Good morning tech


Executive Notes

VA ends financial system overhaul. The Department of Veterans Affairs announced Tueday that it has terminated most of a $400 million project to update the system the agency uses to process financial transactions. VA chief information officer Roger Baker blamed the project's high risk of failure and a shortage of resources for the decision, which comes after the Obama administration issued a sweeping order halting all similar system updates across the government last month. Financial systems at federal agencies are notoriously complex and difficult to integrate; the administration is hoping to cut down the size and scope of these projects, a factor that contributed to VA's decision. Baker said the department will focus on smaller projects instead with more immediate deliverables.

Comcast-NBCU forum weighted toward those with grievances. An FCC forum in Chicago on Tuesday about the Comcast-NBC Universal merger was weighted toward those with criticisms of the proposed joint venture, Broadcasting & Cable reports. "Small cable operators, an independent programmer and a former FCC commissioner led the afternoon prodding."

New HHS rule rewards healthcare providers for using electronic medical records. The Department of Health and Human Services released new rules Tuesday that would reward doctors and hospitals for making use of electronic medical records while scaling back proposed requirements that the industry had deemed unrealistic. HHS said it has set aside $27 billion over the next 10 years to encourage the adoption of electronic medical records. Doctors will be eligible to receive up to $44,000 under Medicare and up to $63,750 under Medicaid, while hospitals will be eligible for millions depending on their size. Providers that don't use electronic records will be subject to fines under Medicare starting in 2015.

Notes from abroad

China seeks to reduce Internet users' anonymity. The AP reports that a leading Chinese Internet regulator has "vowed to reduce anonymity in China's portion of cyberspace, calling for requirements that people use their real names when buying a mobile phone or going online." The report cites a human rights group.

SCHEDULED.

8 a.m. onward … The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) holds a workshop on updating U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) Strategic Plan (which is under development and scheduled for completion by December 2010). Hotel Palomar Arlington, 1121 North 19th Street, Arlington, Va.

9 a.m. onward … Brookings Institution forum on the smart grid. Brookings Institution, 1775 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Falk Auditorium, Washington, D.C.

10 a.m. … American Council for Technology sponsors a speech on cybersecurity by Sean Donelan of Homeland Security's National Protection and Programs Directorate Cybersecurity and Communications Program. 

1 p.m. ...  Commodity Futures Trading Commission has a meeting meeting of the Technology Advisory Committee Meeting. Topics include technological trading, high frequency trading, and managing the risk of direct access trading. (CTFC, 1155 21st Street NW, Washington)

2 p.m. ... House Energy and Commerce Hearing on the National Manufacturing Strategy Act. 2322 Rayburn House Office Building.

NUMBER PUNCH.

$700 million. The size of Google's acquisition of ITA Software, a travel technology company. The FT reported yesterday that the purchase has added to concerns about whether Google will use its power to organize search listings in a way that buries competitors from sight. 


SAID.

"We think it's the company's responsibility to provide the fix — at no extra cost to consumers." 

- Consumers Reports, in response to Apple's suggestion that iPhone 4 owners address a reception issue by holding their phones differently or purchasing a case.

WATERCOOLER.

LAUGH TRACK ... A blogger at Recording Industry vs. The People starts a blog post with "ha ha ha ha ha" before reporting that "the RIAA paid Holmes Roberts & Owen $9,364,901 in 2008, Jenner & Block more than $7,000,000, and Cravath Swain & Moore $1.25 million, to pursue its 'copyright infringement' claims, in order to recover a mere $391,000."