TIME policy

Twitter, Yelp, eBay CEOs Speak Out Against Religious Freedom Bills

Newest Innovations In Consumer Technology On Display At 2014 International CES
Ethan Miller—Getty Images Twitter CEO Dick Costolo speaks during the Brand Matters keynote address at the 2014 International CES at The Las Vegas Hotel & Casino on January 8, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Critics say the laws could allow discrimination against LGBT citizens

Executives at several large technology companies are banding together in opposition to a controversial new religious freedom law in Indiana and a similar bill in Arkansas that critics say could open the door for businesses to discriminate against LGBT customers.

“Religious freedom, inclusion, and diversity can co-exist and everyone including LGBT people and people of faith should be protected under their states’ civil rights laws,” reads the joint statement signed by Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, Square founder Jack Dorsey, Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman and eBay CEO John Donahoe, among others. “No person should have to fear losing their job or be denied service or housing because of who they are or whom they love.”

The group called on state legislatures nationwide to make sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes under state laws designed to protect religious freedoms.

Controversy over those laws erupted last week after Indiana’s legislature passed such a law in the state, while Arkansas’ legislature did the same soon afterwards. Indiana Governor Mike Pence, who signed his state’s law, said this week he’s pushing lawmakers to “fix” it and ensure it doesn’t allow for discrimination. Other business leaders across many different sectors have previously expressed concern about Indiana’s law, with some threatening boycotts if the rule isn’t amended.

Read next: Arkansas Governor Asks for Changes to Controversial Religious Freedom Bill

TIME policy

Google to Strip Porn From Its Blogging Platform

Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. on Jan. 30, 2014.
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. on Jan. 30, 2014.

Starting in March, graphic nudity is being removed from Blogger

Google is cracking down on sexually explicit content on its blogging platform, Blogger. The search giant announced Monday night that images that show graphic nudity won’t be publicly shareable beginning beginning on March 23. Nudity that, in Google’s estimation, offers a “substantial public benefit” artistically, educationally or scientifically will still be allowed.

Users who have sexually explicit content on their blog will have the option to make the content private rather than having it removed by Google. The company is reserving the right to take down any blogs created after March 23 that post explicit material.

The change may convince some bloggers to flock to Tumblr instead, which has lax policies regarding sexually explicit photos.

[The Verge]

TIME policy

These Two Charts Show Why Net Neutrality Is Meaningless Without Mobile

US-POLITICS-FCC-WHEELER
Jim Watson—AFP/Getty Images

We're using mobile devices way more than desktops these days

The head of the Federal Communications Commission confirmed reports Wednesday that he’s seeking to regulate Internet service like a utility.

That’s a big deal on its own, as it would give the agency new authority to stop Internet Service Providers like Comcast or Time Warner Cable from blocking or slowing down Internet content they don’t like. The move would thus protect “net neutrality,” or the idea that all Internet content should be treated as equal in terms of speed.

But buried within FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s Wired op-ed is a crucial nugget: He wants this change to apply not just to the Internet, but to mobile data services as well.

That would be a massive change for wireless carriers like AT&T and Verizon, which have never been subject to net neutrality rules. But if Wheeler’s broadband reform plan is to be at all meaningful, it must apply to mobile Internet services as well.

Why? Just look at this August 2014 chart from Internet analytics firm comScore, which shows how we’re spending most of our screen time:

comScore

It’s no contest: Time spent on mobile devices is handily trumping time on desktop. There is a caveat here: Just because we’re using a mobile device doesn’t necessarily mean we’re using mobile data; we could be connected to a Wi-Fi network. But according to wireless industry trade group CTIA, U.S. mobile data usage has skyrocketed since 2009, going from 35 billion megabytes in 2009 to 3.2 trillion by 2013:

annual-survey-usage-2013

That’s why it’s so important for Wheeler that his broadband reforms apply to mobile: If they didn’t, they wouldn’t affect a major chunk of today’s Internet use.

TIME policy

Websites Plan ‘Internet Countdown’ to Defend Net Neutrality

US-IT-INTERNET-FCC
Karen Bleier—AFP/Getty Images Protesters hold a rally to support "net neutrality" on May 15, 2014 at the FCC in Washington, DC.

FCC will vote on new net neutrality rules Feb. 26

The organization behind a widespread online protest last fall over net neutrality is trying to stage another one as the Federal Communications Commission vote on new net neutrality rules draws near.

On Monday, Fight for the Future, an Internet advocacy group, began organizing an “Internet Countdown” to tick down the hours until Feb. 26, when the FCC is scheduled to vote on net neutrality, the principle that all data should be treated equally online. Internet advocates worry that the FCC may enshrine within its new rules the right for Internet service providers to charge a premium for “fast lanes” that would allow some websites to load more quickly than others. Internet advocates argue that boosting sites for money would stifle innovation, as start-ups would load more slowly than established brands.

