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Newsom teams with tech to seek water solutions

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is teaming up with Silicon Valley’s Singularity University to challenge entrepreneurs around the world to come up with solutions to California’s water-supply woes, he announced Thursday.

Three winning teams will be selected as Entrepreneurs in Residence at SU Startup Labs so they can interact with Singularity University’s startup community, corporate partners and other humanitarian partnerships to develop solutions for global impact and sustainability. Three runners-up will have a chance to pitch their solutions at SU Startup Lab, giving them access to a valuable network of technological expertise and potential funders.

This challenge is open to teams from around the world and will be judged on the use of exponential technology, technical feasibility and rigor, innovation, market viability, salability, and design and utility functionality. Preference will be given to applicants that demonstrate their proof of concept in the form of a working prototype to validate their solutions. Proposals must be submitted by Sept. 15, and the winning teams will be announced by Sept. 30.

Gavin Newsom“California produces almost half of all the fruits, nuts and vegetables grown in the United States therefore the impact of our solutions are both local, national, and global,” Newsom said in a news release. “In the spirit of the Orteig Prize of 1919, my goal in working with Singularity University is to activate the incredible talent and ingenuity of Californians and the SU global community to solve twenty-first century challenges with twenty-first century solutions.”

Newsom both is author of the 2013 book “Citizenville,” which calls on government to collaborate with private citizens in order to reap the most innovate solutions, and a candidate for governor in 2018.

Singularity University – funded by corporations including Google and located in the NASA Research Park at Moffett Field near Mountain View – provides educational programs, innovative partnerships and a startup accelerator to help individuals, businesses, institutions, investors, NGOs and governments understand cutting-edge technologies, and how to utilize these technologies to help people.

Rob Nail, Singularity University’s CEO and associate founder, said he can “think of no greater effort” than putting international expertise to work for solving California’s water issues. We are particularly pleased to be working with Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and his team, who can provide the pipeline of leadership to insure that the winning solutions have a direct line to decision-makers and the infrastructure of California to get them quickly into practice.”

Posted on Thursday, July 30th, 2015
Under: Gavin Newsom, Lt. Governor, Technology in politics, water | 4 Comments »

Silicon Valley applauds Kevin McCarthy’s ascent

Applause for Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s ascent from House Majority Whip to Majority Leader on Thursday echoed from Capitol Hill to Silicon Valley, where leaders hope for a continued return on the investment they’ve made in cultivating his attention for more than a decade.

Kevin McCarthyIt may seem counter-intuitive that a Republican from Bakersfield – whose district is among the nation’s top agricultural centers and produces more oil than Oklahoma – would be tuned in to high-tech Silicon Valley, an undeniably Democratic stronghold more than 200 miles away.

Yet as McCarthy prepares to walk a fine line in trying to both lead and reunite the House GOP, he’s seen as an ally of the region’s most influential echelons. Carl Guardino, president and CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, said he first met McCarthy – then a freshman Assemblyman – in 2003.

“From the moment we met he had a deep interest and curiosity about Silicon Valley,” Guardino said, and so he was invited to meet with local executives. “Almost since that time, three or four times a year, we host him here in the valley on policy because he recognizes … that Silicon Valley is integral to the state’s and nation’s success.”

Carl GuardinoFew lawmakers show that kind of enduring interest and staying power, he said, and few share another trait of McCarthy’s. “He actually listens much more than he speaks. And by listening and learning, he is then capable of leading, because he understands the challenges we face in competing globally and the impacts on policy.”

“In Silicon Valley, this is a huge compliment: He is immensely curious, and we need more curious people in Congress,” Guardino said, recalling McCarthy’s delight at having the chance to operate a robotic surgery system at Sunnyvale’s Intuitive Surgical. “He was just fascinated by it. He is fascinated by what we do here in Silicon Valley, and he wants to make sure it stays here and succeeds here.”

Intuitive Surgical President and CEO Gary Guthart said Friday that he recalls McCarthy’s “interest was really around the virtuous cycle that’s built in public-private partnerships,” given that Intuitive’s “roots were in R-and-D funding that came out of government programs.”

