Law and Legal
CNN – “In a new study, researchers were able to predict 21 types of medical conditions — ranging from pregnancy to skin disorders — by analyzing people’s Facebook profiles. Facebook status updates were “particularly effective at predicting diabetes and mental health conditions including anxiety, depression and psychoses,” the study found. The study will be published June 19 in PLOS One, a peer-reviewed open access scientific journal published since 2006 “People’s personality, mental state, and health behaviors are all reflected in their social media and all have tremendous impact on health,” the study said. To conduct the study, researchers linked consenting patients’ electronic medical records with their social media. In total, they looked at 949,530 Facebook status updates across 999 participants whose posts were longer than 500 words. The researchers identified language that likely indicated the characteristic behavior or symptoms of certain diagnoses…”
Fully searchable banned book database catalogues 125,000 titles – When Argentinian artist Marta Minujin wanted to build a replica of the Parthenon out of banned books, UBC professor Florian Gassner was one of the first people she turned to for help. Gassner, a senior instructor in UBC’s department of Central, Eastern, and Northern European studies, was a visiting professor at the University of Kassel (Germany) at the time. He and colleague Nikola Roßbach came up with list of 70,000 titles that Minujin used in her work. But they weren’t done. After The Parthenon of Books was unveiled in 2017, Gassner, Roßbach and a team of students went to work on a new project that launched last month. We asked Gassner what it’s all about…”
Politico: “The Supreme Court ruled Monday in a closely watched “double jeopardy” case, issuing a decision that preserves states’ power to limit the impact of future pardons by President Donald Trump or his successors. In a 7-2 ruling, the justices declined to disturb a longstanding legal principle known as dual sovereignty, which allows state governments to bring their own charges against defendants already tried or convicted in federal court, or vice versa. Lawyers for an Alabama man facing a gun charge in federal court after pleading guilty to the same offense in state court — resulting in a nearly three-year extension of his prison sentence — failed in their effort to persuade the justices to hold that the Constitution’s prohibition on double jeopardy prevents such follow-on prosecutions.
The federal government had argued that overturning the dual-sovereignty doctrine would upend the country’s federalist system, and that the phenomenon of overcriminalization makes states’ ability to preserve their own sphere of influence and prevent federal encroachment on law enforcement more important. Democrats and others bracing for potential pardons by Trump of individuals convicted in former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation were tracking the case, Terance Gamble v. U.S., because a decision overturning the dual sovereigns rule could have complicated efforts by state prosecutors to blunt the impact of any attempt Trump may make to grant clemency to those targeted by Mueller’s team….”
How to Geek – “If you’re just beginning to use Google Sheets, its extensive features and add-ons can be a bit overwhelming. Here are some tips to get you on the fast track to start using this powerful, free alternative to Microsoft Excel. What Is Google Sheets? – If you’ve heard of Google Sheets before, feel free to skip ahead. If you’ve never heard of it, here’s a crash course on what you need to know. We’ll go over the basics and get you brushed up with what Google Sheets is and how you can get started right away.