Fight for the Future is pushing for a reclassification of broadband companies such as Comcast and Verizon as telecommunications services, which would let the FCC force those businesses to adhere to the tenets of net neutrality. The organization is trying to convince popular websites to embed its countdown timer on their websites to raise awareness about the upcoming FCC vote.

Fight for the Future has had success with this tactic in the past. A planned “Internet Slowdown” in September, in which websites either throttled their own traffic or posted an image of the “spinning wheel of death” to symbolizing throttling, was adopted by big online names such as Mozilla, Reddit and Foursquare. So far, the new Internet Countdown doesn’t seem quite as widespread, with the liberal blog The Daily Kos being the biggest organization currently participating. Fight for the Future and other organizers say they will announce other participants as they come on board.

Even as the FCC vote draws near, the Republican-led Congress is mulling legislation that might protect net neutrality while also removing the FCC from enforcement.

TIME policy

Google Spent Even More on Lobbying Than Comcast in 2014

Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. on Jan. 30, 2014.
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. on Jan. 30, 2014.

Outspent the cable giant currently seeking approval for a merger

Google’s influence is increasingly being felt in Washington, according to a corporate spending watchdog.

The search giant spent $16.83 million on federal lobbying in 2014, according to public records analyzed by public interest nonprofit Consumer Watchdog — just a little bit more than the $16.8 million spend racked up by noted big spender Comcast last year, as it sought to win approval for a planned $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable.

Google is also spending considerably more than its direct competitors, such as Microsoft, which spent $8.33 million on lobbying efforts, and Facebook, which spent $9.34 million. In fact Google’s spend was the largest of 15 tech and communications companies that Consumer Watchdog tracks, including Verizon, Time Warner Cable and IBM.

As Google continues to expand to new business ventures, such as its just-announced contribution to a $1 billion investment into SpaceX, the company must wrangle with an ever-growing list of laws and policies. The Washington Post pulled back the curtain a bit on how Google spends its lobbying dollars earlier this year, revealing that the tech giant regularly funds research at think tanks and invests in advocacy groups on both sides of the political aisle.

Current political issues that would likely be of high interest to Google include the revamping of net neutrality laws and President Obama’s new initiative to ensure that cities are able to build their own municipal broadband networks, which could lead to faster Internet for customers.

TIME Davos

What Obama and Davos Plutocrats Have in Common

A logo sits on a glass panel inside the venue of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 19, 2015.
Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg—Getty Images A logo sits on a glass panel inside the venue of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland on Jan. 19, 2015.

Global wealth has changed dramatically. It's time our tax code should, too

If President Obama’s State of the Union speech Tuesday night and the chatter at the World Economic Forum in Davos, which opened Wednesday, are any indication, inequality will be the hot economic topic for another year running.

The president’s proposals for changes to parts of the US tax code that mainly benefit the wealthy revives the conversation Warren Buffett started a few years back with his op-ed about why his secretary pays a higher tax rate than he does. (Answer: She works for wages, whereas the Oracle of Omaha earns money on money itself, in the form of capital gains, interest income, etc.) At the WEF in Davos, where world leaders meet every year to hash out the big geopolitical and economic issues of the day, one of the most talked about reports is Oxfam’s new brief looking at how the 85 richest people on the planet have the same amount of wealth as the poorest 50%, a huge jump from last year when it took a full 388 plutocrats to equal that wealth. Some 20% of the billionaires come from the world of finance and insurance, a group whose wealth increased by 11 % in the last twelve months. And $550 million of it was spent lobbying policy makers in places like Washington, something Oxfam believes has been a major barrier to tax and intellectual property reform that creates a fairer economic system.

Plenty of those plutocrats are here on the Magic Mountain, and some are undoubtedly checking in with their tax planners. I expect that we’ll hear lots more in Davos this week about how to restructure tax codes for the 21st century, mainly because the nature of wealth and how it gets created has changed so dramatically. Today, more than ever since the Gilded Age, money begets money; income earned from wages has been stagnating for years, or decades even, depending on which type of workers you tally. Meanwhile, changes in the tax code and corporate compensation over the last 30 years or so has concentrated more financial resources at the very top of the socio-economic food chain. Indeed, financial assets (stocks, bonds, and such) are the dominant form of wealth for the top 0.1 %, which actually creates a snowball effect of inequality.

As French economist Thomas Piketty explained so thoroughly in his now famous 693 page tome on wealth inequality, Capital in the 21st Century, the returns on financial assets greatly out-weigh those from income earned the old-fashioned way—by working for wages. Even when you consider the salaries of the modern economy’s super-managers—the CEOs, bankers, accountants, agents, consultants and lawyers that groups like Occupy Wall Street railed against—it’s important to remember that somewhere between 30% to 80 % of their incomes are awarded not in cash but in stock options and stock equity. This type of income is taxed at a much lower rate than what most of us pay on the money we receive in our regular checks. That means the composition of super-manager pay has the booster-rocket effect of lowering taxes (and thus governments’ ability to provide support for the poor and middle classes) while increasing inequality in the economy as a whole.

