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Government

800,000 Using HealthCare.gov Were Sent Incorrect Tax Data 211

Posted by Soulskill
from the your-tax-dollars-at-work-on-tax-stuff dept.
mpicpp sends this report from the NY Times: About 800,000 taxpayers who enrolled in insurance policies through HealthCare.gov received erroneous tax information from the government, and were urged on Friday to hold off on filing tax returns until the error could be corrected. The Obama administration, under heavy pressure from congressional Democrats, also announced that it would give several million people more time to buy health insurance so they could comply with federal law and avoid tax penalties. The incorrect insurance information is used in computing taxes. Consumers can expect to receive corrected data in the first week of March. With the new data, officials warned, some taxpayers will owe more and some will owe less. Officials said they did not know why the error had occurred.
Encryption

Obama Says He's 'A Strong Believer In Strong Encryption' 220

Posted by Soulskill
from the except-when-it-helps-the-terrists dept.
An anonymous reader writes: U.S. President Barack Obama spoke with Re/code recently on a variety of topics relating to technology. The talk included the president's thoughts on encryption, which has been a controversial subject in tech circles lately after government officials (including Obama himself) have publicly complained about default encryption in modern communication tools. In the interview, he says he's a "strong believer in strong encryption," adding, "I lean probably further on side of strong encryption than some in law enforcement." Obama puts it another way, more bluntly: "There's no scenario in which we don't want really strong encryption." However, the president says the public itself is driving concern for leaving law enforcement a way in: "The first time that an attack takes place in which it turns out that we had a lead and we couldn't follow up on it, the public's going to demand answers."
Programming

Should We Really Try To Teach Everyone To Code? 291

Posted by Soulskill
from the going-recursive dept.
theodp writes: Gottfried Sehringer asks Should We Really Try to Teach Everyone to Code? He writes, "While everyone today needs to be an app developer, is learning to code really the answer? Henry Ford said that, 'If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.' I view everyone learning to code as app development's version of a faster horse. What we all really want — and need — is a car. The industry is falling back on code because for most people, it's the only thing they know. If you want to build an application, you have to code it. And if you want to build more apps, then you have to teach more people how to code, right? Instead, shouldn't we be asking whether coding is really the best way to build apps in the first place? Sure, code will always have a place in the world, but is it the language for the masses? Is it what we should be teaching everyone, including our kids?" President Obama thinks so, telling Re/code at Friday's Cyber Security Summit that 'everybody's got to learn to code early' (video). But until domestic girls (including his daughters) and underrepresented groups get with the program(ming), the President explained he's pushing tech immigration reform hard and using executive action to help address tech's "urgent need" for global talent.
Government

Tech Industry In Search of Leadership At White House Cyber Summit 44

Posted by Soulskill
from the innovating-new-ways-to-share-your-data dept.
chicksdaddy writes: President Obama travels to Stanford University on Friday to join Apple CEO Tim Cook in talking about the need for more private-public sector cooperation to fight cyber crime. But technology industry executives attending the White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection complain that a major obstacle to cooperation is a lack of legislative action that clarify the rules of the road for private firms when it comes to sharing information about customers with the government and each other.

The controversy over government surveillance has put the ball in the government's court, said Michael Brown, RSA's Global Public Sector Vice President. "They need to articulate what amount of access to private information is 'appropriate and legal' for law enforcement and the government," Brown said. "It's not just about 'when, where, and how.' They also need to clearly articulate 'why' – for example: this is a matter of public safety and this is the only way we can get this information."

