dcblogs writes: A plan by the U.S. government to require some foreign travelers to provide their social media IDs on key travel documents is being called by critics “ludicrous,” an “all-around bad idea,” “blatant overreach,” “desperate, paranoid heavy-handedness,” “preposterous,” “appalling,” and “un-American." That's just a sampling of the outrage. Some 800 responded to the U.S. request for comments about a proposed rule affecting people traveling from “visa waiver” countries to the U.S., where a visa is not required. This includes most of Europe, Singapore, Chile, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. Travelers will be asked to provide their Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+, and whatever other social ID you can imagine to U.S. authorities. It’s technically an “optional” request, but since it’s the government asking, critics believe travelers will fear consequences if they ignore it. People who are traveling from a country where a visa is required, such as India or China, get a security vetting when they apply for a visa at a U.S. consulate, so this proposal doesn’t apply to them. In a little twist of irony, some critics said U.S. President Obama’s proposal for foreign travelers is so bad, it must have been hatched by Donald Trump.
dcblogs writes: Florida’s announcement Tuesday that a locally transmitted Zika case turned up Pinellas County , which includes St. Petersburg, moves reported cases of the virus a little closer to Georgia. That’s where Maria Stephens, who is pregnant, works as a senior data research analyst. Stephens was initially skeptical about Zika and paid little attention to the headlines about it. “I don't really respond to dramatization and felt that things were possibly being blown out of proportion,” said Stephens. “I'm a statistician at heart and only listen to numbers, so when my quant-minded OB-GYN shared the figures with me, this threat became a lot more real." Zika is still so new in the U.S. it’s hard to know just how employers and employees will react. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the first mosquito-borne cases in Miami in early August. St. Petersburg is about 270 miles away. The millennial generation will likely bear the brunt of the Zika problem. Kelly McBride Folkers, a research associate at NYU Langone Medical Center, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times asking if Zika was, because of its ability to be transmitted through sex, was The Millennials’ S.T.D.
dcblogs writes: The vast majority of the world’s electronics — its servers, PCs, mobile phones — are now manufactured in China. This means any inadvertent escalation over the on-going South China Sea territorial dispute could do more than raise geopolitical tensions. About 84% of the world’s electronics are made in Asia, and about 85% of those goods are made in China, said Michael Palma, an analyst at IDC. “All that product flows through the South China Sea,” said Palma. Headlines about military activities in the region appear frequently. Just this month, Vietnam moved rocket launchers within striking distance of China’s military positions. Recent photographs show new aircraft hangerson China’s islands that are believed to be for fighter aircraft. “The South China Sea dispute is indeed a serious security issue of global significance because it has the potential to lead the world into war,” said Linda Lim, a professor of strategy at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan and a China and Southeast Asia expert.
dcblogs writes: The U.S. is being sued over its plan to take one of the Pacific's most beautiful places, Pagan Island, and turn into a training facility and bombing range for the U.S. military. “Families who formerly resided on Pagan would be forever banished from returning to their home island, which would be turned into a militarized wasteland,” according to the lawsuit filed by lawsuit filed by Earthjustice, which is representing some the groups in the Northern Mariana Islands fighting this action. The 18-square-mile island, which is part Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and a U.S. territory, is about about the size of Hartford, Conn. It is a volcanic island, shaped by magma and violent explosions. There are large rock outcrops, cliffs, King Kong Island-type vistas, relatively high elevations and plateaus. The island was evacuated in 1981 because of volcanic activity, but a handful of people have taken up residence. The government's proposal is reminiscent of the takeover of Bikini Atoll in 1946, which was used for nuclear testing. The U.S. Environmental Impact Statement suggest that the government has made plans to protect the native’s island wildlife. For instance, consider the protections for the fruit bat. “The proposed 0.5- mile (0.8-kilometer) buffer zone around each (Fruit Bat) colony will significantly reduce the potential for aircraft strikes of fruit bats.” [Emphasis added]
dcblogs writes: Last October, the U.S. government began hiring 6,500 new cybersecurity IT professionals. It has hired 3,000 so far, and plans to hire another 3,500 by January 2017, the White House said Tuesday. This hiring is intended to improve the nation's response to "increasingly sophisticated and persistent cyber threats that pose strategic, economic, and security challenges to our nation," said White House officials in a memo. The problem the U.S. faces is pay: For instance, a job ad for an "IT specialist INFOSEC" sets a salary floor of $55,670. The wages can rise to just over $100,000, and a master's degree is needed.