What started with government grants for research has led to a company that manufactures in the Bay Area with a mostly domestic supply chain, much of it from other California companies, he said. His conversation with McCarthy “was around how you keep the cycle going and not let it break down” over the decades it can take from government-funded research to marketable products.

“I was impressed with both his depth of interest and understanding, and with his willingness to come out and engage directly with us,” Guthart said.

Lots more, after the jump…
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Posted on Thursday, June 19th, 2014
Under: Kevin McCarthy, Technology in politics, U.S. House | No Comments »

Obama to meet with tech executives Tuesday

President Obama will meet Tuesday with executives from leading tech companies – including some notable Bay Area names – to discuss progress made in addressing the glitches and breakdowns that plagued the website, a White House official said Monday.

In addition to talking about the botched rollout of the website – the portal connecting people seeking individual insurance policies under the nation’s new health care law – Obama and the tech executives will discuss how government can better deliver information technology “to maximize innovation, efficiency and customer service,” the official said.

Also on the agenda: “national security and the economic impacts of unauthorized intelligence disclosures,” and ways that the Obama administration can partner with the tech sector “to grow the economy, create jobs and address issues around income inequality and social mobility.”

Here’s the list of tech executives expected at the meeting:

  • Tim Cook, CEO, Apple
  • Dick Costolo, CEO, Twitter
  • Chad Dickerson, CEO, Etsy
  • Reed Hastings, Co-Founder & CEO, Netflix
  • Drew Houston, Founder & CEO, Dropbox
  • Marissa Mayer, President and CEO, Yahoo!
  • Burke Norton, Chief Legal Officer, Salesforce
  • Mark Pincus, Founder, Chief Product Officer & Chairman, Zynga
  • Shervin Pishevar, Co-Founder & Co-CEO, Sherpa Global
  • Brian Roberts, Chairman & CEO, Comcast
  • Erika Rottenberg, Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, LinkedIn
  • Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook
  • Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman, Google
  • Brad Smith, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Microsoft
  • Randall Stephenson, Chairman & CEO, AT&T
  • Posted on Monday, December 16th, 2013
    Under: Obama presidency, Technology in politics | 8 Comments »

    Local DREAMers to take part in hackathon

    Several Bay Area DREAMers are among the 20 who’ve been invited to join a hackathon later this month organized by, the lobbying group launched earlier this year by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other Silicon Valley giants.

    They’ll work next to some of the region’s top engineers and designers during the event Nov. 20-21 at LinkedIn’s Mountain View headquarters, says founder and president Joe Green.

    “It’s well past time that we fix our broken immigration system – which isn’t working for American families in a modern global economy,” Green wrote in a statement posted on the group’s website. “Millions of DREAMers and their families with stories just like those participating in the Hackathon wait in limbo, unable to contribute fully to their communities and having to live in constant uncertainty – and we can’t wait any longer.”

    The DREAMers will form teams with experienced mentors and collaborate on prototypes of products to aid the immigration reform movement, Green wrote, with teams starting to strategize in the next few weeks before the hackathon: 24 straight hours of coding. “Some of the top product innovators of our time will be on hand to provide guidance on projects, including Mark Zuckerberg, Drew Houston, Reid Hoffman, and Andrew Mason.”

    “Our DREAMers are each an embodiment of the pressing need for meaningful immigration reform,” Green wrote. “They come from all over the country and a variety of backgrounds, but are united by the unique challenges facing undocumented families across America. Too many of our participants have gone years without seeing a family member or have been turned down for scholarships to college based solely on their undocumented status, but their courage has spurred them to continue pursuing their dreams.”

    Follow after the jump for bios (verbatim from of the Bay Area DREAMers invited to the hackathon…
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted on Tuesday, November 5th, 2013
    Under: Immigration, Technology in politics | 1 Comment »

    Swalwell speaks at social media/disaster hearing

    Rep. Eric Swalwell served as the top Democrat at a House Homeland Security subcommittee hearing Tuesday on how the government can use social media and new technologies in disaster relief and recovery.

