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Submission + - How this group of IT workers learned about their layoff (

dcblogs writes: The IT workers at Cengage Learning in the company's Mason, Ohio offices learned of their fates game-show style. First, they were told to gather in a large conference room. There were vague remarks from an IT executive about a "transition." Slides were shown that listed employee names, directing them to one of three rooms where they would be told specifically what was happening to them. Some employees were cold with worry. The biggest group, those getting pink slips, were told to remain in the large conference room. Workers directed to go through what we'll call Door No. 2, were offered employment with IT offshore outsourcing firm Cognizant. That was the smallest group. And those sent through Door No. 3 remained employed in Cengage's IT department. This happened in mid-October. "I was so furious," said one of the IT workers over what happened. It seemed "surreal," said another. The workers are now helping the company shift their work to India.

Submission + - In turnabout, SunTrust removes contentious severance clause (

dcblogs writes: A controversial severance clause by SunTrust Banks requiring laid-off employees to be available to help without pay for two years, has been removed, the bank said today. The severance agreements received by employees included a "continuing cooperation" clause requiring each worker "to make myself reasonably available to SunTrust regarding matters in which I have been involved in the course my employment with SunTrust and/or about which I have knowledge as a result of my employment with SunTrust." Bank IT employees believed this broadly worded clause was essentially an on-call provision, requiring them to provide technical help as needed without additional pay. The bank disputed that interpretation, and said the intent was to limit such help to legal matters. The bank, in a statement released late Friday morning, had a change of heart, and said it would be removed from the severances.

Submission + - Bank's severance deal requires IT workers to be on call for two years ( 3

dcblogs writes: SunTrust Banks in Atlanta is laying off about 100 IT workers as it moves work offshore. But this layoff is unusual for what it is asking of the soon-to-be displaced workers: The bank's severance agreement requires terminated employees to remain available for two years to provide help if needed, including in-person assistance, and to do so without compensation. Many of the affected IT employees, who are now training their replacements, have years of experience and provide the highest levels of technical support. The proof of their ability may be in the severance requirement, which gives the bank a way to tap their expertise long after their departure. The bank's severance includes a "continuing cooperation" clause for a period of two years, where the employee agrees to "make myself reasonably available" to SunTrust "regarding matters in which I have been involved in the course of my employment with SunTrust and/or about which I have knowledge as a result of my employment at SunTrust."

Submission + - Replacement of writers leads Gartner's predictions (

dcblogs writes: Gartner's near-future predictions include: Writers will be replaced. By 2018, 20% of all business content, one in five of the documents you read, will be authored by a machine. By 2018, 2 million employees will be required to wear health and fitness tracking devices as a condition of employment. This may seem Orwellian, but certain jobs require people to be fit, such as public safety workers. By 2020, smart agents will facilitate 40% of mobile interactions. This is based on the belief that the world is moving to a post-app era, where assistants such as Apple's Siri act as a type of universal interface.

Submission + - Machines will learn just like a child, says IBM CEO (

dcblogs writes: Technology is shifting to intelligent machines with a capability to reason, said IBM Chairman and CEO Virginia Rometty. These machines won't replace humans, but will augment them. It is a technology that will transform business, she said. Rometty, interviewed Tuesday by Gartner analysts at the research firm's Symposium ITxpo, said cognitive systems understand not only data, but unstructured data, which includes images, songs, video, and then goes a step further: "They reason and they learn." The method of learning is not unlike a child's, she said.

Submission + - Congress set to make the H-1B visa less costly for India (

dcblogs writes: Congress is set to drop a $2,000 H-1B visa fee mostly paid by India-based IT services providers. It only applies to firms with at least 50% of their employees on visas, and many of those firms are based in India. The fee expires on Oct. 1 and raises between $70 and $80 million annually for the U.S. The IEEE-USA believes it's a bad move. "We had half of Congress tripping over itself trying to get in front of the camera to tell the American public how upset they were about SCE (Southern California Edison), Walt Disney and all the other companies that have used this visa to eliminate American jobs," said Harrison. Now, "the only thing Congress is going to manage to do is to make (the H-1B visa) cheaper."

Submission + - GOP debate was bad for tech (

dcblogs writes: Most of the references to technology in the main GOP debate Wednesday night were around protecting U.S. borders. There were calls for drones, visa entry and exit tracking systems, and overall more reliance on electronics to deter illegal crossings. It was all about building a better fence, and not about government's role in advancing technology. There was no mention of the federal government's role in science investment. Space exploration? Not discussed. Technology hardly came up in the three-hour debate, the same as what happened in the first debate on August 6. Climate change, bypassed in the first debate, did come up in Wednesday night's debate. It's a subject that offers much opportunity to talk about science, government investments in basic science including supercomputers, alternative energy systems and energy storage. But the question was awful.CNN's reporter Jake Tapper's climate change question was miserably muddled and framed around former President Ronald Reagan's response to the discovery that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in aerosols were depleting ozone. CFC use was subsequently banned. If fixing climate change were only so easy. The candidates moved on quickly.

Submission + - Steve Jobs' legacy cited in California's Syrian refugee debate (

dcblogs writes: The California State Senate voted Friday to urge the U.S. to "dramatically increase" the number of Syrian refugees allowed into this country. The legacy of Steve Jobs and his biological father's Syrian heritage was part of the discussion. The resolution was approved unanimously.

