of IFC or our clients. We take seriously any credible allegations of reprisals.”

The statement came after Defenders in Development, a campaign launched in 2016 by the Coalition of Human Rights in Development, published an open letter condemning increased violence against human rights and development campaigners (HRDs). According to international NGO Global Witness, 2017 was the deadliest on record for land and environmental defenders, as “at least 207 land and environmental defenders were killed…indigenous leaders, community activists and environmentalists [were] murdered trying to protect their homes and communities from mining, agribusiness and other destructive industries.”

The coalition welcomed the IFC’s statement, but implored development institutions like the World Bank to develop more specific procedures, in particular in the context of its ongoing push for privatisation through its Maximising Finance for Development approach (see Observer Summer 2017). As noted by Gretchen Gordon, of Defenders in Development, “We urge the IFC to develop a comprehensive and detailed approach to this issue that integrates not just the assessment of reprisal risks, and addressing risks as they arise, but proactive engagement to prevent reprisals, robust human rights due diligence, reprisal-sensitive stakeholder engagement, and a response protocol so that when threats and reprisals materialize the institution is positioned to respond in a timely and effective manner to minimize and remedy harm, and to prevent future attacks.”

by Isabel Alvarez

December 05, 2018

Can't get enough of holiday events? Here are some more to get you on the 'nice' list - Charleston Post Courier

Can't get enough of holiday events? Here are some more to get you on the 'nice' list  Charleston Post Courier

December is replete with many holiday events throughout the Charleston area. We published a comprehensive list online, and several more events in our ...

Can't get enough of holiday events? Here are some more to get you on the 'nice' list - Charleston Post Courier

Can't get enough of holiday events? Here are some more to get you on the 'nice' list  Charleston Post Courier

December is replete with many holiday events throughout the Charleston area. We published a comprehensive list online, and several more events in our ...

December 04, 2018

Fracking's Next Boom? Petrochemical Plants Fuel Debate Over Jobs, Pollution - West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Fracking's Next Boom? Petrochemical Plants Fuel Debate Over Jobs, Pollution  West Virginia Public Broadcasting

More than 100 people braved freezing temperatures to both listen and have their say in front of Ohio environmental officials at a recent hearing in Belmont.

December 03, 2018

Fracking's Next Boom? Petrochemical Plants Fuel Debate Over Jobs, Pollution - WKMS

Fracking's Next Boom? Petrochemical Plants Fuel Debate Over Jobs, Pollution  WKMS

The abundance of natural gas from fracking could soon fuel a new petrochemical industry in the Ohio Valley. A massive facility proposed for Belmont County,

Fracking's Next Boom? Petrochemical Plants Fuel Debate Over Jobs, Pollution - WKU Public Radio

Fracking's Next Boom? Petrochemical Plants Fuel Debate Over Jobs, Pollution  WKU Public Radio

More than 100 people braved freezing temperatures to both listen and have their say in front of Ohio environmental officials at a recent hearing in Belmont.

From carols to ballet, crafts to big brass bands, holiday arts events are aplenty in Charleston - Charleston Post Courier

From carols to ballet, crafts to big brass bands, holiday arts events are aplenty in Charleston  Charleston Post Courier

Looking for some holiday-themed events throughout the month of December? We've got you covered with a list of music and choir events, special movie ...

Fracking’s Next Boom? Petrochemical Plants Fuel Debate Over Jobs, Pollution - 89.3 WFPL News Louisville

Fracking’s Next Boom? Petrochemical Plants Fuel Debate Over Jobs, Pollution  89.3 WFPL News Louisville

More than 100 people braved freezing temperatures to both listen and have their say in front of Ohio environmental officials at a recent hearing in Belmont ...

December 02, 2018

Informatic school is in southwest Cameroon

December 01, 2018 we can't both be right.

webshit weekly

An annotated digest of the top "Hacker" "News" posts for the last week of November, 2018.

Thank you to dang and sctb
November 22, 2018 (comments)
Y Combinator Dipshit in Chief Sam Altman remembers there's a forum long enough to give a pep talk to its herders. Hackernews, predictably, circles up to congratulate each other on the warmth and timbre of their echo chamber. Most of the comments are people fondly remembering their behavioral conditioning on a web forum, except for the people responding to (and angrily debating) censored posts.

Every 7.8μs your computer’s memory has a hiccup
November 23, 2018 (comments)
An Internet breathlessly reports a major discovery: it is possible to understand how computers work. This is primarily an excuse for those Hackernews who curate vintage computer hardware to talk about curating vintage computer hardware, while the rest paste excerpts from computer memory whitepapers in lieu of insight. Because this is a technology-related post, there are fewer than a hundred comments.

Time to break academic publishing's stranglehold on research
November 24, 2018 (comments)
An anonymous Internet wants to tell researchers what to do. Those Hackernews who live in academia cry out with a single voice that the current system must be destroyed, because it is hard and requires them to do things. Someone shows up to defend academic publishers, but all chances at discourse are drowned in the noise of people from different disciplines incorrectly assuming that all academic fields operate like the one in which they live.

Dive – A tool for exploring each layer in a Docker image
November 25, 2018 (comments)
An Internet makes a program to investigate a container image. Because the container software in question is Docker, Hackernews mashes the upvote button as hard as possible, but because the purpose here is understanding how the technology actually works, there are fewer than fifty comments.

Richard Stallman: We Can Do Better Than Bitcoin
November 25, 2018 (comments)
Some fuckwad interrogates a dimwit about ridiculous trash. Because none of the participants matter, their opinions are meaningless, and the topic is irrelevant to human society, Hackernews goes into an absolute frenzy of pompous lecturing. In accordance with tradition at Bitcoin Idiots, LLC, the entire field of economics is derived from first principles (again) and then furious partisan bickering dominates the threads, as Hackernews furiously incorrects one another on why money exists at all.

