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November 24, 2014

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November 21, 2014

Weekly Wrapup: Surveillance, Immigration and Satellite Television

It was a busy week, with the Senate rejecting moving forward with a surveillance overhaul bill, President Barack Obama announcing executive actions on immigration and Congress sending a satellite television bill to the White House.

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By Anne L. Kim Posted at 4:53 p.m.

Roundup: President’s Immigration Executive Actions and Tech

President Barack Obama announced his long-awaited executive actions on immigration on Thursday, and CQ Roll Call’s Steven Dennis has the details of the executive actions here.

Reuters lays out parts of the plan that affect the tech industry and reports that “tech industry insiders said the changes, while positive, were limited.” From Reuters:

President Barack Obama plans to make life a little easier for some foreign tech workers, but Silicon Valley representatives are disappointed his immigration rule changes will not satisfy longstanding demands for more visas and faster green cards.

The Wall Street Journal notes:

Mr. Obama’s plan contained only minor benefits for businesses that crave more visas for foreign workers and which have lobbied unsuccessfully for action in Congress. A new program will expand immigration options for foreign entrepreneurs who meet certain criteria. But White House officials said they opted against a plan, favored by high-tech companies, to make visas available from those unused in prior years, after concluding they couldn’t justify it legally.

The Los Angeles Times reports that tech leaders in “Silicon Valley and the Southland collectively reacted to President Obama’s national address with a shrug and a slight smile. But nobody’s jumping for joy.”

More from the Los Angeles Times:

That’s because presidential orders on immigration cannot address the problems that trouble technology companies most: tight limits on temporary visas for high-skilled workers, and a cumbersome system for achieving “green card” permanent resident status they say causes too many talented workers to give up and go back home. Congressional action is required to fix those.

By Anne L. Kim Posted at 9:08 a.m.

November 18, 2014

Retiring Congressman Will Lead AAAS

holt 211 062813 445x294 Retiring Congressman Will Lead AAAS

Rep. Rush Holt, D-N.J., walks down the House steps. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Retiring Rep. Rush D. Holt, D-N.J., will become chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science starting next year.

Holt, whose background is as a physicist, will replace long-time CEO Alan I.  Leshner who announced his retirement earlier this year.

From the CQ Profile on Holt:

From his post on the Education and the Workforce Committee, Holt has actively promoted math and science education. Holt wrote several science and technology provisions in a 2008 higher education law, including a program providing loan forgiveness for students committed to serve in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) fields after graduation….

More federal attention should go to professional development programs for teachers, Holt said. When panel Republicans pushed two bills in 2012 as part of an attempted education law rewrite, Holt said they “ignored science education altogether.” He introduced legislation in 2011 and 2013 to provide certain full-time school teachers of STEM courses with a tax credit for 10 percent of their undergraduate tuition.

On his claim to fame outside of Congress:

Outside of his congressional accomplishments, Holt’s claim to fame might be his five wins on the TV quiz show “Jeopardy!” In 2011, he beat the IBM Watson computer in a round of the game show. “I didn’t expect to win,” Holt said. “This Watson software is a really pretty important step, and it was an opportunity to highlight research.”

More on Holt here and here.

November 14, 2014

Weekly Wrapup: Net Neutrality, Surveillance Overhaul Legislation & Drones

Net neutrality, surveillance overhaul legislation and drones are in your weekly wrap-up.

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November 12, 2014

Leahy Introduces Same-Sex Copyright Inheritance Bill

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Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., walks to the tent of the Fast for Families group protesting on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A bill introduced Wednesday would let spouses in same sex marriages inherit their each other’s copyrights regardless of whether or not the state where the copyright owner dies recognizes same-sex marriage.

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November 11, 2014

It’s Online Shopping Day in China

139477706 445x296 Its Online Shopping Day in China

The webpage seen on a laptop screen in Hong Kong on Feb. 22, 2012. (Aaron Tam/AFP/Getty Images)

Over in China, Nov. 11 was Singles Day, reportedly the biggest online shopping event in the world, and it looks like there was a lot of shopping happening.

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. had a record $9.3 billion in transactions Tuesday, reports The Wall Street Journal, noting though, that the “rate of growth was slower than last year.”

The Washington Post and Forbes compare Alibaba’s Singles Day sales figures with our Cyber Monday and Black Friday online shopping data. Spoiler: Alibaba’s Singles Day figures dwarfs those days.

The AP writes: ‘The company owns trademarks on the name of the holiday and protects its use zealously.”

And while China has “caught the e-commerce bug,” The New York Times reports on the issues in delivering goods in China.

November 10, 2014

Roundup: Reactions to Obama’s Net Neutrality Statement

There was a flood of reactions to President Barack Obama’s net neutrality statement on Monday, with (predictable) criticism from Internet service providers and Republican lawmakers and support from public interest groups and Democratic lawmakers.

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Obama: ‘FCC Should Reclassify Consumer Broadband Service Under Title II’

President Barack Obama said in a statement on Monday that in writing its net neutrality rules, the Federal Communication Commission should “reclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act” while forbearing from “less relevant” provisions.

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November 6, 2014

Group Calls for Payment Changes in Lifeline Program, Looks to Food Stamp Program Model

Under a proposal by the Internet Innovation Alliance, beneficiaries of a federal program that discounts phone service for low-income Americans would directly get the subsidies through debit cards, the government would determine eligibility instead of phone companies and the program would expand to cover broadband.

And in the white paper calling for changes to the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline program, the group looks to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (better known as food stamps) as a model for restructuring how payments are made. Criticizing the program’s structure, including the fact that reimbursements go to telecom companies instead of directly to consumers, the group writes:

In essence, the service provider-centric Lifeline Program is built like an upside-down Food Stamps program that limits consumer choice by paying a grocery store to allow consumers to shop only at that store. By contrast, the existing Food Stamps/SNAP program empowers consumers by providing a debit card that provides low-income shoppers with the freedom to choose among various service providers for a variety of items.

They propose modeling how payments are issued after the federal food assistance program in that individuals would get a debit card to use at authorized companies.

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November 5, 2014

With Udall’s Defeat, Senate Loses Privacy Advocate

udall 267 042914 445x300 With Udalls Defeat, Senate Loses Privacy Advocate

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., arrives in the Capitol for a vote (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Mark Udall lost his re-election bid Tuesday, and CQ Roll Calls’ Rob Margetta reports on the general reaction among some privacy advocates to the Colorado Democrat’s electoral loss and lays out Udall’s role in the Senate as a critic of National Security Agency surveillance programs.

He writes (subscription):

Udall, who lost his seat in Colorado to Republican Rep. Cory Gardner, was one of the most prominent voices in the last session pushing back against National Security Agency surveillance programs. Udall had long expressed reservations about government intrusions, and turned up the public pressure after last year’s disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

More on Udall and what his loss could mean for surveillance overhaul efforts here and here.

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