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Posts tagged ‘Government’

Senate passes legislation For Robo Callers


The Pallone-Thune Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrence (TRACED) Act would require phone carriers and companies to block robocalls without charging customers extra. The legislation would also require carriers to make sure that customers’ calls are coming from actual numbers and not robocalls. The TRACED Act would also encourage the Department of Justice to take more legal action against robocallers. The legislation still has to be signed by President Donald Trump, but The Hill says that the TRACED Act will probably be signed into law within the next week.

Audited By IRS? They Say It Depends On Where You Live & Income


According to a new study, Humphreys County, Mississippi, seems like an odd place for the IRS to go hunting for tax cheats. It’s a rural county in the Mississippi Delta known for its catfish farms, and more than a third of its mostly African American residents are below the poverty line and the most heavily audited county in America.

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During President Barack Obama’s second term, his Department of Energy decided to extend a George W. Bush-era rule that encouraged a move to LEDs and other energy-efficient options. Under the department’s rules, specialty fixtures — large, decorative globes found in bathrooms, candle-shaped lights, recessed lighting, etc. — would also have to move away from incandescent bulbs.

However, the Trump administration believes that in issuing that rule, the Department of Energy overstepped its authority. That view is backed by the lighting industry, which has argued that the law was never intended to be applied to specialty bulbs. The Department of Energy under Trump has adopted this view as well and has issued a proposal that would reverse the agency’s previous position. That would allow makers of specialty lighting to continue to produce inefficient and often wasteful bulbs for the exempt lighting fixtures.

The decision to overturn the rule won’t come without protest. While the battle plays out in court, consumers and businesses may make the decision unnecessary. LED bulbs are quite popular and some major retailers have moved away from less efficient alternatives. 

Some Federal Workers Resort To Go fund Me Site


Dozens of people describing themselves as federal employees are soliciting donations on  “GoFundMe” pages to ease the financial uncertainty ahead of likely missed paychecks. OGE Director Emory Rounds directed agencies on the day of the shutdown to remind their employees “that they remain employees of the federal government during furlough periods.” Standard ethics laws and regulations still apply. Some individual agencies have disseminated their own ethics guidance ahead of the government shutdown.

With the partial shutdown starting  before the Christmas holiday, agencies might not have had time to brief their employees in as much detail as they did during the 2013 lapse in appropriations, Meyer said. The 2013 shutdown ran from Oct. 1 through 17.

Shut Down Creating Headaches For Scientists


The federal shutdown is creating headaches for scientists by hindering research planning and putting an abrupt halt to travel for some academics. However, the worst effects is expected to materialize in the coming weeks.

Lawmakers last year passed legislation funding the majority of federal agencies, including the Education Department and the National Institutes of Health. But they left town before resolving a dispute over a border wall demanded by President Trump and without funding several agencies that are big supporters of research at colleges across the country — among them the National Science Foundation, the Department of Agriculture, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

For academics whose work is supported by the federal government, the shutdown means they can’t communicate with most employees at those affected agencies. Moreover, some federal data will be unavailable to researchers or the public. The shutdown also creates uncertainty over the next round of research funding awards, as proposals aren’t processed and peer-review committees aren’t meeting. As it persists, unanswered questions over funding will have a ripple effect on the status of professors, postdocs and graduate students. New funding uncertainty means many of the hard science programs whose work is funded by agencies like NSF may be less likely to offer positions to graduate students and postdoctoral researchers.

For academics who rely on federal funding, government shutdowns are becoming somewhat familiar. The shutdown that began in December is the third since the beginning of 2018. By Tuesday, it will enter its 18th day. The last multi week shutdown, in 2013, lasted 16 days. The longest ever federal shutdown lasted 21 days, spanning from 1995 to 1996.

Robotics & Racism


A 2016 investigation by ProPublica found that an algorithm used in the U.S. to influence prison sentencing, was racially biased, predicting that black defendants pose a higher risk of repeating offences than they actually do.

