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United States

Congress Will Consider Proposal To Raise H-1B Minimum Wage To $100,000 (arstechnica.com) 526

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: President-elect Donald Trump is just a week away from taking office. From the start of his campaign, he has promised big changes to the US immigration system. For both Trump's advisers and members of Congress, the H-1B visa program, which allows many foreign workers to fill technology jobs, is a particular focus. One major change to that system is already under discussion: making it harder for companies to use H-1B workers to replace Americans by simply giving the foreign workers a raise. The "Protect and Grow American Jobs Act," introduced last week by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. and Scott Peters, D-Calif., would significantly raise the wages of workers who get H-1B visas. If the bill becomes law, the minimum wage paid to H-1B workers would rise to at least $100,000 annually, and be adjusted it for inflation. Right now, the minimum is $60,000. The sponsors say that would go a long way toward fixing some of the abuses of the H-1B program, which critics say is currently used to simply replace American workers with cheaper, foreign workers. In 2013, the top nine companies acquiring H-1B visas were technology outsourcing firms, according to an analysis by a critic of the H-1B program. (The 10th is Microsoft.) The thinking goes that if minimum H-1B salaries are brought closer to what high-skilled tech employment really pays, the economic incentive to use it as a worker-replacement program will drop off. "We need to ensure we can retain the world's best and brightest talent," said Issa in a statement about the bill. "At the same time, we also need to make sure programs are not abused to allow companies to outsource and hire cheap foreign labor from abroad to replace American workers." The H-1B program offers 65,000 visas each fiscal year, with an additional 20,000 reserved for foreign workers who have advanced degrees from US colleges and universities. The visas are awarded by lottery each year. Last year, the government received more than 236,000 applications for those visas.
Medicine

CVS Announces Super Cheap Generic Alternative To EpiPen (arstechnica.com) 371

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Pharmaceutical giant CVS announced Thursday that it has partnered with Impax Laboratories to sell a generic epinephrine auto-injector for $109.99 for a two-pack -- a dramatic cut from Mylan's Epipen two-pack prices, which list for more than $600 as a brand name and $300 as a generic. The lower-cost auto-injector, a generic form of Adrenaclick, is available starting today nationwide in the company's more than 9,600 pharmacies. Its price resembles that of EpiPen's before Mylan bought the rights to the life-saving devices back in 2007 and raised the price repeatedly, sparking outcry. Helena Foulkes, president of CVS Pharmacy, said the company felt compelled to respond to the urgent need for a more affordable alternative. "Over the past year, nearly 150,000 people signed on to a petition asking for a lower-cost epinephrine auto-injector option and millions more were active in social media searching for a solution," she said in a statement. The price of $109.99 for the alternative applies to those with and without insurance, CVS noted. And Impax is also offering a coupon to reduce the cost to just $9.99 for qualifying patients. Also in the press statement, Dr. Todd Listwa of Novant Health, a network of healthcare providers, noted the importance of access to epinephrine auto-injectors, which swiftly reverse rapid-onset, deadly allergic reactions in some. "For these patients, having access to emergency epinephrine is a necessity. Making an affordable epinephrine auto-injector device accessible to patients will ensure patients have the medicine they need, when they need it."
Facebook

Facebook's 'Journalism Project' Seeks To Strengthen Online News (cnet.com) 119

Facebook is taking more responsibility over its role in the media industry. CNET reports on the company's announcement: The social network on Wednesday announced a new initiative called the Journalism Project, which seeks to put Facebook on steadier footing with the news industry. As part of the effort, the social network will work to help train journalists on how to use Facebook as a reporting tool and assist the public in figuring out how to sniff out misinformation. "We know that our community values sharing and discussing ideas and news," Fidji Simo, director of product for the project, wrote in a blog post. "And as a part of our service, we care a great deal about making sure that a healthy news ecosystem and journalism can thrive." The initiative is part of an about-face for Facebook, which for a long time shrugged off its influence on the news and downplayed the impact of misinformation circulated on Facebook on the 2016 presidential election. The company is now acknowledging the significant role it plays in the consumption of news online, along with its ability to shape journalism's future.
AI

LinkedIn's and eBay's Founders Are Donating $20 Million To Protect Us From AI (recode.net) 74

Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, and Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay, have each committed $10 million to fund academic research and development aimed at keeping artificial intelligence systems ethical and to prevent building AI that may harm society. Recode reports: The fund received an additional $5 million from the Knight Foundation and two other $1 million donations from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and Jim Pallotta, founder of the Raptor Group. The $27 million reserve is being anchored by MIT's Media Lab and Harvard's Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. The Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Fund, the name of the fund, expects to grow as new funders continue to come on board. AI systems work by analyzing massive amounts of data, which is first profiled and categorized by humans, with all their prejudices and biases in tow. The money will pay for research to investigate how socially responsible artificially intelligent systems can be designed to, say, keep computer programs that are used to make decisions in fields like education, transportation and criminal justice accountable and fair. The group also hopes to explore ways to talk with the public about and foster understanding of the complexities of artificial intelligence. The two universities will form a governing body along with Hoffman and the Omidyar Network to distribute the funds. The $20 million from Hoffman and the Omidyar Network are being given as a philanthropic grant -- not an investment vehicle.
Earth

2016 Was Second Hottest Year For US In More Than 120 Years of Record Keeping (climatecentral.org) 435

Last year was the second hottest year for the United States in more than 120 years of record keeping, according to the National Climatic Data Center, marking 20 above-average years in a row. While Georgia and Alaska recorded their hottest year, every state had a temperature ranking at least in the top seven. Climate Central reports: The announcement comes a week before the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which released the U.S. data, and NASA are expected to announce that 2016 set the record for the hottest year globally. Both the global record and the U.S. near-record are largely attributable to greenhouse gas-driven warming of the planet. In addition to the pervasive warmth over the last year, the U.S. also had to deal with 15 weather and climate disasters that each caused more than $1 billion in damage. Together, they totaled more than $46 billion in losses and included several disastrous rain-driven flooding events. These events, along with continued drought, lay bare the challenge for the country to learn how to cope with and prepare for a changing climate, said Deke Arndt, the climate monitoring chief of NOAA's National Centers for Environmental Information. The temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 2.9 degrees Fahrenheit above the 20th century average for 2016, displacing 2015 and ranking only behind 2012, when searing heat waves hit the middle of the country. More notable than the back-to-back second place years, Arndt said, was that 2016 was the 20th consecutive warmer-than-normal year for the U.S. and that the five hottest years for the country have all happened since 1998. Those streaks mirror global trends, with 15 of the 16 hottest years on record occurring in the 21st century and no record cold year globally since 1911.

Comment Works for me and I have Ad-Blocker turned on (Score 1) 102

Businesses

Apple Plans 'High-Tech Manufacturing' of Data-Center Gear in Arizona (businessinsider.com) 102

An anonymous reader shares a Business Insider report: Apple is seeking permission to conduct "high-tech manufacturing" and to build data-center server gear in a Mesa, Arizona, facility, according to a notice published Monday by the US federal government. A notification published in the Federal Register on Monday said Apple was looking for approval from the Foreign-Trade Zones Board to produce "finished products" in a special zone that exempts it from customs duty payments. "Apple Inc has repurposed the site as a global data command center that will conduct high-tech manufacturing of finished data center cabinets for other data centers," according to a document filed by Mesa on behalf of Apple in June and made public Monday. [...] The Arizona effort would mark a rare instance of a US tech company manufacturing and assembling a finished product domestically, where labor costs are higher. Apple's effort appears limited to equipment for its internal operations, however, rather than for a mass-market consumer product.

Submission + - How UC Exploited Visa Programs to Outsoure IT to India (latimes.com)

Nova Express writes: "Using a visa loophole to fire well-paid U.S. information technology workers and replace them with low-paid immigrants from India is despicable enough when it’s done by profit-making companies such as Southern California Edison and Walt Disney Co. But the latest employer to try this stunt sets a new mark in what might be termed 'job laundering.' It’s the University of California. Experts in the abuse of so-called H-1B visas say UC is the first public university to send the jobs of American IT staff offshore." And the American IT workers who were laid off were required to train their foreign replacements.
Operating Systems

Richard Stallman Acknowledges Libreboot Is No Longer A Part of GNU (gnu.org) 397

Libreboot became an official GNU project in May. Now an anonymous Slashdot reader writes: Richard Stallman has officially announced that Libreboot is no longer a GNU package. The maintainer of Libreboot had tried to leave the GNU project in September 2016, but the departure was not acknowledged until January 2017. Libreboot is a replacement for proprietary BIOS systems, effectively a distribution of coreboot without any binary blobs and adding an automated build/install process.
In the post titled "Goodbye to GNU Libreboot," Stallman wrote that "When a package's maintainer steps down, that doesn't by itself break the relationship between GNU and the package. If it is left without a maintainer but is still useful, the GNU Project will usually look for new maintainers to work on it. However, we can instead drop ties with the package, if that seems the right thing to do.

