The Green New Deal is long on vision, short on details, and a potential windfall for startups

The Green New Deal has landed. Proposed by the rising star of the Democratic Party, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Senator Edward Markey, a longtime advocate for decarbonization in both the House and the Senate, the sweeping proposal is a grand vision for what a progressive push to rebuild American institutions for the 21st century looks […]

The Green New Deal has landed.

Proposed by the rising star of the Democratic Party, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Senator Edward Markey, a longtime advocate for decarbonization in both the House and the Senate, the sweeping proposal is a grand vision for what a progressive push to rebuild American institutions for the 21st century looks like. But it’s a plan that’s long on promise and short on details.

And it’s unlikely to gain much traction in Washington.

The proposal is notable for the support it has received in the Democratic party, particularly in the Party’s progressive wing, and could be a massive boost to a number of startup technology companies that are looking for government support as they look to commercialize their technologies.

Recognizing the centrality of climate change to the disasters that have pounded the U.S. in the past five years, and the role the bill declares “the United States must take a leading role in reducing emissions through economic transformation.”

That economic transformation touches on many areas where startup technology companies are already working to develop solutions — meaning the Green New Deal could likely result in huge gains for companies developing technologies for everything from transportation, finance, new agriculture, energy generation and efficiency, food production and even housing and construction.

In part, it’s a sign of the breadth and depth of innovation in America and the ambitions of venture investors who now believe that private industry can disrupt everything. What will be interesting is watching how these ambitions align with the policy and priorities of a movement that would like to see government take back some of the ground it has lost to private industry.

As the bill states:

“… it is the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal— (A) to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions through a fair and just transition 4 for all communities and workers; (B) to create millions of good, high-wage jobs and ensure prosperity and economic 6 security for all people of the United States; (C) to invest in the infrastructure and industry of the United States to sustainably meet the challenges of the 21st century; (D) to secure for all people of the United States for generations to come — (i) clean air and water; (ii) climate and community resiliency; (iii) healthy food; (iv) access to nature; and (v) a sustainable environment; and (E) to promote justice and equity by stopping current, preventing future, and repairing historic oppression of indigenous peoples, communities of color, migrant communities, deindustrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, and youth (referred to in this resolution as “frontline and vulnerable communities”)”

To achieve these lofty goals, the bill’s authors, and the party seem to be hitching their wagon to a load of policy initiatives that are only possible through technological innovation.

Improving climate resiliency, infrastructure upgrades, water purification and desalination; zero-emission energy sources; clean manufacturing; sustainable farming; vehicle electrification; high-speed rail development; waste cleanup and removal are all dependent on technology being commercialized by startups.

At the same time, the the bill would require greater federal oversight to ensure that the work these startups are doing includes and accounts for communities that have been marginalized or left behind by the progress these technologies enables.

It’s a fine line that the Democrats are offering and little bottom-line details on how all of this would get funded.

Right now, the policy is a line in the sand — and one that could shape policymaking in the next two years — but only if Democratic House leadership comes on board.

With many representatives coming from swing districts where decarbonization policies and the labor and social justice goals that are attached to them, the Green New Deal may have a hard time event getting through the house. And with a Republican Senate — the bill seems dead on arrival.

But what isn’t up for debate — at least among scientists — is the scale of the problem and the immediate threat that climate change poses.

There’s already been nearly $500 billion in damages that scientists directly attribute to climatological changes that humans have wrought on the planet. The risks for future catastrophes that will cost billions of dollars more and risks untold numbers of lives are only increasing.

If the bill only serves as a conversation starter — and moves policy along toward modest goals like a price on carbon to encourage the acceleration of carbon neutral or carbon-reducing technologies that would be a win.. for the country, and for the investors whose technologies are likely to be called upon to provide solutions.

Green New Deal Resolution by on Scribd

The Green New Deal is long on vision, short on details, and a potential windfall for startups

The Green New Deal has landed. Proposed by the rising star of the Democratic Party, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Senator Edward Markey, a longtime advocate for decarbonization in both the House and the Senate, the sweeping proposal is a grand vision for what a progressive push to rebuild American institutions for the 21st century looks […]

The Green New Deal has landed.

Proposed by the rising star of the Democratic Party, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Senator Edward Markey, a longtime advocate for decarbonization in both the House and the Senate, the sweeping proposal is a grand vision for what a progressive push to rebuild American institutions for the 21st century looks like. But it’s a plan that’s long on promise and short on details.

And it’s unlikely to gain much traction in Washington.

The proposal is notable for the support it has received in the Democratic party, particularly in the Party’s progressive wing, and could be a massive boost to a number of startup technology companies that are looking for government support as they look to commercialize their technologies.

Recognizing the centrality of climate change to the disasters that have pounded the U.S. in the past five years, and the role the bill declares “the United States must take a leading role in reducing emissions through economic transformation.”

