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Censorship

Starbucks and McDonald's Announce Porn Blocks On Their Wi-Fi Networks (cnn.com) 284

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNN Money: Anti-pornography groups have succeeded in their efforts to get Starbucks and McDonald's to block porn on the chains' Wi-Fi networks..."We had not heard from our customers that this was an issue, but we saw an opportunity that is consistent with our goal of providing an enjoyable experience for families," McDonald's said in a statement... Starbucks said Friday it's will do so the same thing at its company-owned stores around the globe as well. "Once we determine that our customers can access our free Wi-Fi in a way that also doesn't involuntarily block unintended content, we will implement this in our stores," said a Starbucks spokesperson. "In the meantime, we reserve the right to stop any behavior that interferes with our customer experience, including what is accessed on our free Wi-Fi..."
Meanwhile, this week, the Republican Party officially added the "public health crisis" of porn to its platform.
Facebook

Senate GOP Launches Inquiry Into Facebook's News Curation (gizmodo.com) 357

Michael Nunez, reporting for Gizmodo: The US Senate Commerce Committee -- which has jurisdiction over media issues, consumer protection issues, and internet communication -- has sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg requesting answers to questions it has on its trending topics section. The letter comes after Gizmodo on Monday reported on allegations by one former news curator, who worked for Facebook as a contractor, that the curation team routinely suppressed or blacklisted topics of interest to conservatives. That report also included allegations from several former curators that they used an "injection tool" to add or bump stories onto the trending module. The letter asks that Facebook "arrange for your staff including employees responsible for trending topics to brief committee staff on this issue." The letter was signed by Chairman for the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Senator John Thune (R) from South Dakota.
The Internet

Rand Paul Moves To Block New "Net Neutrality" Rules 438

SonicSpike writes with news about another bump in the road for net neutrality. U.S. Senator Rand Paul, a Republican presidential hopeful, on Wednesday introduced a resolution to block new regulations on Internet service providers, saying they would 'wrap the Internet in red tape.' The 'net neutrality' rules, which are slated to take effect in June, are backed by the Obama administration and were passed by the Democratic majority of the Federal Communications Commission in February. AT&T Inc and wireless and cable trade associations are challenging them in court. Paul's resolution, if adopted, would allow the Senate to fast-track a vote to establish that Congress disapproves of the FCC's new rules and moves to nullify them.
United States

House Bill Slashes Research Critical To Cybersecurity 198

dcblogs writes: A U.S. House bill that will set the nation's basic research agenda for the next two years increases funding for computer science, but at the expense of other research areas. The funding bill, sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the chair of the Science, Space and Technology Committee, hikes funding for computer science, but cuts — almost by half — social sciences funding, which includes the study of human behavior. Cybersecurity uses human behavior research because humans are often the weakest security link. Research funding social, behavioral and economic sciences will fall from $272 million to $150 million, a 45% decrease. The bill also takes a big cut out of geosciences research, which includes climate change study, from $1.3 billion to $1.2 billion, an 8% decrease. The insight into human behaviors that comes from the social science research, "is critical to understanding how best to design and implement hardware and software systems that are more secure and easier to use," wrote J. Strother Moore, the Computing Research Association chair and a professor of computer science at the University of Texas.
HP

Carly Fiorina Calls Apple's Tim Cook a 'Hypocrite' On Gay Rights 653

HughPickens.com (3830033) writes "David Knowles reports at Bloomberg that former Hewlett-Packard CEO and potential 2016 presidential candidate Carly Fiorina called out Apple CEO Tim Cook as a hypocrite for criticizing Indiana and Arkansas over their Religious Freedom Restoration Acts while at the same time doing business in countries where gay rights are non-existent. "When Tim Cook is upset about all the places that he does business because of the way they treat gays and women, he needs to withdraw from 90% of the markets that he's in, including China and Saudi Arabia," Fiorina said. "But I don't hear him being upset about that."

