White House Petition To Let Foreign STEM Grads Work Longer In US Hits 100K Signatures 216

theodp writes: Computerworld reports that a petition urging the White House to act urgently on a court ruling that could force thousands of recent foreign STEM graduates working in the U.S. on OPT STEM extensions to leave the States early next year reached 100,000 signatures Tuesday, the threshold for an official government response. It could present a political conundrum of sorts for the Obama administration. Because the administration didn't act to protect U.S. workers at Southern California Edison and Disney, explained an attorney in the case, "now that foreign workers will be losing their jobs, how would it look if Obama went into overdrive to protect their jobs?" By the way, using a map to gauge whether support for the petition comes from all over the country (as the White House suggests), indicates that support for the OPT STEM Extension petition is largely concentrated in tech hotspots and universities, including off-the-beaten-path college towns that host large international student populations.
United States

John McAfee Pondering Presidential Bid 184

An anonymous reader writes: Since this U.S. presidential election cycle clearly isn't chaotic enough already, it seems John McAfee is now considering a campaign as well. Wired reports that McAfee hasn't decided for sure yet, and he's hoping to persuade somebody more charismatic to run with his backing. He said his advisors are pressing him to run, adding, "I have many thousands of emails saying please run for President. It's not something I would just choose to do on my own." What would his platform be? It actually sounds pretty simple: "It's clear that the leadership of our country is illiterate on the fundamental technology that supports everything in life for us now, that is cyber science, our smartphones, our military hardware, our communications." He'd be a strong proponent for privacy and autonomy. We should know in a few days whether McAfee is in or out — Wired says he "seems far more concerned with having his voice heard on one particular issue than with taking a seat in the Oval Office." Something seems to have changed his mind about politics: in a 2014 interview here, McAfee said. "I would never run for office, neither would I want to be in office, of any kind. I would rather drive a nail through my foot." According to the paperwork McAfee has filed, he is founding a new party (PDF).

Concern Over India PM's Silicon Valley Visit 80

New submitter SAsiaFaculty writes: India's Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, will visit Silicon Valley on September 27, 2015 to promote his vision of "Digital India." Mr. Modi was denied the right to visit the United States from 2005 -2014 because of his role as the chief minister of Gujarat in the violence that rocked the state in 2002 when 1,000 people died. The visit, his second to the United States since becoming Prime Minister, has generated enthusiasm in India and in the Indian community in the United States. It has also elicited a cautionary statement with more than 135 signatures from faculty who teach and do research about South Asia at U.S. universities.

The letter urges Silicon Valley leaders to be mindful of their corporate responsibility and ensure that Mr. Modi's Digital India project promotes transparency, protection of human rights and civil liberties and intellectual freedom. Aspects of the "Digital India" program have raised questions in India about the lack of privacy safeguards and the possibility of enhanced surveillance and the repression of Indian citizens' constitutionally protected rights. A response to comments critical of the statement has been posted on the AAUP site.

Larry Lessig Reaches Funding Goal and Is Running For President 281

LetterRip writes: Lessig has met his funding goal of one million dollars, and thus is committed to run for President. ABC reports: "After exceeding his $1 million crowd-funding goal, Harvard Law School professor Larry Lessig announced today on “This Week” that he is running for president. 'I think I'm running to get people to acknowledge the elephant in the room,' he told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. 'We have to recognize -- we have a government that does not work. The stalemate, partisan platform of American politics in Washington right now doesn't work.'”

The Politics of Star Trek 485

smitty_one_each writes: Timothy Sandefur, a lawyer at the Pacific Legal Foundation has written a breezy overview of the politics of the little-known show Star Trek. His thesis: "...the key to Star Trek's longevity and cultural penetration was its seriousness of purpose, originally inspired by creator Gene Roddenberry's science fiction vision. Modeled on Gulliver's Travels, the series was meant as an opportunity for social commentary, and it succeeded ingeniously, with episodes scripted by some of the era's finest science fiction writers. Yet the development of Star Trek's moral and political tone over 50 years also traces the strange decline of American liberalism since the Kennedy era." The article traces through episodes at each phase of the franchise, exploring literary allusions and lamenting that "Star Trek's latest iterations — the 'reboot' films directed by J.J. Abrams — shrug at the franchise's former philosophical depth."

Alaska: The Only US State Where Everyone Gets Free Money 284

merbs writes: Alaska’s Permanent Fund was established in 1976, in the midst of a black gold rush; the massive Trans-Alaska pipeline was in the process of being built, and the state had reaped $900 million in revenue from the sale of drilling leases in Prudhoe Bay, the largest oil field in North America, in a matter of years. In a matter of a few more, it’d spent it. Alaskans soon recognized that their enormous oil reserves were nonetheless limited, so, with a kind of longterm forward-thinking rarely seen in politics today, they voted to add an amendment to the state constitution to establish a fund that would protect a portion of all incoming oil wealth for future generations. In 2014, the net income of the fund was $6.8 billion dollars and the dividend doled out $1,884 to 640,000 citizens, despite a decline in oil revenues that year.
The Courts

