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Math

Mathematicians Study Effects of Gerrymandering On 2012 Election 323

Posted by samzenpus
from the fix-is-in dept.
HughPickens.com writes Gerrymandering is the practice of establishing a political advantage for a particular party by manipulating district boundaries to concentrate all your opponents' votes in a few districts while keeping your party's supporters as a majority in the remaining districts. For example, in North Carolina in 2012 Republicans ended up winning nine out of 13 congressional seats even though more North Carolinians voted for Democrats than Republicans statewide. Now Jessica Jones reports that researchers at Duke are studying the mathematical explanation for the discrepancy. Mathematicians Jonathan Mattingly and Christy Vaughn created a series of district maps using the same vote totals from 2012, but with different borders. Their work was governed by two principles of redistricting: a federal rule requires each district have roughly the same population and a state rule requires congressional districts to be compact. Using those principles as a guide, they created a mathematical algorithm to randomly redraw the boundaries of the state's 13 congressional districts. "We just used the actual vote counts from 2012 and just retabulated them under the different districtings," says Vaughn. "If someone voted for a particular candidate in the 2012 election and one of our redrawn maps assigned where they live to a new congressional district, we assumed that they would still vote for the same political party."

The results were startling. After re-running the election 100 times with a randomly drawn nonpartisan map each time, the average simulated election result was 7 or 8 U.S. House seats for the Democrats and 5 or 6 for Republicans. The maximum number of Republican seats that emerged from any of the simulations was eight. The actual outcome of the election — four Democratic representatives and nine Republicans – did not occur in any of the simulations. "If we really want our elections to reflect the will of the people, then I think we have to put in safeguards to protect our democracy so redistrictings don't end up so biased that they essentially fix the elections before they get started," says Mattingly. But North Carolina State Senator Bob Rucho is unimpressed. "I'm saying these maps aren't gerrymandered," says Rucho. "It was a matter of what the candidates actually was able to tell the voters and if the voters agreed with them. Why would you call that uncompetitive?"
Republicans

Republicans Block Latest Attempt At Curbing NSA Power 441

Posted by Soulskill
from the and-everybody-will-have-forgotten-about-it-in-two-years dept.
Robotron23 writes: The latest attempt at NSA reform has been prevented from passage in the Senate by a margin of 58 to 42. Introduced as a means to stop the NSA collecting bulk phone and e-mail records on a daily basis, the USA Freedom Act has been considered a practical route to curtailment of perceived overreach by security services, 18 months since Edward Snowden went public. Opponents to the bill said it was needless, as Wall Street Journal raised the possibility of terrorists such as ISIS running amok on U.S. soil. Supporting the bill meanwhile were the technology giants Google and Microsoft. Prior to this vote, the bill had already been stripped of privacy protections in aid of gaining White House support. A provision to extend the controversial USA Patriot Act to 2017 was also appended by the House of Representatives.
Science

When We Don't Like the Solution, We Deny the Problem 282

Posted by Soulskill
from the having-problems-is-not-a-problem dept.
Ichijo writes: A new study (abstract) from Duke University tested whether the desirability of a solution affects beliefs in the existence of the associated problem. Researchers found that 'yes, people will deny the problem when they don't like the solution. Quoting: "Participants in the experiment, including both self-identified Republicans and Democrats, read a statement asserting that global temperatures will rise 3.2 degrees in the 21st century. They were then asked to evaluate a proposed policy solution to address the warming. When the policy solution emphasized a tax on carbon emissions or some other form of government regulation, which is generally opposed by Republican ideology, only 22 percent of Republicans said they believed the temperatures would rise at least as much as indicated by the scientific statement they read.

But when the proposed policy solution emphasized the free market, such as with innovative green technology, 55 percent of Republicans agreed with the scientific statement. The researchers found liberal-leaning individuals exhibited a similar aversion to solutions they viewed as politically undesirable in an experiment involving violent home break-ins. When the proposed solution called for looser versus tighter gun-control laws, those with more liberal gun-control ideologies were more likely to downplay the frequency of violent home break-ins."
Patents

Silicon Valley Swings To Republicans 485

Posted by samzenpus
from the going-the-other-way dept.
phantomfive writes Silicon Valley is making a mark in Washington as Google has recently replaced Goldman as the largest lobbyist, but until recently, most of the money from Silicon Valley went to democratic candidates. In 2014, that has changed, and Republicans are getting most of the money. Why the change? Gordon Crovitz suggests it's because Harry Reid blocked patent reform. Reid gets a large chunk of donations from trial lawyers, who oppose the reform.
Government

