Republicans

Hackers Have Targetted Both the Trump Organization And Democrat Election Data (arstechnica.com) 157

An anonymous reader writes: Two recent news stories give new prominence to politically-motivated data breaches. Friday the Wall Street Journal reported that last year Guccifer 2.0 sent 2.5 gigabytes of Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee election data to a Republican operative in Florida, including their critical voter turnout projections. At the same time ABC News is reporting that the FBI is investigating "an attempted overseas cyberattack against the Trump Organization," adding that such an attack would make his network a high priority for government monitoring.

"In the course of its investigation," they add, "the FBI could get access to the Trump Organization's computer network, meaning FBI agents could possibly find records connected to other investigations." A senior FBI official (now retired) concedes to ABC that "There could be stuff in there that they [the Trump organization] do not want to become part of a separate criminal investigation."

It seems like everyone's talking about the privacy of their communications. Tonight the Washington Post writes that Trump's son-in-law/senior advisor Jared Kushner "discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump's transition team and the Kremlin, using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports." And Friday Hillary Clinton was even quoted as saying, "I would have won had I not been subjected to the unprecedented attacks by Comey and the Russians..."
Cellphones

Republicans Want To Leave You Voicemail -- Without Ever Ringing Your Cellphone (recode.net) 438

bricko quotes a report from Recode: The GOP's leading campaign and fundraising arm, the Republican National Committee, has quietly thrown its support behind a proposal at the Federal Communications Commission that would pave the way for marketers to auto-dial consumers' cellphones and leave them prerecorded voicemail messages -- all without ever causing their devices to ring. Under current federal law, telemarketers and others, like political groups, aren't allowed to launch robocall campaigns targeting cellphones unless they first obtain a consumer's written consent. But businesses stress that it's a different story when it comes to "ringless voicemail" -- because it technically doesn't qualify as a phone call in the first place. In their eyes, that means they shouldn't need a customer or voter's permission if they want to auto-dial mobile voicemail inboxes in bulk pre-made messages about a political candidate, product or cause. And they want the FCC to rule, once and for all, that they're in the clear. Their argument, however, has drawn immense opposition from consumer advocates.
Censorship

FCC Won't Punish Stephen Colbert For Controversial Trump Insult (slashdot.org) 305

Earlier this month, the FCC said it would look into complaints made against The Late Show host Stephen Colbert over a homophobic joke he made about President Donald Trump. Well, it turns out the FCC is not going to levy a fine against the comedian for using the word "cock" on late-night network television, reports The Verge. From the report: "Consistent with standard operating procedure, the FCC's Enforcement Bureau has reviewed the complaints and the material that was the subject of these complaints," reads the FCC's statement, according to Variety. "The Bureau has concluded that there was nothing actionable under the FCC's rules." Helping Colbert's case was the fact that the broadcast, time delayed for incidents like these, bleeped out the questionable word and also blurred the host's mouth as he was saying it. The FCC has broad authority to regulate what can and cannot be broadcast based on legal precedent regarding obscenity laws. Yet looser rules apply during the hours of 10PM and 6AM ET, when Colbert's show airs. So it would appear that the ample self-censorship on behalf of CBS saved the program from a guilty verdict in this case.
Republicans

President Trump's Budget Includes a $2 Trillion Math Error (time.com) 354

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TIME: President Trump's budget includes a simple accounting error that adds up to a $2 trillion oversight. Under the proposed budget released Tuesday, the Trump Administration's proposed tax cuts would boost economic growth enough to pay for $1.3 trillion in spending by 2027. But the tax cuts are also supposed to be revenue-neutral, meaning that trillion dollars is already supposed to pay for the money lost from the tax cuts. Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers called the oversight an "elementary double count" and "a logical error of the kind that would justify failing a student in an introductory economics course" in an op-ed in the Washington Post.
Government

IT Worker Who Trained H-1B-Visa-Holding Replacement Aims For Congress (computerworld.com) 134

