theodp writes: U.S. civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson called on the Obama administration Monday to scrutinize the tech industry's lack of diversity. "There's no talent shortage. There's an opportunity shortage," Jackson said, calling Silicon Valley "far worse" than many others, such as car makers that have been pressured by unions. He said tech behemoths have largely escaped scrutiny by a public dazzled with their cutting-edge gadgets. Jackson spoke to press after meeting with Labor Secretary Tom Perez for a review of H-1B visas, arguing that data show Americans have the skills and should have first access to high-paying tech work. Jackson's Rainbow Push Coalition plans to file a freedom-of-information request next month with the EEOC to acquire employment data for companies that have not yet disclosed it publicly, which includes Amazon, Broadcom, Oracle, Qualcomm and Yelp. Unlike the Dept. of Labor, Jackson isn't buying Silicon Valley's argument that minority hiring statistics are trade secrets. Five years after Google's HR Chief would only reassure Congress the company had "a very strong internal Black Googler Network" and its CEO brushed off similar questions about its diversity numbers by saying "we're pretty happy with the way our recruiting work," Google — under pressure from Jackson — fessed up to having a tech workforce that's only 1% Black, apparently par for the course in Silicon Valley.
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necro81 (917438) writes "Gaza's only power plant (see this profile at IEEE Spectrum — duct tape and bailing wire not included) has been knocked offline following an Israeli strike. Reports vary, but it appears that Israeli tank shells caused a fuel bunker at the plant to explode. Gaza, already short on electricity despite imports from Israel and Egpyt, now faces widening blackouts."
The Wall Street Journal lists 26 questions that Google and other search providers have been asked (in a meeting in Brussels earlier this week) to answer for EU regulators, to pin down what the search engine companies have done to comply with European demands to implement a "right to be forgotten." Some questions were asked directly of representatives of Microsoft, Yahoo and Google, while the regulators want answers to the others in short order. From the article: Regulators touched on some hot-button issues in six oral questions and another 26 written ones, with answers due by next Thursday. They asked Google to describe the “legal basis” of its decision to notify publishers when it approves right-to-be-forgotten requests, something that has led to requesters’ being publicly identified in some cases. They also asked search engines to explain where they take down the results, after complaints from some regulators that Google does not filter results on google.com. That means that anyone in Europe can switch from, say, google.co.uk to Google.com to see any removed links. Among the questions: "2. Do you filter out some requests based on the location, nationality, or place of residence of the data subject? If so, what is the legal basis for excluding such requests?" and "16. Does your company refuse requests when the data subject was the author of the information he/she posted himself/herself on the web? If so, what is the basis for refusing such requests?"
theodp (442580) writes Facebook is mostly white dudes, writes Valleywag's Sam Biddle, cutting to the chase of Facebook's inaugural disclosure of diversity figures. "We're serious about building a workplace that reflects a broad range of experience, thought, geography, age, background, gender, sexual orientation, language, culture and many other characteristics," said Facebook, which has a tech workforce that's 15% female and only 1% Black. By contrast, Wikipedia's Baseball Color Line article notes that "by the late 1950s, the percentage of blacks on Major League teams matched or exceeded that of the general population." So, is it surprising that the company whose stated mission is "to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected" is having problems connecting with the general population in 2014?
hackingbear writes: Burdened with Alabama's highest unemployment rate, long abandoned by textile mills and furniture plants, Wilcox County, Alabama, desperately needs jobs. And the jobs are coming from China. Henan's Golden Dragon Precise Copper Tube Group opened a plant here last month, employing 300 locals. Chinese companies invested a record $14 billion in the United States last year, according to the Rhodium Group research firm. Collectively, they employ more than 70,000 Americans, up from virtually none a decade ago. Powerful forces — narrowing wage gaps (Chinese wages have been doubling every few years), tumbling U.S. energy prices, the rising Yuan — up 30% over the decade — are pulling Chinese companies across the Pacific. Perhaps very soon, Chinese workers will start protesting their jobs being outsourced to the cheap labor in the U.S."
schwit1 writes One of the great "paradigms" of the New Normal tech bubble that supposedly differentiated it from dot com bubble 1.0 was that this time it was different, at least when it came to advertising revenues. The mantra went that unlike traditional web-based banner advertising which has been in secular decline over the past decade, social media ad spending — which the bulk of new tech company stalwarts swear is the source of virtually unlimited upside growth — was far more engaging, and generated far greater returns and better results for those spending billions in ad bucks on the new "social-networked" generation. Sadly, this time was not different after all, and this "paradigm" has also turned out to be one big pipe dream. According to the WSJ, citing Gallup, "62% of the more than 18,000 U.S. consumers it polled said social media had no influence on their buying decisions. Another 30% said it had some influence. U.S. companies spent $5.1 billion on social-media advertising in 2013, but Gallup says "consumers are highly adept at tuning out brand-related Facebook and Twitter content."