US Midterm Elections Discussion 401

Posted by timothy
from the mostly-I-vote-because-I-love-dark-humor dept.
November 4th will be election day in the U.S. Though the presidential race is still forming, this midterm election has lots of close races that may give a hint about the likely outcome in 2016. Many pundits and pollsters see a strong chance that Republicans will gain a majority in the Senate in Tuesday's election. Think of the discussion attached to this post as the place to discuss the election: candidates, political advertising, voting technology, and the wisdom of voter ID laws. If you are voting, this chart of poll closing times might be useful. (And, as with the similar post from 10 years ago today, you can take a look at the current poll to see what the Zeitgeist looks like for Slashdot readers, and mentally fill in the past tense, if you're one of the many early voters; not much room in the poll question field.)
Facebook

Facebook Wants You To Vote Tuesday 165

Posted by timothy
from the in-particular-way dept.
theodp (442580) writes "Six years in the making, Facebook's get-out-the-vote tool — a high-profile button that proclaims "I'm Voting" or "I'm a Voter" — will on Tuesday give many of the social network's more than 150 million American users a gentle but effective nudge to vote. "If past research is any guide," writes Micah L. Sifry in Mother Jones, "up to a few million more people will head to the polls partly because their Facebook friends encouraged them. Yet the process by which Facebook has developed this tool — what the firm calls the 'voter megaphone' — has not been very transparent, raising questions about its use and Facebook's ability to influence elections. Moreover, while Facebook has been developing and promoting this tool, it has also been quietly conducting experiments on how the company's actions can affect the voting behavior of its users." Sifry adds, "There may be another reason for Facebook's lack of transparency regarding its voting promotion experiments: politics. Facebook officials likely do not want Republicans on Capitol Hill to realize that their voter megaphone isn't a neutral get-out-the-vote mechanism. It's not that Facebook uses this tool to remind only users who identify themselves as Democrats to vote — though the company certainly has the technical means to do so. But the Facebook user base tilts Democratic." So, it's probably worth mentioning again that Facebook caught flack last summer for deliberately experimenting on users' emotions without their consent. And just last June, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us PAC put out a call for "pissed off Data Scientists" to data mine critical legislative districts and "growth hack" ways to motivate "registered voters who are registered Republicans who we think are likely to support immigration reform.""
Medicine

The CDC Is Carefully Controlling How Scared You Are About Ebola 478

Posted by Soulskill
from the be-afraid.-be-slightly-afraid. dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Russell Berman reports in The Atlantic that the Obama administration is trying to navigate a tricky course: Can officials increase public vigilance about the deadly Ebola virus without inciting a panic? "Ebola is scary. It's a deadly disease. But we know how to stop it," says Dr. Thomas Frieden, the CDC director. speaking "calmly and clearly, sticking to an even pitch and avoiding the familiar political image of the whip-smart fast-talker." International groups wanted the U.S. to step in sooner to help fight the outbreak in west Africa, while more recently some Republicans have called on the administration to ban travel from the most affected countries.

Frieden and other officials say such a move would be counterproductive, citing lessons learned from the SARS outbreak a decade ago. "The SARS outbreak cost the world more than $40 billion, but it wasn't to control the outbreak," says Frieden. "Those were costs from unnecessary and ineffective travel restrictions and trade changes that could have been avoided." The government announced Wednesday that it was stepping up protective measures at five airports, where authorities will screen travelers from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea with targeted questions and fever checks, an action, officials acknowledge, that was taken not only to stop the spread of the disease but simply to make people feel safer. According to Berman, the message is this: Be afraid of Ebola. Just not too afraid.
Space

Congress Can't Make Asteroid Mining Legal (But It's Trying, Anyway) 213

Posted by Soulskill
from the one-of-the-few-things-congress-actively-tries-to-do-these-days dept.
Jason Koebler writes: Earlier this week, the House Science Committee examined the American Space Technology for Exploring Resource Opportunities in Deep Space (ASTEROIDS) Act, a bill that would ensure that "any resources obtained in outer space from an asteroid are the property of the entity that obtained such resources."