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Computerworld: Craig Diangelo was an IT worker at Northeast Utilities in Connecticut until he completed training his H-1B-visa-holding replacement. He was one of about 200 who lost their jobs in 2014 after two India-based IT offshore outsourcing firms took over their work at what is now called Eversource. Diangelo, at first, was quiet, bound by severance agreements signed with the company. Then he started speaking out. Now, Diangelo is running for Congress. offering up a first-hand perspective on IT outsourcing that resonates with many other workers in his state. "I've seen the injustices that have been done to us," said Diangelo, who is not optimistic lawmakers will deliver on H-1B reform. "You can't let this matter die down, because when you stop talking about it nothing seems to get done." Diangelo isn't a one-issue candidate or political novice. He previously served two terms as an alderman in his hometown of New Britain and remains involved in city planning work. The 64-year-old has filed the necessary papers to run for office, has a campaign manager, a website and knows he has to raise an awful lot money to challenge Democratic Rep. Elizabeth Esty, now in her third term. But Diangelo has no illusions about his odds. Even so, he may be the only person to run for Congress, at least in recent times, who has trained his replacement. He went to college hoping to be come a teacher, but when that proved difficult, he wound up at Travelers Insurance in Hartford -- in the company's data processing center.
Government

EPA Dismisses Half the Scientists on Its Major Review Board (nymag.com) 279

An anonymous reader shares a report: A few weeks after the election, pro-Trump commentator Scottie Nell Hughes heralded the dawn of a new era when she declared, "There's no such thing, unfortunately, anymore as facts." In the age of Trump there's little need for people who've devoted their lives to studying scientific facts, and over the weekend the administration finally got around to dismissing some of them. According to the Washington Post, about half of the 18 members on the Environmental Protection Agency's Board of Scientific Counselors have been informed that their terms will not be renewed. The academics who sit on the board advise the EPA's scientific board on whether its research is sound. The academics usually serve two three-year stints, and they were told by Obama administration officials and career EPA staffers that they would stay on for another term. But on Friday some received emails from the agency informing them that their first three-year term was up and they would not be renominated. Republican members of Congress have complained for some time that the Board of Scientific Counselors, as well as the 47-member Science Advisory Board, just rubber-stamp new EPA regulations. A spokesman for EPA administrator Scott Pruitt confirmed that he's thinking of replacing the academics with industry experts (though the EPA is supposed to be regulating those companies). Gretchen Goldman, research director at the Center for Science and Democracy, expressed her disappointment and asked, "What's the scientific reason for removing these individuals from this EPA science review board? It is rare to see such a large scale dismissal even in a presidential transition. The EPA is treating this scientific advisory board like its members are political appointees when these committees are not political positions. The individuals on these boards are appointed based on scientific expertise not politics. This move by the EPA is inserting politics into science."
Republicans

Senate Republicans Introduce Anti-Net Neutrality Legislation (thehill.com) 224

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Hill: Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced a bill Monday to nullify the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules. "Few areas of our economy have been as dynamic and innovative as the internet," Lee said in a statement. "But now this engine of growth is threatened by the Federal Communications Commission's 2015 Open Internet Order, which would put federal bureaucrats in charge of engineering the Internet's infrastructure." Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), and James Inhofe (R-Okla.) co-sponsored Lee's bill. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai introduced his own plan last week to curb significant portions of the 2015 net neutrality rules that Lee's bill aims to abolish. Pai's more specific tack is focused on moving the regulatory jurisdiction of broadband providers back to the Federal Trade Commission, instead of the FCC, which currently regulates them.
Earth

Trump Order Helps Offshore Drilling, Stops Marine Sanctuary Expansion (arstechnica.com) 163

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: In an executive order signed on Friday, President Trump directed his secretary of the interior to review current rules on offshore drilling and exploration. This review is likely to result in a relaxation of the strict protections the previous administration put on offshore oil drilling in the Atlantic and in the Arctic. According to the Washington Post, a review of the rules is likely to "make millions of acres of federal waters eligible for oil and gas leasing." At the same time, Trump's executive order directed the secretary of commerce to cease designating new marine sanctuaries or expanding any that already exist. According to USA Today, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is also "directed to review all designations and expansions of marine monuments or sanctuaries designated under the Antiquities Act within the last 10 years." The Post says this "includes Hawaii's Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, which Obama quadrupled in size last year, and the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts off Massachusetts." Although these reviews could take some time to complete, they put in motion a bid to favor extraction industries like oil and gas mining. "Today, we're unleashing American energy and clearing the way for thousands and thousands of high-paying energy jobs," Trump reportedly told the Associated Press.
Government

