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Congress looks to push 911 calls into the 21st century with texts, videos and photos

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A next-generation 911 would allow the nation’s 6,000 911 centers to accept texts, videos and photos.

The big picture: U.S. emergency communications have remained stubbornly analog, but Congress is about to take another run at dragging 911 into the digital age.


Why it matters: Giving people ways to reach 911 beyond voice calls could save citizens’ and first responders’ lives.

Driving the news: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), co-chair of the Senate Next Generation 9-1-1 Caucus, and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) announced a bill Thursday that would create a $10 billion federal grant program for upgrades to the nation’s 911 centers.

  • “In a crisis, no one should be put in danger because of outdated 9-1-1 systems, and first responders, public safety officials, and law enforcement must be able to communicate seamlessly,” said Klobuchar, who will push to include the funding in Democrats’ reconciliation spending plan.
  • Similarly, the House Energy & Commerce Committee approved its own proposal this week for a $10 billion boost for next-generation 911 as part of the $3.5 trillion spending package.

How it works: Expanding 911 to accept more kinds of digital data would add more resiliency to a system that’s still built around a copper-based telephone network.

  • According to the FCC, almost 3,000 911 centers are capable of receiving text messages. But none have full capabilities to take data from smartphones, said Harriet Rennie-Brown, executive director of the National Association of State 911 Administrators.
  • “You have this amazing device in your hand, and we can’t use all of the information it’s capable of sending us,” Rennie-Brown told Axios.

What they’re saying: “Right now Americans are enduring the most frequent and severe natural disasters in recorded history — meanwhile our country’s 9-1-1 operators are being asked to respond with outdated technology from a bygone era,” House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) said in a statement. “Next generation 9-1-1 is about saving lives.”

The other side: Republicans opposed the House proposal during a marathon markup session Monday after Democrats voted against Republican amendments.

  • One amendment from Republicans would have prohibited the new funding to go to 911 centers in cities that voted on defunding their police departments.
  • “Our amendment simply says let’s not waste any of it,” Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) said. “You don’t want police support. You don’t want to fund the police, deal with it yourself.”

The intrigue: The House proposal would not allow the funding to go to states that divert funds from the 911 fees on consumer phone bills to non-911 purposes.

  • The Federal Communications Commission, in an annual report spotlighting fee diverters, said 5 states used a portion of their 911 funds to support public safety programs unrelated to 911.
  • The FCC said Pallone’s home state of New Jersey, and New York, home of Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, also used a portion of their funds for either non-public safety or “unspecified” uses.
  • The FCC this year created a “strike force” to recommend ways to end 911 fee diversion, and that group is expected to vote on its report Friday.

Source: https://www.axios.com/congress-911-calls-digital-update-emergency-services-f1d575c6-bf6a-42f6-a707-29e848cab8cd.html
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Margaret Harding McGill

Here’s how the infrastructure bill would favor cheaper, US-made EVs

The House Ways and Means Committee has proposed a wide-ranging overhaul of the current electric vehicle incentives as part of the infrastructure bill.

Enlarge / The House Ways and Means Committee has proposed a wide-ranging overhaul of the current electric vehicle incentives as part of the infrastructure bill. (credit: Stadtratte)

On Friday, the House Ways and Means Committee released a markup of its proposed budget reconciliation bill. There’s a ton of information in the $3.5 trillion plan, but today, we’re interested in a small portion of the 645-page “Budget Reconciliation Legislative Recommendations Relating to Infrastructure Financing, Green Energy, Social Safety Net, and Prescription Drug Pricing” section—specifically the parts that deal with incentives to decarbonize our vehicle fleet.

Beginning in 2010, the Federal government has incentivized people to buy or lease new plug-in vehicles by offering them a tax credit. The credit is based on battery size, starting at $2,917 for a vehicle with a 5 kWh battery and providing an additional $417 per extra kWh, topping out at $7,500. However, the credit only applies to the first 200,000 plug-ins sold by an OEM, at which point the credit begins to expire. To date, only Tesla and General Motors have sold enough plug-in vehicles to see their credits sunset.

If the budget reconciliation bill passes as is, the current tax credit (known as 30D) goes away, to be replaced by several new purchasing incentives for greener, more efficient vehicles.

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Source: https://arstechnica.com/cars/2021/09/house-infrastructure-bill-includes-new-tax-credits-for-new-and-used-evs/
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Jonathan M. Gitlin

Crypto lobbyists face defeat with House set to block tax rule changes

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House Democrats on Tuesday were poised to block attempts to scale back digital currency tax rules tucked into President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan, in a new setback for crypto industry advocates fighting the proposal.