While in office, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder voiced concerns about these technologies to the U.S. Sentencing Commission, and making sure the use of aggregate data analysis won’t have unintended consequences.

According to experts, users should not assume that there will be algorithmic fairness and lack of bias in AI programming, especially when these algorithms are trained from human-created datasets.

Because AI algorithms are also designed to perceive patterns in human decision making, they can pick up the implicit biases of their creators.

The criminal justice system is not the only realm in which the implementation of these algorithms have backfired, creating tension between government agencies, technology companies, and directly affected citizens.

Twitter’s attempt at using artificial intelligence to engage with millennials in the U.S. in 2016 went awry after Tay, their verified Twitter chatbot, began spewing anti-semitic and racist comments at users.

Experts agree that A lack of laws exclusively designed to protect against discrimination in relation to big-data and machine learning is a problem. Researchers and computer scientists now face the challenge of creating cutting-edge technology that refrains from relying on decades-old trends of institutional biases and discrimination.

Amazon to Pay Workers $15.00 Minimum Wage



The company’s workforce management practices have come under criticism from both lawmakers and employees in recent years. Some staffers are pursuing legal action against Amazon over claims of unpaid wages, while others are pushing to unionize.

Amazon’s wage raise could also boost its recruiting efforts amid low unemployment and moves by rival retailers to offer more competitive compensation. Walmart Inc. raised the minimum hourly rate for its employees to $11 an hour in January, while Target Corp. set its base pay to $12 a few months later and plans to hit the $15 mark by the end of 2020.

Amazon will start offering more competitive wages in the U.K. as well. The company plans to raise the minimum hourly wage to £10.50, or $13.60, in London and to £9.50, or $12.30, for the rest of the U.K. effective Nov. 1.

It’s Difficult To believe They Don’t Have The Equipment For Cave Problems

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Image result for small size submarine that travels faster underwater

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Submarine Sports Car

Qatar Adds New Courses To It’s Master’s Degree In Library & Information Studies

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University College London Qatar (UCL Qatar) has announced the introduction of new courses within its postgraduate master’s degree of Library and Information Studies.
For the first time in Qatar, specialized courses in archives, records and data management will be taught. These will support the transition of Qatar to a knowledge-based economy and the development of the country’s growing need for library and information specialists.
The updates will help meet the growing need from across government and the private sectors to handle an ever-increasing amount of records, and to support the emerging research sector and e-government initiatives.
Trained data professionals in the sector will be able to manage and handle records from government agencies and private corporations, as well as the emerging research sector in the country.
The announcement comes just weeks after the official opening of the Qatar National Library that will now support Qatar’s innovative and research-based libraries sector to become a
regional leader.

Applications for UCL Qatar’s master’s degree programmes in Library and Information Studies and Museum and Gallery Practice are currently open at UCL Qatar. The degree programmes are available as full-time one year courses or part-time two years courses.

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. 




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


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


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


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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They’re Now Editing Embryos Here In America


MIT Technology Review has learned that the first known attempt at creating genetically modified human embryos in the United States has been carried out by a team of researchers in Portland, Oregon.

The experiment, led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov of Oregon Health and Science University, involved changing the DNA of a large number of one-cell embryos with the gene-editing technique CRISPR, according to people familiar with the scientific results.

To date, three previous reports of editing human embryos were all published by scientists in China. None of the embryos were allowed to develop for more than a few days—and they claim that there was never any intention of implanting them into a womb—

Scientists claim their objective is to show that they can eradicate or correct genes that cause inherited disease, like the blood condition beta-thalassemia. The process is termed “germline engineering” because any genetically modified child would then pass the changes on to subsequent generations via their own germ cells—the egg and sperm.

Some critics say germline experiments could open the floodgates to a brave new world of “designer babies” engineered with genetic enhancements—a prospect bitterly opposed by a range of religious organizations, civil society groups, and biotech companies.The U.S. intelligence community last year called CRISPR a potential “weapon of mass destruction.”

