Law and Legal

How far does wildfire smoke travel? These maps will tell you

Fast Company – “As devastating wildfires continue to burn across the western states of California, Oregon, and Washington, hazy skies and smoke are being reported as far away as Toronto and New York. These hazy conditions are not mere annoyances. As Luke Montrose, an environmental toxicologist, wrote recently for Fast Company, air pollution from wood smoke is a serious public health concern. Smoke from large wildfires can travel thousands of miles, across states, countries, and even oceans, and the fires currently burning on the West Coast include some of the biggest ever recorded. To get a sense of how far smoke from the current wildfires is traveling, you can turn to a number of interactive maps and data tools that let you track smoke conditions in real time. I’ve rounded up some useful options..”

Categories: Law and Legal

AstraZeneca Releases Blueprints for Virus Vaccine Trial Amid Safety Scrutiny

The New York Times – “Polls are finding Americans increasingly wary of accepting a virus vaccine. And scientists inside and outside the government are worried that regulators, pressured by President Trump for results before Election Day on Nov. 3, might release an unproven or unsafe vaccine. “The release of these protocols seems to reflect some public pressure to do so,” said Natalie Dean, a biostatistician and expert in clinical trial design for vaccines at the University of Florida. “This is an unprecedented situation, and public confidence is such a huge part of the success of this endeavor.” Pfizer and Moderna revealed details of their vaccine trials on Thursday…[h/t Pete Weiss]

Categories: Law and Legal

FinCEN Files Show How Criminals Use Big-Name Banks To Manage Global Financial Corruption

BuzzFeedNews: “A huge trove of secret government documents reveals for the first time how the giants of Western banking move trillions of dollars in suspicious transactions, enriching themselves and their shareholders while facilitating the work of terrorists, kleptocrats, and drug kingpins. And the US government, despite its vast powers, fails to stop it. Today, the FinCEN Files — thousands of “suspicious activity reports” and other US government documents — offer an unprecedented view of global financial corruption, the banks enabling it, and the government agencies that watch as it flourishes. BuzzFeed News has shared these reports with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and more than 100 news organizations in 88 countries. These documents, compiled by banks, shared with the government, but kept from public view, expose the hollowness of banking safeguards, and the ease with which criminals have exploited them. Profits from deadly drug wars, fortunes embezzled from developing countries, and hard-earned savings stolen in a Ponzi scheme were all allowed to flow into and out of these financial institutions, despite warnings from the banks’ own employees. Money laundering is a crime that makes other crimes possible. It can accelerate economic inequality, drain public funds, undermine democracy, and destabilize nations — and the banks play a key role. “Some of these people in those crisp white shirts in their sharp suits are feeding off the tragedy of people dying all over the world,” said Martin Woods, a former suspicious transactions investigator for Wachovia. Laws that were meant to stop financial crime have instead allowed it to flourish. So long as a bank files a notice that it may be facilitating criminal activity, it all but immunizes itself and its executives from criminal prosecution. The suspicious activity alert effectively gives them a free pass to keep moving the money and collecting the fees.

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, is the agency within the Treasury Department charged with combating money laundering, terrorist financing, and other financial crimes. It collects millions of these suspicious activity reports, known as SARs. It makes them available to US law enforcement agencies and other nations’ financial intelligence operations. It even compiles a report called “Kleptocracy Weekly” that summarizes the dealings of foreign leaders such as Russian President Vladimir Putin. What it does not do is force the banks to shut the money laundering down…”

Categories: Law and Legal

DOJ Releases New Material from Mueller Report in EPIC Case

EPIC – “The Justice Department, as part of an open government lawsuit brought by EPIC, has released another round of previously unpublished material from the Mueller Report. The newly disclosed passages are listed in the “Redaction” column of a DOJ spreadsheet—though outside of their original context from the Mueller Report. The spreadsheet was originally drafted to answer questions from Judge Reggie B. Walton, who is conducting an “in camera” review of the complete Mueller Report after determining that Attorney General Bill Barr’s redactions may have been “self-serving.” Among the newly disclosed material is an excerpt from an Internet Research Agency document that describes the Russian government’s goal of “spread[ing] distrust towards the candidates and the political system in general” and states that “All the primaries are purchasable.” The DOJ previously released new passages from the Mueller Report in June, and the court is expected to decide soon whether additional material must be published. EPIC’s Freedom of Information Act case—the first in the nation for the disclosure of the Mueller Report—is EPIC v. DOJ, No. 19-810.”

