Democrats

Clinton Promises 500 Million New Solar Panels 566 566

An anonymous reader writes: Hillary Clinton, widely regarded as most likely to win the Democrat nomination for the 2016 U.S. presidential election, has unveiled her campaign climate plan. Speaking at Iowa State University, Clinton said she would set up tax incentives for renewable energy to drive further adoption. She also set a goal of installing half a billion new solar panels within her first term, if elected. Her plan would cost roughly $60 billion over 10 years, and she intends to pay for it by cutting tax breaks to the oil and gas industry. According to The Guardian, "Clinton has promised to make the issue of climate change a key pillar of her campaign platform."
EU

EU May Become a Single Digital Market of 500 Million People 132 132

RockDoctor writes: The Guardian is reporting that the EU is becoming increasingly vociferous in its opposition to "geo-blocking" — the practice of making media services available in some areas but not in others: "European consumers want to watch the pay-TV channel of their choice regardless of where they live or travel in the EU." That adds up to a block of nearly 500 million first-world media consumers. They don't necessarily all speak the same language, but English is probably the most commonly understood single language. And the important thing for American media companies to remember is that they're not American in thought, taste or outlook.
Science

The Science and Politics Behind Colony Collapse Disorder; Is the Crisis Over? 174 174

iONiUM writes: An article at the Globe and Mail claims that there is no longer any Honeybee crises, and that the deaths of the Honeybees previously was a one-off, or possibly non-cyclical occurrence (caused by neonics or nature — the debate is still out). The data used is that from Stats Canada which claims "the number of honeybee colonies is at a record high [in Canada]." Globally, the UN's Food and Agricultural Organization says that "worldwide bee populations have rebounded to a record high." The story reports: "I have great news for honey lovers everywhere. The Canadian honeybee industry is thriving. Despite those headlines about mass die-offs and and killer pesticides, the number of honeybee colonies is at a record high. Last year, according to Statistics Canada, nearly 700,000 honeybee colonies produced $200-million worth of honey. Bee survival rates have rebounded even in Ontario, which was hard hit by unusually high winter die-offs."
Businesses

IT Workers Training Their Foreign Replacements 'Troubling,' Says White House 305 305

dcblogs writes: A top White House official told House lawmakers this week that the replacement of U.S. workers by H-1B visa holders is 'troubling' and not supposed to happen. That answer came in response to a question from U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) that referenced Disney workers who had to train their temporary visa holding replacements (the layoffs were later canceled. Jeh Johnson, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said if H-1B workers are being used to replace U.S. workers, then "it's a very serious failing of the H-1B program." But Johnson also told lawmakers that they may not be able to stop it, based on current law. Ron Hira, an associate professor of public policy at Howard University who has testified before Congress multiple times on H-1B visa use, sees that as a "bizarre interpretation" of the law.
Earth

Most Comprehensive Study Yet On Environmental Impact of Electric Vehicles 188 188

An anonymous reader writes: A few articles came out Thursday talking about the recently released report from the National Bureau of Economic Research on the environmental benefits of electric cars. The general consensus is kind of obvious -- that it depends on the ratio of coal vs. clean electrical generation that is used to charge your car. What is interesting is the extent to which it makes a difference, and that when viewed on a regional basis, there are cases where the EV doesn't do so well. And when it comes to policy decisions, it seems the central focus needs to be on the replacement of large-scale coal generation, and the rest will fall in to place. Here is one cover story from Ars Technica. Google others for varying perspectives.
Government

Scientology Group Urged Veto of Mental Health Bill 265 265

An anonymous reader writes: According to records obtained by The Texas Tribune, Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed a bill that would have given doctors more power to detain mentally ill and potentially dangerous patients, after a Church of Scientology-backed group helped organize a campaign against it. "Medical staff should work closely with law enforcement to help protect mentally ill patients and the public," he said. "But just as law enforcement should not be asked to practice medicine, medical staff should not be asked to engage in law enforcement, especially when that means depriving a person of the liberty protected by the Constitution." The bill would have allowed doctors to put mentally ill patients on a four-hour hold if they were suspected of being a danger to themselves or others. The bill had the support of two of the nation's largest medical associations.
Government

America's Technical Debt 165 165

Funksaw writes: An article by Brian Boyko in Equal Citizens, Lawrence Lessig's blog dealing with issues of institutional corruption in democratic politics, explains why, specifically, this reform movement needs (more) people with technical minds and technical skills.

Quoting: "What we need are more people willing to look at the laws of this country based on their function. And when I use the word 'function,' I mean very specifically the same sense that a computer programmer means it. (Because lord knows, government isn't functioning by any other definition.) ... It's not just that big money politics is being injected [like a code injection] into the function of democracy. It's also that the function of democracy can be warped by an injection. Stopping the injection of money into our democratic function still leaves the function vulnerable to the same — or similar — injection attack.... We need people who can solve the problems of politics like a programmer solves problems in computer code, because a democratic system with vulnerabilities is a democratic system that can fail or be made to fail."