dcblogs writes: Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, on Monday criticized the replacement of U.S. IT workers with foreign labor but stopped short of offering a plan to fix it. In a videotaped interview with Vox, Clinton appears empathetic and sympathetic to IT workers who have trained their foreign replacements as a condition of severance. She mentioned IT layoffs at Disney, specifically. "The many stories of people training their replacements from some foreign country are heartbreaking, and it is obviously a cost-cutting measure to be able to pay people less than what you would pay an American worker," said Clinton in the interview. Keith Barrett, a former IT worker Disney who was among those replaced by contractors, was not happy with Clinton's comments."She starts off as if she understands the problem, but then dismisses it as collateral damage not of significant volume to address, and blends in the problem of illegal immigrant labor, which is mostly working in unskilled labor," said Barrett.
dcblogs writes: In 2003, Tata Consultancy Services, a large India-based outsourcing firm, opened an office Buffalo office, which it described as then Sen. Hillary Clinton's "brainchild." At the announcement Clinton said, "TCS could have located anywhere in the country. I am proud but not surprised that they chose Buffalo." It became a talking point for Clinton in her defense of offshore outsourcing. "Well, of course I know that they outsource jobs, that they've actually brought jobs to Buffalo," said Clinton to Lou Dobbs, then at CNN, in a 2004 interview. "They've created 10 jobs in Buffalo and have told me and the Buffalo community that they intend to be a source of new jobs in the area, because, you know, outsourcing does work both ways." But Tata has since closed that office, and with it, Clinton's example that outsourcing works both ways.
dcblogs writes: Just over a year ago, two people who had been turned down after applying for jobs at Google filed a lawsuit against the company. They claimed they were rejected because of their age. Both were over 40. A federal court in San Jose is now being asked to decide whether many others who sought jobs at Google and were also rejected can join this case. On Wednesday, a motion for conditional certification of collective action status was filed. This motion, similar to a class action, seeks to include "all individuals who interviewed in-person for any software engineer, site reliability engineer, or systems engineer position with Google in the United States during the time period from August 13, 2010 through the present; were age 40 or older at the time of the interview; and were refused employment by Google." A separate effort seeks to expand this to include people who were rejected after telephone interviews. A large number of people may be eligible. Google reportedly gets more than 2 million job applications a year. To build support for their cases, the plaintiffs are submitting additional statements. One woman seeking a job at Google said an "interviewer expressed concern about a cultural fit, noting that she might not be up for the 'lifestyle.'" According to the court document, this unidentified woman assured the interviewer "that she was willing to work long hours," but "the interviewer replied that he was still worried that she was not Googley enough."
dcblogs writes: As president, Hillary Clinton will support automatic green cards, or permanent residency, for foreign students who earn advanced STEM degrees. Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, wants the U.S. to “staple” green cards on the diplomas of STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) masters and PhD graduates “from accredited institutions.” Clinton outlined her plan in a broader tech policy agenda released today. Clinton's “staple” idea isn’t a new. It’s what Mitt Romney, the GOP presidential candidate in 2012, supported. It has had bipartisan support in Congress. But the staple idea is controversial. Critics will say this provision will be hard to control, will foster age discrimination, and put pressure on IT wages.
dcblogs writes: China on Monday revealed its latest supercomputer, a monolithic system with 10.65 million compute cores built entirely with Chinese microprocessors. This follows a U.S. government decision last year to deny China access to Intel's fastest microprocessors. There is no U.S.-made system that comes close to the performance of China's new system, the Sunway TaihuLight. Its theoretical peak performance is 124.5 petaflops (Linpack is 93 petaflops), according to the latest biannual release today of the world's Top500 supercomputers. It has been long known that China was developing a 100-plus petaflop system, and it was believed that China would turn to U.S. chip technology to reach this performance level. But just over a year ago, in a surprising move, the U.S. banned Intel from supplying Xeon chips to four of China's top supercomputing research centers. The U.S. initiated this ban because China, it claimed, was using its Tianhe-2 system for nuclear explosive testing activities. The U.S. stopped live nuclear testing in 1992 and now relies on computer simulations. Critics in China suspected the U.S. was acting to slow that nation's supercomputing development efforts. There has been nothing secretive about China's intentions. Researchers and analysts have been warning all along that U.S. exascale (an exascale is 1,000 petaflops) development, supercomputing's next big milestone, was lagging.
