Law and Legal
Via LLRX – How to Identify a Phishing Attempt and Thwart It – There has been a huge surge in phishing attacks and swindles during the COVID-19 pandemic as more people are working remotely. The attacks and scams have been perpetrated against businesses and individuals alike. Catherine Sanders Reach talks about the increased importance for lawyers and their teams in the office or working from home to understand the threats, and how to actively engage in efforts to reduce both individual and enterprise wide exposure.
ghacks.net: “When you visit Google’s main website for the first time, or after clearing cookies, you get a “before you continue” popup. On YouTube, another Google property, you will get a “sign in to YouTube” popup instead. You need to click on “I agree” on Google’s site or “no thanks” on YouTube to get rid of these popups and start using the sites. Problem is: if you clear cookies regularly, you will get these prompts again. It can be quite annoying to deal with these popups each time, e.g. to inform YouTube for the hundredth time that you don’t want to sign-in to the site. You have a handful of options at your disposal to deal with this. One of the easier ones is to use a different search engine and site, without losing access to Google search results or YouTube videos…”
Washington Post – “The largest U.S. genetic study of the virus, conducted in Houston, shows one viral strain outdistancing all of its competitors, and many potentially important mutations. Scientists in Houston on Wednesday released a study of more than 5,000 genetic sequences of the coronavirus that reveals the virus’s continual accumulation of mutations, one of which may have made it more contagious. The new report, however, did not find that these mutations have made the virus deadlier or changed clinical outcomes. All viruses accumulate genetic mutations, and most are insignificant, scientists say. Coronaviruses such as SARS-CoV-2 are relatively stable as viruses go, because they have a proofreading mechanism as they replicate. But every mutation is a roll of the dice, and with transmission so widespread in the United States – which continues to see tens of thousands of new, confirmed infections daily – the virus has had abundant opportunities to change, potentially with troublesome consequences, said study author James Musser of Houston Methodist Hospital…”
Greene, Ciara, and Gillian Murphy. “Can Fake News Really Change Behaviour? Evidence from a Study of COVID-19 Misinformation.” PsyArXiv, 24 July 2020. Web. “Previous research has argued that fake news may have grave consequences for health behaviour, but surprisingly, no empirical data have been provided to support this assumption. This issue takes on new urgency in the context of the coronavirus pandemic. In this large preregistered study (N = 3746) we investigated the effect of exposure to fabricated news stories about COVID-19 on related behavioural intentions. We observed small but measurable effects on some related behavioural intentions but not others – for example, participants who read a story about problems with a forthcoming contact-tracing app reported reduced willingness to download the app. We found no effects of providing a general warning about the dangers of online misinformation on response to the fake stories, regardless of the framing of the warning in positive or negative terms. We conclude with a call for more empirical research on the real-world consequences of fake news.”
CRS report via LC – Supreme Court Appointment Process: President’s Selection of a Nominee, Updated September 28, 2020: “The appointment of a Supreme Court Justice is an event of major significance in American politics. Each appointment is of consequence because of the enormous judicial power the Supreme Court exercises as the highest appellate court in the federal judiciary. Appointments are usually infrequent, as a vacancy on the nine-member Court may occur only once or twice, or never at all, during a particular President’s years in office. Under the Constitution, Justices on the Supreme Court receive what can amount to lifetime appointments which, by constitutional design, helps ensure the Court’s independence from the President and Congress…”
Additionally, over more than two centuries, a recurring theme in the Supreme Court appointment process has been the assumed need for professional excellence in a nominee. During recent presidencies, nominees have at the time of nomination, most often, served as U.S. appellate court judges. The integrity and impartiality of an individual have also been important criteria for a President when selecting a nominee for the Court…”
Google Scholar, Microsoft Academic, Scopus, Dimensions, Web of Science, and OpenCitations’ COCI: a multidisciplinary comparison of coverage via citations
Martín-Martín, A., Thelwall, M., Orduna-Malea, E., & Delgado López-Cózar, E. (in press). Google Scholar, Microsoft Academic, Scopus, Dimensions, Web of Science, and OpenCitations’ COCI: a multidisciplinary comparison of coverage via citations. Scientometrics, https://doi.org/10.1007/s1119 – “New sources of citation data have recently become available, such as Microsoft Academic, Dimensions, and the OpenCitations Index of CrossRef open DOI-to-DOI citations (COCI). Although these have been compared to the Web of Science (WoS), Scopus, or Google Scholar, there is no systematic evidence of their differences across subject categories. In response, this paper investigates 3,073,351 citations found by these six data sources to 2,515 English-language highly-cited documents published in 2006 from 252 subject categories, expanding and updating the largest previous study. Google Scholar found 88% of all citations, many of which were not found by the other sources, and nearly all citations found by the remaining sources (89%-94%). A similar pattern held within most subject categories. Microsoft Academic is the second largest overall (60% of all citations), including 82% of Scopus citations and 86% of Web of Science citations. In most categories, Microsoft Academic found more citations than Scopus and WoS (182 and 223 subject categories, respectively), but had coverage gaps in some areas, such as Physics and some Humanities categories. After Scopus, Dimensions is fourth largest (54% of all citations), including 84% of Scopus citations and 88% of WoS citations. It found more citations than Scopus in 36 categories, more than WoS in 185, and displays some coverage gaps, especially in the Humanities. Following WoS, COCI is the smallest, with 28% of all citations. Google Scholar is still the most comprehensive source. In many subject categories Microsoft Academic and Dimensions are good alternatives to Scopus and WoS in terms of coverage.”