Backdoor in event-stream library dependency
November 26, 2018 (comments)
A webshit fucks up a lot of other webshits' day. Hackernews disagrees with the obviously correct conclusion that the webshit should be held responsible for making stupid decisions. The fact that such a wide swath of the internet seems to think people should exercise caution and judgment when collaborating profoundly disturbs Hackernews, causing them to enumerate every single time any programmer has ever made a mistake: a thousand-post session of whataboutism. This does more to ensconce computer progammers as a class of rudderless morons than N-Gate ever could.

We are Google employees – Google must drop Dragonfly
November 27, 2018 (comments)
If you hold medium dot com up to your ear, you can hear the faint cries from the depths of the ad mines. Hackernews tries to reinvent labor unions in a way that would give the union members power over their employers without changing anything else at all. The other half of the comments are other Hackernews musing that Google should ignore the plebians and launch into China anyway. After all, who cares about human rights when there's just so God damn much money to be had?

NES.css: 8-bit style CSS framework
November 28, 2018 (comments)
A webshit likes video games. Hackernews musters enough energy to bikeshed some 1980s nostalgia whimsy on the basis of Section 508 compliance, but in the end this is a technological topic, so there are fewer than a hundred comments.

Google Tried to Patent My Work After a Job Interview
November 29, 2018 (comments)
A Google job interview finally serves a purpose, albeit an evil one. Several Hackernews arrive in the comments to corroborate this pattern of shitty behavior, and the rest of Hackernews wrestles with the idea that the company they trust with basically every single piece of information they possess has a habit of using information against its originator. Some Hackernews sagely explain that being a revolting weasel is the only path to business success, other Hackernews (using Google search) try to figure out who the real villain is, and one very special Hackernews notices that Google even stole the 'stealing ideas from potential collaborators' idea... from Microsoft.

Marriott hack hits 500M Starwood guests
November 30, 2018 (comments)
A hotel chain left the light on for you. And also a lot of other things, for a lot of other people, for half a decade. Hackernews bikesheds the corporate damage-control protocols, then begins the philosophical inquisition: should programmers care about security? Even if it means they have to do more work? Even if it takes longer to make hotel reservation website satisfaction surveys? What price safety? Blockchain?


November 30, 2018

Fracking's Next Boom? Petrochemical Plants Fuel Debate Over Jobs, Pollution - WOUB

Fracking's Next Boom? Petrochemical Plants Fuel Debate Over Jobs, Pollution  WOUB

By: Brittany Patterson | Ohio Valley ReSource. Posted on: Friday, November 30, 2018. < < Back to. More than 100 people braved freezing temperatures to both ...

November 29, 2018

Data Knightmare (Italian podcast)

DK 3x12 - Due storie digitali

I rappesentanti dei parlamenti di 8 Paesi si sono ritrovati a Londra per chiedere conto a Facebook delle sue interferenze nella politica --e Zuckerberg non c'era. Ormai si parla sempre più di antitrust, e di separare Big F in più aziende meno potenti. Intanto, in Italia, ottenere una firma digitale è un calvario.

by Walter Vannini

November 28, 2018


Taipei to Hangzhou

November. Mild climate, border of the west lake in Hangzhou, China. The lake is artificially conjured up to look like a chinese painting of itself. Not in a linear way. The city is one of the oldest of China. But generation after generation, up to the renovation in 2002 of the space along the lake, the imagination has to be fit into reality of a incredible landscape design.

The pagodas, the walk around the lake, the scenery in the mist, all is carefully drawn and painted with human hand.

CAA is the China Academy of Art. It is one of the big institutions of Hangzhou, one of the campuses situated just in front of the lake. Close to the faculty and the conference room I am guested in a comfortable japanese themed hotel, that borders with the Aston Martin and the local Porshe concessionary. I spotted a Lamborghini the first day, startled by the sound of its motor.

Founded in 1928 as the first art academy with complete academic programs in China. Nowadays the academy has expanded its departments and academic teams and has garnered tremendous achievements in the school history. The infrastructure of CAA has improved in unprecedented ways. With Nanshan Campus being finished in 2003, and Xiangshan Campus being fully functional in 2007, covering an area of 1000 hectares and total space of 300,000 square meters, the academy now has three beautiful and well equipped campuses in the cities of Hangzhou and Shanghai.

I am guest of Professor Huang Sun and at SIMA, School of Intermedia Art.

Founded in September 2010, the School of Intermedia Art has, as its primary educational tenet, to accelerate the development of media technology and to promote experimentation in contemporary art. SIMA supports and expands creativity in a variety of media and through its curriculum explores the relationship between creativity and technology. The School has set its four-dimensional interactive structure around media experiments, artistic creation, cultural study, and curatorial practice. The School directly confronts the issues of modern media, technology and cultural context in its leading edge curriculum.

Professor Huang is a energetic type, with long hair and a dandy look. Has total control of many processes at the same time through a dancng cloud of students and collaborators that follow him. Is very gentle, capable of giving anyone his total attention, and very sharp eye.

My impression of China start from the cab ride from the airport to the center of the city. Hangzhou is a 22 million city, laying ordered around the 45′ ride up to the horizon. Building after building, skyscraper after skyscrper, someone empty most full of ordered activity, in the mist, filling up all the horizon. I think to my 14years old dughter turned vegetarian tree years ago to contribute saving the planet and I cry. Not that she is not right in her will, is that being closer to the crude action of the algorithm of antropocene I am moved by the futility of heroism.

The workshop

As I set foot in the building I notice the abundance of space and the relative absence of elevators. We climb the stairs. I think about what to do to “wake up” my students of today. The staircase has good acoustics, but the garden is the main stage, and I will get to the main stage. We arrive, early enough to check that it is possible, and the choice is made. The stage of the makeshift theater is occupied by the signs of the hands of the makers of the place. Off axis there is a red door with writings, probably a tribute to revolutionary ideas, and left a huge video installation on a led panel.
Right a blazing yellow Gynko tree in the november sun.

