Government

US House Panel Approves Broad Proposal On Self-Driving Cars (reuters.com) 175

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) 684

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.
Education

In America, Most Republicans Think Colleges Are Bad for the Country (chronicle.com) 986

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.
AT&T

Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T Want Congress To Make a Net Neutrality Law Because They Will Write It (theverge.com) 170

From a report on The Verge: Companies and organizations that rely on an open internet rallied on Wednesday for a "day of action" on net neutrality, and America's biggest internet service providers have responded with arrogance and contempt for their customers. Comcast's David Cohen called arguments in favor of FCC regulation "scare tactics" and "hysteria." Beyond the dismissive rhetoric, ISPs are coincidentally united today in calling for Congress to act -- and that's because they've paid handsomely to control what Congress does. There's one thing Republicans and Democrats can agree on, and that's taking money from ISPs. The telecommunications industry was the most powerful lobbying force of the 20th century, and that power endures. It's no secret that lobbyists in Washington write many of the laws, and the telecom industry spends a lot of money to make sure lawmakers use them. We've already seen net neutrality legislation written by the ISPs, and it's filled with loopholes. It's not just in Congress -- companies like AT&T have deep influence over local and state broadband laws, and write those policies, too. Some pro-net neutrality advocates are also arguing today that Congress should act, and there are some good reasons for that. Laws can be stickier than the judgements of regulatory agencies, and if you want to make net neutrality the law of the land that's a job for Congress. But there's a reason the ISPs are all saying the same thing, and it's because they're very confident they will defeat the interests of consumers and constituents. They've already done it this year under the Republican-controlled government. Further reading: 10M+ web users saw yesterday's net neutrality protest -- but rules are still getting scrapped.
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."
Republicans

Trump Picks Republican To Fill Empty Commissioner Seat At FCC (arstechnica.com) 71

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Federal Communications Commission's empty slots are about to be filled. President Donald Trump will nominate Republican Brendan Carr to the FCC's fifth and final commissioner position, the White House announced last night. Carr served as FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai's Wireless, Public Safety, and International Legal Advisor for three years. After Trump elevated Pai to the chairmanship in January, Pai appointed Carr to become the FCC's general counsel. "Brendan has a distinguished record of public service, having worked at the agency for over five years, including most recently as the FCC's General Counsel," Pai said after the White House announcement. "In particular, Brendan's expertise on wireless policy and public safety will be a tremendous asset to the Commission."
Earth

Mayors of 7,400 Cities Vow To Meet Obama's Climate Commitments (theguardian.com) 298

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Mayors of more than 7,400 cities across the world have vowed that Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris accord will spur greater local efforts to combat climate change. At the first meeting of a "global covenant of mayors," city leaders from across the US, Europe and elsewhere pledged to work together to keep to the commitments made by Barack Obama two years ago. Cities will devise a standard measurement of emission reductions to help them monitor their progress. They will also share ideas for delivering carbon-free transport and housing. Kassim Reed, the mayor of Atlanta, told reporters he had travelled to Europe to "send a signal" that US states and cities would execute the policies Obama committed to, whether the current White House occupants agreed or not. Reed, whose administration has promised that the city of Atlanta will use 100% renewable energy by 2035, said 75% of the US population and GDP lay in urban areas, where local leaders were committed to fighting climate change. "We have the ability to still achieve between 35% and 45% CO2 emission reductions without the involvement of the national government and it is why I chose to be here at this time to send a signal to 7,400 cities around the world that now should be a time of optimism, passion and action," he said.
Twitter

New Study Explains Why Trump's 'Sad' Tweets Are So Effective (theverge.com) 272

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: During his campaign and presidency, Donald Trump has used Twitter to circumvent traditional media broadcasters and speak directly to the masses. He is particularly known for one specific tweet construction: he sets up a situation that he feels should inspire anger or outrage, then punctuates it with "Sad!" New research from New York University suggests a reason why this style is so effective: a tweet containing moral and emotional language spreads farther among people with similar political persuasion. The study offered up "duty" as an example of a purely moral word, "fear" as a purely emotional one, and "hate" as word that combined the two categories. The research found that the use of purely moral or purely emotional language had a limited impact on the spread of a tweet, but the "presence of moral-emotional words in messages increased their diffusion by a factor of 20% for each additional word." The impact of this language cut both ways. Tweets with moral-emotional words spread further among those with a similar political outlook, and they spread less with those who held opposing views, according to the research published in the journal PNAS. The study looked at 563,312 tweets on the topics of gun control, same-sex marriage, and climate change, and rated their impact by the number of retweets each one received.
Government

