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Here’s how the proposed reorganization of the federal government could impact science and tech

The Trump administration announced a proposal to revamp, retool, and reorganize America’s federal government. What’s new: There are a slew of massive changes, but here are some of the pieces that would most likely affect science and technology if they went through.

  • The Departments of Labor and Education would be consolidated into a single “Department of Education and the Workforce.” The report says the intent of this change is to help schools better prepare students for careers. It’s unclear at this point if this means a stronger focus on STEM education and better training for technology-based roles.
  • Applied energy programs within the Department of Energy would be consolidated into the “Office of Energy Innovation” instead of organized by the type of energy they use (e.g., fossil, renewable, or nuclear).

    The report says the intent is to “maximize the benefits of energy research and development and to enable quicker adaptation to the Nation’s changing energy technology needs.”

  • The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service and the food safety functions of HHS’s Food and Drug Administration would be reorganized into a single agency within USDA.
  • The report states that the government wants to “solve the federal cybersecurity workforce shortage by establishing a unified cyber workforce capability across the civilian enterprise, working through DHS and 0MB in coordination with all Federal departments and agencies.” Basically, this means an across-the-board focus on closing the cybersecurity talent gap.
  • The National Science Foundation would take on the administration of graduate fellowships from disparate federal agencies “in order to reduce the total cost of administering those fellowships.”

What’s next: The proposed changes are likely to face major pushback from Congress.

Some nontechnical elements, like the privatization of the Postal Service, are already controversial, and others could lessen the power held by members of congress on certain committees.

Reorganizing a government is a lot more complicated than reorganizing a business, and it’s likely this reorg proposal will go through various amendments and adjustments before its enacted–assuming it’s ever voted on at all.

Source:Image credit:

  • Photo credit: angela n. | Flickr

Over one-third of industrial robots purchased last year were installed in China

A new report by the International Federation of Robotics reveals that more than 380,000 industrial bots were sold in 2017–a 29 percent growth over the prior year. Asia leads the pack: China had a massive 58 percent increase in industrial robots (robotic systems used for manufacturing) purchased year-over-year, coming in at 138,000 installed in 2017. That’s about a third of the manufacturing robots sold worldwide.

South Korea, which has a higher density of robots than any other country, purchased 40,000 new bots last year. Where does that leave the US? The US installed a comparatively paltry 33,000 robots. That’s still the most in North America, but it’s only a 6 percent rise from 2016.

And even that small amount has already heavily influenced American politics.

Why it matters: These numbers show China is investing much more heavily in automation than the US, and it’s not slowing down.

North America’s slower pace could leave it in the dust as Asia puts the pedal to the robot metal.

Image credit:

  • Junko Kimura/Getty Images

AT&T launches new WatchTV streaming service at aggressive $15-per-month price

Days after completing its monumental acquisition of Time Warner, AT&T is announcing a second streaming TV service that’s priced lower than the company’s existing DirecTV Now offering. The new service is called WatchTV, and it includes 31 channels at launch, with 6 networks from Viacom coming “soon after.” AT&T had confirmed the service was coming in recent weeks as it sought approval for the Time Warner deal.

Several Time Warner networks including Cartoon Network, CNN, TBS, TNT, and TCM are part of the programming bundle. But it also includes a few other popular networks including A&E, AMC, and HGTV.

For now, WatchTV is available with AT&T’s latest and just-announced unlimited plans, Unlimited &More and Unlimited &More Premium. AT&T says 15,000 titles (a mix of TV shows and movies) will be available on-demand through the service.

WatchTV will also be made available standalone for £15 per month, which undercuts Dish’s Sling TV (£20/month) as the cheapest option on the market. AT&T says more information about that will be coming soon.

WatchTV “will be compatible on virtually every current smartphone, tablet, or web browser, and certain streaming devices.”

That AT&T is specifying “certain” there makes me think customers might face some annoying restrictions for viewing WatchTV on an actual television. Is this largely going to be limited to mobile devices? We’ll have to wait for the list of supported devices to see.

Keep in mind that WatchTV doesn’t replace DirecTV Now in any way; it’s an even skinnier content bundle for people who would be satisfied with these channels and no sports.

Viacom’s odd mix of networks that will join the list soon — Comedy Central, BET, VH1, MTV2 (though not regular MTV), TeenNick, and NickToons — is a sign that content providers have limits on what they’ll include for such a low monthly price.

AT&T’s new unlimited plans roll out next week. Unlimited &More starts at £70 for a single line if you’ve enabled autopay and paperless billing. Video streaming is limited to 480p, and the plan doesn’t include any hotspot tethering.

Both of those things come with the pricier &More Premium option, which unlocks 1080p video and 15GB of hotspot usage for £80 per month.

Both plans include a £15 credit towards DirecTV satellite service, since AT&T still very much wants to sell those subscriptions as well.

But Unlimited &More Premium also lets customers pick one streaming service that they’ll get for free each month as part of the plan.

Your options are HBO, Cinemax, SHOWTIME, Starz, Amazon Music Unlimited, or Pandora Premium.

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