Democrats

Democrats Propose New Competition Laws That Would 'Break Up Big Companies If They're Hurting Consumers' (arstechnica.com) 326

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Senate and House Democratic leaders today proposed new antitrust laws that could prevent many of the biggest mergers and break up monopolies in broadband and other industries. "Right now our antitrust laws are designed to allow huge corporations to merge, padding the pockets of investors but sending costs skyrocketing for everything from cable bills and airline tickets to food and health care," US Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wrote in a New York Times opinion piece. "We are going to fight to allow regulators to break up big companies if they're hurting consumers and to make it harder for companies to merge if it reduces competition." The "Better Deal" unveiled by Schumer and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was described in several documents that can be found in an Axios story. The plan for "cracking down on corporate monopolies" lists five industries that Democrats say are in particular need of change, specifically airlines, cable and telecom, the beer industry, food, and eyeglasses. The Democrats' plan for lowering the cost of prescription drugs is detailed in a separate document. The Democrats didn't single out any internet providers that they want broken up, but they did say they want to stop AT&T's proposed $85.4 billion purchase of Time Warner: "Consolidation in the telecommunications is not just between cable or phone providers; increasingly, large firms are trying to buy up content providers. Currently, AT&T is trying to buy Time Warner. If AT&T succeeds in this deal, it will have more power to restrict the content access of its 135 million wireless and 25.5 million pay-TV subscribers. This will only enable the resulting behemoths to promote their own programming, unfairly discriminate against other distributors and their ability to offer highly desired content, and further restrict small businesses from successfully competing in the market."
Transportation

Oregon Passes First Statewide Bicycle Tax In Nation (washingtontimes.com) 701

turkeydance writes: In Oregon, a state known for its avid bicycling culture, the state legislature's approval of the first bike tax in the nation has fallen flat with riders. Democratic Gov. Kate Brown is expected to sign the sweeping $5.3 billion transportation package, which includes a $15 excise tax on the sale of bicycles costing more than $200 with a wheel diameter of at least 26 inches. Even though the funding has been earmarked for improvements that will benefit cyclists, the tax has managed to irk both anti-tax Republicans and environmentally conscious bikers. The bike tax is aimed at raising $1.2 million per year in order to improve and expand paths and trails for bicyclists and pedestrians. Supporters point out that Oregon has no sales tax, which means buyers won't be dinged twice for their new wheels.
Education

In America, Most Republicans Think Colleges Are Bad for the Country (chronicle.com) 990

An anonymous reader quotes the Chronicle of Higher Education: A majority of Republicans and right-leaning independents think higher education has a negative effect on the country, according to a new study released by the Pew Research Center on Monday. The same study has found a consistent increase in distrust of colleges and universities since 2010, when negative perceptions among Republicans was measured at 32 percent. That number now stands at 58 percent. By comparison, 72 percent of Democrats or left-leaning Independents in the study said colleges and universities have a positive impact on the United States... In the Pew Research Center's study, distrust of colleges was strongest in the highest income bracket and the oldest age group, with approval levels of just 31 percent among respondents whose family income exceeds $75,000 a year and 27 percent among those older than 65.
Government

Congress Seeks To Outlaw Cyber Intel Sharing With Russia (onthewire.io) 179

Trailrunner7 shares a report from On the Wire: A group of House Democrats has introduced a bill that would formalize a policy of the United States not sharing cyber intelligence with Russia. The proposed law is a direct response to comments President Donald Trump made earlier this week after he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. After the meeting, Trump said on Twitter that he and Putin had discussed forming an "impenetrable Cyber Security unit" to prevent future attacks, including election hacking. The idea was roundly criticized by security and foreign policy experts and within a few hours Trump walked it back, saying it was just an idea and couldn't actually happen. But some legislators are not taking the idea of information sharing with Russia as a hypothetical. On Wednesday, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.), and Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) introduced the No Cyber Cooperation With Russia Act to ensure that the U.S. doesn't hand over any cybersecurity intelligence on attacks or vulnerabilities to Moscow. Recent attacks such as the NotPetya malware outbreak have been linked to Russia, as have the various attacks surrounding the 2016 presidential election. "When the Russians get their hands on cyber intelligence, they exploit it -- as they did last month with the NotPetya malware attack targeting Ukraine and the West. It is a sad state of affairs when Congress needs to prohibit this type of information sharing with an adversary, but since we apparently do, I am proud to introduce the No Cyber Cooperation with Russia Act with my friends Brendan Boyle and Ruben Gallego. I urge my colleagues across the aisle to join us in sending a clear message that Congress will not stand for this proposal to undermine U.S. national security," Lieu said in a statement.
Businesses

