Businesses

After Losing Support, Trump's Business and Manufacturing Councils Are Shutting Down (theverge.com) 642

Over a dozen anonymous readers share a similar report: Two White House advisory councils that once included tech leaders like Elon Musk and Travis Kalanick have dissolved, after several members resigned over President Donald Trump's weak condemnation of white supremacists. A member of the Strategic and Policy Forum told CNBC that it wanted to make a "more significant impact" by disbanding the entire group: "It makes a central point that it's not going to go forward. It's done." Soon after, Trump took credit for shutting down both that group and a separate Manufacturing Council, "rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople." The councils' members came from a range of industries, including several major Silicon Valley companies. Besides Musk and Kalanick, executives from Intel, IBM, and Dell had joined. It's been controversial from the start -- Musk and Kalanick both left months ago -- but a major exodus started this week, after Trump issued a vague statement blaming "many sides" for violence at a white supremacist rally that left one woman dead. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich resigned on Monday, saying that politics had "sidelined the important mission of rebuilding America's manufacturing base." Axios has more details.
Intel

Intel CEO Exits President Trump's Manufacturing Council (axios.com) 263

Ina Fried, writing for Axios: Intel said Monday that CEO Brian Krzanich was leaving President Trump's American Manufacturing Council, the latest executive to distance himself from the president following the weekend's events in Virginia. In a blog post, Krzanich said that the decline in American manufacturing remains a serious issue, but said that "politics and political agendas have sidelined the important mission of rebuilding America's manufacturing base. I resigned to call attention to the serious harm our divided political climate is causing to critical issues, including the serious need to address the decline of American manufacturing," Krzanich said in a blog post. "Politics and political agendas have sidelined the important mission of rebuilding America's manufacturing base."
Republicans

Trump Can Block People On Twitter If He Wants, Administration Says (arstechnica.com) 214

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The administration of President Donald Trump is scoffing at a lawsuit by Twitter users who claim in a federal lawsuit that their constitutional rights are being violated because the president has blocked them from his @realDonaldTrump Twitter handle. "It would send the First Amendment deep into uncharted waters to hold that a president's choices about whom to follow, and whom to block, on Twitter -- a privately run website that, as a central feature of its social-media platform, enables all users to block particular individuals from viewing posts -- violate the Constitution." That's part of what Michael Baer, a Justice Department attorney, wrote to the New York federal judge overseeing the lawsuit Friday. In addition, the Justice Department said the courts are powerless to tell Trump how he can manage his private Twitter handle, which has 35.8 million followers.

"To the extent that the President's management of his Twitter account constitutes state action, it is unquestionably action that lies within his discretion as Chief Executive; it is therefore outside the scope of judicial enforcement," Baer wrote. (PDF) Baer added that an order telling Trump how to manage his Twitter feed "would raise profound separation-of-powers concerns by intruding directly into the president's chosen means of communicating to millions of Americans."

Democrats

Russian Group That Hacked DNC Used NSA Attack Code In Attack On Hotels (arstechnica.com) 197

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A Russian government-sponsored group accused of hacking the Democratic National Committee last year has likely been infecting other targets of interest with the help of a potent Windows exploit developed by, and later stolen from, the National Security Agency, researchers said Friday. Eternal Blue, as the exploit is code-named, is one of scores of advanced NSA attacks that have been released over the past year by a mysterious group calling itself the Shadow Brokers. It was published in April in the group's most damaging release to date. Its ability to spread from computer to computer without any user action was the engine that allowed the WCry ransomware worm, which appropriated the leaked exploit, to shut down computers worldwide in May. Eternal Blue also played a role in the spread of NotPetya, a follow-on worm that caused major disruptions in June. Now, researchers at security firm FireEye say they're moderately confident the Russian hacking group known as Fancy Bear, APT 28, and other names has also used Eternal Blue, this time in a campaign that targeted people of interest as they connected to hotel Wi-Fi networks. In July, the campaign started using Eternal Blue to spread from computer to computer inside various staff and guest networks, company researchers Lindsay Smith and Ben Read wrote in a blog post. While the researchers didn't directly observe those attacks being used to infect guest computers connected to the network, they said a related campaign from last year used the control of hotel Wi-Fi services to obtain login credentials from guest devices.
Government

FCC Extends Net Neutrality Comment Period By Two Weeks (theverge.com) 22

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: You'll have two extra weeks to file your thoughts with the FCC on its plan to get rid of net neutrality. The proposal's comment period was originally scheduled to end next week, on August 16th, but the commission just pushed the date out to August 30th. The extension was granted in response to 10 groups asking for more time to respond. They had been looking for an additional eight weeks, but the commission said an additional two weeks would be more in line with the type of extensions granted in the past. The commission didn't signal that disruptions to its filing system, caused by an apparent DDOS attack, factored into the decision at all. Granting a two week extension gives people more time to file "reply comments," which are meant to respond to what people filed during the first phase of the comment period, which closed in July. That comment period had been much longer than usual, because the commission released the proposal a month before it was voted on.
The Internet

Maybe Americans Don't Need Fast Home Internet Service, FCC Suggests (arstechnica.com) 378

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via Ars Technica: Americans might not need a fast home Internet connection, the Federal Communications Commission suggests in a new document. Instead, mobile Internet via a smartphone might be all people need. The suggestion comes in the FCC's annual inquiry into broadband availability. Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act requires the FCC to determine whether broadband (or more formally, "advanced telecommunications capability") is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion. If the FCC finds that broadband isn't being deployed quickly enough to everyone, it is required by law to "take immediate action to accelerate deployment of such capability by removing barriers to infrastructure investment and by promoting competition in the telecommunications market."

The FCC found during George W. Bush's presidency that fast Internet service was being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion. But during the Obama administration, the FCC determined repeatedly that broadband isn't reaching Americans fast enough, pointing in particular to lagging deployment in rural areas. These analyses did not consider mobile broadband to be a full replacement for a home (or "fixed") Internet connection via cable, fiber, or some other technology. Last year, the FCC updated its analysis with a conclusion that Americans need home and mobile access. Because home Internet connections and smartphones have different capabilities and limitations, Americans should have access to both instead of just one or the other, the FCC concluded under then-Chairman Tom Wheeler.
The report goes on to add that with Republican Ajit Pai as chairman of the FCC, "the FCC seems poised to change that policy by declaring that mobile broadband with speeds of 10Mbps downstream and 1Mbps upstream is all one needs." Furthermore, "In doing so, the FCC could conclude that broadband is already being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion, and thus the organization would take fewer steps to promote deployment and competition."
Earth

Leaked Federal Climate Report Finds Link Between Climate Change, Human Activity (washingtonpost.com) 452