    “Just this past weekend we saw how critical and relevant social media can be in times of crisis following the SFO crash, and it’s our job to figure out how the government can best use technology in a disaster situation to respond effectively and efficiently,” Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, said in a news release. “We have challenges to overcome, such as verifying information as accurate and making more government data open source, and this hearing was a step to learning best practices so we can take advantage of the opportunities presented by social media when disaster strikes.”

    Swalwell noted that after the Boston Marathon bombings, a quarter of Americans reportedly looked to Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites for information. He asked expert witnesses Tuesday how the government can accurately verify information gained from social media and integrate social media into disaster recovery plans with limited resources, while respecting individual privacy.

    The Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications heard today from Shayne Adamski, senior manager of digital engagement at the Federal Emergency Management Agency; Suzanne DeFrancis, chief public affairs officer at the American Red Cross; Albert Ashwood, director of the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management; and Sgt. Greg Kierce, director of the Jersey City Office of Emergency Management & Homeland Security. Swalwell filled in for ranking Democrat Donald Payne, D-N.J., who had joined his Congressional Black Caucus colleagues for a meeting with President Obama.

    Read Swalwell’s remarks as prepared for delivery, after the jump…
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted on Tuesday, July 9th, 2013
    Under: Eric Swalwell, Homeland security, Technology in politics, U.S. House | No Comments »

    Who won Charles Koch’s ‘Liberty Hackathon?’

    I wrote an item about a month ago about a “Liberty Hackathon” that was to be held in San Francisco, sponsored by billionaire conservative benefactor Charles Koch and aiming to produce new apps “that help to advance individual and economic liberty.”

    Cam UrbanThe event was held June 21-22, and the outcome might not be what many expected. Though Koch and his brother, David, are well-known partisans, “the apps built at the hackathon were not what the Koch brothers hoped or paid for,” said Cam Urban, 24, of San Francisco, who won the competition with colleague Breck Yunits.

    “The majority of apps were apolitical, and certainly did not promote small government,” said Urban, a nonpartisan voter who originally hails from Vermont. “The product we built, CheckBox, is a perfect example. Only about 55 percent of eligible voters actually vote so we built the first secure and easy online voting platform. Now anyone can vote from home, regardless of whether the person is immobile, busy working, or living in a remote area.”

    The Koch brothers, though the entities and political campaigns they fund, have been instrumental in advancing voter ID laws in several states over recent years.

    “Unlike the partisan objectives of the Koch brothers, we hope this will change the world by providing a true representational democracy,” Urban said.

    NPR’s Morning Edition offered an interesting segment on the Liberty Hackathon as well.

    Posted on Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013
    Under: Technology in politics | 2 Comments »

    Netroots Nation: Ro Khanna fires back at critics

    Ro Khanna, the former Obama administration official who’s challenging Rep. Mike Honda in the 17th Congressional District, fired back Friday at the national progressive leaders who had smack-talked him a day earlier.

    Khanna, 36, of Fremont, took questions from reporters near his booth in the main exhibit hall at Netroots Nation, the national convention of liberal online activists running through Saturday night in San Jose.

    On Thursday, Democracy for America chairman Jim Dean and Progressive Congress executive director Charles Chamberlain had belittled Khanna’s attempt to unseat Honda, D-San Jose, who they hailed as a progressive hero. Chamberlain used the words “Republican lite” and “hack” to describe Khanna.

    Ro Khanna“Name-calling is what’s wrong with American politics,” Khanna retorted Friday. “We’re trying to have a conversation based on facts and my record.”

    His record, he noted, includes staunch opposition to the Iraq war and the PATRIOT Act; two years in President Obama’s Commerce Department; and a track record of helping to raise money for other Democrats.