A Gynco tree in autumn, young and growing fragile, in a walled garden where it has been planted for decoration. It is like us. Is a recent tree, that does not define the garden yet. It could if let grow.
Like our visions.
“Captain” Ilya, the guiding organiser in Taipei, sent me a picture of one of such trees, I like to think is the one you used for the workshop by Rob to tell the story of “pervasive computing in sigle identified things of the IoT scenario”.

This tree will grow. And define the space, and turn to gold in the autumn. For many autuns. Or not. Maybe in 100 years will be still standing and enormous, maybe it will. It will survive the story written on the “pop up screen” of the ubiquitous computing nightmare/dream, of urban development, thunderstorms, accidents. For sure it will survive the video screen on the other side. Or maybe will be cut down out during a redefinition of the space, a planned change to turn the park into a parking lot. Or get sick and die. Sure. It stands. Is magnificent and fragile.

Photo by Shi-Shen Ilya Li

Life fabric is not a sign or a sense alone outside a situation, and the situation is fluid. Ideas like trees, stories like trees planted in artificial soil. Stories.

The group is lead outside in silence through the staircase, I ask them to observe and record in their minds. I touch stuff to feel it. I try ecoes with noises or sounds. No emphasis is given. Practical action. We reach the space, we breath, we touch, we acknowledge our capacities of perception, and instead of using a maieutic tactic i just unroll myself my own observations. Falls in Rob with his story of trees in ubiquous computing conferences. Is very relevant. The group is in synch with his words.

He makes me think of the end sentence in “The Name of the Rose” were the dying nihilist storyteller, the monk, Adso from Melk, remembers the sin-full love of his youth, all the life that has passed, the cold touch of old age and and his imminent death and ends with a solitary quote:

Stat rosa pristina nomine; nomina nuda tenemus.
Yesterday’s rose endures in its name; we grasp only the nude names

Umberto Eco had to explain that riddle sentence in the “postille” and kept explaining and be asked about till the end of his life. Up to changing the postille in the last reviewed editon of the book he curated.
That sentence he thinks he has taken from a XII century monk (a real one that wrote in that time) is bigger than him. I am convinced that is that line that made the Name of the Rose a classic.

Is the ostrakon that has the potential of reverting the whole story told so far, and is a riddle. Is, in the inspired words of Rob, the “bug” we strive for and talk about.

Not the “bug” that destroys a theory, or crashes a machine, but the one that makes a classic. A small stone that blocks the mind for a click. The Bug unmasks the background for the real foreground. The found book from wich the story unfolds, in a network of meanings, stands for a man life, for its time political struggle, for meaning of unknown, for flash to be burn.
It is at the same time a meme and a bug. The girl without name, her revenge. The Rose that is not her name (cause it is unknown) yet the name is the only thing that stands.
As all the rest, time and meaning emerges and gets forgotten, the sound of the garden we explored somehow keep re-sounding now in my room in Amsterdam. And that sound is what we should start to design into.
The forest in the night, were the tree as fallen unheard yet, even if his number disappeared from the “whole city dashboard”.
To close my talk to the student I point to the stage of the makeshift teather and after noticing the acoustic I describe a red fish standing there. We all see it.
It is this, the red fish on stage of the silenced theatre of CCP in Hangzou, that everyone seen with his own eyes, different and the same, and no one can ever cook, the matter to the end.

So while I agree with the political sense of calling in the cultural egemony of Gramsci, As Rob magnificently puts it, with the urgency of the “now”, with the scheme of things to be done to re-design the space of the struggle, and the overall sense of the practical application of theory we all share. I feel the need to add something. Subtracting.

Any realist interpretation of antropocene fails to give space to my beloved skepic pharmakon. Attention and enphasis neither have to fall here on the medicine, but on the “love”.
It is the situation were the chanting shaman fails to access the dream and has to bullshit his way out with art.

The idea self of control is a dream, suggested by death grinning’ face. Complex system cannot be controlled forever, precisely or securely. And moreover complex systems will always emerge complex patterns of behaviour unexpectedly. There is more: complex systems cannot be defined cybernetically in a closed way, and the latter is a stone on the grave of many of the monsters of our time. The algorithm will always need to admit undecision. Agency will always need exception, bureaucracy corruption, favour and mercy, the algorithm the virus and the bug. Determinism is a status of a more complex system that can range from order to chaos unforeseeably.

Unforseen is a powerful tool for design!

The generation before the one of these kids in Hangzhou was building very fragile high entropy systems that are impossible to make resilient. Energy flew in the system and through the system but as well outside and despite the system. Fragility is not always a bad thing, but should not made an absolute. They shall design with it.

Other principles are needed, to be resilient, sustainable, multi stakeholder and transparent. Systems that self organise and self heal and more over do not stand in our way when we like to think, sleep or loose time.

Too much fathers in the IoT smartcity bla bla space. We need some mothers. And I giggle and think about the mothers of invention caustic bravado…

I think it was wise to include in the conference a disaster relief expert, even if his solution to that type of complexity he was describing, ina small city struck by disaster, seamed a dreamlike book of instructions fairytale to me. Totally unforgivable in its way of excluding completely both self organising patterns of behaviour and human feelings from the top down approach he presented. And instruction books stay such, even if you write them in algorithms that are to be explored by AI and implemented by robots. Can you let an algorithm decide how much time is allowed to one soul to close forever the eyes of a loved one?

To read the signs as shamans, as sometimes we manage to do, implies to create a screen of possibilities. A screen were the abyss can project its answers back to our questions from above. Were chaos can be a teacher. It will hurt our bodies and our pride as well but it works.

Our lust for death, the wish of self immolation of the egos of the wanna be masters of the youth, seems then (to me at least) only like a sort of totalitarian wish for hipocalypses (a apocalypse that ends anyway in a demented, delusionional act of ridiculous proportions). As the Slavoj Žižek says “we cannot imagine the end of capitalism without the cathegories of the apocalypse”. Is in that such a relief to talk about the future in places like China and Taiwan.
A precious gift to be here now.

