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+ - Think Tanks: How a Bill [Gates Agenda] Becomes a Law

Submitted by theodp
theodp writes: The NY Times' Eric Lipton was just awarded a 2015 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting that shed light on how foreign powers buy influence at think tanks. So, it probably bears mentioning that Microsoft's 'two-pronged' National Talent Strategy to increase K-12 CS education and the number of H-1B visas — which is on the verge of being codified into laws by the President and lawmakers — was hatched at an influential Microsoft and Gates Foundation-backed think tank mentioned in Lipton's reporting, the Brookings Institution. In 2012, the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings hosted a forum on STEM education and immigration reforms, where fabricating a crisis was discussed as a strategy to succeed with Microsoft's agenda where earlier lobbying attempts by Bill Gates and Microsoft had failed. "So, Brad [Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith]," asked the Brookings Institution's Darrell West at the event, "you're the only [one] who mentioned this topic of making the problem bigger. So, we galvanize action by really producing a crisis, I take it?" "Yeah," Smith replied (video). And, with the help of nonprofit organizations like Code.org and FWD.us that were founded shortly thereafter, a national K-12 CS and tech immigration crisis was indeed created. Last December, as Microsoft-backed Code.org 'taught President Obama to code' at a White House event to kick off the nations's Hour of Code (as a top Microsoft lobbyist looked on), Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was also in D.C. publicly lobbying for high-skilled immigration and privately meeting with White House officials on undisclosed matters. And that, kids, is How a Bill [Gates Agenda] Becomes a Law!

+ - Microsoft's K-12 CS and H-1B Visa Agenda: From Think Tank to Law of the Land

Submitted by theodp
theodp writes: Led by Steve Ballmer, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, with corporate contributions from the likes of Microsoft and Google, a $30M campaign to promote K-12 computer science education was a smash success, winning over the President and lawmakers, who are poised to make CS a 'core academic subject' in a rewritten No Child Left Behind Act, which could result in hundreds of millions of dollars in new spending that the tech giants suggested could be funded using fees from additional H-1B visas they're coincidentally lobbying for to bring in foreign programming talent. Since the NY Times' Eric Lipton just won a 2015 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting that shed light on how foreign powers buy influence at think tanks, it probably bears mentioning that Microsoft's 'two-pronged' K-12 CS and H-1B visa agenda — which is on the verge of becoming the law of the land — was hatched at an influential Microsoft-backed think tank mentioned in Lipton's reporting, the Brookings Institution. On September 27, 2012, the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings "hosted a forum on STEM education and immigration reforms and how these policy innovations can recharge American competitiveness and economic opportunity for current and future generations of workers." Keynote remarks were delivered by Brad Smith, executive VP and general counsel of Microsoft, who took the occasion to introduce Microsoft's National Talent Strategy. "So, Brad," asked the Brookings Institution's Darrell West, "you're the only [one] who mentioned this topic of making the problem bigger. So, we galvanize action by really producing a crisis ['like climate change', as Microsoft partner Code.org later put it], I take it?" Smith replied, "Yeah, I think we have the opportunity to do two things...the immigration and education issues are, to some degree, opposite sides of the same coin. The coin itself is about the need to have people with the right skills to do the work that the country needs to get done...And, you know, it will require additional people from outside the United States in the short term [20+ years, according to the WSJ] but let's use that to help address the broader and to some degree deeper and longer lasting problem that we face with respect to our educational system. It also gives us the opportunity to connect with people who may not have seen this connection or to connect with people who care more about one issue or the other, but bring them together" (video @ 49:24). Fittingly, in attendance two years later at the White House as President Obama tackled the national CS crisis as he 'learned to code' from a nonprofit headed by Smith's next-door-neighbor at the Brookings-trumpeted and nationally-covered Hour of Code event was Fred Humphries, a top Microsoft lobbyist and Brookings partner. According to visitor records, Humphries returned to the White House the next day with Smith and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella to quietly meet with officials. While in D.C., Nadella also lobbied for high-skilled immigration. And that, kids, is How a Bill [Gates Agenda] Becomes a Law!

+ - Is Taking Air Force One to Florida to Celebrate Earth Day Tone-Deaf? 1

Submitted by theodp
theodp writes: President Obama will visit the Everglades Wednesday, Earth Day, to call attention to global warming and the administration's efforts to cut carbon pollution across the globe, prompting the following exchange between CBS News reporter Mark Knoller and White House press secretary Josh Earnest. KNOLLER: "On the Everglades trip, does the President risk undermining his message when he flies to the Everglades on a 747 hundreds of miles to make a statement about climate change?" EARNEST: "It’s a provocative question. But, no, he doesn't. The President believes that there are important changes that we can make to reduce carbon pollution in this country, and we can do it in a way that will be good for our economy. That is precisely the case that the President will be making at the Everglades. And he’s looking forward to the trip." Earnest went on to suggest that Knoller "check with the Air Force" to see how the use of Air Force One jibes with the Pentagon's concern that "climate change poses immediate risks to our national security," which the President repeated in his last Weekly Address. Hey, the White House could always purchase some carbon offsets, which look-how-green-we-are Google explained more than made up for Larry Page and Sergey Brin's jetsetting!

