Law and Legal
NPR: “If you find yourself scrambling for a good novel to escape the novel coronavirus, you’re not alone. Across the country, libraries have seen demand skyrocket for their electronic offerings, but librarians say they continue to worry about the digital divide and equality in access — not to mention the complicated questions that must be answered before they can reopen for physical lending.
“Since the library closed on March 16, we’ve had about seven thousand people register for library cards,” says Richard Reyes-Gavilan, Executive Director for the District of Columbia Public Libraries. “We’ve had over 300,000 books borrowed since mid-March, which is astounding considering that our collections are limited.” By the library’s accounting, that’s 37% higher than the same period in 2019, and DC isn’t alone in an uptake in digital usage: Weekly library e-book lending across the country has increased by nearly 50 percent since March 9, according to data from OverDrive, a service used by many libraries to let patrons check out media for e-readers, smartphones and computers. Audiobook check-outs are also up 14% — not quite as large a shift, likely because fewer people are in their cars commuting to work…”
60 Minutes: “This fall, college will start with a test. Can America’s universities reopen during the greatest pandemic in a hundred years? Some universities are remaining online, others are still unsure, but a growing number are preparing for perhaps the largest coordinated return institutions have made since the virus hit. In many ways, colleges and universities are the perfect places for an American reawakening. Scientists can track and trace, behavioral experts can make the pitch and philosophers can explain the balance between collective good and the individual. But, we go to college to be social, with no distance. College students are going to have to step up by staying apart. If they do, they may lead the way not just for the next semester, but for the entire country and its future…”
BBC: “With fewer people on the streets, cars on the roads, businesses closed and flights grounded, the daily noise that fills our lives has reduced. Can we hope to keep the hubbub down?…”
Along with tens of millions of others [probably more but…] I was completely inundated with unsolicited, deeply unwelcome, mostly disgusting campaign ads in 2016. This Facebook blog post has a lot of ground to travel in a very short time to achieve any kind of user credibility: “…Starting this summer, we will put the Voting Information Center at the top of people’s Facebook and Instagram feeds. We expect more than 160 million people in the US will see this authoritative information about how to vote in the general election from July through November. We’re also working on updates to the registration reminders, vote-by-mail information, and election day reminders that we’ve run throughout the primaries. These updates will make it even easier for people to find reliable information about participating in the election and share it with their friends across Facebook, Instagram and Messenger. We’ll have more to share here soon. More Control and Transparency for Political Ads – Political ads play an important role in every election – and this year will be no exception. People have told us they want the option to see fewer political ads on Facebook and Instagram. After announcing this feature earlier this year we are now making it available as part of our preparations for the 2020 US elections. Starting today for some people and rolling out to everyone in the US over the next few weeks, people will be able to turn off all social issue, electoral or political ads from candidates, Super PACs or other organizations that have the “Paid for by” political disclaimer on them. You can do this on Facebook or Instagram directly from any political or social issue ad or through each platform’s ad settings. However, we know our system isn’t perfect. So if you’ve selected this preference and still see an ad that you think is political, please click the upper right corner of the ad and report it to us…”
National Capital Region Delegation Urges House Leaders To Issue Mask Directive To Members Of Congress
“June 17, 2020 (Washington, D.C.) – Members of Congress representing the National Capital Region today wrote to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy urging them to “issue strong, explicit directives to Members of the House regarding proper face coverings” as Congress prepares to cast votes next week. The letter, led by Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) and signed by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), and Reps. Anthony Brown (D-MD), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Jennifer Wexton (D-VA), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), and David Trone (D-MD), noted that refusal by some of their colleagues to wear face coverings “endangers our constituents who work in their proximity, some of whom have contacted us to say they are not comfortable working on Capitol Hill around Members of Congress who do not prioritize their safety.” They wrote: “We represent the residents of the National Capital Region, including those who live or work on Capitol Hill. To date, over 2,700 people living in the region have died from COVID-19, and tens of thousands have tested positive. That figure includes Capitol Police officers, construction workers involved in projects at congressional office buildings, congressional staff, and Members of Congress. It is abundantly clear that no one is immune to the deadly effects of this virus. “Given the toll this pandemic has taken on residents of Washington, D.C. and the surrounding area, we are dismayed by the reluctance of many of our colleagues serving in the House to take necessary precautions to protect those around them. We have personally observed Members of the House refusing to engage in social distancing or wear face coverings, and mocking those who do. We have read accounts and interviews with colleagues in which they defend their refusal to wear masks. Such conduct misses an opportunity which all of us as leaders should embrace – to model good, responsible behavior. Worse, it directly endangers our constituents who work in their proximity, some of whom have contacted us to say they are not comfortable working on Capitol Hill around Members of Congress who do not prioritize their safety.
