Construction Industry News

Ranking Member Bill Nelson Opening Statement

Mr. Chairman, I won’t take much time, but I think it’s important to highlight continued concerns about a few of these nominees. 

The first is the nomination of Congressman Jim Bridenstine to serve as NASA administrator. The facts on this nomination have not changed:  Congressman Bridenstine has no experience managing a large organization or program, no background in science or engineering, and a history of political divisiveness. 

NASA is facing one of the most challenging periods in its history. With the lives of astronauts and the very future of the space program on the line, now more than ever, the agency needs a unifying and qualified space professional at the helm. 

Robert Lightfoot is doing an outstanding job running the agency and the agency is humming along with no signs of slowing down. And I can confirm, having been with the president at the White House when he signed his space policy directive last month, that the administration isn’t slowing their plans for NASA either. Indeed, they are moving forward under Lightfoot’s very capable leadership.

It appears that the votes aren’t there to confirm Congressman Bridenstine. It is my hope that, sooner rather than later, we can move on to a qualified candidate who could quickly be confirmed with broad support from both sides of the aisle, as has traditionally been the case for the NASA administrator.  

The other nominee I feel compelled to mention is Barry Myers to serve as NOAA’s administrator. Mr. Myers has undoubtedly been very successful running AccuWeather.

But that is also the very crux of the problem with Mr. Myers’ nomination:  the fact that he will be running an agency that directly impacts a family business. 

Nothing will prevent Mr. Myers from buying back his share of the family business when he leaves government. 

The former director of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter Shaub, said these circumstances create “a significant unaddressed and largely unregulated conflict of interest.”

So, I asked Mr. Myers to put these concerns to rest by agreeing to recuse himself from all NOAA matters that he knows will directly impact the fortunes of AccuWeather.

Mr. Myers declined to sign this supplemental agreement.

Overall, it is unfortunate that we are here considering this same group of folks again. I hope that in the future, the administration will work with us to find nominees that can unify us and provide the leadership these agencies need.

Terrorism and Social Media: #IsBigTechDoingEnough?

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing titled “Terrorism and Social Media: #IsBigTechDoingEnough?” at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, January 17, 2018. The hearing will examine the steps social media platforms are taking to combat the spread of extremist propaganda over the Internet.

Witnesses:

  • Ms. Monika Bickert, Head of Global Policy Management, Facebook
  • Ms. Juniper Downs, Global Head of Public Policy and Government Relations, YouTube
  • Mr. Carlos Monje, Director, Public Policy and Philanthropy, Twitter

Hearing Details:

Wednesday, January 17, 2018
10:00 a.m.
Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.

Ranking Member Nelson Opening Statement

This hearing marks the first time that the Commerce Committee has had the three largest social media companies testify before us.  And their appearance is long overdue.  These social media platforms – and those of many other smaller companies – have revolutionized the way Americans communicate, connect and share information. 

But, at the same time, these platforms have created a new – and stunningly effective – way for nefarious actors to attack and harm our citizens and our nation.  Frankly, it is startling that today, a terrorist can be radicalized and trained to conduct attacks all through social media.  And then a terrorist cell can activate that individual to conduct an attack through the internet – creating in effect a terrorist drone controlled by social media.

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses about what their companies are doing to make sure their platforms are not being exploited and manipulated by terrorists and criminals.

Using social media to radicalize and influence users is not limited to extremists.  Nation states, too, are exploiting social media vulnerabilities to conduct campaigns against this nation and interfere with our democracy. 

We know that Russian hackers—at Vladimir Putin’s direction—attempted to influence the 2016 presidential election through cyberattacks and spreading propaganda and disinformation through paid social media trolls and botnets on Facebook and Twitter.

And, we also know that Putin is likely to do it again. 

In its January 6, 2017 assessment, the U.S. intelligence community said that Putin and his intelligence services see the election influence campaign as a success and will seek to influence future elections, right here in the United States, and abroad.  

This should be a wake-up call to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and to all Americans, regardless of party. This was an attack on the very foundation of American democracy and we must do everything in our power to see that it never happens again.

Mr. Watts, we welcome your expertise in understanding how bad actors like Russia use the internet and social media to influence not just our elections, but other aspects of American life. Everything from what we see and buy online, what we know to be true, and how we keep our families safe.

We even know that Putin is reaching down deep into our government.  For example, as part of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) net neutrality proceeding, about 500,000 comments were traced to Russian IP addresses.  That’s equally shocking and concerning – we should want to know why these comments were filed.  And all of us should be very concerned about what will happen next.

In the end, I have several basic questions for our witnesses:  what have we learned about how the Russians attacked us?  What have social media companies done to assess this threat, both individually and collectively? What have they done to address this threat?  And what more do they need to do to be ready for the future?

<p>Good morning.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p>

Good morning.  