An anonymous reader shares a report from The New York Times (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source): The average temperature in the United States has risen rapidly and drastically since 1980, and recent decades have been the warmest of the past 1,500 years, according to a sweeping federal climate change report awaiting approval by the Trump administration. The draft report by scientists from 13 federal agencies, which has not yet been made public, concludes that Americans are feeling the effects of climate change right now. It directly contradicts claims by President Trump and members of his cabinet who say that the human contribution to climate change is uncertain, and that the ability to predict the effects is limited. "Evidence for a changing climate abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans," a draft of the report states. A copy of it was obtained by The New York Times. The authors note that thousands of studies, conducted by tens of thousands of scientists, have documented climate changes on land and in the air. "Many lines of evidence demonstrate that human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse (heat-trapping) gases, are primarily responsible for recent observed climate change," they wrote. The report was completed this year and is a special science section of the National Climate Assessment, which is congressionally mandated every four years. The National Academy of Sciences has signed off on the draft report, and the authors are awaiting permission from the Trump administration to release it. "The report concludes that even if humans immediately stopped emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the world would still feel at least an additional 0.50 degrees Fahrenheit (0.30 degrees Celsius) of warming over this century compared with today," reports The New York Times. "The projected actual rise, scientists say, will be as much as 2 degrees Celsius." Given the Trump administration's stance on climate change, some of the scientists who worked on the report are concerned that the report will be suppressed.
Security

Forget the Russians: Corrupt, Local Officials Are the Biggest Threat To Elections (securityledger.com) 287

chicksdaddy writes: Do you think that shadowy Russian hackers are the biggest threat to the integrity of U.S. elections? Think again. It turns out the bad actors in U.S. elections may be a lot more "Senator Bedfellow" than "Fancy Bear," according to Bev Harris, the founder of Black Box Voting. "It's money," Harris told The Security Ledger. "There's one federal election every four years, but there are about 100,000 local elections which control hundreds of billions of dollars in contract signings." Those range from waste disposal and sanitation to transportation."There are 1,000 convictions every year for public corruption," Harris says, citing Department of Justice statistics. "Its really not something that's even rare in the United States." We just don't think that corruption is a problem, because we rarely see it manifested in the ways that most people associate with public corruption, like violence or having to pay bribes to receive promised services, Harris said. But it's still there.

How does the prevalence of public corruption touch election security? Exactly in the way you might think. "You don't know at any given time if the people handling your votes are honest or not," Harris said. "But you shouldn't have to guess. There should be a way to check." And in the decentralized, poorly monitored U.S. elections system, there often isn't. At the root of our current problem isn't (just) vulnerable equipment, it's also a shoddy "chain of custody" around votes, says Eric Hodge, the director of consulting at Cyber Scout, which is working with the Board of Elections in Kentucky and in other states to help secure elections systems. That includes where and how votes are collected, how they are moved and tabulated and then how they are handled after the fact, should citizens or officials want to review the results of an election. That lack of transparency leaves the election system vulnerable to manipulation and fraud, Harris and Hodge argue.

United States

Net Neutrality Rollback Faces New Criticism From US Congress -- And 16 Million Comments (techcrunch.com) 147

An anonymous reader quotes TechCrunch's newest update on the FCC's attempt to gut net neutrality protections: 10 Representatives who helped craft the law governing the FCC itself have submitted an official comment on the proposal ruthlessly dismantling it... The FCC is well within its rights to interpret the law, and it doesn't have to listen to contrary comments from the likes of you and me. It does, however, have to listen to Congress -- "congressional intent" is a huge factor in determining whether an interpretation of the law is reasonable. And in the comment they've just filed, Representatives Pallon, Doyle et al. make it very clear that their intent was and remains very different from how the FCC has chosen to represent it.

"The law directs the FCC to look at ISP services as distinct from those services that ride over the networks. The FCC's proposal contravenes our intent... While some may argue that this distinction should be abandoned because of changes in today's market, that choice is not the FCC's to make. The decision remains squarely with those of us in Congress -- and we have repeatedly chosen to leave the law as it is."

In another letter Thursday, 15 Congressmen asked FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to extend the time period for comments. They note the proposed changes have received more than 16 million comments, more than four times the number of comments on any previous FCC item. The Hill reports that the previous record was 4 million comments -- during the FCC's last net neutrality proceeding in 2014 -- and "the lawmakers also noted that the comment period for approving net neutrality in 2014 was 60 days. Pai has only allowed a 30-day comment period for his plan to rollback the rules."
Social Networks

FBI Tracked 'Fake News' Believed To Be From Russia On Election Day (cnn.com) 352

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNN: The FBI monitored social media on Election Day last year in an effort to track a suspected Russian disinformation campaign utilizing "fake news," CNN has learned. In the months leading up to Election Day, Twitter and Facebook were the feeding grounds for viral "news" stories floating conspiracies and hoaxes, many aimed at spreading negative false claims about Hillary Clinton. On Election Day, dozens of agents and analysts huddled at a command center arrayed with large monitoring screens at the FBI headquarters in Washington watching for security threats, according to multiple sources. That included analysts monitoring cyber threats, after months of mounting Russian intrusions targeting every part of the US political system, from political parties to policy think-tanks to state election systems. On this day, there was also a group of FBI cyber and counterintelligence analysts and investigators watching social media. FBI analysts had identified social media user accounts behind stories, some based overseas, and the suspicion was that at least some were part of a Russian disinformation campaign, according to two sources familiar with the investigation.
Republicans

Silicon Valley Says Trump Plan To Reduce Immigration Will Hurt Economy (cbslocal.com) 273

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CBS Local: President Donald Trump's push to cut legal immigration to the United States in half is being met by opposition from Silicon Valley leaders, economists, and even some Republicans senators, who all say legal immigration is key to economic prosperity. The Trump administration Wednesday endorsed the Reforming American Immigration for a Strong Economy Act or RAISE Act, a Senate bill introduced by two Republican senators earlier this year, that aims to cut all U.S. immigration in half. Business leaders, especially those in California's tech industry, say the bill will stymie their ability to fill jobs and grow the U.S. economy. California's economy is the sixth largest in the world and many attribute that success, in part, to immigration. The Information Technology Industry Council, which represents companies including Amazon, Apple, Adobe, Dell, Facebook, Hewlett-Packard, Google, Visa, Nokia, and Microsoft railed against the bill.

Dean Garfield, President and CEO of the council said, "This is not the right proposal to fix our immigration system because it does not address the challenges tech companies face, injects more bureaucratic dysfunction, and removes employers as the best judge of the employee merits they need to succeed and grow the U.S. economy." Garfield argues that the tech industry cannot find enough STEM-skilled Americans to fill open positions and that U.S. immigration policy "stops us from keeping the best and brightest innovators here in the U.S. and instead we lose out to our overseas competitors."

