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The Internet

Republicans Back Down, FCC To Enforce Net Neutrality Rules 590

Posted by Soulskill
from the on-to-the-courts dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Republican resistance has ended for the FCC's plans to regulate the internet as a public utility. FCC commissioners are working out the final details, and they're expected to approve the plan themselves on Thursday. "The F.C.C. plan would let the agency regulate Internet access as if it is a public good.... In addition, it would ban the intentional slowing of the Internet for companies that refuse to pay broadband providers. The plan would also give the F.C.C. the power to step in if unforeseen impediments are thrown up by the handful of giant companies that run many of the country's broadband and wireless networks." Dave Steer of the Mozilla Foundation said, "We've been outspent, outlobbied. We were going up against the second-biggest corporate lobby in D.C., and it looks like we've won."
Privacy

Bipartisan Bill Would Mandate Warrant To Search Emails 103

Posted by Soulskill
from the of-barn-doors-and-horses dept.
jfruh writes: Bills were introduced into both the House and Senate yesterday that would amend the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, requiring a warrant to search Americans' email messages stored on third-party servers even if they're more than 180 days old. The current version of the law was passed in 1986, and was written in an environment where most email users downloaded emails to their computer and erased them after reading them.
United States

Obama's 2016 NASA Budget Status Quo, Funds Europa Mission 92

Posted by samzenpus
from the paying-bills dept.
MarkWhittington writes The Washington Post reported that the NASA portion of the president's 2016 budget proposal is basically status quo though it does provide further funding for a mission to Europa. A Europa probe is near and dear to the new chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee that funds NASA, Rep. John Culberson. However, the $18.5 billion budget proposal also funds the asteroid redirect mission, which has come under increasing fire from both Congress and the scientific community. The Houston Chronicle suggested that the final spending bill will be considerably different once congressional Republicans get through with it.
Earth

Most Americans Support Government Action On Climate Change 458

Posted by Soulskill
from the politics-of-science dept.
mdsolar points out this report in the NY Times: An overwhelming majority of the American public, including nearly half of Republicans, support government action to curb global warming, according to a poll conducted by The New York Times, Stanford University and the nonpartisan environmental research group Resources for the Future. In a finding that could have implications for the 2016 presidential campaign, the poll also found that two-thirds of Americans say they are more likely to vote for political candidates who campaign on fighting climate change. They are less likely to vote for candidates who question or deny the science of human-caused global warming.

Among Republicans, 48 percent said they are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports fighting climate change, a result that Jon A. Krosnick, a professor of political science at Stanford University and an author of the survey, called "the most powerful finding" in the poll. Many Republican candidates either question the science of climate change or do not publicly address the issue.
Government

Safety Review Finds Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Site Was Technically Sound 176

Posted by Soulskill
from the wasted-effort dept.
siddesu writes: The U.S. Department of Energy's 2008 proposal to build a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, was technically sound, a report by the NRC says. However, the closed-down project is unlikely to revive, as its staff has moved on, and there are few funds available to restart it. "With the release of the final two volumes of a five-part technical analysis, the commission closed another chapter on the controversial repository nearly five years after President Barack Obama abandoned the project, and more than a quarter century after the site was selected. While the staff recommended against approving construction, the solid technical review could embolden Republicans who now control both houses of Congress and would like to see Yucca Mountain revived."
United States

Senator Who Calls STEM Shortage a Hoax Appointed To Head Immigration 514

Posted by timothy
from the nobody-hates-new-immigrants-like-old-immigrants dept.
dcblogs (1096431) writes The Senate's two top Republican critics of temporary worker immigration, specifically the H-1B and L-1 visas, now hold the two most important immigration posts in the Senate. They are Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who heads the Senate's Judiciary Committee, and his committee underling, Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who was appointed by Grassley on Thursday to head the immigration subcommittee. Sessions was appointed one week after accusing the tech industry of perpetuating a "hoax" by claiming there is a shortage of qualified U.S. tech workers. "The tech industry's promotion of expanded temporary visas — such as the H-1B — and green cards is driven by its desire for cheap, young and immobile labor," wrote Sessions, in a memo he sent last week to fellow lawmakers. Sessions, late Thursday, issued a statement about his new role as immigration subcommittee chairman, and said the committee "will give voice to those whose voice has been shut out," and that includes "the voice of the American IT workers who are being replaced with guest workers."
Earth

