Law and Legal
Venture Beat: “Distributed denial of service attacks. Malware. State-imposed internet blackouts. It’s hard to keep abreast of every bad actor and natural disaster impacting the internet, but Oracle is making it a bit easier with the launch of Oracle Cloud Infrastructure’s Internet Intelligence Map, a real-time graphical representation of service interruptions and emerging threats. It’s now available for free…”
NiemanLab: “…People are becoming disenchanted with Facebook for news. The “Trump bump” appears to be sustaining itself. And younger people are more likely to donate money to a news organization than older people. These are some of the findings from a big new report out Thursday from Oxford’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism. The Reuters Institute’s Digital News Report for 2018 surveyed more than 74,000 people in 37 countries about their digital news consumption. (Included in the report for the first time this year: Bulgaria.) The research is based on online YouGov surveys earlier this year, followed by face-to-face focus groups in the U.S., U.K., Germany, and Brazil on the topics of social media and messaging apps. The report includes a number of findings on fake news, misinformation, and trust in the media; for more on those topics, see this piece by the report’s authors, and I’ll also include some more info in Friday’s fake news column…”
Politico: “…Under the Presidential Records Act, the White House must preserve all memos, letters, emails and papers that the president touches, sending them to the National Archives for safekeeping as historical records. But White House aides realized early on that they were unable to stop Trump from ripping up paper after he was done with it and throwing it in the trash or on the floor, according to people familiar with the practice. Instead, they chose to clean it up for him, in order to make sure that the president wasn’t violating the law. Staffers had the fragments of paper collected from the Oval Office as well as the private residence and send it over to records management across the street from the White House for [records management analyst Solomon] Lartey and his colleagues to reassemble.
“We got Scotch tape, the clear kind,” Lartey recalled in an interview. “You found pieces and taped them back together and then you gave it back to the supervisor.” The restored papers would then be sent to the National Archives to be properly filed away….“I had a letter from Schumer — he tore it up,” he said. “It was the craziest thing ever. He ripped papers into tiny pieces.”
European Data Portal – More and more data portals are implementing DCAT- AP – “The multitude of data platforms and the lack of common semantics resulted in a fragmented landscape of Open Data portals. To improve the metadata exchange and to reduce duplications and inconsistencies a number of standardisation and metadata harmonisation efforts have been undertaken. Using DCAT Application profile (DCAT-AP), portals with different descriptions of metadata can adhere to a common metadata language increasing the discovery of datasets. DCAT-AP is a specification based on W3C’s Data Catalogue vocabulary (DCAT) for describing metadata of public sector datasets in Europe. The DCAT Application Profile already has been implemented by several data portals across Europe like the EU Open Data Portal and the national data portals of Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Latvia, Spain and Switzerland. Many implementers use DCAT-AP natively by building local extensions on top of DCAT-AP. Learn more about DCAT-AP with the European Data Portal DCAT-AP factsheet.”
The New York Times: “Founded in 1754, the New York Society Library, on East 79th Street in Manhattan, calls itself the oldest cultural institution in New York City. “If you can find one that’s older, let us know,” said Carolyn Waters, its head librarian. Yet the place remains little known, even to many New Yorkers. “It’s surprising to me how under the radar we’ve been,” said Ms. Waters, 54, who at times can seem like a den mother for the many writers who toil away in the library’s elegant reading and study rooms. Historically, these have included the likes of Herman Melville and Washington Irving. “We’ve always been a haven for writers,” Ms. Waters said. “You trip over them here. They’re everywhere.” Since this is a membership library supported by annual fees and its endowment, patrons must pay to enjoy lending privileges for its roughly 300,000 volumes on a broad array of subjects, including plenty of material about New York City. Members also enjoy access to the library’s stacks and its elegant, wood paneled spaces on upper floors decorated with paintings and sculptures. Ms. Waters has pushed to widen membership beyond the Upper East Side, despite the challenge of the name itself. “It’s frustrating, in many ways, to have that word, ‘society,’ in our name,” she said, because it can connote exclusivity…” [See also the New York Society Library Blog]
In reality, she said, “We’re a society in the sense that we’re a community of people with a similar interest: We’re bibliophiles.”