I want to thank everyone for being here to examine what social media companies are doing to combat terrorism – including terrorist propaganda and terrorist recruitment efforts – online. 

The positive contributions of social media platforms are well documented.

YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, among others, help to connect people around the world, give voice to those oppressed by totalitarian regimes, and provide a forum for discussions of every political, social, scientific, and cultural stripe. 

These services have thrived online because of the freedom made possible by the uniquely American guarantee of free speech, and by a light touch regulatory policy. 

But, as is so often the case, enemies of our way of life have sought to take advantage of our freedoms to advance hateful causes.  

Violent Islamic terrorist groups like ISIS have been particularly aggressive in seeking to radicalize and recruit over the internet and various social media platforms. 

The companies that our witnesses represent have a very difficult task:  preserving the environment of openness upon on which their platforms have thrived, while seeking to responsibly manage and thwart the actions of those who would use their services for evil. 

We are here today to explore how they are doing that, what works, and what could be improved. 

Instances of Islamic terrorists using social media platforms to organize, instigate, and inspire are well documented. 

For example, the killer responsible for the Orlando nightclub shooting – in which 49 innocent people were murdered, and 53 were injured – was reportedly inspired by digital material that was readily available on social media. 

And this issue is not new. 

Over the course of several years, YouTube hosted hundreds of videos by senior al-Qaeda recruiter Anwar al-Awlaki.

Although the company promised in 2010 to remove all videos that advocated violence, al-Awlaki’s “Call to Jihad” video, in which he advocates for western Muslims to carry out attacks at home, remained on the site for years.  

In fact, a New York Times report suggested that al-Awlaki videos influenced the Fort Hood terrorist, the Boston Marathon bombers, and the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino and Orlando.

This issue is also international in scope. 

In response to recent terror attacks in London, British Prime Minister Theresa May has been especially outspoken in calling on social media platforms to do more to combat the kind of radicalization that occurs online. 

Last fall, for example, she was joined by other European leaders in calling upon social media companies to remove terrorist content from their sites within one to two hours after it appears.     

As we’ll hear today, the companies before us are increasingly using technology to speed up their efforts to identify and neutralize the spread of terrorist content.  

In a recent blog post, Facebook said that Artificial Intelligence now removes 99 percent of ISIS and Al-Qaeda related terror content even before it can be flagged by a member of the community, and sometimes even before it can be seen by any users.

 

 

YouTube is also teaming up with Jigsaw, the in-house think tank of Google’s parent company Alphabet, to test a new method of counter-radicalization referred to as the “Redirect Method.”   

Seeking to “redirect” or re-focus potential terrorists at an earlier stage in the radicalization process, YouTube offers users searching for specific terrorist information additional videos made specifically to deter them from becoming radicalized. 

A little over a year ago, Facebook, YouTube, Microsoft, and Twitter committed to sharing a database of unique “hashes” and “digital fingerprints” of some of the most extreme terrorist-produced content used for influence or recruitment.   

By cross-sharing this information, terrorist content on each of the hosts’ platforms will be more readily identified, hopefully resulting in  faster and more efficient deletion of this material.  

Essentially, these companies are claiming they can tag individual videos and photos and, using automation, can kick them off their platforms before they are ever seen. 

We all have a vested interest in their success, and I believe this Committee has a significant role to play in overseeing the effectiveness of their efforts.

I want to thank Ms. Bickert, Ms. Downs, and Mr. Monje for being here as representatives of their companies.

To Mr. Watts, I look forward to hearing your thoughts about disrupting and defeating terrorism.

I now recognize the Ranking Member for any opening statement he may have.

Committee Announces Hearing to Examine Surface Transportation Security

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security, will convene a hearing titled, “Surface Transportation Security: Addressing Current and Emerging Threats,” at 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, January 23, 2018. The hearing will examine efforts to enhance surface transportation security including passenger and freight rail, mass transit, highways, and ports.

Witnesses:

  • The Honorable David Pekoske, Administrator, Transportation Security Administration
  • Mr. John Kelly, Acting Inspector General, Department of Homeland Security

Hearing Details:

Tuesday, January 23, 2018
2:30 p.m.
Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security

This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.

Commerce Announces Markup on January 18

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will hold an executive session on Thursday, January 18, 2018 at 11:00 a.m. in Hart 216 to consider the following presidential nominations.

Click here for additional information on nominees.

Agenda:

1.       Nomination of Leon A. Westmoreland, of Georgia, to be a Director of the Amtrak Board of Directors for a term of five years

2.       Nomination of Barry Lee Myers, of Pennsylvania, to be Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere

3.       Nomination of Diana Furchtgott-Roth, of Maryland, to be an Assistant Secretary of Transportation

4.       Nomination of Brendan Carr, of Virginia, to be a Member of the Federal Communications Commission for a term of five years from July 1, 2018

5.       Nomination of Ann Marie Buerkle, to be Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and to be a Commissioner of the CPSC for a term of seven years

6.       Nomination of James Bridenstine, of Oklahoma, to be Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration

7.       Nomination of Dana Baiocco, of Ohio, to be a Commissioner of the Consumer Product Safety Commission for a term of seven years from October 27, 2017


*Agenda subject to change

Executive Session Details:
 
Thursday, January 18, 2018
11:00 a.m.
Full Committee Markup
Senate Hart Building 216
 
A live video of the markup and additional information will be available at www.commerce.senate.gov.