Submission + - Donald Trump emerges as fierce H-1B critic (

dcblogs writes: Donald Trump's plan for the H-1B visa is to make it harder and more expensive for tech companies to replace U.S. workers with foreign help. Trump's immigration plan, released Sunday, includes the ideas of the Senate's strongest H-1B critics, including Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala), who immediately endorsed it. "This is exactly the plan America needs," he said. Trump is proposing an increase in the prevailing wage to make it more expensive to use H-1B workers. Many visa holders are paid the lowest prevailing wage level set for entry-level positions. Second, Trump wants a requirement that companies hire U.S. workers first. Critics says without this requirement, visa workers can be used to replace U.S. workers. He also used to policy paper to call Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), "Mark Zuckerberg's personal senator," because of Rubio's support of the I-Squared bill. That bill seeks to raise the base H-1B cap from 65,000 to 195,000.

Submission + - Working STEM students may be forced to leave U.S. next year, says court (

dcblogs writes: A federal judge made a ruling this week that could force tens of thousands of foreign workers, many of whom are employed at tech companies on student visas, to return to their home countries early next year. This ruling, released Wednesday by U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Huvelle in Washington, found that the government erred by not seeking public comment when it extended the 12-month Optional Practical Training (OPT) program to 29 months for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) students. The OPT program allows someone to work on a student visa. Huvelle could have invalidated the OPT extension immediately but instead gave the government six months, or until to Feb. 12, 2016, to submit the OPT extension rule "for proper notice and comment." Ian Macdonald, an immigration attorney at Greenberg Traurig, said that if the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which overseas immigration, doesn't act to fix the problem before the court's Feb. 12 expiration, the OPT extensions "will be terminated with immediate effect and (the visa holders) will have 60 days to pack up their belongings."

Submission + - Citizens Bank shifts work to India via Web and sets layoff (

dcblogs writes: Citizens Bank IT employees are training replacements in India to take over their jobs. IT employees who were contacted say this "knowledge transfer" is being accomplished remotely, over the Web and in a teleconferences, and without the use, so far, of temporary visa workers. Affected bank IT employees say their jobs will end in December. In June, IBM announced that it had signed a five-year IT services agreement with Citizens Bank. The agreement, said IBM, "will help Citizens drive greater efficiencies, improve service and lower cost." IBM runs a large operation in India, where the pay is but a fraction of U.S. worker salaries. The number of layoffs is in dispute. Employees said as many as 150 Citizen Bank IT workers were being laid off. But this number doesn’t include contractors, who are also being cut. The bank uses a lower figure. One Citizen IT employee who is set to lose his job questioned how the U.S. will prosper as it shifts work overseas. "IT was supposed to be the 'future,' but now even that is being taken away by greed and avarice by companies who have no foresight into the future beyond their next quarter profits," the IT worker said.

Submission + - Apple says diversity is important, but one contractor is 98% Asian (

dcblogs writes: Apple says workforce diversity "inspires creativity and innovation," but one of Apple's major contractors, Infosys, is far from diverse. In 2013, Infosys, an India-based IT services firm, had 509 workers assigned to Apple sites in Cupertino, Calif. Of that number, 499 are listed as Asian, or 98%, with the remaining 10 identified as either white or black, according to government records that were released as part of discrimination court case. Apple isn't the only firm with a disproportionate Infosys workforce. Of the 427 Infosys workers at insurance giant Aetna's Hartford, Conn., offices, 418 were identified in a court filing as Asian. This lopsided representation of Asian workers by IT services firms is not limited to Infosys. It is also a consequence of the H-1B visa program, which supplies most of the labor for the offshore IT services industry. Nearly 86% of the H-1B visas issued by the U.S. for workers in computer occupations are for people from India, according to a Computerworld analysis of government data from a Freedom of Information Act request.

Submission + - Computer science enrollments match NASDAQ's rises and fall (

dcblogs writes: In March 2000, the NASDAQ composite index reached a historic high of 5,048, at just about the same time undergrad computer science enrollments hit a peak of nearly 24,000 students at Ph.D.-granting institutions in the U.S. and Canada, according to data collected by the Computing Research Association in its most recent annual Taulbee Survey. By 2005, computer science enrollments had halved, declining to just over 12,000. On July 17, the NASDAQ hit its highest point since 2000, reaching a composite index of 5,210. In 2014, computer science undergrad enrollments reached nearly, 24,000, almost equal to the 2000 high. Remarkably, it has taken nearly 15 years to reach the earlier enrollment peak.

Submission + - Woman recruited by Google four times and rejected, joins suit (

dcblogs writes: An Ivy league graduate, with a Ph.D. in geophysics, Cheryl Fillekes, who also specializes in Linux and Unix systems, was contacted by Google recruiters four separate times over a seven year period. In each instance, she did well enough on the phone interviews to get invited to an in-person interview but was rejected every time for a job. She has since joined an age discrimination lawsuit against Google filed about two months ago by another older worker. In the past year, Fillekes bought a dairy farm in upstate New York and designed and built an on-farm creamery.

Submission + - NASA funded study states people could be on the moon by 2021 for $10 billion (

MarkWhittington writes: The Houston Chronicle reported that NextGen Space LLC has released the results of a study that suggests that if the United States were to choose to do space in some new and creative ways, American moon boots could be on the lunar surface by 2021. The cost from the authorization to the first crewed lunar landing would be just $10 billion. The study was partly funded by NASA and was reviewed by the space agency and commercial space experts.

You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertisements. -- Norman Douglas