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Whitehouse Hosted A Session On The Hiring Of Incarcerated People

 

The White House hosted a roundtable comprising executives from such companies as Uber, Home Depot, and Johns Hopkins Health System, as well as officials like governors John Hickenlooper of Colorado and Matt Bevin of Kentucky, to discuss the challenges and benefits of hiring the group of people now referred to as formerly incarcerated.

Crime has long declined in the last decades. Roughly 70 million adults in this country have criminal records; and more than 10 million return to their communities from incarceration each year. For this group, more jobs equal lower recidivism equals better lives. Yet fresh starts are curtailed by cultural bias, skills deficits, and myriad regulatory barriers. Among the most common: state rules that deny professional licenses to people with criminal histories.

Roundtable participants said they would like to see such rules eased or eliminated. They also want more collaboration between governments and businesses to create pathways from incarceration to employment (primarily for nonviolent offenders). The idea of creating more job-training programs inside prisons was discussed. So was raising the profile of the Department of Labor’s 52-year-old federal bonding program, which guarantees for six months the honesty of hard-to-place job candidates, including people with criminal records.

The smallest business at the table was also the most experienced. For more than 30 years, Greyston Bakery, based in Yonkers, New York, has practiced “open hiring”–filling available positions with anyone who wants them, no questions asked. The $20 million company has employed thousands of ex-offenders. Around 65 percent of the current workforce has been incarcerated.

 Policymakers have been making some strides. For example, more than 150 cities and counties have adopted ban-the-box rules preventing employers from asking about criminal history on job applications. But there’s a distinction between making it harder for companies to not hire the formerly incarcerated and persuading them to actively seek out ex-offenders and help them become valued employees. 

 

 

 

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CIA, FBI, and NSA Chiefs Say You Shouldn’t Use Huawei or ZTE phones

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Top officials from major U.S. intelligence agencies including the CIA, the FBI, and the National Security Agency (NSA) have suggested people should not use phones made by Chinese manufacturers Huawei or ZTE. They have“Deep concerns,” over potential security risks claimed to come from using telecoms devices made by companies, “beholden to foreign governments.

There was a discussion at an annual meeting about various threats to the United States from around the world.  A wide range of subjects, including and primarily Russian influence on U.S. politics and North Korea’s nuclear program, right down to drugs entering the U.S. from Mexico. Cyber security and the use of technology in espionage, however, repeatedly permeated talks.

Director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, made the opening remarks. He said the United States is under attack from, “Entities using cyber to penetrate virtually every major action that takes place in the United States,” and called cyber threats one of his greatest concerns and top priorities. Coats singled out Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea as posing the greatest threats.

 

Huawei’s new flagship phone, the Mate 10 Pro, is available for pre-order in the US despite not having any deals with US carriers — so to get some attention, it seems the company has stooped to having fake reviews for the new phone planted online, as spotted by 9to5Google.

The fake reviews, are hosted on the Best Buy website, probably  the result of a contest Huawei ran on Facebook. On January 31st, the company posted to a Facebook group with over 60,000 members, asking for people to leave comments on the Best Buy pre-sale page in exchange for a chance to beta test a Mate 10 Pro. The original post has been deleted, but 9to5Google obtained a screenshot before it went down. “Tell us how to why (sic) you WANT to own the Mate 10 Pro in the review section of our pre-sale Best Buy retail page,” the post states.

 

Waymo vs Uber Revolves Around Allegations of Deceit, Betrayal, espionage & A High-Tech Heist

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Waymo sued Uber, accusing it of ripping off key pieces of its self-driving car  technology in 2016. Uber paid $680 million for a startup run by Anthony Levandowski, one of the top engineers in a robotic vehicle project that Google began in 2009 and later became in Waymo.

Google was also an early investor in Uber, the relationship eventually soured. Its parent company Alphabet also owns Waymo.

Waymo has drawn a sordid picture, contending that Levandowski stole thousands of documents containing Google trade secrets before defecting to Uber. Waymo says Levandowski conspired with former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick to use the pilfered technology in Uber’s own fleet of self-driving cars.