The House Rules Committee, which drafts the terms of debate for bills headed to the floor, agreed to a process that would prohibit any amendments from being considered for the infrastructure bill. The full House was scheduled to vote to lock in the procedure Tuesday afternoon. The plan would also set up a floor vote on the infrastructure package by Sept. 27.

The House was set to close the door to infrastructure bill changes despite calls from Democrats and Republicans to pare back the cryptocurrency tax proposal that the Senate passed as part of the legislation earlier this month.

At issue in the fight are proposed requirements that would force cryptocurrency exchanges and other firms to report transaction information to the Internal Revenue Service, similar to rules in place for stock brokers. As drafted, industry lobbyists and sympathetic lawmakers say the plan threatens technological innovation and the viability of a growing sector of the U.S. economy.

Crypto industry groups are now considering other legislative vehicles to revise the policy, after being blindsided by its inclusion in the infrastructure bill. One possibility is Democrats’ $3.5 trillion budget package, said Michelle Bond, CEO of the Association for Digital Asset Markets.

“The industry’s biggest test will lie in efforts to forge positive relationships in Washington,” Bond said.

Source: https://www.politico.com/news/2021/08/24/crypto-lobbyists-house-tax-rule-infrastructure-506756
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Kellie Mejdrich

No EV tax credit if you earn more than $100,000, says US Senate

Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) departs the US Capitol at dawn after an overnight session of the US Senate on August 11, 2021, in Washington, DC. Sen. Kelly was one of three Democratic Senators who voted to gut the plug-in vehicle tax credit.

Enlarge / Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) departs the US Capitol at dawn after an overnight session of the US Senate on August 11, 2021, in Washington, DC. Sen. Kelly was one of three Democratic Senators who voted to gut the plug-in vehicle tax credit. (credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

On Tuesday night, the US Senate passed an amendment that would limit the plug-in vehicle federal tax credit. Currently, tax payers are eligible for a tax credit of up to $7,500 based on the size of the vehicle’s battery for the first 200,000 plug-in vehicles from a given automaker. But Republican Senator Deb Fischer of Nebraska introduced a non-binding amendment to the $3.5 trillion budget bill that would means-test this tax credit, restricting it to tax payers with incomes below $100,000.

Perhaps more significantly, Sen. Fischer’s amendment also restricts the tax credit to EVs that cost less than $40,000. Consequently, the only battery EVs that will still be eligible for the tax credit will be the Hyundai Ioniq Electric ($34,250), Hyundai Kona EV ($38,565), Mini Cooper SE ($30,750), and the Nissan Leaf S Plus ($39,220). Chevrolet’s Bolt EV and Bolt EUV are both below the price threshold, but in 2019 the automaker sold its 200,000th plug-in vehicle, at which point the tax credit began to phase out.

The amendment passed, 51-48. Senator Fischer took to Twitter to say that “everyday Americans are living paycheck to paycheck because of the sharp rise in costs due to #Bideninflation. We shouldn’t be subsidizing luxury vehicles for the rich using money from hard-working taxpayers.” (Inflation is mostly being driven by high prices for used cars, which in turn is a result of the chip shortage.)

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Source: https://arstechnica.com/cars/2021/08/senate-votes-to-restrict-ev-tax-credits-despite-climate-crisis/
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Jonathan M. Gitlin

YouTube bans Senator Rand Paul for a week after he posts that cloth masks “don’t work”

Republican Senator Rand Paul’s YouTube account flatlined last night, and this morning it emerged he’d been handed a weeklong ban after posting Covid misinformation there: a claim that cloth masks are ineffective at preventing transmission of the virus.

A spokesman for YouTube told the Times that the video violated company policy on Covid-19 misinformation, which includes “claims that wearing a mask is dangerous or causes negative physical health effects” or that masks don’t play a role in preventing the contraction or transmission of COVID-19.

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Source: https://boingboing.net/2021/08/11/youtube-bans-senator-rand-paul-for-a-week-after-he-posts-that-cloth-masks-dont-work.html?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=youtube-bans-senator-rand-paul-for-a-week-after-he-posts-that-cloth-masks-dont-work
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Rob Beschizza

New bill strips Facebook, Twitter of Section 230 immunity for spreading vaccine falsehoods

New bill strips Facebook, Twitter of Section 230 immunity for spreading vaccine falsehoods

Enlarge (credit: CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP)

A new bill introduced Thursday would hold Facebook, Twitter, and other social media companies responsible for amplifying conspiracies and falsehoods about vaccines, COVID cures, and other health misinformation.

“For far too long, online platforms have not done enough to protect the health of Americans,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), one of the bill’s sponsors. “These are some of the biggest, richest companies in the world, and they must do more to prevent the spread of deadly vaccine misinformation.”