Committee Announces Witnesses for 2018 Field Hearing on Automotive Innovation

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a field hearing titled, “Driving Automotive Innovation and Federal Policies,” next week at the Washington Convention Center, prior to the opening of the 2018 Washington Auto Show. In advance of the industry-wide technology showcase, the field hearing, which was announced on October 20, 2017, will focus on self-driving and other auto technologies and issues on the horizon for lawmakers and regulators. 

Witnesses:

  • Dr. Randy Avent, President, Florida Polytechnic University
  • Mr. Tim Kentley-Klay, CEO and Founder, Zoox, Inc.
  • Mr. Brian M. Krzanich, CEO, Intel Corporation
  • Mr. Mike Mansuetti, President, Robert Bosch North America, Robert Bosch LLC
  • Mr. Luke Schneider, President, Audi Mobility U.S.

Hearing Details:

Wednesday, January 24, 2018
10:00 a.m.
Full committee
Walter E. Washington Convention Center
801 Mt Vernon Pl NW
West Salon Room
Washington, DC 20001

The hearing is open to credentialed media and the public. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.

VIDEO: Thune Discusses Committee’s Letter to Apple CEO

“This is a consumer protection issue, clearly we have an oversight role to make sure we get the facts and we will make decisions based upon the company’s answers and responses to these questions.”...

Committee Announces Hearing To Examine Extremist Propaganda on Social Media Platforms

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, will convene a hearing titled “Terrorism and Social Media: #IsBigTechDoingEnough?” at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, January 17, 2018. The hearing will examine the steps social media platforms are taking to combat the spread of extremist propaganda over the Internet.

Witnesses:

  • Ms. Monika Bickert, Head of Global Policy Management, Facebook
  • Ms. Juniper Downs, Global Head of Public Policy and Government Relations, YouTube
  • Mr. Carlos Monje, Director, Public Policy and Philanthropy, Twitter

Hearing Details:

Wednesday, January 17, 2018
10:00 a.m.
Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.

Two Senate Commerce Bills to Combat Human Trafficking Signed Into Law

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, issued the following statement after the president signed into law two bipartisan Commerce Committee bills to combat the use of commercial vehicles in human trafficking.

Federal Agencies Celebrate Groundbreaking for U.S. Courthouse in Saipan

GSA news releases - Thu, 01/04/2018 - 12:12pm
Marianas Management Corporation Begins Construction on Leased FacilityFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEDecember 7, 2017SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands --  The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) and the U

GSA Announces New, Consolidated Lease Agreement for Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC)

GSA news releases - Tue, 01/02/2018 - 12:12pm
December 19, 2017New 15-year lease will consolidate three PBGC locations, reduce footprint and reduce annual lease cost by $4.5 millionWashington, D.C. - The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA)

Opening Remarks by U.S. General Services Administrator Emily Murphy December 12, 2017

GSA speeches - Tue, 01/02/2018 - 12:12pm
Thank you Mick and Tim for the warm introductions.  Thank you Tim for the exceptional work you have done as our acting administrator.  Your leadership has allowed GSA’s work to continue seamlessly ove

Emily Murphy sworn in as Administrator of GSA

GSA news releases - Tue, 01/02/2018 - 12:12pm
December 12, 2017Administrator Murphy will lead GSA’s staff of more than 11,600 employees​WASHINGTON, D.C. - Emily W. Murphy was today sworn in as administrator of the U.S. General Services Administra

Senate Confirms Emily Murphy to Head GSA

GSA news releases - Tue, 01/02/2018 - 12:12pm
December 5, 2017GSA Senior Advisor Emily Murphy will serve as GSA’s 41st AdministratorWASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, the U.S. Senate confirmed Emily Webster Murphy to be the next administrator of the U.S.

GSA Publishes First Centralized Inventory of Executive Branch Owned and Controlled Real Property

GSA news releases - Mon, 01/01/2018 - 12:12pm
December 18, 2017​​Release of Federal Real Property Profile public data set contains detailed information on more than 300,000 federal assetsWashington, D.C. -- Today the U.S. General Services Adminis

GSA Announces New Lease Agreement for the Peace Corps Headquarters in Washington, DC

GSA news releases - Mon, 01/01/2018 - 12:12pm
December 4, 2017 The new location is located in the NoMa section of Washington, DC, in a Platinum LEED-certified buildingWASHINGTON, D.C. -  Today the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) announced the award of

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