The author is the technical adviser to the New Hampshire Rebellion and Mayday.US, two of Lessig's major reform projects.
Government

Iran Has Signed a Nuclear Accord 459 459

New submitter divide overflow writes: According to the New York Times, 'Iran and a group of six nations led by the United States have agreed to a historic accord to significantly limit Tehran's nuclear ability for more than a decade in return for lifting international oil and financial sanctions against Iran, a senior Western diplomat involved in the negotiations said on Tuesday. The deal, which President Obama had long sought as the biggest diplomatic achievement of his presidency, culminates 20 months of negotiations.' Not everyone approves.
Democrats

Hillary Clinton Takes Aim At 'Gig Economy' 432 432

SonicSpike writes with an excerpt from Marketwatch that says at least one major candidate in the 2016 electoral fight has made the "sharing economy" epitomized by Uber and Airbnb a campaign issue. In a major campaign speech in New York City, the former secretary of state didn't mention the ride-sharing service by name. But it was pretty clear what sort of companies she was talking about when she got to how some Americans earn money. "Many Americans are making extra money renting out a spare room, designing websites, selling products they design themselves at home, or even driving their own car," she said at the New School. But that sort of work comes with its own problems, she said. "This 'on demand' or so-called 'gig economy' ... is raising hard questions about workplace protections and what a good job will look like in the future," Clinton added.
Democrats

Barney Frank Defends Political Hypocrisy, Game Theory Explains It 191 191

HughPickens.com writes with a link to Steven I. Weiss's Atlantic article which says game theory can shed light both on what is happening in Washington and on how the bargaining power of its negotiating parties may evolve over time and comes to the conclusion that hypocrisy is essential to the functioning of Congress -- in fact, it's the only tool legislators have after they've rooted out real corruption. "Legislators do not pay each other for votes, and every member of a parliament in a democratic society is legally equal to every member," writes Congressman Barney Frank in his new memoir, Frank: A Life in Politics From the Great Society to Same-Sex Marriage. For legislators, cooperation is a form of political currency. They act in concert with other legislators, even at the expense of their own beliefs, in order to bank capital or settle accounts."

Game theory sets out conditions under which negotiating parties end up cooperating, and why they sometimes fail to do so. It does so based on analyzing what drives individuals in the majority of bargaining situations: incentives, access to information, initial power conditions, the extent of mutual trust, and accountability enforcement. Instead of seeing political flip-flopping as a necessary evil, Frank suggests it is inherent to democracy and according to Frank if there's any blame to be doled out in connection with political hypocrisy, it's to be placed on the heads of voters who criticize legislators for it, instead of accepting it as a necessary part of democratic politics.
Government

The Guardian Looks At Hacking Team's Client List, Internal Communications 35 35

There are lots of small but interesting news bits to take from the data dump made available by Wikileaks of internal documents from the Italian security firm Hacking Team, such as that a police unit investigating major crimes in Florida, according to some of the leaked emails, was interested in purchasing some of the company's surveillance technology. The Guardian has taken a longer look at the company's business and tactics, and outlines many of their actual and potential clients, in particular their government customers, and skewers Hacking Team's claims "that it does not sell to repressive regimes."

Shades of Blue Coat.
Education

Well-Played: Microsoft Parlays NSF Video 'Remake' Into National CS K-12 Crisis 69 69

theodp writes: K–12 computer science and information technology teachers head to Grapevine, TX this week for the 2015 CSTA Conference. A glance at the draft agenda shows a remarkable number of presenters employed by or tied to two-year-old Code.org, the tech-bankrolled nonprofit that coincidentally sprung up together with Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us PAC just months after Microsoft called for the creation of a national K-12 CS and tech immigration crisis to advance its agenda. Code.org's shaping of the nation's CS K-12 education began with the release of its tech-billionaire and celebrity-studded, slickly-produced What Most Schools Don't Teach video, which went viral on YouTube after being promoted by politicians, Facebook, Google, and a Microsoft-sponsored theatrical release, sparking a groundswell of interest in expanding K-12 CS education, succeeding where a similarly-themed-and-messaged but decidedly-amateurish National Science Foundation video of real-but-little-known computer scientists failed just months earlier (YouTube Doubler comparison). (More, below.)
Encryption

The Rise of the New Crypto War 91 91

blottsie writes: For more than 20 years, the U.S. government has been waging a war on encryption, with the security and privacy of all Americans at stake. Despite repeated warnings from security experts, the FBI and other agencies continue to push tech companies to add "backdoors" to their encryption. The government's efforts, which have angered tech companies and researchers, are part of a long-running campaign to pry into every secure system—no matter what the consequences. This article takes readers from the first Crypto War of the early 1990s to the present-day political battle to keep everyone who uses the Internet safe.
Security

Researcher Who Reported E-voting Vulnerability Targeted By Police Raid in Argentina 116 116

