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+ - Sen. Jeff Sessions Unfriends Mark Zuckerberg Over US Worker Hiring

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "In a speech on the Senate floor last week, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) challenged Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to "hire American workers for a change." The speech attributed President Obama's plans for executive action on immigration to meetings between White House officials and Zuckerberg's FWD.us PAC. Such presidential action, explained FWD.us, would allow tech companies to recruit the "very best" people from around the world instead of settling for U.S. workers who are "just sort of okay." Facebook, reported the Washington Post in 2013, became legally "dependent" on H-1B visas and subject to stricter regulations shortly before Zuckerberg got immigration reform religion and launched FWD.us. The immigration bill passed last year by the Senate included the so-called "Facebook loophole", legislative slight-of-hand which could make Facebook exempt from H-1B dependent employer rules even if it becomes more dependent on H-1B employees. By the way, in its diversity disclosure, Facebook — like other tech companies led by FWD.us Founders and Major Supporters — opted not to share any info on the countries the best-and-the-brightest employees hail from, as one might find in a university's Statistical Abstract. Must be considered trade secrets, huh?"

+ - Obama Blames Border Crisis for Immigration Reform Delay

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "Looks like Mark Zuckerberg's Rat Pack may have to make due with just-sort-of-OK US workers until after the midterm elections in November. In an interview which will air on Sunday's Meet the Press, President Obama defended his decision to delay executive action on immigration, saying the summer's surge of unaccompanied children at the Mexican border changed the politics of the issue. "The truth of the matter is that the politics did shift midsummer because of that problem," Obama said. "I want to spend some time, even as we're getting all our ducks in a row for the executive action, I also want to make sure that the public understands why we're doing this, why it's the right thing for the American people, why it's the right thing for the American economy." To get an idea of what tech might expect from Obama after the election dust clears, an op-ed by Intel Director of Immigration Policy Peter Muller appeared in Friday's Mercury News calling for the President to use executive actions to "deliver on one of the top priorities of technology companies — reform to an outdated visa program that restricts their ability to hire key talent." Because we all know how much Intel, Google, and Apple hate restricted hiring policies, right?"

+ - Bill Gates Want to Remake the Way History is Taught. Should We Let Him?

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "With his Big History Project, the NY Times' Andrew Ross Sorkin reports that Bill Gates wants to remake the way history is taught (intro video). Last month, the Univ. of California system announced that a version of the Big History Project course could be counted in place of a more traditional World History class, paving the way for the state's 1,300 high schools to offer it. Still, not everyone's keen on the idea. "Is this Bill Gates's history?" asks NYU's Diane Ravitch. "And should it be labeled 'Bill Gates's History'? Because Bill Gates's history would be very different from somebody else's who wasn't worth $50-60 billion." Of the opposition to Gates, Scott L. Thomas of Claremont Graduate University explains, 'Frankly, in the eyes of the critics, he's really not an expert. He just happens to be a guy that watched a DVD and thought it was a good idea and had a bunch of money to fund it.""

+ - How The Outdated TI-84 Plus Still Holds a Monopoly on Classrooms

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "Electronics almost universally become cheaper over time, but with essentially a monopoly on graphing calculator usage in classrooms, Texas Instruments still manages to command a premium for its TI-84 Plus. Texas Instruments released the TI-84 Plus graphing calculator in 2004. Ten years later, the base model still has 480 kilobytes of ROM and 24 kilobytes of RAM, its black-and-white screen remains 96×64 pixels, and the MSRP is still $150. "Free graphing calculator apps are available," notes Matt McFarland. "But smartphones can’t be used on standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT. Schools are understandably reluctant to let them be used in classrooms, where students may opt to tune out in class and instead text friends or play games. So for now, overpriced hardware and all, the TI-84 family of calculators remains on top and unlikely to go anywhere." So, to paraphrase Prof. Norm Matloff, is it stupid to buy expensive TI-8x milk when the R cow is free?"

