Watch Serbia's president hold a weird virtual rally with supporters clapping on video stream

Welcome to the dystopian future of yesteryear's futurist cyberpunk novels. Read the rest

Justice Dept. drops case against Michael Flynn, Trump's first national security adviser

Donald Trump's thoroughly corrupt Justice Department today dropped its criminal case against Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s first national security adviser, who pleaded guilty previously to lying to F.B.I. agents about his conversations with a Russian diplomat.

The Justice Department said it had concluded that Flynn’s interview by the FBI was “untethered to, and unjustified by, the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Mr. Flynn.” Read the rest

Trump administration considers a centrally planned economy to deal with coronavirus

The Trump administration is reportedly considering the possibility of re-implementing the Defense Production Act. Originally  enacted during the Korean War, the Act essentially empowers the President to control the means of production—the idea being that it would be in the interest of the nation's defense to force private manufacturers to focus their production efforts on things that would benefit the country in a time of tenuous resources.

From Reuters:

A White House official confirmed that the administration was exploring the use of the law to spur manufacturing of protective gear. Both the DHS official and the White House requested anonymity to discuss the issue.

“Let’s say ‘Company A’ makes a multitude of respiratory masks but they spend 80% of their assembly lines on masks that painters wear and only 20% on the N95,” the White House official said. “We will have the ability to tell corporations, ‘No, you change your production line so it is now 80% of the N95 masks and 20% of the other.’”

“It allows you to basically direct things happening that need to get done,” the official added.

In other words, it's precisely the kind of government-controlled economic planning that Republicans have warned would happen under a Democratic-Socialist administration. Except in this case, it's good. Because they're the ones doing it.

U.S. mulls using sweeping powers to ramp up production of coronavirus protective gear [Ted Hesson and Alexandra Alper / Reuters]

Image: Public domain via PxHere Read the rest

TSA officer grabbed Native American woman's braids, snapped them and said "Giddy up!"

Tara Houska, an attorney and Indigenous rights activist, was going through TSA security at Minneapolis−Saint Paul International Airport when a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) told Houska she would need to have her braids patted down as a security precaution, reports Fox News.

"She pulled them behind my shoulders, laughed [and] said ‘giddy up!’ as she snapped my braids like reins," Houska said on Twitter. "My hair is part of my spirit. I am a Native woman. I am angry, humiliated. Your 'fun' hurt."

When Houska informed the agent that her actions were dehumanizing and disrespectful, the agent explained that she was having "fun."

Federal Security Director Cliff Van Leuven sais Houska's description of the incident was accurate. From Fox News:

"Did it actually happen? Yes. Exactly as described? Yes," Federal Security Director Cliff Van Leuven said, per KARE 11. "I apologized for how she was treated during the screening of her braids — and we had a very pleasant conversation.

“She reiterated that she doesn't want the Officer to get in trouble, but she is hoping we'll take the chance to continue to educate our staff about the many Native American Tribes/Bands in our state and region to better understand their culture,” Van Leuven added.

Read the rest

Political journalist Omoyele Sowore arrested and tortured under Nigeria's overbroad "cyberstalking" law

[Omoyele Sowore is a Nigerian journalist and owner of the independent media outlet Saraha Reporters; shortly after the election of President Buhari, Sowore was arrested under the country's anti-cyberstalking laws for "causing insult, enmity, hatred and ill-will on the person of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria." He's still in jail, where he has been tortured. His case has attracted condemnation from US senators and solidarity from PEN. My EFF colleague Cindy Cohn, who met Sowore through her work on the Bowoto case, prosecuting Chevron for a mass murder in service to oil exploration, wrote a post, crossposted below, about how overbroad, sloppy harassment and stalking bills can be weaponized. -Cory]

EFF has long been concerned that—unless carefully drafted and limited—cyberstalking laws can be misused to criminalize political speech. In fact, earlier this year we celebrated a federal court decision in Washington State in the United States that tossed out an overbroad cyberstalking law. In the case, the law had been used to silence a protester who used strong language and persistence in criticizing a public official. EFF filed anamicus brief in that case where we cautioned that such laws could be easily misused and the court agreed with us. Read the rest

Cops and spooks all over the world rely on a junk-science "walking polygraph" method to steer their investigation

SCAN (Scientific Content Analysis) is a lie-detecting method invented by Avinoam Sapir, a former Israeli spook turned polygraph examiner that involves picking out small textual details from writing samples to determine when someone is lying. Sapir has used his method to determine the veracity of the Book of Genesis, and to conclude that Anita Hill might be a secret lesbian and that James Comey was likely sexually assaulted as a child. Read the rest

Bill Barr's police speech proves the GOP doesn't actually care about "small government."

On Tuesday, December 2, the current Attorney General and former Iran-Contra fixer gave a speech at the Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service in Policing in which he threatened to take away police protections from communities who refused to bow down and respect worship law enforcement.

American people have to focus on something else, which is the sacrifice and the service that is given by our law enforcement officer. And they have to start showing, more than they do, the respect and support that law enforcement deserves ― and if communities don’t give that support and respect, they might find themselves without the police protection they need.

There's the obvious problem here, which is that serving and protecting the public should not be contingent upon the public's lavish praise. That's not a service; it's blackmail. If police truly covet public veneration, then they should be selfless enough to serve and protect without the expectation of reward, and simply because it's the right thing to do.