US Senate Set To Vote On Whether Climate Change Is a Hoax 667

Posted by samzenpus
from the who's-to-blame dept.
sciencehabit writes The U.S. Senate's simmering debate over climate science has come to a full boil today, as lawmakers prepare to vote on measures offered by Democrats that affirm that climate change is real—with one also noting that global warming is not "a hoax." In an effort to highlight their differences with some Republicans on climate policy, several Democrats have filed largely symbolic amendments to a bill that would approve the Keystone XL pipeline. They are designed to put senators on the record on whether climate change is real and human-caused.
The Internet

Republican Bill Aims To Thwart the FCC's Leaning Towards Title II 182

Posted by timothy
from the belief-in-authority dept.
SpzToid writes U.S. congressional Republicans on Friday proposed legislation that would set "net neutrality" rules for broadband providers, aiming to head off tougher regulations backed by the Obama administration. Republican lawmakers hope to counter the Federal Communications Commission's vote on Feb. 26 for rules that are expected to follow the legal path endorsed by President Barack Obama, which Internet service providers (ISPs) and Republicans say would unnecessarily burden the industry with regulation. Net neutrality activists, now with Obama's backing, have advocated for regulation of ISPs under a section of communications law known as Title II, which would treat them more like public utilities. The White House on Thursday said legislation was not necessary to settle so-called "net neutrality" rules because the Federal Communications Commission had the authority to write them.
United States

Bill Would Ban Paid Prioritization By ISPs 216

Posted by samzenpus
from the treating-it-all-the-same dept.
jfruh writes In the opening days of the new U.S. Congress, a bill has been introduced in both the House and Senate enforcing Net neutrality, making it illegal for ISPs to accept payment to prioritize some traffic packets over others. But the sponsors are all Democrats, and with Republicans now in charge of both house of Congress, the chances of it passing seem slim.
Transportation

Who's To Blame For Rules That Block Tesla Sales In Most US States? 141

Posted by timothy
from the did-you-get-a-look-at-the-license-plate? dept.
cartechboy writes The common assumption among Tesla fans seems to be that state auto-dealer lobbyists are working with Republican legislators to enact laws banning direct sales of Tesla's electric cars to retail buyers. Is it true? The New York Times published an article with some data points that assesses the supposition. While the article mainly focuses on the conflict between Uber and the Republican party, some quotes could be easily applied to Tesla. For instance, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Preibus said, "It should be consumers, not government bureaucrats or legislators, that deicde what companies get our business." The author of the article, Josh Barro, wrote that 22 states permit direct sales of automobiles by Tesla to retail buyers, and of those the majority--14 of them-- voted for President Obama. He suggested that Democratic California, Illinois, and New York "have freer markets in auto retailing than Texas," which is presently Republican. When looking at a five-year-old article by Nate Silver that looked at political donations by car dealers, fully 88 percent of those donations went to Republican candidates, and just 12 percent to Democrats. That possibly suggests a propensity among Republican state legislators to support the interests for car dealers over those of electric-car buyers. Is the small bit of evidence enough to make a case? Good background on the current system of dealership sinecure can be found in this short 2009 Competition Advocacy Paper from the U.S. Department of Justice, which delves into the history and effects of the dealers-only system which still prevails.
Math

Mathematicians Study Effects of Gerrymandering On 2012 Election 413

Posted by samzenpus
from the fix-is-in dept.
HughPickens.com writes Gerrymandering is the practice of establishing a political advantage for a particular party by manipulating district boundaries to concentrate all your opponents' votes in a few districts while keeping your party's supporters as a majority in the remaining districts. For example, in North Carolina in 2012 Republicans ended up winning nine out of 13 congressional seats even though more North Carolinians voted for Democrats than Republicans statewide. Now Jessica Jones reports that researchers at Duke are studying the mathematical explanation for the discrepancy. Mathematicians Jonathan Mattingly and Christy Vaughn created a series of district maps using the same vote totals from 2012, but with different borders. Their work was governed by two principles of redistricting: a federal rule requires each district have roughly the same population and a state rule requires congressional districts to be compact. Using those principles as a guide, they created a mathematical algorithm to randomly redraw the boundaries of the state's 13 congressional districts. "We just used the actual vote counts from 2012 and just retabulated them under the different districtings," says Vaughn. "If someone voted for a particular candidate in the 2012 election and one of our redrawn maps assigned where they live to a new congressional district, we assumed that they would still vote for the same political party."