In similar criticism of Hillary Clinton on the Fox News program Hannity, Fiorina argued that Clinton's advocacy on behalf of women was tarnished by donations made to the Clinton Foundation from foreign governments where women's rights are not on par with those in America. ""I must say as a woman, I find it offensive that Hillary Clinton travels the Silicon Valley, a place where I worked for a long time, and lectures Silicon Valley companies on women's rights in technology, and yet sees nothing wrong with taking money from the Algerian government, which really denies women the most basic human rights. This is called, Sean, hypocrisy." While Hillary Clinton hasn't directly addressed Fiorina's criticisms, her husband has. "You've got to decide, when you do this work, whether it will do more good than harm if someone helps you from another country," former president Bill Clinton said in March. "And I believe we have done a lot more good than harm. And I believe this is a good thing.""
NASA

Politics Is Poisoning NASA's Ability To Do Science 416

An anonymous reader writes: Phil Plait just published an article about how politics is interfering with NASA's ability to perform vital scientific experiments. As expected when we heard that Ted Cruz would be made head of the committee in charge of NASA's funding, the Texas senator is pushing hard for NASA to stop studying Earth itself. Plait writes, "Over the years, NASA has had to beg and scrape to get the relatively small amount of money it gets—less than half a percent of the national budget—and still manages to do great things with it. Cruz is worried NASA's focus needs to be more on space exploration. Fine. Then give them enough money to do everything in their charter: Explore space, send humans there, and study our planet. Whether you think climate change is real or not—and it is— telling NASA they should turn a blind eye to the environment of our own planet is insanity." He concludes, "[T]he politics of funding a government agency is tying NASA in knots and critically endangering its ability to explore."
Censorship

Blogger Who Revealed GOP Leader's KKK Ties Had Home Internet Lines Cut 420

blottsie writes Last month, Lamar White, Jr. set off a firestorm in Washington when a post on his personal blog revealed that House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, the third most powerful Republican in the House of Representatives, was a featured speaker at a white nationalist conference put on by former Klu Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke. Then someone climbed in his back yard and severed his Internet cables.
United States

Ted Cruz To Oversee NASA and US Science Programs 496

romanval sends word that U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) will become the new chairman of the subcommittee that oversees NASA and government scientific research. Cruz has both spoken in favor of NASA and attempted to cut its budget, but he's most notable for his opposition to the science supporting climate change. From the article: His vociferous opposition to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and his support of extreme budget cuts could spell trouble for NASA's less prominent programs, such as its own climate research and sophisticated supercomputers. His role on the front lines of the 2013 government shutdown, which critics say had lasting negative effects on public safety, NASA research and EPA scientists' ability to visit contaminated sites, also suggests at best a narrow focus on NASA's largest projects and at worst a disregard for agencies that require science funding.
Transportation

Who's To Blame For Rules That Block Tesla Sales In Most US States? 141

cartechboy writes The common assumption among Tesla fans seems to be that state auto-dealer lobbyists are working with Republican legislators to enact laws banning direct sales of Tesla's electric cars to retail buyers. Is it true? The New York Times published an article with some data points that assesses the supposition. While the article mainly focuses on the conflict between Uber and the Republican party, some quotes could be easily applied to Tesla. For instance, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Preibus said, "It should be consumers, not government bureaucrats or legislators, that deicde what companies get our business." The author of the article, Josh Barro, wrote that 22 states permit direct sales of automobiles by Tesla to retail buyers, and of those the majority--14 of them-- voted for President Obama. He suggested that Democratic California, Illinois, and New York "have freer markets in auto retailing than Texas," which is presently Republican. When looking at a five-year-old article by Nate Silver that looked at political donations by car dealers, fully 88 percent of those donations went to Republican candidates, and just 12 percent to Democrats. That possibly suggests a propensity among Republican state legislators to support the interests for car dealers over those of electric-car buyers. Is the small bit of evidence enough to make a case? Good background on the current system of dealership sinecure can be found in this short 2009 Competition Advocacy Paper from the U.S. Department of Justice, which delves into the history and effects of the dealers-only system which still prevails.
Math

Mathematicians Study Effects of Gerrymandering On 2012 Election 413

HughPickens.com writes Gerrymandering is the practice of establishing a political advantage for a particular party by manipulating district boundaries to concentrate all your opponents' votes in a few districts while keeping your party's supporters as a majority in the remaining districts. For example, in North Carolina in 2012 Republicans ended up winning nine out of 13 congressional seats even though more North Carolinians voted for Democrats than Republicans statewide. Now Jessica Jones reports that researchers at Duke are studying the mathematical explanation for the discrepancy. Mathematicians Jonathan Mattingly and Christy Vaughn created a series of district maps using the same vote totals from 2012, but with different borders. Their work was governed by two principles of redistricting: a federal rule requires each district have roughly the same population and a state rule requires congressional districts to be compact. Using those principles as a guide, they created a mathematical algorithm to randomly redraw the boundaries of the state's 13 congressional districts. "We just used the actual vote counts from 2012 and just retabulated them under the different districtings," says Vaughn. "If someone voted for a particular candidate in the 2012 election and one of our redrawn maps assigned where they live to a new congressional district, we assumed that they would still vote for the same political party."

