Archive for the ‘Government’ Category

[UPDATE] Trump admin. reverses plan, will fund COVID-19 testing

April 9th, 2020
A drive-through COVID-19 testing site operated by Omni Healthcare in Melbourne, Fla. on April 8.

Enlarge / A drive-through COVID-19 testing site operated by Omni Healthcare in Melbourne, Fla. on April 8. (credit: Paul Hennessy | Echoes Wire | Barcroft Media | Getty Images)

UPDATE, April 10: Late yesterday the administration reversed course on its controversial plan to pull federal funding from drive-through community based COVID-19 testing centers in several states.

Instead, the states can choose whether to continue to receive federal funding and support, or take over operations themselves, federal officials said.

After news about the potential closure of many of the 41 community-based testing centers circulated yesterday, a bipartisan group of Members of Congress wrote to Alex Azar, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, asking the agency to continue funding the program.

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Posted in coronavirus, COVID-19, federal funding, Government, Policy, science | Comments (0)

Federal bill would allow clean energy companies to structure like oil companies

June 17th, 2019
Wind turbines near Palm Springs, Calif.

Enlarge / Wind turbines near Palm Springs, Calif. (credit: nate2b / Flickr)

Last week, US senators and representatives introduced bills in the Senate and the House to open up a type of corporate structure originally reserved for oil, gas, and coal companies to clean energy companies.

Called a Master Limited Partnership (MLP), the structure currently allows fossil fuel companies to take advantage of lower taxes placed on limited partnerships while also allowing those companies to issue publicly traded stocks and bonds. If the recently re-introduced bills—which have bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate—pass their respective votes, clean energy companies would have the option to structure their companies as MLPs and take advantage of the tax and funding benefits.

According to sponsoring Senator Chris Coons' (D-Del.) website, "Newly eligible energy resources would include solar, wind, marine and hydrokinetic energy, fuel cells, energy storage, combined heat and power, biomass, waste heat to power, renewable fuels, biorefineries, energy efficient buildings, and carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS)."

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Posted in Biz & IT, Energy, Government, Policy, tax | Comments (0)

Judge says Trump can’t re-open Arctic waters that Obama closed to drilling

March 31st, 2019
Horizon over sea ice in the Arctic.

Enlarge / United States, Alaska, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Kaktovik, frozen lagoon and sea, pack ice formation. (credit: Getty Images)

On Friday, a federal judge ruled that President Trump could not re-authorize drilling in Arctic waters after President Obama removed those waters from drilling in 2016.

If the Alaskan judge's ruling withstands appeal, it would mean that the Trump Administration would have to seek approval from Congress to re-open federal waters north of Alaska to oil and gas drilling. Congress, currently divided with a Republican majority in the Senate and a Democratic majority in the House, would be unlikely to agree to such a request.

Why are these waters in question?

In December 2016, the outgoing Obama Administration invoked a 1953 law called the "Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act" (OCSLA) to remove about 125 million acres of Arctic waters north of Alaska from potential leasing to oil drilling operations. (This excluded roughly 3.2 million acres of lease-able waters adjacent to the coast, approximately 200,000 of which are currently under active leases to oil and gas companies.)

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Posted in Arctic, drilling, Energy, Government, oil, Policy, science | Comments (0)

Senate re-introduces bill to help advanced nuclear technology

March 31st, 2019
A pair of nuclear towers against a blue sky.

Enlarge / The Watts Bar nuclear power plant in Tennessee. (credit: Tennessee Valley Authority / Flickr)

Last week, a bipartisan group of 15 US senators re-introduced a bill to instate the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act (NELA), which would offer incentives and set federal goals for advanced nuclear energy. A smaller group of senators originally introduced the bill in September of last year, but the Congressional session ended before the Senate voted on it.

Specifically, the bill authorizes the federal government to enter into 40-year power purchase agreements (PPAs) with nuclear power companies, as opposed to the 10-year agreements that were previously authorized. Securing a 40-year PPA would essentially guarantee to an advanced nuclear startup that it could sell its power for 40 years, which reduces the uncertainty that might come with building a complex and complicated power source.

Advanced nuclear reactors are next-generation technology that improve upon the large light-water reactors that are in use today. Traditional light-water reactor nuclear power has struggled in the United States, because reactors cost billions of dollars to build and communities are reluctant to accept new nuclear builds due to fears about reactor meltdowns and terrorist attacks. In addition to all this, nuclear waste is an unsolved problem in the US—there is currently no official disposal site for commercial nuclear waste, and while a solution to that problem is technically feasible, it has also been politically intractable.

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Posted in Energy, Government, Nuclear, Policy, science, Senate | Comments (0)

House Democrats introduce bill to keep the US in the Paris Agreement

March 27th, 2019
A view of the entrance of the Capitol Building against clouds.

Enlarge / The Capitol Building in Washington DC. (credit: Getty Images)

On Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) joined Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) in announcing the Climate Action Now Bill, which is intended to stop the United States from exiting the Paris Agreement. President Donald Trump vowed to pull out of the Obama-era agreement in 2017, saying that its terms would unnecessarily harm US industry.

The Paris Agreement was signed by almost every country in the world, with the exception of Nicaragua and Syria. The signatory countries promised to take steps to hold global warming to 2°C, and the United States pledged to contribute $3 billion to help more impoverished countries reach the common goal.