The results were startling. After re-running the election 100 times with a randomly drawn nonpartisan map each time, the average simulated election result was 7 or 8 U.S. House seats for the Democrats and 5 or 6 for Republicans. The maximum number of Republican seats that emerged from any of the simulations was eight. The actual outcome of the election — four Democratic representatives and nine Republicans – did not occur in any of the simulations. "If we really want our elections to reflect the will of the people, then I think we have to put in safeguards to protect our democracy so redistrictings don't end up so biased that they essentially fix the elections before they get started," says Mattingly. But North Carolina State Senator Bob Rucho is unimpressed. "I'm saying these maps aren't gerrymandered," says Rucho. "It was a matter of what the candidates actually was able to tell the voters and if the voters agreed with them. Why would you call that uncompetitive?"
Republicans

Republicans Block Latest Attempt At Curbing NSA Power 445

Posted by Soulskill
from the and-everybody-will-have-forgotten-about-it-in-two-years dept.
Robotron23 writes: The latest attempt at NSA reform has been prevented from passage in the Senate by a margin of 58 to 42. Introduced as a means to stop the NSA collecting bulk phone and e-mail records on a daily basis, the USA Freedom Act has been considered a practical route to curtailment of perceived overreach by security services, 18 months since Edward Snowden went public. Opponents to the bill said it was needless, as Wall Street Journal raised the possibility of terrorists such as ISIS running amok on U.S. soil. Supporting the bill meanwhile were the technology giants Google and Microsoft. Prior to this vote, the bill had already been stripped of privacy protections in aid of gaining White House support. A provision to extend the controversial USA Patriot Act to 2017 was also appended by the House of Representatives.
Science

When We Don't Like the Solution, We Deny the Problem 282

Posted by Soulskill
from the having-problems-is-not-a-problem dept.
Ichijo writes: A new study (abstract) from Duke University tested whether the desirability of a solution affects beliefs in the existence of the associated problem. Researchers found that 'yes, people will deny the problem when they don't like the solution. Quoting: "Participants in the experiment, including both self-identified Republicans and Democrats, read a statement asserting that global temperatures will rise 3.2 degrees in the 21st century. They were then asked to evaluate a proposed policy solution to address the warming. When the policy solution emphasized a tax on carbon emissions or some other form of government regulation, which is generally opposed by Republican ideology, only 22 percent of Republicans said they believed the temperatures would rise at least as much as indicated by the scientific statement they read.

But when the proposed policy solution emphasized the free market, such as with innovative green technology, 55 percent of Republicans agreed with the scientific statement. The researchers found liberal-leaning individuals exhibited a similar aversion to solutions they viewed as politically undesirable in an experiment involving violent home break-ins. When the proposed solution called for looser versus tighter gun-control laws, those with more liberal gun-control ideologies were more likely to downplay the frequency of violent home break-ins."
Patents

Silicon Valley Swings To Republicans 485

Posted by samzenpus
from the going-the-other-way dept.
phantomfive writes Silicon Valley is making a mark in Washington as Google has recently replaced Goldman as the largest lobbyist, but until recently, most of the money from Silicon Valley went to democratic candidates. In 2014, that has changed, and Republicans are getting most of the money. Why the change? Gordon Crovitz suggests it's because Harry Reid blocked patent reform. Reid gets a large chunk of donations from trial lawyers, who oppose the reform.
Government

US Midterm Elections Discussion 401

Posted by timothy
from the mostly-I-vote-because-I-love-dark-humor dept.
November 4th will be election day in the U.S. Though the presidential race is still forming, this midterm election has lots of close races that may give a hint about the likely outcome in 2016. Many pundits and pollsters see a strong chance that Republicans will gain a majority in the Senate in Tuesday's election. Think of the discussion attached to this post as the place to discuss the election: candidates, political advertising, voting technology, and the wisdom of voter ID laws. If you are voting, this chart of poll closing times might be useful. (And, as with the similar post from 10 years ago today, you can take a look at the current poll to see what the Zeitgeist looks like for Slashdot readers, and mentally fill in the past tense, if you're one of the many early voters; not much room in the poll question field.)
Facebook