Hypocalypse: a fart in the wind announced by thunder and followed by embarassed laughters. In its more grim interpretation the ridiculous demented act of academia that keep dancing on the dead bodies of the real masters like a headless chicken.

Now, set aside the necessary skeptic pill, lets go back to the core of the argument (that has somehow to include the hangover grogginess in our interesting discussion afterparty).

A list of the things I think I understood and I want to pass over in my activities:

What. A epistemologically correct methodology you learn by doing, like the dangerous dance of the shaman and its drumstick. Concepts and tools presented as pieces for a multistakeholder unvealing exercise in dialogue. The situation evolves and only gets recognised but never framed. The algorithm that is enhacted by actors and at teh same time represents them. A trasformator as a art piece, that lives in a real situation and might be bugged. And a lab to study and invent situational awareness and transformations: this is a trasformatorio.

When. Here and now, the space that exist and flows above and below any rational human philosophy. And were, in a way, the bacteria speacks as well as the urban planner and much better then human hubris. Above the “totalitarian state of comfort” is the in between that talks and we have to stop and listen for once.

Who. Things and their inventors and maintenance mechanics, Animals, plants and landscape, the humans with and without agency, those who facilitate, building streets, fixing toilets and maintaining the space of possibilities open. The enxymes of fermentation and putrefaction. The whole fucking spaceship has to talk. “Alarm Captain, maybe we can re-design a new cycle, there is no need anymore of a bridge on planet earth spaceship”.

Why. Because we need to go out and walk like beings and not be kept in the state of minority by an illusion. Is a tutor we have not cultivated and chose ourselve. Big Brother is as death as the Holy Father and its cameras and he’s brain police.

Where. In a wet space that includes the cyber and the flesh, the actuators, the design, the law. The empty space left to nature and art to feed the uncoscious, to the science of the artist and the maker to explore the possible and to the human wisdom to talk reason and chose. Or in stories to tell the next generations around the fire, when they will be learning their place in the world.

In this respect the choice of the chinese government for the signs that fobid behaviours and promise police enforcement of those are made with drawing of friendly puppets is truly revealing.
Ethics is Kantian, morale is the istinct of the flock in every individual…

(Ref:—> Kant, “Beantwortung der Frage: Was ist Aufklärung?”, 1784)

Is it possible, I argue, that the only end of any ethics -were humans and non humans species interact- has to be imagined as a holy nothing, were the fear of the abyss glance brings inevitably to the fratricide brotherhood of the guillotine?

Georg Büchner’s “Danton’s Tod” investigates this paradox brilliantly. Andrzej Wajda in 1981 made a film, “Danton”, from an adaptation of a play by Stanisława Przybyszewska, were there is a scene that fits with the argument I am proposing here. Danton and Roberspierre meet in the prive’ of a restaurant. Danton offers to his ancient comrade a sumptuous dinner. “behind the scenes” a rytual of political “Grand Jeu” is put on scene. Robespierre does not touch food, Danton can only drink wine. The table, that is France, and “wetware” at the same time, is destroyed by Danton that throws away any food the other does not want to touch. A rapid process that evolve quickly and that will destroy them both. Their factions, and the opposite idea of revolution and state will self erase. The attempt to majority of the human spirit ended under the guillotine.

I toy with some questions.
What do we have to know and what will be what we don’t have to know, were will be the balance of those forces?
Who will be the maker that loves hopelessly its creature and can express his sad love with poetry? And what does this code look like? What do we have to design for? And what will be left us to design with?

And moreover what kind of situation-defining enzymes we have to design into the world with our craft? What will make it to an art?

Situation have always been designed to desired effects by wizards. But the real power is in the goddess.
Rituals of power that include all the senses, music, chinesis, intoxicans and visual stimulation and language. Opera and Liturgy.

We will need to unveal and design those as well. And our methodology will be a transparent transformer that evolves the situation in positive productive or destructive cycles. An ebb and flow of information and noise and a short span of time to rest in between.

Memory, dreams, the ever changing flow of the space and time and conscience from situation to the next has to be explored again in unity of human self reflecting action. The four winds set the wood in motion, ready to inspire the secret journey of the fool, contain all the magic of the illusionist and all the wisdom of the whole world that is female and dances naked on the fire.

All this space of design to be scavenged for opportunities and be teathre for gratuitous acts of courage and beauty.


There is a space of unity between tools for awareness like dowse, tools for constructing complexity and simplicity in economic exchange of values like the SWAPI and other software projects in dyne.
This is not an ideological space more than a world vison or a haiku.
At best wishes to be a seed or a young gynco tree that has in his fragile roots the possibility of becoming a giant one.
The time is now, the tools of the painter are set in front of her, the light is dim and the brush is ready to touch the paper again.

All your bases are belong to us (1)

thanks for the food to my thoughts…

(1)”All your base are belong to us” is a popular Internet meme based on a broken English (“Engrish”) phrase found in the opening cutscene of the 1992 Mega Drive port of the 1989 arcade video game Zero Wing. The quote comes from the European release of the game, featuring poor English translations of the original Japanese version. Means “Hi dude, someone took total control of your system”

(2) Le Grand Jeu by Federico Bonelli e Raffaella Rovida, 2016 (

by trasformatorio

November 27, 2018

Evgeny Morozov

From Airbnb to city bikes, the ‘sharing economy’ has been bought up by big money | Evgeny Morozov

To flourish, the informal digital networks providing new services needed to be protected from the market

Of all the ideologies spawned by Silicon Valley, that of techno-populism – the making of empty promises on the basis of seismic digital disruption – is the strangest. Promising a world of immediate and painless personal empowerment, techno-populism is ambiguous enough to unite big tech firms, startups, cryptocurrency aficionados and even some political parties.

