Just as Tech Looked Serious About Diversity, Trump Intervenes

Hiring is necessarily exclusionary. Hiring one person for a position means not choosing someone else. Some forms of exclusion are acceptable (an applicant lacks talent); some are unacceptable (an applicant lacks a penis); and some seem good, but mask bad intentions (an applicant wouldn’t be a good “culture fit,” often a smokescreen for race or sex).

The Trump administration is stepping up its scrutiny of diversity initiatives, creating a dilemma for tech companies. Many promised to support racial justice this summer in the wake of George Floyd’s killing. Now, they must navigate conflicting pressures to both increase and suspend their efforts to hire more people of color.

Both sides of the diversity culture war pledge the same value: It’s wrong to exclude someone because of their race or sex. But unfair exclusion is in the eye of the beholder. The Trump administration says recruiting and hiring more people of color is exclusionary. Activists and many employees hold that the paltry number of Black and brown employees at all levels in Silicon Valley is proof of exclusion.

Last week, the US Labor Department sent an inquiry letter to Microsoft, warning that its June commitment to doubling the number of Black leaders in the company “appears to imply that employment action may be taken on the basis of race.” Dev Stahlkopf, Microsoft’s corporate VP, posted a lengthy rebuttal, disputing that the company was doing anything illegal and defending its goal to diversify.

“We hire and promote the most qualified person,” Stahlkopf wrote. “And nothing we announced in June changes that.”

The Labor Department letter is just one part of an administrative assault on diversity efforts nationwide.

In September, Trump issued an executive order banning critical race theory and racial sensitivity training from federal agencies and organizations that receive federal funds, which includes

Trump Ad Uses Images, Video From Russia And Belarus [Watch]

KEY POINTS

  • A new Trump campaign ad features stock photos and videos from Russia and Belerus
  • The latest ad shows a shot of parents holding a baby, as well as an elderly woman
  • This is the fourth ad released by Trump-affiliated groups that features clips from Russia

A new pro-Trump campaign ad released last week in critical swing states uses images and videos from Russia and Belarus.

Last Thursday, America First Action SuperPAC released the “Pandemic Tax” ad in Florida, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. It is the fourth pro-Trump ad within three months that features actors in stock footage from Russia, Politico reported. 

The ad begins by accusing President Trump’s Democratic challenger Joe Biden of “supporting higher taxes on all of us” if he wins the November election. At the 14-second mark, the ad features a shot of new parents holding a baby in front of a window. 

The footage is owned by a user named Konstantin Mikidov. According to his Facebook page, he is located in Novosibirsk, Siberia. The footage is available for sale on Pond5 and Shuttershock. 

The ad displayed other foreign footage directly after Kmikidov’s. In the second clip, an older woman can be seen staring out a window while the phrase “HIGHER TAXES ON MIDDLE-CLASS RETIREMENT” appears on screen. 

The second clip was uploaded by “Zdyma4”. His profile on LinkedIn listed the name Viachaslau Rutkouski and said that he works as a photographer in Belarus, a close Russian ally. The footage is sold on iStockphoto for $60. 

Kelly Sadler, a spokesperson for America First Action, said they had used footage taken in China for previous ads, including one of Biden speaking at Sichuan University, The Hill reported. 

This is the fourth time a pro-Trump group has released an ad that features stock footage from Russia. Last month,

Biden or Trump? Survey Reveals Americans’ Views on Future of Social Security

Just in case it may have somehow slipped your mind amid the barrage of news coverage, ads, and tweets, there’s a political election coming up this November. The differences between the candidates have been well documented, but how are those differences perceived by the voting public?

In the case of how Americans view the candidates’ respective views on Social Security, a new survey by Simplywise, a fintech that provides technology to help people plan and save for retirement, sheds some light. The company’s most recent Retirement Confidence Index, released in September, revealed that 63% of Americans feel confident in the future of Social Security if the Democratic challenger, former Vice president Joe Biden, is elected, while only 44% feel confident if President Donald Trump is reelected. Among people age 60 and over, 59% feel confident in the future of Social Security if Biden wins compared to 43% for Trump.

