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+ - Sen. Sessions, calls STEM shortage a hoax, appt to head immigration->

Submitted by dcblogs
dcblogs (1096431) writes "The Senate's two top Republican critics of temporary worker immigration, specifically the H-1B and L-1 visas, now hold the two most important immigration posts in the Senate. They are Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who heads the Senate's Judiciary Committee, and his committee underling, Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who was appointed by Grassley on Thursday to head the immigration subcommittee. Sessions was appointed one week after accusing the tech industry of perpetuating a "hoax" by claiming there is a shortage of qualified U.S. tech workers. "The tech industry's promotion of expanded temporary visas — such as the H-1B — and green cards is driven by its desire for cheap, young and immobile labor," wrote Sessions, in a memo he sent last week to fellow lawmakers. Sessions, late Thursday, issued a statement about his new role as immigration subcommittee chairman, and said the committee "will give voice to those whose voice has been shut out,” and that includes “the voice of the American IT workers who are being replaced with guest workers.""
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+ - IRS warns of downtime risk as Congress makes cuts-> 1

Submitted by dcblogs
dcblogs (1096431) writes "Successive budget cuts by Congress are forcing the Internal Revenue Service to delay system modernization and improve its ability to prevent fraud. In telling of the problems ahead, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen almost sounded desperate in a recent memo to employees. The IRS is heavily dependent on technology, and the impact of the budget reduction to IT this year was put at $200 million. It will mean delays in replacing "aging IT systems" and "increasing the risk of downtime," Koskinen said. A new system to protect against ID theft will be delayed, and other IT cost-efficiency efforts curbed.The budget cuts have been so deep IRS employees are being warned of a possible shutdown for two days before this fiscal year ends in October. It would be a forced furlough for agency workers. The IRS employed 84,189 last year, down from 86,400 in 2013. When attrition is considered, the IRS says it lost between 16,000 and 17,000 employees since 2010. The agency has also been hit with a hiring freeze, and appears to be hiring very few people in IT compared to other agencies."
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+ - Cuba's pending tech revolution->

Submitted by dcblogs
dcblogs (1096431) writes "The White House order last week lifting economic sanctions against Cuba specifically singles out technology, from telecommunication networks to consumer tech. There's much potential and many obstacles. Cuba has an educated population craving technology, but it has little income for new tech. The Cuban government wants to trade with the U.S., but is paranoid about the outside world and has limited Internet access to 5% to 10% of the population, at best. "The government has been very reluctant to have open Internet access," said Harley Shaiken, chairman of the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. But "there is real hunger for technology," and with the easing of the embargo, the government "will be facing new pressures," he said. The country needs a complete technology upgrade, including to its electric grid, and the money to finance these improvements. "Markets like Cuba, which will require a wholesale construction of new infrastructure, don't come along often, if ever," said Todd Thibodeaux, president and CEO of CompTIA, a tech industry trade group. "The flood of companies lining up to get in should be quite substantial," he said. Cuba has a population of about 11 million, about the same size as the Dominican Republic, which spends about $1 billion annually on technology and related services, according to IDC. But capital spending today on IT in Cuba may be no more than $200 million annually."
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+ - IEEE: New H-1B bill will 'help destroy' U.S. tech workforce->

Submitted by dcblogs
dcblogs (1096431) writes "New legislation being pushed by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) to hike the H-1B visa cap is drawing criticism and warnings that it will lead to an increase in offshoring of tech jobs. IEEE-USA said the legislation, introduced by a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Tuesday, will "help destroy" the U.S. tech workforce with guest workers. Other critics, including Ron Hira, a professor of public policy at Howard University and a leading researcher on the issue, said the bill gives the tech industry "a huge increase in the supply of lower-cost foreign guest workers so they can undercut and replace American workers." Hira said this bill "will result in an exponential rise of American jobs being shipped overseas." Technically, the bill is a reintroduction of the earlier "I-Square" bill, but it includes enough revisions to be considered new. It increases the H-1B visa cap to 195,000 (instead of an earlier 300,000 cap), and eliminates the cap on people who earn an advanced degree in a STEM (science, technology, education and math) field. Hatch, who is the No. 2 ranking senator in the GOP-controlled chamber, was joined by co-sponsors Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) in backing the legislation."
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+ - Texas Instruments builds an alternative energy for the Internet of Things->

Submitted by dcblogs
dcblogs (1096431) writes "Texas Instruments says it has developed electronics capable of taking small amounts of power generated by harvested sources and turning them into a useful power source. TI has built an efficient "ultra-low powered" DC-to-DC switching converter that can boost 300 to 400 millivolts power to 3 to 5 volts. To power wearables, the company says it has demonstrated drawing energy from the human body by using harvesters the size of wristwatch straps. It has worked with vibration collectors, for instance, about the same size as a key. It is offering this technology as a means to power sensors in Internet of Things applications, as well as to augment battery power supplies in wearables."
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+ - Displaced IT workers are being silenced->

