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Open Letter from Diego Gomez: "Access to Knowledge Is a Global Right"

EFF's Deeplinks -

The progress of knowledge is fueled by people who dedicate their lives to a field—to read, examine, and absorb everything they can out of passionate intellectual curiosity. Diego Gomez is one of these individuals, and is dedicated to the conservation of reptiles and amphibians.

Unfortunately, like so many scholars around the world, Diego’s work has been frustrated by a lack of access to research trapped by expensive paywalls. So he did what many researchers and academics do today when they see a barrier to knowledge: he shared the research with his colleagues. Due to excessive criminal copyright laws in his native country of Colombia, however, Diego is now being prosecuted by Colombian officials for sharing another researcher's Master's thesis online. He faces up to eight years in prison and crippling monetary fines.

The following is an open letter from Diego (also available in Spanish):

The use of FLOSS was my first approach to the open source world. Many times I could not access ecological or statistical software, nor geographical information systems, despite my active interest in using them to make my first steps in research and conservation. As a student, it was impossible for me to cover the costs of the main commercial tools. Today, I value access to free software such as The R project and QGis project, which keep us away from proprietary software when one does not have the budget for researching.

But it was definitely since facing a criminal prosecution for sharing information on the Internet for academic purposes, for ignoring the rigidity of copyright law, that my commitment to support initiatives promoting open access and to learn more about ethical, political, and economic foundations has been strengthened.

I am beginning my career with the conviction that access to knowledge is a global right. The first articles I have published in journals have been under Creative Commons licenses. I use free or open software for analyzing. I also do my job from a social perspective as part of my commitment and as retribution for having access to public education in both Colombia and Costa Rica.

From the situation I face, I highlight the support I have received from so many people in Colombia and worldwide. Particularly, I thank the valuable support of institutions working for our freedom in the digital world. Among them I would like to acknowledge those institutions that have joined the campaign called “Let’s stand together to promote open access worldwide”—EFF, Fundación Karisma, Creative Commons, Internet Archive, Knowledge Ecology International, Open Access Button, Derechos Digitales, Open Coalition, Open Knowledge, Research rights Coalition, Open Media, Fight for the Future, USENIX, Public Knowledge and all individuals that have supported the campaign.

If open access was the default choice for publishing scientific research results, the impact of these results would increase and cases like mine would not exist. There would be no doubt that the right thing is to circulate this knowledge, so that it should serve everyone.

Thank you all for your support.

Diego A. Gómez Hoyos


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Google Adds USB Security Keys To 2-Factor Authentication Options

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from VentureBeat: Google today announced it is beefing up its two-step verification feature with Security Key, a physical USB second factor that only works after verifying the login site is truly a Google website. The feature is available in Chrome: Instead of typing in a code, you can simply insert Security Key into your computer's USB port and tap it when prompted by Google's browser. "When you sign into your Google Account using Chrome and Security Key, you can be sure that the cryptographic signature cannot be phished," Google promises. While Security Key works with Google Accounts at no charge, you'll need to go out and buy a compatible USB device directly from a Universal 2nd Factor (U2F) participating vendor.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

A Seat at the Big Kids’ Table at Ohio LinuxFest

LXer -

Ohio LinuxFest isn’t just another excuse to travel. It’s a means for us to fulfill ourselves, and to get honest, tangible feedback for what we do and for what others are doing. It’s a place where ideas are sounded, bent, crumpled and turned until they either come out of the crucible perfect…or useless.

China grows at ‘new normal', but still at 5 yr low

RT -

The Chinese Government called the third quarter result a ‘new normal’, as they expect the full year result to be at 7.5 percent. The fresh data released Tuesday by the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics comes at a time when other emerging economies are slowing and the EU member states risk falling into a triple – dip recession.

READ MORE: Eurozone inflation slumps to 5yr low risking triple-dip recession

Tuesday GDP also topped most of the analyst expectations that stood at around 7.1 – 7.2 percent.

Some of other major economic indicators published on the same day showed that a slowdown may not be really dramatic. Industrial output accelerated 8% from a year earlier and exports surged 15.3 percent in September from the year-ago period.

“Although growth has slowed, it reflects a welcome rebalancing away from excess investment in certain sectors of the economy and is not cause for significant concern,” Julian Evans-Pritchard, economist of Capital Economics said to AP.

The third quarter result was also the lowest since 2009. Some experts warn that China’s skyrocketing debt, coupled with a slump in property sector and oversupply of industrial capacity will trigger further slowdown in the world’s second largest economy.

The total debt to GDP ratio in China soared to 251 percent in June this year from 147 percent at the end of 2008, as the Financial Times refer to the estimates from Standard Chartered. In terms of the credit accumulation the World Bank described China as “rivalled only by Ireland in the years leading up the global financial crisis”. Revenue from housing sales dropped 10.8 percent in the third quarter and the investment in real estate going up 12.5 percent, which is adding to oversupply in the country.