That economic transformation touches on many areas where startup technology companies are already working to develop solutions — meaning the Green New Deal could likely result in huge gains for companies developing technologies for everything from transportation, finance, new agriculture, energy generation and efficiency, food production and even housing and construction.

In part, it’s a sign of the breadth and depth of innovation in America and the ambitions of venture investors who now believe that private industry can disrupt everything. What will be interesting is watching how these ambitions align with the policy and priorities of a movement that would like to see government take back some of the ground it has lost to private industry.

As the bill states:

“… it is the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal— (A) to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions through a fair and just transition 4 for all communities and workers; (B) to create millions of good, high-wage jobs and ensure prosperity and economic 6 security for all people of the United States; (C) to invest in the infrastructure and industry of the United States to sustainably meet the challenges of the 21st century; (D) to secure for all people of the United States for generations to come — (i) clean air and water; (ii) climate and community resiliency; (iii) healthy food; (iv) access to nature; and (v) a sustainable environment; and (E) to promote justice and equity by stopping current, preventing future, and repairing historic oppression of indigenous peoples, communities of color, migrant communities, deindustrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, the poor, low-income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, and youth (referred to in this resolution as “frontline and vulnerable communities”)”

To achieve these lofty goals, the bill’s authors, and the party seem to be hitching their wagon to a load of policy initiatives that are only possible through technological innovation.

Improving climate resiliency, infrastructure upgrades, water purification and desalination; zero-emission energy sources; clean manufacturing; sustainable farming; vehicle electrification; high-speed rail development; waste cleanup and removal are all dependent on technology being commercialized by startups.

At the same time, the the bill would require greater federal oversight to ensure that the work these startups are doing includes and accounts for communities that have been marginalized or left behind by the progress these technologies enables.

It’s a fine line that the Democrats are offering and little bottom-line details on how all of this would get funded.

Right now, the policy is a line in the sand — and one that could shape policymaking in the next two years — but only if Democratic House leadership comes on board.

With many representatives coming from swing districts where decarbonization policies and the labor and social justice goals that are attached to them, the Green New Deal may have a hard time event getting through the house. And with a Republican Senate — the bill seems dead on arrival.

But what isn’t up for debate — at least among scientists — is the scale of the problem and the immediate threat that climate change poses.

There’s already been nearly $500 billion in damages that scientists directly attribute to climatological changes that humans have wrought on the planet. The risks for future catastrophes that will cost billions of dollars more and risks untold numbers of lives are only increasing.

If the bill only serves as a conversation starter — and moves policy along toward modest goals like a price on carbon to encourage the acceleration of carbon neutral or carbon-reducing technologies that would be a win.. for the country, and for the investors whose technologies are likely to be called upon to provide solutions.

Green New Deal Resolution by on Scribd

Congress needs your input (but don’t call it crowdsourcing)

Lorelei Kelly Contributor Lorelei Kelly leads the Resilient Democracy Coalition, a group working to make sure Congress succeeds in the Information Age. More posts by this contributor Our ‘modern’ Congress doesn’t understand 21st century technology The banana republic of big data Like many modern digital innovations, “crowdsourcing” is a concept borrowed from the commercial tech […]

Like many modern digital innovations, “crowdsourcing” is a concept borrowed from the commercial tech industry. It is a method to solicit ideas from the Internet masses to complete a task or solve a challenge.  It seems a perfect fit for Congress, an entire branch of government stuck in the past, losing public legitimacy and increasingly ineffective in policymaking.

Even though it is the world’s most powerful representative assembly, Congress is working at 45% less expert capacity than it had in the 1970s.  It has remained in this state of dereliction despite accumulating millions more constituents and demands for consideration. Plus,  its most important policy bridge to the public–committee hearings–have declined, sometimes by 50% or more.

It’s obvious that Congress could use collaborative assistance.

Yet in a weaponized information environment, crowdsourcing appears unproductive and even ominous.  Take social media platforms. Five years ago, Facebook and Twitter looked like promising venues for more regular voices to provide feedback in the policy making process. But given the lack of civic guardrails like moderation or verified identity, that  “crowd” too often behaves like a hired mob.

My colleague Nate Wong is familiar with crowdsourcing from his years of consulting.  He notes that before throwing our hands up, there are some key elements of crowdsourcing to unpack.  “Some people would say that crowdsourcing works, but it’s not as effective because the crowd is not curated well.”

At this time, crowdsourcing does not work for policy making in Congress because participants are not organized for it and the institution itself lacks a curation method for credible input.

Years ago, author James Surowiecki noted that crowds can be wise if they are diverse, if individuals are independent, and if participants are decentralized with locally specific knowledge. Crucially, there also needs to be a mechanism for aggregating input.

Image: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

Congress should be this mechanism. Informed public deliberation should be its forte.  But right now, our system does not have the capacity nor the incentives to reap the benefits of collective wisdom.   Before we jump to crowdsourcing, we must ask ourselves, how much assistance can be useful outside the institution unless the in-house capacity exists to process it? And, how much can we citizens expect our leaders to take risks on behalf of democratic discourse when flash-mobs, ambush tactics and armies of contempt lurk in every public space?   As it stands, Congress does not have the technical infrastructure to ingest all this new input in any systematic way. Individual members lack a method to sort and filter signal from noise or trusted credible knowledge from malicious falsehood and hype.

