Category Archives: Hearings

Finance Committee to Hold Hearing on Deficit Caps

The suddenly “white-hot issue of deficit caps — now a central front in the battle over raising the debt ceiling — will be the subject of a hearing Wednesday in the Senate Finance Committee,” Roll Call reports.

Panel Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) announced the hearing on the issue Thursday morning. It will include testimony from former Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas), who was part of the bipartisan Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit reduction plan in the 1980s.

Baucus has said he backs the idea of a deficit cap as part of a plan to increase the federal debt ceiling. Republicans generally want spending caps instead, although they also are pushing for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution.


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Commerce Committee to Hold Hearing on Mobile Privacy

The Senate Commerce Committee “will hold a May hearing on consumer privacy on mobile phones, Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) announced Thursday,” according to The Hill.

The announcement follows the discovery that iPhones track and store information about users’ whereabouts, a discovery Apple says it will fix through a software update.

Rockefeller called this incident "just the latest in a string of concerns raised in the mobile marketplace." He said the mobile marketplace "collects and uses a wide range of personal information — often with inadequate or untimely disclosure."

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Leahy Urges Google, Apple to Attend Mobile Privacy Hearing

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-VT) “is urging two leading providers of smartphone and tablet technology to accept invitations to testify before the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law at a May 10 hearing focused on ‘Protecting Mobile Privacy: Your Smartphones, Tablets, Cell Phones and Your Privacy,’” according to a press release.

In letters to Google CEO Larry Page and Apple CEO Steve Jobs, Leahy urged the companies to testify about how each is addressing privacy concerns raised by the collection and storage of sensitive, personal information by technologies like Google’s Android software and Apple’s iPhone.

“Like many Americans, I read with deep concern recent press reports indicating that [Android Phones and iPhones] collect, store and track user location data without the user’s consent,” wrote Leahy.  “As Congress considers updates to the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and other Federal privacy laws, it is essential that the Senate Judiciary Committee have full and accurate information about the privacy risks posed by this new technology.”

Read the Google letter here and the Apple letter here.

Update: According to All Things Digital, Apple CEO Steve Jobs will send a representative to attend the hearing.

He said Apple looks forward to testifying before Congress and other regulatory bodies and said the company will do what it can to clarify things further.

“I think Apple will be testifying,” Jobs said. “They have asked us to come and we will honor their request, of course.”

Update (4/28): According to a press release statement by Chairman Leahy, both Apple and Google representatives will attend the hearing.

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Franken Announces Hearing on Mobile Technology/Privacy

Senator Al Franken (D-MN), who chairs the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, announced today “that he will be holding the subcommittee’s first hearing, titled Protecting Mobile Privacy: Your Smartphones, Tablets, Cell Phones and Your Privacy,” according to a press release from his office.

It will take place on Tuesday, May 10 at 10:00 a.m. (D.C. time).

Sen. Franken has invited representatives from Apple and Google. Confirmed witnesses include officials from the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission; Ashkan Soltani, independent privacy researcher and consultant; and Justin Brookman, Director of the Center for Democracy and Technology’s Project on Consumer Privacy.

“Recent advances in mobile technology have allowed Americans to stay connected like never before and put an astonishing number of resources at our fingertips,” said Sen. Franken. “But the same technology that has given us smartphones, tablets, and cell phones has also allowed these devices to gather extremely sensitive information about users, including detailed records of their daily movements and location. This hearing is the first step in making certain that federal laws protecting consumers’ privacy-particularly when it comes to mobile devices-keep pace with advances in technology.”

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On Libya, Webb Says U.S. ‘Clearly’ Involved in Regime Change

Even if it “isn’t official, the U.S. is very much involved in regime change in Libya, Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) said Thursday,” The Hill reports.

“We are clearly involved in regime change,” Webb said at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. “It is definitely a diplomatic reality.”

Webb’s comments “follow classified briefings on Wednesday by the secretaries of State and Defense on Libya.”

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Levin, McCain Voice Support for Action in Libya

The top “Democrat and Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee say President Barack Obama was right to use military force in Libya,” the AP reports.

Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan and Republican John McCain of Arizona made the comments Tuesday at the start of a congressional hearing and the day after Obama’s speech on Libya.

Levin said Obama has taken a thoughtful and deliberate approach to avert a bloodbath in Libya. McCain, Obama’s 2008 rival for president, said Obama’s decision to intervene was right and necessary.

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Senate Panel to Discuss Disease Clusters Identified in Thirteen States

An environmental group “will tell a Senate panel Tuesday that it has identified 42 suspected clusters of cancer, birth defects and other illnesses in 13 states,” McClatchy reports.

The Natural Resources Defense Council, working with the National Disease Clusters Alliance, wants to step up the federal response to investigating suspected clusters. The 42 clusters — either confirmed or under active investigation — are in Texas, California, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Delaware, Louisiana, Montana, Tennessee, Missouri and Arkansas. The groups plan to look at all 50 states.

A specific source of chemical contamination — asbestos — was identified in only one of the 42 clusters, in Libby, Mont. But the group notes that in many communities, such as Camp Lejeune, N.C., “the case grows stronger that documented exposure to toxics has harmed the health of community residents.”

The NRDC will testify Tuesday before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, along with environmental activist Erin Brockovich and Trevor Schaefer, a 21-year old survivor of brain cancer from Boise, Idaho. He and his family have created Trevor’s Trek Foundation to fight childhood cancer.

Committee chairman Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo — the top Republican on the Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health Subcommittee — are co-sponsoring legislation aimed at helping communities determine whether there’s a link between elevated levels of illness and contaminants in the environment.

The NRDC, which surveyed the 13 states to determine the scope of complaints, backs the bill and said it hopes the hearing will draw attention to communities like three in Florida: the tiny Tallevast neighborhood in Manatee County, Palm Beach County’s Acreage and Collier County’s Immokalee, where residents have also reported unusual rates of disease.

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