- “We therefore ask that you issue strong, explicit directives to Members of the House regarding proper face coverings, social distancing, and other public health precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and local public health departments with all possible haste. Such measures will help protect Members of Congress and those whose work requires close contact with them.
- This virus will not be impressed by cavalier attitudes or political posturing, nor will its spread discriminate based on partisan allegiance. Social distancing and wearing masks saves lives. Congress should put sound medical and scientific advice first, and adopt them uniformly.”
- The letter followed news that a Member of the House recently tested positive for COVID-19 after previously refusing to wear a face covering during interactions with colleagues and staff.
- While new guidance from the Office of the Attending Physician (OAP) strongly recommends that Members wear masks in indoor locations on Capitol Hill under certain conditions, and extends a new requirement for hearings, some Members ignored prior OAP guidance which recommended the adoption of masks beginning in April…”
Top Challenges Facing Federal Agencies: COVID-19 Emergency Relief and Response Efforts As reported by Offices of Inspector General across government – June 17, 2020. “…Each year, OIGs identify and report on the top management and performance challenges facing their agencies. CIGIE also issues an annual report that includes a list of the top challenges faced by agencies. While not required by the CARES Act, the PRAC developed this report on the top challenges identified by Inspectors General for the federal agencies involved in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic as part of CIGIE’s efforts to make the work of the federal Inspector General community more transparent and accessible to the public. Based on the PRAC’s review of submissions by 37 OIGs overseeing agencies involved in the pandemic response, Inspectors General reported a wide range of challenges, including many related to specific agency programs. However, the submissions also reflected areas of common concern among agencies of different sizes and with disparate agency missions: Financial management of CARES Act and other funds, Grant management, Information technology security and management, and Protecting health and safety while maintaining effective operations. As discussed in the Introduction, OIGs frequently cited the large amount of funds appropriated under the CARES Act and related legislation, the need to distribute aid rapidly under emergency conditions, and the need to maintain agency operations as factors that impact these challenges. By identifying these top challenges across the federal government, the PRAC hopes to assist agency managers and policymakers in determining how best to address them…”
- See also Bloomberg – Trillions in Stimulus Go Unchecked With Watchdogs Kept Toothless
- and Popular Information – Judd Legum – The $500 billion black box – “The COVID-19 pandemic has been an acute threat to millions of small businesses. Congress created the Paycheck Protection Program as a lifeline. The program provided loans — equivalent to about two-and-a-half months of payroll — to businesses with 500 employees or less. As long as most of the money was spent on payroll, the loans are forgiven by the government. Thus far, the program has allocated over $500 billion in taxpayer dollars. But who got the money? The Trump administration won’t say…”
“On June 4, 2020 Digital Science released a report highlighting the global research landscape trends and cultural changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The report How COVID-19 is Changing Research Culture analyses publication trends, regional focal points of research, collaboration patterns, and top institutional producers of research in COVID-19. The report key findings include:
- As of 1 June 2020, there have been upwards of 42,700 scholarly articles on COVID-19 published, 3,100 clinical trials, 420 datasets, 270 patents, 750 policy documents, and 150 grants.
- Preprints have rapidly established as a mainstream research output and a key part of COVID-19 research efforts. They started at relatively low levels in early January 2020 and accounted for around one quarter of research output by the beginning of May 2020.
- To date, more than 8,300 organisations have been involved in supporting COVID-19 research, with over 71,800 individual researchers identified as working on COVID-19 research.
- The highest intensity of research into COVID-19 began in China and gradually migrated west mirroring the movement of the virus itself.
- While the US and EU have both now published more than China in journals such as The Lancet, New England Journal of Medicine and JAMA, China continues to benefit from an early mover advantage and continues to enjoy the lionshare of the citations. While research in the field is clearly moving quickly, it currently remains anchored to China’s early publications
- A density map of global COVID-19 paper production shows there are three to four major centres of research: an extended area in China composed of several cities—Wuhan, where the virus is alleged to have started, Beijing and Shanghai; Europe, specifically Italy and the UK, two of the harder hit countries; the US’s east coast research corridor including Boston and New York; and finally, a lighter focus from the Californian institutions on the West coast.
- The top producing institution of COVID-19 research (since the beginning of 2020) is in China, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, followed by Harvard University and the University of Oxford.