TPP Scuttles Attempts To Fix Orphan Works 128

jsrjsr writes: David Post, writing at the Volokh Conspiracy blog, describes how the Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty may prevent any changes to copyright law regarding orphan works. Quoting: "Big problem #1 is that copyright law doesn’t require the plaintiff to show any damage whatsoever. And it authorizes awards of up to $150,000 in “statutory damages” for each work that is infringed — independent of any damage assessment. ... It appears that the latest version of the treaty contains, buried within its many hundreds of pages, language that could require the U.S. to scuttle its plans for a sensible revision of this kind. ... Any provision of U.S. law that eliminated 'pre-established damage' or 'additional damages' for any class of works could be a violation of various TPP provisions requiring that such damages be made available, and it even appears that distribution of orphan works would have to subject the distributor to criminal copyright liability."

The Paris Climate Talks: Negotiating With the Atmosphere 130

Lasrick writes: The Paris climate change talks are in December, but what negotiators plan to propose will only be part of non-legally-binding pledges—and they represent only what is achievable without too much difficulty. 2009's Copenhagen Accord say 114 countries agree that global temperature increases should be held below 2 degrees Celsius. "Paradoxically, an accord that should have spurred the world to immediate action instead seemed to offer some breathing room. Two degrees was meant to be a ceiling, but repeated references to an internationally agreed-upon “threshold” led many people to believe that nothing really bad could happen below 2 degrees—or worse yet, that the number itself was negotiable." Dawn Stover writes about alternatives to the meaningless numbers and endless talks: 'The very idea that the Paris conference is a negotiation is ridiculous. You can't negotiate with the atmosphere."

Snowden: Clinton's Private Email Server Is a 'Problem' 344

An anonymous reader points out comments from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in a new interview with Al Jazeera about Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while she was the U.S. Secretary of State. Snowden said, "Anyone who has the clearances that the Secretary of State has or the director of any top level agency has knows how classified information should be handled. When the unclassified systems of the United States government — which has a full time information security staff — regularly get hacked, the idea that someone keeping a private server ... is completely ridiculous." While Snowden didn't feel he had enough information to say Clinton's actions were a threat to national security, he did say that less prominent government employees would have probably been prosecuted for doing the same thing. For her part, Clinton said she used the private server out of convenience: "I was not thinking a lot when I got in. There was so much work to be done. We had so many problems around the world. I didn't really stop and think what kind of email system will there be."

Machine Learning Could Solve Economists' Math Problem 157

An anonymous reader writes: Noah Smith argues that the field of economics frequently uses math in an unhealthy way. He says many economists don't use math as a tool to describe reality, but rather as an abstract foundation for whatever theory they've come up with. A possible solution to this, he says, is machine learning: "In other words, econ is now a rogue branch of applied math. Developed without access to good data, it evolved different scientific values and conventions. But this is changing fast, as information technology and the computer revolution have furnished economists with mountains of data. As a result, empirical analysis is coming to dominate econ. ... [Two economists pushing this change] stated that machine learning techniques emphasized causality less than traditional economic statistical techniques, or what's usually known as econometrics. In other words, machine learning is more about forecasting than about understanding the effects of policy. That would make the techniques less interesting to many economists, who are usually more concerned about giving policy recommendations than in making forecasts."

Citi Report: Slowing Global Warming Could Save Tens of Trillions of Dollars 248

Layzej writes with news carried by The Guardian about a report published by the Global Perspectives & Solutions division of Citibank (America's third-largest bank) examining the costs and benefits of a low-carbon future. The report examined two hypothetical futures: one "business as usual," and the other (the "Action" scenario) which includes an aggressive move to reduce energy use and carbon emission. From the article: "One of the most interesting findings in the report is that the investment costs for the two scenarios are almost identical. In fact, because of savings due to reduced fuel costs and increased energy efficiency, the Action scenario is actually a bit cheaper than the Inaction scenario. Coupled with the fact the total spend is similar under both action and inaction, yet the potential liabilities of inaction are enormous, it is hard to argue against a path of action." But there will be winners and losers, says the report: "The biggest loser stands to be the coal industry, where we estimate cumulative spend under our Action scenario could be $11.6 trillion less than in our Inaction scenario over the next quarter century, with renewables, wind and nuclear (as well as energy efficiency) the main beneficiaries."

Where the Tech Industry's Political Donations Are Going 130

An anonymous reader writes: Early estimates suggest the 2016 U.S. presidential election will result in $5-10 billion in spending by candidates and organizations — much more than ever before. To support this, they need lots of contributions, and the tech industry is becoming a significant player. (Not as much as the financial industry, of course, but tech's influence is growing.) Re/Code breaks down which candidates are getting the most money from the tech sector so far. Right now, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has gotten the most tech money by far — more than the rest of the field combined, thanks in large part to Larry Ellison. Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida, is a distant second, followed closely by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). New Jersey governor Chris Christie and Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) are the only other candidates with significant tech contributions so far. Carly Fiorina, a tech industry veteran, has only managed about $13,000 in donations.

