United States

Why 6 Republican Senators Think You Don't Need Faster Broadband (cio.com) 521

itwbennett writes: Broadband in the United States still lags behind similar service in other industrialized countries, so Congress made broadband expansion a national priority, and it offers subsidies, mostly in rural areas, to help providers expand their offerings,' writes Bill Snyder. And that's where an effort by the big ISPs and a group of senators to change the definition of broadband comes in. Of course, the ISPs want the threshold to be as low as possible so it's easier for them to qualify for government subsidies. In a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, dated January 21, 2016, the senators called the current broadband benchmark of 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream 'arbitrary' and said that users don't need that kind of speed anyway. '[W]e are aware of few applications that require download speeds of 25 Mbps.' the senators wrote, missing the simple fact that many users have multiple connected devices.
Republicans

Marco Rubio: We Need To Add To US Surveillance Programs (dailydot.com) 343

Patrick O'Neill writes: The debate over surveillance hit the 2016 race for the White House again on Sunday when Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio said he wants to add to American surveillance programs, many of which were created after 9/11. He invoked a recent shooting of a Philadelphia police officer by a man who allegedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. "This the kind of threat we now face in this country," Rubio said. "We need additional tools for intelligence." Rubio also addressed the NSA leaks that led to this debate: "Edward Snowden is a traitor. He took our intelligence information and gave it to the Chinese and gave it to the Russians. We cannot afford to have a commander-in-chief who thinks people like Edward Snowden are doing a good public service."
The Internet

Majority of Americans OK With Warrantless Internet Surveillance (ap.org) 395

An anonymous reader writes: A new poll conducted by the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research gathered opinions on the U.S. government's surveillance of internet communications. The poll found that a majority of Americans, 56%, were in favor of warrantless surveillance. 28% explicitly opposed it. 67% of Republicans and 55% of Democrats supported the warrantless surveillance, while only 40% of Independents supported it. Americans under 30 supported warrantless surveillance much less than older Americans. Further, "The poll finds that for most Americans, safety concerns trump civil liberties at least some of the time. More than half — 54 percent — say it's sometimes necessary for the government to sacrifice freedoms to fight terrorism, while 45 percent think that's not necessary. On a more general level, 42 percent say it's more important for the government to ensure Americans' safety than to protect citizens' rights, while 27 percent think rights are more important and 31 percent rate both equally."
The Internet

Marco Rubio and Other Senators Move To Block Municipal Broadband (theintercept.com) 352

New submitter h33t l4x0r writes: Presidential candidate Marco Rubio recently "fired off a letter (PDF) to the Federal Communications Commission asking the agency to allow states to block municipal broadband services." The municipal services offer cheaper, faster broadband alternatives to the large telecoms. Rubio's campaign has taken large donations from AT&T, and the article notes that other providers, "fearing competition, have used their influence in state government to make an end-run around local municipalities. Through surrogates like the American Legislative Exchange Council, the industry gets states to pass laws that ban municipal broadband networks, despite the obvious benefits to both the municipalities and their residents."
The Internet

Donald Trump: America Should Consider "Closing the Internet Up In Some Way" (dailydot.com) 735

Patrick O'Neill writes: Hours after Donald Trump suggested the U.S. ban Muslims from entering the United States, the leading Republican presidential candidate said America should also consider "closing the Internet up in some way" to fight Islamic State terrorists in cyberspace. Trump mocked anyone who would object that his plan might violate the freedom of speech, saying "these are foolish people, we have a lot of foolish people ... We have to go see Bill Gates," Trump said, to better understand the Internet and then possibly "close it up."
Earth

Congress Votes to Scrap Obama's Clean Power Plan (sciencemag.org) 151

sciencehabit writes with news that the House voted 242-180 to repeal the EPA's Clean Power Plan, and 235-188 to block EPA rules governing emissions from new power plants. Science reports: "Congress has voted, largely along party lines, to block a centerpiece of President Barack Obama's climate change agenda. The votes are largely symbolic, however, because Obama plans to veto the bills. Still, Congressional Republicans, and a few Democrats, say they want to send a message to global leaders who are meeting this week to negotiate a new climate agreement that the majority of U.S. lawmakers may not agree with any deal."
Republicans