GOP Congressman Defending Privacy Vote: 'Nobody's Got To Use The Internet' (washingtonpost.com) 307

Wisconsin congressman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. defended his decision to help repeal broadband privacy rules by telling a constituent, "Nobody's got to use the Internet." An anonymous reader quotes the 73-year-old congressman: "And the thing is that if you start regulating the Internet like a utility, if we did that right at the beginning, we would have no Internet... Internet companies have invested an awful lot of money in having almost universal service now. The fact is is that, you know, I don't think it's my job to tell you that you cannot get advertising for your information being sold. My job, I think, is to tell you that you have the opportunity to do it, and then you take it upon yourself to make that choice... That's what the law has been, and I think we ought to have more choices rather than fewer choices with the government controlling our everyday lives."
"The congressman then moved on to the next question," reports The Washington Post, but criticism of his remarks appeared on social media. One activist complained that the congressman's position was don't use the internet if you don't want your information sold to advertisers -- drawing a clarification from the congressman's office.

"Actually he said that nobody has to use the Internet. They have a choice. Big difference."
Privacy

Microsoft Says US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Requests More Than Doubled (reuters.com) 42

Microsoft Corp says it received at least a thousand surveillance requests from the U.S. government that sought user content for foreign intelligence purposes during the first half of 2016. From a report: The amount, shared in Microsoft's biannual transparency report, was more than double what the company said it received under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) during the preceding six-month interval, and was the highest the company has listed since 2011, when it began tracking such government surveillance orders. The scope of spying authority granted to U.S. intelligence agencies under FISA has come under renewed scrutiny in recent weeks, sparked in part by evolving, unsubstantiated assertions from President Donald Trump and other Republicans that the Obama White House improperly spied on Trump and his associates.
Government

US Dismantles Forensic Science Commission (washingtonpost.com) 281

hondo77 writes a report via Washington Post: Thought the Trump Administration's war on science was just about climate change? Think again. "Attorney General Jeff Sessions will end a Justice Department partnership with independent scientists to raise forensic science standards and has suspended an expanded review of FBI testimony across several techniques that have come under question, saying a new strategy will be set by an in-house team of law enforcement advisers," reports Washington Post. The National Commission on Forensic Science, "jointly led by Justice and the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has prompted several changes," including "new accrediting and ethical codes for forensic labs and practitioners" and the FBI abandoning "its four-decade-long practice of tracing bullets to a specific manufacturer's batch through chemical analyses after its method were scientifically debunked." "The availability of prompt and accurate forensic science analysis to our law enforcement officers and prosecutors is critical to integrity in law enforcement, reducing violent crime, and increasing public safety," Sessions said in the statement. "We applaud the professionalism of the National Commission on Forensic Science and look forward to building on the contributions it has made in this crucial field."
Communications

FCC's Ajit Pai Says Broadband Market Too Competitive For Strict Privacy Rules (arstechnica.com) 154

