Posted Jun. 7, 2017 at 6:07 a.m.

Tech wrap: Collins stays at NIH; Trump's tweet blocks; Google teaches etiquette; court backs NC solar permit

Published: 2017-06-07 06:07:00
Updated: 2017-06-07 06:07:00

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In today's Bulldog roundup of technology and life science news:

  • Trump says he's keeping Dr. Francis Collins as NIH director
  • Twitter users, blocked by Trump, cry censorship
  • Google to teach school kids about online safety, etiquette
  • Appeals court: North Carolina county must grant solar permit

The details:

  • Trump says he's keeping Dr. Francis Collins as NIH director

President Donald Trump says he's keeping Dr. Francis Collins as director of the National Institutes of Health.

Francis CollinsCollins is a pioneer in the field of genetics who has directed the NIH since August 2009, after successfully leading the nation's effort to map the human genome. He was among several dozen Obama administration officials who Trump aides had asked to stay in their jobs — at least temporarily — for the purpose of continuity.

[Collins graduated from UNc-Chapel Hill's School of Medicine in 1977.]

Trump made the announcement about Collins on Tuesday.

The NIH is a division of the Department of Health and Human Services and is made up of 27 different institutes and centers. It's also known as the nation's medical research agency.

Trump has proposed cutting the overall NIH budget from $31.8 billion to $26 billion.

  • Twitter users, blocked by Trump, cry censorship

President Donald Trump may be the nation's tweeter-in-chief, but some Twitter users say he's violating the First Amendment by blocking people from his feed after they posted scornful comments.

Lawyers for two Twitter users sent the White House a letter Tuesday demanding they be un-blocked from the Republican president's @realDonaldTrump account.

"The viewpoint-based blocking of our clients is unconstitutional," wrote attorneys at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University in New York.

The White House didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

The tweeters — one a liberal activist, the other a cyclist who says he's a registered Republican — have posted and retweeted plenty of complaints and jokes about Trump.

They say they found themselves blocked after replying to a couple of his recent tweets. The activist, Holly O'Reilly, posted a video of Pope Francis casting a sidelong look at Trump and suggested this was "how the whole world sees you." The cyclist, Joe Papp, responded to the president's weekly address by asking why he hadn't attended a rally by supporters and adding, with a hashtag, "fakeleader."

Blocking people on Twitter means they can't easily see or reply to the blocker's tweets.

  • Google to teach school kids about online safety, etiquette

Google is spearheading an educational campaign to teach pre-teen children how to protect themselves from scams, predators and other trouble.

The program announced Tuesday is called "Be Internet Awesome." Google coordinated the curriculum with several online safety groups, including the Family Online Safety Institute , the Internet Keep Safe Coalition and Connect Safely .

The lessons are tailored for kids ranging from eight to 12 years old, a time when many of today's children are getting their own smartphones and other devices that connect to the internet. To make the experience more fun, Google and its partners developed a game called "Interland" to help teach children about the ins and outs of online safety.

Google is encouraging teachers to use elements of its program in their classrooms, too.

  • Appeals court: North Carolina county must grant solar permit

An appeals court says leaders of a North Carolina county were wrong to refuse a permit for an energy company to build a solar farm.

Robeson County commissioners voted in December 2015 to deny FLS Energy's request to erect and operate solar panels on some leased acreage, even though a planning board previously recommended approval. A trial court judge upheld the denial, but the state Court of Appeals on Tuesday reversed that decision and says commissioners must grant the permit.

The three-judge appeals panel found evidence presented to Robeson County officials shows that the FLS Energy proposal met the qualifications for approval. The judges wrote that testimony by opponents about possible health concerns from the operation was unsupported and that other evidence they presented was not credible.

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