- The top healthcare producers of COVID-19 research (since the beginning of 2020) are Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University, then Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University, and Massachusetts General Hospital…”
“A Handsome Box” – The Adams Building – Construction, architecture, and history of services in the John Adams Building at the Library of Congress, By Natalie Burclaff, Science, Technology & Business Division, Library of Congress.: “When the Library of Congress moved out of its space in the Capitol and into its own nearby building in 1897, it was estimated that the capacity of the Jefferson building would meet the needs of the Library for “a century and a half to come.” However, by the late 1920s, it was clear that we were running out of space! See and read the story of the construction, architecture, and history of services in the John Adams Building at the Library of Congress. The narrative is accompanied by historic photos, architectural drawings, and designs, and an excellent bibliography. Thank you Natalie.
ACUS – “ACUS is pleased to release a new report, Administrative Recusal Rules: A Taxonomy and Study of Existing Recusal Standards for Agency Adjudicators. The report, prepared by Stetson University College of Law Professor Louis J. Virelli, III, collects and analyzes a wide-ranging set of recusal standards and practices employed by more than 60 agencies across the federal government. Recusal, the voluntary or involuntary withdrawal of an adjudicator from a particular proceeding, is an important tool for maintaining the integrity of adjudication. In Recommendation 2018-4, Recusal Rules for Administrative Adjudicators, ACUS recognized the importance of this feature to agency adjudications. Among its potential benefits, agency recusal rules help to ensure that parties to an adjudicative proceeding have their claims resolved by an impartial decisionmaker and inspire public confidence in the adjudication. Prof. Virelli’s new report develops a taxonomy of substantive recusal standards and documents the procedural requirements agencies have adopted for recusal. It finds, for example, that a large majority of the agencies surveyed do not have rules which instruct adjudicators to explain their recusal decisions on the record even though there may be numerous benefits to be gained from such a requirement. Prof. Virelli also explores how recusal standards might vary according to certain institutional features and examines issues surrounding the form in which agencies choose to publish their standards (i.e., by legislative rule or in a guidance document)….”
The importance of street trees to urban avifauna, Eric M. Wood and Sevan Esaian 11 June 2020 Ecological Applications 2020 e02149: “Street trees are public resources planted in a municipality’s right‐of‐way and are a considerable component of urban forests throughout the world. Street trees provide numerous benefits to people. However, many metropolitan areas have a poor understanding of the value of street trees to wildlife, which presents a gap in our knowledge of conservation in urban ecosystems. Greater Los Angeles (LA) is a global city harboring one of the most diverse and extensive urban forests on the planet. The vast majority of the urban forest is nonnative in geographic origin, planted throughout LA following the influx of irrigated water in the early 1900s. In addition to its extensive urban forest, LA is home to a high diversity of birds, which utilize the metropolis throughout the annual cycle. The cover of the urban forest, and likely street trees, varies dramatically across a socioeconomic gradient. However, it is unknown how this variability influences avian communities. To understand the importance of street trees to urban avifauna, we documented foraging behavior by birds on native and nonnative street trees across a socioeconomic gradient throughout LA. Affluent communities harbored a unique composition of street trees, including denser and larger trees than lower‐income communities, which in turn, attracted nearly five times the density of feeding birds. Foraging birds strongly preferred two native street‐tree species as feeding substrates, the coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia ) and the California sycamore (Platanus racemosa ), and a handful of nonnative tree species, including the Chinese elm (Ulmus parvifolia ), the carrotwood (Cupaniopsis anacardioides ), and the southern live oak (Quercus virginiana ), in greater proportion than their availability throughout the cityscape (two to three times their availability). Eighty‐three percent of street‐tree species (n = 108, total) were used in a lower proportion than their availability by feeding birds, and nearly all were nonnative in origin. Our findings highlight the positive influence of street trees on urban avifauna. In particular, our results suggest that improved street‐tree management in lower‐income communities would likely positively benefit birds. Further, our study provides support for the high value of native street‐tree species and select nonnative species as important habitat for feeding birds.”