dcblogs writes: Non-compete agreements are controversial for many reasons, but what may be worst of all: Even if you are laid off from your job, a non-compete agreement may still apply. California has made non-compete agreements unenforceable, but Massachusetts has not. Some opponents say that's partly the result of lobbying by EMC, which has considerable clout as a major state employer, headquartered in the Boston suburb of Hopkinton. But the pending $67 billion merger of EMC with Dell, and the prospect of merger-related layoffs, is spurring a new attack on non-compete agreements. State lawmakers are considering limiting non-compete agreements to one year, banning them for low-wage workers and for people terminated without cause. The leading legislative proposal will also require an employer to pay at least 50% of the former employer's salary during the period of time the non-compete is in effect. This salary guarantee is called "garden leave" and is in Massachusetts House bill H.4323. In May, the White House released a report about non-compete agreements. It found that 18% of the workforce is now covered by a non-compete agreement, but over the course of a career, some 37% of all workers will be subject to them.
dcblogs writes: The IT layoffs at MassMutual Financial Group will happen over a period of many months, and it's going to be painful for employees. Employees say they are training overseas workers via Web conferencing sessions. There are contractors in the office as well, some of whom may be working on temporary H-1B visas. Employees say they notice more foreign workers in the hallways. Approximately 100 employees are affected. The employees are angry but can't show it. A loss of composure, anything other than quiet acquiescence, means risking two weeks of severance pay for each year on the job. But maintaining composure is hard to do. "I know a few people that are probably close to a breakdown," said one IT employee.
dcblogs writes: Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's decision to use a private email server ran afoul of the government's IT security and record retention requirements, according to a report by the department's inspector general released today. This use of a private email server did not go unnoticed within the Department of State's IT department. Two IT staff members who raised concerns about Clinton's use of a private server were told not speak of it. Clinton was secretary of state from 2009 to 2013 and during that period she used a private email server in her New York home.
This report by the Department of State's Inspector General about Clinton's use of a private server makes clear that rules and regulations were not followed. It says that Clinton would not have received approval for this server had she sought it. According to the current CIO, the report said, "Secretary Clinton had an obligation to discuss using her personal email account to conduct official business with their offices, who in turn would have attempted to provide her with approved and secured means that met her business needs." However, the report notes, according to these officials, The Bureau of Diplomatic Security and IRM (Bureau of Information Resource Management) "did not — and would not --approve her exclusive reliance on a personal email account to conduct Department business, because of the restrictions in the FAM [Foreign Affairs Manual] and the security risks in doing so."
dcblogs writes: In recent years, major high-tech firms have started releasing workforce diversity data, along with a promise to improve. And there is much room for improvement, according to federal officials. Among the top 75 Silicon Valley tech firms, whites make up 47% of the workforce, Asian Americans 41%, Hispanics, 6% and African Americans 3%, according to an analysis by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Women account for 30% of the workforce at these 75 firms. The high-tech firms included in this list of 75 were based on a San Jose Mercury News ranking of top technology firms in Silicon Valley
dcblogs writes: Tribune Publishing Co., a major newspaper chain, is laying off as many as 200 IT employees as it shifts work overseas. The firm, which owns the Los Angeles Times, The Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribune, Hartford Courant and many other media properties, told IT employees in early April that it's moving work to India-based Tata Consultancy Services. The LA Times has been critical of the use of H-1B visas in offshore outsourcing, in particular the decision by Southern California Edison. The utility hired India-based vendors, including Tata and then cut some 500 IT jobs. "Information technology workers at Southern California Edison have found themselves in the unhappy position of training their own replacements, thanks to a plan by the utility to outsource their jobs to two India-based staffing companies," the Times wrote in an editorial last year; the editorial focused on the use of H-1B visa workers in offshore outsourcing. IT workers at the Tribune are now training their replacements