Comment: Re:Interesting. Why? (Score 1) 59

by theodp (#47808165) Attached to: Code.org Discloses Top Donors

The Yin and Yang of Hour of Code & Immigration Reform: But a recent NY Times Op-Ed by economist Paul Collier criticizing Zuckerberg's FWD.us PAC as self-serving advocacy (echoing earlier criticism) serves as a reminder that Zuckerberg and Gates' Code.org and Hour of Code involvement is the Yin to their H-1B visa lobbying Yang. The two efforts have been inextricably linked together for Congress, if not for the public.

+ - Code.org Discloses Top Donors

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "Under the leadership of Code.org, explained the ACM, it joined CSTA, NCWIT, NSF, Microsoft and Google in an effort "to reshape the U.S. education system," including passing a federal law making Computer Science a "core subject" in schools. If you're curious about whose money helped fuel the effort, Code.org's Donors page now lists those who gave $25,000+ to $3,000,000+ to the K-12 CS cause (the nonprofit plans to raise $20-30 million for 2015-16 operations). Microsoft is at the top of the list as a Platinum Supporter ($3,000,000+), while Bill Gates is Gold ($1,000,000+), and Steve Ballmer is Silver ($500,000+). Interestingly, six of Code.org's ten biggest donors are also Founders of Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us tech immigration reform PAC."

+ - Should Billionaire-Backed Code.org Pay Its Interns?

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "As of Labor Day, Code.org still has a part-time job posting for a Marketing / Communications Intern for this Fall. Code.org is backed by millions from some of the country's wealthiest individuals, foundations, and tech companies — including Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Steve Ballmer — so it's kind of surprising to see the job listing languish for months. Unless, of course, the problem is that the position is unpaid, as were earlier full-time Code.org Operations Intern and State Policy Intern jobs. So, should a billionaire-backed nonprofit pay its interns, especially when part of the job is promoting high-paying jobs in its donors' industry?"

+ - Code.org Quacks Like a $4.5 Million Microsoft Duck

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "Its "efforts to reshape the U.S. education system," explained the ACM, included working with CSTA, NCWIT, NSF, Microsoft and Google "in a new public/private partnership under the leadership of Code.org" to enable and popularize computer science education at the K-12 level. It's hard to quibble with the alliance's success — less than 10 months after its ya-got-trouble-right-here-in-River-City film starring Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg went viral, Chicago and New York City tapped Code.org to educate their school kids, and now 100+ members of Congress are poised to pass a federal law making CS a "core subject". So, if you're curious about how much cash it takes to reshape the U.S. education system, Code.org's Donors page now lists those who gave $25,000+ to $3,000,000+ to the K-12 CS cause (the nonprofit plans to raise $20-30 million for 2015-16 operations). Microsoft, whose General Counsel Brad Smith sits on Code.org's Board, is at the top of the list as a Platinum Supporter ($3,000,000+), while Bill Gates is Gold ($1,000,000+), and Steve Ballmer is Silver ($500,000+). Probably not too surprising, since Code.org's mission does jibe nicely with Microsoft's National Talent Strategy, "a two-pronged approach [to solving tech's 'pipeline' problem] that will couple long-term improvements in STEM education in the United States with targeted, short-term, high-skilled immigration reforms." Coincidentally, six of Code.org's ten biggest donors are also Founders of Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us PAC (Ballmer, Partovi, and Smith are 'Major Supporters'), which tackles the tech immigration prong of Microsoft's plan. By the way, tech's recent decision to disclose select diversity measures en masse after years of stonewalling may work in Code.org's and FWD.us's favor, since the woeful numbers are now being spun as a tech 'pipeline' problem that needs fixing. Hey, deal tech companies labor lemons, and they'll make labor lemonade!"

+ - Google's Megan Smith Would be First U.S. CTO Worthy of Title

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "Bloomberg is reporting that Google X's Megan Smith is the top candidate for U.S. Chief Technology Officer. With a BS/MS in Mechanical Engineering from MIT, and experience ranging from General Magic to Google, Smith would arguably be the first U.S. CTO worthy of the title (the outgoing U.S. CTO has a bachelor's in Econ; his predecessor has a master's in Public Policy). Now, if Smith can just reassure parents of boys that the girls-take-all approach to CS education funding she championed for Google won't become national policy, her confirmation should be smooth sailing!"