Assange Says Harrods Assisting Metro Police in 'Round-the-Clock Vigil' 275

The Daily Mail reports that Julian Assange seems to have yet another foe (or at least friend of a foe) watching persistently while he stays put in the Ecuadorean embassy in London: Harrod's Department Store. The Metro Police, according to Assange, have developed a relationship with the store, and are using that relationship to facilitate their full-time observation of his roosting place in the embassy. When the founder of Wikileaks says, "We have obtained documents from Harrods [saying that] police have people stationed 24 hours a day in some of the opposing buildings Harrods controls," it seems likely that those documents actually exist.

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."
Open Source

Croatian Party Advocates Government Adoption of Open Source 29

An anonymous reader writes: Earlier this year, Croatian political party Sustainable Development of Croatia (ORaH) published a new policy that encourages the government to pursue open source solutions, addresses the dangers of vendor lock-in, and insists on open document standards. Best of all, they did it the open source way. In this article on, Croatian startup founder Josip Almasi highlights some of the policy's implications, as well as why it could matter in the upcoming election.

Twitter Blocks API Access For Sites Monitoring Politicians' Deleted Tweets 114

An anonymous reader writes: Politwoops is/was a site that monitored the Twitter feeds of politicians and posted any tweets that those politicians later deleted. On May 15, Twitter suspended API access for the U.S. version of Politwoops, and now they've blocked access to the versions of Politwoops running in 30 other countries. Twitter has also blocked access for similar site Diplotwoops, which focused on deleted tweets from diplomats and embassies. Twitter said, "'Imagine how nerve-racking – terrifying, even – tweeting would be if it was immutable and irrevocable? No one user is more deserving of that ability than another. Indeed, deleting a tweet is an expression of the user's voice." Arjan El Fassed, director of the Open State Foundation, which developed Politwoops, disagrees: "What politicians say in public should be available to anyone. This is not about typos but it is a unique insight on how messages from elected politicians can change without notice."

Mostly Theater? Taking Aim At White House 'We the People' Petitions 68

theodp writes: "Since we launched We the People in 2011," wrote the White House last month, "millions of Americans have engaged with their government on the issues that matter to them. This groundbreaking online platform has made petitioning the government, a First Amendment right, more accessible than ever. Over the past few years, the Obama administration has taken a stance on a number of causes that citizens really care about and used the We the People petition platform to voice their concerns." Sounds good, but even if the White House is listening to We the People petitions, as it assured skeptics, one wonders what — and who — exactly they are listening to. Petitions suffer from being aye-only, lack identity and location verification, and appear to have other data quality issues. One attempting to explore the petition data for the 67,022-and-counting signers of a new petition urging a quick response to a court decision that could cut the time international STEM students can work in the U.S. on student visas after graduation, for example, would be stymied by thousands of missing and non-U.S. postal codes. Plotting what location info is available does show that the petitioners are clustered around tech and university hubs, hardly a surprise, but it sheds no context on whether these represent corporate, university, and/or international student interests.

Judge Orders State Dept, FBI To Expand Clinton Email Server Probe 303

An anonymous reader writes: In a hearing over Freedom of Information Act requests to the State Department, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said that former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton didn't comply with government policies. He ordered the State Department to reach out to the FBI to see if any relevant emails exist on Hillary Clinton's email server. Judge Sullivan was surprised that the State Department and FBI were not already communicating on the issue following the FBI's seizure of Clinton's email server and three thumb drives of emails. More than 300 emails are being examined for containing classified information, and dozens of the emails were "born classified" based on content. Some of those emails were forwarded outside the government. There are also clues emerging about how some of the classified information made its way onto Clinton's server. The email controversy is beginning to show up on the campaign trail, an unwelcome development for Secretary Clinton. Reporter Bob Woodward, who helped bring down President Nixon, said the scandal reminds him of the Nixon tapes. It is interesting to note that the post-Watergate reforms have helped move the investigation forward.

Two US Marines Foil Terrorist Attack On Train In France 468

hcs_$reboot writes: A heavily armed gunman opened fire aboard a packed high-speed train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris late Friday afternoon, wounding several passengers before he was tackled and subdued by two Americans Marines. The assault was described as a terrorist attack. President Barack Obama has expressed his gratitude for the "courage and quick thinking" of the passengers on a high-speed train in France, including U.S. service members, who overpowered the gunman. Bernard Cazeneuve, the French interior minister, paid tribute to the Marines as he arrived at the scene, and said "Thanks to them we have averted a drama. The Americans were particularly courageous and showed extreme bravery in extremely difficult circumstances."

Jeb Bush Comes Out Against Encryption 495

An anonymous reader writes: Presidential candidate Jeb Bush has called on tech companies to form a more "cooperative" arrangement with intelligence agencies. During a speech in South Carolina, Bush made clear his opinion on encryption: "If you create encryption, it makes it harder for the American government to do its job — while protecting civil liberties — to make sure that evildoers aren't in our midst." He also indicated he felt the recent scaling back of the Patriot Act went too far. Bush says he hasn't seen any indication the bulk collection of phone metadata violated anyone's civil liberties.