What Congress needs is curation, not just more information.

Curation means discovering, gathering and presenting content.   This word is commonly thought of as the job of librarians and museums, places we go to find authentic and authoritative knowledge. Similarly, Congress needs methods to sort and filter information as required within the workflow of lawmaking.  From personal offices to committees, members and their staff need context and informed judgement based on broadly defined expertise. The input can come from individuals or institutions. It can come from the wisdom of colleagues in Congress or across the federal government.  Most importantly it needs to be rooted in local constituents and it needs to be trusted.

It is not to say that crowdsourcing is unimportant for our governing system. But input methods that include digital must demonstrate informed and accountable deliberative methods over time.  Governing is the curation part of democracy. Governing requires public review, understanding of context, explanation and measurements of value for the nation as a whole. We are already thinking about how to create an ethical blockchain.  Why not the same attention for our most important democratic institution?

Governing requires tradeoffs that elicit emotion and sometimes anger. But as in life, emotions require self-regulation. In Congress, this means compromise and negotiation.  In fact, one of the reasons Congress is so stuck is that its own deliberative process has declined at every level. Besides the official committee process stalling out, members have few opportunities to be together as colleagues, and public space is increasingly antagonistic and dangerous.

Image: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

With so few options, members are left with blunt communications objects like clunky mail management systems and partisan talking points.  This means that lawmakers don’t use public input for policy formation as much as to surveil public opinion.

Any path forward to the 21st century must include new methods to (1) curate and hear from the public in a way that informs policy AND (2) incorporate real data into a results-driven process.

While our democracy is facing unprecedented stress, there are bright spots.  Congress is again dedicating resources to an in-house technology assessment capacity.  Earlier this month, the new 116th Congress created a Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress.  It will be chaired by Rep. Derek Kilmer (WA, 6).   Then the Open Government Data Act became law.  This law will potentially scale the level of access to government data to unprecedented levels.  It will require that all public facing federal data must be machine-readable and reusable. This is a move in the right direction, and now comes the hard part.

Marci Harris, the CEO of civic startup Popvox put it well, “The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking (FEBP) Act, which includes the OPEN Government Data Act, lays groundwork for a more effective, accountable government. To realize the potential of these new resources, Congress will need to hire tech literate staff and incorporate real data and evidence into its oversight and legislative functions.”

In forsaking its own capacity for complex problem solving, Congress has become non-competitive in the creative process that moves society forward.  During this same time period, all eyes turned toward Silicon Valley to fill the vacuum. With mass connection platforms and unlimited personal freedom, it seemed direct democracy had arrived.  But that’s proved a bust. If we go by current trends, entrusting democracy to Silicon Valley will give us perfect laundry and fewer voting rights. Fixing democracy is a whole-of-nation challenge that Congress must lead.

Finally, we “the crowd” want a more effective governing body that incorporates our experience and perspective into the lawmaking process, not just feel-good form letters thanking us for our input. We also want a political discourse grounded in facts. A “modern” Congress will provide both, and now we have the institutional foundation in place to make it happen.

California moves toward healthcare for more, not yet healthcare for all

It was way easier for candidate Gavin Newsom to endorse single-payer healthcare coverage for everyone than it is now for Gov. Newsom to deliver it.

It was way easier for candidate Gavin Newsom to endorse single-payer healthcare coverage for everyone than it is now for Gov. Newsom to deliver it.

Yet hardcore advocates say they’re pleased with the moves he’s made thus far — even if it may take years to come to fruition.

“This is a governor that is operating from a compass of action,” said Stephanie Roberson, government relations director for the politically powerful California Nurses Association, which hasn’t exactly been known for its patience on the issue.

Newsom has taken two tacks. He’s asking the Trump administration to let the state create its own single-payer system offering coverage to all Californians — a move almost everyone regards as a very longshot. And he’s also pushing specific ideas to expand healthcare coverage to hundreds of thousands of still-uninsured Californians — a move that seems much more do-able.

During his campaign, Newsom promised the nurses he would make it happen. But the state can’t do it alone. That’s why he sent a letter to the federal government right out of the gate, asking the administration and Congress to set up an “innovation waiver” to allow California to create its own single-payer system.

Experts say there is little chance the Trump administration will give the state the go-ahead on this.

“He’s making a statement and sometimes making statements is important — even if there’s little chance of making progress in the immediate future,” said Gerald Kominski, senior fellow at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. “It’s a way of drawing a line in the sand.”

It’s also a way to stave off criticism from advocates, said Jesus Ramirez-Valles, director of the Health Equity Institute at San Francisco State University. “He can say ‘I tried it’ and there is no risk on him. If he doesn’t do what he promised, then he is risking opposition.”