+ - Hidden Obstacles for Google's Self-Driving Cars->

Submitted by Paul Fernhout
Paul Fernhout (109597) writes "Lee Gomes at Technology Review wrote an article on the current limits of Google self-driving car technology: "Would you buy a self-driving car that couldn't drive itself in 99 percent of the country? Or that knew nearly nothing about parking, couldn't be taken out in snow or heavy rain, and would drive straight over a gaping pothole? If your answer is yes, then check out the Google Self-Driving Car, model year 2014. Google often leaves the impression that, as a Google executive once wrote, the cars can "drive anywhere a car can legally drive." However, that's true only if intricate preparations have been made beforehand, with the car's exact route, including driveways, extensively mapped. Data from multiple passes by a special sensor vehicle must later be pored over, meter by meter, by both computers and humans. It's vastly more effort than what's needed for Google Maps. ... Maps have so far been prepared for only a few thousand miles of roadway, but achieving Google's vision will require maintaining a constantly updating map of the nation's millions of miles of roads and driveways. Urmson says Google's researchers "don't see any particular roadblocks" to accomplishing that. When a Google car sees a new permanent structure such as a light pole or sign that it wasn't expecting it sends an alert and some data to a team at Google in charge of maintaining the map. ... Among other unsolved problems, Google has yet to drive in snow, and Urmson says safety concerns preclude testing during heavy rains. Nor has it tackled big, open parking lots or multilevel garages. ... Pedestrians are detected simply as moving, column-shaped blurs of pixels — meaning, Urmson agrees, that the car wouldn't be able to spot a police officer at the side of the road frantically waving for traffic to stop. ..."

A deeper issue I wrote about in 2001 is whether such software and data will be FOSS or proprietary? As I wrote there: "We are about to see the emergence of companies licensing that publicly funded software and selling modified versions of such software as proprietary products. There will eventually be hundreds or thousands of paid automotive software engineers working on such software no matter how it is funded, because there will be great value in having such self-driving vehicles given the result of America's horrendous urban planning policies leaving the car as generally the most efficient means of transport in the suburb. The question is, will the results of the work be open for inspection and contribution by the public? Essentially, will those engineers and their employers be "owners" of the software, or will they instead be "stewards" of a larger free and open community development process?""

Link to Original Source

+ - Statistics Losing Ground to CS, Losing Image Among Students

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "Unless some things change, UC Davis Prof. Norman Matloff worries that the Statistician could be added to the endangered species list. "The American Statistical Association (ASA) leadership, and many in Statistics academia," writes Matloff, "have been undergoing a period of angst the last few years, They worry that the field of Statistics is headed for a future of reduced national influence and importance, with the feeling that: [1] The field is to a large extent being usurped by other disciplines, notably Computer Science (CS). [2] Efforts to make the field attractive to students have largely been unsuccessful." Matloff, who has a foot in both the Statistics and CS camps, but says, "The problem is not that CS people are doing Statistics, but rather that they are doing it poorly. Generally the quality of CS work in Stat is weak. It is not a problem of quality of the researchers themselves; indeed, many of them are very highly talented. Instead, there are a number of systemic reasons for this, structural problems with the CS research 'business model'." So, can Statistics be made more attractive to students? "Here is something that actually can be fixed reasonably simply," suggests no-fan-of-TI-83-pocket-calculators-as-a-computational-vehicle Matloff. "If I had my druthers, I would simply ban AP Stat, and actually, I am one of those people who would do away with the entire AP program. Obviously, there are too many deeply entrenched interests for this to happen, but one thing that can be done for AP Stat is to switch its computational vehicle to R.""