Communications

The FCC Is Full Again, With Three Republicans and Two Democrats (arstechnica.com) 81

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The U.S. Senate today confirmed the nominations of Republican Brendan Carr and Democrat Jessica Rosenworcel to fill the two empty seats on the Federal Communications Commission. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai congratulated the commissioners in a statement. "As I know from working with each of them for years, they have distinguished records of public service and will be valuable assets to the FCC in the years to come," Pai said. "Their experience at the FCC makes them particularly well-suited to hit the ground running. I'm pleased that the FCC will once again be at full strength and look forward to collaborating to close the digital divide, promote innovation, protect consumers, and improve the agency's operations."

Carr served as Pai's Wireless, Public Safety and International Legal Advisor for three years. After President Trump elevated Pai to the chairmanship in January, Pai appointed Carr to become the FCC's general counsel. Rosenworcel had to leave the commission at the end of last year when the Republican-led US Senate refused to re-confirm her for a second five-year term. But Democrats pushed Trump to re-nominate Rosenworcel to fill the empty Democratic spot and he obliged. FCC commissioners are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. esides Pai, Carr, and Rosenworcel, the five-member commission includes Republican Michael O'Rielly and Democrat Mignon Clyburn.

United Kingdom

UK Security Researcher Who Stopped WannaCry Outbreak Arrested in US (zdnet.com) 176

Zack Whittaker, reporting for ZDNet: A security researcher who in May stopped an outbreak of the WannaCry ransomware has been arrested and detained after attending the Def Con conference in Las Vegas. Marcus Hutchins, 23, a British national, was arrested at Las Vegas airport on Wednesday by US Marshals, several close friends confirmed to ZDNet. A friend told ZDNet that he was "was pulled by Marshals at the lounge" after clearing security. He was briefly detained in a federal facility in Nevada until he was moved. "We went to see him this morning and we had already been moved," said the friend. Hutchins is now understood to be in custody at an FBI field office in the state. Motherboard first broke the story on Thursday. Update: A Motherboard reporter tweets, "Here's the indictment accusing @MalwareTechBlog of running the Kronos banking malware."
Update 2: New DOJ statement: Gregory J. Haanstad, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, announced that on July 11, 2017, following a two-year long investigation, a federal grand jury returned a six-count indictment against Marcus Hutchins, also known as "Malwaretech," for his role in creating and distributing the Kronos banking Trojan.
United States

EPA Reverses Course on Ozone Rule (nytimes.com) 53

The Trump administration said late Wednesday that it would not delay an Obama-era regulation on smog-forming pollutants from smokestacks and tailpipes (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source), a move that environmental groups hailed as a victory. From a report: The Environmental Protection Agency decision came a day after 16 state attorneys general, all Democrats, filed a lawsuit challenging the delay with the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. It reversed a decision that Scott Pruitt, the E.P.A. administrator, made in June to put off an Oct. 1 deadline for designating which areas of the country met new ozone standards. In announcing the ozone policy change, the agency appeared to leave the door open to extending the deadline again. But, officials said, the agency will work with states to help them deliver the needed information.
United States

Trump Removes Anthony Scaramucci From Communications Director Role (nytimes.com) 463

Maggie Haberman, Michael D. Shear, and Glenn Thrush reporting for The New York Times: President Trump has decided to remove Anthony Scaramucci from his position as communications director (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source), three people close to the decision said Monday, relieving him just days after Mr. Scaramucci unloaded a crude verbal tirade against other senior members of the president's senior staff. Mr. Scaramucci's abrupt removal came just 10 days after the wealthy New York financier was brought on to the West Wing staff, a move that convulsed an already chaotic White House and led to the departures of Sean Spicer, the former press secretary, and Reince Priebus, the president's first chief of staff. From a report: Anthony Scaramucci will be leaving his role as White House Communications Director," the statement read. "Mr. Scaramucci felt it was best to give Chief of Staff John Kelly a clean slate and the ability to build his own team. We wish him all the best." Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is scheduled to brief the press corps, on-camera, at 12:45 pm PST. Scaramucci was given the job on Friday, June 21, and by Thursday, July 27, became something of a national laughingstock when The New Yorker reported his profanity-laced conversation with the magazine's Washington correspondent the night before. He was hired by the president to take charge of a communications operation in disarray, and his hiring coincided with the departure of White House press secretary Sean Spicer. Scaramucci, in his conversation with The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza, was extremely critical of White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and predicted, correctly, that then-chief of staff Reince Priebus would be removed from his position. Following the publication of Lizza's article, it became an open question in Washington whether Scaramucci would keep his job.
Facebook

Facebook Funds 'Defending Digital Democracy' Initiative At Harvard (diginomica.com) 90

An anonymous reader quotes Diginomica: A fresh initiative aimed at information sharing about election threats and dubbed Defending Digital Democracy has the financial support of Facebook and the academic muscle of Harvard behind it. Will the project succeed where similar initiatives have failed...? On 19 July and backed by a $500,000 initial grant from Facebook, the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School launched a new, bipartisan initiative called the Defending Digital Democracy Project. The project will be co-led by Robby Mook, Democrat Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign manager, and Matt Rhoades, Republican Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign manager. The hope is that creating a unique and bipartisan team comprised of top-notch political operatives and leaders in the cyber and national security world, the project will be able to to identify and recommend strategies, tools, and technology to protect democratic processes and systems from cyber and information attacks.
The group will also assess new technologies (including blockchain) to secure elections, and wants to create an information sharing infrastructure modeled "on similar efforts within the tech industry to share tech intelligence." The article says Facebook's chief security officer "hopes that election officials who are wary of cooperating with the federal government will be more receptive to working with an independent group tied to Harvard and the tech industy," and the group also includes Google's director for Information Security and Privacy.

"Facebook plans to host state and local election officials at its D.C. office later this year to discuss the information sharing organization, and launch the organization in early 2018."
Security

US Voting Machines Cracked In 90 Minutes At DEFCON (thehill.com) 171

An anonymous reader quotes The Hill: Hackers at at a competition in Las Vegas were able to successfully breach the software of U.S. voting machines in just 90 minutes on Friday, illuminating glaring security deficiencies in America's election infrastructure. Tech minds at the annual "DEF CON" in Las Vegas were given physical voting machines and remote access, with the instructions of gaining access to the software. According to a Register report, within minutes, hackers exposed glaring physical and software vulnerabilities across multiple U.S. voting machine companies' products. Some devices were found to have physical ports that could be used to attach devices containing malicious software. Others had insecure Wi-Fi connections, or were running outdated software with security vulnerabilities like Windows XP.
Though some of the machines were out of date, they were all from "major U.S. voting machine companies" like Diebold Nixorf, Sequoia Voting Systems, and WinVote -- and were purchased on eBay or at government auctions. One of the machines apparently still had voter registration data stored in plain text in an SQLite database from a 2008 election, according to event's official Twitter feed.