“Where News Organizations and Independent Producers Thrive Side by Side – Americans are as likely to often turn to independent channels as they are to established news organization channels; videos from independent news producers are more likely to cover subjects negatively, discuss conspiracy theories Most Americans use YouTube, the massive, Google-owned video-sharing website where users can find and watch content on almost anything, from dancing cats to popular music to instructions on how to build a house. YouTube also has become an important source of news for many Americans. About a quarter of all U.S. adults (26%) say they get news on YouTube. And while relatively few of these people say it is their primary news source, most say it is an important way they stay informed. This raises the question: What kind of news are Americans getting on YouTube, and who are they getting it from? A new Pew Research Center study explores these questions in two ways: through a survey, conducted Jan. 6-20, 2020, among 12,638 U.S. adults that asked YouTube news consumers about their experiences on the website; and through an analysis of the most popular YouTube news channels and the contents of the videos published by a subset of these channels in December 2019. For the content analysis, researchers used a combination of computational methods and trained human coders to identify the most popular YouTube news channels and comb through thousands of hours of videos looking for their topic, tone and other attributes…”
Fast Company – “When you’re working from home, it’s all too easy to develop some bad habits. Maybe you’re staring at the screen for too long without interruption, or hunching over your laptop with little regard for posture. Or perhaps you’re just working too much in the first place. A new website called Working Den wants to help with all that, offering a free suite of tools that promote a healthier remote work routine. While there are lots of apps and websites that offer some similar resources, Working Den helpfully puts them all in one place. It’s got playlists of soothing sounds and background music, a list of physical exercises and stretches, a dozen relaxing nature videos, a basic pomodoro timer, a couple of mental health assessment quizzes, and more. The site can even help prevent eye strain, reminding you every 20 minutes to spend at least 20 seconds looking at something other than your screen..”
CRS via LC – The Federal Taxing Power: A Primer, September 28, 2020:The Taxing and Spending Clause of the U.S. Constitution provides Congress with the power to tax. The U.S. Supreme Court has interpreted Congress’s power to tax broadly, except for a few cases decided in the 1920s and 1930s, in which the Court invalidated taxes that were functionally regulatory penalties on the ground that they exceeded Congress’s legislative authority. But while the Taxing and Spending Clause grants Congress broad authority to lay and collect taxes, the Constitution also contains clauses that expressly circumscribe the taxing power…”
Via LLRX – A Time to Act: Putting Awareness into Action – Wendy L. Werner’s call to action is clear: “lawyers have a unique opportunity to intervene on behalf of those with fewer resources, and people who have been under served and under-represented. Many of us have been impacted by the growing knowledge of racial inequities, and recognition of disparities. This is a moment to intervene and no one group has more power to make a difference than lawyers. Now is the time.”