198 Million Americans Hit By 'Largest Ever' Voter Records Leak (zdnet.com) 119

Political data gathered on more than 198 million US citizens was exposed this month after a marketing firm contracted by the Republican National Committee stored internal documents on a publicly accessible Amazon server, reports say. From a ZDNet article: It's believed to be the largest ever known exposure of voter information to date. The various databases containing 198 million records on American voters from all political parties were found stored on an open Amazon S3 storage server owned by a Republican data analytics firm, Deep Root Analytics. UpGuard cyber risk analyst Chris Vickery, who found the exposed server, verified the data. Through his responsible disclosure, the server was secured late last week, and prior to publication. This leak shines a spotlight on the Republicans' multi-million dollar effort to better target potential voters by utilizing big data. The move largely a response to the successes of the Barack Obama campaign in 2008, thought to have been the first data-driven campaign. Further reading: Republican Data-Mining Firm Exposed Personal Information for Virtually Every American Voter - The Intercept; The RNC Files: Inside the Largest US Voter Data Leak - Upguard; Data on 198M voters exposed by GOP contractor Data On 198M Voters Exposed By GOP Contractor - The Hill.
Bug

Trump Orders Government To Stop Work On Y2K Bug, 17 Years Later (bloomberg.com) 460

The federal government will finally stop preparing for the Y2K bug, seventeen years after it came and went. Yes, you read that right. Bloomberg reports: The Trump administration announced Thursday that it would eliminate dozens of paperwork requirements for federal agencies, including an obscure rule that requires them to continue providing updates on their preparedness for a bug that afflicted some computers at the turn of the century. As another example, the Pentagon will be freed from a requirement that it file a report every time a small business vendor is paid, a task that consumed some 1,200 man-hours every year. Seven of the more than 50 paperwork requirements the White House eliminated on Thursday dealt with the Y2K bug, according to a memo OMB released. Officials at the agency estimate the changes could save tens of thousands of man-hours across the federal government. The agency didn't provide an estimate of how much time is currently spent on Y2K paperwork, but Linda Springer, an OMB senior adviser, acknowledged that it isn't a lot since those requirements are already often ignored in practice.
Government

eBay Urges Customers To Oppose Washington Internet Tax (knkx.org) 71

An anonymous reader quotes a report from KNKX: If you live in Washington state, you might have gotten the email from eBay. It begins: "The Washington State Legislature is threatening to impose new Internet sales tax burdens on you." It goes on to urge the recipient to send a form letter to Washington lawmakers opposing "harmful tax laws." So what's this about? EBay's Brian Bieron said the company is alerting its customers to a proposal to require out-of-state retailers to collect sales tax from Washington residents. "It's the right of all of our users to know when new tax policies would impact their ability to sell online or shop online, we think that they want to know and they want to get involved," Bieron said. The fact eBay is emailing its customer base now indicates the company is concerned the internet tax bill will be part of a final budget deal in Olympia. Washington House Democrats and Senate Republicans are currently trying to hash out a compromise budget that fully fund schools. That agreement will likely include some additional sources of tax revenue. Of all the choices on the table, capturing sales tax from more online sales might prove the most palatable to tax-averse Republicans. House Democrats estimate the proposal could bring in an estimated $341 million over the next two years.
Twitter

The Public Is Growing Tired of Trump's Tweets, Says Voter Survey (arstechnica.com) 489

President Donald Trump is the tweeting president. His @realDonaldTrump handle has 31.8 million followers and "35K" tweets. While the president claims to use Twitter to "get the honest and unfiltered message out," many Americans aren't so fond of his favored form of communication. According to a new voter poll (PDF), the public is growing tired of Trump's tweets. Ars Technica reports: A Morning Consult, Politico survey published Wednesday found that 69 percent of voters who took the online survey said they thought Trump tweets too much. That's up from 56 percent from December, months before Trump took office. The survey said that 82 percent of Democrats polled thought Trump tweets too much, up from 75 percent in December. Republicans came in at 53 percent saying the president used Twitter too often, an 11-percent increase from December. Overall, 57 percent of voters who took the survey said Trump's tweets are hurting his presidency. Another 53 percent said his Twitter use undermines U.S. standing in the world. The poll found that 51 percent of all voters said Trump's tweets imperiled national security. What do you think of Trump's tweets? Do you think they are getting old, or do you find them particularly useful?
Mozilla

Americans From Both Political Parties Overwhelmingly Support Net Neutrality, Poll Shows (mozilla.org) 245