By Saturday night they were tweeting video of a WinVote machine playing Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up."
United States

Congress Asks US Agencies For Kaspersky Lab Cyber Documents (reuters.com) 28

Reuters reports: A U.S. congressional panel this week asked 22 government agencies to share documents on Moscow-based cyber firm Kaspersky Lab, saying its products could be used to carry out "nefarious activities against the United States," according to letters seen by Reuters. The requests made on Thursday by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology are the latest blow to the antivirus company, which has been countering accusations by U.S. officials that it may be vulnerable to Russian government influence. The committee asked the agencies for all documents and communications about Kaspersky Lab products dating back to Jan. 1, 2013, including any internal risk assessments. It also requested lists of any systems that use Kaspersky products and the names of any U.S. government contractors or subcontractors that do so. Kaspersky has repeatedly denied that it has ties to any government and said it would not help any government with cyber espionage. It said there is no evidence for the accusations made by U.S. officials. The committee "is concerned that Kaspersky Lab is susceptible to manipulation by the Russian government, and that its products could be used as a tool for espionage, sabotage, or other nefarious activities against the United States," wrote the panel's Republican chairman, Lamar Smith, in the letters.
Government

Calibri Font Plays Its Role: Pakistan Now Sans Sharif as Prime Minister is Disqualified (neowin.net) 93

Usama Jawad, writing for Neowin: A few weeks ago, we reported that Microsoft's Calibri font has been used as evidence against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family in a corruption case. Today, Sharif has been disqualified from his position as a part of the court's final verdict of the case. The case concerns the "Panama Papers", which is a collection of 11.5 million documents detailing information related to over 200,000 offshore accounts. Ever since the Panama Papers were anonymously leaked back in 2015, there has been a major shift in the political situation in many countries. One such country is Pakistan, where the names of numerous members of the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's family were spotted in the papers. If you aren't aware of the Calibri controversy, it is as follows: Nawaz Sharif's daughter Maryam Nawaz submitted photocopies of several documents in order to deny any corruption, but it appears that the documents contained Microsoft's Calibri font, even though they were dated February 6, 2006. It is important to note that the font wasn't commercially available until much later. Despite being created in 2004, the font did not reach the general public until January 30, 2007.
Government

Intelligence Chairman Accuses Obama Aids of Hundreds of Unmasking Requests (thehill.com) 330

mi writes: When American spies capture our communications with foreigners, the identities of Americans on the other side of the conversation are generally protected -- if not by bona-fide laws, then certainly by rules and regulations. A transcript of the conversation should have their name replaced with labels like "U.S. person 1". The citizen involved can only be "unmasked" with a good reason. In 2011, Obama relaxed these rules, making it much simpler even for officials without any intelligence role to obtain the identities. Predictably, certain top officials of the Obama Administration abused their access to get this information: "The [House Intelligence] committee has learned that one official, whose position had no apparent intelligence related function, made hundreds of unmasking requests during the final year of the Obama administration," [Intelligence Chairman Devin] Nunes wrote. "Of those requests, only one offered a justification that was not boilerplate."
Communications

FCC Is Not Complying With Freedom of Information Act Requests, Alleges Lawsuit (arstechnica.com) 105

burtosis writes: The FCC is being sued for failure to turn over documents related to "correspondence, e-mails, telephone call logs, calendar entries, meeting agendas," between chairman Ajit or his staff and ISPs. Given the FCCs recent transparency issues, which appear to be directly ignoring the vast majority of feedback from Americans that are pro net neutrality, a nonprofit group called American Oversight is trying to force the real conversations the FCC is holding into public view. They are also asking for any communications with the media, Congress, and congressional staff. Two extensions for missed deadlines have been given, but the third extension was denied on July 24th. The FCC also ignored a FOiA request by Ars for the DDoS attack during the public comment period on net neutrality. With the current administration's attitude toward transparency and catering only to the largest corporate donors, will the American people have any meaningful influence in how the country is run anymore?
Businesses

Tech Leaders Speak Out Against Trump Ban on Transgender Troops (axios.com) 517

Technology executives, including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Sundar Pichai took to social media to voice their displeasure over President Donald Trump's latest stance on transgendered people in the military.

"I am grateful to the transgender members of the military for their service," Google CEO Sundar Pichai said.
Apple CEO Tim Cook said, "We are indebted to all who serve. Discrimination against anyone holds everyone back."
Brad Smith, Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer said, "We honor and respect all who serve, including the transgender members of our military."
Salesforce said it "believes in equality for all. We support and thank all U.S. service members, including transgender Americans."
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, "Everyone should be able to serve their country -- no matter who they are."
Veteran entrepreneur Max Levchin urged support for transgender people across party lines. "Trans kids, soldiers etc need our support today and to know they are valued & respected regardless of politics. Let us not be divided."
Uber told news outlet Axios, "We owe the deepest debt of gratitude to all those who volunteer to serve in the US Armed Forces and defend our values. These patriotic Americans deserve to be honored and respected, not turned away because of who they are."
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said, "Discrimination in any form is wrong for all of us."
Government

Apple-Supplier Foxconn To Announce New Factory in Wisconsin in Much-needed Win For Trump and Scott Walker (washingtonpost.com) 131

An anonymous reader shares a Washington Post report: Foxconn, one of the world's largest electronics manufacturers, will unveil plans Wednesday evening to build a new factory in southeastern Wisconsin (alternative source), delivering a much-needed win for President Trump and Gov. Scott Walker, according to four officials with knowledge of the announcement. The facility will make flat-screen displays and will be located in Southeast Wisconsin within House Speaker Paul Ryan's congressional district. It is not clear how many jobs would be created. Shortly after Trump was elected, Foxconn's chairman Terry Gou said his company would invest at least $7 billion in the United States and create between 30,000 and 50,000 jobs. If it follows through with that commitment, Foxconn would become a major employer on par with Chrysler. In April, Gou spent more than two hours at the White House.
Government

Donald Trump Says US Military Will Not Allow Transgender People To Serve (theguardian.com) 904

Donald Trump said on Wednesday he would not allow transgender individuals to serve in the US military in any capacity. From a report: The US president tweeted: "After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow ... transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military." He added: "Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming ... victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail." Trump's decision marks a sharp reversal of a policy initiated under Barack Obama, in which the Pentagon ended a longtime ban on transgender people from serving openly in the military. As a candidate, Trump cast himself as a supporter of LGBT rights and indicated he would uphold certain Obama-era policies designed to protect transgender people.
Democrats

