TIME policy

Obama Calls for the U.S. to Make the World’s Fastest Computer

And he wants it done by 2025

President Obama has issued an executive order calling for the United States to build the world’s fastest computer.

The order, announced on Wednesday, establishes the National Strategic Computing Initiative, which is “designed to advance core technologies to solve difficult computational problems and foster increased use of the new capabilities in the public and private sectors,” according to the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

One of the goals of the NSCI will be to build the world’s fastest supercomputer over the next ten years. The computer is planned to be capable of working at one exaflop, or one billion billion calculations per second. The office says a supercomputer able to work at this speed could more accurately measure galaxies, weather, molecular interactions or aircraft in flight, as well as help detect cancer from x-ray images.

“Over the past 60 years, the United States has been a leader in the development and deployment of cutting-edge computing systems,” the office notes. The purpose of the NSCI is “to ensure the United States continues leading in this field over the coming decades.”

 

TIME policy

Google Joins Chorus of Companies Backing LGBT Bill

The Equality Act has a growing list of corporate supporters

Add Google to the list of major companies voicing their support for proposed legislation that would ban discrimination against members of the LGBT community.

The online search giant on Tuesday joined the likes of Facebook, General Mills, and Nike in publicly backing the Equality Act, a landmark anti-discrimination bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives last week. The Equality Act seeks to expand existing civil rights protections against racial and gender-based discrimination in the workplace and other public spheres to include safeguards against sexual orientation and gender identity.

“Diverse perspectives, ideas, and cultures lead to the creation of better products and services and ideas,” a Google spokeswoman told Fortune in an e-mail Tuesday. “And it’s the right thing to do. That’s why we support protections for LGBT Americans as outlined in the Equality Act.”

Other companies to announce support for the bill include Apple, American Airlines, the Dow Chemical Company [fortune-stock symbol=”DOW”], and Levi Strauss.

Fortune reached out to a handful of other large U.S. companies on Tuesday to ask about their respective stances on the Equality Act. An IBM spokesman said the company is still reviewing the proposed legislation. “IBM has a long standing commitment to equal opportunity, including LGBT employees,” the spokesman added. Fortune will add other firms’ responses as we hear back.

An increasing number of large corporations have embraced LGBT rights over the past few months. Earlier this year, tech companies Salesforce and Apple — whose CEO, Tim Cook, is openly gay — along with GE were among the most vocal critics of the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which opponents argued allows for discrimination against gay and lesbian employees. Walmart has also become an outspoken supporter of LGBT rights, particularly in its home state of Arkansas, where the nation’s largest private employer was joined by rival Target in speaking out against that state’s religious freedom bill. Walmart and Target did not immediately respond to Fortune‘s request for comment on the Equality Act.

TIME 2016 Election

Hillary Clinton Pledges to Install 500 Million Solar Panels if Voted President

“We are on the cusp of a new era”

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Sunday made tackling climate change one of her key goals were she to enter the White House, pledging to have more than half a billion solar panels installed nationwide by the end of her first term in office.

Clinton also called for a major increase in other renewable-energy sources, saying she wants every U.S. home to be powered by clean energy within a decade, reports Reuters.

“I want more wind, more solar, more advanced biofuels, more energy efficiency,” she said at a weekend rally in Iowa. “And I’ve got to tell you, people who argue against this are just not paying attention.”

The two goals were unveiled in a video posted to Clinton’s campaign website Sunday, and are part of a comprehensive agenda on climate change that will be laid out over the next few months.

“We are on the cusp of a new era,” she said in the campaign video. “We can have more choice in the energy we consume and produce.”

According to the former Secretary of State’s campaign, her climate-change agenda will increase output of solar energy by 700% by the end of the decade.

On Monday, the presidential candidate will explain her clean energy plan in more detail at a tour of an energy-efficient transit station in Des Moines, Iowa.

[Reuters]

TIME housing

San Francisco Revamps Airbnb Regulations

Investors love Airbnb, but the reaction in its own backyard has been mixed.

The hometown of accommodation-sharing website Airbnb has come to a tentative resolution in a long fight over how often people can rent out their houses and apartments online.

After multiple rounds of debate over 60-day, 75-day and even 120-day caps on rentals, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to keep the current 90-day cap in place when the host is not present and allow unlimited days when the host is present.

The fight is far from over, however, with one supervisor even calling the vote “somewhat moot.” Earlier this week, a measure qualified for the November ballot that would cap both hosted and unhosted rentals at 75 days per year. The initiative would also require platforms to list only hosts who have registered with the city, a tenet of the current law that has been largely ignored by local hosts. The measure has been labeled as “anti-Airbnb.”