+ - Teachers Get 72 Hours to Beg Bill Gates for School Supplies

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes ""Teachers across the country are struggling to give their classes great tools for learning," writes Bill Gates. "Some classrooms need computers, but others need more basic things: textbooks, building blocks, art supplies, even just a rug big enough for the whole class to sit on. And with school starting up, this is an especially important time. Teachers have enough things to worry about right now. Getting the right supplies shouldn’t be one of them." Well, Microsoft may have kiboshed the idea of a state income tax, but Bill's doing the next best thing — following Google's begfunding lead and throwing a 72-Hour Back-to-School Begathon that ends Sunday night. "To make it easy for everyone to support teachers via DonorsChoose.org, our foundation will meet donors halfway," Bill explains. "From August 22 through August 24, nearly every project on the site will be half off. For example, if a $500 project gets $250 in donations in that time, we will match that with another $250 and fully fund the project. Melinda and I are big fans of DonorsChoose.org, a program that makes it easy for teachers to connect with potential donors." And, while DonorsChoose encourages "Citizen Philanthropists" to help the Gates Foundation "make this the best back-to-school teachers and students have ever had," it will be tough to top the back-to-schools the Gates Foundation provided for Bill's Lakeside School and Melinda's Ursuline Academy!"

+ - ACM Blames the Personal Computer for Driving Women Away from Computer Science

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "Over at the Communications of the ACM, a new article — Computing's Narrow Focus May Hinder Women's Participation — suggests that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs should shoulder some of the blame for the dearth of women at Google, Facebook, Apple, Twitter and other tech companies. From the article: "Valerie Barr, chair of ACM's Council on Women in Computing (ACM-W), believes the retreat [of women from CS programs] was caused partly by the growth of personal computers. 'The students who graduated in 1984 were the last group to start college before there was personal computing. So if you were interested in bioinformatics, or computational economics, or quantitative anthropology, you really needed to be part of the computer science world. After personal computers, that wasn't true any more.'" So, does TIME's 1982 Machine of the Year deserve the bad rap? By the way, the ACM's Annual Report discusses its participation in an alliance which has helped convince Congress that there ought to be a federal law making CS a "core subject" for girls and boys: "Under the guidance of the Education Policy Committee, ACM continued its efforts to reshape the U.S. education system to see real computer science exist and count as a core graduation credit in U.S. high schools. Working with the CSTA, the National Center for Women and Information Technology, NSF, Microsoft, and Google, ACM helped launch a new public/private partnership under the leadership of Code.org to strengthen high school level computing courses, improve teacher training, engage states in bringing computer science into their core curriculum guidelines, and encourage more explicit federal recognition of computer science as a key discipline in STEM discussions.""

+ - It's Dumb to Tell Kids They're Smart 1

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "Over at Khan Academy, Salman Khan explains Why I'm Cautious About Telling My Son He's Smart. "Recently," writes Khan, "I put into practice research I had been reading about for the past few years: I decided to praise my son not when he succeeded at things he was already good at, but when he persevered with things that he found difficult. I stressed to him that by struggling, your brain grows. Between the deep body of research on the field of learning mindsets and this personal experience with my son, I am more convinced than ever that mindsets toward learning could matter more than anything else we teach." According to Dr. Carol Dweck, who Khan cites, the secret to raising smart kids is not telling kids that they are. A focus on effort — not on intelligence or ability — says Dweck, is key to success in school and in life"

+ - Tech Looks to Obama to Save Them From "Just Sort of OK" U.S. Workers

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "Following up on news that the White House met with big biz on immigration earlier this month, Bloomberg sat down with Joe Green, the head of Mark Zuckerberg's Fwd.US PAC, to discuss possible executive actions President Obama might take on high tech immigration (video) in September. "Hey, Joe," asked interviewer Alix Steel. "All we keep hearing about this earnings season though from big tech is how they're actually cutting jobs. If you look at Microsoft, Cisco, IBM Hewlett-Packard, why do the tech companies then need more tech visas?" Green explained why tech may not want to settle for laid-off U.S. talent when the world is its oyster. "The difference between someone who's truly great and just sort of okay is really huge," Green said. "Culture in tech is a very meritocratic culture," he added. "The vast, vast majority of tech engineers that I talked to who are from the United States are very supportive of bringing in people from other countries because they want to work with the very best.""

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