In an op-ed published on the Washington Post, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai and his counterpart at the FTC have argued that strict privacy rules for ISPs aren't necessary in part because the broadband market is more competitive than the search engine market. From a report on ArsTechnica: Internet users who have only one choice of high-speed home broadband providers would probably scoff at this claim. But an op-ed written by Pai and Acting FTC Chair Maureen Ohlhausen ignored the lack of competition in home Internet service, focusing only on the competitive wireless broadband market. Because of this competition, it isn't fair to impose different rules on ISPs than on websites, they wrote. "Others argue that ISPs should be treated differently because consumers face a unique lack of choice and competition in the broadband marketplace," Pai and Ohlhausen wrote in their op-ed. "But that claim doesn't hold up to scrutiny either. For example, according to one industry analysis, Google dominates desktop search with an estimated 81 percent market share (and 96 percent of the mobile search market), whereas Verizon, the largest mobile broadband provider, holds only an estimated 35 percent of its market." [...] Instead of addressing the lack of competition in home Internet service, Pai and Ohlhausen simply didn't mention it in their op-ed. But they argued that ISPs shouldn't face stricter privacy rules than search engines and other websites because of the level of competition in broadband and the amount of data companies like Google collect about Internet users. "As a result, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Congress decided to disapprove the FCC's unbalanced rules," they wrote. "Indeed, the FTC's criticism of the FCC's rules last year noted specifically that they 'would not generally apply to other services that collect and use significant amounts of consumer data.'"
United States

This Year's H-1B Visa Applications Look A Lot Like Last Year's (newsweek.com) 310

"This year's round of H-1B visa program applications was scheduled to launch Monday, and it was largely absent of President Donald Trump's proposed policy changes," writes Newsweek. An anonymous reader quotes their report: The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services last updated its online page dedicated to the program, which granted visas to skilled foreign workers, Wednesday with the rules mostly similar to those of last year and quotas remaining the same. These requirements were set to launch despite Trump's vow to reform the program on the grounds that companies exploited it to fill jobs once held by U.S. citizens who earned higher wages.

An alleged draft of an executive order was leaked last month and widely circulated, raising fears that the administration was preparing to gut the program. These measures were never announced. "There was a window in which the White House could have made serious reforms," Russ Harrison, head of government relations for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers-USA, told The Wall Street Journal. "For whatever reason, they decided not to take it."

Government

Connecticut May Become First US State To Allow Deadly Police Drones (reuters.com) 83

According to Reuters, Connecticut lawmakers are considering a new bill that would allow police to equip drones with potentially lethal weapons. The bill, which was approved overwhelmingly by the state legislature's judiciary committee on Wednesday, actually aims to ban weaponized drones, but exempts the ban from law enforcement agencies. From the report: Connecticut would become the first U.S. state to allow law enforcement agencies to use drones equipped with deadly weapons if a bill opposed by civil libertarians becomes law. The legislation was introduced as a complete ban on weaponized drones but just before the committee vote it was amended to exclude police from the restriction. "Data shows police force is disproportionately used on minority communities, and we believe that armed drones would be used in urban centers and on minority communities," said David McGuire, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Connecticut. "That's not the kind of precedent we want to set here," McGuire said of the prospect that Connecticut would become the first state to allow police to use lethally armed drones. If Connecticut's Democratic-controlled House passes the bill it will move to the Senate, which is split evenly between Democrats and Republicans.
Government

House Approves Bill To Force Public Release of EPA Science (ap.org) 422

schwit1 quotes a report from Associated Press: House Republicans are taking aim at the Environmental Protection Agency, targeting the way officials use science to develop new regulations. A bill approved Wednesday by the GOP-controlled House would require that data used to support new regulations to protect human health and the environment be released to the public. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said "the days of 'trust me' science are over," adding that the House bill would restore confidence in the EPA's decision-making process. Connecticut Rep. Elizabeth Esty and other Democrats said the bill would cripple EPA's ability to conduct scientific research based on confidential medical information and risks privacy violations by exposing sensitive patient data. The bill was approved 228-194 and now goes to the Senate. According to The Hill, "The bill would also require that any scientific studies be replicable, and allow anyone who signs a confidentiality agreement to view redacted personal or trade information in data."
Education

Ivanka Trump To Take Coding Class With 5-Year-Old Daughter (hollywoodlife.com) 366

theodp writes: Speaking about women in STEM at a Women's History Month event at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, new [unpaid] federal employee Ivanka Trump revealed she'll be taking a computer coding class with her 5-year-old daughter. "On a very personal level, as a mom I'm trying to do my part as well," Ivanka told the crowd. "My daughter Arabella and I are enrolling in a coding class this summer." Parroting supermodel Karlie Kloss (the girlfriend of Ivanka's brother-in-law), the first daughter added, "We're excited to learn this incredibly important new language together. Coding truly is the language of the future."
Privacy