The debate is not just a local skirmish. Airbnb has faced concerns from lawmakers in New York as well, while cities across the country have debated limitations and even bans on companies like Uber, a ride-sharing app, as local governments struggle to update long-standing regulations in light of new technology.

The new San Francisco ordinance, which passed in a 6-5 vote, will create what supporters call a “one-stop-shop” office to handle issues related to short-term rentals, whether that’s getting through the registration process or handling neighbor complaints.

While investors love Airbnb, the reaction in its own backyard has been mixed.

The city is in the midst of a housing crisis. While some locals have been evicted from their homes by landlords hoping to rent them out on Airbnb full-time, others have testified that they’ve only been able to stay in their homes because of the extra income home-sharing has afforded them. An extensive report on the issue by the San Francisco Chronicle found that more than 150 homes seemed to be rented full-time on the platform, suggesting that might be stock taken out of the strapped rental market.

During the meeting, supervisors debated when private companies should be asked to share data and when participation in new economic opportunities turns an activity like driving or sharing an apartment into a business. “I do believe that home-sharing is here to stay, and we should support appropriate and responsible home-sharing in San Francisco,” said Supervisor Mark Farrell, who sponsored the new ordinance with San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. “But we must protect our city from turning into a city solely of short-term rentals.”

Farrell, and other city lawmakers, cautioned against deciding this issue by ballot, because after a law is put in place that way, officials must return to voters in order to make any changes to it. He said that the economy and business models are changing too rapidly to put such a high bar in place for updating related laws. “We’re in the top of the first inning here,” he said.

MONEY Opinion

4 Agenda Items Missing From Monday’s White House Conference on Aging

536989529
Getty Images

The agenda for the July 13th conference overlooks some of the most pressing issues facing seniors today.

When presidents call Americans together to talk about aging, major change is possible. The first White House Conference on Aging in 1961 played a midwife’s role in the birth of Medicare; the 1971 conference led to creation of the automatic cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security, which has been in place since 1975.

This year’s conference, set for Monday, July 13, could have similar impact in a country facing the challenges of a rapidly aging population.

Unfortunately, I’m not optimistic that this year’s summit will be as productive as past ones have been. While I’d love to be proven wrong, the agenda overlooks too many important issues: rapid diversification of our older population, retirement inequality and assigning a bigger role to Social Security, and finding a way to protect pensions and Medicare.

Also, a failure by Congress to fund the event forced a sharp downsizing, limiting the number of voices that will be heard.

All in all, it’s shaping up as a missed opportunity at a time when aging in America is a growing challenge. In 2050, the 65-and-older population will be 83.7 million, almost double what it was in 2012, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Four broad topics will be considered: retirement security, healthy aging, preventing elder financial exploitation and abuse, and long-term services and supports. All are important, but much of the agenda reads like a rehash of ideas the Obama administration has been promoting for years, especially in the area of retirement security.

“The White House can always get a bunch of people together to talk about its own initiatives, but that isn’t the idea behind the conference on aging,” said Paul Kleyman, a longtime observer of trends in aging who was a delegate to the 1995 aging conference hosted by President Bill Clinton. “They’re using a talking points format to say ‘Here’s what we think and want to do,’ without really taking in and assessing what an aging nation is saying needs to be done.”

On the plus side, the agenda highlights the need to eliminate conflicted financial advice, and includes questions about how to better promote healthy aging.

Also up for discussion is how to help people age in place. A recent report from the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) found that the biggest challenges seniors face concern inadequate transportation, living independently and finding affordable housing.

“The most frequent calls for help that we hear concern aging at home and staying in the community,” said Sandy Markwood, n4a’s chief executive officer. “That is the goal of most individuals. Rarely do we hear anyone saying, ‘I just can’t wait to go into an institutional setting.’ ”

But so much is missing. For starters, the rising importance of ethnic, non-white and LGBT elders. Kleyman, who directs coverage of ethnic elders at New America Media, noted that the percentage of ethnic and non-white elderly in the 65-plus population will double by 2050, to 42 percent. LGBT seniors, while smaller in total numbers, face discrimination in housing and healthcare.

Longevity Inequality

Another omitted topic: the pressing moral issue of inequality in longevity. White men with 16 or more years of schooling live an average of 14 years longer than black men with fewer than 12 years of education, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Racial and gender and racial disparities also are evident in wealth and retirement income, another issue that gets short shrift. Instead, we get a rehash of ideas the Obama Administration has been hawking for years now: auto-IRAs at the federal and state levels, better access to workplace saving plan enrollment and simplified requirement minimum distribution rules.