Submitted by dcblogs
dcblogs (1096431) writes "A major problem with the H-1B debate is the absence of displaced IT workers in news media accounts. Much of the reporting is one-sided — and there's a reason for this. An IT worker who is fired because he or she has been replaced by a foreign, visa-holding employee of an offshore outsourcing firm will sign a severance agreement. This severance agreement will likely include a non-disparagement clause that will make the fired worker extremely cautious about what they say on Facebook, let alone to the media. On-the-record interviews with displaced workers are difficult to get. While a restrictive severance package may be one handcuff, some are simply fearful of jeopardizing future job prospects by talking to reporters. Now silenced, displaced IT workers become invisible and easy to ignore. This situation has a major impact on how the news media covers the H-1B issue and offshore outsourcing issues generally."
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+ - IoT is the third big technology 'wave' in the last 50 years, says Harvard->

Submitted by dcblogs
dcblogs (1096431) writes "The Internet of Things (IoT) may be more significant in reshaping the competitive landscape than the arrival of the Internet. Its productivity potential is so powerful it will deliver a new era of prosperity. That's the argument put forth by Michael Porter, an economist at the Harvard Business School and James Heppelmann, president and CEO of PTC, in a recent Harvard Business Review essay. PTC is a product design software firm that recently acquired machine-to-machine (M2M) firm Axeda Corp. In the past 50 years, IT has delivered two major transformations or "waves," as the authors describe it. The first came in the 1960s and 1970s, with IT-enabled process automation, computer-aided design and manufacturing resource planning. The second was the Internet and everything it delivered. The third is IoT. That's a strikingly sweeping claim and there will no doubt be contrarians to Porter and Heppelmann's view. But what analysts are clear about is that IoT development today is at an early stage, perhaps at a point similar to 1995, the same year Amazon and eBay went online, followed by Netflix in 1997 and Google in 1998. People understood the trend at the time, but the big picture was still out of focus."
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+ - Security experts believe the Internet of Things will be used to kill someone->

Submitted by dcblogs
dcblogs (1096431) writes "Imagine a fleet of quad copters or drones equipped with explosives and controlled by terrorists. Or someone who hacks into a connected insulin pump and changes the settings in a lethal way. Or maybe the hacker who accesses a building's furnace and thermostat controls and runs the furnace full bore until a fire is started. Those may all sound like plot material for a James Bond movie, but there are security experts who now believe, as does Jeff Williams, CTO of Contrast Security, that "the Internet of Things will kill someone. Today, there is a new "rush to connect things" and "it is leading to very sloppy engineering from a security perspective," said Williams. Similarly, Rashmi Knowles, chief security architect at RSA, imagines criminals hacking into medical devices, recently blogged about hackers using pacemakers to blackmail users, and asked: "Question is, when is the first murder?""
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+ - HP's former CEO Carly Fiorina explores GOP presidential run->

Submitted by dcblogs
dcblogs (1096431) writes "Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who has never held public office and was fired from her HP job in 2005, is considering a run for president. And why not? Fiorina has experience running a firm, HP, now ranked 17th on the Fortune 500 list, and ran a credible campaign as the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in California in 2010. There are some two dozen potential candidates in the 2016 Republican presidential field, but Fiorina is the only woman so far."
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+ - Does being first still matter in America?->

Submitted by dcblogs
dcblogs (1096431) writes "At the supercomputing conference, SC14, this week, a U.S. Dept. of Energy offical said the government has set a goal of 2023 as its delivery date for an exascale system. It may be taking a risky path with that amount of lead time because of increasing international competition. There was a time when the U.S. didn't settle for second place. President John F. Kennedy delivered his famous "we choose to go to the moon" speech in 1962, and seven years later a man walked on the moon. The U.S. exascale goal is nine years away. China, Europe and Japan all have major exascale efforts, and the government has already dropped on supercomputing. The European forecast of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 was so far ahead of U.S. models in predicting the storm's path that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was called before Congress to explain how it happened. It was told by a U.S. official that NOAA wasn't keeping up in computational capability. It's still not keeping up. Cliff Mass, a professor of meteorology at the University of Washington, wrote on his blog last month that the U.S. is "rapidly falling behind leading weather prediction centers around the world" because it has yet to catch up in computational capability to Europe. That criticism followed the $128 million recent purchase a Cray supercomputer by the U.K.'s Met Office, its meteorological agency."
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+ - U.S. sets sights on 300 petaflop supercomputer->