Uber has boldly denied the allegations in the civil case, which has also triggered a criminal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. It’s not clear whether that probe is focused on Uber or Levandowski, who has consistently exercised his right against self-incrimination and is expected to do so again if called to testify during the trial.

Levandowski’s refusal to relinquish his Fifth Amendment rights eventually led Uber to fire him last May, even though he had developed a close relationship with Kalanick.

The stakes in the trial are humongous. Waymo is demanding damages estimated at nearly $2 billion. It also wants a court order that would prevent Uber from using any of the technology that it says was stolen, a move that could hobble the ride-hailing service’s push to design self-driving cars.

The courtroom drama will feature an intriguing cast of characters. The list of expected witnesses includes both the combative Kalanick and Silicon Valley venture capitalist Bill Gurley, an early Uber backer who later helped engineer Kalanick’s departure as Uber’s CEO. (Kalanick resigned under pressure last June.)

Two of the world’s richest people, Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, may also be called to testify about the importance of Waymo’s self-driving project and Levandowski’s role in it.

Both Waymo and Uber each will have only have a total of 16 hours to make their case. That time restraint could prove more daunting for Waymo. It will have to educate a 10-person jury about the intricacies of the eight trade secrets that Uber is accused of stealing, then prove the ride-hailing service used the technology in its vehicles or improperly shared it with others.

The lawsuit has already established internal documents and sworn testimony that exposed spying programs and other shady tactics deployed by Uber to expand its business.

Furthermore, Uber has acknowledged allowing rampant sexual harassment to occur within its ranks, a yearlong cover-up of a major computer break-in and a $100,000 ransom paid to the hackers, and the use of duplicitous software to thwart government regulators.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup has emphasized that Waymo faces the difficult challenge of proving that the ride-hailing service used stolen technology in its self-driving cars.

 

Free Vending Machines For The Homeless Coming To The U.S. February 2018

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A charity in the United Kingdom is testing special vending machines that dispense essential items like water, food, and clothing to homeless people with nowhere to go at night. The free-to-use service is the work of Nottingham-based Action Hunger. Huzaifah Khaled is the founder of this organization.  Access to the machines is exclusively permitted to those in need. Items can only be vended with the use of a special key card issued by Action Hunger. The key cards are disseminated to their partner organizations in each city, which tend to have homeless shelters and local outreach centers.

The key cards can be used to get up to three items per day, and Action Hunger hopes it will enable people to get some help, without becoming too reliant on the vending machines. The non-perishable contents of the vending machine such as fresh fruit, energy bars, sandwiches, socks, gloves, sanitary towels, toothbrush and toothpaste combination packs, and foil blankets, come from donations, while most of the fresh food is being supplied by redistribution organizations. In order to keep the key cards active, individuals must check in with their regular homeless shelter on a weekly basis.

The free vending machines will be in the United States February 2018. New York will receive the first machine, and Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle will follow. Action Hunger has a special interest in a host of cities across America and would like to reach as many people as possible including more areas in Europe.

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The FCC Voted To Eliminate Net Neutrality

GettyImages: Chip Samodevilla

The Federal Communications Commission has voted to deregulate the broadband industry and eliminate net neutrality rules that prohibit Internet service providers from blocking and throttling Internet traffic.

The repeal of net neutrality rules came about a year ago when Donald Trump won the presidency and appointed Republican Ajit Pai to the FCC chairmanship. Pai and Republican Commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Brendan Carr provided the three votes necessary to overturn the net neutrality rules and the related “Title II” classification of broadband providers as common carriers.

Democrats Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel provided bitter dissents in today’s 3-2 vote. Despite the partisan divide in government, polls show that majorities of both Democratic and Republican voters supported the rules, and net neutrality supporters protested outside the FCC headquarters before the vote.