Via EveryCRSReport.com – Social Security: What Would Happen If the Trust Funds Ran Out? June 11, 2018: “Social Security’s receipts and expenditures are accounted for through two federal trust funds: the Federal Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) Trust Fund and the Federal Disability Insurance (DI) Trust Fund. Under their intermediate assumptions and under current law, the Social Security trustees project that the DI trust fund will become depleted in 2032 and the OASI trust fund will become depleted in 2034. Although the two funds are legally separate, they are often considered in combination. The trustees project that the combined Social Security trust funds will become depleted in 2034. At that point, the combined trust funds would become insolvent, because incoming tax revenue would be sufficient to pay only about 79% of scheduled benefits. If a trust fund became depleted and current receipts were insufficient to cover current expenditures, there would be a conflict between two federal laws. Under the Social Security Act, beneficiaries would still be legally entitled to their full scheduled benefits. However, the Antideficiency Act prohibits government spending in excess of available funds, so the Social Security Administration (SSA) would not have legal authority to pay full Social Security benefits on time. It is unclear what specific actions SSA would take if a trust fund were insolvent. After depletion, the trust funds would continue to receive tax revenues, from which a majority of scheduled benefits could be paid. One option would be to pay full benefits on a delayed schedule; another would be to make timely but reduced payments. Social Security beneficiaries would remain legally entitled to full, timely benefits and could take legal action to claim the balance of their benefits. Maintaining financial balance after trust fund insolvency would require substantial reductions in Social Security benefits, substantial increases in tax revenues, or some combination of the two. The trustees project that following depletion of the combined funds in 2034, Congress could restore balance by reducing scheduled benefits by about 21%; the required reduction would grow gradually to 26% by 2092. Alternatively, Congress could raise the Social Security payroll tax rate from 12.4% to 15.7% following depletion in 2034, then gradually increase it to 16.7% by 2092.
Trust-fund insolvency could be avoided if expenditures were reduced or receipts increased sufficiently. The sooner Congress acts to adjust Social Security policy, the less abrupt the changes would need to be, because they could be spread over a longer period and would therefore affect a larger number of workers and beneficiaries. Even if changes were not implemented immediately, enacting them sooner would give workers and beneficiaries more time to plan and adjust their work and savings behavior.”
JSTOR: “During the Cold War, America’s libraries helped patrons prepare for nuclear war, from stocking reference materials to providing fallout shelters: “From seemingly useless under-desk drills to legit bunkers, the general public was prepared for nuclear war during the Cold War. But what about libraries? Reference librarian Brett Spencer examines how libraries and librarians braced for the coming threat. Many of today’s scholars dismiss the nation’s civil defense push as a propagandistic effort that used fear to unite Americans against Russia. But at the time, the threat felt very real for everyday Americans. The nation’s attempts to shield itself from the coming bomb were reflected across institutions, including libraries. That’s surprising, says Spencer, especially given many librarians’ stance on other Cold War issues, like McCarthyist attempts to control the books in their collections. But despite their resistance to political pressures, librarians “vigorously participated” in civil defense during the 1950s. This participation showed up in library collections. Libraries became clearinghouses for pamphlets, books, and audiovisual materials about how to survive a nuclear attack. The New York Public Library led the charge, collecting “mountains of civil defense booklets” that laid out how to drill for an atomic bomb and survive after one fell…”
Libraries were turned into fallout shelters, urged on by government claims that the stacks “offered excellent radiation shielding.”
The Hill: “The Justice Department’s ethics watchdog reportedly found no evidence that the political leanings of two FBI officials, who exchanged text messages critical of President Trump during the 2016 presidential race, directly affected the FBI’s investigations, while noting that their conduct “cast a cloud” over the bureau’s actions. Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz did not find that the conduct or potential political bias of FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok and FBI lawyer Lisa Page “directly affected the specific investigative actions we reviewed,” according to the report’s conclusions, which were obtained Thursday by Bloomberg…”
Bloomerg: “Former FBI Director James Comey “deviated” from bureau and Justice Department procedures in handling the probe into Hillary Clinton, damaging the agencies’ image of impartiality even though he wasn’t motivated by politics, the department’s watchdog found in a highly anticipated report. “While we did not find that these decisions were the result of political bias on Comey’s part, we nevertheless concluded that by departing so clearly and dramatically from FBI and department norms, the decisions negatively impacted the perception of the FBI and the department as fair administrators of justice,” Inspector General Michael Horowitz said in the report’s conclusions, which were obtained by Bloomberg News. Although the report being sent to Congress on Thursday doesn’t deal with the origins of the probe into Russia meddling in the 2016 U.S. election and possible collusion with those around President Donald Trump, the president and his Republican allies in Congress were primed to seize on it as evidence of poor judgment and anti-Trump bias within the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department.”