Google Sheets is a free, web-based spreadsheet program offered by Google as part of its complete office suite—Google Drive—to compete with Microsoft Office. The other main services included in the cloud-based suite are Docs (Word) and Slides (Powerpoint)…” [See also The Beginner’s Guide to Google Docs]
Lifehacker: “Starting your own podcast is hard. Making your podcast better is even harder. And a lot of advice out there is too vague. How do you make it more interesting? How do you identify your target audience? So we asked 14 successful podcasters one question: What’s a podcasting tip that most people don’t think about? Here’s what they said…”
Slate – At-home medical tests are an awful lot like astrology: “…Take, for instance, the claim that a genetic analysis can help suggest diets and exercises tailored for your body. On its face, this seems plausible, but there isn’t yet strong evidence linking genetics and any kind of personalized health plan. Certainly, it can’t hurt to know what genes you have, but will knowing actually yield actionable results? When the Verge’s Angela Chen tried one such test, she concluded that it was “unlikely to do major harm, but it’s unlikely to help either.” She, too, found a parallel between her results and astrology, calling our DNA “the original birth charts.” A range of customers have also reported being unimpressed with their mail-in test results. Disappointment is one thing, but the darker side of these tests is when a company overpromises their tests’ diagnostic abilities, providing an avenue for people to seek astrology-style answers to questions that really should be addressed by live medical experts. A single, easy-to-take test may seem authoritative, but there could be important missing context that a trained professional could provide, or they may suggest a different diagnostic tool entirely. In the case of uBiome, gastroenterologists say the company’s diagnostic test can’t hurt, but is unlikely to capture the full complexity of the gut. That would require longer-term monitoring and multiple tests over time…”
Via The Stitcher – “The Wheel Friends is a comedy podcast that exists in the universe of bicycling. Hosted by Craig Richards and featuring local riders of various skill levels, The Wheel Friends Podcast is a funny and fresh take on Bicycling Podcasts. The Wheel Friends is educational, approachable, digestible, funny, and a little weird. You can find it on iTunes and all other podcasting services…”
The Ringer – “More like a dozen, actually, for every type of online purchase—from appliances to sandals, from sunscreen to digital cameras. When did recommendation sites like the Wirecutter and The Strategist become such a central part of the online economy? And are they changing the way we shop?…anyone who has ever impulse-ordered something from Amazon knows that such an expansive market yields unpredictable results. Major e-commerce sites like Amazon, eBay, Newegg, and Walmart.com have all been accused of selling knockoff merchandise. In 2016, Apple sued a company for selling copies of its electronics on Amazon, claiming that 90 percent of so-called “genuine” chargers on the site were counterfeit. Despite the “substantial” resources Amazon claims to invest in preventing counterfeit goods on its platform, a 2018 Guardian investigation found it was easy to purchase everything from fake Kylie Jenner lip gloss to imitation AirPods on the site. And if third-party retailers aren’t straight-up copying major brands, they may still be misrepresenting their products. Two years ago, a home goods distributor named Joyfay went viral for selling a disturbingly leggy teddy bear that looked nothing like the one pictured on its online storefront. Recently my colleague ordered a sea sponge, and it turned out to be the size of a thimble. I am still trying to get rid of the lifetime supply of moth-repelling cedar blocks that I mistakenly bought a few years ago…”
Mail-in genetic tests offer a wealth of information about your ancestry and insight into medical risks — in exchange for a lot of data. Here’s where that data goes, and how to delete it. “Consumer DNA testing kits like those from 23andMe, Ancestry.com and MyHeritage promise a road map to your genealogy and, in some cases, information about what diseases you’re most susceptible to. They also ask for a lot of trust with your DNA information — trust that, in some ways, may not be earned. Here’s how to protect and delete your data if you use any of these services.
Home DNA testing kits usually involve taking a cheek swab or saliva sample and mailing it off to the company. In that little sample is the most personal information you can share: your genetic code. Some companies share that data with law enforcement, and most sell your DNA data to third parties, after which it can become difficult to track. For some people who work for small companies or serve in the military, it can affect insurance premiums and even the ability to get insurance at all. While DNA testing has been used in medical and scientific contexts for decades, direct-to-consumer testing kits are still relatively new and legal policies that govern the private use of consumer data are still being developed…”
Washington Post – “The mournful, pleading, eyebrows-up expression dogs make is so familiar that we have made it into an idiom: puppy-dog eyes. A study suggests it’s yet another example of dogs’ remarkable ability to communicate with people, one that evolved as the animals were domesticated from ancient wolves at least 15,000 years ago. A specific muscle causes the inner-eyebrow raise that makes dogs’ eyes appear bigger and more infant-like and produces a look similar to one humans make when sad. The researchers found that while six deceased dogs they dissected uniformly possessed this muscle, four dissected wolves either did not have it or barely did. They also found that 27 shelter dogs in the United Kingdom did the eyebrow-raise far more often and intensely when interacting with strangers than did nine wolves at two U.K. wildlife parks.
This suggests ancient canines with expressive eyebrows might have elicited nurturing from humans, the authors write, and that care would have given the animals a selection advantage that allowed them to pass on puppy-dog eyes to their descendants. The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences…” [Note – please consider adoption and rescue.]