But the other, more ironic issue is about government dependency. Conservatives in the modern GOP love to give lip service to independence — to by-your-bootstraps self-determination. "People need to stop relying on the government, and take care of themselves!" they say. But here's Bill Barr, threatening to take away a government service as if it's a bad thing. We all know what "communities" he's referring to in this speech; they're the same ones that have been historically targeted, bullied, and oppressed by police. That's why these communities don't respect the police. Read the rest

Amazon secretly planned to use facial recognition and Ring doorbells to create neighborhood "watch lists"

Ring is Amazon's surveillance doorbell division, and a big part of their sales strategy involves terrifying people about the possibility of crime, partnering with police to assist in terrorizing Ring owners, and to provide police with warrantless, permanent, shareable access to surveillance doorbell footage (something the company has repeatedly lied about). Hundred of police departments have now partnered with Ring and they act as buzz-marketing teams for the company in exchange for freebies and access. Read the rest

Democrats in Congress reauthorize Patriot Act, again

"Nearly every Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives voted to fully reauthorize the Patriot Act through March 2020, extending the right of federal agents to use all sorts of secret surveillance against Americans," reports Reason.

As the EFF says, "The USA PATRIOT Act broadly expands law enforcement's surveillance and investigative powers and represents one of the most significant threats to civil liberties, privacy, and democratic traditions in US history. [It] gives sweeping search and surveillance to domestic law enforcement and foreign intelligence agencies and eliminates checks and balances that previously gave courts the opportunity to ensure that those powers were not abused. PATRIOT and follow-up legislation now in development threaten the basic rights of millions of Americans."

Kudos to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and 9 other Democrats for voting against it! And boo to the 219 Democratic representatives who voted to deprive us of our civil liberties!

(Image: Fred Frederickson, CC-BY, unmodified) Read the rest

Cop violently arrests and terrorizes a 15 year old Black quadruple amputee

A sheriff's deputy in Pima, AZ was video-recorded wrestling with and screaming at a 15 year old Black teenager with no arms or legs; the cop, who was not named, was called to a group home where the teen lived, because the teen had been upset and yelling and shouting, and had knocked over a trash can. Read the rest

#NothingButDragnet: EFF calls on @Shaq to stop endorsing police partnerships with Amazon's creepy, surveilling Ring doorbells

Amazon's Ring surveillance doorbells are part of a secretive, nationwide police surveillance network, with cops being offered covert incentives to act as street-teams to buzz market the products, and with Amazon repeatedly misleading the public and reporters about when and how police can gain access to footage from the cameras. Read the rest

Margaret Atwood's "The Testaments": a long-awaited Handmaid's Tale sequel fulfills its promise

When Margaret Atwood published "The Handmaid's Tale" back in 1985, it was at the dawn of the Reagan era, when the gains made by feminism and other liberation movements trembled before an all-out assault mounted by a bizarre coalition of the super-rich and the (historically apolitical) evangelical movement; 35 years later, even more ground has been lost and in many ways it's hard to imagine a more apt moment for Atwood to have published a sequel: The Testaments.

Chinese citizens will have to submit to a face scan in order to get a new phone number

So, this is fun: starting in December, Chinese citizens who want to snag a new phone number or sign up for internet service will have no choice but to allow their faces to get scanned. This new bag of Orwellian bullshit was announced at the end of September by the country's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. According to Gizmodo, the MIIT totally swears that the initiative is totally designed to “earnestly safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of citizens in the cyberspace”.

Uh huh.

The Chinese government recently lost their shit over protestors in Hong Kong wearing masks to hide from the facial recognition tech that the police and other government agency use to monitor their citizens. They use surveillance tech to detect and creep on the nation's Uighur Muslims. In the case of the latter, those identified and confirmed as being part of the Uighur minority have ended up in reeducation camps. Given that this is the case, it seems unlikely that the nation's only motive for forcing you some to submit their face to get a phone number is to cut down in fraud.

When a nation's citizenry's every move is monitored and cataloged to use against them, the notion of democracy becomes one that is thought upon, but never dares to be heard. Read the rest

Civil rights groups call for a stop to Amazon's doorbell surveillance partnerships with cops

Evan from Fight for the Future writes, "More than 30 civil rights organizations, including Fight for the Future, Color of Change, National Immigration Law Center, and CAIR, have signed an open letter calling for elected officials to investigate Amazon Ring’s business practices and put an end to all Amazon-police surveillance partnerships. This is the first major action taken by groups to pressure lawmakers to address these partnerships and the threats they pose to privacy, civil liberties, and democracy. Our elected officials are supposed to protect us, both from abusive policing practices and corporate overreach. These partnerships are a clear case of both. If you're concerned about Amazon's surveillance partnerships, there's a petition you can sign to your local elected officials here." Read the rest

CBP officer refuses to allow American journalist into the country until he admits he writes "propaganda"

Ben Watson is a reporter for Defenseone, a news site that covers "US defense and National Security" who formerly served in the US Army as a public affairs officer; last week, Watson returned to the USA after an assignment in Denmark, entering the country at Dulles Airport. Read the rest

Phoenix's police union has a secret deal with the department to purge dirty cops' disciplinary records

For two decades, the Phoenix police union has had a secret deal with the police department that required that the disciplinary records of cops would be "purged," so that no one, not even their supervisors, would be able to retrieve them. Read the rest

Why don't more Chinese people oppose the Chinese government?

Kaiser Kuo (previously) is one of the best-informed, most incisive commentators on China -- he's a Chinese-American (literal) rock star, entrepreneur and writer whose presentations on China I've been privileged to attend several times, and each one was insightful, surprising and nuanced. Read the rest

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