Attorney General Underwood Announces Lawsuit Against Donald J. Trump Foundation And Its Board Of Directors For Extensive And Persistent Violations Of State And Federal Law: “Attorney General Barbara D. Underwood today announced a lawsuit against the Donald J. Trump Foundation, and its directors, Donald J. Trump (“Mr. Trump”), Donald J. Trump, Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump. The petition filed today alleges a pattern of persistent illegal conduct, occurring over more than a decade, that includes extensive unlawful political coordination with the Trump presidential campaign, repeated and willful self-dealing transactions to benefit Mr. Trump’s personal and business interests, and violations of basic legal obligations for non-profit foundations. The Attorney General initiated a special proceeding to dissolve the Trump Foundation under court supervision and obtain restitution of $2.8 million and additional penalties. The AG’s lawsuit also seeks a ban from future service as a director of a New York not-for-profit of 10 years for Mr. Trump and one year for each of the Foundation’s other board members, Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump. The Attorney General also sent referral letters today to the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Election Commission, identifying possible violations of federal law for further investigation and legal action by those federal agencies. As alleged in the petition, Mr. Trump used the Trump Foundation’s charitable assets to pay off his legal obligations, to promote Trump hotels and other businesses, and to purchase personal items. In addition, at Mr. Trump’s behest, the Trump Foundation illegally provided extensive support to his 2016 presidential campaign by using the Trump Foundation’s name and funds it raised from the public to promote his campaign for presidency, including in the days before the Iowa nominating caucuses…”
Washington Post: “The New York attorney general on Thursday filed suit against President Trump and his three eldest children alleging “persistently illegal conduct” at the president’s personal charity, saying Trump repeatedly misused the nonprofit — to pay off his businesses’ creditors, to decorate one of his golf clubs and to stage a multimillion dollar giveaway at his 2016 campaign events. In the suit, filed Thursday morning, attorney general Barbara Underwood asked a state judge to dissolve the Donald J. Trump Foundation. She asked that its remaining $1 million in assets be distributed to other charities and that Trump be forced to pay at least $2.8 million in restitution and penalties. Underwood also asks that Trump be banned from leading any other New York nonprofit for 10 years — seeking to apply a penalty usually reserved for the operators of small-time charity frauds to the president of the United States. In the suit, Underwood noted that Trump had already paid more than $330,000 in reimbursements and penalty taxes since 2016. New York state began probing the Trump Foundation in response to an investigation by The Washington Post…”
Artificial Lawyer: “New research conducted by legal AI-led litigation research system Casetext, has shown that 83% of US judges and their clerks find that lawyers’ briefs are missing relevant cases that could impact the trial ‘at least some of the time’. The survey, of over 100 US Federal and state judges, revealed what the company says are ‘some pretty shocking statistics’. Judges were asked how often they uncover case law that is not cited in the attorney’s brief, on a scale of “never happens” to “almost every case.” The findings revealed that:
- 100% of the judges surveyed, i.e. all of them, said that attorneys missing relevant cases is a problem.
- 83% of the judges said that they or their clerks catch missing relevant cases at least some of the time.
- Over a quarter of judges (27%) said that they or their clerks catch precedents that attorneys have missed “most of the time” or “almost always.”
- While only a small minority (16%) said that they rarely, but still sometimes, catch missing cases that litigators should have cited in their submissions…”
Feldman, Stephen Matthew, Nothing New Under the Sun: The Law-Politics Dynamic in Supreme Court Decision Making (May 18, 2018). Pepperdine Law Review, Vol. 44, No. p 43, 2017. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3180736
“Recent events have seemed to inject politics into American judicial institutions. As a result, many observers worry that the Supreme Court, in particular, has become politicized. According to this view, the Justices should decide cases in accordance with the rule of law and be unmoved by political concerns. These worries arise from a mistaken assumption: that law and politics can be separated and independent in the process of judicial decision making. But at the Supreme Court (as well as in the lower courts, for that matter), decision making arises from a law-politics dynamic. Adjudication in accord with a pure rule of law is a myth. Both law and politics shape legal interpretation and adjudication. Yet, it is worth emphasizing, the ongoing debate over whether Supreme Court decision making is either law or politics is thoroughly political. This Essay elaborates on these assertions and explores their ramifications.”