2016 Presidential Candidate Security Investigation (infosecinstitute.com) 97

New submitter Fryan writes: InfoSec Institute has assessed the security posture of 16 of the presidential candidates' websites. This is an indicator of the level of security awareness the candidate and the campaign staff has. The recent breaches and security lapses of high profile individuals highlight the absolute need for everyone to take security awareness seriously. The hacking of the Director of the CIA's (John Brennan) personal email account, and the storage of classified emails on a personal email server with Hillary Clinton, show how damaging a lack of basic good security hygiene can be. In this survey (of only the best known presidential candidates, not the scads of others), the authors give both their highest grade (an A) and lowest (a D) for candidates still in the race to two Republicans, Ben Carson and Jim Gilmore, respectively; surprising for a tech-focused campaign, Lawrence Lessig (who has ended his candidacy since the survey began) ranked even lower, with a D-.

Speaking of presidential candidates, the fourth Republican debate, hosted by Fox Business, will kick off about an hour after this post goes live (9:00 PM Eastern, 0200 GMT). Feel free to discuss it alongside the security report.
Education

Treat Computer Science As a Science: It's the Law 219

theodp writes: Last week, President Obama signed into law H.R. 1020, the STEM Education Act of 2015, which expands the definition of STEM to include computer science for the purposes of carrying out education activities at the NSF, DOE, NASA, NOAA, NIST, and the EPA. The Bill was introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Rep. Elizabeth Etsy (D-CT). Smith's February press release linked to letters of support from tech billionaire-backed Code.org (whose leadership includes Microsoft President Brad Smith), and the Microsoft-backed STEM Education Coalition (whose leadership includes Microsoft Director of Education Policy Allyson Knox).
Government

Speaker of the House Boehner Announces Resignation 406

halfEvilTech writes: House Speaker John A. Boehner announced Friday morning that he will resign at the end of October. The Washington Post reports: "The resignation will end a nearly five-year reign as speaker, allowing House Republicans to approve a short-term government funding bill that will avert a shutdown of federal agencies. Boehner's hold on the speaker's gavel had grown increasingly unsteady amid threats from more than 30 Republicans that they would force a no-confidence vote in his speaker's position, which would have forced him to rely on Democratic votes in order to remain in charge. Several GOP members told The Washington Post that Boehner would step down from Congress Oct. 31."
Government

Chris Christie Proposes Tracking Immigrants the Way FedEx Tracks Packages 576

PolygamousRanchKid submits the news that New Jersey governor (and Republican presidential candidate) Chris Christie said yesterday that he would, if elected president, create a system to track foreign visitors the way FedEx tracks packages. The NYT writes: Mr. Christie, who is far back in the pack of candidates for the Republican presidential nomination, said at a campaign event in New Hampshire that he would ask the chief executive of FedEx, Frederick W. Smith, to devise the tracking system."At any moment, FedEx can tell you where that package is. It's on the truck. It's at the station. It's on the airplane," Mr. Christie told the crowd in Laconia, N.H. "Yet we let people come to this country with visas, and the minute they come in, we lose track of them." He added: "We need to have a system that tracks you from the moment you come in." Adds the submitter: "I'm sure foreign tourist will be amused when getting a bar code sticker slapped on their arm."
United States

"Breaking Bad" At the National Institute of Standards and Technology 98

sciencehabit writes: Police are investigating whether an explosion inside a Maryland federal laboratory was the result of an effort to make drugs. Authorities who responded to the explosion at the National Institute of Standards and Technology found pseudoephedrine, Epsom salt and other materials associated with the manufacture of meth. Federal and local law enforcement agencies are investigating the cause of the explosion and if a security guard injured in the blast might have been involved. Sciencemag reports: "Representative Lamar Smith (R–TX), chairman at the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, got involved today, expressing grave concern over the incident in a letter to Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. NIST is part of the Commerce Department. 'I am troubled by the allegations that such dangerous and illicit activity went undetected at a federal research facility. It is essential that we determine exactly where the breakdown in protocol occurred and whether similar activities could be ongoing at other federal facilities,' wrote Smith in an accompanying press release. He has requested a briefing with NIST no later than 29 July."
Education