Activist Starts a Campaign To Buy and Publish Browsing Histories of Politicians Who Passed Anti-Privacy Law (searchinternethistory.com) 325

On Tuesday, Congress sent proposed legislation to President Trump that wipes away landmark online privacy protections. In a party-line vote, House Republicans freed Internet service providers such as AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast of protections approved just last year that had sought to limit what companies could do with information such as customer browsing habits, app usage history, location data and Social Security numbers. Now call it a poetic justice, online privacy activist Adam McElhaney has launched an initiative called Search Internet History, with an objective of raising funds to buy browsing history of each politician and official who voted in favor of S.J.Res 34. On the site, he has also put up a poll asking people whose internet history they would like to see first.

Update: The campaign, which was seeking $10,000, has already raised over $55,000.
Privacy

US Congress Votes To Shred ISP Privacy Rules (theregister.co.uk) 547

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Register: The U.S. House of Representatives has just approved a "congressional disapproval" vote of privacy rules, which gives your ISP the right to sell your internet history to the highest bidder. The measure passed by 232 votes to 184 along party lines, with one Democrat voting in favor and 14 not voting. This follows the same vote in the Senate last week. Just prior to the vote, a White House spokesman said the president supported the bill, meaning that the decision will soon become law. This approval means that whoever you pay to provide you with internet access -- Comcast, AT&T, Time Warner Cable, etc -- will be able to sell everything they know about your use of the internet to third parties without requiring your approval and without even informing you. That information can be used to build a very detailed picture of who you are: what your political and sexual leanings are; whether you have kids; when you are at home; whether you have any medical conditions; and so on -- a thousand different data points that, if they have sufficient value to companies willing to pay for them, will soon be traded without your knowledge. With over 100 million households online in the United States, that means Congress has just given Big Cable an annual payday of between $35 billion and $70 billion.
Government

After Healthcare Defeat, Can The Trump Administration Fix America's H-1B Visa Program? (bloomberg.com) 566

Friday the Trump administration suffered a political setback when divisions in the president's party halted a move to repeal healthcare policies passed in 2010. But if Trump hopes to turn his attention to how America's H-1B visa program is affecting technology workers, "time is running out," writes Slashdot reader pteddy. Bloomberg reports: [T]he application deadline for the most controversial visa program is the first week of April, which means new rules have to be in place for that batch of applicants or another year's worth of visas will be handed out under the existing guidelines... There probably isn't enough time to pass legislation on such a contentious issue. But Trump could sign an executive order with some changes. The article points out that under the current system, one outsourcing firm was granted 6.5 times as many U.S. visas as Amazon. There's also an interesting map showing which countries' workers received the most H-1B visas in 2015 -- 69.4% went to workers in India, with another 10.5% going to China -- and a chart showing which positions are most in demand, indicating that two-thirds of the visa applications are for tech workers.
Communications

Senate Votes To Kill FCC's Broadband Privacy Rules (pcworld.com) 404

The Senate voted 50-48 along party lines Thursday to repeal an Obama-era law that requires internet service providers to obtain permission before tracking what customers look at online and selling that information to other companies. PCWorld adds: The Senate's 50-48 vote Thursday on a resolution of disapproval would roll back Federal Communications Commission rules requiring broadband providers to receive opt-in customer permission to share sensitive personal information, including web-browsing history, geolocation, and financial details with third parties. The FCC approved the regulations just five months ago. Thursday's vote was largely along party lines, with Republicans voting to kill the FCC's privacy rules and Democrats voting to keep them. The Senate's resolution, which now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration, would allow broadband providers to collect and sell a "gold mine of data" about customers, said Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat. Kate Tummarello, writing for EFF: [This] would be a crushing loss for online privacy. ISPs act as gatekeepers to the Internet, giving them incredible access to records of what you do online. They shouldn't be able to profit off of the information about what you search for, read about, purchase, and more without your consent. We can still kill this in the House: call your lawmakers today and tell them to protect your privacy from your ISP.

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