+ - New Nudge Technology Prods You to Take Action

Submitted by HughPickens.com
HughPickens.com writes: Natasha Singer reports at the NYT on a new generation of devices whose primary function is to prod people to change. This new category of nudging technology includes “hydration reminder” apps like Waterlogged that exhort people to increase their water consumption; the HAPIfork, a utensil that vibrates and turns on a light indicator when people eat too quickly; and Thync, “neurosignaling” headgear that delivers electrical pulses intended to energize or relax people. “There is this dumbing-down, which assumes people do not want the data, they just want the devices to help them,” says Natasha Dow Schüll. “It is not really about self-knowledge anymore. It’s the nurselike application of technology.” While some self-zapping gizmos may resemble human cattle prods, other devices use more complex cues to encourage people to adopt new behavior. For example, the Muse, a brain-wave monitoring headband, is intended to help people understand their state of mind by playing different sounds depending on whether they are distracted or calm. “Based on what it registers, it plays loud, disruptive wind or waves lapping or, if you are supercalm and you maintain it for a while, you get calm, lovely noises of birds tweeting,” says Schüll. “You do learn to calm your mind.

But do the new self-tracking and self-improvement technologies benefit people or just create more anxiety? An article published in The BMJ, a British medical journal, describes healthy people who use self-tracking apps as “young, asymptomatic, middle-class neurotics continuously monitoring their vital signs while they sleep.” Dr. Des Spence argues that many health tracking apps encouraged healthy people to unnecessarily record their normal activities and vital signs — turning users into continuously self-monitoring “neurotics.” Spence recommends people view these new technologies with skepticism. “The truth is that these apps and devices are untested and unscientific, and they will open the door of uncertainty,” says Spence. “Make no mistake: Diagnostic uncertainty ignites extreme anxiety in people.”

+ - K-12 CS Education Provider to Largest School Districts Eyes $200M in H-1B Fees

Submitted by theodp
theodp writes: Endorsed by the White House and bankrolled by tech's wealthiest individuals and their corporations, 501c3 tax-exempt nonprofit Code.org has inked deals to bring K-12 computer science education to 7 of the largest US school districts. On Thursday, the group followed up on its earlier Congressional testimony, suggesting on Twitter and Tumblr that $200M in visa fees paid by its backers and others for H-1B workers be made available for CS education efforts. "With only 10% of all STEM graduates choosing to major in computer science," exclaimed Code.org in a blog post, "it’s no surprise the U.S. needs to bring in so many skilled workers from other countries!" Hey, it's also probably no surprise that many of Code.org's backers are also currently pressing for additional H-1B visas through Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us PAC and other entities!

+ - Is iPhone's Lack of FM Support Increasing Your Chances of Dying in a Disaster?

Submitted by theodp
theodp writes: "You may not know it," reports NPR's Emma Bowman, "but most of today's smartphones have FM radios inside of them. But the FM chip is not activated on two-thirds of devices. That's because mobile makers have the FM capability switched off. The National Association of Broadcasters has been asking mobile makers to change this. But the mobile industry, which profits from selling data to smartphone users, says that with the consumer's move toward mobile streaming apps, the demand for radio simply isn't there." But FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate says radio-enabled smartphones could sure come in handy during times of emergency. So, is it irresponsible not to activate the FM chips? And should it's-the-app-way-or-the-highway Apple follow Microsoft's lead and make no-static-at-all FM available on iPhones?

+ - Code.org: Poor Choices by US Kids Force Our Wealthy Donors to Hire H-1B Workers

Submitted by theodp
theodp writes: "With only 10% of all STEM graduates choosing to major in computer science," exclaims Code.org in a blog post, "it’s no surprise the U.S. needs to bring in so many skilled workers from other countries!" Code.org, which is bankrolled by some of tech's wealthiest individuals and their companies, also took to Twitter to suggest that H-1B visas be used to raise $200 million for CS education, which the White House has coincidentally endorsed Code.org to provide. Speaking of coincidences, many of Code.org's donors are also backers of Mark Zuckerberg's H-1B hungry FWD.us PAC. And that, kids, is the circle of lobbying life.

