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Tech News Roundup

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05/22/2015

Key Issues

Tech Business

America’s Self-Inflicted Wounds. The most potent forces constraining America’s economic power in the world are coming from Capitol Hill, not Beijing. Political dysfunction is doing serious damage to U.S. economic power. (The Atlantic)

It'd be crazy if Venture Capital firms didn't fix their gender problem. How bad is it? In 2014, only 6 percent of partners at venture capital firms were women, according to a much-cited Babson College study. The figure is not only minuscule but also represents a decline from 10 percent in 1999. Not only are venture capitalists not employing women, they’re feeding tech’s gender gap overall. (Wired)

FCC Chairman Reached Out to Time Warner Cable, Charter CEOs. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler has a message for cable chiefs: Just because regulators leaned against the Comcast Corp.- Time Warner Cable Inc. merger doesn’t mean all future cable deals are doomed. (Wall Street Journal)

Goldman really, really, really wants to be a tech company. Pretty much every company these days is trying to position itself as a tech company. As far as corporate jargon goes, it’s right up there with calling your company innovative. But Goldman Sachs really, really means it. (Quartz)

Ignore the naysayers, the US economy is more than fine. Let’s be clear, the US economy suffered a catastrophic recession after the financial crisis that hurt a lot of people, many still haven’t recovered or ever will. But there’s a difference between economic growth and fairness—the US economy ain’t perfect, but this economic supertanker is absolutely moving forward at a relatively healthy clip. (Quartz)

Inside the labs where Netflix is trying to make televisions suck less. Where the company is trying to shape the future of its service, and the next TV you buy. (The Verge)

Scott McNealy Is Back—as a Startup CEO. Sun Microsystems ex-chairman leads Wayin, which helps companies turn social-network posts into marketing messages. (Wall Street Journal)

Etsy’s Unique IPO Crafts a Stock Swoon. Results miss some forecasts, but stock-price decline may have been exacerbated by unusual IPO arrangement. (Wall Street Journal)

Silicon Valley Is a Big Fat Lie. We live in an era of technical ability that would have nauseated our ancestors with wonder, and so much of it comes from one very small place in California. But the gap between the Silicon Valley that enriches the world and the Silicon Valley that wastes itself on the trivial is widening daily, which is why it needs to blow up these seven myths about itself before it's too late. (GQ)

Privacy

Editorial: Rand Paul’s Timely Takedown of the Patriot Act. He may have annoyed Senate colleagues by seizing the floor for a marathon monologue on Wednesday, but Senator Rand Paul did Americans a singular service by forcing attention to the fact that their civil liberties remain at stake as Congress drifts toward a renewal of the Patriot Act that is likely to do too little to rein in government surveillance programs. (New York Times)

Obama Admin: Senate Needs to Pass NSA Reform Now to Avoid National Security 'Uncertainty'. Senior Obama administration officials, taking their plea directly to reporters, said the Senate must end its brinkmanship over the House-passed USA Freedom Act and approve the measure before the upper chamber breaks for its scheduled Memorial Day recess. (National Journal)

Senate Is Sharply Split Over Extension of N.S.A. Phone Data Collection. With the federal government’s bulk collection of phone records set to expire in June, senators remained deeply divided on Thursday over whether to extend the program temporarily or accept significant changes that the House overwhelmingly approved last week. (New York Times)

Senate Intelligence Chairman Presents His Last-Ditch Plan to Keep NSA Bulk Data Collection From Lapsing. Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr has a plan to stave off a lapse in the NSA's collection of bulk data, but he hasn't talked to the White House or Democrats yet about whether it would have their support. (National Journal)

PATRIOT Act in jeopardy as House skips town. The crux of the PATRIOT Act has barely more than a week to live, and it’s looking increasingly doubtful Congress can come to terms on a plan to save it. Top Senate Republicans scrambled Thursday for a way to keep the controversial surveillance methods intact, but the House left town without any sign they’ll throw the Senate a lifeline. (Politico)

McConnell sets up Saturday Senate votes on NSA. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) moved Thursday to end debate on two bills authorizing the National Security Agency's surveillance programs, setting up a pair of rare Saturday votes in the Senate. McConnell filed cloture on the House-passed USA Freedom Act, which would reform the NSA programs. (The Hill)