However, experts say the slowdown also looks natural as China has experienced more than 3 decades of growth.

“China’s super-rapid growth has already lasted three times longer than a typical episode and is the longest ever recorded,” as FT quotes Lawrence Summers, former US Treasury secretary, writing in his academic paper. “The ends of episodes tend to see full regression to the mean [of around 2 per cent growth], abruptly.”

French ‘Halal test’ detects presence of pork

RT -

The demonstration video directs that a piece of meat - for example, a sausage - is placed in a small flask and a few drops of hot water added.

“The appearance of two red lines means that we have pork present,” says Abderrahmane Chaoui, one of the product’s creators, as he conducts a video demonstration, displaying the finished test.

This means that the product has pork cannot be consumed by Muslims as pork consumption is outlawed by the Koran, whereas one bar means that pork is not present and meets Islamic consumption standards.

The product is the brainchild of Chaoui, 25, and his classmate, 27-year-old and Jean-François Julien.

The ‘Halaltest’ can be used not only with meals but also with beverages, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.

“Pork is the subject of a strict ban, as well as alcohol,” Chaoui stated, according to Le Nouvel Observateur.

It can be ordered individually for €6.90 (US$8.80) per packet or a pack of 25 tests, for €125.

Eventually, the company – despite being in its germinating stages – hopes to modify the test so that it is possible to recognize whether the animal from which the meat was obtained was slaughtered according to Islamic ritual, “based on blood oxygenation.”

This means that the test would truly become a test to see whether all meat was halal, rather than just directly outlawed.

“Products bearing the 'halal' stamp have emerged over the past 15 years…but consumer vigilance has increased recently,” Choui explained.

France’s Muslim population reached an estimated 6.5 million in 2013 and there is likely a big market for such a product, especially in the wake of Europe-wide horsemeat scandals.

Additionally, at the beginning of 2011, sausages labeled as Halal by company Knacki Herta had to be withdrawn from supermarkets after tests demonstrated the presence of pork.

Also a test to detect allergens in food is coming “in a few weeks.”

“In a few weeks we will launch another range of products under the brand Confirm Food, for early detection of traces of allergens,” Chaoui also told BFMTV.com.

ISIS earned $2mn per day on illegal oil trade prior US-led strikes – report

RT -

“Oil fuels ISIL’s [IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL] war machine, notably including the military vehicles vital to its movements and fighting capabilities,” according to the IHS analysis. “Oil directly finances ISIL’s myriad activities and encourages the activities of middlemen who sell, transport and export the oil and thus have a vested interest in ISIL.”

READ MORE: ISIS daily profits from oil, theft, human trafficking exceed $3mn – report

Militants have seized control of a total about 350,000 barrels per day in Iraq and Syria, the report by IHS consulting group estimated.

Producing up to 60,000 barrels a day, the IS was selling the crude between $25 and $60 a barrel, roughly half of the official price. The IS is consuming about half of its production for its own use.

Militants are still possibly selling oil at an average of $40 a barrel, compared with $85.40 per barrel settled by international benchmark Brent oil, the report said.

"This fraction of pre-war capacity is the result of warfare, shut-ins and [IS's] limited technical prowess operating the fields," IHS said in its study as cited by Reuters.

“This is financing and fueling a lot of their activities, military and otherwise,” Bhushan Bahree, a co-author of the report, told Bloomberg.

Most of the crude is moved via trucks along smuggling routes on the Turkish border, Jordan or Iraq, IHS said.

“It is very hard to intercept,” Bahree said. “There has probably been smuggling of all sorts of things in this place for thousands of years.”

So far, US-led airstrikes have not completely eliminated truck-mounted refineries that militants use to produce fuel. But bombing them could be the only way to stop illegal oil trade that also fuels the war in the region, Bahree said.

The IS’s capacity to produce oil has been affected by airstrikes, but the report did not estimate by how much.

“For argument’s sake, let’s say their capacity was cut by half. They’ll still have $400 million coming in. This is many times more than any other source of funding we know of,” Bahree said.

HIS said it can’t tell how many refining capacity, easily transported mobile plants, militants have after the US-led strikes.

1st vs 2nd Amendment: Anti-gun activist outs concealed-carry license owner with lawn sign

RT -

The debate at hand involves a local woman’s recent decision to post a sign on the front lawn of her Rochester home announcing to passersby that an area man, Matthew Halleck, carries a concealed handgun on him every day when he walks his two daughters past her property on his way towards Harriet Bishop Elementary School.