Shoukhrat Mitalipov is the first U.S.-based scientist known to have edited the DNA of human embryos.


A person familiar with the research says “many tens” of human IVF embryos were created for the experiment using the donated sperm of men carrying inherited disease mutations.

Mitalipov’s group appears to have overcome earlier difficulties by “getting in early” and injecting CRISPR into the eggs at the same time they were fertilized with sperm.

Tony Perry of Bath University, Successfully edited the mouse gene for coat color, changing the fur of the offspring from the expected brown to white.

Somewhat prophetically, Perry’s paper on the research, published at the end of 2014, said, “This or analogous approaches may one day enable human genome targeting or editing during very early development.”

Mitalipov was Born in Kazakhstan when it was part of the former Soviet Union. In 2007, he unveiled the world’s first cloned monkeys. Then, in 2013, he created human embryos through cloning, as a way of creating patient-specific stem cells.

His team’s move into embryo editing coincides with a report by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in February that was widely seen as providing a green light for lab research on germline modification.

The report also offered qualified support for the use of CRISPR for making gene-edited babies, but only if it were deployed for the elimination of serious diseases.

The advisory committee drew a red line at genetic enhancements—like higher intelligence. “Genome editing to enhance traits or abilities beyond ordinary health raises concerns about whether the benefits can outweigh the risks, and about fairness if available only to some people,” said Alta Charo, co-chair of the NAS’s study committee and professor of law and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

In the U.S., any effort to turn an edited IVF embryo into a baby has been blocked by Congress, which added language to the Department of Health and Human Services funding bill forbidding it from approving clinical trials of the concept.







Should There Be Another Constitutional Convention in New York?

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New Yorkers have the chance to vote whether they want to hold a constitutional convention to amend, tweak or otherwise improve the founding document of the state every twenty years. Voters have demuurred for the past 50 years. Come November, however, academics, good-government groups and others believe the outcome of the ballot question may be different. But before voters confront the ballot question, they will no doubt be barraged by aka “Con-Con”,  campaigns for and against a constitutional convention. Nonprofit groups interested in issues including campaign finance reform, redistricting, term limits and the legalization of marijuana have come out in favor of a convention. At the same time, unions like the United Federation of Teachers and state legislative leaders have argued against a convention, saying it could repeal hallowed protections.

Speakers waiting their turn at the opening session of the New York State Constitutional Convention in 1967 included, seated from left, Senator Jacob K. Javits, Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller, Chief Justice Earl Warren and Senator Robert F. Kennedy. Credit Bettmann, via Getty Images

Delegates assembled for the opening session of the 1938 constitutional convention in Albany. Credit The New York Times

If voters approve a convention, delegates would be elected in 2018, with the convention held the next year. It remains to be seen.



Wiki Leaks has dubbed it Code- “Vault 7” and it is the largest ever publication of confidential documents on the agency.

More on   VAULT 7

Artificial Intelligence, Racism & The Whitehouse



Artificial intelligence is currently being used by law enforcement across North America to identify convicts at risk of re-offending and high-risk areas for crime. However,recent reports reveal that  AI will disproportionately target or otherwise disadvantage people of colour. 

Example: If a data set contains a bunch of faces of mostly white people, or if the workers who assembled a more diverse dataset (even unintentionally) rated white faces as being more attractive than non-white faces, then any computer program trained on that data would likely “believe” that white people are more attractive than non-white.