"A few months ago, the maintainer of GNU Libreboot decided not to work on Libreboot for the GNU Project any more. That was her decision to make. She also asserted that Libreboot was no longer a GNU package -- something she could not unilaterally do. The GNU Project had to decide what to do in regard to Libreboot. We have decided to go along with the former GNU maintainer's wishes in this case, for a combination of reasons: (1) it had not been a GNU package for very long, (2) she was the developer who had originally made it a GNU package, and (3) there were no major developers who wanted to continue developing Libreboot under GNU auspices."
Earth

New Analysis Shows Lamar Smith's Accusations On Climate Data Are Wrong (arstechnica.com) 502

Layzej writes from a report via Ars Technica: In 2015, NOAA released version 4 of their marine temperature dataset called ERSST. The new dataset accounted for a known cooling bias introduced when ocean temperature measurements transitioned from being taken in ship engine intake valves to buoy-based measurements. The warming of the last couple decades increased ever so slightly in NOAA's new analysis. This was a red flag for U.S. House Science Committee Chair Lamar Smith (R-TX), who rejects the conclusions of climate science -- like the fact that the Earth's climate is warming. Suddenly he wanted to see the researchers' e-mails and echoed the accusations of contrarian blogs about scientists' supposedly nefarious adjustments to sea surface temperature measurements. Rather than invoking scientific conspiracies, issues like this should be settled by analyzing the data. A new study, led by University of California Berkeley's Zeke Hausfather, does just that -- and Rep. Smith won't like these results, either. To test the NOAA dataset, Zeke's team created instrumentally homogeneous temperature records from sensors available only over the last couple decades. As it happens, the Argo float data, the buoy data, and the satellite data each hew closer to the updated dataset that NOAA used. The older version (3b) gives a global average that is too cool in recent years, growing to an offset of about 0.06 degrees Celsius. The researchers repeat this same analysis for two more major sea surface datasets that are used by the UK Met Office and the Japanese Meteorological Agency for their global temperature records. Both of those datasets also drift cooler than the comparison data, but less so than NOAA's old dataset.

Comment Trump mentioned in the actual article (Score 3, Insightful) 432

"We're encouraged by the pro-growth policies of President Trump," Fields said when announcing the investment shift from Mexico to the Flat Rock facility.

While this is not quoted in the opening paragraph, this would seem to be a significant factor in the decision, and thus maybe worth at least a passing summary in the Slashdot blurb?

Businesses

Ford: We're Canceling $1.6 Billion Mexico Facility, Investing In Electric and US Plant (arstechnica.com) 432

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Today at the Flat Rock Assembly Plant, Ford Motor Company CEO Mark Fields unveiled a large-scale electric vehicle initiative that will run through the company's next five years. Ford plans to invest $4.5 billion in electric vehicle production by 2020, and the company said it will produce 13 new electric vehicles, including a Mustang, an F-150, police cars, and a Transit Custom van. Additionally, Fields revealed that Ford would be canceling a previously announced $1.6 billion-production facility in Mexico. Instead, the company wants to invest $700 million in the existing Flat Rock facility, generating 700 new jobs focused on EV and autonomous initiatives at that location, according to Ford. Ford described seven of the 13 upcoming EVs during its press conference today. The F-150 Hybrid will be available by 2020 in North America and the Middle East, and Fields noted it'll be powerful enough to stand-in for on-site generators in a pinch. The Mustang Hybrid will deliver "V8 power and even more low-end torque" according to Ford; it too is intended for a 2020 release. Generally, electric motors are well suited to applications where you want a lot of immediate torque, so their presence should work well in a light duty truck like the F-150. Among the other notable vehicles highlighted, Ford is planning a fully electric small SUV that can "deliver an estimated range of at least 300 miles" by 2020. The company also wants to produce an autonomous vehicle "designed for commercial ride hailing or ride sharing" in North America by 2021.
Hardware

Samsung's Upcoming Galaxy S8 Smartphone Could Run a PC - Report (cnbc.com) 127

Samsung's upcoming flagship Galaxy S8 smartphone could give users the ability to plug it into a screen and turn it into a desktop personal computer, according to a media report. From the article: The All About Windows Phone blog posted a leaked slide from a presentation showing a Samsung smartphone being connected to a screen with a keyboard and mouse. The slide is titled "Samsung Desktop Experience" and shows a phone powering a screen to create a multi-tasking interface, presumably running on Google's Android mobile operating system. There is not much more information on the slide than a visual representation, but if this is true, it'd be an interesting feature that Samsung will tout as it launches its next flagship phone, one that is crucial to make up the fire-prone Galaxy Note 7 which was subsequently recalled.

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