Also on the to-do list, say executives: a re-writing of the 80s-era Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and a federal data breach notification law that creates a consistent, national standard. Currently, 48 states have passed such laws, creating a compliance mess for private firms that discover they have leaked customer data.
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

DOT Warns of Dystopian Future For Transportation 481

Posted by samzenpus
from the grim-bus dept.
An anonymous reader writes The U.S. Department of Transportation has issued a 300-page PDF outlining the grim future of transportation infrastructure in North America over the next thirty years, and inviting debate on the issue. The report presents a vision of 2045 with LA-style traffic jams in Nebraska, trains too full to pick up any more passengers and airports underwater due to climate change — all in a climate of chronic under-investment, even at levels needed to maintain existing transport infrastructure. Among possible solutions outlined are self-driving cars using vehicle-to-vehicle (V2I) crash-avoidance technologies, such as those currently in development by Google — and in fact transportation secretary Anthony Foxx was joined by Google CEO Eric Schmidt at the launch of DOT's "Beyond Traffic" initiative.
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.
Earth

Obama Planning New Rules For Oil and Gas Industry's Methane Emissions 202

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-at-all-controversial-nope dept.
mdsolar sends this quote from the NY Times: In President Obama's latest move using executive authority to tackle climate change, administration officials will announce plans this week to impose new regulations on the oil and gas industry's emissions of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, according to a person familiar with Mr. Obama's plans. The administration's goal is to cut methane emissions from oil and gas production by up to 45 percent by 2025 from the levels recorded in 2012.

The Environmental Protection Agency will issue the proposed regulations this summer, and final regulations by 2016, according to the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the administration had asked the person not to speak about the plan. The White House declined to comment on the effort. Methane, which leaks from oil and gas wells, accounts for just 9 percent of the nation's greenhouse gas pollution — but it is over 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, so even small amounts of it can have a big impact on global warming.
The Internet

Obama Unveils Plan To Bring About Faster Internet In the US 417

Posted by Soulskill
from the grease-the-tubes dept.
An anonymous reader writes: President Obama is rolling out a new plan to boost the speed of internet connections throughout the U.S. For one, he'll be asking the FCC for assistance in neutralizing state laws (PDF) that prevent cities from building municipal broadband services. "At speeds of 4 Mbps or less, 75 percent of consumers have a choice between two or more fixed providers, and 15 percent can select among three or more ISPs. However, in the market for Internet service that can deliver 25 Mbps downstream—the speed increasingly recognized as a baseline to get the full benefits of Internet access—three out of four Americans do not have a choice between providers." The state laws laws restrict competition and give the major ISPs no incentive to invest and innovate.

Obama will also be directing other federal agencies to increase the amount of money they grant and loan to ISP-related projects. "Any effort by the FCC to preempt anti-muni-broadband laws will likely focus on a controversial part of the FCC's congressional charter known as "Section 706." That part of the law recognizes the FCC's authority to stimulate broadband deployment, which supporters of preemption argue the tactic would promote. If Section 706 sounds familiar, that's because it's also the legal tool some say should be used to promote net neutrality, or the principle that broadband companies shouldn't speed up or slow down some Web sites over others."
United States

Obama Proposes 2 Years of Free Community College 703

Posted by samzenpus
from the making-the-grade dept.
An anonymous reader writes with news about a White House proposal that would provide 2 years of free community college for good students."President Barack Obama announced a proposal Thursday to provide two years of free community college tuition to American students who maintain good grades. 'Put simply, what I'd like to do is to see the first two years of community college free for everyone who's willing to work for it,' Obama said in a video filmed Wednesday aboard Air Force One and posted to Facebook. He made the announcement as part of his pre-State of the Union tour and will formally lay out the proposal Friday in a speech in Tennessee. The White House estimated it would save the average community college student $3,800 annually and said it could benefit nine million if fully realized."
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.
Democrats

Attorney General Won't Force New York Times Reporter To Reveal Source 55

Posted by timothy
from the quite-munificent-of-him dept.
schwit1 (797399) writes Attorney General Eric Holder has decided against forcing a reporter for the New York Times to reveal the identity of a confidential source, according to a senior Justice Department official. The reporter, James Risen, has been battling for years to stop prosecutors from forcing him to name his source for a book that revealed a CIA effort to sabotage Iran's nuclear weapons program. The government wanted Risen's testimony in the trial of a former CIA official, Jeffrey Sterling, accused of leaking classified information.
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?"
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."
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.""
Privacy