What happens if the PATRIOT Act expires? With the Senate stuck over whether and how to reform the PATRIOT Act before parts of it expire within days, officials across Washington are starting to contemplate a future in which lawmakers don’t act — and key surveillance provisions simply die. (Politico)

White House won’t rule out short-term NSA extension. The White House refused to rule out a short-term extension of the Patriot Act on Thursday, even as it pressured the Senate to pass legislation approved by the House that would reform the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs. (The Hill)

FBI ignored Patriot Act privacy rules for years. According to a watchdog report, the FBI took seven years to fulfill a legal obligation to adopt additional privacy protections for searches under legal provisions of the Patriot Act currently up for debate in the Senate. (The Hill)

FCC Prepares to Become the Internet's Privacy Cop. Internet providers will soon face new rules on how they can handle customer information. The Federal Communications Commission is warning Internet providers to get in line as it prepares to enforce new privacy regulations. (National Journal)

Global Trade

Republicans keep Obama trade agenda alive. On life support as of early Thursday morning, President Barack Obama’s trade agenda has found new life. (Politico)

Ex-Im Bank Deal Gets Trade Bill Moving. The Senate advanced a major trade bill Thursday, after a last-minute deal on a vote to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank prompted Sen. Maria Cantwell and others to break away from a powwow on the chamber floor to say, "Aye." (National Journal)

How the Senate got 60 votes for Obama on fast-track. The Senate edged closer to granting the White House fast-track trade authority Thursday in a cliffhanger vote that was in doubt until the very end. (The Hill)

House GOP split on trade growing clearer. Democrats in Congress are in open warfare with President Barack Obama and Republicans over the White House’s trade agenda, but conservative dissenters are conducting their fight quietly behind closed doors. (PoliticoPro)

Ryan seeks to rally GOP on fast-track. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is rallying Republicans around fast-track authority. Ryan, the chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, spent Thursday morning courting his party for votes before heading out of town for the Memorial Day recess. (The Hill)

Russia 'will block' Google, Twitter and Facebook if they withhold blogger data. Kremlin demands internet services comply with its laws, which require official registration of bloggers with more than 3,000 readers a day. (The Guardian)

Chinese Army newspaper calls for military role in Internet culture war. An article published today in the People's Liberation Army Daily, the official newspaper of China's military—and reprinted in part by Qiushi, the official magazine of the Chinese Communist Party—calls the Internet "the ideological 'main front' and 'the main battlefield'" upon which China must fight an ideological war upon the West to defend itself from the creeping evils of Western thought. (ArsTechnica)

Japan's Amari: next week's TPP ministers' meeting to be delayed. Japanese Economics Minister Akira Amari said on Friday that a ministers' level meeting on a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade block will not take place as scheduled next week due to lack of progress in working level talks. (Reuters)

U.S. Aims to Limit Exports of Undisclosed Software Flaws. The U.S. Commerce Department proposed new export controls Wednesday that would treat unknown software flaws as potential weapons, a move aimed at reducing the security industry’s aid to rival nations. (Reuters)

Trade Bank’s Supporters Scramble to Save It. Business groups fear conservative opposition has grown intense enough to take down the U.S. Export-Import Bank when the bank’s charter expires June 30. (Wall Street Journal)

Twenty-One Senate Democrats Seek Release Of LAC Report Critical Of TPP. Close to half of the Senate Democratic caucus has urged U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman to publicly release a report submitted to the administration by an advisory committee of labor representatives that takes a critical view of how the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations are handling many key areas. (Inside Trade)

Cybersecurity

Healthcare hackers may have accessed lawmaker info. House lawmakers were warned Thursday night that their personal data may have been compromised in a cyberattack involving health care plans from CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield. (Politico)

Large online dating site AdultFriendFinder confirms data breach. One of the largest online dating sites, the 64 million-member AdultFriendFinder.com, has contacted law enforcement and high-profile security firm FireEye to investigate a data breach. (USA Today)