If signed into law, the Health Misinformation Act would strip Facebook, Twitter, and other social media companies of some immunity under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which currently prevents Internet firms from being held liable for most content posted on their platforms. The carveout proposed by Klobuchar and Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) would eliminate that legal shield in instances where a platform “promotes health misinformation through an algorithm,” the bill says.

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Source: https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2021/07/new-bill-strips-facebook-twitter-of-section-230-immunity-for-spreading-vaccine-falsehoods/
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Tim De Chant

Warren: Canceling $50K in student debt could ‘transform an entire generation’

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is reigniting her push for canceling $50,000 in student debt per borrower, arguing the move could “transform an entire generation.””It would help nearly everyone w…

Source: https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/564388-warren-cancelling-50000-in-student-debt-could-transform-an-entire-generation
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Mychael Schnell

Senators Put Section 230 in the Crosshairs in Battle Over Covid-19 Misinformation

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For the past few years, we’ve seen companies like Facebook either endlessly shrug off the misinformation problems on their platforms or issue half-assed fixes meant to keep them in check. Now, they might have a little more motivation. On Thursday, two lawmakers introduced new legislation meant to strip back these…

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Source: https://gizmodo.com/senators-put-section-230-in-the-crosshairs-in-battle-ov-1847344879
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Shoshana Wodinsky

GOP’s Big Tech plan ignores consumers, targets “censorship” of Republicans instead

The Republican Party elephant symbol seen in a conference hall.

Enlarge / The Republican Party elephant symbol at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, on Friday, Feb. 28, 2020. (credit: Getty Images | Bloomberg)

Congressional Republicans released an antitrust plan for Big Tech yesterday with an announcement that made it clear their focus is not on boosting competition or reducing harms to online consumers but on alleged “censorship” of conservatives.

“Big Tech is out to get conservatives” is the first sentence in the “House Judiciary Republican Agenda for Taking on Big Tech.” The “conservative response” to tech-industry problems “will speed up and strengthen antitrust enforcement, hold Big Tech accountable for its censorship, and increase transparency around Big Tech’s decisions,” the opening paragraph continues. The word “competition” never appears in the two-page plan. A separate plan previously released by House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) does mention competition, but McCarthy’s plan also focuses mostly on supposed bias against conservatives.

The House Judiciary Republicans’ plan was released as former President Donald Trump sued Twitter, Facebook, and Google subsidiary YouTube for banning him, claiming that all three companies are guilty of “impermissible censorship” that violates “the First Amendment right to free speech.” Trump’s lawsuit has been widely mocked by legal experts and is almost certain to be defeated because the First Amendment does not require private companies to host speech and because Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act gives online platforms immunity from lawsuits over how they moderate user-submitted content.

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Source: https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2021/07/gops-big-tech-plan-ignores-consumers-targets-censorship-of-republicans-instead/
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Jon Brodkin

No One Likes Robocalls and June 30th Might Spell the End of Them

The dialer open on a Pixel 5Cameron Summerson

Robocalls are a multi-year problem that could finally die later this month. Hopefully slowing the barrage of fake healthcare, car warranty, Amazon account, or social security scammer calls people receive daily. We’re talking about the stir/shaken technology that providers have to implement by June 30th, 2021.

Yes, the FCC is finally trying to end robocalls by forcing solutions like STIR/SHAKEN. By the end of the month, every major voice provider in the US, including AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and even cable providers, will have to implement the spam-preventing technology.

CNET reports that phone users in the United States have already received around 22 billion robocalls in the first five months of 2021, and that number could grow to 52 billion by the end of the year. Ridiculous!

pedrorsfernandes/Shutterstock

So what is stir/shaken exactly? Well, “Stir” stands for “secure telephone identity revisited” and “Shaken” for “signature-based handling of asserted information using tokens.” It’s a system and protocol aimed at curbing all those awful scammers. With the new “shaken” framework, a new database can track calls, and each one goes through a new network verification process. Essentially, every call has its caller ID “signed” and verified before it ever reaches you.

Unfortunately, this will only slow down all of the illegal calls Americans get daily. More specifically, the ones that spoof local area codes and familiar numbers, which most people are more likely to pick up. We’ll probably still get junk phone calls, but the number won’t be local, so it’s easier to spot, and ultimately, ignore.

Unless a voice provider is a tiny company, everyone from AT&T to Verizon must implement this new technology no later than June 30th. So hopefully, come July 1st, we’ll get fewer calls than before. One can hope, at least.

via CNET

Source: https://www.reviewgeek.com/90218/no-one-likes-robocalls-and-june-30th-might-spell-the-end-of-them/
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The Article Was Written/Published By: Cory Gunther

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