Categories: Law and Legal

Power and Status (and Lack Thereof) in Academe

Power and Status (and Lack Thereof) in Academe: Academic Freedom and Academic Librarians, In the Library with the Lead Pipe, September 16, 2020. “Academic librarians do not experience full academic freedom protections, despite the fact that they are expected to exercise independent judgment, be civically engaged, and practice applied scholarship. Academic freedom for academic librarians is not widely studied or well understood. To learn more, we conducted a survey which received over 600 responses from academic librarians on a variety of academic freedom measures. In this article, we focus specifically on faculty status for librarians and the ways this intersects with academic freedom perceptions and experiences. Even though all librarians who answered our survey share similar experiences when it comes to infringements on their freedom, faculty librarians are more likely to feel they are protected in their free expression. We find it useful to situate librarians within a growing cohort of “third space” academic professionals who perform similar duties to traditional faculty but lack tenure and its associated academic freedom protections. We argue that more attention needs to be paid in the library profession to academic freedom for librarians, and that solidarity with other non-traditional faculty on campus is a potential avenue for allyship and advocacy.”

Categories: Law and Legal

Fall Colors of DC

Via Cases Trees, this beautiful updated map which you may search by using the various colors on the map or by tree species/common name; by address or place/location. Scientific names for each tree are provided, as well as health/condition of each tree. This seasonal guide to urban forestry is a wonderful educational tool for all ages. Highly recommended.

Categories: Law and Legal

What Ruth Bader Ginsburg Would Want America to Do Now

Slate  – Throughout all of the late-breaking, notorious fame, the justice knew that she was just one link in the chain : “Whenever she spoke, Justice Ginsburg was at pains to say that she stood on the shoulders of giants. At her confirmation hearings, in her prepared statement to the Senate, she was meticulous about who truly deserved the credit for her landmark career, and it wasn’t RBG: “We could not have come to this point—and I surely would not be in this room today—without the determined efforts of men and women who kept dreams of equal citizenship alive in days when few would listen. People like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Harriet Tubman come to mind. I stand on the shoulders of those brave people.” I never heard her give a public speech in which she didn’t thank, by name, the allies, champions, fighters, of whom she inevitably saw herself as a beneficiary; she cast herself as someone lucky enough to be in a long line of champions and fighters, and also as someone set and determined to pay it forward to the people who would someday stand on her shoulders.

Categories: Law and Legal

Does Wearing Glasses Protect You From Coronavirus?

The New York Times – After researchers noticed fewer nearsighted patients in a hospital ward in China, they speculated that wearing glasses might offer some protection against Covid-19. “…It may be that eyeglasses act as a partial barrier, protecting eyes from the splatter of a cough or sneeze. Another explanation for the finding could be that people who wear glasses are less likely to rub their eyes with contaminated hands. A 2015 report on face touching found that over the course of an hour, students watching a lecture touched their eyes, nose or mouth, on average, about 10 times, though the researchers did not look into whether wearing glasses made a difference. The current study, published in JAMA Ophthalmology, was accompanied by a commentary from Dr. Lisa Maragakis, an infectious disease specialist and associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, who urged caution in interpreting the results…But Dr. Steinemann noted that the study shouldn’t cause worry among people who don’t wear glasses. “It probably can’t hurt to wear glasses, but does everybody need to do that? Probably not,” he said. “I think you have to consider the practicality of wearing eye protection or a face shield. People in certain occupations, first responders, caregivers for someone who is ill, those are people who should maybe take special notice.”…

