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+ - Extreme secrecy eroding support for Obama's trade pact->

Submitted by schwit1
schwit1 writes: Classified briefings and bill-readings in basement rooms are making members queasy.

f you want to hear the details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal the Obama administration is hoping to pass, you've got to be a member of Congress, and you've got to go to classified briefings and leave your staff and cellphone at the door.

If you're a member who wants to read the text, you've got to go to a room in the basement of the Capitol Visitor Center and be handed it one section at a time, watched over as you read, and forced to hand over any notes you make before leaving.

And no matter what, you can't discuss the details of what you've read.

"It's like being in kindergarten," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who's become the leader of the opposition to President Barack Obama's trade agenda. "You give back the toys at the end."

For those out to sink Obama's free trade push, highlighting the lack of public information is becoming central to their opposition strategy: The White House isn't even telling Congress what it's asking for, they say, or what it's already promised foreign governments.

Link to Original Source

+ - The Medical Bill Mystery

Submitted by HughPickens.com
HughPickens.com writes: Elisabeth Rosenthal writes in the NYT that she has spent the past six months trying to figure out a medical bill for $225 that includes "Test codes: 105, 127, 164, to name a few. CPT codes: 87481, 87491, 87798 and others" and she really doesn't want to pay it until she understands what it’s for. "At first, I left messages on the lab’s billing office voice mail asking for an explanation. A few months ago, when someone finally called back, she said she could not tell me what the codes were for because that would violate patient privacy. After I pointed out that I was the patient in question, she said, politely: “I’m sorry, this is what I’m told, and I don’t want to lose my job.”" Bills variously use CPT, HCPCS or ICD-9 codes. Some have abbreviations and scientific terms that you need a medical dictionary or a graduate degree to comprehend. Some have no information at all. Heather Pearce of Seattle told me how she’d recently received a $45,000 hospital bill with the explanation “miscellaneous.”

So what's the problem? “Medical bills and explanation of benefits are undecipherable and incomprehensible even for experts to understand, and the law is very forgiving about that,” says Mark Hall. “We’ve not seen a lot of pressure to standardize medical billing, but there’s certainly a need.” Hospitals and medical clinics say that detailed bills are simply too complicated for patients and that they provide the information required by insurers but with rising copays and deductibles, patients are shouldering an increasing burden. One recent study found that up to 90 percent of hospital bills contain errors and an audit by Equifax found that hospital bills that totaled more than $10,000 contained an average error of $1,300. “There are no industry standards with regards to what information a patient should receive regarding their bill,” says Cyndee Weston, executive director of the American Medical Billing Association. “The software industry has pretty much decided what information patients should receive, and to my knowledge, they have not had any stakeholder input. That would certainly be a worthwhile project for our industry.”

+ - Mysterious X-rays at the center of the galaxy

Submitted by schwit1
schwit1 writes: The x-ray space telescope NuSTAR has detected high energy x-rays at the center of the Milky Way coming from no obvious source.

In and of themselves, X-rays from the galactic center aren't unusual. But the X-rays NuSTAR detects don't seem to be associated with structures already known to exist. For example, a supernova remnant named Sgr A East emits low-energy X-rays but not high-energy X-rays. The high-energy blotch doesn't correlate with structures seen in radio images either, such as the dust and gas clouds of Sgr A West that are falling toward the supermassive black hole.

Instead, Perez and her colleagues propose that thousands of stellar corpses could be responsible for the high-energy X-rays: massive (and still-growing) white dwarfs, spun-up pulsars, or black holes or neutrons stars feeding on low-mass companion stars.

All of their proposed solutions, however, have serious problems explaining all of the data.

+ - Twitter Puts Stop To Playing DOS Games Inside Tweets 1

Submitted by jones_supa
jones_supa writes: Twitter has killed off an interesting trend of playing DOS games in tweets. Just last week, users discovered they could take advantage of the new "Twitter Cards" embedding feature to bundle full DOS games within tweets. Running DOSBox inside the web browser is possible thanks to an Emscripten port of DOSBox called Em-DOSBox. The games were pulled from Internet Archive's collection of 2,600 classic titles, many of which still lack proper republishing agreements with the copyright holder. So is embedding interactive media, and specifically games, within Twitter Cards, against the social network's terms of service. Twitter has now blocked such activity, likely after seeing the various news reports and a stream of Street Fighter II, Wolfenstein 3D and Zool cheering up people's timelines.