Democrats Propose New Competition Laws That Would 'Break Up Big Companies If They're Hurting Consumers' (arstechnica.com) 332

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Senate and House Democratic leaders today proposed new antitrust laws that could prevent many of the biggest mergers and break up monopolies in broadband and other industries. "Right now our antitrust laws are designed to allow huge corporations to merge, padding the pockets of investors but sending costs skyrocketing for everything from cable bills and airline tickets to food and health care," US Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wrote in a New York Times opinion piece. "We are going to fight to allow regulators to break up big companies if they're hurting consumers and to make it harder for companies to merge if it reduces competition." The "Better Deal" unveiled by Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was described in several documents that can be found in an Axios story. The plan for "cracking down on corporate monopolies" lists five industries that Democrats say are in particular need of change, specifically airlines, cable and telecom, the beer industry, food, and eyeglasses. The Democrats' plan for lowering the cost of prescription drugs is detailed in a separate document. The Democrats didn't single out any internet providers that they want broken up, but they did say they want to stop AT&T's proposed $85.4 billion purchase of Time Warner: "Consolidation in the telecommunications is not just between cable or phone providers; increasingly, large firms are trying to buy up content providers. Currently, AT&T is trying to buy Time Warner. If AT&T succeeds in this deal, it will have more power to restrict the content access of its 135 million wireless and 25.5 million pay-TV subscribers. This will only enable the resulting behemoths to promote their own programming, unfairly discriminate against other distributors and their ability to offer highly desired content, and further restrict small businesses from successfully competing in the market."
Government

Sean Spicer Resigns as White House Press Secretary After Objecting To Scaramucci Hire (cnbc.com) 543

CNBC reports: White House press secretary Sean Spicer abruptly resigned Friday after opposing President Donald Trump's appointment of Anthony Scaramucci as communications director. The president asked Spicer to stay in his role, but Spicer said appointing Scaramucci was a major mistake, The New York Times, citing a person with direct knowledge of the conversation. NBC News confirmed the resignation with two people familiar with the matter. Spicer tweeted later that he will continue to serve through August. White House chief of staff Reince Priebus was said to have advocated naming Spicer as press secretary. The two worked at the Republican National Committee before joining the administration. Following Spicer's resignation, Priebus said he supports Scaramucci "100 percent," according to news reports.
United States

US Ends Controversial Laptop Ban On Flights From Middle East (theguardian.com) 79

The United States has ended a four-month ban on passengers carrying laptops onboard US-bound flights from certain airports in the Middle East and North Africa, bringing to an end one of the controversial travel restrictions imposed by President Donald Trump's administration. From a report: Riyadh's King Khalid international airport was the last of 10 airports to be exempted from the ban, the US department of homeland security (DHS) confirmed in a tweet late on Wednesday local time. Middle East carriers have blamed Trump's travel restrictions, which include banning citizens of some Muslim-majority countries from visiting the United States, for a downturn in demand on US routes. In March, the United States banned large electronics in cabins on flights from 10 airports in the Middle East and North Africa over concerns that explosives could be concealed in the devices taken onboard aircraft. The ban has been lifted on the nine airlines affected -- Emirates, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Royal Jordanian , Kuwait Airways, EgyptAir and Royal Air Maroc -- which are the only carriers to fly direct to the US from the region. A ban on citizens of six Muslim-majority countries -- Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, -- remains in place, though has been limited after several US court hearings challenged the restrictions.
Government

US House Panel Approves Broad Proposal On Self-Driving Cars (reuters.com) 191

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: A U.S. House panel on Wednesday approved a sweeping proposal by voice vote to allow automakers to deploy up to 100,000 self-driving vehicles without meeting existing auto safety standards and bar states from imposing driverless car rules. Representative Robert Latta, a Republican who heads the Energy and Commerce Committee subcommittee overseeing consumer protection, said he would continue to consider changes before the full committee votes on the measure, expected next week. The full U.S. House of Representatives will not take up the bill until it reconvenes in September after the summer recess. The measure, which would be the first significant federal legislation aimed at speeding self-driving cars to market, would require automakers to submit safety assessment reports to U.S. regulators, but would not require pre-market approval of advanced vehicle technologies. Automakers would have to show self-driving cars "function as intended and contain fail safe features" to get exemptions from safety standards but the Transportation Department could not "condition deployment or testing of highly automated vehicles on review of safety assessment certifications," the draft measure unveiled late Monday said.
Transportation

Oregon Passes First Statewide Bicycle Tax In Nation (washingtontimes.com) 708

turkeydance writes: In Oregon, a state known for its avid bicycling culture, the state legislature's approval of the first bike tax in the nation has fallen flat with riders. Democratic Gov. Kate Brown is expected to sign the sweeping $5.3 billion transportation package, which includes a $15 excise tax on the sale of bicycles costing more than $200 with a wheel diameter of at least 26 inches. Even though the funding has been earmarked for improvements that will benefit cyclists, the tax has managed to irk both anti-tax Republicans and environmentally conscious bikers. The bike tax is aimed at raising $1.2 million per year in order to improve and expand paths and trails for bicyclists and pedestrians. Supporters point out that Oregon has no sales tax, which means buyers won't be dinged twice for their new wheels.
Communications

FCC Refuses To Release Text of More Than 40,000 Net Neutrality Complaints (arstechnica.com) 64

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Federal Communications Commission has denied a request to extend the deadline for filing public comments on its plan to overturn net neutrality rules, and the FCC is refusing to release the text of more than 40,000 net neutrality complaints that it has received since June 2015. The National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) request in May of this year for tens of thousands of net neutrality complaints that Internet users filed against their ISPs. The NHMC argues that the details of these complaints are crucial for analyzing FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's proposal to overturn net neutrality rules. The coalition also asked the FCC to extend the initial comment deadline until 60 days after the commission fully complies with the FoIA request. A deadline extension would have given people more time to file public comments on the plan to eliminate net neutrality rules. Instead, the FCC yesterday denied the motion for an extension and said that it will only provide the text for a fraction of the complaints, because providing them all would be too burdensome.
Security