Federal permission would also require Congress to support a new waiver system — one that would allow the state to redirect funds that usually go to the federal government, such as Medicare income taxes, to a state funding authority that would manage and pay for a single-payer healthcare system, Kominski said. Current waiver systems do not allow for this type of financial management by the state. Other states have used existing waiver programs for permission to set prices or to implement additional requirements, but not to collect federal money.

“You have to ask for the money,” said Roberson of the nurses union. “We are not going to sit on our hands and hope something is going to happen. This strengthens the governor’s commitment to Medicare for all.”

Meantime, Newsom is tackling the block of 3 million uninsured California residents by chipping away at the edges — proposing spending to help struggling middle-income families buy health insurance, and providing state coverage to some undocumented young adults.

He’ll need approval from the Legislature, now a supermajority of Democrats, many of whom have supported similar ideas in recent years.

Two intertwined proposals in his budget would offer hundreds of thousands of middle-income families additional state subsidies to buy health insurance, and require every Californian to obtain health coverage or pay a tax penalty.

This “state mandate” would replace the controversial federal mandate — a central component of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare — that the Trump administration recently canceled. A few other blue states were quicker to create a replacement state mandate, but California’s progressive lawmakers were wary of penalizing people who failed to buy health insurance unless the state also cushioned the blow by offering people more subsidies to lower the costs.

Newsom also proposes to use $260 million in state funds to extend Medi-Cal, the government health program for people who can’t afford insurance, to low-income undocumented immigrants ages 18 to 26.

It’s a classic “Resistance State” action for Newsom, as California tries to counteract the Trump administration’s federal moves to undermine Obamacare. Last year a joint UCLA and UC Berkeley study found that the uninsured rate in California would rise to nearly 13 percent by 2023 if nothing is done at the state level to prevent it.

Since the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, was enacted, California’s uninsured rate has dropped from about 17 percent to roughly 7 percent. Roughly half of those 3 million remaining uninsured are undocumented immigrant adults who don’t qualify for assistance.

If Newsom’s plan is approved, California would offer additional subsidies to families that earn between 250 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level and already receive some federal help. The state would also start offering state-sponsored subsidies to households that earn between 400 and 600 percent of the federal poverty level, up to $150,600 for a family of four, who currently do not qualify for any assistance. Families that earn above 400 percent of the federal poverty level make up 23 percent of the state’s uninsured, according to data from the UCLA AskCHISprogram.

The federal poverty level for 2019 is set at earnings of $12,140 for one person and $25,100 for a family of four.

The budget does not include cost estimates for the additional subsidies, but Newsom intends to pay for the expansion by having the state collect penalties from Californians who forego insurance. His budget proposal estimates that the mandate penalty could raise about $500 million a year, similar to what about 600,000 Californians paid to the federal government when it had a mandate and collected its own penalties.

Peter Lee, who directs the state health insurance exchange Covered California, praised Newsom’s proposals during a recent board meeting.

“Not only does his initiative propose an individual penalty show courage,” he said, “it shows some thoughtfulness about the challenges that middle-class Americans face.”

Enrollment for Covered California, which recently ended, was down 15 percent over last year. Lee said the elimination of the federal penalty is partly to blame.

A draft affordability report Covered California is preparing for the Legislature concludes that if Newsom’s two proposals — expanded subsidies and a mandate — are adopted, enrollment could rise by nearly 650,000 people.

Funding the subsidies with penalties is, of course, a bit of a Catch 22: The more successful California is in getting people to obtain healthcare, the smaller the penalty fund to pay for the subsidies that help fund that care.

“You’re accomplishing your goal, but you’re taking away revenue,” Kominski said. “This is the kind of problem we should be happy to have.”

The conundrum is reminiscent of the state’s tobacco tax, which was intended to deter people from smoking. Success has meant a drop in the amount of money the tax brings in.

Despite what many see as dismal prospects for single-payer in California so long as the Trump administration can quash the state’s waiver request, the California Nurses Association is undaunted. They’re working on a soon-to-be-introduced single-payer bill, more detailed than the version that died in 2017. That one carried a $400 billion price tag, more than three times the state’s annual budget, but lacked support from then-Gov. Jerry Brown and was scant on details. The new version, nurses union rep Roberson said, will be specific about how single-payer would work and how it would be paid for.

“We’re not eradicating providers, we are not seeking to dismantle hospitals,” she said. “The fundamental structure of healthcare delivery will stay in place; what we are changing is how healthcare is financed.”

And if the Trump administration rejects the waiver request? Roberson sees other paths to a state single-payer system, including petitioning the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, or trying to set up a system under Affordable Care Act provisions.

If the nurses union and other single-payer advocates end up pursuing those other avenues, the question becomes whether Newsom will as well.

CALmatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.