The problem is, that idea doesn't really mesh at all with the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, a document that suggests space is a shared resource: "Unlike some other global commons, no agreement has been reached at to whether title to extracted space resources passes to the extracting entity," Joanne Gabrynowicz, a space law expert at the University of Mississippi said (PDF). "There is no legal clarity regarding the ownership status of the extracted resources. It is foreseeable that the entity's actions will be challenged at law and in politics."
Government

If Immigration Reform Is Dead, So Is Raising the H-1B Cap 341

Posted by Soulskill
from the congress-members-shouting-at-one-another dept.
dcblogs writes: In a speech Wednesday on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) declared immigration reform dead. He chastised and baited Republicans in Congress for blocking reform, and declared that winning the White House without the support of a growing Hispanic population will become mathematically impossible. "The Republican Presidential nominee, whoever he or she may be, will enter the race with an electoral college deficit they cannot make up," said Gutierrez. If he's right, and comprehensive immigration reform is indeed dead, then so too is the tech industry's effort to raise the cap on H-1B visas. Immigration reform advocates have successfully blocked any effort to take up the immigration issue in piecemeal fashion, lest business support for comprehensive reform peel away. Next year may create an entirely new set of problems for tech. If the Republicans take control of the Senate, the tech industry will face this obstacle: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee could become its next chairman. He has been a consistent critic of the H-1B program through the years. "The H-1B program is so popular that it's now replacing the U.S. labor force," said Grassley, at one point.
Republicans

FWD.us: GOP Voters To Be Targeted By Data Scientists 422

Posted by Soulskill
from the also-every-other-type-of-voter dept.
theodp writes: "We are excited to announce that FWD.us and Hackers/Founders are joining forces to host the 'DEBUG DC' Growthathon on June 21st & June 22nd," reads the blog over at FWD.us, the PAC whose Founders and Major Contributors include current and former CEOs from Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL, and LinkedIn. "This is a unique opportunity to push the envelope in online advocacy for immigration reform." The blog entry explains, "The machine of government is wedged, and is in desperate need of debugging. How do we DEBUG DC? Step One: Target critical legislative districts. Step Two: Data mine these districts to find registered voters who are registered Republicans who we think are likely to support immigration reform. Step Three: Growth hack ways to motivate these people to effectively engage their legislators to tell them they want them to call for a vote on immigration reform. Step Four: Measure results. Step Five: Iterate." The Eventbrite invitation for the event includes a call for Data Scientists who are "pissed off about immigration and want to fix it," are "well versed in statistics and data analysis," and can "infer voter sentiment from sparse data." So, how does this jibe with the outrage expressed by the FWD.us supporters' companies over unauthorized government surveillance?
United States

House Majority Leader Defeated In Primary 932

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the first-time-for-everything dept.
An anonymous reader writes "For the first time in United States political history, the House Majority Leader has been defeated in his primary election. Long time Republican congressman and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was defeated by 10 percentage points in the Virginia primary by Republican Tea Party challenger Dave Brat. This shocking defeat is likely to upset the political balance of power in the United States for years to come."
United States

NSA Surveillance Reform Bill Passes House 303 Votes To 121 208

Posted by samzenpus
from the better-than-nothing dept.
First time accepted submitter strangeintp (892348) writes "The first legislation aimed specifically at curbing US surveillance abuses revealed by Edward Snowden passed the House of Representatives on Thursday, with a majority of both Republicans and Democrats. But last-minute efforts by intelligence community loyalists to weaken key language in the USA Freedom Act led to a larger-than-expected rebellion by members of Congress, with the measure passing by 303 votes to 121. The bill's authors concede it was watered down significantly in recent days but insist it will still outlaw the practice of bulk collection of US telephone metadata by the NSA first revealed by Snowden."
Privacy

The Big Biz of Spying On Little Kids 111

Posted by Soulskill
from the tracked-from-the-womb dept.
theodp writes: "'The NSA,' writes POLITICO's Stephanie Simon in her eye-opening Data Mining Your Children, 'has nothing on the ed tech startup known as Knewton. The data analytics firm has peered into the brains of more than 4 million students across the country. By monitoring every mouse click, every keystroke, every split-second hesitation as children work through digital textbooks, Knewton is able to find out not just what individual kids know, but how they think. It can tell who has trouble focusing on science before lunch — and who will struggle with fractions next Thursday.' Simon adds, 'Even as Congress moves to rein in the National Security Agency, private-sector data mining has galloped forward — perhaps nowhere faster than in education. Both Republicans and Democrats have embraced the practice. And the Obama administration has encouraged it, even relaxing federal privacy law to allow school districts to share student data more widely.'"
United States

Let Spouses of H-1B Visa Holders Work In US, Says White House 566

Posted by samzenpus
from the bring-your-spouse dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Carolyn Lochhead reports in the SF Chronicle that the White House has announced a plan allowing spouses of H-1B visa holders to work in the United States, a coup for Silicon Valley companies that have been calling for more lenient rules for immigrants who come to the United States to work in technology. 'The proposals announced today will encourage highly skilled, specially trained individuals to remain in the United States and continue to support U.S. businesses and the growth of the U.S. economy,' says Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas. 'A concurrent goal is for the United States to maintain competitiveness with other countries that attract skilled foreign workers and offer employment authorization for spouses of skilled workers. American businesses continue to need skilled nonimmigrant and immigrant workers.'