Amazon Is Getting Too Big and the Government Is Talking About It (marketwatch.com) 205

An anonymous reader quotes a report from MarketWatch: Fresh off its biggest Prime Day yet, the Whole Foods Market bid, and a slew of announcements including Amazon Wardrobe, Amazon.com Inc. was the subject of two investor calls Thursday that raised concerns that it is getting too big. In one case, hedge-fund manager Douglas Kass said government intervention could be imminent. "I am shorting Amazon today because I have learned that there are currently early discussions and due diligence being considered in the legislative chambers in Washington DC with regard to possible antitrust opposition to Amazon's business practices, pricing strategy and expansion announcements already made (as well as being aimed at expansion strategies being considered in the future," wrote Kass, head of Seabreeze Partners Management. "My understanding is that certain Democrats in the Senate have instituted the very recent and preliminary investigation of Amazon's possible adverse impact on competition," he said. "But, in the Trump administration we also have a foe against Jeff Bezos, who not only runs Amazon but happens to own an editorially unfriendly (to President Trump) newspaper, The Washington Post."

Kass said he thinks the government "discussions may have just begun and may never result in any serious effort to limit Amazon's growth plans." But he has been writing a series of columns about whether we've reached "peak Amazon," and said in an earlier column that the Whole Foods deal puts "Amazon's vast power under the microscope." "Is Amazon a productive change agent and force for the good of the consumer by virtue of a reduction in product prices? Or is Amazon's disruption of the general retail business a destroyer of jobs, moving previously productively employed workers into the unemployment line?" he asked.

AT&T

Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T Want Congress To Make a Net Neutrality Law Because They Will Write It (theverge.com) 170

From a report on The Verge: Companies and organizations that rely on an open internet rallied on Wednesday for a "day of action" on net neutrality, and America's biggest internet service providers have responded with arrogance and contempt for their customers. Comcast's David Cohen called arguments in favor of FCC regulation "scare tactics" and "hysteria." Beyond the dismissive rhetoric, ISPs are coincidentally united today in calling for Congress to act -- and that's because they've paid handsomely to control what Congress does. There's one thing Republicans and Democrats can agree on, and that's taking money from ISPs. The telecommunications industry was the most powerful lobbying force of the 20th century, and that power endures. It's no secret that lobbyists in Washington write many of the laws, and the telecom industry spends a lot of money to make sure lawmakers use them. We've already seen net neutrality legislation written by the ISPs, and it's filled with loopholes. It's not just in Congress -- companies like AT&T have deep influence over local and state broadband laws, and write those policies, too. Some pro-net neutrality advocates are also arguing today that Congress should act, and there are some good reasons for that. Laws can be stickier than the judgements of regulatory agencies, and if you want to make net neutrality the law of the land that's a job for Congress. But there's a reason the ISPs are all saying the same thing, and it's because they're very confident they will defeat the interests of consumers and constituents. They've already done it this year under the Republican-controlled government. Further reading: 10M+ web users saw yesterday's net neutrality protest -- but rules are still getting scrapped.
Government

eBay Urges Customers To Oppose Washington Internet Tax (knkx.org) 71

An anonymous reader quotes a report from KNKX: If you live in Washington state, you might have gotten the email from eBay. It begins: "The Washington State Legislature is threatening to impose new Internet sales tax burdens on you." It goes on to urge the recipient to send a form letter to Washington lawmakers opposing "harmful tax laws." So what's this about? EBay's Brian Bieron said the company is alerting its customers to a proposal to require out-of-state retailers to collect sales tax from Washington residents. "It's the right of all of our users to know when new tax policies would impact their ability to sell online or shop online, we think that they want to know and they want to get involved," Bieron said. The fact eBay is emailing its customer base now indicates the company is concerned the internet tax bill will be part of a final budget deal in Olympia. Washington House Democrats and Senate Republicans are currently trying to hash out a compromise budget that fully fund schools. That agreement will likely include some additional sources of tax revenue. Of all the choices on the table, capturing sales tax from more online sales might prove the most palatable to tax-averse Republicans. House Democrats estimate the proposal could bring in an estimated $341 million over the next two years.
Government

Congressman Steve Scalise Among 5 Shot at Baseball Field (nytimes.com) 1197

From a New York Times report: A lone gunman opened fire on Republican members of the congressional baseball team at a practice field in a Washington suburb Wednesday, using a rifle to shower the field with bullets that struck five people, including Steve Scalise, the majority whip of the House of Representatives. Two members of Mr. Scalise's protective police detail were wounded as they exchanged gunfire with the shooter in what other lawmakers described as a chaotic, terror-filled ten minutes that turned the baseball practice into an early-morning nightmare. Police said a total of five people were shot, two critically. Standing at second base, Mr. Scalise was struck, in the hip, according to witnesses, and collapsed as the shots rang out, one after another, from behind a chain-link fence near the third-base dugout. Witnesses said Mr. Scalise, of Louisiana, "army crawled" his way toward taller grass as the shooting continued. Alternative source: NBC News, CNN, BBC, NPR, WashingtonPost, and WSJ.

