Attempt to Repeal Cyber Bill

Representative Justin Amash (R-MI) along with a bipartisan group of cosponsors introduced legislation H.R.4350 to repeal the Cybersecurity Act of 2015. The Cybersecurity Act expanded the power of network operators by granting companies immunity if they conduct internet surveillance of their users and employees for the goal of cybersecurity. Rep. Amash called the Act an “anti-privacy law.” According to Rep. Amash, the Cybersecurity Act should also be repealed because it was written by “just a few members of Congress,” and was hidden inside the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 (which prevented many from realizing the bill had passed). H.R.4350 was introduced in the House on January 8, 2016, but is still in committee. See:

Chemical Regulation Bill in Amendment Exchange

On May 24, 2015, the House of Representatives introduced the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, modernizing the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The bill, H.R.2576, passed the House in June 2015, and passed the Senate in December 2015. As of May 24, 2016, two chambers were resolving differences between their respective versions of the bill. The updates to the TSCA would allow the EPA greater authority to request safety data from companies and would set a higher standard for human exposure to unsafe chemicals. The bill has widespread bipartisan support in Congress and is expected to pass. See:

Fed Abandons Demand for iPhone Hack

On March 28, 2016, the federal government withdrew its demand that Apple unlock the iPhone used by one of the shooters in the San Bernadino shooting. Apple had refused to unlock the phone, however, the FBI claims to have accessed the information without the company’s assistance. While this ends the current debate over companies installing a universal backdoor into personal electronics, this conversation creates a precedent for future law enforcement operations. See:

Department of Energy Recommends Continuation of ITER

In a report to congressional budgetmakers, the Department of Energy recommended that the US should continue its participation in ITER through 2018. ITER is an international program to build and operate a magnetic fusion device to test the viability of nuclear fusion as an energy source. ITER began in 2005, and is based in the south of France. Along with the US, the other members of the ITER program are the European Union, China, Japan, India, South Korea, and Russia. All members contribute to funding the construction and operation of the ITER facility. The cost of this program has been higher than predicted. In FY 2017, the Department of Energy requested $125 million for the ITER effort. In FY 2018, they requested $230 million. The House of Representatives has agreed to continue funding ITER by cutting Department of Energy research for biology and the environment. The Senate wants to eliminate all funding for ITER and increase funding for other Department of Energy programs. See:

White House Launches Microbiome Study

The White House recently announced the new National Microbiome Initiative, and multiple federal agencies will contribute a total of $121 million to support this new program. Microbiome refers to the communities of microorganisms that influence almost every process and environment on Earth. For example, the microbiome in the human gut digests food, and research has found that it is influenced by diet and antibiotics. For years, scientists have asked for a widespread, coordinated effort to study microbiomes. Scientists aim to identify healthy microbiomes, and learn how to alter unhealthy ones. See:

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