MORE How 7 ideas in the State of the Union would affect you

It’s a cycle that spins faster and faster as executives paid in stock make short-term business decisions that might undermine long-term growth in their companies even as they raise the value of their own options in the near. It’s no accident that corporate stock buybacks, which tend to bolster share prices but not underlying growth (you know, the kind that creates jobs for you and me), and corporate pay have gone up concurrently over the last four decades. There are any number of studies that illustrate the intersection between the markets, our tax system, and wealth gap; one of the most striking was done by economists James Galbraith and Travis Hale, who showed how during the late 1990s, changing income inequality tracked the go-go NASDAQ stock index to a remarkable degree.

As Piketty’s work shows, in the absence of some change-making event, like a war or a Great Depression that destroys financial asset value, the rich really do get richer–a lot richer–while the rest of us become relatively worse off. One of the few levers that governments have to combat this trend is the tax code. While Piketty argues for a global wealth tax, something that will likely never happen, President Obama’s stab at capital gains taxes and trust taxes is probably just the opening round in a tax debate that will go on throughout this year, and into the 2016 presidential race.

I say, bring it on—given that the nature of wealth has changed, it’s high time the tax system should too.

TIME 2016 Election

The 9 Times Hillary Clinton Has Taken a Stand Since 2013

USA - Hillary Clinton speaks at Iowa Senator Tom Harken'a annual Steak Fry
Brooks Kraft—Corbis for TIME Hillary Clinton Hillary Clinton gazes pensively into the distance at Iowa Senator Tom Harken'a annual Steak Fry in Indianola, Iowa on September 14, 2014.

Like other presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton had an opinion on just about everything in 2008. How to reform the U.S. health care system? Check. What to do about climate change? Check. Even minor issues like how to lower the price of gas required her to come up with a plan.

But when she became Secretary of State, Clinton followed tradition and kept her opinions to herself, especially on domestic policy. And since leaving Foggy Bottom in 2013, she’s mostly avoided specifics.

She says she’s in favor of protecting the environment, for example, but has yet to stake out her position on fracking or the Keystone XL pipeline. She says she’s against eliminating net neutrality, but has yet to say what, exactly, the government ought to do to protect it. And while she’s talked a big game about U.S. military engagement abroad, it’s unclear how her positions on, say, Ukraine or Iraq would differ from those of President Obama.

That ambiguity is understandable. She doesn’t hold public office. She’s not officially on the ballot. And committing to a position publicly limits her future options, politically. But given how many times she hasn’t taken a position on the issue of the day, it’s worth noting the handful of times she has.

Here’s a look at the nine most substantive policy positions Clinton has staked out since stepping down as Secretary of State.

1) The U.S. needs serious immigration reform. When President Obama announced his controversial executive order in November shielding up to five million undocumented immigrants, Clinton tweeted her approval within minutes, and then followed up with a statement calling for immediate, bipartisan and comprehensive immigration that would “focus finite resources on deporting felons rather than families.”

2) The U.S. should have armed the rebels in Syria. In an interview with the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg in August, Clinton blamed the rise of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, on the U.S. not doing enough to support moderate rebels when the Syrian civil war first broke out. “The failure to help build up a credible fighting force of the people who were the originators of the protests against Assad — there were Islamists, there were secularists, there was everything in the middle — the failure to do that left a big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled,” she said. That said, Clinton’s ideas on how to rout ISIS now appear to be more or less the same as Obama’s.

3) Gay people should be allowed to marry. In March 2013, Clinton formally announced in her support for gay marriage, marking a major reversal of the position she’d held for decades. Her rivals criticized her for jumping on the bandwagon only after the issue of gay marriage had become widely acceptable, but she defended herself as a “thinking human” who is allowed to “evolve” on issues.

4) Americans shouldn’t torture people. At a human rights awards dinner in December, Clinton made her first public comments about torture since the Senate released its controversial report on the issue earlier this month. She said unequivocally that she is against illegal renditions and brutal interrogation methods. “The U.S. should never condone or practice torture anywhere in the world,” she said.

5) The federal government should raise the minimum wage. In a speech at a campaign event for Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley in October, Clinton told the crowd not to “let anyone tell you that raising the minimum wage will kill jobs – they always say that.” She then went on to defend raising the federal minimum wage. As a senator, Clinton repeatedly proposed legislation that would automatically increase the federal minimum wage anytime members of Congress saw their own pay increase.