The history is murky, but we do know the date when it went mainstream. It can be traced to Time magazine’s selection, in 2006, of “You” – the millions of ordinary people behind the user-generated web of the 2000s – as its Person of the Year. That choice ingrained techno-populist themes deep into our collective unconscious.

When Uber and Airbnb were young, it was easy to believe a global revolution would liberate informal economic activity

Related: Break up Facebook (and while we're at it, Google, Apple and Amazon) | Robert Reich

Continue reading...

by Evgeny Morozov

November 26, 2018

Newton Free Library announces programs - Wicked Local

Newton Free Library announces programs  Wicked Local

330 Homer St., Newton, MA 02459. 617-796-1360All programs are free and open to the public; parking is free. The Newton Free Library is handicapped ...

New climate change report: Impact of global warming “already being felt” - World Socialist Web Site

New climate change report: Impact of global warming “already being felt”  World Socialist Web Site

The latest report from the US Global Change Research Program confirms the danger posed by climate change and the inability of capitalist governments to ...

November 25, 2018

Zero Days

Dieci Comandamenti per proteggersi dal phishing!

Diventa sempre più importante impostare una strategia di protezione dal phishing e dalle truffe portate online, e tale sicurezza diventa essenziale in periodi dell'anno in cui tra offerte, festività e campagne di marketing (e sconti) molto aggressive l'attività online dei consumatori aumenta.

In questo nuovo episodio di Zero Days ho elaborato dieci "Comandamenti" che, se correttamente applicati, possono proteggere non solo dal phishing ma anche da tanti altri attacchi informatici. 

Alla base di tutto vi è, ovviamente, la necessità di diffondere una cultura della sicurezza informatica che contribuisca ad alzare sempre di più il livello di attenzione. 

by Giovanni Ziccardi

Dieci Comandamenti per proteggersi dal phishing!

Diventa sempre più importante impostare una strategia di protezione dal phishing e dalle truffe portate online, e tale sicurezza diventa essenziale in periodi dell'anno in cui tra offerte, festività e campagne di marketing (e sconti) molto aggressive l'attività online dei consumatori aumenta.

In questo nuovo episodio di Zero Days ho elaborato dieci "Comandamenti" che, se correttamente applicati, possono proteggere non solo dal phishing ma anche da tanti altri attacchi informatici. 

Alla base di tutto vi è, ovviamente, la necessità di diffondere una cultura della sicurezza informatica che contribuisca ad alzare sempre di più il livello di attenzione. 

by Giovanni Ziccardi

Dieci Comandamenti per proteggersi dal phishing!

Diventa sempre più importante impostare una strategia di protezione dal phishing e dalle truffe portate online, e tale sicurezza diventa essenziale in periodi dell'anno in cui tra offerte, festività e campagne di marketing (e sconti) molto aggressive l'attività online dei consumatori aumenta.

In questo nuovo episodio di Zero Days ho elaborato dieci "Comandamenti" che, se correttamente applicati, possono proteggere non solo dal phishing ma anche da tanti altri attacchi informatici. 

Alla base di tutto vi è, ovviamente, la necessità di diffondere una cultura della sicurezza informatica che contribuisca ad alzare sempre di più il livello di attenzione. 

by Giovanni Ziccardi

Dieci Comandamenti per proteggersi dal phishing!

Diventa sempre più importante impostare una strategia di protezione dal phishing e dalle truffe portate online, e tale sicurezza diventa essenziale in periodi dell'anno in cui tra offerte, festività e campagne di marketing (e sconti) molto aggressive l'attività online dei consumatori aumenta.

In questo nuovo episodio di Zero Days ho elaborato dieci "Comandamenti" che, se correttamente applicati, possono proteggere non solo dal phishing ma anche da tanti altri attacchi informatici. 

Alla base di tutto vi è, ovviamente, la necessità di diffondere una cultura della sicurezza informatica che contribuisca ad alzare sempre di più il livello di attenzione. 

by Giovanni Ziccardi

November 23, 2018

Informatic school is in southwest Cameroon

Solar Installation (22-11-2018)

This week, the students of the Advance class

of the Association connected 12V light bulbs in the Association`s building. This was done to realize the aim of reducing the electricity bills paid by the administration every month.

These bulbs are powered by 2 Lithium batteries, which are been charged by a solar panel of 200W.

IMG_20181122_123442 IMG_20181122_123741 IMG_20181122_123749 IMG_20181122_124322 IMG_20181122_124327 IMG_20181122_124711 IMG_20181122_125433 IMG_20181122_125440 IMG_20181122_125446 IMG_20181122_125515 IMG_20181122_125557 IMG_20181122_125607 IMG_20181122_125717 IMG_20181122_125734 IMG_20181122_125840 IMG_20181122_125844

by admin

The green hydrogen revolution has started, and it won't be stopped - World Economic Forum

The green hydrogen revolution has started, and it won't be stopped  World Economic Forum

As green electricity gets cheaper every day, low cost green hydrogen is coming, and the impact could be far-reaching.

November 22, 2018 we can't both be right.

webshit weekly

An annotated digest of the top "Hacker" "News" posts for the third week of November, 2018., the hacker's forge, now open for public alpha
November 15, 2018 (comments)
An Internet makes some webshit, then shows up in the comment threads to receive high fives. Hackernews is over the moon at the webshit on offer, and immediately creates GitHub repos so they can browse all this valuable code.

International System of Units overhauled in historic vote
November 16, 2018 (comments)
The metric system, losing badly in the eternal war against United States customary units, makes a series of desperate changes in the pursuit of relevance. Hackernews enters the fray, bitterly defending and/or disputing the obvious primacy of American units. The defendants are largely regular people who understand the inherent superiority of the American Way, while the detractors are invariably either actual Europeans or the sort of American who imports Dunhills and complains about mass transit in the US. Right or wrong, they all measure airspeed in knots and laptops in inches, typing their arguments into web browsers that render font sizes in points.