Categories: Law and Legal

Police Reform and the 116th Congress: Selected Legal Issues

CRS report via LC – Police Reform and the 116th Congress: Selected Legal Issues, September 16, 2020: “…Congress has extensive power to regulate federal law enforcement. However, federalism principles embodied in the Constitution place limits on Congress’s power to regulate state and local police—an issue that the Constitution generally entrusts to the states. Congress, however, possesses some authority to regulate state and local law enforcement. Two primary tools Congress may use to act in this area are statutes designed to enforce the protections of the Fourteenth Amendment and legislation requiring states to take specified action in exchange for federal funds disbursed under the Spending Clause.Legislating within the scope of its enumerated powers, Congress has enacted multiple statutes that regulate federal, state, and local law enforcement. Key existing legal authorities related to federal regulation of law enforcement include Department of Justice (DOJ) civil enforcement against patterns and practices of unconstitutional policing, laws imposing civil and criminal liability for officer misconduct, and grant conditions designed to spur state and local compliance with federal policies.Federal courts have supplemented these statutory authorities with certain judicially created doctrines defining the contours of liability for police misconduct…”

Categories: Law and Legal

COVID-19: Financial Relief and Assistance Resources for Renters

CRS Insight via LC – COVID-19: Financial Relief and Assistance Resources for Renters, September 10, 2020: “This Insight highlights resources from selected federal agencies and other organizations that may aid renters at risk of eviction due to circumstances related to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)pandemic. These resourcesprovide information on COVID-19 related renter protections and resources at federal, state, and local levels…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Fire and Smoke Map

Collaborative effort between the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Forest Service: “Search for Current Fire and Smoke Conditions in a city, state or area. (e.g. “Seattle, WA”, “Washington”, “Smith River, CA”) Or search for conditions near your current location – “The Fire and Smoke Map displays information on ground level air quality monitors recording fine particulates (PM2.5) from smoke and other sources, as well as information on fires, smoke plume locations, and special statements about smoke issued by various sources.

This map is designed to:

  • Allow the user to browse current conditions
  • Show information relevant to the current location or another location of interest..”
Categories: Law and Legal

Hubble Captures Crisp New Image of Jupiter and Europa

Hubble Space Telescope: “This latest image of Jupiter, taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope on 25 August 2020, was captured when the planet was 653 million kilometres from Earth. Hubble’s sharp view is giving researchers an updated weather report on the monster planet’s turbulent atmosphere, including a remarkable new storm brewing, and a cousin of the Great Red Spot changing colour — again. The new image also features Jupiter’s icy moon Europa. A unique and exciting detail of Hubble’s new snapshot appears at mid-northern latitudes as a bright, white, stretched-out storm moving at 560 kilometres per hour. This single plume erupted on 18 August 2020 and another has since appeared. While it’s common for storms to pop up in this region, often several at once, this particular disturbance appears to have more structure behind it than observed in previous storms. Trailing behind the plume are small, counterclockwise dark clumps also not witnessed in the past. Researchers speculate this may be the beginning of a longer-lasting northern hemisphere spot, perhaps to rival the legendary Great Red Spot that dominates the southern hemisphere. Hubble shows that the Great Red Spot, rolling counterclockwise in the planet’s southern hemisphere, is ploughing into the clouds ahead of it, forming a cascade of white and beige ribbons. The Great Red Spot is currently an exceptionally rich red colour, with its core and outermost band appearing deeper red. Researchers say the Great Red Spot now measures about 15 800 kilometres across, big enough to swallow the Earth. The super-storm is still shrinking, as noted in telescopic observations dating back to 1930, but its rate of shrinkage appears to have slowed. The reason for its dwindling size is a complete mystery…”