Currently, spouses of H-1B visa holders are not allowed to work unless they obtain their own visa but tech companies have been calling for more H-1B visas, and supporters of the rule change argue that it will bring in more talented workers. Critics say they believe expanding the H-1B visa program will allow lower-paid foreign workers to take American jobs. The plan immediately drew fire from Republicans. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, accused the administration of acting unilaterally to change immigration law and bring in tens of thousands of potential competitors with Americans for jobs. 'Fifty million working-age Americans aren't working,' Sessions said in a statement, adding that as many as 'half of new technology jobs may be going to guest workers. This will help corporations by further flooding a slack labor market, pulling down wages.'"
Government

Rand Paul Starts New Drone War In Congress 272

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the rand-paul-plus-aclu-what dept.
SonicSpike (242293) writes with news that the ACLU and Rand Paul both think every Senator should read David Barron's legal memos justifying the use of drones against an American citizen before he is confirmed to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals. From the article: "Paul, the junior Republican senator from Kentucky, has informed Reid he will object to David Barron's nomination to the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals unless the Justice Department makes public the memos he authored justifying the killing of an American citizen in Yemen. The American Civil Liberties Union supports Paul's objection, giving some Democratic lawmakers extra incentive to support a delay to Barron's nomination, which could come to the floor in the next two weeks. Barron, formerly a lawyer in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, penned at least one secret legal memo approving the Sept. 2011 drone strike that killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Muslim cleric whom intelligence officials accused of planning terrorist attacks against the United States."
Government

Senate Report Says CIA Misled Government About Interrogation Methods 207

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-can-trust-us dept.
mrspoonsi sends this news from the Washington Post: "A report by the Senate Intelligence Committee concludes that the CIA misled the government and the public about aspects of its brutal interrogation program for years — concealing details about the severity of its methods, overstating the significance of plots and prisoners, and taking credit for critical pieces of intelligence that detainees had in fact surrendered before they were subjected to harsh techniques. The report, built around detailed chronologies of dozens of CIA detainees, documents a long-standing pattern of unsubstantiated claims as agency officials sought permission to use — and later tried to defend — excruciating interrogation methods that yielded little, if any, significant intelligence, according to U.S. officials who have reviewed the document. ... At the secret prison, Baluchi endured a regime that included being dunked in a tub filled with ice water. CIA interrogators forcibly kept his head under the water while he struggled to breathe and beat him repeatedly, hitting him with a truncheon-like object and smashing his head against a wall, officials said. As with Abu Zubaida and even Nashiri, officials said, CIA interrogators continued the harsh treatment even after it appeared that Baluchi was cooperating."
Businesses

Tesla's Fight With Car Dealers Could Help Decide the Next Presidential Election 282

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the single-issue-electorate dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Marcus Wohlsen writes that the most recent ban against Tesla selling cars directly from the company instead of through third-party dealers was enacted in New Jersey with the support of Gov. Chris Christie, a possible contender for the GOP nomination. That prompted Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a Christie rival, to heartily defend Tesla's direct sales model. 'Customers should be allowed to buy products that fit their need,' says Rubio, 'especially a product that we know is safe and has consumer confidence beneath it.' Perhaps even more surprising is the love shown by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the once and possibly future presidential hopeful whose oil-rich state bars employees in Tesla's two showrooms from even telling potential customers how much the Model S costs. 'I think it's time for Texans to have an open conversation about this,' says Perry, 'the pros and the cons. I'm gonna think the pros of allowing this to happen outweigh the cons.' The sudden GOP embrace of an electric car company once reviled as a symbol of Northern California enivro-weenies might seem ironic says Wohlsen, but the real irony is that conservative politicians ever opposed Tesla at all.