Should We Ignore the South Carolina Election Hacking Story? (securityledger.com) 139

chicksdaddy provides five (or more) "good" reasons why we should ignore the South Carolina election hacking story that was reported yesterday. According to yesterday's reports, South Carolina's voter-registration system was hit with nearly 150,000 hack attempts on election day. Slashdot reader chicksdaddy writes from an opinion piece via The Security Ledger: What should we make of the latest reports from WSJ, The Hill, etc. that South Carolina's election systems were bombarded with 150,000 hacking attempts? Not much, argues Security Ledger in a news analysis that argues there are lots of good reasons to ignore this story, if not the very real problem of election hacking. The stories were based on this report from The South Carolina Election Commission. The key phrase in that report is "attempts to penetrate," Security Ledger notes. Information security professionals would refer to that by more mundane terms like "port scans" or probes. These are kind of the "dog bites man" stories of the cyber beat -- common (here's one from 2012 US News & World Report) but ill informed. "The kinds of undifferentiated scans that the report is talking about are the internet equivalent of people driving slowly past your house." While some of those 150,000 attempts may well be attempts to hack South Carolina's elections systems, many are undifferentiated, while some may be legitimate, if misdirected. Whatever the case, they're background noise on the internet and hardly unique to South Carolina's voter registration systems. They're certainly not evidence of sophisticated, nation-state efforts to crack the U.S. election system by Russia, China or anyone else, Security Ledger argues. "The problem with lumping all these 'hacking attempts' in the same breath as you talk about sophisticated and targeted attacks on the Clinton Campaign, the DCCC, and successful penetration of some state election boards is that it dramatically distorts the nature and scope of the threat to the U.S. election system which -- again -- is very real." The election story is one "that demands thoughtful and pointed reporting that can explore (and explode) efforts by foreign actors to subvert the U.S. vote and thus its democracy," the piece goes on to argue. "That's especially true in an environment in which regulators and elected officials seem strangely incurious about such incidents and disinclined to investigate them."
Australia

Crypto-Bashing Prime Minister Argues The Laws Of Mathematics Don't Apply In Australia (independent.co.uk) 330

An anonymous reader quotes the Independent:Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said the laws of mathematics come second to the law of the land in a row over privacy and encryption... When challenged by a technology journalist over whether it was possible to tackle the problem of criminals using encryption -- given that platform providers claim they are currently unable to break into the messages even if required to do so by law -- the Prime Minister raised eyebrows as he made his reply. "Well the laws of Australia prevail in Australia, I can assure you of that. The laws of mathematics are very commendable, but the only law that applies in Australia is the law of Australia," he said... "The important thing is to recognise the challenge and call on the companies for assistance. I am sure they know morally they should... They have to face up to their responsibility."
Facebook has already issued a statement saying that they "appreciate the important work law enforcement does, and we understand the need to carry out investigations. That's why we already have a protocol in place to respond to any requests we can.

"At the same time, weakening encrypted systems for them would mean weakening it for everyone."
Government

Y Combinator Announces Funding For UBI-Supporting Political Candidates (latimes.com) 195

Most people "feel like they have great potential that is being wasted," argues Y Combinator president Sam Altman -- a Stanford dropout whose company's investments are now worth $65 billion, including Airbnb, Reddit, and Dropbox. Now an anonymous reader quote the Los Angeles Times: A wealthy young Silicon Valley venture capitalist hopes to recruit statewide and congressional candidates and launch an affordable-housing ballot measure in 2018 because he says California's leaders are failing to address flaws in the state's governance that are killing opportunities for future generations. Sam Altman, 32, will roll out an effort to enlist candidates around a shared set of policy priorities -- including tackling how automation is going to affect the economy and the cost of housing in California -- and is willing to put his own money behind the effort. "I think we have a fundamental breakdown of the American social contract and it's desperately important that we fix it," he said. "Even if we had a very well-functioning government, it would be a challenge, and our current government functions so badly it is an extra challenge..."

Altman lays out 10 principles including lowering the cost of housing, creating single-payer healthcare, increasing clean energy use, improving education, reforming taxes and rebuilding infrastructure. He has few specific policy edicts, and floats proposals that will generate controversy, such as creating a universal basic income for all Americans in an effort to equalize opportunity, public funding for the media and increasing taxes on property that is owned by foreigners, is unoccupied or has been "flipped" by investors seeking a quick return on an investment.

Altman argues that he wants to "ensure that everyone benefits from the coming changes," and specifically highlights the idea of a Universal Basic Income. Altman writes that "If it turns out to be a good policy, I could imagine passing a law that puts it into effect when the GDP per capita doubles. This could help cushion the transition to a post-automation world."
Businesses

Are America's Non-Compete Laws Too Strict? (nrtoday.com) 167

Slashdot reader cdreimer shared an article from the New York Times: Idaho achieved a notable distinction last year: It became one of the hardest places in America for someone to quit a job for a better one. The state did this by making it easier for companies to enforce noncompete agreements, which prevent employees from leaving their company for a competitor... The result was a bill that shifted the burden from companies to employees, who must now prove they have "no ability to adversely affect the employer's legitimate business interests." The bar for that is so high that Brian Kane, an assistant chief deputy in the Idaho attorney general's office, wrote that this would be "difficult if not impossible" for an employee to do...

For the most part, states have been moving toward making it easier for people to switch teams... The most extreme end of the spectrum is California, which prohibits noncompete agreements entirely. Economists say this was a crucial factor behind Silicon Valley's rise, because it made it easier for people to start and staff new businesses. But as states like Utah and Massachusetts have tried to move closer to this approach, legislators have run into mature companies trying to hold onto their best employees... A recent survey showed that one in five American workers is bound by a noncompete clause. They cover workers up and down the economic spectrum, from executives to hairdressers.

Two economists tell the newspaper that since 2000, U.S. workers have changed their jobs less and less, which is sometimes blamed on strict employment contracts as well as the occupational licensing laws which affect a third of America's workforce. The Times reports that noncompete clauses ultimately end up keeping workers' salaries lower, "because most people get raises when they switch jobs."
Education

In America, Most Republicans Think Colleges Are Bad for the Country (chronicle.com) 996

An anonymous reader quotes the Chronicle of Higher Education: A majority of Republicans and right-leaning independents think higher education has a negative effect on the country, according to a new study released by the Pew Research Center on Monday. The same study has found a consistent increase in distrust of colleges and universities since 2010, when negative perceptions among Republicans was measured at 32 percent. That number now stands at 58 percent. By comparison, 72 percent of Democrats or left-leaning Independents in the study said colleges and universities have a positive impact on the United States... In the Pew Research Center's study, distrust of colleges was strongest in the highest income bracket and the oldest age group, with approval levels of just 31 percent among respondents whose family income exceeds $75,000 a year and 27 percent among those older than 65.
Government