Medium: “47,000 people responded to our survey asking how they feel about Facebook. The data is interesting and open for your exploration. Facebook has been in the news a lot lately. It started with the announcement that over 87 million Facebook users had their personal information shared with the private firm Cambridge Analytica without their knowledge. Since then, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has testified twice in front of the US Congress and people all around the world have been talking about Facebook’s data practices. We took this opportunity to survey people on how they felt about Facebook these days. The results are in and they are interesting. The top takeaways? Most people (76%) say they are very concerned about the safety of their personal information online. Yet few people (24%) reported making changes to their Facebook accounts following the recent news of privacy concerns around Facebook. The majority of people who responded to our survey (65%) see themselves — rather than companies or the government — as being most responsible for protecting their personal information online. And very few people (only 12%) said they would consider paying for Facebook, even a version of Facebook that doesn’t make money by collecting and selling personal data…”
“The Assembly program is pleased to announce a new publication, titled Coming in from the Cold: A Safe Harbor from the CFAA and DMCA §1201, written by Harvard Law School student Daniel Etcovitch and 2017 Assembly cohort member Thyla van der Merwe. The paper proposes a statutory safe harbor from the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act for security research activities using a constructed communication protocol based on a responsible disclosure model. The authors explore how such a safe harbor could provide security researchers a greater degree of control over the vulnerability research publication timeline and guarantee researchers safety from legal consequence if they complied with the proposed safe harbor process. The collaboration between Daniel and Thyla was born out of the 2017 Assembly program and the Internet & Society class co-taught by Harvard Law School Professor Jonathan Zittrain and MIT Media Lab Director Joi Ito, where they first met. As the authors describe it, they “found a common interest in legal barriers to security” during the Internet & Society course and together “began to engage with the reality that some security researchers – particularly academics – were concerned about potential legal liability under computer crime laws.”
“As stories of sexual misconduct continue to dominate the news, some alleged perpetrators bear household names (Kevin Spacey, Garrison Keillor, Harvey Weinstein, James Franco), and some don’t (Humane Society CEO Wayne Pacelle, NPR editor Michael Oreskes, Metropolitan Opera conductor James Levine). Though his moniker is absent from modern headlines, there’s one harasser whose name is known to librarians everywhere: Melvil Dewey. In the #MeToo era, how should the library profession handle Dewey’s legacy, tainted as it is by sexism and racism? Dewey—who was, of course, a founder of the American Library Association (ALA) and the inventor of the widely used Dewey Decimal Classification—made numerous inappropriate physical advances toward women, including library colleagues and his own daughter-in-law, over a period of many years. Eventually, Dewey was ostracized by the ALA as a result of what one librarian of the period called his “outrages against decency.” In addition, Dewey refused to admit Jews, African Americans, or other minorities to the Lake Placid Club, the private Adirondacks resort in New York that he and his wife owned and operated for many years. Booker T. Washington was disallowed from its dining rooms, Dewey bought up adjoining land for fear it would otherwise be sold to Jews, and promotional literature made it clear that “no Jews or consumptives [were] allowed” on the property. (“Personally, many of my choicest friends are Jews,” Dewey wrote in an evasive response to a membership request from one Albert Harris of New York City.) Yet 87 years after his death, Dewey remains revered as the “father of modern librarianship,” “a pioneer in library education,” and “a pioneer in the creation of career opportunities for women,” as the Library of Congress website calls him. Indeed, the ALA itself bestows the Melvil Dewey Medal, and American Libraries’ own Dewey Decibel podcast bears his name (but has dropped his likeness from its logo)…”
Google Blog: “Last year, as part of our initiative to connect people to economic opportunity, we introduced job search on Google, which has grown to help tens of millions of job seekers across 12 countries find the right job opportunities that match their unique needs. But the path to success often begins much earlier than a job search. For many, selecting the right college is an early and important step in preparing for the future. The process to find the right school for you, however, can be confusing. Information is scattered across the internet, and it’s not always clear what factors to consider and which pieces of information will be most useful for your decision. In fact, 63 percent of recently-enrolled and prospective students say they have often felt lost when researching college or financial aid options. That’s why we’re bringing a new feature to Search to help you navigate the college search process. Now when you search for a 4-year U.S. college like UCLA or Spelman College, information about admissions, cost, student life and more will surface directly in Search, making it easier to explore educational options and find a college that meets your needs…”
- It implies that each class can be turned into the next by some sort of transformation process, so that information plus something turns into knowledge. However it is not as simple as that. Much or most knowledge comes from experience and insight rather than from information. Knowledge is something you add to information in order to be able to take action; it is not necessarily something you derive from information.
- It implies a hard distinction between each of the four, whereas information and knowledge potentially overlap. Documented knowledge is knowledge, but its also information. Not all knowledge is information, and not all information is knowledge, but some is both information and knowledge.