The New York Times – With a shift to online resources well underway, “the most trusted civic institutions” are in a good position to deal with the changing future. “..For more than a decade, these seemingly traditional institutions had been investing in a range of technologies and media. Libraries now balance two stacks: the physical with the so-called digital full stack. With a wealth of electronic books, streaming platforms and of course Zoom, many were ready, with some adjustments, to provide services for their communities. But no one could have predicted that 2020 would create the moment when “our libraries, the most trusted civic institutions in the country, would become totally virtual,” said Anthony Marx, the president and chief executive of the New York Public Library, the nation’s largest library system after the Library of Congress. But will virtual offerings eclipse physical locations? Librarians across the country foresee institutions that will blend the physical with the digital, increasing their emphasis on their critical community role by offering free Wi-Fi and social services as well as a place where physical books and DVDs coexist with e-books and online platforms. For example, the Midtown branch of the New York Public Library, the largest in the system, is waiting to reopen after a total overhaul. Renamed the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library, the location will now include classroom space and an entire floor dedicated to adult learning, such as teaching English and technology, Mr. Marx said. The reimagined branch also has programming areas, a rooftop terrace designed for events, quiet spaces for patrons and sound studios for recording podcasts…”
CRS report via LC – The Electoral College: A2020 Presidential Election Timeline, September 3, 2020: “During the course of a presidential election year, the election process for the President and Vice President goes forward within a familiar timeline of events. At the same time these events are taking place, a related series of procedures that governs the actions of the electoral college progresses on a parallel track. This report focuses on the electoral college timeline for the 2020 presidential election. For additional information on the electoral college in today’s presidential election process, see CRS Report RL32611, The Electoral College: How It Works in Contemporary Presidential Elections, by Thomas H. Neale.”
Instead of optimizing work, technology has created a nonstop barrage of notifications and interactions.
How Work Became an Inescapable Hellhole – This story is adapted from Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation, by Anne Helen Petersen. “Instead of optimizing work, technology has created a nonstop barrage of notifications and interactions. Six months into a pandemic, it’s worse than ever. I’m equally ashamed and exhausted writing that description of a pretty standard day in my digital life—and it doesn’t even include all of the additional times I looked at my phone, or checked social media, or went back and forth between a draft and the internet, as I did twice just while writing this sentence. In the United States, one 2013 study found that millennials check their phone 150 times a day; a different 2016 study claimed we log an average of six hours and 19 minutes of scrolling and texting and stressing out over emails per week. No one I know likes their phone. Most people I know even realize that whatever benefits the phone allows—Google Maps, Emergency Calling—are far outweighed by the distraction that accompanies it. We know this….Part of the problem is that these digital technologies, from cell phones to Apple Watches, from Instagram to Slack, encourage our worst habits. They stymie our best-laid plans for self-preservation. They ransack our free time. They make it increasingly impossible to do the things that actually ground us. They turn a run in the woods into an opportunity for self-optimization. They are the neediest and most selfish entity in every interaction I have with others. They compel us to frame experiences, as we are experiencing them, with future captions, and to conceive of travel as worthwhile only when documented for public consumption. They steal joy and solitude and leave only exhaustion and regret. I hate them and resent them and find it increasingly difficult to live without them…”
The Verge – ‘Face with spiral eyes’ is how we are all feeling: “This year has been hard. Wildfire smoke has engulfed the West Coast, hundreds of thousands are dead from an ongoing pandemic, and the US government is deadlocked to the point of illegitimacy, incapable of taking action against the economic, political, ecological, and medical devastation that threatens to engulf us. Even for those not directly affected, the perception of the ongoing crises has turned into a kind of psychic assault, challenging the limits of what we can express. Fortunately, a new crop of emoji has just been approved by the Unicode Consortium to help out. They probably won’t reach your phone until 2021, but they’re clearly influenced by the chaos of the year, whether it’s “face exhaling” (clearly exhausted), “face in clouds” (smoke?), or “heart on fire” (self-explanatory). I’m particularly taken by the “face with spiral eyes” emoji, submitted by Google emoji czar Jennifer Daniel…”
IEEE – Too many of the COVID-19 models have led policymakers astray. Here’s how tomorrow’s models will get it right – “If you wanted to “flatten the curve” in 2019, you might have been changing students’ grades or stamping down a rug ripple. Today, that phrase refers only to the vital task of reducing the peak number of people concurrently infected with the COVID-19 virus. Beginning in early 2020, graphs depicting the expected number of infections spread through social networks, much like the virus itself. We’ve all become consumers of epidemiological models, the mathematical entities that spit out these ominous trend lines. Such models have existed for decades but have never received such widespread attention. They’re informing public policy, financial planning, health care allocation, doomsday speculation, and Twitter hot takes. In the first quarter of 2020, government leaders were publicly parsing these computational speculations, making huge decisions about whether to shut down schools, businesses, and travel. Would an unchecked outbreak kill millions, or fizzle out? Which interventions would help the most? How sure could we be of any forecast? Models disagreed, and some people pointed to whichever curve best supported their predilections. It didn’t help that the researchers building the models were still figuring out what the heck they were doing…”
