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Sat, 30 Jul 2016
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Corporate appropriation: Getty resells thousands of donated images, now facing billion-dollar lawsuit

© image via Wikimedia Commons
Carol Highsmith self-portrait in a broken mirror that she photographed during the Willard Hotel restoration, Washington, DC (c. 1980–90)
In December, documentary photographer Carol Highsmith received a letter from Getty Images accusing her of copyright infringement for featuring one of her own photographs on her own website. It demanded payment of $120. This was how Highsmith came to learn that stock photo agencies Getty and Alamy had been sending similar threat letters and charging fees to users of her images, which she had donated to the Library of Congress for use by the general public at no charge.

Now, Highsmith has filed a $1 billion copyright infringement suit against both Alamy and Getty for "gross misuse" of 18,755 of her photographs. "The defendants [Getty Images] have apparently misappropriated Ms. Highsmith's generous gift to the American people," the complaint reads. "[They] are not only unlawfully charging licensing fees ... but are falsely and fraudulently holding themselves out as the exclusive copyright owner." According to the lawsuit, Getty and Alamy, on their websites, have been selling licenses for thousands of Highsmith's photographs, many without her name attached to them and stamped with "false watermarks."

Since 1988, Highsmith has been donating tens of thousands of photographs of people and places in the United States to the Library of Congress, making them free for public use. The institution calls the donation "one of the greatest acts of generosity in the history of the Library." The Carol M. Highsmith Collection is featured in the library's Prints & Photographs Division, alongside the likes of Dorothea Lange's Dust Bowl and Depression photographs.

In fact, it was partly Lange's work with the Farm Security Administration that inspired the now-70-year-old Highsmith to begin her own project of documenting all 50 states through her nonprofit This is America! Foundation. Chances are, you've seen the results before. The United States Postal Service featured Highsmith's photographs of the Jefferson Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial on stamps, and her work has appeared in Smithsonian Magazine, Time, the New York Times, and the Washington Post Magazine.


JetBlue airline to launch first US flight to Cuba on August 31

© Flickr/ wilco737
The first US flight to Cuba operated by JetBlue Airlines will take off on August 31, the airline announced in a statement on Thursday.

"JetBlue today announced it will launch flights to Cuba on August 31, 2016," the statement said.

The first flights will all leave from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in the US state of Florida and head to the Cuban city of Santa Clara, the airline noted. A one-way ticket will cost 99 dollars.

Comment: JetBlue is in the news today for another reason too: No shock there: Kilos of cocaine found on to JetBlue planes during check in Florida

Stock Down

Cutting off one's nose to spite face? Shell profits plunge 70% due to oil-price low

© Sergei Karpukhin / Reuters
Filled oil drums are seen at Royal Dutch Shell Plc's lubricants blending plant in the town of Torzhok, north-west of Tver.
Royal Dutch Shell posted a 70 percent drop in its quarterly profits, worse than analysts had expected. The Anglo-Dutch oil major is blaming low crude prices and small refining profits.

"Lower oil prices continue to be a significant challenge across the business, particularly in the upstream (business)," said Chief Executive Ben van Beurden on Thursday.

Shell's second-quarter profit slumped from $3.8 billion to $1 billion year-on-year. Analysts had expected the company would earn about $2.2 billion.

Not only Shell's oil business, but others divisions including gas, petrochemical and oil refining saw a steep decline. Cash flow reduced to $2.3 billion compared with $6.1 billion in the same period of 2015. This is not enough even to pay out $3.7 billion in dividends.


No shock there: Kilos of cocaine found on two JetBlue planes during check in Florida

© Lucas Jackson / Reuters
Maintenance workers carrying out routine checks on JetBlue aircraft in Florida got more than they bargained for when they inadvertently uncovered a drug haul on two passenger planes.

The aircraft, which fly domestic and international flights for the low cost airline, were at the HAECO hangar in Lake City for service when workers found kilos of cocaine in the walls of luggage compartments below their right wings.

The first discovery of one kilo of cocaine was made last Wednesday. Two more kilos were found in another plane on Sunday in the exact same area of the aircraft, according to WJXT .

JetBlue's planes are usually serviced by HAECO every three months, without a lot of advance notice.