TrixX writes: Police have raided the home of an Argentinian security professional who discovered and reported several vulnerabilities in the electronic ballot system (Google translation of Spanish original) to be used next week for elections in the city of Buenos Aires. The vulnerabilities (exposed SSL keys and ways to forge ballots with multiple votes) had been reported to the manufacturer of the voting machines, the media, and the public about a week ago. There has been no arrest, but his computers and electronics devices have been impounded (Spanish original). Meanwhile, the information security community in Argentina is trying to get the media to report this notorious attempt to "kill the messenger." Another source (Spanish original).
Encryption

Cameron Asserts UK Gov't Will Leave No "Safe Space" For Private Communications 260 260

An anonymous reader writes with the story from Ars Technica that UK prime minister David Cameron "has re-iterated that the UK government does not intend to 'leave a safe space — a new means of communication — for terrorists to communicate with each other.'" That statement came Monday, as a response to Conservative MP David Bellingham, "who asked [Cameron, on the floor of the House of Commons] whether he agreed that the 'time has come for companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter to accept and understand that their current privacy policies are completely unsustainable?' To which Cameron replied: 'we must look at all the new media being produced and ensure that, in every case, we are able, in extremis and on the signature of a warrant, to get to the bottom of what is going on.'" This sounds like the UK government is declaring a blustery war on encryption, and it might not need too much war: some companies can be persuaded (or would be eager) to cooperate with the government in handing over all kinds of information. However, the bluster part may leave even the fiercest surveillance mostly show: as Ars writer Glyn Moody asks, what about circumstances "where companies can't hand over keys, or where there is no company involved, as with GnuPG, the open source implementation of the OpenPGP encryption system?" Or Tor?
Education

Pew Survey Documents Gaps Between Public and Scientists 278 278

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.
The Almighty Buck

Scientist Union's Talks Stall Over Pay 80 80

HughPickens.com writes: The Sacramento Bee reports that the labor contract between California's state government and the 2,800 employees represented by the California Association of Professional Scientists expired this week, spotlighting yet again the long-running feud over whether the tiny union's members should earn as much as their peers in federal and local governments and private industry. "It's a challenge to keep people motivated," says Rita Hypnarowski. "We talk about retaining the best and the brightest, but I can see that's not going to happen." A recent survey by the Brown administration found that the total compensation for half of state-employed chemists is less than $8,985 per month ($5,715 in salary, plus $3,270 in benefit costs). That's 33 percent less than the median total compensation for federal chemists, nearly 13 percent less than the midpoint for local-government chemists and almost 6 percent below the private sector.

Members of the union perform a wide variety of tasks, everything from fighting food-borne illnesses to mopping up the Refugio State Beach oil spill. For example, Cassandra McQuaid left a job last year at the Department of Public Health's state-of-the-art Richmond laboratories where she tracked foodborne illnesses. It's the kind of vital, behind-the-scenes work that goes unnoticed until an E. coli outbreak makes headlines and local health officials need a crack team of scientists to unravel how it happened. "It really came down to money," says McQuaid. "I just couldn't live in the Bay Area on a state salary."
Canada

Quebec Government May Force ISPs To Block Gambling Websites 60 60

New submitter ottawan- writes: In order to drive more customers to their own online gambling website, the Quebec government and Loto-Quebec (the provincial organization in charge of gaming and lotteries) are thinking about forcing the province's ISPs to block all other online gambling websites. The list of websites to be blocked will be maintained by Loto-Quebec, and the government believes that the blocking will increase government revenue by up to $27 million (CAD) per year.
Government

How Uber Takes Over a City 230 230

schwit1 suggests Bloomberg's story on one aspect of Uber's corporate behavior that may leave a sour taste in the mouth of anyone who'd like to believe the Uber-vs.-the-Cartels narrative. The company hired David Plouffe, known for managing Barack Obama's rise to fame, and many others as well, to help them navigate inevitable and ongoing moves for regulation. The scale is impressive; according to the article: Over the past year, Uber built one of the largest and most successful lobbying forces in the country, with a presence in almost every statehouse. It has 250 lobbyists and 29 lobbying firms registered in capitols around the nation, at least a third more than Wal-Mart Stores. That doesn't count municipal lobbyists. In Portland, the 28th-largest city in the U.S., 10 people would ultimately register to lobby on Uber's behalf. And while the article focuses mostly on the example of Portland, the effort is ongoing and nationwide.
Government

Supreme Court Ruling Supports Same-Sex Marriage 1083 1083

The U.S. Supreme Court issued Friday a landmark decision, ruling that marriage is a Constitutionally protected right to homosexual as well as heterosexual couples. The New York Times notes that last year, by refusing to hear appeals to decisions favoring same-sex marriage in five states, the court "delivered a tacit victory for gay rights, immediately expanding the number of states with same-sex marriage to 24, along with the District of Columbia, up from 19." (In the time since, several more states have expanded marriage to include gay couples.) Reuters expains a bit of the legal and political history of the movement which led to today's decision, and points out some of the countries around the world which have made similar moves already.