Fast Company: “In April, the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary did something unusual. For the previous 20 years, they had issued quarterly updates to announce new words and meanings selected for inclusion. These updates have typically been made available in March, June, September, and December. In the late spring, however, and again in July, the dictionary’s editors released special updates, citing a need to document the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the English language. Although the editors have documented many coronavirus-related linguistic shifts, some of their observations are surprising. They claim, for example, that the pandemic has produced only one truly new word: the acronym COVID-19. Most of the coronavirus-related changes that the editors have noted have to do with older, more obscure words and phrases being catapulted into common usage, such as reproduction number and social distancing. They’ve also documented the creation of new word blends based on previously existing vocabulary…”
TechCrunch: “Anyone can access portions of a web portal, used by law enforcement to request customer data from Amazon, even though the portal is supposed to require a verified email address and password. Amazon’s law enforcement request portal allows police and federal agents to submit formal requests for customer data along with a legal order, like a subpoena, a search warrant, or a court order. The portal is publicly accessible from the internet, but law enforcement must register an account with the site in order to allow Amazon to “authenticate” the requesting officer’s credentials before they can make requests. Only time sensitive emergency requests can be submitted without an account, but this requires the user to “declare and acknowledge” that they are an authorized law enforcement officer before they can submit a request. The portal does not display customer data or allow access to existing law enforcement requests. But parts of the website still load without needing to log in, including its dashboard and the “standard” request form used by law enforcement to request customer data. The portal provides a rare glimpse into how Amazon handles law enforcement requests…”
Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes year he won presidency. Nothing at all in 10 of the previous 15 years.
- “The Times has obtained tax-return data for President Trump extending over more than two decades. It tells a story fundamentally different from the one he’s sold to the public – revealing struggling properties, vast write-offs, an audit battle and hundreds of millions in debt coming due.
- Mr. Trump’s finances are under stress, beset by hundreds of millions in debt coming due and an I.R.S. audit that could cost him over $100 million.
- He paid $750 in federal income taxes in 2016, and nothing at all in 10 of the previous 15 years — largely because he lost so much money.
- The tax data examined by The Times provides a road map of revelations, from write-offs for the cost of a criminal defense lawyer and a mansion used as a family retreat to a full accounting of the millions of dollars the president received from the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow. Together with related financial documents and legal filings, the records offer the most detailed look yet inside the president’s business empire. They reveal the hollowness, but also the wizardry, behind the self-made-billionaire image — honed through his star turn on “The Apprentice” — that helped propel him to the White House and that still undergirds the loyalty of many in his base…”
Mashable – (and why you should) – “Google Street View offers up a window to the world in all its bizarre, intimate, and often raw glory. That window just so happens to peek into your home, as well. What that peek reveals may be more than you’ve bargained for — think views into bedroom windows, potential fodder for stalkers, and more. Thankfully, there is something you can do about it. Specifically, you can ask Google to permanently blur your house out — leaving only a smeared suggestion of a building in its place. The entire process is surprisingly easy. Google has never exactly been a steward of anyones’ privacy. In 2010, the company admitted that its Street View vehicles — the ones endlessly circling neighborhoods around the world — had secretly been collecting information from unencrypted WiFi networks they drove past for years. So maybe you’re worried about an online stalker, maybe you don’t want strangers peering in your windows, or maybe you value privacy for its own sake and simply don’t think Google should have indexed and digitized photos of your home available for all to see. Whatever the reason, it’s relatively easy to request Google blur out the image of your home or apartment on Google Street View. Here’s what you do…” [Note – requests to Bing maps/street views do not result in any action after a three week wait.]
BBC Future: “Most adults retreat into a personal, quiet world inside their heads when they are reading, but we may be missing out on some vital benefits when we do this…Today, silent reading is the norm. The majority of us bottle the words in our heads as if sitting in the hushed confines of a library. Reading out loud is largely reserved for bedtime stories and performances. But a growing body of research suggests that we may be missing out by reading only with the voices inside our minds. The ancient art of reading aloud has a number of benefits for adults, from helping improve our memories and understand complex texts, to strengthening emotional bonds between people. And far from being a rare or bygone activity, it is still surprisingly common in modern life. Many of us intuitively use it as a convenient tool for making sense of the written word, and are just not aware of it. Colin MacLeod, a psychologist at the University of Waterloo in Canada, has extensively researched the impact of reading aloud on memory. He and his collaborators have shown that people consistently remember words and texts better if they read them aloud than if they read them silently. This memory-boosting effect of reading aloud is particularly strong in children, but it works for older people, too. “It’s beneficial throughout the age range,” he says…”