Update: 06/14 15:40 GMT: In remarks at the White House, President Trump said the Alexandria shooting suspect has died from injuries.
Twitter

The Public Is Growing Tired of Trump's Tweets, Says Voter Survey (arstechnica.com) 489

President Donald Trump is the tweeting president. His @realDonaldTrump handle has 31.8 million followers and "35K" tweets. While the president claims to use Twitter to "get the honest and unfiltered message out," many Americans aren't so fond of his favored form of communication. According to a new voter poll (PDF), the public is growing tired of Trump's tweets. Ars Technica reports: A Morning Consult, Politico survey published Wednesday found that 69 percent of voters who took the online survey said they thought Trump tweets too much. That's up from 56 percent from December, months before Trump took office. The survey said that 82 percent of Democrats polled thought Trump tweets too much, up from 75 percent in December. Republicans came in at 53 percent saying the president used Twitter too often, an 11-percent increase from December. Overall, 57 percent of voters who took the survey said Trump's tweets are hurting his presidency. Another 53 percent said his Twitter use undermines U.S. standing in the world. The poll found that 51 percent of all voters said Trump's tweets imperiled national security. What do you think of Trump's tweets? Do you think they are getting old, or do you find them particularly useful?
Mozilla

Americans From Both Political Parties Overwhelmingly Support Net Neutrality, Poll Shows (mozilla.org) 245

Mozilla conducted a survey in which it found that a majority of Americans do not trust the government to protect Internet access. From an article, shared by a reader: A recent public opinion poll carried out by Mozilla and Ipsos revealed overwhelming support across party lines for net neutrality, with over three quarters of Americans (76%) supporting net neutrality. Eighty-one percent of Democrats and 73% of Republicans are in favor of it. Another key finding: Most Americans do not trust the U.S. government to protect access to the Internet. Seventy percent of Americans place no or little trust in the Trump administration or Congress (78%) to do so. Mozilla and Ipsos carried out the poll in late May, on the heels of the FCC's vote to begin dismantling Obama-era net neutrality rules. We polled approximately 1,000 American adults across the U.S., a sample that included 354 Democrats, 344 Republicans, and 224 Independents.
Republicans

Trump Wants To Modernize Air Travel By Turning Over Control To the Big Airlines (theverge.com) 341

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Today, President Donald Trump endorsed a plan to hand over oversight of the nation's airspace to a non-profit corporation that will likely be largely controlled by the major airlines. Republicans argue that privatizing air traffic control will help save money and fast track important technological upgrades. But Democrats and consumer groups criticize that plan as a corporate giveaway that will inevitably harm passengers. The air traffic reform proposal, which fell short in Congress last year, would transfer oversight from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to a government-sanctioned, independent entity that would be made up of appointees from industry stakeholders. The effort picked up steam when the union representing air traffic controllers endorsed the plan, citing years of understaffing by the FAA. Some passengers may balk at the idea of handing over day-to-day management of the nation's highly complex air traffic control system to the same companies that rack up tens of thousands of customer complaints a year, and occasionally physically assault or drag passengers off their planes. But the Trump administration argues this is the only way to modernize a system that still runs on technology that's been around since World War II. The FAA is already years into a technology upgrade known as NextGen, which involves moving from the current system based on radar and voice communications to one based on satellite navigation and digital communications. The FAA wants to use GPS technology to shorten routes, save time and fuel, and reduce traffic delays by increasing capacity.
Government

Putin Hints At US Election Meddling By 'Patriotically Minded' Russians (nytimes.com) 195

Two anonymous readers share a report: Shifting from his previous blanket denials, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said on Thursday that "patriotically minded" private Russian hackers could have been involved in cyberattacks last year to help the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source). While Mr. Putin continued to deny any state role, his comments to reporters in St. Petersburg were a departure from the Kremlin's previous position: that Russia had played no role whatsoever in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and that, after Mr. Trump's victory, the country had become the victim of anti-Russia hysteria among crestfallen Democrats. Raising the possibility of attacks by what he portrayed as free-spirited Russian patriots, Mr. Putin said that hackers "are like artists" who choose their targets depending how they feel "when they wake up in the morning."
Security