Elementary OS – Fast, open, privacy-respecting replacement for Windows and macOS
November 16, 2018 (comments)
Some Internets would like money in exchange for a GTK theme. Hackernews is initially dismissive of any Linux distribution that is not the one they're already using, but angry strident posts emerge, reminding us that GUI themes are the most important field of computer science research, and we should all prostrate ourselves before the veritable saints who are willing to undertake this difficult and dangerous work on our behalf. The rest of the comments are whining about how unfixably terrible Linux GUIs look and how cripplingly painful they are to program. Judging from the number of comments that go from there to jerking off Apple, bitching about Linux GUI toolkits is apparently required by the XCode EULA.

Story of a failed pentest
November 17, 2018 (comments)
An Internet tells a harrowing story of showing up to someone's office only to discover they had read the manuals. Hackernews is delighted at the twist on the usual "look how smart I am" security blog, but has a hard time believing in the existence of an organization that has cared about computer security. After the predictable armchair quarterbacking ends, Hackernews settles in for a round table discussion on why computer security is either the fundamental lifeblood of corporate existence or else completely irrelevant as long as you're making money.

AMD Discloses Initial Zen 2 Details
November 18, 2018 (comments)
A computer hardware company plans to sell computer hardware. Hackernews bemoans the duration they'll have to wait to buy the computer hardware, which has become more attractive since Intel handed control of their fabrication plants to Benny Hill. AMD's primary obstacle preventing success remains AMD, but the only thing Hackernews cares about is why their favorite shotgun statistics software doesn't support next year's processors yet.

If you want to understand Silicon Valley, watch Silicon Valley
November 19, 2018 (comments)
A middle-aged person enjoys a television show. Hackernews, by turns, agrees with the satirical nature of the show and gets mad that the show is making fun of Hackernews.

The Second Half of Watergate Was Bigger, Worse, and Forgotten by the Public
November 20, 2018 (comments)
A webshit reveals that extraordinarily rich people have been using money to influence people. Hackernews is outraged, but doesn't plan to stop working for them. Because "Hacker" "News" is on the Internet, every single comment thread ends with some nutcase soapboxing a pet political conspiracy theory while three or four rubes take the ranting seriously and reply with straight faces and earnest hearts. The lone exception is someone just pasting a wall of Noam Chomsky ranting instead. No technology is discussed.

Silent and Simple Ion Engine Powers a Plane with No Moving Parts
November 21, 2018 (comments)
Scientific American confirms it has traded every last shred of dignity for clickbait garbage. Hackernews, usually eager to pivot any aviation discussion to safe topics like drone components or FAA regulation minutiae, focuses in hard on every hobby lifter design ever created, then restrains from anything more concrete than daydreaming about missiles.


November 21, 2018

Data Knightmare (Italian podcast)

DK 3x11 Parte2: Fatturati questo

fattura elettronica per tutti? Anche no, dice il Garante Privacy. Pensata come l'hanno pensata, sarebbe un panopticon in attesa di un dittatore. Storia breve di un'implementazione pedestre.

by Walter Vannini

DK 3x11 Parte1: Mater semper certa

nell'Italia del 2018 occorre ripetere che un conto è essere madre o padre (che è genetica), un altro essere genitore (che è norma legale). Il legale lo ribadisce e i benpensanti capiscono fischi per fiaschi. Intanto, il Garante francese lancia un siluro nucleare contro l'industria del data brokering e la affonda.

by Walter Vannini

November 15, 2018



Hier unser vierter Newsletter in diesem Jahr. Um den Newsletter zu abonnieren, bitte eine formlose Mail an: office[at]

by ms we can't both be right.

webshit weekly

An annotated digest of the top "Hacker" "News" posts for the second week of November, 2018.

We're in a Golden Age for Amateur Radio
November 07, 2018 (comments)
An Internet declares the current era to be the best ever for a hobby, despite having no experience with any preceding era of the hobby. Hackernews is happy to lecture one another on the proper method for engagement, then relay nostalgic stories from the last few golden ages.

I've compiled the best SaaS Landing pages and broke down all their secrets
November 08, 2018 (comments)
A webshit enumerates the layout of the default Bootstrap landing page. Hackernews trades links to their favorite Bootstrap landing pages, then bikesheds the article for a few hours. Despite the relatively large vote count on the article, there isn't much action in the comment thread, which usually means everyone likes the topic (in this case, meaningless webshit garbage) but the content isn't interesting enough to actually read.

Romania orders investigative journalists to disclose sources under GDPR
November 09, 2018 (comments)
Some Internets are mad that a third-world government is using laws against its enemies. I redacted the goddamn Facebook tracking parameter embedded into the story link, but didn't bother fixing the pointless "presss-releases" folder in the url. Fully erect at the prospect of lecturing strangers on dimly-comprehended legal theory, Hackernews unleashes dozens of didactic analyses, all to set up their favorite debate topic of all time: why even have governments?

Building your color palette
November 10, 2018 (comments)
Another webshit posts class notes from an introductory design course, which prompts Hackernews to post insightful tips like "use CSS to set colors in your web page." Because this is an elite community of web professionals, about half the comments are people bitching that display technology is insufficiently advanced to faithfully render the precise artistic inspiration they bring to the refined, high-class world of animated button highlights. The rest of the comments are links to almost identical webshits who blogged about this topic in days gone by.

Google Kubernetes Engine's third consecutive day of service disruption
November 11, 2018 (comments)
Google's shit was broken for three days, but according to the status page it was broken for ten hours. This effects a Hackernews catfight about whether Google really gives a shit about any of them, even for money. The answer is a resounding "no," but several hundred Hackernews are sufficiently emotionally invested in this corporation to defend their imaginary relationship for hours in a web forum. Several Googles show up to cheer on their fanclub instead of fixing the broken services. by Google
November 12, 2018 (comments)
Google produces a new set of rituals for webshits to undertake if they wish to please their overlords. Running the compliance analyzer against this site results in bitching about https, again. Hackernews is mad that Google didn't consider Hackernews' pet webshit when concocting the judgment machine, and seeks vengeance by enumerating all the Google properties that are slow to load. Google seems unconcerned.