6) Negotiating with Iran is a good idea, so long as the U.S. gets a good deal. Much to the chagrin of many in the pro-Israel crowd, Clinton has not only expressed support for the administration’s negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear program, she has taken credit for initiating the secret talks back in 2012. In the past year, she has lightly tempered that unequivocal support by cautioning that the U.S. should be careful about what it concedes to, repeating that “no deal is better than a bad deal.”

7) The U.S. shouldn’t trust Putin. At a speaking event this year, Clinton called the Russian President an arrogant bully. As Secretary of State, she said she was in favor of the Obama administration’s “reset” policy with Russia, but her opinion of the policy appears to have cooled. “I think that what may have happened, is that both the United States and Europe were really hoping for the best from Putin as a returned president,” she told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in an interview in July. “And I think we’ve been quickly, unfortunately, disabused of those hopes.” While those seem like fightin’ words, policy analysts point out that it’s less clear how Clinton’s distrust of Putin would translate to a change in actual U.S. policy—much less potential military engagement—in Ukraine.

8) All American kids should get free, high-quality pre-K. Anyone remotely familiar with Clinton’s resume won’t find this to be much of a shocker, but early-childhood education is one of the issues she’s been most outspoken about in the last two years. She’s advocated for everything from universal pre-K and free nurse home-visits for at-risk mothers, to expanding existing programs, like Head Start and paid family leave.

9) #Blacklivesmatter. Clinton took a shellacking this fall for failing to say much one way or an another on the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and about the Eric Garner case in New York. At an awards ceremony in December, she broke her silence—kinda. “Yes, black lives matter,” she said, but then failed to elaborate. She has yet to say whether she’s in favor of broad sentencing reform, body cameras on police, or how she might limit what military equipment is available to police forces.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: December 9

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Foreign policy isn’t public relations. The value of releasing the torture report outweighs the risks.

By Daniel Larison in the American Conservative

2. Innovation in design — not technology — might be the key to disrupting industries.

By Todd Olson in Medium

3. The simple notion of community potlucks is working to rebuild the torn fabric of Ferguson.

By Shereen Marisol Meraji at National Public Radio

4. A new poverty alleviation strategy is built on feedback and direction from the actual beneficiaries — putting people at the center of policy.

By Molly M. Scott in RealClearPolicy

5. Women are uniquely positioned to understand the impact of climate change around the world. They must have a seat at the table to set global policy.

By Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka in the Aspen Journal of Ideas

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Australia

Australia Approves Temporary Protection Visas for Refugees

SRI LANKA-AUSTRALIA-REFUGEE-IMMIGRATION
Lakruwan Wanniarachchi —AFP/Getty Images Sri Lankan asylum seekers sent back by Australia queue to enter the magistrate's court in the southern port district of Galle on July 8, 2014.

The controversial visas were first introduced in Australia during John Howard's administration in 1999

Australia lawmakers approved a bill Thursday that will allow asylum seekers to live and work in the country using temporary protection visas.

Refugees who are granted the temporary visa can stay in Australia for three to five years but are denied permanent residency, the BBC reports.

Currently, asylum seekers arriving to Australia by boat are held in offshore detention centers, where conditions have been criticized by human rights groups. Under the new legislation, the number of refugees allowed to work in Australia will rise by 7,500 from 13,750 by 2018.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott says the move completes the country’s asylum seeker policy.

“We always said that three things were necessary to stop the boats — offshore processing, turning boats around and temporary protection visas,” he said. “Last night the final piece of policy was put in place.”

Refugees using a temporary visa can live and work in the country but the government has the power to deport them back to their home country if it deems conditions there have improved.

Paul Power, chief executive of the Refugee Council of Australia, criticized the legislation as a “shattering blow for asylum seekers who face the grave risk of being returned to danger,” reports the BBC.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison made several concessions to get the bill passed, including that children will no longer be detained on Christmas Island, an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean, for offshore processing.

The bill became law from Friday.

[BBC]

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: November 10

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Food touches everything in our lives. Yet we have no national food policy. That must change.

By Mark Bittman, Michael Pollan, Ricardo Salvador and Olivier De Schutter in the Washington Post

2. Electronic Medical Records should focus more on patient care and less on meeting the needs of insurance companies and billing departments.

By Scott Hensley at National Public Radio

3. Anonymous social media often hosts vicious harassment targeting women and minorities. A new plan to monitor threats online is working for a solution.

By Barbara Herman in International Business Times

4. “You can’t wear a Band-Aid for long, particularly when the wound keeps bleeding.” Two years after Hurricane Sandy, New York is far from stormproof.

By Lilah Raptopoulos in the Guardian

5. China and the U.S. should take aim at a new “grand bargain” to head off tensions and mistrust in their relationship.

By Wei Zongyou in the Diplomat

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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