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Four views: How will the work visa ban affect tech and which changes will last?




The Trump administration’s decision to extend its ban on issuing work visas to the end of this year “would be a blow to very early-stage tech companies trying to get off the ground,” Silicon Valley immigration lawyer Sophie Alcorn told TechCrunch this week.

In 2019, the federal government issued more than 188,000 H-1B visas — thousands of workers who live in the San Francisco Bay Area and other startup hubs hold H-1B and H-2B visas or J and L visas, which are explicitly prohibited under the president’s ban. Normally, the government would process tens of thousands of visa applications and renewals in October at the start of its fiscal year, but the executive order all but guarantees new visas won’t be granted until 2021.

Four TechCrunch staffers analyzed the president’s move in an attempt to see what it portends for the tech industry, the U.S. economy and our national image:

Danny Crichton: Trump’s ban is a “self-inflicted” blow to our precarious economy

America’s economic supremacy is increasingly precarious.

Outsourcing and offshoring led to a generational loss of manufacturing skills, management incompetence killed off many of the country’s leading businesses and the nation now competes directly with China and other countries in critical emerging industries like 5G, artificial intelligence and the other alphabet soup of technological acronyms.

We have one thing going for us that no other country can rival: our ability to attract top talent. No other country hosts more immigrants, nor does any other country capture the imagination of a greater portion of the world’s top minds. America — whether Silicon Valley, Wall Street, Hollywood, Harvard Square or anywhere in between — is where smart people congregate.

Or at least, it was.

The coronavirus was the first major blow, partially self-inflicted. Remote work pushed employers toward keeping workers where they are (both domestically and overseas) rather than centralizing them in a handful of corporate HQs. Meanwhile, students — the first step for many talented workers to enter the United States — are taking a pause, fearing renewed outbreaks of COVID-19 in America while much of the rest of the developed world reopens with few cases.

The second blow was entirely self-inflicted. Earlier this week, President Donald Trump announced that his administration would halt processing critical worker visas like the H-1B due to the current state of the American economy.



Google rolls out privacy update, new ML features for Google Analytics




Google on Thursday released an update for its measurement and analytics products, including a significant privacy update for Google Analytics. The company said the new capabilities stem from its investments in machine learning and modeling and are designed to help marketers operate without cookies and other identifiers on websites and apps.

In October, Google rolled out what it said was the biggest overhaul of Google Analytics in nearly a decade. The revamp ushered in new machine learning capabilities, unified app and web reporting, native integrations and privacy updates. 

This latest update builds on last year’s overhaul, with features aimed at helping the marketing industry evolve to new privacy expectations and shifts in consumer behavior. 

On the privacy front, Google said it will soon extend its advanced machine learning models to behavioral reporting in Analytics. For example, in User Acquisition reports, machine learning models will be able to fill any gaps in the numbers of new users a campaign has acquired. The idea is to enable marketers to track customer journeys without relying on cookies.

Google also said it has developed an additional privacy-minded way to help preserve accurate conversion measurement when cookies aren’t available. The company’s new enhanced conversions allow tags to use consented, first-party data to generate insights related to performance, like conversion lift, and to improve measurement in cases where an ad is viewed on one device and clicked through on another. Google said the data is hashed to guard user privacy and security. 

“Now’s the time to adopt new privacy-safe techniques to ensure your measurement remains accurate and actionable,” said Vidhya Srinivasan, VP of Engineering for Google Ads. “And while this can seem daunting, we’re here to help you succeed in a world with fewer cookies and other identifiers with new ways to respect user consent, measure conversions and unlock granular insights from your sites and apps.”

Google Analytics has been the industry standard web analytics tool since 2005. It doesn’t cost anything to sign up for and use the standard version of Google Analytics, which is ideal for individuals or small businesses. Larger enterprises can utilize Google Analytics 360, the premium version. 

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Colonial Pipeline hack was ‘wakeup call’ on U.S. cyber vulnerability, Buttigieg says




Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Thursday the ransomware attack on the operator of the country’s largest fuel pipeline has been a “wakeup call” for U.S. cybersecurity vulnerability.

Colonial Pipeline is still struggling with a cybersecurity attack that forced its entire system offline last Friday and triggered widespread fuel shortages in the Southeast. The company restarted operations Wednesday afternoon but said the system won’t return to normal for several days.

“This has been a wakeup call on how actors anywhere in the world can impact us right here at home,” Buttigieg said during an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” He added that the all-of-government response to the hack has “really paid off.”

Buttigieg’s remarks came a day after President Joe Biden signed an executive order to help strengthen U.S. cybersecurity defenses.

The president’s order calls on the federal government and private sector to work together to combat “persistent and increasingly sophisticated malicious cyber campaigns” that threaten the U.S.

The Department of Energy has led the federal response to the attack in coordination with the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense.

Buttigieg said the response has included weight limit waivers for tanker trucks to help ease shortage concerns, as well as increased flexibility in allowing workers to conduct manual inspections.

CNBC Politics

Read more of CNBC’s politics coverage:

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said Thursday morning that Colonial’s pipeline restart “went well overnight.”