Medium is a poor choice for blogging
November 13, 2018 (comments)
A webshit blogs about some of the ways is terrible... on Hackernews acknowledges that is no longer particularly nice to use, but stresses that this is an acceptable loss when faced with the necessity to appear to monetize their website. Hackernews spends an afternoon vivisecting the site and reverse engineering all the bad management decisions that led to the current shitpile, then recommends various shitty blog programs to try, based mostly on which programming language the commenter is capable of using.

Corretto – No-cost, multiplatform, developer-preview distribution of OpenJDK
November 14, 2018 (comments)
Amazon repackages OpenJDK and gives it an even dumber name. Hackernews explains the reason: people want long-term support, and of course an online retailer is the place to turn for that.


November 14, 2018

Data Knightmare (Italian podcast)

DK 3x10 - Privacy violata: che fare?

Che fare se violano la nostra privacy, o se siamo testimoni accidentali di una violazione?

by Walter Vannini

November 13, 2018


La línea de sombra; sobre la fotografía de Elsa Medina

La línea de sombra; sobre la fotografía de Elsa Medina

A la vuelta de los años, y paradójicamente desde que entró en funcionamiento el "tratado de libre comercio", la muralla metálica y electrónica se ha ido ensanchando y alargando no como el proyecto de una arquitectura defensiva -no llega a ser arquitectura- sino como resultado de un constructivismo burdo, pragmático y "estratégico". Por eso tal vez al poeta catalán Rubén Bonet se le ocurrió pensar que "todo Tijuana es una instalación", como si fuera una propuesta plástica, refiriéndose a la oxidada valla de lámina -desecho de aeropistas militares- que constituye el muro disuasivo. El impedimento es contundente: por aquí no pasa nadie ni habrá de pasar nadie por la barrera natural e infranqueable del desierto, el sol, la sed, la inanición y la deshidratación. Lo que sí puede pasar -y se deja pasar- son la coca, la mota y la heroína.


30 Años de Generación en Tijuana
Viernes 16, 7pm

Fragmento de La línea de sombra; sobre la fotografía de Elsa Medina
Foto de Elsa Medina
Texto de Federico Campbell
Publicados en el #82 Tijuana, violencia y creación

#revistaGeneración #contracultura #Tijuana #30aniversario

by Revista Generación

November 11, 2018 video channel

November 10, 2018


#Chomsky on #Migrant #Exodus : "Poor, miserable people, families, m...

#Chomsky on #Migrant #Exodus : "Poor, miserable people, families, mothers, children, fleeing from terror and repression"

It’s kind of interesting to see this hysterical raving alongside of another astonishing #propaganda campaign that [Trum administration] is carrying out with regard to the caravan of poor and miserable people fleeing from severe oppression, violence, terror, extreme poverty from three countries: #Honduras—mainly Honduras, secondarily #Guatemala, thirdly #ElSalvador—not #Nicaragua, incidentally—three countries that have been under harsh U.S. domination, way back, but particularly since the 1980s, when Reagan’s terror wars devastated particularly El Salvador and Guatemala, secondarily Honduras. Nicaragua was attacked by Reagan, of course, but Nicaragua was the one country which had an army to defend the population. In the other countries, the army were the state terrorists, backed by the United States.
, it’s all kind of reminiscent of something that happened 30 years ago. You may recall, in 1985, Ronald Reagan strapped on his cowboy boots and called—got in front of television, called a national emergency, because the Nicaraguan army was two days’ march from Harlingen, Texas, just about to overwhelm and destroy us. And it worked.

#history #capitalism #imperialism #Mexico

by vlax 0°0

Informatic school is in southwest Cameroon

A Two Days Workshop with the Advance class of Linux Friends(day two)

Saturday 10/11/18,

In Day two the advance class assemble the parabolic Antenna from scratch.

Next, was a lecture from Mr. YOUMBI and Mr. PAULI on Mesh Network. Then we moved to the practical part of the day. Three routers were installed around the community with a distance of approximately 1km to demonstrate how the Mesh Network works. We also learned to build a repeater.

IMG_20181110_082636 IMG_20181110_082642

IMG_20181110_082653 IMG_20181110_084539 IMG_20181109_150651 IMG_20181109_150650

At the end of the workshop, the three groups formed (Linux Friends1, LinuxFriends2 and LinuxFriends3) wrote a report on their experience during the workshop. Each participant did a short video on their personal impression of the things they have learned.

IMG_20181110_103951 IMG_20181110_103946 IMG_20181110_103929 IMG_20181110_103925

The future goals is to build a web radio, web tv, and a numerical bookshop.

The Association of Linux Friends express their appreciation to Mr. YOUMBI for the gift of Two Anthenas received and for taking out time to share with us his knowledge in WIFI connection.


by admin

November 09, 2018

Informatic school is in southwest Cameroon

A Two Days Workshop with the Advance class of Linux Friends(day one)



Friday 09/11/2018, the Association of Linux Friends Limbe was graced with the presence of Mr. Josselen Youmbi  a Wireless network Engineer.

Mr. YOUMBI is invited to the Association by Mr. Pauli Michel for a two days workshop on WiFi extension. This workshop started today Friday 09/11/18 at about 8:35am. The students of the Advance class and the teachers of the Association are all part of this workshop.

The aim for the workshop is:

  • The Advance Class should have the capacity to configure WIFI.
  • To extend network.
  • To choose network materials.
  • To create employment.

Next, the workshop began with the details as follows.