Democrats Ask FBI To Probe Reported FCC Cyberattack (thehill.com) 53

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Hill: A group of Democratic senators is asking the FBI to investigate an alleged cyberattack on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) website earlier this month. In a letter to acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe sent Wednesday, the senators asked the bureau to "investigate the source" of the distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. "Any cyberattack on a federal network is very serious," Democratic Sens. Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Al Franken (Minn.), Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Ed Markey (Mass.), and Ron Wyden (Ore.) wrote. "This particular attack may have denied the American people the opportunity to contribute to what is supposed to be a fair and transparent process, which in turn may call into question the integrity of the FCC's rulemaking proceedings," they wrote. In the Wednesday letter to McCabe, the senators asked to be briefed by the FBI on the matter by June 23. "We ask that the FBI prioritize this matter and investigate the source of this attack," they wrote. On May 8, the FCC claimed that it was a victim of "multiple" DDoS attacks. The alleged attacks occurred after comedian John Oliver spurred millions of Americans to file comments with the FCC in favor of net neutrality. "Many had attributed the website's slowdown to the volume of comments produced by Oliver's segment, but the FCC instead blamed malicious actors days later," reports The Hill.
Businesses

Roku Has Hired a Team of Lobbyists As it Gears Up For a Net Neutrality Fight (recode.net) 85

Roku appears to be arming itself for the coming net neutrality war. From a report on Recode: The web video streaming and hardware company has plenty at stake as the Federal Communications Commission prepares to pull back rules that require internet providers to treat all web traffic equally. For Roku and others in the business, an end to the Obama-era protections could make it harder -- or, in some cases, more expensive -- to offer content or services to customers at top download speeds. That's why Roku has hired a pair of Republican lobbyists through an outside government-affairs firm, according to a federal ethics reports filed this week, specifically to focus on net neutrality. It's the first time the company has ever retained lobbyists in Washington, D.C. Many in the tech industry support the Obama-era FCC's net neutrality rules, which currently subject telecom companies to utility-style regulation. To Democrats, it's the only way to stop the likes of AT&T, Comcast, Charter or Verizon from blocking competing services or charging media companies for faster delivery of their content.
Government

Connecticut May Become First US State To Allow Deadly Police Drones (reuters.com) 83

According to Reuters, Connecticut lawmakers are considering a new bill that would allow police to equip drones with potentially lethal weapons. The bill, which was approved overwhelmingly by the state legislature's judiciary committee on Wednesday, actually aims to ban weaponized drones, but exempts the ban from law enforcement agencies. From the report: Connecticut would become the first U.S. state to allow law enforcement agencies to use drones equipped with deadly weapons if a bill opposed by civil libertarians becomes law. The legislation was introduced as a complete ban on weaponized drones but just before the committee vote it was amended to exclude police from the restriction. "Data shows police force is disproportionately used on minority communities, and we believe that armed drones would be used in urban centers and on minority communities," said David McGuire, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Connecticut. "That's not the kind of precedent we want to set here," McGuire said of the prospect that Connecticut would become the first state to allow police to use lethally armed drones. If Connecticut's Democratic-controlled House passes the bill it will move to the Senate, which is split evenly between Democrats and Republicans.
Government

House Approves Bill To Force Public Release of EPA Science (ap.org) 422

schwit1 quotes a report from Associated Press: House Republicans are taking aim at the Environmental Protection Agency, targeting the way officials use science to develop new regulations. A bill approved Wednesday by the GOP-controlled House would require that data used to support new regulations to protect human health and the environment be released to the public. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said "the days of 'trust me' science are over," adding that the House bill would restore confidence in the EPA's decision-making process. Connecticut Rep. Elizabeth Esty and other Democrats said the bill would cripple EPA's ability to conduct scientific research based on confidential medical information and risks privacy violations by exposing sensitive patient data. The bill was approved 228-194 and now goes to the Senate. According to The Hill, "The bill would also require that any scientific studies be replicable, and allow anyone who signs a confidentiality agreement to view redacted personal or trade information in data."
Communications

Senate Votes To Kill FCC's Broadband Privacy Rules (pcworld.com) 404

The Senate voted 50-48 along party lines Thursday to repeal an Obama-era law that requires internet service providers to obtain permission before tracking what customers look at online and selling that information to other companies. PCWorld adds: The Senate's 50-48 vote Thursday on a resolution of disapproval would roll back Federal Communications Commission rules requiring broadband providers to receive opt-in customer permission to share sensitive personal information, including web-browsing history, geolocation, and financial details with third parties. The FCC approved the regulations just five months ago. Thursday's vote was largely along party lines, with Republicans voting to kill the FCC's privacy rules and Democrats voting to keep them. The Senate's resolution, which now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration, would allow broadband providers to collect and sell a "gold mine of data" about customers, said Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat. Kate Tummarello, writing for EFF: [This] would be a crushing loss for online privacy. ISPs act as gatekeepers to the Internet, giving them incredible access to records of what you do online. They shouldn't be able to profit off of the information about what you search for, read about, purchase, and more without your consent. We can still kill this in the House: call your lawmakers today and tell them to protect your privacy from your ISP.
The Internet