Local network ABC 6 reported earlier this month that Halleck has a state-issued permit to carry the gun, and Minnesota’s relatively relaxed firearm laws allow lawful residents to carry such weapons nearly everywhere but schools with few restrictions; in June, the Huffington Post went as far as to consider Minnesota to be among the more gun-friendly states.

Yet while Halleck insists the gun is for protection, Rochester resident Kimberly Edson says it rubs her the wrong way.

"Since we don't have a way to stop him, we felt it was important to notify the neighborhood and the parents that there is an armed man in their presence,” Edson told ABC 6. "The first couple days of school he had it very visible, we saw it and were quite concerned,” she said.

"I have a responsibility to help create the kind of community I want to see, and I don't want to see a community where there are guns around schools,” she said.

The sign Edson posted on her lawn, the network reported, has Halleck’s picture on it and reads: "This man carries a loaded gun around your children every day."

Jenny Lohse reported for the ABC News affiliate that the two have since squared off over each other’s constitutionally-protected guarantees: the right to free speech and the right to bear arms.

“Kimberly called the police the day the picture was taken, but they said Matthew has a legal right to carry off school property. Matthew also contacted authorities concerning the sign, and while they briefly took the sign down, it was eventually determined that Kimberly was also breaking no laws,” Lohse reported.

"He has a Second Amendment right to carry the gun, I have my 1st Amendment right to say that I don't like it,” Edson explained to the network. "I have a responsibility to help create the kind of community I want to see, and I don't want to see a community where there are guns around schools.”

"I'm going to protect my children any way I can,” Halleck fired back. "If it heightens the awareness for folks out there that are confident enough, and see the changes in the world to add an extra layer of protection, I encourage people to do it.”

According to Lohse, however, Halleck likely isn’t about to encourage any area residents to take the same path as Edson. ABC 6 reported that the man is considering possibly filing a lawsuit against the sign-maker for libel.

Similarly, a nation-wide debate erupted nearly two years ago after a newspaper in New York state printed a map containing the names and addresses of residents with handgun permits in order to demonstrate the concentration of firearm owners in the wake of the deadly Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in nearby Connecticut. RT reported then that the paper, the White Plains Journal News, subsequently hired security guards to patrol headquarters after the decision to post that information prompted complaints and threats from the likes of area gun owners.

In the state of Minnesota, residents don’t need a permit to purchase, use or carry rifles and shotguns, according to the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, but do require licenses to purchase and carry handguns. Open carry is prohibited in all public areas unless one possesses a recognized permit, the USA Carry site reports.

Your Online TV Watching Can Now Be Tracked Across Devices

Slashdot -

itwbennett (1594911) writes A partnership between TV measurement company Nielsen and analytics provider Adobe, announced today, will let broadcasters see (in aggregate and anonymized) how people interact with digital video between devices — for example if you begin watching a show on Netflix on your laptop, then switch to a Roku set-top box to finish it. The information learned will help broadcasters decide what to charge advertisers, and deliver targeted ads to viewers. Broadcasters can use the new Nielsen Digital Content Ratings, as they're called, beginning early next year. Early users include ESPN, Sony Pictures Television, Turner Broadcasting and Viacom.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership – one sick treaty?

RT -

Eradicating disease from the face of the Earth

There are many illnesses that I have never known in my life, but surely two of the most profound are smallpox and polio. Smallpox once killed 400,000 people annually in Europe alone, with as many as 500 million deaths worldwide attributed to the disease in the first 80 years of the 20th Century. Polio was once also endemic to most parts of the world. It killed, too, but also left sufferers – many of them children – with serious physical disabilities, including partial paralysis. Even in highly developed countries like the USA, tens of thousands of children contracted polio each year with scores forced into the dreaded “iron lung” just to keep breathing. Yet today polio exists in only a handful of countries.

These radical advances in global health are due to nothing more complicated than cheap medicine and extensive public health programs that owe more to the spirit of scientific discovery than mercantilism. Such advances often originate from unlikely sources.

In the late 18th century, Edward Jenner, a small-town English doctor, noticed that milkmaids rarely contracted smallpox. He soon came to the conclusion that this was because they were often infected with cowpox, a similar but less dangerous disease, as a result of their occupation, and that this immunized them against future infection. Jenner used this knowledge to develop a successful and safe vaccine against smallpox which he then refined and shared with others. The British government eventually awarded Jenner £30 000 to allow him to abandon his practice and focus on the vaccine. It was a generous gift, but could not have motivated the doctor – he had already made his discovery and shared his work before these awards were bestowed on him.

The history of polio is similar. A safe vaccine was developed against polio by research scientist Jonas Salk in 1955. Salk was funded by the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (now the March of Dimes) a group set-up by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to combat polio. When asked in an interview who owned the patent to his vaccine, Salk was taken aback, eventually responding, “There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?” Shortly thereafter Albert Sabin, co-operating with Russian scientists, came up with a cheaper oral polio vaccination that is now used in most of the developing world. He didn’t patent it, either.