The discussion of Social Security looks like it will be especially disappointing. The policy brief embraces generalities about “strengthening Social Security” without mentioning the boldest, smartest idea being advanced by the left flank of the President’s own party: expansion of benefits focused on low- and middle-class households. Finding ways to protect traditional pensions? Preserving Medicare as a defined benefit, and defending it against voucherization? Those are nowhere to be found.

The conference should be talking about the upside of aging, along with ways to encourage trends such as encore careers by fighting age discrimination in hiring, getting more employers to support phased retirement and re-thinking how higher education can serve older adults.

Plenty of advocates would like to raise these issues, but most won’t be present due to the funding constraints. Actual delegates will be replaced by an audience of hand-picked dignitaries; everyone else will be relegated to watch parties and submitting questions via social media.

So, let’s get the party started: @whitehouse. Take a wider, more inclusive view of aging in America.

TIME climate change

Nobel Laureates Issue A Call To Action On Climate Change

Brian Schmidt
Australian National University

The Declaration on Climate Change has 36 laureate signatures

At the 65th annual edition of the Lindau Nobel Laureates Meetings, held from June 28-July 3 in Lindau, Germany, on the shores of Lake Constance, 65 laureates gathered with 650 young scientists from 88 countries for a week of lectures and discussion that included several calls to action.

Laureates Francoise Barré-Sinoussi and Peter Agre joined their voices in the call for expanded recognition and support of scientists in Africa. Laureate Richard Roberts urged his colleagues to reverse European opinion on GMO crops in order to facilitate their wider use in the developing world. And 2014 Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi made an impassioned speech urging the attendees’ commitment to end the exploitation and enslavement of children and support their universal right to education.

But most prominent—and formal—was raised on the final day of the conference, held on nearby Mainau Island: a call to address climate change. 2011 Physics laureate Brian Schmidt introduced the Mainau Declaration 2015 on Climate Change, signed by 36 Nobel laureates, to the hundreds of laureates, scientists and other attendees. “Nearly 60 years ago, here on Mainau, a similar gathering of Nobel Laureates in science issued a declaration of the dangers inherent in the newly found technology of nuclear weapons—a technology derived from advances in basic science,” he said. “We believe that our world today faces another threat of comparable magnitude.”

While Schmidt acknowledged that there were laureates who did not want to publicly express an opinion, he stated that “those of us who sign do so because we feel we have a moral-bound duty as a scientist on an issue that has such lasting consequences…We say this not as experts in the field of climate change, but rather as a diverse group of scientists who have a deep respect for and understanding of the integrity of the scientific process.”

Beyond being a statement of laureate concern and support, the Declaration was very squarely aimed at Paris. “We believe that the nations of the world must take the opportunity at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in December 2015 to take decisive action to limit future global emissions,” the declaration read. It was then ceremoniously signed onstage by the laureates to sustained applause.

After the ceremonies, the conference attendees returned by boat to Lindau to celebrate the finale of an extraordinary opportunity to spend a week with enough Nobel laureates to field seven baseball teams. Amid the farewells, there was discussion of the significance of the declaration as well as questions over not signing because one was not “an expert in the field,” a position in which the rest of the public also finds itself. One laureate, speaking off the record, explained, “As a citizen, I agree with the conclusion of the declaration, but to sign as a laureate makes me uncomfortable. I felt as a scientist, it would be like signing a research paper I didn’t write.”

As history-making as the declaration was, it was perhaps ironic—or at least awkward—that even as Laureates called for unity, one of their own, Ivar Giaever, the 1973 Physics laureate, had used his lecture at Lindau to rehash a handful of well-worn and unrelated points often made by global warming deniers, including how money spent trying to understand, reverse or mitigate global warming would be better spent helping the poor. But it was roundly dismissed by scientists as intellectually lazy. As laureate Peter Doherty commented in a press conference on Lindau the day before the declaration, “All scientists are comfortable with skepticism. But the difference between skepticism and denial is that the skeptic engages. If you are a skeptic, you talk to other researchers, you look at the data. If you’re in denial, you simply reject everything that’s being published.”

What the scientists seemed to agree on was that they hoped that in addition to their remarkable week with the laureates, they had also been witness to a historic commitment.

MONEY Careers

Should I Ask About Maternity Leave During a Job Interview?

Robert A. Di Ieso, Jr.

Q: I am interviewing for a new job. I hope to start a family soon. When is it ok to ask about a company’s maternity leave policy?

A: Family leave policies have been getting a lot of attention lately, especially because of a new proposal by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. In a speech in Annapolis Wednesday, Mabus unveiled a host of initiatives to improve quality of life for sailors and Marines, including doubling the amount of paid maternity leave from six weeks to 12 weeks in a bid to attract more women to the services.

But growing awareness of the issue doesn’t change the fact that it’s a tricky one to raise when you’re trying to land a new position.