Pew Survey Documents Gaps Between Public and Scientists 278

PvtVoid writes: A new Pew Research Study documents an alarming gap between public perception of scientific issues and the opinions of the scientists themselves, as measured by a poll of AAAS scientists. Even worse, the gap is partisan, with clear differences between Republicans and Democrats, and between conservatives and liberals. For example, while 98% of AAAS members agree with the statement that "Human beings and other living things have evolved over time", only 21% of conservatives agree, compared with 54% of liberals. Global warming, similarly, shows an ideological gap: 98% of AAAS scientists agreed with the statement that "the Earth is getting warmer mostly due to human activity", compared with 21% of conservatives and 54% of liberals. Encouragingly, almost everybody thinks childhood vaccines should be required (86% of AAAS members, 65% of conservatives, and 74% of liberals.) Go here for an interactive view of the data.
Government

Video Mayday PAC's Benjamin Singer Explains How You can Help Reform American Politics (Video) 233

Larry Lessig's Mayday PAC is a SuperPac that is working to eliminate the inherent corruption of having a government run almost entirely by people who manage to raise -- or have their "non-connected" SuperPACs raise -- most of the money they need to run their campaigns. The Mayday PAC isn't about right or left wing or partisan politics at all. It's about finding and supporting candidates who are in favor of something like last year's Government by the People Act. As we noted in our Mayday Pac interview with Larry Lessig last June, a whole panoply of tech luminaries, up to and including Steve Wozniak, are in favor of Mayday PAC.

This interview is being posted, appropriately, just before the 4th of July, but it's also just one day before the Mayday PAC Day of Action to Reform Congress. They're big on calling members of Congress rather than emailing, because our representatives get email by the (digital) bushel, while they get comparatively few issue-oriented phone calls from citizens. So Mayday PAC makes it easy for you to call your Congressional representatives and even, if you're too shy to talk to a legislative aide in person, to record a message Mayday PAC will leave for them after hours.

The five specific pieces of legislation Mayday PAC currently supports are listed at the RepsWith.US/reforms page. Two are sponsored by Republicans, two by Democrats, and one by an Independent. That's about as non-partisan as you can get, so no matter what kind of political beliefs you hold, you can support Mayday PAC with a clear conscience. (Note: the transcript has more information than the video, which is less than six minutes long.)
Democrats

Microsoft Will Help Iowa Caucuses Go High-Tech 71

jfruh writes: Poltical party caucuses are one of the quirkier aspects of American political life: local party members gather in small rooms across the state, discuss their preferences, and send a report of how many delegates for each candidate will attend later county and statewide caucuses to ultimately choose delegates to the national convention. It's also a system with a lot of room for error in reporting, as local precinct leaders have traditionally sent in reports of votes via telephone touch-tone menus and paper mail. In 2016, Microsoft will help both Democrats and Republicans streamline the process in a fashion that will hopefully avoid the embarrassing result from 2012, when Mitt Romney was declared the winner on caucus night only for Rick Santorum to emerge as the true victor when all votes were counted weeks later.
United States

The Demographic Future of America's Political Parties 609

HughPickens.com writes: Daniel McGraw writes that based on their demographic characteristics the Democratic and Republican parties face two very different futures. There's been much written about how millennials are becoming a reliable voting bloc for Democrats, but there's been much less attention paid to one of the biggest get-out-the-vote challenges for the Republican Party heading into the next presidential election: The Republican Party voter is old—and getting older and far more Republicans than Democrats have died since the 2012 elections. By combining presidential election exit polls with mortality rates per age group from the U.S. Census Bureau, McGraw calculated that, of the 61 million who voted for Mitt Romney in 2012, about 2.75 million will be dead by the 2016 election. About 2.3 million of President Barack Obama's voters have died too but that leaves a big gap in between, a difference of roughly 453,000 in favor of the Democrats. "I've never seen anyone doing any studies on how many dead people can't vote," laughs William Frey, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who specializes in demographic studies. "I've seen studies on how many dead people do vote. The old Daley Administration in Chicago was very good at that."