New NSA documents reveal plans to deliver malware through the Google Play store. The NSA developed a plan to deliver malware through Google and Samsung app stores, according to newly published documents obtained by Edward Snowden and published by The Intercept. The documents details a program called IRRITANT HORN, which delivers malware by intercepting web traffic to and from mobile application servers. (The Verge)

Security questions are the opposite of secure. Google has confirmed what everyone suspected after Mitt Romney’s email was hacked by correctly guessing his security question, “What’s your favorite pet?": Security questions aren’t really secure at all. (The Hill)

NIST plans fall cybersecurity workshop on supply chain risk management. The National Institute of Standards and Technology plans to conduct a cybersecurity workshop this fall on supply chain risk management for the public and private sectors, according to Jon Boyens, a senior adviser for information security at the agency. (Inside Cybersecurity)

Wireless industry developing 'use cases' to implement cyber strategy. The wireless communications industry is prioritizing elements of the federal framework of cybersecurity standards and developing "use cases" for its members, as part of a broad telecom sector effort to implement a cyber strategy approved two months ago by a Federal Communications Commission advisory panel. (Inside Cybersecurity)

FTC offers advice on data-breach responses. The Federal Trade Commission will view companies that cooperate with criminal and law enforcement agencies more favorably than those that don't in agency data-breach investigations, the FTC said in a blog post. (Inside Cybersecurity)

Taxes

Hatch gives tax reform working groups more time to develop plans. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch announced Thursday he will give his tax reform working groups more time to develop recommendations for revamping the code. (PoliticoPro)

Internet Governance

CEO Who Pushed Icann Independence Is Leaving in 2016. The chief executive who sought greater autonomy for the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers — the agency that manages the technical operations of the Internet — has announced he is leaving early next year. Officials of Icann announced Thursday that Fadi Chehadé, who has helped lead discussions of Icann’s proposed break with the U.S. government, has informed the nonprofit’s board he is leaving in March 2016 to pursue work in the private sector. (Wall Street Journal)

Net Neutrality

Comcast ends an interconnection fight before net neutrality takes effect. Comcast has signed an interconnection agreement with Internet backbone operator Level 3 with just a few weeks to go until the Federal Communications Commission starts taking complaints under its new net neutrality regime. (ArsTechnica)

Immigration

Tech and immigration: ‘PJ’ stays for now, but Echo Labs’ fate up in the air. You might have heard about the campaign to “Let PJ Stay.” Well, PJ — a Belgian entrepreneur whose student visa was set to expire soon and who had recently become the face of tech’s push for immigration reform — gets to stay. But he and his company may have to leave the U.S. anyway. (Silicon Beat)

Workforce

Making Computer Science More Inviting for Women in Tech: A Look at What Works. When Sonja Khan started college, she’d never thought of studying computer science. But when she heard from friends that the intro class was good, she decided to give it a try — and then ended up majoring in it. (New York Times)

IP Enforcement

“Copyright trolling” movie studio gets hit with Godzilla-sized lawsuit. Voltage Pictures sued thousands for torrenting. Now, it's the alleged infringer. (Ars Techinca)

Innovation

Calling all space tech. The space technology team at NASA issued a small barrage of requests May 21 to the private sector, with a simple message: Let us invest in your tech. (FCW)

It’s official: Cash is no longer king in the UK. The trend underscores the massive, worldwide shift away from cash and toward online payments and debit cards. (Quartz)

Wearables are sexy, but the smart money in health startups is elsewhere. The world of digital health is exploding. Hundreds of new startups have sprung up, and the venture capital to support them is growing rapidly. And it has outdone growth in venture funding in general, as well in the biotech, software, or the medical devices industries. (Quartz)

Oh look, more evidence humans shouldn't be driving. Saving lives is the best argument for cars that drive themselves. Road crashes killed 1.24 million people worldwide in 2010. Here in the US, they take more than 30,000 lives each year. And more than 90 percent of all crashes can be blamed on human error. (Wired)

Nvidia Teaches Cars to ‘See’. Google is preparing to test its autonomous cars on roads near its Mountain View, Calif., headquarters. Down the road at Nvidia, executives says the self-driving car of tomorrow is probably going to look a lot more like today’s models. (Wall Street Journal)