“This should mean things will return to normal by the end of the weekend,” Granholm wrote in a tweet.

Colonial’s shutdown led to panic buying in some Southeastern states and pushed the national average for a gallon of gas above $3 for the first time since 2014.

Colonial shut off its system as a proactive measure after falling victim to the attack by a cyber criminal group known as DarkSide. The company’s pipeline spans 5,500 miles and carries almost half of the fuel supply on the East Coast, including gasoline, diesel fuel, heating oil and jet fuel.

Gas outages continue to hit the Southeast, with more more than half of stations in South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia without fuel, according to the latest data from GasBuddy.

— CNBC’s Pippa Stevens contributed reporting

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Two in three parents would quit their jobs without work from home flexibility




If you have experienced burnout since the pandemic hit, you are not alone. According to a recent study by Boulder, CO-based remote working jobs site FlexJobs, three in five (60%) parents with children aged 18 or younger have experienced stress and burnout.

FlexJobs surveyed over 1,100 parents with children 18 or younger living at home to find out what they want from their workplace post pandemic. The survey showed that during the pandemic working parents have found it difficult to create boundaries.

Also: The pandemic has taken a serious toll on mental health. What happens when it’s over? (Healthline)

Two in five (40%) found they were unable to unplug after work, one in four (26%) struggled with technology problems and 24% experienced video meeting fatigue.

One in five (19%) reported having too many video meetings and 16% said that collaborating was difficult.

However, three in five (61%) of parents said that they want to work remotely full time and 62% said that they would quit their current job it they could not continue working remotely.

But what job could a working parent consider that would be less stressful, have large numbers of job openings, and have the opportunity to work remotely? The company cross-referenced its database with the online careers database O*Net ( run by the U.S. Department of Labor) to compile a list of jobs for working parents to consider.

Roles such as BI Analysts (scoring 63 on the stress level rating chart), document management specialists (64), search marketing strategist (66), and Technical writer (69) may work. Even Computer Systems Engineers/Architects score 79 on the stress chart.

There are many benefits in working from home. You do not need to commute, can spend more time with the family, your partner and your children, and enjoy a better work-life blend as you experience a better control over your work schedule.

However, if you are a social person who thrives on seeing your co-workers face to face, and enjoy the buzz that office life gives you.

Hybrid environments are surely the way to go for most workers. Having the flexibility to work from home or go into the office when you choose to do so will make for a far better working environment that those workers forced to go into the office, or stay at home against their will.

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Former coal mines in Britain are being tested to see if they can become a geothermal energy plant




This image, from November 2017, shows derelict buildings at the Chatterley Whitfield Colliery in Staffordshire, England.

Alan Tunnicliffe Photography | Moment | Getty Images

A project aiming to harness geothermal energy from disused, flooded coal mines in the northeast of England took another step forward this week after it was given planning permission for an initial testing phase.

In an announcement Monday, South Tyneside Council said the development would “draw geothermal energy from abandoned flooded mines in the former Hebburn Colliery.” The Hebburn Colliery opened in the late 18th century and shut down in 1932.

The idea is that the project will heat buildings owned by the council, which is working on the project alongside Durham University and the U.K.’s Coal Authority.

The U.K.’s abandoned mines could well prove to be a useful source of geothermal energy — which the U.S. Department of Energy describes as a “vital, clean energy resource” — in the years ahead.

As the Coal Authority notes, “when underground mines are abandoned, the pumps that kept them dry are often switched off and the mines fill with water.”

Geological processes heat the water, it adds, and the temperature stays stable throughout the year.

In Hebburn, two wells are to be drilled to take water from the mines, with tests undertaken to make sure the project is viable.

If all goes to plan, a water source heat pump will eventually be used to “extract the heat from the minewater before it is compressed to a much higher temperature.” Drilling works and well construction are slated to be finished by the fall.

“Work will start on the testing phase of this project without delay,” Tracey Dixon, who is the leader of South Tyneside Council, said in a statement issued Monday.

Dixon added that the project, which will benefit from more than £3.9 million ($5.48 million) in funding via the European Regional Development Fund, was “expected to deliver a reduction of 319 tonnes of carbon emissions a year.”

The U.K. has a long association with coal mining, but the industry’s decline has hit many communities hard and is an emotive subject.

In recent times, plans for a new coal mine in Cumbria, in the northwest of England, have generated a great deal of debate, not least because the U.K. is set to host the COP26 climate change summit later this year. The project’s fate is still to be determined.

The Hebburn Colliery project is one of several in the U.K. looking to introduce new energy technologies to old coal mining sites.

In March, it was announced that a coal mine turned waste depot in the northeast of England would undergo a retrofit utilizing a range of sustainable technologies and design features.

The project to update the Morrison Busty depot in County Durham will center around the construction of a 3 megawatt solar farm that will power the site’s operations.

In addition, electric vehicle charging points will be integrated into the development’s design, while a battery storage system will also be built.

The depot, which is located in the village of Annfield Plain, traces its roots back to the 1920s, when it was known as the Morrison Busty Colliery. The coal mine closed down in 1973.

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