Boo! The House Majority PAC Is Watching You 468

Posted by timothy
from the public-records-are-public dept.
An anonymous reader writes I received some interesting mail this week from the House Majority PAC. First, a "voter report card" postcard telling me my voting record was "excellent" (I'm a good citizen!), but also letting me know that they "plan to update this report card after the election to see whether you voted". OK, so one of the Democratic Party's super PACs want me to vote, but it seems to be something of an attempt at intimidation. Today, I received a letter in which they really put the pressure on. Here are some excerpts: "Who you vote for is secret. But whether or not you vote is public record. Our organization monitors turnout in your neighborhood, and we are disappointed that many of your neighbors do not always exercise their right to vote." So why contact me instead of them? Voting is a civic duty, but it isn't illegal to abstain. That's my neighbors' business, not mine. It's one way of expressing dissatisfaction, isn't it? And if there are no candidates you wish to vote for, then why should you vote for someone you don't want? But Big Brother PAC has other ideas: "We will be reviewing the Camden County [NJ] official voting records after the upcoming election to determine whether you joined your neighbors who voted in 2014. If you do not vote this year, we will be interested to hear why not." The letter is signed "Joe Fox Election day Coordinator". So what happens if I don't vote? Well, at least I got a scare this Halloween. Are PACs using similar tactics in other states?
Government

California Governor Vetoes Bill Requiring Warrants For Drone Surveillance 115

Posted by Soulskill
from the quis-custodiet-ipsos-drones? dept.
schwit1 sends word that California governor Jerry Brown has vetoed legislation that would have required warrants for surveillance using unmanned drones. In his veto message (PDF), Brown said, "This bill prohibits law enforcement from using a drone without obtaining a search warrant, except in limited circumstances. There are undoubtedly circumstances where a warrant is appropriate. The bill's exceptions, however, appear to be too narrow and could impose requirements beyond what is required by either the 4th Amendment or the privacy provisions in the California Constitution."

The article notes that 10 other states already require a warrant for routine surveillance with a drone (Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Montana, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, and Wisconsin). Further, Brown's claims about the bill's exceptions are overstated — according to Slate, "California's drone bill is not draconian. It includes exceptions for emergency situations, search-and-rescue efforts, traffic first responders, and inspection of wildfires. It allows other public agencies to use drones for other purposes — just not law enforcement."
Democrats

Emails Cast Unflattering Light On Internal Politics of Healthcare.gov Rollout 392

Posted by timothy
from the wanna-be-absolutely-clear dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this report from The Verge linking to and excerpting from a newly released report created for a committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, including portions of eight "damning emails" that offer an unflattering look at the rollout of the Obamacare website. The Government Office of Accountability released a report earlier this week detailing the security flaws in the site, but a report from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform released yesterday is even more damning. Titled, "Behind the Curtain of the HealthCare.gov Rollout," the report fingers the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversaw the development of the site, and its parent Department of Health and Human Services. "Officials at CMS and HHS refused to admit to the public that the website was not on track to launch without significant functionality problems and substantial security risks," the report says. "There is also evidence that the Administration, to this day, is continuing its efforts to shield ongoing problems with the website from public view." Writes the submitter: "The evidence includes emails that show Obamacare officials more interested in keeping their problems from leaking to the press than working to fix them. This is both both a coverup and incompetence."
Wikipedia

Wikipedia Blocks 'Disruptive' Edits From US Congress 165

Posted by Soulskill
from the history-no-longer-written-by-the-victors dept.
alphatel writes: Wikipedia has blocked anonymous edits from a congressional IP address for 10 days because of "disruptive" behavior. These otherwise anonymous edits were brought to light recently by @Congressedits, a bot that automatically tweets Wikipedia changes that come from Congressional IP addresses. The biography of former U.S. defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld was edited to say that he was an "alien lizard who eats Mexican babies." Mediaite's Wikipedia page was modified to label the site as a "sexist transphobic" publication.