Salk, Sabin and Jenner are hardly household names, yet their effect on history is hard to overstate. I was born in the 81st year, but I have never received a vaccination against smallpox, because I was one of the first children born into a world where no one would ever get this lethal illness again. Shortly before I arrived, a massive, global public health program, spearheaded by the United Nations and World Health Organization, officially eradicated smallpox. These organizations are currently working to send polio the same way. Indeed, they are nearly there.

Public health projects don’t just effectively save lives; they also save money – enormous quantities of money. The cost of fighting smallpox is now zero, the cost of fighting polio nearly so. Millions of people are alive and well, at work and caring for their loved ones today because of these medications and the public funding that financed their dissemination. In a world with less debilitating disease, we are all much more productive.

This trend continues. The most promising treatment that currently exists for Ebola – the drug ZMapp – has been developed by small businesses and academic researchers relying heavily on government funding, Governments rightly identified that while Ebola might have been rather limited in its spread over the last 40 years, and it does remain a threat to global health. Over the same period, large pharmaceutical conglomerates chose not to pursue Ebola treatments because the disease has killed relatively few people (so far) and none of them could afford to pay top dollar for a cure. Treating Ebola, so it is said, just isn’t profitable.

Private and public profit

But this is a warped and narrow way of understanding profit. Getting rid of Ebola is profitable in exactly the same way that getting rid of smallpox and polio was profitable. In fact, it is hard to think of something that could generate a bigger return on investment. The profit from these public health programs is clear: more people living longer, no hospital bills, no psychological suffering, no orphans and widows, no blinded, paralyzed or scarred survivors, no relatives spending weeks or months away from work caring for the ill and dying. The profits, in fact, are so all-pervasive that we often don’t even fully appreciate them. Contrary to popular wisdom, money can buy these things. Money paid for Salk and Sabin’s research and allowed Jenner to widely share his vaccine. Money paid for the UN programs that have virtually wiped out some diseases and inhibited the spread of others. But it was public money invested in humanity to generate public profit.

This way of operating is under attack. Instead of using laws and international structures to tilt the playing field towards the small researchers and public bodies that are contributing to public health and public profits, we are instead devising ways to allow private companies to appropriate a greater share of the wealth generated by medical advances.

This was made apparent again last week when WikiLeaks revealed a new draft of the Trans-Pacific-Partnership agreement. This treaty is currently being negotiated between about a dozen Pacific Rim countries, including the US, Canada, Malaysia, Japan and Vietnam. The public is not invited to contribute to these discussions but industry leaders are. Perhaps therefore it is unsurprising that some of the provisions under debate in this tentative treaty will, if agreed upon, help to lock-in a level of patent protection that is not compatible with pursuing public health goals. In particular, some of the TPP provisions may facilitate a tactic known as “evergreening” in which companies procure patent extensions on the basis of minor changes to the patented formula (e.g. exchanging one inactive ingredient for another, or coming up with a secondary use for the medication), and in limiting the criteria a product must fulfill in order to be eligible for a patent, thereby making it easier to procure patents for products that are not what the average person would be perhaps willing to acknowledge as particularly innovative. In particular, the draft argues for a radical increase in the duration of patent protection for vaccines and some forms of cancer treatment. Earlier versions of the draft even tried to secure patents for particular methods of performing surgery, something that has traditionally and without question been freely shared among practitioners.

The object of the TPP draft, clearly, is to maximize profits – but not in the way that Jenner or Salk or the World Health Organization maximized profit by giving medicine away. The TPP will help to maximize profits by increasing the ability of large corporations to acquire or hold international monopolies on a product for longer periods than they are currently able to. They can use this position to ensure that prices remain high – too high for many. Those unable to afford necessary medicine will suffer, become sicker, and in many cases die. They will probably be unable to work for periods of time and they may leave dependents behind them. Or they may survive the illness but never fully recover without proper medical treatment. Multiply this scenario a thousand times or ten thousand times and you don’t just have a humanitarian problem, you have an economic problem, too.

Overly robust patent protections, especially rules that permit practices like “evergreening,” are not good economic sense for society as a whole. Moreover, patent revenues are not the only way to fund medical research. Many extremely important breakthroughs in medical science were not funded this way and truly wide-scale implementation often requires some degree of public funding. Rules, like the ones proposed in the TTP protect profit – private profit that is measured as abstract numbers on a bank account. And they do so at the expense of public profit that is measured in terms of real productivity and human benefit.

At a time when the world is once again presented with the specter of a deadly virus, world leaders would do better to focus on working together than on offering further protection to some of the most privileged among us.


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