Categories: Law and Legal

DuckDuckGo Is Growing Fast

BleepingComputer: “DuckDuckGo, the privacy-focused search engine, announced that August 2020 ended in over 2 billion total searches via its search platform. While Google remains the most popular search engine, DuckDuckGo has gained a great deal of traction in recent months as more and more users have begun to value their privacy on the internet. DuckDuckGo saw over 2 billion searches and 4 million app/extension installations, and the company also said that they have over 65 million active users. DuckDuckGo could shatter its old traffic record if the same growth trend continues. Even though DuckDuckGo is growing rapidly, it still controls less than 2 percent of all search volume in the United States. However, DuckDuckGo’s growth trend has continued throughout the year, mainly due to Google and other companies’ privacy scandal…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Mail-in voting fraud – It’s nearly impossible

CNET – Election officials and the FBI say it’s almost impossible to pull off fraud via mail-in ballots. Spreading disinformation about voting-by-mail is much easier. “Millions of Americans have voted by mail securely for more than 150 years, with fraud historically being so rare that election officials wouldn’t even consider it significant enough to be a rounding error. But with the coronavirus pandemic pushing a record number of absentee ballot requests, President Donald Trump and his administration have attacked the time-tested system, claiming that it will lead to a chaotic Election Day outcome. Since April, Trump has questioned the legitimacy of vote-by-mail on Twitter, saying it will “lead to massive corruption and fraud,” without offering any evidence of what security flaws are present. Attorney General William Barr also claimed, in June, that voting by mail “opens the floodgates to fraud,” also without any proof.  In a press briefing on election security on Aug. 26, senior FBI officials said they’ve found no evidence of coordinated fraud with mail-in ballots and also highlighted how unlikely the scenario would be.

It would be extraordinarily difficult to change a federal election outcome through this type of fraud alone, given the range of processes that would need to be affected or compromised by an adversary at the local level,” the FBI said…”

See also FBI director: It’s a mistake to get election information on social media – “If you want accurate details on when and where to vote, he says, don’t look to Facebook or Twitter…”

Categories: Law and Legal

How to think about coronavirus risk in your life

Vox: “…Julia Marcus is an epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School and a contributing writer for the Atlantic who has penned a brilliant series of essays about how to think about risk in the midst of this pandemic. Marcus’s starting point, which emerges from her previous work on HIV prevention, is that an all-or-nothing approach is blindly unrealistic: Everything is a trade-off. Shaming is a terrible public health strategy. And we can’t have a conversation about risk that ignores the reality of benefits, too. In this conversation on The Ezra Klein Show, Marcus offers a framework for making key life decisions while at the same time managing coronavirus risk. We also discuss what the risk calculation for someone living in Germany or South Korea looks like, how the US government’s abdication of responsibility has shifted the burden of risk management onto individuals, the kinds of activities we tend to underestimate and overestimate the riskiness of, the principles that should guide us in the age of coronavirus, how long we can expect this pandemic to last, and much more…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Political Divides, Conspiracy Theories and Divergent News Sources Heading Into 2020 Election

“As the nation heads toward Election Day in the midst of a persistent pandemic and simmering social unrest, a new Pew Research Center survey finds that Americans’ deep partisan divide, dueling information ecosystems, and divergent responses to conspiracy theories and misinformation are all fueling uncertainty and conflict surrounding the presidential election. While Americans across the political spectrum have been getting information about key election-related storylines, their knowledge and opinions about these issues – as well as the candidates themselves – differ strikingly based on their party affiliation and key news sources, according to the new survey, conducted Aug. 31-Sept. 7, 2020, as part of the Center’s American News Pathways project. One central issue creating confusion in this campaign is the reliability of voting by mail, which figures to be more widespread than ever this year as people try to avoid crowded polling places during the coronavirus outbreak. President Donald Trump has repeatedly promoted the unsupported idea that mail-in voting will lead to significant fraud and has put the U.S. Postal Service in the campaign spotlight.