Environment and Sustainability

House of Representatives approves bill cutting Earth science, energy funding. The full House has now passed a new America COMPETES Act, which sets funding priorities for scientific research at several government agencies. In keeping with previous Congressional attacks on research, this one targets the NSF, Earth sciences, environmental research at the Department of Energy, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency‐Energy, a high-risk research body modeled on DARPA. (ArsTechnica)

CIA Shuts Down Climate Research Program. The Central Intelligence Agency is shutting down a research program that offered classified data to scientists to examine the link between climate change and global security threats. (National Journal)

Scientists just realized a chunk of Antarctica is leaking trillions of liters of water into the sea. New research, however, reveals that in the last five years, the peninsula has been melting at a rapid clip, sending 300 trillion liters of melted glacier into the ocean—what you’d get if you filled the Empire State Building with water and dumped it into the sea 350,000 times. That rate shows no sign of slowing. (Quartz)

Public Sector

Senate GOP unveils spending cuts for 2016. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a series of allocations Thursday for fiscal 2016 that cut funding below current levels and differ from a proposal by House Republicans. Senate Republicans, like their House counterparts, are moving forward with spending bills that are based on sequestration budget ceilings imposed by a 2011 law. (The Hill)

New Approps Bill Continues To Call Out China In Procurement Restriction. The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday (May 20) is slated to consider a draft spending bill that maintains requirements for government agencies to use extra caution when buying Chinese-made technology products. (Inside Trade)

White House unveils regulatory roadmap. The Obama Administration unveiled its semiannual regulatory agenda on Thursday, detailing the rules that federal agencies will make top priorities in the next year. (The Hill)

Obama Names Denise Turner Roth to Head GSA. The White House on Thursday nominated Denise Turner Roth to lead the General Services Administration. The former city manager and legislative aide who became GSA deputy administrator a year ago, had been acting in the post since the February departure of Dan Tangherlini. (GovExec)

Civil service reform can affect millions, but draws little attention. A Senate hearing on civil service reform sounds like the snoozer it was. It’s really too bad, though not surprising, that Wednesday’s session drew so little attention. What eventually emerges from Congress could affect the livelihood of millions of federal employees, their families and the way taxpayer money is spent. (Washington Post)

Senator bashes SBA and challenges its small business contract numbers. The nation's small businesses are being "cheated" because of serious flaws within the federal procurement process, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) said this week. (Federal News Radio)

Privacy, security and one login to rule them all? Trust, privacy and security were at the center of a panel discussion Thursday at the U.S. Digital Services’ DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit. (FCW)

Inside the USAJOBS revamp and other digital summit highlights. Government technology projects usually get headlines when things go wrong or get expensive. On the contrary, programs that function well tend to get little recognition, though they deserve it. Held Thursday, the DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit showcased a few of those programs. (NextGov)

Teaching federal contracting officers about Agile could net you $320,000. The government is searching for the best way to teach federal employees about buzzy tech terms, such as "agile software development" and "DevOps". (NextGov)

Watchdog says agencies aren't tracking how much they spend on smartphones. Federal agencies aren't maintaining complete inventories of smartphones and other mobile devices used by their employees and aren’t fully tracking how much they’re spending on such gadgets, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office. (NextGov)

NS2020 RFP probably pushed back. The General Services Administration had been aiming at a July release of the RFP for the foundation contract of its next-generation Network Services 2020 strategy for telecommunications services, but a top agency official managing the effort said more time is likely to be needed as his team gathers input from industry and other interested parties. (FCW)

OFPP, USDS throw down a $360k challenge for digital services training. The U.S. Digital Service and Office of Federal Procurement Policy are putting $360,000 up for grabs for the development of a better way to train federal contracting employees to buy digital services. (Federal News Radio)

ITI Member News

Adobe discontinues Photoshop Touch, previews its next generation. Adobe ceases development on its mobile cross-platform image-editing app to make way for a more modern version, but promises Android for more of its apps by the end of the year. (CNet)