+ - Appeals Judge Calls Prenda an "Ingenuous Crooked Extortionate Operation"

Submitted by ktetch-pirate
ktetch-pirate writes: Today was the long-awaited appeals court hearing in the ongoing Prenda copyright troll saga. Almost exactly two years after Judge Otis Wright went sci-fi on Prenda and its principles, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals held an appeals hearing requested by Prenda on the sanctions, and it was not a pretty day for Prenda. Highlights included Senior Judge Pregerson calling Prenda's operation an "Ingenuous Crooked Extortionate Operation" after describing in detail how they operate.

Prenda also astonished the judges by welcoming the idea of a criminal contempt hearing, which Legal blog Popehat thinks is likely to happen, on top of the sanctions being sustained.

+ - Congressional liberals, conservatives unite against NSA spying->

Submitted by SonicSpike
SonicSpike writes: In an ornate room on the first floor of the Capitol, some of the most liberal members of Congress met for lunch on Thursday with nearly a dozen stalwart conservatives who’ve repeatedly taken on their own leadership for being too soft.

The agenda consisted of a single topic, perhaps the only one that would bring together such ideologically divergent politicians in Washington at this moment: their shared disdain for the PATRIOT Act.

With key provisions of the controversial post-9/11 law set to expire at the end of the month, including authority for the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, critics in both parties are preparing to strike. Among those on hand for the meeting were Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan, a card-carrying ACLU member from the liberal mecca of Madison, Wisconsin, and GOP Rep. Thomas Massie, a tea party adherent from Kentucky.

Along with Pocan and Massie, the Thursday gathering drew Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.). The lawmakers, many of them privacy zealots with libertarian leanings, discussed the USA Freedom Act, bipartisan legislation that would rein in the bulk collection of telephone records and reauthorize expiring anti-terror surveillance provisions in the PATRIOT Act.

“We are definitely making it a bipartisan effort because we believe there are people on both sides of the aisle who are interested in protecting the rights of Americans,” Amash said.

Democrats and libertarian-minded Republicans want changes that go beyond what’s currently on the table, but it’s unclear whether they have the numbers. Massie and Amash are key players in a growing conservative bloc of the Republican caucus that in the past has forced Boehner and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to alter legislation that didn’t pass conservative muster.

“People are going to have to make a decision if there are enough real reforms in there to make it worth reauthorizing the PATRIOT Act,” Massie said. “I don’t think the reforms are significant enough.”

“The onus is really on [Republican and Democratic leaders] to have something in place if this is going to run out and they need to reauthorize something,” the Republican added. “We’re trying to figure out how to get a better, stronger [bill] that protects privacy rights.”

Link to Original Source

+ - JavaScript Tools for Breathing New Life Into Old Code

Submitted by snydeq
snydeq writes: From Lisp to Pascal, old code is new again, thanks to JavaScript cross-compilers, translators, and emulators. 'In the past, tending to an old code base was a lonely experience, not unlike living on a desert island. The job was to keep everything running with virtual duct tape and baling wire. ... That’s changed in recent years with the emergence of new cross-compilers and interpreters. Suddenly the old can be brought into the present, not with perfect harmony but with enough integration that curators don’t need to feel like they’re living and working alone. The right tools can follow Ezra Pound's dictum to "make it new again."'

+ - FBI Slammed On Capitol Hill For 'Stupid' Ideas About Encryption->

Submitted by blottsie
blottsie writes: At a hearing in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, the FBI endured outright hostility as both technical experts and members of Congress from both parties roundly criticized the law enforcement agency's desire to place so-called back doors into encryption technology.

"Creating a technological backdoor just for good guys is technologically stupid," said Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), a Stanford University computer science graduate. "That's just stupid."