Trump agrees to reopen the federal government through mid-February

On Friday, President Trump announced his intentions to back off of his demand for border wall funding, allowing the federal government to reopen for three weeks through February 15. The president touted the decision to reopen the government as a deal in spite of his failure to obtain a multi-billion-dollar agreement toward a physical perimeter […]

On Friday, President Trump announced his intentions to back off of his demand for border wall funding, allowing the federal government to reopen for three weeks through February 15. The president touted the decision to reopen the government as a deal in spite of his failure to obtain a multi-billion-dollar agreement toward a physical perimeter for the southern border.

At 35 days, the federal shutdown has been the lengthiest to ever grind the U.S. government to a halt. Under the current terms of the proposal, the federal government would re-open, bringing hundreds of thousands of federal employees back to work, as negotiations around a border wall compromise take place. It would also provision back pay for the roughly 800,000 federal workers who have missed paychecks as part of the ordeal.

The Senate is expected to bring the proposal to reopen the government to a vote soon, with the House likely to quickly follow suit. While Trump’s decision on Friday shows the president backing down, he again raised the spectre of declaring a national emergency if his demands are not met.

Often framed as a political standoff between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the president, the shutdown resulted in far-reaching potential consequences for American safety, from unpaid TSA agents to understaffed intelligence agencies unable to monitor and respond to ongoing cybersecurity threats.

Though less consequential, companies have also seen their IPO plans put on ice, waiting out the shutdown to see how to proceed. Even with the government poised to reopen, the SEC remains clogged up with a pile of IPO filings that must be processed before companies can move forward with their plans, making for an unpredictable landscape for companies like Uber, Lyft, Cloudflare and other big-name anticipated 2019 IPOs. Even with the government reopening, a three-week window might not offer enough stability for companies eager to set the paperwork into motion.

Between lapsed cybersecurity and derailed IPO timelines, it may be some time before we know the true damage that the nearly month-long shutdown caused, but the implications will likely stretch well beyond the considerable emotional and financial toll on workers and their families.

With cybersecurity threats looming, the government shutdown is putting America at risk

Putting political divisions and affiliations aside, the government partially shutting down for the third time over the last year is extremely worrisome, particularly when considering its impact on the nation’s cybersecurity priorities. Unlike the government, our nation’s enemies don’t ‘shut down.’ When our nation’s cyber centers are not actively monitoring and protecting our most valuable assets and critical infrastructure, threats magnify and vulnerabilities become further exposed.

Putting political divisions and affiliations aside, the government partially shutting down for the third time over the last year is extremely worrisome, particularly when considering its impact on the nation’s cybersecurity priorities. Unlike the government, our nation’s enemies don’t ‘shut down.’ When our nation’s cyber centers are not actively monitoring and protecting our most valuable assets and critical infrastructure, threats magnify and vulnerabilities become further exposed.

While Republicans and Democrats continue to butt heads over border security, the vital agencies tasked with properly safeguarding our nation from our adversaries are stuck in operational limbo. Without this protection in full force acting around the clock, serious extraneous threats to government agencies and private businesses can thrive. This shutdown, now into its fourth week, has crippled key U.S. agencies, most notably the Department of Homeland Security, imperiling our nation’s cybersecurity defenses.

Consider the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which has seen nearly 37 percent of its staff furloughed. This agency leads efforts to protect and defend critical infrastructure, as it pertains to industries as varied as energy, finance, food and agriculture, transportation, and defense.

As defined in the 2001 Patriot Act, critical infrastructure is such that, “the incapacity or destruction of such systems and assets would have a debilitating impact on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination of those matters.” In the interest of national security, we simply cannot tolerate prolonged vulnerability in these areas.

Employees who are considered “essential” are still on the job, but the loss of supporting staff could prove to be costly, in both the short and long term. More immediately, the shutdown places a greater burden on the employees deemed essential enough to stick around. These employees are tasked with both longer hours and expanded responsibilities, leading to a higher risk of critical oversight and mission failure, as weary agents find themselves increasingly stretched beyond their capabilities.

The long-term effects, however, are quite frankly, far more alarming. There’s a serious possibility our brightest minds in cybersecurity will consider moving to the private sector following a shutdown of this magnitude. Even ignoring that the private sector pays better, furloughed staff are likely to reconsider just how valued they are in their current roles. After the 2013 shutdown, a significant segment of the intelligence community left their posts for the relative stability of corporate America. The current shutdown bears those risks as well. A loss of critical personnel could result in institutional failure far beyond the present shutdown, leading to cascading security deterioration.

This shutdown has farther reaching effects for the federal government to attract talent in the form of recent college grads or those interested in transitioning from the private sector. The stability of government was once viewed as a guarantee compared to the private sector, but work could incentivize workers to take their talents to the private sector.

The IRS in particular is extremely vulnerable, putting America’s private sector and your average taxpayer directly in the crosshairs. The shutdown has come at the worst time of the year, as the holidays and the post-holiday season tend to have the highest rates for cybercrime. In 2018, the IRS reported a 60 percent increase in email scams. Meanwhile, as the IRS furloughed much of its staff as well, cyber criminals are likely to ramp up their activity even more.