'The widespread franchise rules giving car dealers virtual monopolies in their territories epitomize the government-controlled marketplace Republicans purportedly despise,' writes Wohlsen adding that possible presidential contenders realize there may be political capital to be gained in supporting Tesla. But the real winner is Tesla. If the company can manage to associate its brand with all the positive qualities Rubio and Perry hope rub off on them, few politicians will want to take the risk to stand against them. Mitt Romney called Tesla Motors a 'loser' company during his 2012 run for president. In 2016 running against Tesla might seem about as smart as running against Apple."
Stats

Para Bellum Labs Will Attempt To Make the RNC a Political-Analytics Player 212

Posted by timothy
from the 2nd-mover-advantage? dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "President Obama's 2012 re-election campaign relied on a sophisticated data-analytics platform that allowed organizers and volunteers to precisely target potential donors and voters. The centerpiece of that effort was Project Narwhal, which brought voter information—steadily accumulated since Obama's 2008 campaign—onto a single platform accessible to a growing number of campaign-related apps. The GOP has only a few short years to prepare for the next Presidential election cycle, and the party is scrambling to build an analytics system capable of competing against whatever the Democrats deploy onto the field of battle. To that end, the Republican National Committee (RNC) has launched Para Bellum Labs, modeled after a startup, to produce digital platforms for election analytics and voter engagement. Is this a genuine attempt to infuse the GOP's infrastructure with data science, or merely an attempt to show that the organization hasn't fallen behind the Democratic Party when it comes to analytics? Certainly the "Welcome to Para Bellum Labs" video posted by the RNC gives the impression of a huge office staffed with data scientists and programmers. However, the creation of a muscular digital ecosystem hinges on far more than building a couple of apps. Whatever the GOP rolls out, it'll face a tough opponent in the Democratic opposition, which will almost certainly emulate the robust IT infrastructure that the Obama campaign instituted in 2012 (not to mention Obama's massive voter and donor datasets). From that perspective, Para Bellum Labs might face the toughest job in politics."
Advertising

Dirty Tricks? Look-Alike Websites Lure Congressional Donors 157

Posted by timothy
from the this-way-to-the-egress dept.
First time accepted submitter AdamnSelene writes "Forbes reports on a National Republican Congressional Committee sanctioned campaign worthy of the NSA: fake candidate websites that use identical or similar pictures and color schemes to solicit donations to defeat the Democratic candidate. The Tampa Bay Times reports that the NRCC initially refused to refund the contribution from a Tampa Bay doctor who caught onto the scam, and he had to contact his credit card company to challenge the charges. The National Journal reports that the NRCC-sponsored effort may run afoul of Federal Election Commission regulations, though it expects that the bipartisan FEC will be toothless when it comes to enforcement. However, I have to wonder whether this is finally a good enough reason to use the DMCA and file take-down notices against the faux websites. Perhaps the candidates could solve this themselves, and get a judgement for copyright infringement so absurdly large that it puts the NRCC out of business?" Some sites along these lines might be dirtier than the ones here illustrated, which seem to fit pretty well into the broad world of snarky and cutting political ads; Dr. Ray Bellamy, the Tampa Bay donor mentioned above, intended to give money to candidate Alex Sink, but evidently didn't notice this line in bold print, just above the "Donate" button: "Make a contribution today to help defeat Alex Sink and candidates like her." Note that, as the Tampa Bay Times' article mentions, this kind of site isn't limited to Republicans, either.
Earth

GOP Bill To Outlaw EPA 'Secret Science' That Is Not Transparent, Reproducible 618

Posted by timothy
from the as-if-it-were-that-simple dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Fox News reports that Republican lawmakers in the House are pushing legislation that would prohibit the EPA from proposing new regulations based on science that is not transparent or not reproducible. The bill introduced by Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., would bar the agency from proposing or finalizing rules without first disclosing all "scientific and technical information" relied on to support its proposed action. "Public policy should come from public data, not based on the whims of far-left environmental groups," says Schweikert. "For far too long, the EPA has approved regulations that have placed a crippling financial burden on economic growth in this country with no public evidence to justify their actions." The bill, dubbed the Secret Science Reform Act of 2014 (HR 4012), would prohibit the EPA's administrator from proposing or finalizing any rules unless he or she also discloses "all scientific and technical information" relied on by the agency in the regulations' development including all data, materials and computer models. According to Schweikert's press release a 2013 poll from the Institute of Energy Research found that 90 percent of Americans agree that studies and data used to make federal government decisions should be made public. "Provisions in the bill are consistent with the White House's scientific integrity policy, the President's Executive Order 13563, data access provisions of major scientific journals, the Bipartisan Policy Center and the recommendations of the Obama administration's top science advisors.""

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