dcblogs writes: Advanced computing experts at the National Security Agency and the Department of Energy are warning that China is "extremely likely" to take leadership in supercomputing as early as 2020, unless the U.S. acts quickly to increase spending. China's supercomputing advances are not only putting national security at risk, but also U.S. leadership in high-tech manufacturing. If China succeeds, it may "undermine profitable parts of the U.S. economy," according to a report titled U.S. Leadership in High Performance Computing by HPC technical experts at the NSA, the DOE, the National Science Foundation and other agencies. The report stems from a workshop held in September that was attended by 60 people, many scientists, 40 of whom work in government, with the balance representing industry and academia. Meeting participants, especially those from industry, noted that it can be easy for Americans to draw the wrong conclusions about what HPC investments by China mean – without considering China's motivations," the report states. "These participants stressed that their personal interactions with Chinese researchers and at supercomputing centers showed a mindset where computing is first and foremost a strategic capability for improving the country; for pulling a billion people out of poverty; for supporting companies that are looking to build better products, or bridges, or rail networks; for transitioning away from a role as a low-cost manufacturer for the world; for enabling the economy to move from 'Made in China' to 'Made by China."
dcblogs writes: The global race to develop an exascale supercomputer may be a Sputnik moment for President Donald Trump. The new administration has said nothing about its plans for supercomputing. Will it participate in the global race to develop an exascale supercomputer? The supercomputing race is going to turn very real for the Trump administration. China and Japan both have plans to deliver an exascale system by 2020. Europe is well in the race and has targeted 2022, but it could deliver something earlier. The U.S. plan had a delivery date of 2023-24 — until a few weeks ago. In the final weeks of the Obama administration, a new plan emerged to produced the nation's first exascale system by 2021. The U.S. Department of Energy's Exascale Computing Project "is now a 7-year project, not a 10-year project, but it will cost more," said Paul Messina, a computer scientist at the Argonne National Laboratory and head of the project. But the Hill recently reported that the Trump administration is considering cutting the Dept. of Energy's advance computing budget to 2008 levels.
dcblogs writes: A new bill in Congress would give foreign students who graduate from U.S. schools priority in getting an H-1B visa. The legislation also "explicitly prohibits" the replacement of American workers by visa holders. This bill, the H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act, was announced Thursday by its co-sponsors, U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), longtime allies on H-1B reform. Grassley is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which gives this bill an immediate big leg up in the legislative process. This legislation would end the annual random distribution, via a lottery, of H-1B visas, and replace it with a system to give priority to certain types of students. Foreign nationals in the best position to get one of the 85,000 H-1B visas issued annually will have earned an advanced degree from a U.S. school, have a well-paying job offer, and have preferred skills. The specific skills weren't identified, but will likely be STEM-related.
dcblogs writes: In his campaign for president, Donald Trump tapped into the viral anger over the use of H-1B visa to displace U.S. workers. The outsourcing of high-skill jobs is a "tremendous threat," he said. Disney workers who trained visa-holding replacements spoke at some of his rallies. But soon after the election, President-elect Trump assembled a 16-member team of CEO-level executives to advise him on job creation, including many from firms that send jobs overseas and have advocated for an H-1B cap increase. Trump's appointments included one of the pioneers of offshore outsourcing to India: Jack Welch, the former chairman and CEO of General Electric. Also on this committee is Bob Iger, the chairman and CEO of Disney, whose offshoring of Disney IT workers was a topic at a Republican presidential candidate debate. The chairman of the "President's Strategic and Policy Forum" is Stephen Schwarzman, the chairman and CEO of Blackstone, a private equity firm that is betting on the success of IT offshore outsourcing. Blackstone last year acquired a majority stake in Mphasis, an India-based IT services firm that is categorized by the U.S. as H-1B dependent, meaning 15% or more of its workers are on a visa. Following Trump's appointments, the Partnership for New York City, a business group, issued a report detailing five "federal priorities." One priority includes immigration reform to increase the H-1B cap and allowing U.S. companies "to hire skilled workers based on labor market demands, not fixed and arbitrary quotas." The Partnership for New York noted in this report that six of its members were members of Trump's economic advisory committee.