Facebook Wants You To Vote Tuesday 165

Posted by timothy
from the in-particular-way dept.
theodp (442580) writes "Six years in the making, Facebook's get-out-the-vote tool — a high-profile button that proclaims "I'm Voting" or "I'm a Voter" — will on Tuesday give many of the social network's more than 150 million American users a gentle but effective nudge to vote. "If past research is any guide," writes Micah L. Sifry in Mother Jones, "up to a few million more people will head to the polls partly because their Facebook friends encouraged them. Yet the process by which Facebook has developed this tool — what the firm calls the 'voter megaphone' — has not been very transparent, raising questions about its use and Facebook's ability to influence elections. Moreover, while Facebook has been developing and promoting this tool, it has also been quietly conducting experiments on how the company's actions can affect the voting behavior of its users." Sifry adds, "There may be another reason for Facebook's lack of transparency regarding its voting promotion experiments: politics. Facebook officials likely do not want Republicans on Capitol Hill to realize that their voter megaphone isn't a neutral get-out-the-vote mechanism. It's not that Facebook uses this tool to remind only users who identify themselves as Democrats to vote — though the company certainly has the technical means to do so. But the Facebook user base tilts Democratic." So, it's probably worth mentioning again that Facebook caught flack last summer for deliberately experimenting on users' emotions without their consent. And just last June, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us PAC put out a call for "pissed off Data Scientists" to data mine critical legislative districts and "growth hack" ways to motivate "registered voters who are registered Republicans who we think are likely to support immigration reform.""
Medicine

The CDC Is Carefully Controlling How Scared You Are About Ebola 478

Posted by Soulskill
from the be-afraid.-be-slightly-afraid. dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Russell Berman reports in The Atlantic that the Obama administration is trying to navigate a tricky course: Can officials increase public vigilance about the deadly Ebola virus without inciting a panic? "Ebola is scary. It's a deadly disease. But we know how to stop it," says Dr. Thomas Frieden, the CDC director. speaking "calmly and clearly, sticking to an even pitch and avoiding the familiar political image of the whip-smart fast-talker." International groups wanted the U.S. to step in sooner to help fight the outbreak in west Africa, while more recently some Republicans have called on the administration to ban travel from the most affected countries.

Frieden and other officials say such a move would be counterproductive, citing lessons learned from the SARS outbreak a decade ago. "The SARS outbreak cost the world more than $40 billion, but it wasn't to control the outbreak," says Frieden. "Those were costs from unnecessary and ineffective travel restrictions and trade changes that could have been avoided." The government announced Wednesday that it was stepping up protective measures at five airports, where authorities will screen travelers from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea with targeted questions and fever checks, an action, officials acknowledge, that was taken not only to stop the spread of the disease but simply to make people feel safer. According to Berman, the message is this: Be afraid of Ebola. Just not too afraid.
Space

Congress Can't Make Asteroid Mining Legal (But It's Trying, Anyway) 213

Posted by Soulskill
from the one-of-the-few-things-congress-actively-tries-to-do-these-days dept.
Jason Koebler writes: Earlier this week, the House Science Committee examined the American Space Technology for Exploring Resource Opportunities in Deep Space (ASTEROIDS) Act, a bill that would ensure that "any resources obtained in outer space from an asteroid are the property of the entity that obtained such resources."

The problem is, that idea doesn't really mesh at all with the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, a document that suggests space is a shared resource: "Unlike some other global commons, no agreement has been reached at to whether title to extracted space resources passes to the extracting entity," Joanne Gabrynowicz, a space law expert at the University of Mississippi said (PDF). "There is no legal clarity regarding the ownership status of the extracted resources. It is foreseeable that the entity's actions will be challenged at law and in politics."
Government

If Immigration Reform Is Dead, So Is Raising the H-1B Cap 341

Posted by Soulskill
from the congress-members-shouting-at-one-another dept.
dcblogs writes: In a speech Wednesday on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) declared immigration reform dead. He chastised and baited Republicans in Congress for blocking reform, and declared that winning the White House without the support of a growing Hispanic population will become mathematically impossible. "The Republican Presidential nominee, whoever he or she may be, will enter the race with an electoral college deficit they cannot make up," said Gutierrez. If he's right, and comprehensive immigration reform is indeed dead, then so too is the tech industry's effort to raise the cap on H-1B visas. Immigration reform advocates have successfully blocked any effort to take up the immigration issue in piecemeal fashion, lest business support for comprehensive reform peel away. Next year may create an entirely new set of problems for tech. If the Republicans take control of the Senate, the tech industry will face this obstacle: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee could become its next chairman. He has been a consistent critic of the H-1B program through the years. "The H-1B program is so popular that it's now replacing the U.S. labor force," said Grassley, at one point.