Though the agency has stated it will recall a “significant portion” of its personnel to work without pay, it has also indicated there will be a lack of support for much beyond essential service. There’s no doubt cybercriminals will see this as a lucrative opportunity. With tax season on the horizon, the gap in oversight will feed directly into cyber criminals’ playing field, undoubtedly resulting in escalating financial losses due to tax identity theft and refund fraud.

Cyberwarfare is no longer some distant afterthought, practiced and discussed by a niche group of experts in a backroom. Cyberwarfare has taken center stage on the virtual battlefield. Geopolitical adversaries such as North Korea, Russia, Iran, and China rely on cyber as their most agile and dangerous weapon against the United States. These hostile nation-states salivate at the idea of a prolonged government shutdown.

From Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election to Chinese state cybercriminals breaching Marriott Hotels, the necessity  to protect our national cybersecurity has never been more explicit.

If our government doesn’t resolve this dilemma quickly, America’s cybersecurity will undoubtedly suffer serious deterioration, inevitably endangering the lives and safety of citizens across the nation. This issue goes far beyond partisan politics, yet needs both parties to come to a consensus immediately. Time is not on our side.

New U.S. report says that climate change could cost nearly $500 billion per year by 2090

A new report from the U.S. government on the impacts of climate change on society indicates that unless action is taken, climatological events could cost the country nearly half a trillion dollars annually by 2090. The National Climate Assessment is a congressionally mandated report on the impacts of climate change and was culled from the work […]

A new report from the U.S. government on the impacts of climate change on society indicates that unless action is taken, climatological events could cost the country nearly half a trillion dollars annually by 2090.

The National Climate Assessment is a congressionally mandated report on the impacts of climate change and was culled from the work of 300 authors in a dozen federal agencies. The 1,000 page report covers the effect of climate change on agriculture, labor, geography, and health in the United States.

It’s the second volume of a report intended to give federal policymakers information on how global warming will impact the United States. 

It also comes at a time when the current administration is doing everything to refute the mounting evidence coming from inside its own agencies and shirk its national and international commitments to mitigating the effects of global climate change.

In the absence of more significant global mitigation efforts, climate change is projected to impose substantial damages on the U.S. economy, human health, and the environment. Under scenarios with high emissions and limited or no adaptation, annual losses in some sectors are estimated to grow to hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century. It is very likely that some physical and ecological impacts will be irreversible for thousands of years, while others will be permanent.

There is hope that the world can still change course and reverse the effects associated with climate change. In fact, the study says that near-term mitigation efforts should begin showing results by the middle of the century. It’ll let scientists know what steps they’re taking are working and what aren’t — ideally.

Many climate change impacts and associated economic damages in the United States can be substantially reduced over the course of the 21st century through global-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, though the magnitude and timing of avoided risks vary by sector and region. The effect of near-term emissions mitigation on reducing risks is expected to become apparent by mid-century and grow substantially thereafter.

But for the scientists that collected the data and assembled the report, the evidence of the human impact of climate change is now incontrovertible.

Observations from around the world show the widespread effects of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations on Earth’s climate. High temperature extremes and heavy precipitation events are increasing. Glaciers and snow cover are shrinking, and sea ice is retreating. Seas are warming, rising, and becoming more acidic, and marine species are moving to new locations toward cooler waters. Flooding is becoming more frequent along the U.S. coastline. Growing seasons are lengthening, and wildfires are increasing.

While the federal government may not be willing to take action to curb the emissions that contribute to global warming, states, led by California, increasingly are developing legislation to mitigate or reduce carbon emissions and to create adaptation strategies for dealing with a warming climate.

Venture capitalists also are beginning to commit significant capital to technologies focused on alternative energy generation, energy storage, emissions reduction, and energy conservation that all fall under the category of sustainable solutions.

Indeed, the public offering for the vegetarian consumer food company, Beyond Meat, shows that there’s a growing market for investments in companies that promote a more sustainable lifestyle.

And early stage accelerator programs like Y Combinator are also getting into the game, calling for startups that are developing technologies to reduce the emissions that are contributing to global warming.

The new report from the government paints a dire picture for the future if nothing is done, but, as the investment and technology community once again mobilizes to develop potential solutions, there’s a chance that things may not be completely hopeless yet.

The critical step will be if the U.S. government will heed the advice of its own scientists, and take steps to encourage greater action to what is increasingly looking like the biggest threat to human welfare.

Twitter, those ‘verified’ bitcoin-pushing pillocks are pissing everyone off

Elon Musk’s tweets piss me off for two reasons. When he’s not accusing actual heroes of sex crimes or trolling the federal government, it’s what comes after that drives me batshit. The top reply to most of his tweets is some asshat impersonating him to try to trick his followers into falling for a bitcoin […]

Elon Musk’s tweets piss me off for two reasons.