Read The Report Here

More On It Here

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Teen Hacks Government FTP Servers


caramel6_001Teen hacker using the alias “Fear” hacked hundreds of FTP servers owned by the U.S. government. The hacker first  gained access to one server, but then discovered that it listed the access credentials to all FTP servers residing on the .us and .gov domains. The .us servers include public data, private data, program source code, and more sensitive data, while the hacker wouldn’t say what’s loaded on the .gov sites. The teen hacker managed to grab credit card numbers from the First Bank of Ohio because the government has access to that particular bank. In turn, the bank stores the sensitive numbers across several SQL tables, which is a form of Excel-like data storage within a database. Moreover, one FTP server located within Florida wasn’t even password protected. It reportedly serves up one file with 267 million records, one file with 76 million records, another one with 400 million records, and more. Since then, that specific FTP server has now become password protected (even though that may be a case of closing the barn door after the data-rich cow has gotten out). the teen managed to collect credit card numbers by the thousands, and social security numbers by the millions. He managed to get the details of state employees including their telephone numbers, names, addresses, and government positions. Apparently, the FTP sites owned by the U.S. government depend on passwords with only five characters. Soon after the federal government shut down the main .us FTP server.

A Safety Warning From The United States Military’s Sprawling Joint Base Lewis-McChord

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“DO NOT chase Pokémon into controlled or restricted areas, office buildings, or homes on base,” it said, in a Facebook post aimed at “budding Pokemon Trainers using Pokemon Go on JBLM.”

Presidential Election Data Maps, Atlas


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North Korea Threatening To Blow Up Manhattan




The Government & The Internet Of Things



Shutterstock image (by a-image): Internet of Things (IoT) concept icon.

By 2020, experts forecast that 26 billion devices will be connected to the Internet, and some predict two or three times that number.

Researchers have concluded that agencies must decide how best to take advantage of the Internet of Things for core missions while protecting privacy and enhancing security. And that security model will likely have to be unique because every endpoint and network connection is vulnerable to hackers. Cybersecurity would also involve protecting IoT hardware and sensors, securing 4G and Wi-Fi, and preventing tampering with power grids and utilities.

Also at issue are federal laws that protect consumer and government data, such as the Privacy Act of 1974 and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, which were designed long before the IoT existed. Geo-location histories, financial information and health data are often stored on smartphones and other devices, and people naturally want assurances that their personal information is secure.  the report suggest that transparency about data policies and management would help.

The General Services Administration’s Smart Buildings initiative is cited as as a good example of an agency using the IoT to its advantage. Under the program, GSA installed sensors on government buildings to measure and manage environmental impact, energy efficiency, operating expenses and other factors.

The report recommends that the government create a strategy to educate the public and federal agencies alike about the IoT and its implications. The authors also urge Congress and the White House to avoid heavy regulation that could hinder the IoT’s growth and said they should instead focus on creating consumer-based standards and ensuring privacy protections.

Read the full report.




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Fed Say NSA Surveillance, Too Secretive For Court

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The US government filed documents in two long-running cases (both in California’s Northern District) related to National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance. As the New York Times notes, these filings mark the first time the government acknowledged that the NSA “started systematically collecting data about Americans’ e-mails and phone calls in 2001, alongside its program of wiretapping certain calls without warrants.The government continues to evoke state secrets privilege—the right to prevent certain, potentially harmful information from being used in court even if it means a case might be dismissed—despite previous rulings against this argument. In Jewel v. NSA, a judge ruled against the state secrets claim back in July—before the Snowden revelations. Jewel v. NSA dates back to 2008, and it’s still proceeding despite plenty of stops and starts. The EFF identifies the fundamental question in the case as “whether the spying program is legal and constitutional.” After its filing in 2008, the government moved to dismiss the case in 2009, a judge in the Northern District of California agreed in 2010, but the Ninth Circuit US Court of Appeals eventually reinstated the case in 2011. The government renewed its attempts to dismiss Jewel v. NSA in 2012, but that argument was rejected earlier this year.




The George Washington Presidential Library opened Friday on his Mount Vernon Estate. The Library will house Washington’s writings and rare books and serve as home to visiting scholars and researchers.

More On Washington’s Library

Federal Government and Digital Strategy

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 The Federal Government has significantly changed its thinking about digital information – treating data as a valuable national asset that should be open and available to the public, to entrepreneurs, and others, instead of keeping it trapped in government systems. 

View Digital Government Strategy

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