Frey points out that, since Republicans are getting whiter and older, replacing the voters that leave this earth with young ones is essential for them to be competitive in presidential elections. "Millennials (born 1981 to 1997) now are larger in numbers than baby boomers ([born] 1946 to 1964), and how they vote will make the big difference. And the data says that if Republicans focus on economic issues and stay away from social ones like gay marriage, they can make serious inroads with millennials." Exit polling indicates that millennials have split about 65-35 in favor of the Dems in the past two elections. If that split holds true in 2016, Democrats will have picked up a two million vote advantage among first-time voters. These numbers combined with the voter death data puts Republicans at an almost 2.5 million voter disadvantage going into 2016.
United States

House Panel Holds Hearing On "Politically Driven Science" - Without Scientists 347

sciencehabit writes: Representative Louie Gohmert (R–TX) is worried that scientists employed by the U.S. government have been running roughshod over the rights of Americans in pursuit of their personal political goals. So this week Gohmert, the chair of the oversight and investigations subpanel of the U.S. House of Representatives' Natural Resources Committee, held a hearing to explore "the consequences of politically driven science." Notably absent, however, were any scientists, including those alleged to have gone astray.
Government

NSA Reform Bill Backed By Both Parties Set To Pass House of Representatives 121

HughPickens.com writes: The NY Times reports that after more than a decade of wrenching national debate over the intrusiveness of government intelligence agencies, a bipartisan wave of support has gathered to sharply limit the federal government's sweeps of phone and Internet records. A bill that would overhaul the Patriot Act and curtail the metadata surveillance exposed by Edward Snowden overwhelmingly passed the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of a 25-2, and is heading to almost certain passage in the House of Representatives. An identical bill in the Senate — introduced with the support of five Republicans — is gaining support over the objection of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is facing the prospect of his first policy defeat since ascending this year to majority leader. "The bill ends bulk collection, it ends secret law," says Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, the original author of the Patriot Act who has now helped author the Freedom Act. "It increases the transparency of our intelligence community and it does all this without compromising national security."

The Patriot Act is up for its first reauthorization since the revelations about bulk data collection. The impending June 1 deadline for reauthorization, coupled with an increase of support among members of both parties, pressure from technology companies and a push from the White House, have combined to make changes to the provisions more likely. The Snowden disclosures, along with data breaches at Sony Pictures, Target and the insurance giant Anthem, have unsettled voters and empowered those in Congress arguing for greater civil liberties protection — who a few years ago "could have met in a couple of phone booths," says Senator Ron Wyden. The Freedom Act very nearly passed both chambers of Congress last year, but it failed to garner the 60 votes to break a filibuster in the Senate. It fell short by two votes.

However some say the bill doesn't go far enough. The bill leaves intact surveillance programs conducted by the Drug Enforcement Agency and levies high penalties against those offering "material support" to terrorists. It also renews the expiring parts of the Patriot Act through 2019. "This bill would make only incremental improvements, and at least one provision – the material-support provision – would represent a significant step backwards," says American Civil Liberties Union Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer. "The disclosures of the last two years make clear that we need wholesale reform."
The Internet

Rand Paul Moves To Block New "Net Neutrality" Rules 438

SonicSpike writes with news about another bump in the road for net neutrality. U.S. Senator Rand Paul, a Republican presidential hopeful, on Wednesday introduced a resolution to block new regulations on Internet service providers, saying they would 'wrap the Internet in red tape.' The 'net neutrality' rules, which are slated to take effect in June, are backed by the Obama administration and were passed by the Democratic majority of the Federal Communications Commission in February. AT&T Inc and wireless and cable trade associations are challenging them in court. Paul's resolution, if adopted, would allow the Senate to fast-track a vote to establish that Congress disapproves of the FCC's new rules and moves to nullify them.
Government

Senate Advances "Secret Science" Bill, Sets Up Possible Showdown With President 355

sciencehabit writes: Republicans in Congress appear to be headed for a showdown with the White House over controversial "secret science" legislation aimed at changing how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses scientific studies. A deeply divided Senate panel yesterday advanced a bill that would require EPA to craft its policies based only on public data available to outside experts. The House of Representatives has already passed a similar measure. But Democrats and science groups have harshly criticized the approach, and the White House has threatened a veto.

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