When he’s not accusing actual heroes of sex crimes or trolling the federal government, it’s what comes after that drives me batshit. The top reply to most of his tweets is some asshat impersonating him to try to trick his followers into falling for a bitcoin scam.

These “get rich quick” scams are fairly simple. A hacker hijacks a verified Twitter account using stolen or leaked passwords. Then, the hacker swaps the account’s name, bio and photo — almost always to mirror Elon Musk — and drops a reply with “here’s where to send your bitcoin,” or something similar.

The end result appears as though Musk is responding to his own tweet, and nudging hapless bitcoin owners to drop their coins into the scammer’s coffers.

One of the latest “victims” was @FarahMenswear. The clothing retailer — with some 15,500 followers — was hacked this morning to promote a “bitcoin giveaway.” In the short time the scam began, the bitcoin address already had over 100 transactions and over 5.84 bitcoins — that’s $37,000 in just a few hours’ work. Many Twitter users said that the scammers “promoted” the tweet — amplifying the scam to reach many more people.

On one hand, this scam is depressingly easy to pull off that even I could’ve done it. Depressing on the other, because that’s half a year’s wages for the average reporter.

Still, that $37,000 is a drop in the ocean to some of the other successful scam artists out there. One scammer last week, this time using @PantheonBooks, made $180,000 in a single day by tricking people into turning over their bitcoin and promising great returns.

Another day, another Elon Musk themed bitcoin scam. (Image: screenshot)

Why is the scam so easy?

Granted, it’s clever. But it’s a widespread problem that can be largely attributed to Twitter’s nonchalant, “laissez faire” approach to account security.

The common thread to all of these cryptocurrency scams involve hijacking accounts. Often, hackers use credential stuffing — that’s using the same passwords stolen from other breaches on other sites and services — to break into Twitter accounts. In nearly all successful cases, the hacked Twitter accounts aren’t protected with two-factor authentication. Brand accounts shared by multiple social media users almost never use two-factor, because it’s hard to share access tokens.

For its part, a Twitter spokesperson said it’s improved how it handles cryptocurrency scams and has seen a significant reduction in the amount of users who see scammy tweets. The company also said that that scammers are constantly changing their methods and Twitter is trying to stay one step ahead. In many cases, these scams are nuked from the site before they’re even reported.

And, Twitter said it regularly reminds account owners to switch on stronger security settings, like two-factor authentication.

Well, enough’s enough, Twitter. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. So maybe it’s about time you bring the water a little closer.

Until something better comes along, Twitter should make two-factor authentication mandatory for verified accounts, especially high-profile accounts — like politicians. It’s no more of an inconvenience than switching on two-factor for your email inbox or other social networking account. The settings are already there — it even rolled out the more secure app-based authentication a year ago to give users the option of switching from the less-secure text message system.

If the only other option to stop Elon Musk from tweeting…

What the Bolsonaro victory means for Brazil’s startup ecosystme

Pedro H. Ramos Contributor Pedro H. Ramos is a partner at Baptista Luz Advogados. Pedro has been representing clients in the technology sector since 2009. He is an advisor to the Interministerial Committee for Digital Transformation, a board member at ABStartups (Brazilian Startup Association) and co-author of the book “Regulatory Environment: Public Policy Best Practices […]

On October 28, far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro won the Brazilian elections, after one of the most polarizing campaigns of the last decades.

For months before the result, the economy was destabilized by an unpredictable race during which Mr. Bolsonaro was stabbed during a rally and the main challenger, center-left candidate Fernando Haddad, entered the campaign after the original candidate, the now incarcerated former president Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, was pulled from the race.

The uncertainty caused by the elections hit Brazil’s currency and M&A and IPO markets, but in the middle of all of this, the Brazilian innovation ecosystem blossomed.

Technology companies continued to do well despite all the uncertainty, including the recent public offering of Stone, one of the leaders of the credit card processing market. Stone raised $1.5 billion in its initial public offering on the Nasdaq.

Private technology companies are also benefitting. According to LAVCA (Latin America Private Equity & Venture Capital Association), the country accounted for 45.4% of all tech deals in 2017, with $859 million invested across 113 deals. Anjos do Brasil (the Brazilian Angel Association) also reported a 16% increase in angel investment in 2017, with deals representing almost $250 million.

Attendant with that pace of investment activity around innovative companies is the need for a quantum leap in regulations for the industry.

Indeed, regulators have struggled to balance an innovation-oriented posture with the possible unintended costs of disruption. Lawyers are racing to develop legal solutions in a legal landscape filled with obstacles and entrepreneurs have reported that the regulatory environment is the main burden for innovation in Brazil, according to a research published by ABStartups (Brazilian Startup Association).

Recent regulatory developments

There is some good news, certainly. In the past few years, regulators have been setting up task forces to understand major innovations and their legal impact.

In 2016, both CVM (the Brazilian Securities Exchange Commission) and BCB (Brazilian Central Bank) developed working groups focused on financial technologies. The results are already here, since these groups had a major role in recent developments, such as the equity crowdfunding regulation and the seed funds normative instruction, both issued by CVM in 2017, and the p2p and online lending rule, enacted by BCB in early 2018.