'Dig Once' Bill Could Bring Fiber Internet To Much of the US (arstechnica.com) 174

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: If the U.S. adopts a "dig once" policy, construction workers would install conduits just about any time they build new roads and sidewalks or upgrade existing ones. These conduits are plastic pipes that can house fiber cables. The conduits might be empty when installed, but their presence makes it a lot cheaper and easier to install fiber later, after the road construction is finished. The idea is an old one. U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) has been proposing dig once legislation since 2009, and it has widespread support from broadband-focused consumer advocacy groups. It has never made it all the way through Congress, but it has bipartisan backing from lawmakers who often disagree on the most controversial broadband policy questions, such as net neutrality and municipal broadband. It even got a boost from Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who has frequently clashed with Democrats and consumer advocacy groups over broadband -- her "Internet Freedom Act" would wipe out the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules, and she supports state laws that restrict growth of municipal broadband. Blackburn, chair of the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee, put Eshoo's dig once legislation on the agenda for a hearing she held yesterday on broadband deployment and infrastructure. Blackburn's opening statement (PDF) said that dig once is among the policies she's considering to "facilitate the deployment of communications infrastructure." But her statement did not specifically endorse Eshoo's dig once proposal, which was presented only as a discussion draft with no vote scheduled. The subcommittee also considered a discussion draft that would "creat[e] an inventory of federal assets that can be used to attach or install broadband infrastructure." Dig once legislation received specific support from Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who said that he is "glad to see Ms. Eshoo's 'Dig Once' bill has made a return this Congress. I think that this is smart policy and will help spur broadband deployment across the country."
Government

New Bill Would Allow Employers To Demand Genetic Testing From Workers (businessinsider.com) 397

capedgirardeau quotes a report from Business Insider: A little-noticed bill moving through the U.S. Congress would allow companies to require employees to undergo genetic testing or risk paying a penalty of thousands of dollars, and would let employers see that genetic and other health information. Giving employers such power is now prohibited by U.S. law, including the 2008 genetic privacy and nondiscrimination law known as GINA. The new bill gets around that landmark law by stating explicitly that GINA and other protections do not apply when genetic tests are part of a "workplace wellness" program. The bill, HR 1313, was approved by a House committee on Wednesday, with all 22 Republicans supporting it and all 17 Democrats opposed. The 2008 genetic law prohibits a group health plan -- the kind employers have -- from asking, let alone requiring, someone to undergo a genetic test. It also prohibits that specifically for "underwriting purposes," which is where wellness programs come in. "Underwriting purposes" includes basing insurance deductibles, rebates, rewards, or other financial incentives on completing a health risk assessment or health screenings. In addition, any genetic information can be provided to the employer only in a de-identified, aggregated form, rather than in a way that reveals which individual has which genetic profile. There is a big exception, however: As long as employers make providing genetic information "voluntary," they can ask employees for it. Under the House bill, none of the protections for health and genetic information provided by GINA or the disabilities law would apply to workplace wellness programs as long as they complied with the ACA's very limited requirements for the programs. As a result, employers could demand that employees undergo genetic testing and health screenings.
Privacy

White House Supports Renewal of Spy Law Without Reforms (reuters.com) 61

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: The Trump administration does not want to reform an internet surveillance law to address privacy concerns, a White House official told Reuters on Wednesday, saying it is needed to protect national security. The announcement could put President Donald Trump on a collision course with Congress, where some Republicans and Democrats have advocated curtailing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, parts of which are due to expire at the end of the year. The FISA law has been criticized by privacy and civil liberties advocates as allowing broad, intrusive spying. It gained renewed attention following the 2013 disclosures by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden that the agency carried out widespread monitoring of emails and other electronic communications. Portions of the law, including a provision known as Section 702, will expire on Dec. 31 unless Congress reauthorizes them. Section 702 enables two internet surveillance programs called Prism and Upstream, classified details of which were revealed by Snowden. Democratic and Republican lawmakers have said reforms to Section 702 are needed, in part to ensure the privacy protections on Americans are not violated. The U.S. House of Representatives' Judiciary Committee met Wednesday to discuss possible changes to the law.

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