Trump and the payroll tax

The major reason for the perceived lack of confidence in President Trump, according to the survey, seems to be his recent actions and statements related to the payroll tax, which is the primary funding source for Social Security. Trump signed an executive order (EO) in August calling for a four-month deferral of the payroll tax for workers earning less than $4,000 per biweekly pay period. This was done to help people through tough times by giving them a little extra cash in their paychecks.

The Capitol dome with images of dollar bills fanned out behind it, and a Social Security card behind the bills.

Image source: Getty Images.

However, the Simplywise survey, a random survey of 1,154 Americans, said that 86% are concerned that the payroll tax deferral will hurt Social Security in the long run. But to be clear, the deferral laid out in the EO would be temporary, as the taxes would be paid back starting in January. But the EO did say that

Threat from nuclear weapons and missiles has grown since Trump entered office

The situation presents a broader challenge to the United States. The administration has heralded an era of “great power competition” with China and Russia, resulting in a competitive buildup that arms-control advocates warn is risking a full-blown arms race.

Russia is developing nuclear-armed underwater drones, nuclear-powered cruise missiles and other destabilizing weapons designed to penetrate U.S. missile defenses. China is ramping up its missile force and building out its nuclear capabilities with new nuclear submarines. And the United States is modernizing its own arsenal, while adding low-yield nuclear warheads to submarines and enhancing missile defenses. All the while, Iran and North Korea are advancing as threats.

The result is an escalatory cycle that experts say is threatening decades of progress controlling the world’s most dangerous weapons. A recent report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies warned that the decline of U.S. global influence and the rise of regional security tensions, coupled with the staying power of authoritarian leaders, will incentivize more nations to pursue nuclear weapons and limit Washington’s ability to respond.

The issue looms over the final days of the U.S. presidential campaign, as North Korea demonstrates that, despite Trump’s efforts, Kim Jong Un’s regime is busy enhancing its nuclear missile arsenal. Trump is also rushing to conclude a last-minute arms control deal with Russia, hoping to secure an agreement he can tout as a diplomatic win before the Nov. 3 presidential election.

Trump’s interest in arms control dates to at least the 1980s, when he sought unsuccessfully to engage in nuclear talks with the Soviets on behalf of the Reagan administration. On the campaign trail in 2016, Trump described nuclear weapons as the world’s biggest problem and has called the issue more important than climate change.

But after nearly four years in office, he hasn’t

Ready for online voting in 2020? It’s here, even for Trump vs. Biden

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Amidst all the outcry about whether to vote in person or ia the mail, what about on the device where you’re probably reading this now? Why not the smartphone in your pocket?

Leading tech entrepreneurs like Andrew Yang and Bradley Tusk have called for online voting as a way to increase voter participation.

And this year, in a very limited way, despite the many critics who say that online voting in unsafe and susceptible to hacking, it’s actually happening for the 2020 presidential election.

Military, certain disabled and overseas citizens will be able to vote on a mobile device for the presidential election in West Virginia, South Carolina and Umatilla County, Oregon.

Voting may be headed to mobile devices in the future. (Photo: hermosawave/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Voting early: Vote by mail, early voting underway around the country

Register: Election 2020: When early voting and mail voting for president begins in every state

Mac Warner, the West Virginia secretary of state, says he wanted to find a way for the military, primarily, to be able to cast their votes and have them tabulated on a timely basis. Because it’s a small section of the electorate, he was willing to take a chance on the system.

Before going wider, he needs to see that the technology works. “I’m a traditionalist,” he says. “I still think voting in person is the most secure way of voting. But I’m advocating for the people who can’t get to our polls.”

The West Virginia system is being run through a company called Democracy Live, which competes with the firm Voatz, which worked with West Virginia for military online votes in 2018.

How it works: You download an app, use biometrics to verify your identity, vote and submit. The vote is printed out at the election office