theodp (442580) writes Comparing Yahoo's diversity numbers to Google's, writes Valleywag's Nitasha Tiku, is "like comparing rotten apples to rotten oranges." Two weeks after Google disclosed it wasn't "where we want to be" with its 17% female and 1% Black U.S. tech workforce, Yahoo revealed its diversity numbers aren't that much better than Google's, with a U.S. tech workforce that's 35% female and 1% Black. The charts released by Yahoo indicate women fare worse in its global tech workforce, only 15% of which is female. So, with Google and Yahoo having checked in, isn't it about time for U.S. workforce expert Mark Zuckerberg and company to stop taking the Fifth and ante up numbers to show students what kind of opportunities Facebook offers?
mpicpp sends this news from the BBC: The U.K. government has revealed that intelligence service GCHQ can snoop on British citizens' use of Facebook, Twitter and Google without a warrant because the firms are based overseas. U.K. spy boss Charles Farr said that such platforms are classified as external communications. The policy was revealed as part of an ongoing legal battle with campaign group Privacy International (PI). PI said the interpretation of the law "patronizes the British people." According to Mr Farr, Facebook, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and web searches on Google, as well as webmail services such as Hotmail and Yahoo are classified as "external communications," which means that they can be intercepted without the need for additional legal clearance."
theodp writes: "We are excited to announce that FWD.us and Hackers/Founders are joining forces to host the 'DEBUG DC' Growthathon on June 21st & June 22nd," reads the blog over at FWD.us, the PAC whose Founders and Major Contributors include current and former CEOs from Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL, and LinkedIn. "This is a unique opportunity to push the envelope in online advocacy for immigration reform." The blog entry explains, "The machine of government is wedged, and is in desperate need of debugging. How do we DEBUG DC? Step One: Target critical legislative districts. Step Two: Data mine these districts to find registered voters who are registered Republicans who we think are likely to support immigration reform. Step Three: Growth hack ways to motivate these people to effectively engage their legislators to tell them they want them to call for a vote on immigration reform. Step Four: Measure results. Step Five: Iterate." The Eventbrite invitation for the event includes a call for Data Scientists who are "pissed off about immigration and want to fix it," are "well versed in statistics and data analysis," and can "infer voter sentiment from sparse data." So, how does this jibe with the outrage expressed by the FWD.us supporters' companies over unauthorized government surveillance?
schwit1 (797399) writes with this story from the Associated Press, as carried by Yahoo News: The Obama administration has been quietly advising local police not to disclose details about surveillance technology they are using to sweep up basic cellphone data from entire neighborhoods, The Associated Press has learned. Citing security reasons, the U.S. has intervened in routine state public records cases and criminal trials regarding use of the technology. This has resulted in police departments withholding materials or heavily censoring documents in rare instances when they disclose any about the purchase and use of such powerful surveillance equipment. Federal involvement in local open records proceedings is unusual. It comes at a time when President Barack Obama has said he welcomes a debate on government surveillance and called for more transparency about spying in the wake of disclosures about classified federal surveillance programs.
A while ago you had the chance to ask programmer and open source advocate Bruce Perens about the future of open source, its role in government, and a number of other questions. Below you'll find his answers and an update on what he's doing now.
theodp (442580) writes "Back in 2011, then-Google VP and now-Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer brainstormed with BMW to sketch out an idea she had for self-driving 'little bubbles' that could ease office commutes. Here's Mayer's pitch from a BMW film short: 'All I really need is a little bubble that drives itself and when it runs into something, it doesn't hurt that much...and...you know, like it doesn't actually take up that much fuel because it's so lightweight and it's good for the environment for that reason.' So, with Google's newly-built, steering wheel-less self-driving car being described as a 'tiny bubble-car', one wonders if Google CEO Larry Page's "Tiny Bubble Car" has its roots in Mayer's 'Little Bubble Car,' especially considering the striking similarity of Mayer's concept car sketch and Google's built vehicle." Seems to me there's been plenty of concept art (as well as actual tiny bubble-like cars, even if they generallly have had steering wheels) for car designers to draw on.
An anonymous reader writes "BlackPhone was designed by Phil Zimmermann (inventor of PGP). The 4.7" display phone features a 2 GHz NVIDIA Tegra 4i ARM Cortex-A9 quad-core processor with 60 GPU cores, 1GB RAM and 16GB storage [more specs]. The OS is a customized version of Android called PrivatOS which offers encrypted calls, texts and emails that can't be unscrambled even by spy agencies. It also offers built-in resistance against malicious software which will be most welcomed for users worried about free Apps that are becoming increasingly invasive, if not pure data collection spyware for unknown 3rd parties. It's coming out this June, and many Fortune 50 companies have already ordered the phone to protect against industrial espionage."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Tim Nudd writes that it's the perfect match: Young Brazilians want to learn English. Elderly Americans living in retirement homes just want someone to talk to. Why not connect them? The advertising company FCB Brazil did just that with its 'Speaking Exchange' project for CNA language schools where young Brazilians and older Americans connect via Web chats, and they not only begin to share a language—they develop relationships that enrich both sides culturally and emotionally. 'The goal of the Speaking Exchange project is to transform lives,' says Luciana Fortuna. 'Our students have the opportunity to practice English with people who are willing to listen. During the chat sessions, the students discuss ideas and information from their lives in Brazil with the American senior citizens, many of whom have never had contact with anyone from Brazil before.' The pilot project was implemented at a CNA school in Liberdade, Brazil, and the Windsor Park Retirement Community in Chicago. The conversations are recorded and uploaded as private YouTube videos for the teachers to evaluate the students' development. 'The idea is simple and it's a win-win proposition for both the students and the American senior citizens. It's exciting to see their reactions and contentment. It truly benefits both sides,' says Joanna Monteiro."