+ - The Upsides of a Surveillance Society

Submitted by theodp
theodp writes: Citing the comeuppance of ESPN reporter Britt McHenry, who was suspended from her job after her filmed ad-hominem attack on a person McHenry deemed to be beneath her in terms of appearance, education, wealth, class, status went viral, The Atlantic's Megan Garber writes that one silver lining of the omnipresence of cameras it that the possibility of exposure can also encourage us to be a little kinder to each other. "Terrible behavior," Garber writes, "whether cruel or violent or something in between, has a greater possibility than it ever has before of being exposed. Just as Uber tracks ratings for both its drivers and its users, and just as Yelp can be a source of shaming for businesses and customers alike, technology at large has afforded a reciprocity between people who, in a previous era, would have occupied different places on the spectrum of power. Which can, again, be a bad thing — but which can also, in McHenry's case, be an extremely beneficial one. It's good that her behavior has been exposed. It's good that her story going viral might discourage similar behavior from other people. It's good that she has publicly promised 'to learn from this mistake.'"

+ - LAUSD OKs Girls-Only STEM School, Plans Boys-Only English Language Arts School

Submitted by theodp
theodp writes: Citing statistics that showed a whopping 46 more boys than girls passed the AP Computer Science Exam in 2011-12, the 640,000+ student Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) on Tuesday approved a waiver to enable the District to operate a single-gender, all-girls STEM School called the Girls Academic Leadership Academy (GALA). Students in GALA will follow a six year sequence of computer courses starting in middle school that will culminate in AP Computer Science Principles. "Fewer females take AP courses in math, science, or computer science, and they are not as successful as males in receiving passing scores of 3, 4 or 5," argued the General Waiver Request (PDF, 700+ pages). "An all girls environment is reasonably necessary for the school to improve the self-confidence of girls in their academic abilities, especially in STEM areas where an achievement gap currently exists. GALA's admissions shall also comply with AB 1266 to ensure male students who identify as female are admitted to the school." The school's CS-related Partners include the UCLA Exploring Computer Science Program, as well as Google-bankrolled Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code, and NCWIT. One of the reasons the all-girls STEM school reportedly got the green light is that its backers satisfied federal regulations requiring a "substantially equal school" for excluded male students by submitting a plan for a companion all-boys school that would emphasize English Language Arts, where they often fall short of girls' test scores, rather than GALA's focus on STEM. One suspects the no-fan-of-gender-restricted-public-schools ACLU may call BS on this maneuver.

+ - US Dept. of Education Teams With Microsoft-Led Teach.org on Teacher Diversity

Submitted by theodp
theodp writes: Citing a new study that suggests academic achievement can benefit when children are taught by a teacher of their own race, the New York Times asks, Where Are the Teachers of Color? Towards that end, the Times reports that "Teach.org, a partnership between the Department of Education and several companies, teachers unions and other groups, is specifically targeting racial minorities for recruitment." While the NYT didn't think it fit to print, Teach.org describes itself as a "public-private partnership led by Microsoft, State Farm and the U.S. Department of Education." To the consternation of some, the U.S. Dept. of Education delegated teacher recruitment to Microsoft in 2011. With its 2.2% African American/Black and 3.9% Latino/Hispanic tech workforce, who better to increase diversity than Microsoft, right?

+ - Microsoft: When My Baby Taxes Me I Go To Reno

Submitted by theodp
theodp writes: After stressing how important the funding of Washington State education — particularly CS Ed — is to Microsoft, Microsoft General Counsel, Code.org Director, and FWD.us Major Contributor Brad Smith encountered one of those awkward interview moments (audio). GeekWire Radio: "So, would you ever consider ending that practice [ducking WA taxes by routing software licensing royalties through NV-based Microsoft Licensing, GP] in Nevada [to help improve WA education]?" Smith: "I think there are better ways for us to address the state's needs than that kind of step." Back in 2010, Smith, Steve Ballmer, and Microsoft Corporation joined forces to defeat Proposition I-1098, apparently deciding there were better ways to address the state's needs than a progressive income tax.

+ - U.S. Education Chief, Tech Giants Exploit Innumeracy to Advance K-12 CS Agenda

Submitted by theodp
theodp writes: Dismayed by how easily the press was misled into spinning low AP Computer Science exam participation in certain states as evidence of gender and racial inequity, Gas Station Without Pumps patiently explained in early 2014 that it is hardly surprising from a statistical standpoint that there are no female or black students test takers in a state if there are no test takers at all. Still, that didn't stop U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on Thursday from citing the lack of female AP Computer Science test takers from WY, MT, MS, ND, and AK in 2013 as evidence of how America is still failing K-12 students when it comes to civil rights and equity of access to opportunity. Duncan's remarks (video), which came on the 50th anniversary of the passage of what's now known as the No Child Left Behind Act, parroted those made just days earlier by tech-bankrolled Code.org. Fallacious as the argument may be, this and other sensational-but-innumerate factoids from the K-12-learn-to-code movement — e.g., "only about 10 percent of K-12 schools teach computer science" (how many students?), "25 states still don't allow students to count computer science courses toward high school graduation" (again, how many students?), "Students have participated in the Hour of Code 110,296,184 times" (what exactly does 'participated' mean?) — nonetheless resonated with lawmakers, who declared computer science a K-12 'core academic subject' in the just-rewritten No Child Left Behind Act, a victory that Duncan alluded to in his speech. Both Duncan and Code.org thanked Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) for the No Child Left Behind rewrite.