On a federal level, awareness of the importance of the sector has also thrived.

In early 2018, the Brazilian presidency enacted Decree n. 9.319/18, which outlines the Brazilian Digital Transformation Strategy, aiming to standardize all the initiatives of the federal bureaus related to the innovation ecosystem. Following the publication of the decree, the federal government created the Subcommittee on Startups Regulation, bringing together public officials and representatives of the civil society to discuss the further legislative developments for technology-oriented companies.

However, some recent initiatives failed to address significant changes.

The Complementary Law n. 155 introduced a new kind of contract, the angel investment agreement (contrato de participação de investimento-anjo), whose adoption by the market was limited, due to both its complexity and the lack of tax incentives associated with it. And the recently published amendment to Law 8.248 (Lei de Informática) allowed research and development tax credits to be employed in funds that invest in technology companies, but there are still tough limitations related to the nature of such credits. Finally, the labor law reforms in 2017 failed to address concerns related to vesting agreements for sociedades limitadas, which are currently drafted under some legal uncertainty for founders and investors.

Bolsonaro and his proposals for innovation and entrepreneurship

For years, several countries have developed regulatory models geared toward high-impact entrepreneurship. However, most of the general policies adopted in Brazil in the last decades are based on outdated assumptions and do not respond to the complexity of the challenges that affect startups.

Bolsonaro has addressed some issues that may have a direct impact on the entrepreneurship ecosystem. In his proposals, he highlights the importance of partnerships between businesses and universities, mentioning that the latter must develop practical solutions to improve productivity, wealth and the well-being of the population, citing Israel and the United States as examples, while stimulating entrepreneurship education. One of the proposals includes, for instance, establishing a mandatory entrepreneurship course for all federal undergraduate schools.

The president-elect also advocates for the open market as the main engine of innovation, through what he calls a “positive technological shock”. His proposals also emphasize the importance of innovation in the agriculture and industry sectors, as well as the importance of promoting startups in partnership with private capital market institutions.

Unfortunately, the policies are vague, and do not seem to be priorities in his agenda. The attention is now focused on the reform of the Social Security system, and on the implementation of policies that are more immediate and urgent for the population, such as public safety, health, education and employment.

A field to play on but not enough guidelines for the game

The playing field is designed, but the rules that will genuinely change the innovation game in Brazil have yet to come. Whilst countries such as Italy and Australia have recently enacted robust regulations, there is still room for a convincing ground-breaking legislative initiative, as Marco Civil da Internet was for the digital environment in 2014.

Some of the challenges are clear and include changing our Corporations Law (Lei das Sociedades Anônimas) to include a simplified corporate type for startups, creating tax benefits for both startups and angel investors, promoting flexibility with labor agreements and expanding our R&D tax credits policy.

Politicians in Brazil, regardless of party or ideology, must play the game. The future government and its office must invest time to learn the business and the regulatory framework, aiming to provide real value to the ecosystem. As emerging technologies drive new business models, regulation should also keep pace with today’s tough environment, thus fostering better conditions for startups and innovation in our country.

Bipartisan bill seeks to elevate the federal CIO position

On Wednesday, Texas Rep. Will Hurd and Illinois Rep. Robin Kelly introduced a bipartisan bill that would reorganize how IT is managed throughout the federal government. The bill, the Federal CIO Authorization Act of 2018, would make a handful of changes with the intention of making the government run more smoothly and securely. Among those […]

On Wednesday, Texas Rep. Will Hurd and Illinois Rep. Robin Kelly introduced a bipartisan bill that would reorganize how IT is managed throughout the federal government. The bill, the Federal CIO Authorization Act of 2018, would make a handful of changes with the intention of making the government run more smoothly and securely.

Among those changes, the bill would rename the Office of E-Government, the department overseen by the federal CIO, to the “Office of the Federal Chief Information Officer.” Second, it would “elevate” the federal CIO position so that the position reports to the director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) instead of the deputy director, as it stands now. Beyond those changes, the bill would make the federal chief information security officer (CISO) position report directly to the federal CIO.

While CIOs within individual government agencies report directly to agency directors, the federal CIO role has not been elevated in the same way. The decision to further empower agency CIOs, enacted through an executive order in May, aimed to “better position agencies to modernize their IT systems” and to reduce cybersecurity risk by streamlining the way agency CIO roles functioned. The federal CIO bill has the same goals in mind.

“No entity can operate securely and efficiently without a CIO in the year 2018, including the federal government,” Rep. Hurd said of the proposal. “This bill does more than just rename an office. It makes a clear statement that the Federal CIO is in charge of coordinating IT policy across the government in order to ensure that our agencies are able to provide better, faster and more cost-efficient services for the American people.”

Rep. Kelly added that the bill seeks to “streamline government IT processes,” part of a broader effort to bring government technology — and the positions that manage it — up to date.