theodp writes: "Covering President Obama's visit to Silicon Valley, the AP reports that the relationship between the White House, Silicon Valley and its money is complicated. Less than a year after David Kirkpatrick asked, "Did Obama Just Destroy the U.S. Internet Industry?", and just two months after Mark Zuckerberg gave the President a call complaining about NSA spying, Silicon Valley execs hosted two high-stakes Democratic Party fundraisers for the President. The White House declined to identify the 20 high-rollers who paid $32,400 per head to sit at the Tech Roundtable. The President also attended an event hosted by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and Y Combinator president Sam Altman, where the 250 or so guests paid $1,000 to $32,400 a head for bar service that featured wine, beer and cognac. The following day, Obama celebrated solar power at a Mountain View Walmart before jetting out of NASA's Moffett Field."
SonicSpike sends word of an FAA report that a small, remote-controlled aircraft was nearly struck by an American Airlines passenger jet as the jet was preparing to land. The pilot saw it briefly as he flew by — it was close enough that he was sure it stuck the plane, but no damage was found upon inspection. Jim Williams, head of the FAA's drone office, said the incident highlights the risk of ubiquitous, unregulated drone use. He said, "The risk for a small UAS to be ingested into a passenger airline engine is very real. The results could be catastrophic." The article notes that the FAA "currently bans the commercial use of drones in the United States and is under growing pressure to set rules that would permit their broader use. Hobby and many law-enforcement uses are permitted. Last year, the agency began establishing test sites where businesses can try out commercial uses."
An anonymous reader writes "Alibaba Group Holding, a Chinese company, filed for an initial public offering (IPO) on Tuesday to the tune of $1 billion dollars. Alibaba is an e-commerce company whose success has ensured that more than half of all parcel deliveries in China, the world's largest internet market, are directly attributed to Alibaba customers. Critics, citing cultural differences (i.e., consumer branding and shopping preferences) as well as entrenched U.S. competition, say that the company may not be as successful in the U.S. Businesses such as Amazon, eBay, and PayPal already provide the type of services that the Alibaba Group offers. On the other hand, U.S. consumers and business owners may welcome the prospect of having one more company vying for their patronage. More competition, after all, means more incentive to keep prices low enough to attract and retain more end-users."
First time accepted submitter SaraLast (3619459) writes in with news about Santa Barbara considering the restart of its desalination plant. "This seaside city thought it had the perfect solution the last time California withered in a severe drought more than two decades ago: Tap the ocean to turn salty seawater to fresh water. The $34 million desalination plant was fired up for only three months and mothballed after a miracle soaking of rain. As the state again grapples with historic dryness, the city nicknamed the "American Riviera" has its eye on restarting the idled facility to hedge against current and future droughts. "We were so close to running out of water during the last drought. It was frightening," said Joshua Haggmark, interim water resources manager. "Desalination wasn't a crazy idea back then." Removing salt from ocean water is not a far-out idea, but it's no quick drought-relief option. It takes years of planning and overcoming red tape to launch a project. Santa Barbara is uniquely positioned with a desalination plant in storage. But getting it humming again won't be as simple as flipping a switch."
Jeremiah Cornelius (137) writes " Did you enjoy your flight, Dr Heywood Floyd?" Boeing unveiled a new concept for the cabin of a future commercial spaceliner, based on the blue-lit Boeing "Sky" interior of the company's modern airliners, as well as work on the company's CST-100 space capsule. "Provided there is a destination for them out there, how will that passenger want to go back and forth?'" said Chris Ferguson, a former astronaut who commanded NASA's final space shuttle mission in 2011 and now serves as Boeing's director of crew and mission operations for the commercial crew program. Boeing developed the CST-100 capsule to compete for NASA's space station crew launch business after the agency retired its space shuttle fleet. The capsule is designed to launch on an expendable Atlas 5 rocket. NASA will be selecting one or more companies in August of this year, with the aim of reaching flight operations in 2017."
An anonymous reader writes "When web browsers started implementing 'do-not-track' settings, Yahoo got some respect for being the first of the huge tech companies to honor those settings. Unfortunately, that respect has now gone out the door. As of this week, Yahoo will no longer alter their data collection if a user doesn't want to be tracked. They say there are two reasons for this. First, they want to provide a personalized web-browsing experience, which isn't possible using do-not-track. Second, they don't think do-not-track is viable. They say, '[W]e've been at the heart of conversations surrounding how to develop the most user-friendly standard. However, we have yet to see a single standard emerge that is effective, easy to use and has been adopted by the broader tech industry.' It looks like this is another blow to privacy on the web."