+ - Lies, Damn Lies, and the U.S. Secretary of Education's AP CS Statistics

Submitted by theodp
theodp writes: On the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (aka No Children Left Behind), U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan oddly cited the lack of female AP Computer Science test takers in WY, MT, MS, ND, and AK in 2013 as his final example of how America is still failing K-12 students when it comes to civil rights and equity of access to opportunity. "Everyone here knows we cannot rest because we still have so far to go," said Duncan. "Why? Why do we have so much work ahead of us? Because today, a quarter of high schools with the highest percentage of African-American and Latino students do not offer Algebra II, and a third do not offer chemistry. Because today, about 40% of school districts do not offer preschool programs like the one that Star attends. Because today, we have far too many students of color, primarily boys, being suspended and expelled from school. And finally, because today, you can search five entire states and find only four girls in those states who took an AP computer science exam" (video). But as Gas Station Without Pumps explained more than a year ago, it is hardly surprising from a statistical standpoint that there are no female and black students test takers in a state if there are no test takers at all. So, where would late-to-the-CS-education-game Duncan get the idea to use such an outlandishly innumerate — some say misleading — argument? Perhaps from Code.org, the tech-bankrolled nonprofit that used the same argument to help get computer science declared a K-12 'core academic subject' (a long-time goal of Microsoft and Google) in the Senate draft of the just-rewritten No Child Left Behind Act, a victory that Code.org fan Duncan alluded to in his speech. Both Duncan and Code.org thanked Senator Patty Murray (WA) — a Microsoft fave whose donors include Microsoft execs and Code.org backers Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, and Brad Smith — for the No Child Left Behind rewrite.

+ - Senate Draft of No Child Left Behind Act Draft Makes CS a 'Core' Subject

Submitted by theodp
theodp writes: If at first you don't succeed, lobby, lobby again. That's a lesson to be learned from Microsoft and Google, who in 2010 launched advocacy coalition Computing in the Core, which aimed "to strengthen K-12 computer science education and ensure that computer science is one of the core academic subjects that prepares students for jobs in our digital society." In 2013, Computing in the Core "merged" with Code.org, a new nonprofit led by the next door neighbor of Microsoft's General Counsel and funded by wealthy tech execs and their companies. When Code.org 'taught President Obama to code' in a widely-publicized White House event last December, visitor records indicate that Google, Microsoft, and Code.org execs had a sitdown immediately afterwards with the head of the NSF, and a Microsoft lobbyist in attendance returned to the White House the next day with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and General Counsel Brad Smith (who also sits on Code.org's Board) in tow. Looks like all of that hard work may finally pay off. Education Week reports that computer science has been quietly added to the list of disciplines defined as 'core academic subjects' in the Senate draft of the rewritten No Child Left Behind Act, a status that opens the doors to a number of funding opportunities. After expressing concern that his teenage daughters hadn't taken to coding the way he’d like, President Obama added, "I think they got started a little bit late. Part of what you want to do is introduce this with the ABCs and the colors." So, don't be too surprised if your little ones are soon focusing on the four R's — reading, 'riting, 'rithmetic, and Rapunzel — in school!

+ - With H-1B Cap Hit, Zuckerberg and Ballmer-Led Groups Press for More Tech Visas

Submitted by theodp
theodp writes: With the FY2016 H-1B visa cap reached in the first week of April (only the USCIS knows how many applications were submitted by outsourcing companies and from Bentonville, AR), it's no surprise that groups like Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us PAC and Steve Ballmer's Partnership for a New American Economy Action Fund are pooh-poohing Jesse Jackson's claims that foreign high-tech workers are taking American jobs, and promoting the idea that what's really holding back Americans from jobs is a lack of foreign tech workers with H-1B visas. What is kind of strange, though, is the photo of a young black male (his American job presumably created by high-skilled immigrants) that occupies most of the first page of the three-page H-1B Employment Effect "research brief" touted by the groups, which is identical to one that graces the website of a UK memory distributor, except it's been photoshopped from color to civil-rights-era-black-and-white to produce the H-1B Poster Child version. So, do America's tech billionaires need to be reminded that it's not cool to manipulate images to fake racial diversity?

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