    Asked in what ways he might be more progressive than Honda, Khanna replied he would’ve voted differently than Honda did on lobbying reform; Khanna said he believes lobbyists should be made to disclose their bundling of contributions, and should be banned from giving gifts to lawmakers. He said he also wouldn’t have approved pay raises for Congress, as Honda did, at a time when so many Americans are still struggling to make ends meet.

    And he said he would bring a “laser focus” on job creation for the middle class which he believes Honda has lacked.

    Though House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi had once supported Khanna – when he was raising money for what everyone believed would be a bid to succeed Rep. Pete Stark after Stark’s retirement – she now supports Honda.

    “I have a lot of respect for Leader Pelosi … and I understand her support of Mike Honda’s many years of service,” Khanna said Friday, but he believes national endorsements won’t make much difference to 17th District voters. “I’m very locally focused.”

    Speaking amid the hustle and bustle of almost 3,000 liberal activists, Khanna said he understands online criticism of his bid to unseat Honda and even welcomes it as an important part of the democratic process.

    But while Honda’s campaign volunteers had blanketed the convention Thursday, signing up supporters and handing out stickers, and Honda briefly addressed the California caucus, Khanna said he’s less interested in being a “talking head” or political grenade-thrower and more interested in serving constituents by cooperating across the aisle to get things done in Congress.

    Posted on Friday, June 21st, 2013
    Under: 2014 primary, Mike Honda, Technology in politics, U.S. House | 15 Comments »

    Steinberg: Guns, mental health, public records

    California State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is about to take the stage here at Netroots Nation in San Jose for a panel discussion on “Not Another Newtown: Building a Movement to Prevent Gun Violence,” but I caught up with him a few minutes ago.

    Darrell Steinberg“We want to create momentum here in California and continue to push for a national solution to the gun violence problem,” said Steinberg, D-Sacramento. “We not only want to push through our legislation in California, which I’m confident we’ll be able to, but also to convey that what we’re doing is cutting edge.”

    Steinberg is shepherding a package of bills that among many other things would ban all semi-automatic rifles that take detachable magazines – a step well beyond what any other state has taken.

    “Rather than clamping down on the newest loophole that they find, we’re making it as clear as can be,” he said. “We need to eliminate not only the current loopholes but also anything else they might think of next.”

    Discussing this in front of the liberal online activists of Netroots Nation is “an opportunity to continue to build the extensive public support for reasonable gun regulation,” Steinberg said.

    He said he also would like to talk about mental illness, although he’s not willing to equate this with gun control because the vast majority of mentally ill people never commit any violent crimes. Here again, he said, California is far ahead of the curve; he noted that the biggest non-education budget boost this year is for expanded mental-health services.

    “Mental health and combating mental illness is a key to solving so many of our society’s seemingly intractable problems,” Steinberg said.

    On another matter, Steinberg said he’s satisfied with the resolution to the past week’s flap over budget trailer bills that would’ve gutted the California Public Records Act by letting local governments opt out of major provisions if they don’t want to pay the costs of compliance.

    “It was never our intent to undermine the Public Records Act – it was to clarify that public agencies ought to be responsible for the cost of complying with the law,” he insisted, acknowledging that this week’s fiery criticisms of the proposed changes were “a significant distraction to some of the achievements in this year’s budget.”

    The Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown have conceded that they’ll continue the Public Records Act’s state-funded mandate for another year, while putting a constitutional amendment before voters in 2014 to transfer the responsibility for bankrolling the law from the state to local agencies.

    Steinberg said he’ll actively and publicly support that amendment when it’s on the ballot, but “I wouldn’t imagine that it would be an amendment that would be very controversial.” Voters should react well to the idea of permanently enshrining the Public Records Act – signed into law in 1968 by Gov. Ronald Reagan – in the state’s constitution.

    Posted on Friday, June 21st, 2013
    Under: California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, gun control, Technology in politics | 5 Comments »

    Some video clips from Netroots Nation

    Couldn’t make it to Netroots Nation, the big national gathering of liberal online activists that began Thursday in San Jose? Well, you could read my story.