CRS Report via LC – The Impeachment Process in the House of Representatives. June 14, 2019: “Under the U.S. Constitution, the House of Representatives has the power to formally charge a federal officer with wrongdoing, a process known as impeachment. The House impeaches an individual when a majority agrees to a House resolution containing explanations of the charges. The explanations in the resolution are referred to as “articles of impeachment.” After the House agrees to impeach an officer, the role of the Senate is to conduct a trial to determine whether the charged individual should be removed from office. Removal requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate.The House impeachment process generally proceeds in three phases: (1) initiation of the impeachment process; (2) Judiciary Committee investigation, hearings, and markup of articles of impeachment; and (3) full House consideration of the articles of impeachment.Impeachment proceedings are usually initiated in the House when a Member submits a resolution through the hopper (in the same way that all House resolutions are submitted). A resolution calling for the impeachment of an officer will be referred to the Judiciary Committee; a resolution simply authorizing an investigation of an officer will be referred to the Rules Committee. In either case, the committee could then report a privileged resolution authorizing the investigation. In the past, House committees, under their general investigatory authority, have sometimes sought information and researched charges against officers prior to the adoption of a resolution to authorize an impeachment investigation..”
New York Magazine – The Intelligencer: “…The Federal Reserve just released some data that makes the state of this alignment easier to gauge. In its new Distributive Financial Accounts data series, the central bank offers a granular picture of how American capitalism has been distributing the gains of economic growth over the past three decades. Matt Bruenig of the People’s Policy Project took the Fed’s data and calculated how much the respective net worth of America’s top one percent and its bottom 50 percent has changed since 1989.
He found that America’s superrich have grown about $21 trillion richer since Taylor Swift was born, while those in the bottom half of the wealth distribution have grown $900 billion poorer. Notably, this measure of wealth includes liabilities, such as student debt. And it does not include consumer goods, such as computers or refrigerators, as economists do not conventionally view such products as wealth assets. But if one did include the Fed’s data on the distribution of consumer goods, the wealth gap between the top one percent and bottom 50 would actually be even larger…”
AP – “Katie Jones sure seemed plugged into Washington’s political scene. The 30-something redhead boasted a job at a top think tank and a who’s-who network of pundits and experts, from the centrist Brookings Institution to the right-wing Heritage Foundation. She was connected to a deputy assistant secretary of state, a senior aide to a senator and the economist Paul Winfree, who is being considered for a seat on the Federal Reserve. But Katie Jones doesn’t exist, The Associated Press has determined. Instead, the persona was part of a vast army of phantom profiles lurking on the professional networking site LinkedIn. And several experts contacted by the AP said Jones’ profile picture appeared to have been created by a computer program…”
How-to-Geek: “If you’re just getting started with Google Docs, its extensive features and add-ons can be a little overwhelming. Here are some tips to help you get started with this powerful alternative to Microsoft Word. What is Google Docs? If you’ve heard of Google Docs before, feel free to skip ahead. If you’ve never heard of it before, here’s a crash course on what you need to know. We’ll go over the basics and get you brushed up with what Google Docs is and how you can get started right away. Google Docs is a free, web-based word processor offered by Google as part of its complete office suite—Google Drive—to compete with Microsoft Office. The other main services included in the cloud-based suite are Sheets (Excel) and Slides (Powerpoint)…”
American Oversight – Trump’s Tax Returns: “According to the Treasury Department, Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s refusal to comply with a House committee’s request for the president’s tax returns is based on a Justice Department legal analysis — even though the IRS issued a memorandum concluding that such documents must be produced unless there is a claim of executive privilege. We’ve asked the Justice and Treasury Departments for records of and communications about that legal analysis for the IRS memo…”
AP – Justice backs Mnuchin’s refusal to turn over Trump’s taxes: “…The 33-page opinion from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel argues that the committee’s chairman, Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., wanted to make the president’s tax returns public and because of that plan, the request was not to carry out a legitimate legislative function. But Neal has said the law is clear the information must be released to Congress, the documents were sought to aid a committee investigation into whether the IRS is doing its job properly to audit a sitting president, and obtaining them would be a “necessary piece” of the committee’s work…”
iFixit: If you’re worried you’re not getting the battery life you should, the battery may just be old. Over time, batteries degrade, leading to lower and lower life after a couple years—meaning you might be able to solve your problem with an inexpensive battery replacement. Apple rates iPhone batteries at 500 charge cycles, or about a year and a half of typical use–more on that in a bit. To check your iPhone’s battery health, you can go into the settings and navigate to Battery > Battery Health. If it’s under 80% or so, it may be time to replace the battery. We wrote a detailed step-by-step guide on how to check your battery health.