Comment: Florida has been a major hub for the illegal drug trade for decades. Not coincidentally, it has also been a major hub for training "Contra" armies for regime-change ops in Central and South America. This latest 'bust' was small beans compared to what is sanctioned and directed by organizations like the CIA/DEA/etc. (See Doug Valentine's Strength of the Wolf for all the sordid history.)


Divided, conquered: 'Allahu Akbar' calls prompt tension at Munich memorial

© Arnd Wiegmann / Reuters
A man prays beside flowers laid in front of the Olympia shopping mall, where yesterday's shooting rampage started, in Munich, Germany July 23, 2016.
Cries of 'Allahu Akbar' caused uproar during a commemoration for victims of last week's shooting at a Munich shopping mall. Nine people were killed by a German-Iranian at the Olympia mall on July 22, with officials indicating a pre-planned attack.

The altercation at the scene of the shooting - where crowds have been paying their respects - was captured on camera and published by Italian newspaper Il Fatto Quotidiano.

In the footage, a young Muslim expresses his outrage over the "unjust world." Il Fatto Quotidiano reports the young man was part of a group who lost friends in the attack.

VIDEO EMBED (Caution: Strong language)

Comment: 'Allahu Akbar' is not a jihadi slogan. It simply means 'God is great', and it is used by ordinary Muslims. In some contexts, it's similar to how Westerners might say 'Oh my God' or 'Praise the Lord'. The jihadis coopted the phrase, however, and use it before, during, and after their deadly attacks in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere, and generally whenever they open their mouths.

So without more information, this event is neutral: probability suggests that whoever uttered the phrase here was a normal Muslim, not necessarily expressing support for the violence.

What the whole dynamic shows is just how fractured German society is; it's ready to collapse in its own internal divisions. Without proper guidance from the top (on the level of government and 'culture creators'), the polarization will only become more extreme. And the result will not be pretty.


Reports indicate gunman in standoff with armed police in Surrey, southern England

© Stefan Wermuth / Reuters
Armed police are reportedly locked in a standoff with a gunman in Smallfield, Surrey, a rural town on the outskirts of London.

Carey's Wood road has been closed off and residents are being told to stay in their homes. One resident told the Surrey Mirror that a police helicopter has been near the scene since 5:30am GMT.

A witness told the newspaper that she saw two people sitting in the back of a police car and another person in handcuffs outside the house, which police have surrounded.

That police car has now left the scene, but the man who is reported to have the gun is still said to be inside the house.


Russia and Syria launch mass humanitarian operation in Aleppo

© REUTERS/ Hosam Katan/File photo
Russia and the Syrian government have launched a joint large-scale humanitarian relief operation in Aleppo, establishing three corridors for civilians and one for militants with weapons and equipment, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Thursday.

"We have repeatedly called on the warring parties to reconcile, but every time the militants violated the cessation of hostilities, shelled villages, attacked the positions of government troops. As a result, a complex humanitarian situation has been created in Aleppo and its suburbs," Shoigu told reporters.

Comment: The ICRC welcomed the move, adding that humanitarian corridors must be "well planned and ... implemented with the consent of parties on all sides." Good luck telling that to the U.S.'s moderate rebels! The first group of Aleppo residents trapped in the siege against the terrorists holding the city began their escape today through the corridor created with Russian help.

MSF may also join an international call for help with the aid operation:
Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders, or MSF) is interested in Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu's call on international organizations to take part in Russia-backed humanitarian operation in Syria's Aleppo, the head of mission in Russia for MSF Operational Center in Brussels (OCB) told Sputnik on Thursday.

"As stated many times before, MSF is very concerned about the people of Aleppo, and the estimated 250,000 people trapped in the east of the city. MSF is thus interested in this call from Defense Minister Shoigu, and we are willing to make contact with the MoD [Ministry of Defense] to get accurate and comprehensive information on the conditions," Ewald Stals said.
Meanwhile US aid is stuck in the mud: USAID 'significant fraud': $239 million in desperately needed Syrian aid frozen


Technology is now a cancer

"New and improved" is now an oxymoron. Every single day my cell phone tells me that 10 or
© Techinfographics
This is your brain on technology. Get help.
20 apps have been "updated" and none of them ever work better. Instead, a phone that worked perfectly when I got it now tells me, 10 to 20 times a day, "Unfortunately, Moto has stopped." The operating rule in technology for years now has been, if it isn't broke, graft something onto it so we can advertise it as new and improved.