dcblogs writes: Repealing the Affordable Care Act without a replacement leaves some 18 million without health insuance in the first year alone, the Congressional Budget Office warned Tuesday. Millions more will lose insurance later on. The estimate includes independent, or gig, workers who use Fiverr's job marketplace. "The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is incredibly important," said Brent Messenger, Fiverr's global head of community. A wholesale repeal of the ACA, or Obamacare, will not only "negatively impact our marketplace but the gig economy as a whole," he said. Republicans in Congress and President-elect Donald Trump are promising an Obamacare replacement, but so far they haven't delivered it. That is making people nervous, because some of the ACA's provisions — including coverage for pre-existing conditions — are very important, especially to older independent workers, Jane Langeman, an independent management consultant and president of the Association of Independent Information Professionals (AIIP), "Many of us are on our second-career as independent business owners and have a lot of life and pre-existing conditions under our belts," said Langeman. "The Affordable Care Act made it easier for business owners to even get health insurance, especially when faced with pre-existing health conditions," she said.
dcblogs writes: In early December, Carnival Corp. told about 200 IT employees that the company was transferring their work to Capgemini, a large IT outsourcing firm. The employees had a choice: Either agree to take a job with the contractor or leave without severance. The employees had until the week before Christmas to make a decision about their future with the cruise line. By agreeing to a job with Paris-based Capgemini, employees are guaranteed employment for six months, said Roger Frizzell, a Carnival spokesman. "Our expectation is that many will continue to work on our account or placed into other open positions within Capgemini" that go well beyond the six-month period, he said in an email. But one employee isn't buying any of it. After receiving his offer letter from Capgemini, he sent a counteroffer. It asked for a $500,000 letters and apology letters to all the affected families.
dcblogs writes: The Electronic Frontier Foundation is keenly worried that President-elect Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress will step up surveillance activities and pass laws that infringe on electronic rights. The EFF is advising the tech sector to use end-to-end encryption for every transaction by default and to scrub logs. "You cannot be made to surrender data you do not have," the EFF said. "It's very clear to us that he (President-elect Donald Trump) is no friend to civil liberties," sais Rainey Reitman, director of the EFF's activism team. It believes Trump and the new Congress will seek encryption backdoors. The tech community is wary, generally, of Trump. More than 1,000 people who work at tech firms have signed a pledge, Neveragain.tech, not to help the incoming administration create a database to target people because of race or religion or to facilitate mass deportations. In arguing for resistance, Neveragain is pointing to the importance of databases used in atrocities back to World War II. Commenting generally on the use of data collection by governments, Christopher Browning, a Holocaust researcher who wrote a number of books on the Holocaust, Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland said that in western Europe, especially The Netherlands, "registration is a key, endangering factor."
dcblogs writes: After Disney IT workers were told in October 2014 of the plan to use offshore outsourcing firms, employees said the workplace changed. The number of South Asian workers in Disney technology buildings increased, and some workers had to train H-1B-visa-holding replacements. Approximately 250 IT workers were laid off in January 2015. Now 30 of these employees filed a lawsuit on Monday in U.S. District Court in Orlando, alleging discrimination on the basis of national origin and race. The Disney IT employees, said Sara Blackwell, a Florida labor attorney who is representing this group, "lost their jobs when their jobs were outsourced to contracting companies. And those companies brought in mostly, or virtually all, non-American national origin workers," she said. The lawsuit alleges that Disney terminated the employment of the plaintiffs "based solely on their national origin and race, replacing them with Indian nationals."
dcblogs writes: The U.S believes it will be ready to seek vendor proposals to build two exascale supercomputers — costing roughly $200 to $300 million each — by 2019. The two systems will be built at the same time and be ready for use by 2023, although it's possible one of the systems could be ready a year earlier, according to U.S. Department of Energy officials. The U.S. will award the exascale contracts to vendors with two different architectures. But the scientists and vendors developing exascale systems do not yet know whether President-Elect Donald Trump's administration will change directions. The incoming administration is a wild card. Supercomputing wasn't a topic during the campaign, and Trump's dismissal of climate change as a hoax, in particular, has researchers nervous that science funding may suffer. At the annual supercomputing conference SC16 last week in Salt Lake City, a panel of government scientists outlined the exascale strategy developed by President Barack Obama's administration. When the session was opened to questions, the first two were about Trump. One attendee quipped that "pointed-head geeks are not going to be well appreciated."
