Government

Senate Advances "Secret Science" Bill, Sets Up Possible Showdown With President 349

Posted by samzenpus
from the for-others-eyes-only dept.
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.
United States

US Started Keeping Secret Records of International Telephone Calls In 1992 81

Posted by samzenpus
from the original-list dept.
schwit1 writes Starting in 1992, the Justice Department amassed logs of virtually all telephone calls from the USA to as many as 116 countries. The now-discontinued operation, carried out by the DEA's intelligence arm, was the government's first known effort to gather data on Americans in bulk, sweeping up records of telephone calls made by millions of U.S. citizens regardless of whether they were suspected of a crime. It was a model for the massive phone surveillance system the NSA launched to identify terrorists after the Sept. 11 attacks. That dragnet drew sharp criticism that the government had intruded too deeply into Americans' privacy after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked it to the news media two years ago. More than a dozen current and former law enforcement and intelligence officials described the details of the Justice Department operation to USA TODAY. Most did so on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the intelligence program, part of which remains classified. The operation had 'been approved at the highest levels of Federal law enforcement authority,' including then-Attorney General Janet Reno and her deputy, Eric Holder.
Earth

Obama Says Climate Change Is Harming Americans' Health 304

Posted by Soulskill
from the mexicans-and-canadians-sure-dodged-a-bullet dept.
HughPickens.com writes: The Washington Post reports on new comments from President Obama, who says global warming isn't just affecting the weather — it's harming Americans' health. He has announced steps government and businesses will take to better understand and deal with the problem. Obama said hazards of the changing climate include wildfires sending more pollution into the air, allergy seasons growing longer, and rising cases of insect-borne diseases. "We've got to do better in protecting our vulnerable families," said Obama. "You can't cordon yourself off from air."

Speaking at Howard University Medical School, Obama announced commitments from Google, Microsoft and others to help the nation's health system prepare for a warmer, more erratic climate. Google has promised to donate 10 million hours of advanced computing time on new tools, including risk maps and early warnings for things like wildfires and oil flares using the Google Earth Engine platform, the White House said. Google's camera cars that gather photos for its "Street View" function will start measuring methane emissions and natural gas leaks in some cities this year. Microsoft's research arm will develop a prototype for drones that can collect large quantities of mosquitoes, then digitally analyze their genes and pathogens. The goal is to create a system that could provide early warnings about infectious diseases that could break out if climate change worsens.
Crime

Obama: Maybe It's Time For Mandatory Voting In US 1089

Posted by timothy
from the if-there-weren't-all-those-pesky-rights dept.
HughPickens.com writes CNN reports that when asked how to offset the influence of big money in politics, President Barack Obama suggested it's time to make voting a requirement. "Other countries have mandatory voting," said Obama "It would be transformative if everybody voted — that would counteract money more than anything," he said, adding it was the first time he had shared the idea publicly. "The people who tend not to vote are young, they're lower income, they're skewed more heavily towards immigrant groups and minority groups. There's a reason why some folks try to keep them away from the polls." At least 26 countries have compulsory voting, according to the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. Failure to vote is punishable by a fine in countries such as Australia and Belgium; if you fail to pay your fine in Belgium, you could go to prison. Less than 37% of eligible voters actually voted in the 2014 midterm elections, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts. That means about 144 million Americans — more than the population of Russia — skipped out. Critics of mandatory voting have questioned the practicality of passing and enforcing such a requirement; others say that freedom also means the freedom not to do something.
Privacy

Senator: 'Plenty' of Domestic Surveillance We Still Don't Know About 107

Posted by Soulskill
from the they're-watching-you-right-now dept.
An anonymous reader writes: In a recent interview, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) has complained about the Obama administration's failure to shut down the NSA's bulk collection of phone metadata. This program and most other programs we've heard of were disclosed by Edward Snowden. But Snowden couldn't tell us everything. When asked if there were further domestic surveillance programs about which the public knows nothing, Senator Wyden said, "Yeah, there's plenty of stuff." The ones he knows about are classified, so he couldn't elaborate. "Even in cases where the public has been informed of government practices, Wyden warned the government still collects far too much information on millions of citizens with virtually no accountability."
Communications

Clinton's Private Email System Gets a Security "F" Rating 315

Posted by timothy
from the expected-to-hold-a-media-availability dept.
Penguinisto writes According to a scan by Qualys, Hillary Clinton's personal e-mail server, which has lately generated more than a little controversy in US political circles, has earned an "F" rating for security from the security vendor. Problems include SSL2 support, a weak signature, and only having support for older TLS protocols, among numerous other problems. Note that there are allegations that the email server was possibly already hacked in 2013. (Note: Mrs. Clinton plans on Giving a press conference to the public today on the issue.)
Government

White House Threatens Veto Over EPA "Secret Science" Bills 517

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-sir-I-don't-like-it dept.
sciencehabit writes The U.S. House of Representatives could vote as early as this week to approve two controversial, Republican-backed bills that would change how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses science and scientific advice to inform its policies. Many Democrats, scientific organizations, and environmental groups are pushing back, calling the bills thinly veiled attempts to weaken future regulations and favor industry. White House advisers announced that they will recommend that President Barack Obama veto the bills if they reach his desk in their current form.
Businesses

Under US Pressure, PayPal Stops Working With Mega 136

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-wouldn't-download-a-car dept.
New submitter seoras sends news that PayPal is now refusing to handle payments for Mega, Kim Dotcom's cloud storage service. A report (PDF) issued in September of last year claimed Mega and other "cyberlocker" sites made a great deal of illicit money off piracy. Mega disputes this, of course, and says the report caused U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy to pressure credit card companies to stop working with Mega. Those companies then pressured PayPal to stop as well. The hosting company claims, "MEGA provided extensive statistics and other evidence showing that MEGA’s business is legitimate and legally compliant. After discussions that appeared to satisfy PayPal’s queries, MEGA authorised PayPal to share that material with Visa and MasterCard. Eventually PayPal made a non-negotiable decision to immediately terminate services to MEGA."
Privacy

NSA Spying Wins Another Rubber Stamp 87

Posted by Soulskill
from the once-more-unto-the-privacy-breach dept.
schwit1 sends this report from the National Journal: A federal court has again renewed an order allowing the National Security Agency to continue its bulk collection of Americans' phone records, a decision that comes more than a year after President Obama pledged to end the controversial program. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved this week a government request to keep the NSA's mass surveillance of U.S. phone metadata operating until June 1, coinciding with when the legal authority for the program is set to expire in Congress. The extension is the fifth of its kind since Obama said he would effectively end the Snowden-exposed program as it currently exists during a major policy speech in January 2014. Obama and senior administration officials have repeatedly insisted that they will not act alone to end the program without Congress.
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.