    Or, I guess, you could see a few small bits of it for yourself. Here’s former Vermont governor and 2004 Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean rallying the troops:

    Here’s former Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass.:

    And here’s U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., speaking remotely to introduce keynote speaker U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.:

    More videos later today, hopefully. Meanwhile, Netroots Nation has created Storify recaps of two of yesterday’s panel discussions: “Making Wall Street Tremble: Case Studies from Innovative Corporate Campaigns” and “Beating Back Mansplaining and Other Acts of Sexism in Politics and Organizing.”

    And if you want to keep up in real time today, all of the keynotes and some of the panel discussions are being streamed live online.

    Posted on Friday, June 21st, 2013
    Under: Technology in politics, U.S. Senate | 1 Comment »

    NN13: Progressives not so hot on Ro Khanna

    Here at Netroots Nation, the annual convention of liberal online activists that’s now under way at the San Jose Convention Center, I just had a casual sit-down with Democracy for America Chairman Jim Dean.

    Also joining us was Charles Chamberlain, who’ll rejoin DFA as executive director in August after finishing his stint leading Progressive Congress, the Congressional Progressive Caucus’s foundation arm.

    DFA is the national grassroots group and PAC that grew out of the 2004 presidential campaign of dean’s brother, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean – who also briefly dropped by our chat today, but didn’t stick around.

    Jim Dean said he relishes Netroots Nation – where bloggers, petitioners, organizers and all kinds of online activists are bustling from seminar to panel discussion to exhibit hall now through Saturday night – because he gets face time with “people who are from places where things are difficult” for liberals, from Alaska to Florida.

    “It’s a great way to better understand the work that other people are doing and to figure out how to leverage that,” he said, getting “a global view of all the different things – you want to do all of them, but you can’t.”

    Dean said DFA tries to balance issue work with election campaigns to make the most of both. Right now the focus in Congress is on student loan interest rates and protecting Social Security and Medicare, while down in the states, things like fracking and campaign finance reform are taking center stage. But by later this year, he said, DFA will start drilling down into specific state and congressional races for 2014.

    Here in Silicon Valley, Dean and Chamberlain said, DFA will be taking a close look at former Obama administration official Ro Khanna’s Democrat-on-Democrat challenge of Rep. Mike Honda – and that’s not good news for Khanna.

    “Nothing is worse than a Democrat that’s ‘Republican lite,’” Chamberlain said, singling Honda, D-San Jose, and freshman Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Palm Springs, for praise. “I can’t imagine we’ll stay out of either of those races.”

    We talked about how Jeremy Bird – Obama’s national field director last year – is now helping to run Khanna’s campaign, even thought Obama and most other prominent Democrats have endorsed Honda. They know Bird, who cut his campaign teeth in part on Howard Dean’s 2004 campaign; they questioned why he’s working for Khanna now, and we discussed the “Silicon Valley wants to hack Washington” narrative that Khanna’s campaign is offering.

    “I think the word ‘hack’ is probably right,” Chamberlain with an eye-roll. (UPDATE: I’ve been asked to clarify that he’s talking about Khanna there, not Bird.) “Look, everybody has to make decisions about who they’ll support … but this is a really questionable decision – the president has endorsed Honda, he’s a great progressive. It’s really shocking to me that anyone who considers themselves to be a progressive would be on the opposite side of this campaign.”

    Jim Dean made it clear that DFA has made no endorsement yet. But when he looks at Khanna, he said, “I’m looking at a guy who can raise a lot of money, but it almost seems he’s running for office just because he can.”

    Bird is presenting later today at a panel on “The New 50-State Strategy: Keeping Our Edge in the Ground Game,” and Khanna has a booth reserved in the exhibit hall and a press availability scheduled for tomorrow; Honda is scheduled to be on stage during tonight before U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., gives a keynote speech. We’ll see how all of them are welcomed.

    UPDATE @ 4:18 P.M. FRIDAY: Khanna fires back.

    Posted on Thursday, June 20th, 2013
    Under: Mike Honda, Technology in politics, U.S. House | 16 Comments »