“An interdisciplinary team from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania, alongside global experts, are tracking and projecting the COVID-19 epidemic across 384 counties with active outbreaks as it spreads across the United States. Utilizing data from a variety of publicly available sources, the researchers built their model to observe how social distancing, population density, and daily temperatures affect the number and spread of COVID-19 infections over time across a county, accounting for population characteristics, such as age, insurance status and smoking prevalence. For social distancing, which the model identified as the most important factor in reducing transmission, the researchers used cell phone movement data. For the latest comments on our findings from the lead researchers, read this blog post, and to learn more about the methods behind this model, see this abstract. For more information on this project, click here…
“Doctors behind a COVID-modeling study used by the president’s coronavirus task force are now warning that virus hot spots are beginning to converge and jump from county to county as people increase their travel for work and summer vacation. According to doctors working on a study put together by PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the virus is moving along major highways and interstates—such I-10 in California, I-85 in the south and I-95 on the East Coast—as states continue to reopen their economies. With an uptick of coronavirus cases taking place in states in the south and southwestern parts of the country, this new finding has raised fears that new outbreaks may soon move north to major metropolitan regions, reversing the progress already made in flattening the curve. “There’s a convergence of metro areas that’s now leading to these larger epicenters of transmission. Places that were already in trouble … are the ones that are slipping out of control,” said Dr. David Rubin, the director of PolicyLab. “For example the southwest outbreak is moving right up the I-5. You can see the risk all the way up. We’re a week or two away from Sacramento and San Francisco.” The findings from PolicyLab are the latest warning sign to emerge as the majority of states have now moved into the second phase of their reopening plans, with restaurants, religious communities and some places of work open for business. Rubin’s fear, as culled from the data, is that as individuals begin to relax their own social distancing measures they have begun to travel more within their communities and to other surrounding states, thereby spreading the disease…” [“
Fox29 Philadelphia: “A feature exclusively available for Apple users called “Shortcuts,” which was launched in 2018, allows users to conduct tasks on their phones that would normally require multiple actions with a single voice command of the iPhone’s artificial intelligence capability, Siri. The feature has been the subject of renewed focus recently as protests against police brutality continue across the U.S. in the wake of the death of George Floyd during a May 25 encounter with Minneapolis police. One iPhone user created a shortcut that prompts an iPhone to begin recording police interactions by the user simply uttering the phrase: “Hey Siri, I’m getting pulled over.” Twitter user Robert Petersen posted a link to the shortcut and an explanation of what it does…
- Users can download the police shortcut, but must make sure to have the Shortcuts app installed.
- While Petersen said he hopes the tool will be useful for some, the specific feature is not available for Android users. Apps with similar functions have been developed, including one called “Stop and Frisk Watch,” which is available for both Android and Apple devices and is designed to record incidents by “simply pushing a trigger on the phone’s frame,” according to the developer’s website….”
Law360: “When the novel coronavirus closed down courthouses and law firms, technology allowed attorneys, their clients and judges to move litigation forward without jeopardizing public health. Some of those emergency fixes could stick around even after life returns to normal. Legal experts say embracing remote technology has boosted efficiency, transparency and access to the courts. Here are some of the top tech fixes that attorneys hope will stick around after the pandemic…”
Law.com – “…This is a civil action by the United States to prevent Defendant John R. Bolton, a former National Security Advisor, from compromising national security by publishing a book containing classified information,” the Justice Department said in its complaint Tuesday in Washington. The Trump administration on Tuesday went to court in Washington in an effort to block the publication of former national security adviser John Bolton’s memoir. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, named only Bolton as a defendant. The complaint seeks among other things an order requiring Bolton “to instruct or request his publisher, insofar as he has the authority to do so, to further delay the release date” of the memoir…The lawsuit, brought by the DOJ’s civil division, sets up a potential fiery clash over the scope of the First Amendment, and it comes just weeks before the book is set for public release. News reports indicate Bolton’s memoir “The Room Where It Happened” is due out June 23….A manuscript of Bolton’s book was at the heart of the Senate’s impeachment trial after The New York Times reported that it detailed conversations in which Trump directly linked Ukraine announcing investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden to lifting a hold on military aid to the country…”
The New York Times – “The rapid rise of Bookshop.org during the shutdown has been hailed as a boon for independent stores. But some booksellers worry it could become another competitor for online business…Andy Hunter, founder of Bookshop.org, outside Word Bookstore in Brooklyn...Now Bookshop is on track to exceed $40 million in sales this year, blowing past the sum that Mr. Hunter initially hoped to reach by 2022. The site sold some $4.5 million of books in May, and more than $7 million in the first two weeks of June. More than 750 bookstores have joined, and Bookshop has generated more than $3.6 million for stores. The company is preparing to expand its operations to Britain later this year, where it plans to partner with the book wholesaler Gardners…Mr. Hunter is bullish about the potential for post-pandemic growth. The American Booksellers Association has more than 1,880 member stores, and about 40 percent of them have started using Bookshop. There’s also more ground to gain with customers: Just 21 percent of book buyers who shop at independent stores had heard of Bookshop, according to a survey of more than 4,000 people conducted by the Codex Group in late April. “If it’s sticky and it lasts beyond this Covid crisis, it’s going to really help bookstores thrive,” Mr. Hunter said…”
CNET: “Most Americans don’t trust social media companies to police the content on their platforms, according to a poll published Tuesday from Gallup and the Knight Foundation. The poll found that 80% of Americans don’t trust big tech companies to make the right decisions about what content appears on their sites and what should be removed. People, especially conservatives, trust the government even less than social media companies to make these decisions, according to the report. The poll explored several topics around free speech online and the threat of misinformation.