IMG_20181109_144849 IMG_20181109_144845  IMG_20181109_142006 IMG_20181109_141948

We learned that there are three main Architectures in WiFi which are ,

  • Point to Point Connection
  • Point to Multi-point Connection
  • Multi-point to Multi-point Connection

Each Architecture is chosen according to the distance to which you wish to extend the WiFi connection.

IMG_20181109_084120IMG_20181109_084125    IMG_20181109_085244

IMG_20181109_091108 IMG_20181109_091122 IMG_20181109_091124IMG_20181109_085039

IMG_20181109_092837 IMG_20181109_092856 IMG_20181109_092947 IMG_20181109_093003

Also,  we learned that materials for the WiFi are bought according to whether you want to extend the connections Indoor or Outdoor.  We configured three different routers (TP Link, Nano Network and the LINKSYS). The TP Link and LINKSYS routers which is an  indoor routers and Nano Network router which is an outdoor router.

IMG_20181109_113758 IMG_20181109_141828 IMG_20181109_141903 IMG_20181109_114018 IMG_20181109_113845IMG_20181109_114018

by admin

Programing a school Register

Programing a school Register

On the 07/11/18 Vegemteh Kuh Shandrine a student at  the Advance Class of the Association of Linux Friends presented a school register made using the Django framework. On this Application, we can register the students of the Association using this Application.

More so, the App had domains such a Description, Contact, Email and so on, in which the information of the students can be recorded on.

To add, the School Register Application has not fully developed but we will  be able to use it practically in recording some of our data in no time.

IMG_20181107_160105_673 IMG_20181107_135650 IMG_20181107_135646 IMG_20181107_135642 IMG_20181107_135610 IMG_20181107_135551 IMG_20181107_135538IMG_20181107_135538

Note that we are using one monitor for our presentation because the beamer or projector with got from Patrick Baumann was destroyed by lightening.

by admin

November 08, 2018


Un campo de refugiados caminando

Un campo de refugiados caminando

El #éxodo los desposeidos y los hambrientos, llama Alberto Padilla a las miles de mujeres y hombres niños y niñas que migran con la marcha #caravanamigrante, que kilómetros tras kilómetros, cruza #México rumbo a la principal #frontera imperial

Son hombres entrados en años, mujeres solas con su prole, adolescentes, señores en edad de trabajar. Son una masa heterogénea a la que le une una sola cosa: consideran que el lugar de donde vienen es inhabitable, metieron lo poco que tenían en una maleta y siguieron adelante. (...) La caravana se formó como una bola de nieve.

(...) Centroamérica está enferma de #violencia y los integrantes de esta caravana consideran que la mejor vacuna es poner tierra de por medio.

#mundo #migración #USA #Honduras #Guatemala

by vlax 0°0 we can't both be right.

webshit weekly

An annotated digest of the top "Hacker" "News" posts for the first week of November, 2018.

Apple's New Map
November 01, 2018 (comments)
An Internet cares a lot about every single detail about Apple's also-ran mapping service. Hackernews bemoans Apple's inability to display street names, then debates whether streets should even have names. The article author seems to think it extremely praiseworthy that Apple is using satellite surveillance to catalog the contents of our backyards, but Hackernews is mostly focused on trading anecdotes about the hazards of using Google or Apple maps outside of Silicon Valley.

Thelio – System76
November 02, 2018 (comments)
Some strangers on the internet promise to send you a computer one day, if you'll just give them thousands of dollars now. Hackernews enjoys pretending there are technical advantages to the promised computers, but the real reason everyone is abuzz is much simpler: someone other than Apple has finally envisioned a computer with rounded corners.

An error message, still found in Windows 10, is a mistake from 1974
November 03, 2018 (comments)
An Internet is surprised that nobody fixed some bad software. The error predates most of Hackernews experience with computers, so this is designated the monthly nostalgia depository. As usual, this work includes cataloging every protocol or program Hackernews ever used, then trading recommendations for reimplementations of all of them. Near the end, Hackernews reinvents filenames from first principles, experimenting with the possibility that maybe file systems could be content-aware. The threads containing heresy are truncated and participants are quietly uninvited to the Christmas party.

As women have more equal opportunity, the more their preferences differ from men
November 04, 2018 (comments)
Some academics discover that people assert their desires as they grow less subservient to others. The Hackernews Mens Rights Activists arrive to carefully and thoroughly incorrect actual breathing women about all of their dangerous and wayward misconceptions regarding a wide range of Father Knows Best topics, including feminism, reproductive rights, economics, statistics, and, in a crowning achievement, someone's direct personal experience. The virtue of manhood is saved, but a few Hackernews are left wondering why chicks get so snippy when you try to explain this stuff.

Programming Paradigms for Dummies: What Every Programmer Should Know (2009) [pdf]
November 05, 2018 (comments)
An academic considers it important for everyone to understand a set of topics that are best exemplified in the weird-ass niche projects the author's friends are running. Hackernews mostly doesn't read this, but knows a jumping off point when it shows up, so this thread becomes the Hackernews software-engineering thinkpiece pitch party. The original author cruises past and says hello on the way to the next funding agency.

VirtualBox E1000 Guest-to-Host Escape
November 06, 2018 (comments)
An Internet finds the six millionth bug in the worst virtualization software on the planet, and commendably releases the information immediately, allowing informed users to take protective measures, such as switching to a hypervisor that wasn't written by complete dipshits. Hackernews mulls it over and decides that Oracle had this coming, because Oracle is generally a pack of assholes, but those Hackernews with a vested interest in Ritualized Disclosure are careful to point out that nobody should release any knowledge without consulting Hackernews first.

The Illustrated TLS 1.3 Connection: Every Byte Explained
November 07, 2018 (comments)
Hackernews was so in love with the last version of this that they made sure to fawn over it again today. Like last time, there are ten votes for every comment, because nobody actually read it, but at least this time the author didn't have to show up and apologize for this single-page static website falling over under load.