While evidence indicates that mail-in voting is associated with only minuscule levels of fraud, 43% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents identify voter fraud as a “major problem” associated with mail-in ballots. By contrast, only 11% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say the same thing…”

Categories: Law and Legal

U.S. Public Now Divided Over Whether To Get COVID-19 Vaccine

“As efforts to develop and test a COVID-19 vaccine spur debate around the timing and release of a federally approved vaccine, the share of Americans who say they would get vaccinated for the coronavirus has declined sharply since earlier this year. About half of U.S. adults (51%) now say they would definitely or probably get a vaccine to prevent COVID-19 if it were available today; nearly as many (49%) say they definitely or probably would not get vaccinated at this time. Intent to get a COVID-19 vaccine has fallen from 72% in May, a 21 percentage point drop. The share who would definitely get a coronavirus vaccine now stands at just 21% – half the share that said this four months ago…The new national survey by Pew Research Center, conducted Sept. 8-13 among 10,093 U.S. adults, finds intent to get a COVID-19 vaccine has declined across all major political and demographic groups…”

Categories: Law and Legal

What’s at Stake in This Election? The American Democratic Experiment

The New York Times / Opinion – Trump’s former director of national intelligence on how to firmly and unambiguously reassure all Americans that their votes will be counted. By Dan Coats. Mr. Coats served as the director of national intelligence from 2017 to 2019.
“…Our democracy’s enemies, foreign and domestic, want us to concede in advance that our voting systems are faulty or fraudulent; that sinister conspiracies have distorted the political will of the people; that our public discourse has been perverted by the news media and social networks riddled with prejudice, lies and ill will; that judicial institutions, law enforcement and even national security have been twisted, misused and misdirected to create anxiety and conflict, not justice and social peace. If those are the results of this tumultuous election year, we are lost, no matter which candidate wins. No American, and certainly no American leader, should want such an outcome. Total destruction and sowing salt in the earth of American democracy is a catastrophe well beyond simple defeat and a poison for generations. An electoral victory on these terms would be no victory at all. The judgment of history, reflecting on the death of enlightened democracy, would be harsh. The most urgent task American leaders face is to ensure that the election’s results are accepted as legitimate. Electoral legitimacy is the essential linchpin of our entire political culture. We should see the challenge clearly in advance and take immediate action to respond…”

Categories: Law and Legal

A Secret Diary Chronicled the ‘Satanic World’ That Was Dachau

The New York Times – A Secret Diary Chronicled the ‘Satanic World’ That Was Dachau – “For two years, a prisoner in the German concentration camp kept a journal that would later be used to convict those who had persecuted him and killed his fellow prisoners.

The final article from “Beyond the World War II We Know,” a series by The Times that documents lesser-known stories from the war, remembers Edgar Kupfer-Koberwitz, a prisoner at Dachau who secretly documented everything he observed in the concentration camp in a diary, which he then buried until the American liberation.”

Categories: Law and Legal

New Survey by Claims Conference Finds Significant Lack of Holocaust Knowledge in the United States

“Julius Berman, President of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference), announces the release of a comprehensive national survey of Holocaust awareness and knowledge among adults in the United States on the occasion of Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day). The survey found there are critical gaps both in awareness of basic facts as well as detailed knowledge of the Holocaust, and there is a broad-based consensus that schools must be responsible for providing comprehensive Holocaust education.  In addition, a significant majority of American adults believe that fewer people care about the Holocaust today than they used to, and more than half of Americans believe that the Holocaust could happen again…

The study also found significant gaps in knowledge about the Holocaust:

  • Nearly one-third of all Americans (31 percent) and more than 4-in-10 Millennials (41 percent) believe that substantially less than 6 million Jews were killed (two million or fewer) during the Holocaust
  • While there were over 40,000 concentration camps and ghettos in Europe during the Holocaust, almost half of Americans (45 percentcannot name a single one – and this percentage is even higher amongst Millennials..”
Categories: Law and Legal

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