US Government Crackdown Threatens Kaspersky's American Dream (reuters.com) 139

Eugene Kaspersky, the CEO of the Russian cybersecurity software firm that bears his name, had a big American dream. From a report: He wanted his company to go beyond selling anti-virus software to consumers and small businesses and become a major vendor to the U.S. government -- one of the world's biggest buyers of cybersecurity tools. Kaspersky set up a U.S. subsidiary, KGSS, in Arlington, Virginia that would be focused on winning that business. He sponsored flashy conferences with high-profile speakers --including Michael Flynn, who was briefly President Donald Trump's national security adviser -- sought to join U.S. trade groups and even underwrote programming on National Public Radio. All of this was done to burnish Kaspersky's image and help it become an accepted vendor for the U.S. government despite its Russian roots, according to people familiar with the strategy. But Eugene Kaspersky was never able to overcome lingering suspicions among U.S. intelligence officials that he and his company were, or could become, pawns of Russia's spy agencies. Kaspersky "has never helped, nor will help, any government in the world with its cyberespionage efforts," the company said. Kaspersky's American ambitions were further eroded by the sharp deterioration in U.S.-Russia relations following Russia's invasion of Crimea in 2014, and later when U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia had hacked the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
United States

Afghan Girls Robotics Team Allowed To Enter U.S. For Competition (reuters.com) 50

An anonymous reader writes: A team of Afghan girls are on their way to compete in an academic robotics competition in the United States after American officials agreed to allow them to enter the country despite initially denying them visas. The reversal reportedly came at the request of U.S. President Donald Trump, Reuters reported.
Government

Congress Seeks To Outlaw Cyber Intel Sharing With Russia (onthewire.io) 179

Trailrunner7 shares a report from On the Wire: A group of House Democrats has introduced a bill that would formalize a policy of the United States not sharing cyber intelligence with Russia. The proposed law is a direct response to comments President Donald Trump made earlier this week after he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. After the meeting, Trump said on Twitter that he and Putin had discussed forming an "impenetrable Cyber Security unit" to prevent future attacks, including election hacking. The idea was roundly criticized by security and foreign policy experts and within a few hours Trump walked it back, saying it was just an idea and couldn't actually happen. But some legislators are not taking the idea of information sharing with Russia as a hypothetical. On Wednesday, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.), and Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) introduced the No Cyber Cooperation With Russia Act to ensure that the U.S. doesn't hand over any cybersecurity intelligence on attacks or vulnerabilities to Moscow. Recent attacks such as the NotPetya malware outbreak have been linked to Russia, as have the various attacks surrounding the 2016 presidential election. "When the Russians get their hands on cyber intelligence, they exploit it -- as they did last month with the NotPetya malware attack targeting Ukraine and the West. It is a sad state of affairs when Congress needs to prohibit this type of information sharing with an adversary, but since we apparently do, I am proud to introduce the No Cyber Cooperation with Russia Act with my friends Brendan Boyle and Ruben Gallego. I urge my colleagues across the aisle to join us in sending a clear message that Congress will not stand for this proposal to undermine U.S. national security," Lieu said in a statement.
Medicine

Vaccines May Soon Be Mandatory For Children In France (theverge.com) 253

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Last week, the French Health Ministry announced plans to make 11 vaccines mandatory for young children by 2018. French law currently mandates three vaccines -- diphtheria, tetanus, and polio -- for children under the age of two. The government's proposal would expand that list to include eight other vaccines -- including those against Hepatitis B, whooping cough, and measles -- that were previously only recommended. The proposal, which is to be presented to lawmakers by the end of this year, comes amid an ongoing measles outbreak across Europe, which the World Health Organization (WHO) attributed to low immunization rates. Italy passed a similar decree in May, requiring children to receive 10 vaccines as a condition for school enrollment. Germany, while stopping short of a mandate, has moved to tighten its laws on child immunization. But some experts question whether a vaccination mandate will sway public opinion in France, where distrust in vaccines has risen alarmingly in recent years. In a survey published last year, 41 percent of respondents in France disagreed with the statement that vaccines are safe -- the highest rate of distrust among the 67 countries that were surveyed, and more than three times higher than the global average.
Canada

Former Astronaut Julie Payette To Be Canada's Next Governor General (www.cbc.ca) 109

MightyMartian shares a report from CBC.ca: Former astronaut Julie Payette will be the Queen's new representative in Canada, CBC News has confirmed. The 53-year-old Montrealer, who speaks six languages, will be named the 29th governor general, a position that comes with a $290,660 annual salary and an official residence at Rideau Hall. Payette, who is also an accomplished athlete, pianist and choral singer, will succeed outgoing Gov. Gen. David Johnston. A computer engineer with a commercial pilot license, Payette was picked from among 5,330 applicants in 1992 to be one of four new astronauts with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). She participated in two space flights to the International Space Station and served as the CSA's chief astronaut between 2000 and 2007.

MightyMartian adds: "I defy anyone else to find a head of state who is an astronaut!"

Security

Kaspersky Lab Says It Has Become Pawn in US-Russia Geopolitical Game (reuters.com) 172

Russian cyber security firm Kaspersky Lab, reacting to a U.S. government move restricting its activities, said on Wednesday it had fallen victim to U.S.-Russia global sparring while the Kremlin criticized the U.S. action as politically-motivated. From a report: The Trump administration on Tuesday removed the Moscow-based firm from two lists of approved vendors used by government agencies to purchase technology equipment, amid concerns its products could be used by the Kremlin to gain entry into U.S. networks. "By all appearances, Kaspersky Lab happened to be dragged into a geopolitical fight where each side is trying to use the company as a pawn in its game," RIA news agency quoted the company's press service as saying.
Businesses

Newspapers To Bid For Antitrust Exemption To Tackle Google and Facebook (cnbc.com) 116

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: The news industry is to band together to seek a limited antitrust exemption from Congress in an effort to fend off growing competition from Facebook and Google. Traditional competitors including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, as well as a host of smaller print and online publications, will temporarily set aside their differences this week and appeal to federal lawmakers to let them negotiate collectively with the technology giants to safeguard the industry. Antitrust laws traditionally prevent companies from forming such an alliance which could see them becoming over-dominant in a particular sector. However, the media companies will be hoping that Congress will look favorably on a temporary exemption, particularly giving the recent clampdown on the technology industry which saw Google slapped with a $2.7 billion antitrust fine. The campaign is led by newspaper industry trade group News Media Alliance and it is intended to help the industry collaborate in order to regain market share from Facebook and Google, which have been swooping in on newspapers' distribution and advertising revenues. The two companies currently command 70 percent of the $73 billion digital advertising industry in the U.S., according to new research from the Pew Research Centre. Meanwhile, U.S. newspaper ad revenue in 2016 was $18 billion from $50 billion a decade ago.
Republicans

Trump Proposes Joint 'Cyber Security Unit' With Russia, Then Quickly Backs Away From It (arstechnica.com) 389