Bigger is better? Apple reportedly working on 12-inch iPad. Is bigger better? Apple apparently thinks so. The Cupertino tech giant is reportedly developing a 12-inch version of the iPad that would sport several features its smaller 9.7-inch and 7.9-inch counterparts lack, like the ability to view two apps side-by-side and allow several log-in accounts. (Mashable)

Google Says New Store Data Help Mobile Ads. Google Inc. says it is doing a better job linking the ads consumers see on their smartphones to what they buy in stores, prompting some advertisers to boost their spending on mobile ads. (Wall Street Journal)

Hewlett-Packard Says Breakup Will Cost Billions, but Sees Savings Too. Hewlett-Packard Co.’s upcoming breakup into two separate companies will cost billions—but there will be $1 billion in cost savings too, the company said Thursday. (Wall Street Journal)

Intel catches the wind with rooftop micro-turbine array. Intel is turning the roof of its Santa Clara headquarters into a mini-wind farm with what it says is one of the largest micro-turbine arrays in the country. (San Jose Mercury News)

Intuit Results Top Guidance on Strong Tax Season, QuickBooks Growth. Intuit Inc., the maker of TurboTax, reported revenue and earnings excluding items above its guidance for the April quarter, reflecting a strong tax season and growth in its small-business operations. (Wall Street Journal)

Lenovo Posts Lower Profit. After the buying spree, now comes the hard work for Lenovo Group Ltd. Lenovo Chairman and Chief Executive Yang Yuanqing warned of challenges ahead, after the Chinese computer maker posted a 37% profit slump, missing analyst expectations, in its first full quarter after acquiring unprofitable smartphone maker Motorola Mobility and International Business Machines Corp.’s low-end server business. (Wall Street Journal)

Microsoft is overhauling Outlook.com with a new look and features. Microsoft is migrating its Outlook.com email service over to Office 365 soon, and with it will come a new interface and features. In a significant overhaul of Outlook.com, Microsoft is adding 13 new themes to its email service. (The Verge)

1600 Penn.

In the morning, the President will travel to Adas Israel Congregation, one of the largest congregations in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, to deliver remarks in celebration of Jewish American Heritage Month, which recognizes the contributions of Jewish Americans to American society and culture. The President’s visit also coincides with Solidarity Shabbat, when government officials in Europe and North America take part in synagogue visits and other events to highlight their commitment to combating anti-Semitism. In the afternoon, the President and First Lady will host the Diplomatic Corps Reception for foreign diplomatic corps in the East Room.In the morning, the President will travel to Adas Israel Congregation, one of the largest congregations in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, to deliver remarks in celebration of Jewish American Heritage Month, which recognizes the contributions of Jewish Americans to American society and culture. The President’s visit also coincides with Solidarity Shabbat, when government officials in Europe and North America take part in synagogue visits and other events to highlight their commitment to combating anti-Semitism. In the afternoon, the President and First Lady will host the Diplomatic Corps Reception for foreign diplomatic corps in the East Room.

Today on the Hill

The House is not in session and will reconvene on Monday, June 1.

The Senate stands adjourned until 9:30am on Friday, May 22. Following any Leader remarks, the Senate will resume consideration of H.R.1314, the measure expected to be the vehicle in the Senate for trade promotion authority (TPA). Upon the use or yielding back of the post-cloture time, the Senate will vote in relation to any remaining pending amendments and on the Hatch substitute. If all time is used, the post-cloture debate on the Hatch substitute would expire at approximately 5:00pm. Upon disposition of the Hatch substitute, there will be a cloture vote on the underlying bill. If cloture is invoked on the underlying bill, there would be an additional 30 hours of post-cloture debate time, but no further amendments would be in order prior to a vote on passage of H.R.1314, as amended, if amended.

As a reminder, Senator McConnell filed cloture on the motions to proceed to H.R.2048, USA Freedom Act, and S.1357, a 2 month Patriot Act extension. Unless an agreement can be reached, the cloture vote on the motion to proceed to the USA Freedom Act would occur one hour after the Senate convenes on Saturday or upon disposition of the Trade bill, whichever is later. Senator McConnell has also announced on the floor tonight that the Senate will also consider a transportation bill before leaving for the Memorial Day recess.