dcblogs writes: President-elect Donald Trump realized early in his campaign that U.S. IT workers were angry over training foreign visa-holding replacements. He knew this anger was volcanic. Trump is the first major U.S. presidential candidate in this race — or any previous presidential race — to focus on the use of the H-1B visa to displace IT workers. He asked former Disney IT employees, upset over having to train foreign replacements, to speak at his rallies. "The fact is that Americans are losing their jobs to foreigners," said Dena Moore, a former Disney IT worker at a Trump rally in Alabama in February. "I believe Mr. Trump is for Americans first." Hillary Clinton, in an interview with Vox, said that "everybody with six degrees of separation either knows or thinks they know someone who knows somebody who lost a job to an undocumented worker or to a worker brought over on a visa to do their job. There's just a lot of churn that suggests this is a real problem." What Clinton described is the definition of viral, and she was right. For nearly 25 years, IT workers have been complaining of training their foreign replacements and the anger had indeed gone viral. Trump used that, Clinton did not.
dcblogs writes: IT workers in the infrastructure team at Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC) were notified recently of their layoff. They expect to be training replacements from India-based contractor HCL. The layoff affects more than 500 IT workers. But this familiar IT story begins a little differently. A few days before employees were notified in mid-October of their layoff, HCSC CEO Paula Steiner talked about future goals in an internal, company-wide video. Steiner's comments weren't IT-department-specific, but the takeaway quote by one IT employee was this: "As full-time retiring baby boomers move on to their next chapter, the makeup of our organization will consist more of young and non-traditional workers, such as part-time workers or contractors," said Steiner in the video. What Steiner didn't say in the employee broadcast is that some of the baby boomers moving "on to the next chapter" are being pushed out the door. "Obviously not all of us are 'retiring' — a bunch of us are being thrown under the bus," said one older employee.
dcblogs writes: China recently deployed what it calls a "security robot" in a Shenzhen airport. It's named AnBot and patrols around the clock. It is a cone-shaped robot that includes a cattle prod. The U.S.-China Economic and Secruity Review Commission, which look at autonomous system deployments in a report last week, said AnBot, which has facial recognition capability, is designed to be linked with China's latest supercomputers.
dcblogs writes: It is illegal today to use DNA testing for employment, but as science advances its understanding of genes that correlate to certain desirable traits — such as leadership and intelligence — business may want this information. People seeking leadership roles in business, or even those in search of funding for a start-up, may volunteer their DNA test results to demonstrate that they have the right aptitude, leadership capabilities and intelligence for the job. This may sound farfetched, but it's possible based on the direction of the science, according to Gartner analysts David Furlonger and Stephen Smith, who presented their research Wednesday at the firm's Symposium IT/xpo in Orlando. This research is called "maverick" in Gartner parlance, meaning it has a somewhat low probability and is still years out, but its potential is nonetheless worrisome to the authors. It isn't as radical as it seems. Job selection on the basis of certain desirable genetic characteristics is already common in the military and sports. Even without testing, businesses, governments and others may use this understanding about how some characteristics are genetically determined to develop new interview methodologies and testing to help identify candidates predisposed to the traits they desire.
dcblogs writes: A University of California IT employee whose job is being outsourced to India recently wrote Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) for help. Feinstein's office sent back a letter addressing manufacturing job losses, not IT, and offered the worker no assistance. "I am being asked to do knowledge transfer to a foreigner so they can take over my job in February of 2017," the employee, wrote in part. The employee is part of a group of 50 IT workers and another 30 contractors facing layoffs after the university hired an offshore outsourcing firm. The firm, India-based HCL, won a contract to manage infrastructure services. Since the layoffs became public, the school has posted Labor Condition Applications (LCA) notices — as required by federal law when H-1B workers are being placed. UCSF employees have seen these notices and made some available to Computerworld. They show that the jobs posted are for programmer analyst II and network administrator IV. For the existing UCSF employees, the notices were disheartening. "Many of us can easily fill the job. We are training them to replace us," said one employee who requested anonymity because he is still employed by the university.