Home Internet providers and mobile carriers will not be held by strict net neutrality rules. ISPs will be allowed to block or throttle Internet traffic, or offer priority to websites and online services in exchange for payment.  The Federal Trade Commission could punish ISPs if they make promises and then break them, but there’s no requirement that the ISPs make the promises in the first place.

FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn addresses protesters outside the Federal Communication Commission building to rally against the end of net neutrality rules on December 14, 2017 in Washington, DC. / FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn addresses protesters outside the Federal Communication Commission building to rally against the end of net neutrality rules on December 14, 2017 in Washington, DC.

 

New York City Council Passed Legislation To Address Algorithm Discrimination

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The New York City Council yesterday passed legislation seeking to address problems with Algorithms which can determine which school a child can attend, whether a person will be offered credit from a bank, what products are advertised to consumer, and whether someone will receive an interview for a job. Government officials also use them to predict where crimes will take place, who is likely to commit a crime and whether someone should be allowed out of jail on bail. The algorithms used in facial recognition technology, for example, have been shown to be less accurate on Black people, women, and juveniles.

The new bill seeking the signature of Mayor Bill de Blasio. States:

This bill would require the creation of a task force that provides recommendations on how information on agency automated decision systems may be shared with the public and how agencies may address instances where people are harmed by agency automated decision systems.

The task force would need to be formed within three months of the bill’s signing, and importantly it must include “persons with expertise in the areas of fairness, accountability and transparency relating to automated decision systems and persons affiliated with charitable corporations that represent persons in the city affected by agency automated decision systems.”

The New York division of the ACLU has argued in favor of it.

See The bill Here,

Those Sinking Medicare Margins

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Payment shifts and regulatory mandates are putting hospital Medicare margins on a downhill slope. Hospital executives say the chasm between the two has widened in recent years due to a number of factors: federal mandates to deploy expensive health information technology systems under the meaningful use program, a 2% across-the-board cut to provider Medicare payments under the Budget Control Act of 2011, reductions in Medicare disproportionate-share hospital payments and the move to alternative-payment models. Layoffs and reductions in services have been common coping mechanisms to avoid the income drop

While expanded coverage is a net positive, hospital leaders still complain that the government payment programs do not cover costs. For Medicare, hospitals received 88 cents for every dollar spent caring for beneficiaries in 2015 and 90 cents for Medicaid patients, according to the American Hospital Association. Combined underpayments from the government programs were $57.8 billion in 2015. This includes a shortfall of $41.6 billion for Medicare and $16.2 billion for Medicaid, the association reported.

Attempts to move Medicare from a fee-for-service system to a value-based model pose perhaps the most serious challenge to hospitals and health systems struggling with low Medicare margins.

In 2015, the Obama administration announced it wanted 30% of payments for traditional Medicare benefits to be tied to alternative-payment models such as accountable care organizations by the end of last year and 50% by the end of 2018.

The first goal was met, but since the Trump administration took over in January, CMS officials have been coy about their own goals for the shift beyond noting they want the move to be voluntary.

Overall, hospital leaders believe they are getting mixed messages from the Trump administration over whether it still supports the move away from fee-for service Medicare, given that it has canceled or scaled back several new pay models created under the Obama administration.

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There are things Congress can do to stabilize and lessen the financial pressures hospitals now face. The Medicare recovery audit contractor program could be overhauled. Under the program, private companies audit the medical records of hospitals and doctors to find instances of improper billing or erroneous payment from the government.

Hospital executives argue that claims are often mistakenly flagged as being improper in some way. Of the claims that have completed the appeals process, 62% were overturned in favor of the provider, according to the AHA. The association found that 43% of all hospitals reported spending more than $10,000 managing the RAC process during the third quarter of 2016, 24% spent more than $25,000 and 4% spent over $100,000.

Despite those concerns, the program has scored big for the federal government. RACs have recouped $8 billion in improper payments since its inception in 2009, according to the CMS.

The other recurring request from hospitals is that Congress preserve the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act. A proposal to repeal the mandate is included in the Senate version of tax reform legislation.

 

 

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