Submitted by dcblogs
dcblogs (1096431) writes "U.S. officials Friday announced plans to spend $325 million on two new supercomputers, one of which may eventually be built to support speeds of up to 300 petaflops. The U.S. Department of Energy, the major funder of supercomputers used for scientific research, wants to have the two systems – each with a base speed of 150 petaflops – possibly running by 2017. Going beyond the base speed to reach 300 petaflops will take additional government approvals. If the world stands still, the U.S. may conceivably regain the lead in supercomputing speed from China with these new systems. How adequate this planned investment will look three years from now is a question. Lawmakers weren't reading from the same script as U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz when it came to assessing the U.S.'s place in the supercomputing world. Moniz said the awards "will ensure the United States retains global leadership in supercomputing." But Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.) put U.S. leadership in the past tense. "Supercomputing is one of those things that we can step up and lead the world again," he said."
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+ - Hypocrisy and White House connections help IT outsourcing firms->

Submitted by dcblogs
dcblogs (1096431) writes "The liberal group Center for American Progress (CAP) advocates restricting the use of H-1B visas by offshore outsourcing firms. Its recommendations are designed to get offshore outsourcing firms to hire more U.S. workers and curb their ability to move jobs out of the U.S. That stance didn't stop one of the center's board members, Carol Browner, from being as a director at Infosys, the Bangalore, India-based IT services firm that is one of the largest users of the H-1B visa. Why would Browner, who served as an assistant to President Obama and director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy from 2009 to 2011, take a position as an Infosys director? CAP backs policies that would hurt outsourcing firms such as Infosys which rely on large numbers of workers on temporary work visas."
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+ - New book argues automation is making software developers less capable ->

Submitted by dcblogs
dcblogs (1096431) writes "Nicholas Carr, who stirred up the tech world with his 2003 essay, IT Doesn't Matter in the Harvard Business Review, has published a new book, The Glass Cage, Automation and Us, that looks at the impact of automation of higher-level jobs. It examines the possibility that businesses are moving too quickly to automate white collar jobs. It also argues that the software profession's push to "to ease the strain of thinking is taking a toll on their own [developer] skills." In an interview, Carr was asked if software developers are becoming less capable. He said, "I think in many cases they are. Not in all cases. We see concerns — this is the kind of tricky balancing act that we always have to engage in when we automate — and the question is: Is the automation pushing people up to higher level of skills or is it turning them into machine operators or computer operators — people who end up de-skilled by the process and have less interesting work?I certainly think we see it in software programming itself. If you can look to integrated development environments, other automated tools, to automate tasks that you have already mastered, and that have thus become routine to you that can free up your time, [that] frees up your mental energy to think about harder problems. On the other hand, if we use automation to simply replace hard work, and therefore prevent you from fully mastering various levels of skills, it can actually have the opposite effect. Instead of lifting you up, it can establish a ceiling above which your mastery can't go because you're simply not practicing the fundamental skills that are required as kind of a baseline to jump to the next level.""
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+ - Computer scientists say meme research doesn't threaten free speech->

Submitted by dcblogs
dcblogs (1096431) writes "In a letter to lawmakers Tuesday, five of the nation's top computing research organizations defended a research grant to study how information goes viral. The groups were responding to claims that the government-funded effort could help create a 1984-type surveillance state. The controversy arises over a nearly $1 million research grant to researchers at Indiana University (IU) to investigate "why some ideas cause viral explosions while others are quickly forgotten," particularly on Twitter. The groups, which include Computing Research Association, Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, Association for Computing Machinery, Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics, and USENIX Association, all countered the claims by U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), who heads the science committee, that the effort, known as Truthy, attacks free speech. "We do not believe this work represents a threat to free speech or a suppression of any type of speech over the internet," the letter said. "The tools developed in the course of this research are capable of making no political judgments, no prognostications, and no editorial comments, nor do they provide any capability for exerting any control over the Twitter stream they analyze," the wrote. The controversy over Truthy may be just another sign of the ongoing deterioration between the science community and lawmakers over basic research funding as well as the science itself."
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+ - If Ebola's a problem here, just imagine it in India->

Submitted by dcblogs
dcblogs (1096431) writes "As the U.S. has discovered, it just takes a few cases of Ebola to turn things upside down. Months into the outbreak in West Africa, federal and state officials are still fighting over quarantine policies and travel bans, and reacting in disruptive fashion to the threat. But an Ebola outbreak in India, for instance, could create problems in the U.S. because of its role as a major IT services provider. "Ebola cases showing up in urban India area would be a nightmare," said Andrew Schroeder, director of research and analysis for Direct Relief, a nonprofit that provides medical assistance to areas in need of help. Dense populations, living in slums with poor sanitation and inadequate medical help, would complicate an Ebola fight. Everest Group, an outsourcing research firm said, that in India, IT organizations often make bus transportation available to team members, and it’s easy to imagine an Ebola-related scenario in which bus transportation is shut down. Working from home may not be an option, since lack of connectivity and security concerns "often make working remotely from homes not possible," said Marvin Newell, a partner at Everest. Craig Wright, a partner at outsourcing consulting firm Pace Harmon, said that a valid response to any such Ebola outbreak would be similar to a tsunami, "where access to facilities and resources within a region may be denied for an extended period of time.""
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