Most Americans also support, in principle, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects Facebook, Twitter and other online companies from liability for content posted by their users. Although President Donald Trump and some in Congress are pushing to reform the law, the poll found almost two-thirds of Americans support keeping the existing regulation. People and groups who favor the rule say Section 230 protects free speech and allows for an open marketplace of ideas…”
CNBC: “Amid the uncertainty of what college will look like this fall, one thing is for sure — it won’t be the typical experience for students. There may be in-person classes, online learning only or a hybrid model that combines the two. That is just the academic end. There is also life on campus: when and where to don a mask, what type of social activities will be permitted and how dorm living will work. “Students who get back to campus are going to find themselves on very different campuses and in a very different environment than they expected,” said Debra Felix, a former director of admissions at New York’s Columbia University who now runs her own firm, Felix Educational Consulting. “It won’t be the interactive, busy, fun kind of a place where people are banging ideas around in a dorm room at midnight.”…
Bloomberg warned some users of its terminals they should prepare for negative interest rates in near future
Market Insider – “Bloomberg is reportedly telling some terminal users to prepare for negative US rates so there aren’t any technical glitches if it happens:
- Data provider Bloomberg warned some users of its terminals on Monday that they should prepare for negative interest rates in the near future, the Financial Times reported.
- The note was sent to warn users to prepare any computer models used to calculate interest rate volatility for the possibility that the Federal Reserve may take interest rates below zero.
- Interest rate volatility forms part of the equation when calculating the price of options, a form of derivative that allows investors to buy assets at set prices in future.
- Most markets use a pricing model created by academics Fischer Black and Myron Scholes, but this formula breaks down if the cash or spot price of assets plunge below zero.
- Bloomberg, therefore, is urging customers to use a model composed by Louis Bachelier, which works even if prices turn negative…. ” [h/t Pete Weiss]
Kottke.org: “In a his book out today, Which Country Has the World’s Best Health Care?, oncologist & bioethicist Ezekiel Emanuel compares the outcomes of several countries’ health care systems.
- The US spends more than any other nation, nearly $4 trillion, on healthcare. Yet, for all that expense, the US is not ranked #1 — not even close.
- In Which Country Has the World’s Best Healthcare? Ezekiel Emanuel profiles 11 of the world’s healthcare systems in pursuit of the best or at least where excellence can be found. Using a unique comparative structure, the book allows healthcare professionals, patients, and policymakers alike to know which systems perform well, and why, and which face endemic problems. From Taiwan to Germany, Australia to Switzerland, the most inventive healthcare providers tackle a global set of challenges — in pursuit of the best healthcare in the world.
- In his ranking of 11 countries profiled, China and the United States are, respectively, dead last and second-to-last in providing health care for their citizens. In the case of the United States at least, that failure is on display with our response to the Covid-19 pandemic…”
The New York Times – The introduction to this article consists of still photos taken by a range of photographers at protests around the country. The photographs document the 96 U.S. cities where protesters were tear-gased by police: “…Tear gas has long been used to disperse crowds during protests and riots, both nationally and internationally, despite being banned in warfare by the Chemical Weapons Convention. If used appropriately, it drives people to flee the gas, which irritates their eyes, skin and lungs without causing serious, long-term injuries in most. But in cases where law enforcement misuses the agent, it can cause debilitating injuries. Prolonged exposure or high doses can lead to permanent vision damage, asthma and other long-term injuries. Research increasingly shows tear gas and other weapons that have been deemed by law enforcement as being nonlethal can seriously injure and sometimes even kill. There’s also evidence that the use of tear gas could worsen the spread of coronavirus. Because tear gas is indiscriminate, it makes it hard for the police to limit the impact to the intended target, and some experts question whether its use was necessary in recent protests. “The use of escalated force by law enforcement, all that serves to do is increase violence, increase injuries,” said Jennifer Cobbina, professor at the Michigan State University School of Criminal Justice, who studies race-related protests. “The primary mission of a police officer is to keep the peace and to protect and serve.” The widespread use of tear gas has prompted pushback, with some lawmakers calling for a ban of its use in Massachusetts and New Orleans. Other cities, including Denver, Seattle, Portland and Dallas, have all temporarily banned police from using tear gas…”