The results were startling. After re-running the election 100 times with a randomly drawn nonpartisan map each time, the average simulated election result was 7 or 8 U.S. House seats for the Democrats and 5 or 6 for Republicans. The maximum number of Republican seats that emerged from any of the simulations was eight. The actual outcome of the election — four Democratic representatives and nine Republicans – did not occur in any of the simulations. "If we really want our elections to reflect the will of the people, then I think we have to put in safeguards to protect our democracy so redistrictings don't end up so biased that they essentially fix the elections before they get started," says Mattingly. But North Carolina State Senator Bob Rucho is unimpressed. "I'm saying these maps aren't gerrymandered," says Rucho. "It was a matter of what the candidates actually was able to tell the voters and if the voters agreed with them. Why would you call that uncompetitive?"
Government

Michigan Latest State To Ban Direct Tesla Sales 256

An anonymous reader writes As many expected, Michigan Governor Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed a bill that bans Tesla Motors from selling cars directly to buyers online in the state. When asked what Tesla's next step will be, Diarmuid O'Connell, vice president of business development, said it was unclear if the company would file a lawsuit. "We do take at their word the representations from the governor that he supports a robust debate in the upcoming session," O'Connell said. "We've entered an era where you can buy products and services with much greater value than a car by going online."
Government

Conservative Groups Accuse FCC of Helping Net Neutrality Advocates File Comments 283

jfruh writes Conservative groups opposed to net neutrality have a beef with the FCC, claiming the commission helped pro-net neutrality advocates file comments on the subject without similarly helping opponents. In other news out of this camp, it turns out American Commitment, an advocacy group with ties to the Republican billionaire Koch brothers, sent out 2.4 million letters to Congress opposing net neutrality but only collected about 814,000 signatures. The group then generated three letters to Congress for each person signing the petition, one letter to each of the signer's two senators and one to each signer's representative.
The Internet

Net Neutrality Is 'Marxist,' According To a Koch-Backed Astroturf Group 531

Jason Koebler (3528235) writes American Commitment, a conservative group with strong ties to the Koch brothers has been bombarding inboxes with emails filled with disinformation and fearmongering in an attempt to start a "grassroots" campaign to kill net neutrality — at one point suggesting that "Marxists" think that preserving net neutrality is a good idea. American Commitment president Phil Kerpen suggests that reclassifying the internet as a public utility is the "first step in the fight to destroy American capitalism altogether" and says that the FCC is plotting a "federal Internet takeover," a move that "sounds more like a story coming out of China or Russia."
Government

Floridian (and Southern) Governmental Regulations Are Unfriendly To Solar Power 306

An anonymous reader writes with a link to a story in the LA Times: "Few places in the country are so warm and bright as Mary Wilkerson's property on the beach near St. Petersburg, Fla., a city once noted in the Guinness Book of World Records for a 768-day stretch of sunny days. But while Florida advertises itself as the Sunshine State, power company executives and regulators have worked successfully to keep most Floridians from using that sunshine to generate their own power. Wilkerson discovered the paradox when she set out to harness sunlight into electricity for the vintage cottages she rents out at Indian Rocks Beach. She would have had an easier time installing solar panels, she found, if she had put the homes on a flatbed and transported them to chilly Massachusetts. While the precise rules vary from state to state, one explanation is the same: opposition from utilities grown nervous by the rapid encroachment of solar firms on their business."
Government

If Immigration Reform Is Dead, So Is Raising the H-1B Cap 341

dcblogs writes: In a speech Wednesday on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) declared immigration reform dead. He chastised and baited Republicans in Congress for blocking reform, and declared that winning the White House without the support of a growing Hispanic population will become mathematically impossible. "The Republican Presidential nominee, whoever he or she may be, will enter the race with an electoral college deficit they cannot make up," said Gutierrez. If he's right, and comprehensive immigration reform is indeed dead, then so too is the tech industry's effort to raise the cap on H-1B visas. Immigration reform advocates have successfully blocked any effort to take up the immigration issue in piecemeal fashion, lest business support for comprehensive reform peel away. Next year may create an entirely new set of problems for tech. If the Republicans take control of the Senate, the tech industry will face this obstacle: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee could become its next chairman. He has been a consistent critic of the H-1B program through the years. "The H-1B program is so popular that it's now replacing the U.S. labor force," said Grassley, at one point.

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