In a series of tweets yesterday, President Trump proposed "an impenetrable Cyber Security unit" with Putin "so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded and safe." The news came as a shock to just about everyone who got word of it, including congressional members of his own GOP party. Less than 24 hours later, Trump decided against it, tweeting: "The fact that President Putin and I discussed a Cyber Security unit doesn't mean I think it can happen. It can't-but a ceasefire can,& did!" Ars Technica reports: "It's not the dumbest idea I have ever heard, but it's pretty close," Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican of South Carolina, said of the plan. Senate Republican Marco Rubio of Florida tweeted that "partnering with Putin on a 'Cyber Security Unit' is akin to partnering with [Syrian President Bashar] Assad on a 'Chemical Weapons Unit."' Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that Trump and the Russian president decided at a meeting during a Group of 20 nations summit in Hamburg, Germany, to embark on a joint "cyber unit to make sure that there was absolutely no interference whatsoever, that they would work on cyber security together." But on Sunday, after it was clear that the plan was going nowhere, Trump took to Twitter and said no deal. That didn't stop Rep. Don Beyer, a Democrat from Virginia, from introducing on Monday an amendment to the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act that would bar a US-Russian cyber accord. He said: "Donald Trump's proposal to form a 'cyber security unit' with Putin is a terrible idea that would immediately jeopardize American cybersecurity... Trump must acknowledge that Russia interfered in the 2016 election and take strong, meaningful action to prevent it from happening again in future elections."
Businesses

Seattle City Council Unanimously Approves Income Tax For the Rich (geekwire.com) 486

reifman writes: Amazon, tech employees and those making $250,000 or more annually in Seattle will now pay a 2.25 percent income tax. "The Seattle City Council estimates that the tax would bring in an additional $140 million each year," reports GeekWire. "The revenue would go toward the city's housing affordability agenda and carbon reduction goals and supplant federal funds if they are cut. The revenue is also intended to alleviate the burden of Washington's property and sales taxes, which are often called the most regressive in the country." Anyone who's seen Amazon's impacts on Seattle and its low and middle income residents will appreciate how this tax will help the homeless, lower income and improve the environment. Not everyone is thrilled with the recently approved legislation. Jason Mercier, who directs the center for government reform with the Washington Police Center, said: "[The council is] going to unanimously adopt an illegal income tax that has no hope of taking effect and will waste taxpayer resources on litigation the city is sure to lose." The measure is expected to be challenged in court, as Washington's constitution states "a county, city, or city-county shall not levy a tax on net income." According to The Washington Post, Mercier said there is decade of case law saying that a graduated income tax is unconstitutional because income is property and under the constitution, property tax has to be taxed uniformly and no more than 1 percent.
Government

Trump Administration Officially Delays 'Startup Visa' Rule (sfchronicle.com) 223

Trisha Thadani, reporting for SFChronicle: The Trump administration has officially delayed a rule that would allow some foreign entrepreneurs to stay in the U.S. and build their companies. During this delay, the administration will propose a plan to rescind the rule all together, according to a Federal Register notice that will be published Tuesday. This official notice, which will be published in the Federal Register Tuesday, comes exactly one week before the rule was slated to go into effect. It will be delayed until March 14. The International Entrepreneur Rule, is the closest the United States has come to the "startup visa" Silicon Valley has long sought, was approved by the Department of Homeland Security in January during President Barack Obama's waning hours in office.
United States

Hackers Targeting US Nuclear Power Plants, Report Finds (cnet.com) 91

For the past couple of months, hackers have breached the computer networks of companies that operate nuclear power facilities in the US, according to a new report from federal law enforcement officials. From a report: One of the companies targeted was the Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corporation, which operates a nuclear facility near Burlington, Kansas, according to a joint report issued last week by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security and described by The New York Times. The report carried an urgent amber warning, the second-highest rating for the severity of the threat, the Times reported. Organizations running the nation's energy, nuclear and other critical infrastructure have become frequent targets for cyberattacks in recent years. In a 2013 executive order, President Barack Obama called cyberattacks "one of the most serious national security challenges we must confront."
Government

White House Could Use AT&T/Time Warner Deal As 'Leverage' Against CNN (arstechnica.com) 302

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via Ars Technica: AT&T seems to be on track to close its purchase of Time Warner Inc., but President Donald Trump's hatred of Time Warner property CNN could still be a "wild card" in the deal. Trump's feud with CNN was described yesterday in a New York Times article titled "The Network Against the Leader of the Free World." Within that article is one tidbit that could affect AT&T's proposed $85.4 billion purchase of Time Warner, which owns CNN and other media properties such as HBO and Turner Broadcasting System: "White House advisers have discussed a potential point of leverage over their adversary, a senior administration official said: a pending merger between CNN's parent company, Time Warner, and AT&T. Mr. Trump's Justice Department will decide whether to approve the merger, and while analysts say there is little to stop the deal from moving forward, the president's animus toward CNN remains a wild card."

Separately, The Daily Caller wrote today that Trump doesn't want the merger to be approved unless CNN President Jeff Zucker is fired. The conservative news website attributed the information to "a source familiar with President Trump's thinking." Zucker told the New York Times that the pending merger has not affected his journalistic or management decisions.

Youtube

YouTube Stars Defend Net Neutrality In Open Letter To the FCC (theverge.com) 48

More than 100 YouTube creators from the Internet Creators Guild have signed an open letter to the FCC calling on the agency to keep strong net neutrality protections. "Our rapidly growing industry employs hundreds of thousands of people and yet it barely existed more than a decade ago," reads the letter. "As creators in this fast-moving industry, changes to the existing Net Neutrality rules would have an outsized impact on our field and jeopardize our livelihood." The Verge reports: The letter has been signed by major names in the YouTube community, such as the Fine Brothers. In total, the guild says, the letter represents video creators with an audience of more than 150 million people. The YouTube creators directly address FCC chairman Ajit Pai in the letter. The letter argues that the removal of protections would lead to "the inevitable creation of fast lanes that would privilege the large media companies that can afford to pay for such service," putting smaller media creators in danger. "We strongly urge you to oppose anything that would threaten this level playing field," the letter from video makers concludes. "The stakes are simply too high for our democracy, culture, and economy."
Privacy

Privacy Watchdog Sues Trump's Election Committee Over Voter Data (engadget.com) 343

From a report: When the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity sent a letter to all 50 states seeking personal, identifying information on all voters in the US, at least 44 states refused in some part. Trump signed an executive order last May to create this commission while claiming that millions of people had voted illegally. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has taken issue with this request, as well, and has filed a lawsuit accusing the Commission of violating the privacy of American voters. EPIC also asserts that the original request asks states to send the data to a non-secure website, making the data vulnerable to identity theft and financial fraud. Not to mention political agendas. EPIC is also seeking information about "the failure to conduct a Privacy Impact Assessment," and has filed for a temporary restraining order "to block the Commission's efforts."

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