Why does every coffee maker come with a clock? Because consumers have been banging their pitchforks on the iron gates of the appliance companies, chanting "We want clocks!"? No. They do it because they can. Likewise with variable-strength settings, and delayed-start. Now they're connecting the coffee pots to the Internet of Things so we can talk to them about coffee with our smartphones. I don't want to discuss coffee with my coffee pot. I just want a damn cup of coffee..

Okay the examples so far are trivial. These aren't:
  • More cars broke down and stranded their occupants on the road in 2015 than in any year on record. The main culprit, according to AAA: technology.
  • Farmers in several states are campaigning to win the right to repair their own machines, while manufacturers claim the farmers only lease the technology that makes the thing run, and any problem has to be handled by a certified technician in a company-owned service center. Tell a farmer that when, in harvest time, his $400,000 combine is sitting silent in a field containing his annual income for lack of a 100-dollar oxygen sensor. Then step back.
  • Long-haul truckers are desperate to escape the rising costs of technology — some of it mandated to control emissions. "The engines and drive trains of these new trucks are good for a million miles, easy," one operator told me. "But the technology starts shutting them down after about 20,000 miles." Nothing like having a refrigerated 18-wheeler stopped on an Interstate ramp in Florida because a crankshaft-position sensor is hallucinating.
  • Now comes the Internet of Things, featuring devices connected to the Internet via your Wifi system so you can use your smart phone to feed your dog, adjust the thermostat in your empty house, adjust your refrigerator temperature (something I personally have not done more than twice in 50 years), adjust the lighting in your empty house, and other necessary things.
There is no question that automobiles, for example, are far better today than they were 30 years ago, mainly because of improvements in the machining of engine and drive-train parts. We used to have to drive a car a thousand miles at painfully slow speeds to "seat" the valves and rings and bearings, which meant, let them bang against each other until they fit better. Even when properly broken in, and most of us didn't wait to exceed 60 miles per hour, it was rare for an engine to last 100,000 miles. Now, precision tools have done away with the break-in period, and at least tripled the life expectancy of engines. Score one for technology.


teleSUR host Abby Martin discusses violent arrest at DNC

Abby Martin, host of Empire Files, was released by police on Monday after a violent arrest while covering DNC protests for teleSUR, but says that many more wait to be processed after "mass marches, mass protests and mass arrests and detentions," despite police reports that no arrests have been made at the DNC.
© Mike Prysner/Twitter
Martin was on her way to a "Democracy Spring" event where there were reports of civil disobedience and arrests being made. The police had closed off all streets surrounding the action and directed Martin to an exit, where she was arrested for a lack of credentials. She and her producer, Mike Prysner, unknowingly entered an area where only those with credentials are allowed.
© Mike Prysner/Twitter
The police stopped them and told them to leave the area. As they were complying and leaving the area, another police officer grabbed Martin, twisted her arm, tore her dress and arrested her for "disorderly conduct."

Three cops "aggressively manhandled me," she said, before throwing her in a police van and driving her to an elementary school to be processed alongside many protesters that had participated in the Democracy Spring action and others.

"I was just trying to accept my fate and how unreal what was happening was," said Martin. "I just kept thinking about what people go through" in aggressive arrests every day in the U.S.

"It's just really stunning to go through that experience and to know that this is what police do to people every day in this country."


MSM pukes: Warns Americans against Russian invasion following Trump 'invitation'

© Carlo Allegri / Reuters
Beware: The Russians are coming to invade an email near you, and at the invitation of Donald Trump, no less. At least that's how the mainstream media have interpreted the Republican Presidential candidate's latest comments.

Headlines referring to Trump's "call on Russia to cyber-invade the United States" have contributed to a media frenzy, with the DNC accusing Russians of hacking into its emails.

The topic can now be found at the top of news feeds across every social media platform following Trump's press conference on Wednesday when he jokingly weighed in on the email scandal.

"Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing," said Trump, while commenting on ongoing debacle. "I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press."

Comment: Trump wishes he had that power: 'I hope Russia has all 33,000 emails that Hillary deleted'