Mozilla conducted a survey in which it found that a majority of Americans do not trust the government to protect Internet access. From an article, shared by a reader: A recent public opinion poll carried out by Mozilla and Ipsos revealed overwhelming support across party lines for net neutrality, with over three quarters of Americans (76%) supporting net neutrality. Eighty-one percent of Democrats and 73% of Republicans are in favor of it. Another key finding: Most Americans do not trust the U.S. government to protect access to the Internet. Seventy percent of Americans place no or little trust in the Trump administration or Congress (78%) to do so. Mozilla and Ipsos carried out the poll in late May, on the heels of the FCC's vote to begin dismantling Obama-era net neutrality rules. We polled approximately 1,000 American adults across the U.S., a sample that included 354 Democrats, 344 Republicans, and 224 Independents.
Republicans

Trump Wants To Modernize Air Travel By Turning Over Control To the Big Airlines (theverge.com) 341

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Today, President Donald Trump endorsed a plan to hand over oversight of the nation's airspace to a non-profit corporation that will likely be largely controlled by the major airlines. Republicans argue that privatizing air traffic control will help save money and fast track important technological upgrades. But Democrats and consumer groups criticize that plan as a corporate giveaway that will inevitably harm passengers. The air traffic reform proposal, which fell short in Congress last year, would transfer oversight from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to a government-sanctioned, independent entity that would be made up of appointees from industry stakeholders. The effort picked up steam when the union representing air traffic controllers endorsed the plan, citing years of understaffing by the FAA. Some passengers may balk at the idea of handing over day-to-day management of the nation's highly complex air traffic control system to the same companies that rack up tens of thousands of customer complaints a year, and occasionally physically assault or drag passengers off their planes. But the Trump administration argues this is the only way to modernize a system that still runs on technology that's been around since World War II. The FAA is already years into a technology upgrade known as NextGen, which involves moving from the current system based on radar and voice communications to one based on satellite navigation and digital communications. The FAA wants to use GPS technology to shorten routes, save time and fuel, and reduce traffic delays by increasing capacity.
Government

FCC Seeks To Increase ISP Competition In Apartment Buildings (arstechnica.com) 67

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Exclusive deals between broadband providers and landlords have long been a problem for Internet users, despite rules that are supposed to prevent or at least limit such arrangements. The Federal Communications Commission is starting to ask questions about whether it can do more to stop deals that impede broadband competition inside apartment and condominium buildings. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai yesterday released a draft Notice of Inquiry (NOI) that seeks public comment "on ways to facilitate greater consumer choice and to enhance broadband deployment in multiple tenant environments (MTEs)." The commission is scheduled to vote on the NOI at its June 22 meeting, and it would then take public comments before deciding whether to issue new rules or take any other action. The NOI discusses preempting local rules "that may expressly prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting the provision of telecommunications services" in multi-unit buildings. But one San Francisco regulation that could be preempted was designed to boost competition by expanding access to wires inside buildings. It's too early to tell whether the FCC really wants to preempt any state or city rules or what authority the FCC would use to do so. The NOI could also lead to an expansion of FCC rules, as it seeks comment on whether the commission should impose new restrictions on exclusive marketing and bulk billing arrangements between companies and building owners. The NOI further seeks comment on how "revenue sharing agreements and exclusive wiring arrangements between MTE owners and broadband providers may affect broadband competition" and "other contractual provisions and non-contractual practices that may impact the ability of broadband providers to compete in MTEs." The NOI also asks whether the commission should encourage cities and states to adopt model codes that promote competition in multi-unit buildings, and the document asks what practices those model codes should prohibit or mandate.
Earth

61 Mayors Commit To Adopt, Honor and Uphold Paris Climate Accord After US Pulls Out (curbed.com) 247

After President Trump announced his intent to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord, 61 mayors across the country have pledged to adopt the historic agreement themselves. The group of mayors, who represent 36 million Americans and some of the largest U.S. cities, outlined a plan to align with the other 194 nations that adopted the accord. From a statement provided by the climate mayors: We will continue to lead. We are increasing investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. We will buy and create more demand for electric cars and trucks. We will increase our efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, create a clean energy economy, and stand for environmental justice. And if the President wants to break the promises made to our allies enshrined in the historic Paris Agreement, we'll build and strengthen relationships around the world to protect the planet from devastating climate risks. The world cannot wait -- and neither will we.
Republicans

Hackers Have Targeted Both the Trump Organization And Democrat Election Data (arstechnica.com) 232

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) 443

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) 356

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.

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