- It implies wisdom is somehow part of the same family as data and information, and it isn’t. Wisdom is more of a virtue or a spiritual quality, and not amenable to management discipline…”
One Green Planet: “Chile is all set to become the very first country in the Americas to ban plastic bags to fight plastic pollution. Thanks to the new measure, which was approved unanimously by the Congress this week, all retail businesses in Chile will be prohibited from using plastic bags, which will curb the total plastic waste produced by the country. Large retailers and supermarkets will have six months to comply with the policy, while small and medium-sized businesses will have two years to do so, The New York Times reports. During that time, they will be allowed to hand out up to two plastic bags per client…”
Pacific Standard – “Over the last 10 years, the poaching and trafficking of animal products has become the fourth-highest-grossing crime in the world. But because wildlife crime is not bound by national borders and each country has its own rules and ideas, its management and policing has become unwieldy at best…Interpol estimates that wildlife crime—which includes poaching, trafficking, and a growing black market for animal goods—could be a $30 billion industry, driven in part by multinational crime syndicates. Over the last 10 years, the poaching and trafficking of animal products has become the fourth-highest-grossing crime in the world, behind the narcotics trade, counterfeiting, and human trafficking. And, much like those crimes, because wildlife crime is not bound by national borders and each country has its own rules and ideas, its management and policing has become unwieldy at best. With the proper permits, hunting polar bears isn’t illegal in Canada, but officials like Jordan are in desperate need of a way to track pelts as they move out of the Arctic, so they can catch traffickers and distinguish between which pelts were traded lawfully and which were not…”
Mass balance of the Antarctic Ice Sheet from 1992 to 2017 [paywall] – see also Axios – “Why this matters: The safety of coastal populations, including growing megacities worldwide, is intricately tied to the fate of Antarctica’s ice sheet. Until a few years ago, Antarctica was assumed to be far more stable than the Greenland Ice Sheet, but that is no longer the case. The faster and more significantly that Antarctica melts due to global warming, the higher that seas will rise. This means more damaging storm surges and so-called “sunny day” flooding during ordinary high tides. Such flooding is already happening along the U.S. East Coast. If all of Antarctica were to melt, the study says, it would raise global sea levels by a catastrophic 58 meters, or 190 feet. Luckily, no study is projecting this will happen, at least not anytime soon. However, greater than 1 meter, or 3.3 feet, of sea level rise is possible by the end of this century, with more to come thereafter…”
[Via the article in Nature] The Antarctic Ice Sheet is an important indicator of climate change and driver of sea-level rise. Here we combine satellite observations of its changing volume, flow and gravitational attraction with modelling of its surface mass balance to show that it lost 2,720 ± 1,390 billion tonnes of ice between 1992 and 2017, which corresponds to an increase in mean sea level of 7.6 ± 3.9 millimetres (errors are one standard deviation). Over this period, ocean-driven melting has caused rates of ice loss from West Antarctica to increase from 53 ± 29 billion to 159 ± 26 billion tonnes per year; ice-shelf collapse has increased the rate of ice loss from the Antarctic Peninsula from 7 ± 13 billion to 33 ± 16 billion tonnes per year. We find large variations in and among model estimates of surface mass balance and glacial isostatic adjustment for East Antarctica, with its average rate of mass gain over the period 1992–2017 (5 ± 46 billion tonnes per year) being the least certain.”
See also the Washington Post – Antarctic ice loss has tripled in a decade. If that continues, we are in serious trouble.
Data Science Central – William Vorhies June 12, 2018: “Summary: Data Science is the secret sauce that turns the dumb internet into the smart internet driving changes in society as fast as we drive changes in the internet. The best place to find data on this is Mary Meeker’s Internet Trend Report 2018. Here we use that data to look back at the last year and forward a bit in time to see what impact data science is having. What does the internet run on? It’s been compared to a highway that carries billions of cars. It’s been compared to a vast plumbing system that carries water. It’s been compared to the neurons in a brain that carry electronic impulses. Whether its cars or water or impulses, we all understand those to be a metaphor for data. But does data just go wherever it wants? No. Is it guided by the people who sent it? Not actually. The internet, the one that behaves like streets and highways has crude rules like stop signs, merges, right of way, and maps that tell where and how data can go, or could go. But what makes the internet smart, and really, really valuable is data science. It’s data science that creates the smart rules about
- where to send specific advertising messages
- turning unstructured images, text, and voice signals into smart recognition signals
- speeding up processing by acting on signals at the edge of the system before they even reach their destination
- creating a trust system allowing multiple signals to cooperate
- communicating with us in our native languages
- automating decisions and replacing wrote and repetitive human tasks
- and much, much more.
Without the smart rules created by data science the internet is nothing more than a fancy telephone or telegraph. At best, an information retrieval system but only if you know the specific piece of data you want and exactly where it’s stored..”