Link to Original Source

+ - White House Outsources K-12 CS Education to Infosys Charity 1

Submitted by theodp
theodp writes: In December, the White House praised the leadership of Code.org for their efforts to get more computer science into K-12 schools, which were bankrolled by $20 million in philanthropic contributions from the likes of Google, Microsoft, Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, and Mark Zuckerberg. On Monday, it was announced that Infosys Foundation USA will be partnering with Code.org to bring CS education to millions of U.S. students. Infosys Foundation USA Chair Vandana Sikk, who joins execs from Microsoft, Google, and Amazon execs on Code.org's Board, is the spouse of Infosys CEO Vishal Sikk. The announcement from the tax-deductible charity comes as India-based Infosys finds itself scrutinized by U.S. Senators over allegations of H-1B visa program abuses.

+ - Rand Paul moves to block new 'net neutrality' rules->

Submitted by SonicSpike
SonicSpike writes: U.S. Senator Rand Paul, a Republican presidential hopeful, on Wednesday introduced a resolution to block new regulations on Internet service providers, saying they would "wrap the Internet in red tape."

The "net neutrality" rules, which are slated to take effect in June, are backed by the Obama administration and were passed by the Democratic majority of the Federal Communications Commission in February. AT&T Inc and wireless and cable trade associations are challenging them in court.

Paul's resolution, if adopted, would allow the Senate to fast-track a vote to establish that Congress disapproves of the FCC's new rules and moves to nullify them.

Link to Original Source
Businesses

Disney Replaces Longtime IT Staff With H-1B Workers 631

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-are-no-longer-needed dept.
Lucas123 writes: Disney CEO Bob Iger is one of eight co-chairs of the Partnership for a New American Economy, a leading group advocating for an increase in the H-1B visa cap. Last Friday, the partnership was a sponsor of an H-1B briefing at the U.S. Capitol for congressional staffers. The briefing was closed to the press. One of the briefing documents obtained after the meeting stated, "H-1B workers complement — instead of displace — U.S. Workers." Last October, however, Disney laid off at least 135 IT staff (though employees say it was hundreds more), many of them longtime workers. Disney then replaced them with H-1B contractors that company said could better "focus on future innovation and new capabilities." The fired workers believe the primary motivation behind Disney's action was cost-cutting. "Some of these folks were literally flown in the day before to take over the exact same job I was doing," one former employee said. Disney officials promised new job opportunities as a result of the restructuring, but the former staff interviewed by Computerworld said they knew of few co-workers who had landed one of the new jobs. Use of visa workers in a layoff is a public policy issue, particularly for Disney. Ten U.S. senators are currently seeking a federal investigation into displacement of IT workers by H-1B-using contractors. Kim Berry, president of the Programmer's Guild, said Congress should protect American workers by mandating that positions can only be filled by H-1B workers when no qualified American — at any wage — can be found to fill the position."
Canada

The Power of Backroom Lobbying: How the Music Industry Got a Copyright Extension 109

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-wouldn't-download-a-lobbyist dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The Canadian government's unexpected budget decision to extend the term of copyright for sound recordings came as a surprise to most copyright watchers, but not the music industry lobby, which was ready with a press release within minutes. How did the industry seemingly know this was coming? Michael Geist reports that records show the extension is the result of backroom lobbying with monthly meetings between senior government officials and music industry lobbyists paving the way for copyright term extension without public consultation or debate.
Transportation

Massachusetts Governor Introduces Bill To Regulate Uber, Lyft 192

Posted by Soulskill
from the enjoy-your-medallions dept.
jfruh writes: The "wild west" days of ridesharing services may be coming to an end. The governor of Massachusetts has proposed a bill that would regulate Uber, Lyft, and their rivals in the state. Among the new rules: ridesharing services would have to run background checks on their drivers and keep a roster of active drivers; vehicles would need to have some external marker indicating that they're a ridesharing car; and drivers would need to hold at $1 million worth of insurance when transporting passengers.

+ - Groupon refuses to pay security expert who found serious XSS site bugs->

Submitted by Mark Wilson
Mark Wilson writes: Bounty programs benefit everyone. Companies like Microsoft get help from security experts, customers gain improved security, and those who discover and report vulnerabilities reap the rewards financially. Or at least that's how things are supposed to work.

Having reported a series of security problems to discount and deal site Groupon, security researcher Brute Logic from XSSposed.org was expecting a pay-out — but the site refuses to stump up the cash. In all, Brute Logic reported more than 30 security issues with Groupon's site, but the company cites its Responsible Disclosure policy as the reason for not handing over the cash.

Link to Original Source

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