Although Trump announced his intention to break the agreement two years ago, the terms of the agreement have required that the US continue to submit progress reports until it can formally petition to exit the Paris Agreement in November 2019. The US will have to remain in the agreement for a year after that before it can exit.

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Posted in climate, Energy, Government, Policy, science | Comments (0)

DHS: Multiple US gov domains hit in serious DNS hijacking wave

January 25th, 2019
DHS: Multiple US gov domains hit in serious DNS hijacking wave


The Department of Homeland Security has issued an emergency directive ordering administrators of most federal agencies to protect their Internet domains against a rash of attacks that have hit executive branch websites and email servers in recent weeks.

The DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) issued the directive on Tuesday, 12 days after security firm FireEye warned of an unprecedented wave of ongoing attacks that altered the domain name system records belonging to telecoms, ISPs, and government agencies. DNS servers act as directories that allow one computer to find other computers on the Internet. By tampering with these records, attackers can potentially intercept passwords, emails, and other sensitive communications.

“CISA is aware of multiple executive branch agency domains that were impacted by the tampering campaign and has notified the agencies that maintain them,” CISA Director Christopher C. Krebs wrote in Wednesday’s emergency directive. He continued:

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Posted in Biz & IT, DNS hijacking, domain name system, Government | Comments (0)

DHS Orders U.S. Federal Agencies to Audit DNS Security for Their Domains

January 23rd, 2019
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has today issued an "emergency directive" to all federal agencies ordering IT staff to audit DNS records for their respective website domains, or other agency-managed domains, within next 10 business days. The emergency security alert came in the wake of a series of recent incidents involving DNS hijacking, which security researchers with "

Posted in certificate authority, certificate transparency, Cyber Attack, DHS, digital Certificate, DNS hijacking, dns security, DNS server, Government, Homeland Security, HTTPS, website security | Comments (0)

EPA to keep Obama-era mercury rules, but make it harder to tighten them

December 26th, 2018
Smokestacks at Pacificorp’s 1,000MW coal-fired power plant on October 9, 2017 outside Huntington, Utah.

Enlarge / Smokestacks at Pacificorp’s 1,000MW coal-fired power plant on October 9, 2017 outside Huntington, Utah. (credit: George Frey/Getty Images)

According to a report from Bloomberg, the Trump administration's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is not considering a roll back of Obama-era rules regulating industrial emissions of mercury. When the rules were codified in 2015, they required coal plants to add expensive technology to minimize the amount of mercury spewed into the air. Despite this change of course for the regulation-averse EPA, the agency is reportedly considering a rewrite of the legal justification for the mercury rules that would make it harder for those rules to be tightened in the future.

Trump campaigned on rolling back supposedly onerous regulations on coal plants. His appointees, including former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, targeted the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards as a key reason for the decline of coal in the US. However, while the coal industry was the most vocal in opposing the 2015 rules, in the subsequent years surviving coal-burning power plants have largely adapted to the regulatory environment. Coal mining companies like Murray Energy are among the firms still pushing the Trump administration to roll back the mercury rules, while utility and energy companies with coal plants, having already made the necessary investments, are pushing the administration to keep the mercury rules.

Per Bloomberg, keeping the three-year-old mercury rules intact while weakening the justification behind them is the Trump administration's attempt to appease both sides of this issue. While power companies would keep mercury reduction technology on at their plants (and not face competition from potential new plants without such technology), the EPA would also "recalculate the cost and benefits of the mercury rule in a way that dramatically shrinks its estimated potential health gains," Bloomberg writes. Changing the official cost/benefit analysis of the rule could make it easier for opponents to prevent stricter mercury rules in the future. 

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Posted in coal, Energy, EPA, Government, Mercury, Policy, science | Comments (0)

Microsoft wins $480 million military contract to bring HoloLens to the battlefield

November 29th, 2018
HoloLens from above, showing the visor and the headband.

HoloLens from above, showing the visor and the headband. (credit: Esy Casey)

Microsoft has won a $480 million contract to develop an augmented reality system for use in combat and military training for the US Army.

Called Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS), formerly Heads Up Display (HUD) 3.0, the goal of the project is to develop a headset that gives soldiers—both in training and in combat—an increase in "Lethality, Mobility, and Situational Awareness." The ambitions for the project are high. Authorities want to develop a system with a goggle or visor form factor—nothing mounted on a helmet—with an integrated 3D display, digital cameras, ballistic laser, and hearing protection.

The system should provide remote viewing of weapon sights to enable low risk, rapid target acquisition, perform automated or assisted target acquisition, integrate both thermal and night vision cameras, track soldier vitals such as heart and breathing rates, and detect concussions. Over the course of IVAS's development, the military will order an initial run of 2,550 prototypes, with follow-on production possibly in excess of 100,000 devices.

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Posted in augmented reality, Government, hololens, microsoft, Military, Tech, US Army | Comments (0)

Legislation Proposed to Secure Connected IoT Devices

August 1st, 2017

Internet of Things Cybersecurity Improvement Act would mandate stringent security for connected devices sold to the federal government.

Posted in Bruce Schneier, DDoS Attacks, Dyn, Government, IoT, IoT botnet, Mark Warner, OVH, Ron Wyden, vulnerabilities | Comments (0)