First of all, it’s generally not a good idea to ask about benefits—any benefits—during your initial job interview, says Rose Stanley, senior practice leader for WorldatWork, an association of human resource professionals. If you want the job, your entire focus should be on convincing the would-be employer that you’re the best candidate. “The hiring manger wants to know why you want the job and what you bring to the table,” says Stanley, “not talk about what’s in it for you.” In general, save questions about benefits and other company perks for later in the interview process, or even for after you get an offer.

But, of course, asking about maternity leave is an especially tricky case because, unlike 401(k) plans and health insurance, using this benefit involves an extended absence from the office. It’s long been illegal to fire pregnant women or otherwise discriminate against them thanks to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) passed in 1978. And last year the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission updated its guidelines by, among other things, clarifying that a company cannot refuse to hire a woman because she is pregnant or may become pregnant in the future. (If you think that’s the reason you aren’t hired for a job, you can file a complaint with the EEOC.)

Not even these legal safeguards, however, can guarantee that a potential leave won’t (consciously or unconsciously) count against you. That kind of discrimination, after all, is difficult, time consuming, and costly to prove. So if maternity leave is an important issue for you, do all you can to learn about a company’s leave policies even before you go for an interview.

Start by knowing the rules by which every company must abide. Unfortunately, compared to other countries, the U.S. does not guarantee much in the way of paid time off for new parents. But the federal Family and Medical Leave Act does entitle eligible U.S. employees to 12 weeks of family unpaid leave during any 12-month period, after which they are entitled to get their job back. (To be eligible, you have to have worked at the company for at least 12 months and at a location where the company employs 50 or more employees within 75 miles.) Some states, meanwhile, guarantee even more parental leave rights; California, for example, mandates paid leave.

Some private companies do offer new parents paid time off, usually through a combination of short-term disability, sick leave, vacation time, and personal days. A good place to start inquiring is the careers pages of the corporate website, where many companies proudly tout their benefits. If that isn’t the case, you can try using your network to contact people who work at the company and who may be able to enlighten you about its policies.

Then there are external sources. Some job sites such as Glassdoor provide details about corporate perks and benefits. Working Mother publishes a list of the 100 best companies for working mothers. And Care.com has a list of companies with the best family leave.

Even if you can’t find detailed info about your target company, it’s worth collecting benefits information about other companies in the same industry and local companies of around the same size. If you end up with an offer, you can use what you find as a benchmark for negotiations. Good luck!

 

TIME policy

Here’s How Google Plans to Hire More Minorities

Google Offices in Berlin
Adam Berry—Getty Images The Google logo is seen inside the company's offices on March 23, 2015 in Berlin, Germany.

It's investing $150 million in diversity initiatives this year

Google looks to be getting serious about increasing the diversity of its workforce. The company told USA Today this week that it’s planning to invest $150 million in workforce diversity initiatives this year, up from $115 million in 2014.

Among Google’s plans, which have been percolating over the last year: doubling the number of schools where it actively recruits to find potential job applicants (Alabama A&M, a historically black college, is among the new schools Google is targeting). The company is also encouraging workers to take workshops to lessen any unconscious bias in the workplace, as well as letting Googlers use 20% of their work time to focus on diversity projects.

To help broaden the pool of people potentially qualified to work at Google, the search giant has also released a free curriculum to help teachers launch computer science clubs and introduced Made With Code, an initiative aimed at helping girls identify with the world of computer programming.

The fact that Google is tackling diversity on a number of different fronts is a smart approach, says Kimberly Bryant, the founder of Black Girls Code, a nonprofit that teaches programming skills to girls of color. “Google is being very deliberate about addressing the systemic issue,” she says. “They recognize that you can’t fix diversity by just focusing on just one area. You have to build a pipeline.”

For now, Google’s employees remain strikingly homogeneous. As of the beginning of 2014, 70% of Google employees worldwide are men, while in the U.S. 61% are white and 30% are Asian. The company has plans to release updated demographic data soon, but the figures will likely be similar.

 Diversity Report
GoogleGoogle Diversity Report

 

“With an organization of our size, meaningful change will take time,” Google vice president for people operations Nancy Lee said in a blog post. “From one year to the next, bit by bit, our progress will inch forward.”

Still, the very fact that Google is talking about this issue openly is a marked shift from even a year ago. In the past, diversity data was a closely guarded secret among many tech firms. After Google released its first diversity report last May, competitors such as Facebook, Apple and Twitter also coughed up their respective data. While their demographics were shown to be largely similar, the fact that the information is now public has created a greater level of accountability among the world’s biggest tech firms. “Just the fact that they are having the conversation now,” Bryant says, “is a big step.”

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]

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