While you could take your phone to Apple for a replacement, they’ll charge you at least $50. You can save money by doing it yourself, and it’s much easier than you might think. We photographed straightforward and easy-to-follow guides for every iPhone model. We also sell the parts and tools you’ll need to get the job done for much less than Apple. But you’re nervous. Opening your phone is an endeavor. I feel you! But you’re not in this alone–we’ve got your back. And literally thousands of people have come before you. We get sent success stories every week from community members who’ve replaced their iPhone battery. You got this!…”
Vox – The war to free science. “The 27,500 scientists who work for the University of California generate 10 percent of all the academic research papers published in the United States. …The University of California decided it doesn’t want scientific knowledge locked behind paywalls, and thinks the cost of academic publishing has gotten out of control. Elsevier owns around 3,000 academic journals, and its articles account for some 18 percent of all the world’s research output. “They’re a monopolist, and they act like a monopolist,” says Jeffrey MacKie-Mason, head of the campus libraries at UC Berkeley and co-chair of the team that negotiated with the publisher. Elsevier makes huge profits on its journals, generating billions of dollars a year for its parent company RELX.
This is a story about more than subscription fees. It’s about how a private industry has come to dominate the institutions of science, and how librarians, academics, and even pirates are trying to regain control. The University of California is not the only institution fighting back. “There are thousands of Davids in this story,” says University of California Davis librarian MacKenzie Smith, who, like so many other librarians around the world, has been pushing for more open access to science. “But only a few big Goliaths.”…
See also the related articles: Louisiana State Univ will terminate comprehensive subscription deal with Elsevier; UC terminates subscriptions with Elsevier in push for open access to publicly funded research; Thousands of scientists run up against Elsevier’s paywall
Teachers & Writers Magazine, Jehan Roberson, May 28, 2019: “That titular truism is one that led many of us to teach, to write, and to examine critically the power held by stewards of “things worth knowing.” At every turn we must question not only the why’s, but the how’s and the who’s. How was this information acquired, and by whom? How did you come to access it? Who gets to decide what you access, what you see and what you don’t? Whose work, whose body is on the line? These and other questions led me to the source from which so much information flows—the library. I met with cataloguer Michelle Chan and metadata librarian Alexandra Provo, colleagues of mine at New York University, where I manage the Hemispheric Digital Video Library (HIDVL). Our discussion attempted to address the above questions and more, and how they inform the obsessively granular and massively important task of cataloguing and organizing library materials. An edited version of that conversation is here…]
See also additional resources:
the Points Guy: “If you’ve checked in online for a flight or selected your seat in advance, you may have been presented with a visual seat map — either allowing you to choose which available seat you would like or showing you where on the plane you will be sitting. Some seat maps are very easy to read because all seats are either the same or very similar. While others are much more complicated because there is a huge difference between the different seats in the cabin. You may already know this, but before we get into the complex seat maps, here are some basics…” [Note – a must read guide to choosing your seating location on a wide variety of carriers.]
Daxton R. Stewart, Killer Apps: Vanishing Messages, Encrypted Communications, and Challenges to Freedom of Information Laws When Public Officials “Go Dark”, 10 Case W. Res. J.L. Tech. & Internet  (first article) (2019)
“Government officials such as White House staffers and the Missouri governor have been communicating among themselves and leaking to journalists using apps such as Signal and Confide, which allow users to encrypt messages or to make them vanish after they are received. By using these apps, government officials are “going dark” by avoiding detection of their communications in a way that undercuts freedom of information laws. This article explores the challenges presented by government employee use of encrypted and ephemeral messaging apps by examining three policy approaches: (1) banning use of the apps, (2) enhancing existing archiving and record-keeping practices, or (3) legislatively expanding quasi-government body definitions. Each of these approaches will be analyzed as potential ways to manage the threat presented by “killer apps” to open records laws.”