Law and Legal

The Special Counsel’s Report: What Do Current DOJ Regulations Require and Can Congress Get It?

CRS Legal Sidebar via LC – The Special Counsel’s Report: What Do Current DOJ Regulations Require? March 7, 2019: “…This Sidebar examines the current legal obligations of the Special Counsel and Attorney General to report information relating to the investigation to Congress and the public. It also provides historical examples of reports issued for other such investigations. A companion Sidebar addresses potential legal issues that may arise if Congress seeks to compel release of information about the investigation, including issues involving executive privilege and the publication of grand jury information….

CRS Legal Sidebar via LC – The Special Counsel’s Report: Can Congress Get It? Updated – April 9, 2019: “After this Sidebar was originally published, the Attorney General reported to Congress on March 24, 2019 that the Special Counsel had submitted a report concerning “allegations that members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump, and others associated with it, conspired with the Russian government in its efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, or sought to obstruct related federal investigations.” In a subsequent letter, the Attorney General indicated that a redacted version of the report could be made available “by mid-April, if not sooner.” The letter identified four categories of information that would be redacted from the report: (1) grand jury material; (2) “material the intelligence community identifies as potentially compromising sensitive sources and methods; (3) material that could affect other ongoing matters, including those that the Special Counsel has referred to other Department offices; and (4) information that would unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties. ”In addition, on April 5, 2019, a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled in McKeever. Barr that federal courts lack “inherent authority” to authorize the disclosure of grand jury matters in circumstances not covered by an explicit exception set out in Rule 6(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Though the facts of McKeever are unrelated to the Special Counsel’s report, it appears that the appellate court’s decision in McKeever has, for the time being, closed off one potential avenue for Congress to obtain grand jury material in federal court in the District of Columbia (though the decision could always be reheard en banc or overturned by the Supreme Court)…”

Categories: Law and Legal

DuckDuckGo vs. Google: An In-Depth Search Engine Comparison

Search Engine Journal: “In the world of search, Google towers above the rest. It’s the “industry standard” search engine that is relied on in most any instance (at least in the United States), and, let’s be honest: it’s for good reason. Google search is an amazing tool. But competitors are always going to be vying for search market share. And from time to time, there are going to be some great search engines that are actually worth using. DuckDuckGo may just be one of those competitors, especially if you’re looking for privacy that you may not get elsewhere. But DuckDuckGo has plenty more to offer searchers. What follows is an in-depth comparison of the features of two great search engines we love – DuckDuckGo and Google. As we try to answer the question: which search engine should you use?…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Law enforcement taps Google’s Sensorvault for location data

The New York Times – The tech giant records people’s locations worldwide. Now, investigators are using it to find suspects and witnesses near crimes, running the risk of snaring the innocent. “…The warrants, which draw on an enormous Google database employees call Sensorvault [Sensorvault, according to Google employees, includes detailed location records involving at least hundreds of millions of devices worldwide and dating back nearly a decade], turn the business of tracking cellphone users’ locations into a digital dragnet for law enforcement. In an era of ubiquitous data gathering by tech companies, it is just the latest example of how personal information — where you go, who your friends are, what you read, eat and watch, and when you do it — is being used for purposes many people never expected. As privacy concerns have mounted among consumers, policymakers and regulators, tech companies have come under intensifying scrutiny over their data collection practices…”

Categories: Law and Legal

How to Tap Less on Your Phone (but Get More Done)

The New York Times – Most of us spend hours each day tapping the glass of our smartphones. But what if you could do just as much — maybe more — and give your fingers a break?  “….Over the years, Apple and Google have put enormous effort into reducing the tap tally for tedious tasks. With each software update, we get more features that streamline the steps. Unless you’re a hard-core geek, though, you may not have had time to keep up with them. Here are five ways to get things done more efficiently on your phone — to tap less and smile more…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Can the President Close the Border?Relevant Laws and Considerations

CRS Legal Sidebar via LC – Can the President Close the Border? Relevant Laws and Considerations, April 12, 2019: “Does the executive branch have authority to “close” the southern border? Recently, President Trump declared that he would order the closure of the U.S.-Mexico border or at least “large sections” of it, unless Mexico acts to stop flows of migrant sand drugs into the United States or unless Congress enacts certain reforms to the immigration system. The statements presumably refer to the closure of land ports of entry on the border (federal laws already prohibit entry between ports, and a Trump Administration policy that would have rendered non-U.S. nationals (aliens)who violate those laws ineligible for asylum protections has been blocked by federal courts, as explained in a separate Legal Sidebar). The President later declared that he would give Mexico a “one-year warning” before placing tariffs on cars made in Mexico or closing the border. His statements have prompted legal questions about the reach of executive authority to close ports of entry on the southern border to people and goods…”

Categories: Law and Legal

The Urgent Quest for Slower, Better News

The New Yorker – The current system for delivering news online is broken. Readers and journalists will need to work together to find a new one. “Media outlets have been reduced to fighting over a shrinking share of our attention online; as Facebook, Google, and other tech platforms have come to monopolize our digital lives, news organizations have had to assume a subsidiary role, relying on those sites for traffic. That dependence exerts a powerful influence on which stories are pursued, how they’re presented, and the speed and volume at which they’re turned out. In “World Without Mind: the Existential Threat of Big Tech,” published in 2017, Franklin Foer, the former editor-in-chief of The New Republic, writes about “a mad, shameless chase to gain clicks through Facebook” and “a relentless effort to game Google’s algorithms.” Newspapers and magazines have long sought to command large readerships, but these efforts used to be primarily the province of circulation departments; newsrooms were insulated from these pressures, with little sense of what readers actually read. Nowadays, at both legacy news organizations and those that were born online, audience metrics are everywhere. At the Times, everyone in the newsroom has access to an internal, custom-built analytics tool that shows how many people are reading each story, where those people are coming from, what devices they are using, how the stories are being promoted, and so on. Additional, commercially built audience tools, such as Chartbeat and Google Analytics, are also widely available. As the editor of, I keep a browser tab open to, an application that shows me, in real time, various readership numbers for the stories on our Web site…”

Categories: Law and Legal

F-words and T-shirts – SCOTUS weighs foul language trademarks

Reuters – (Editor’s note: contains language that some readers may find offensive, paragraphs 2, 13, 14, 16, 19, 22 and 23) “In the staid world of the U.S. Supreme Court, where decorum and etiquette are prized and silence is enforced by court police, the F-word could create quite a stir. Yet that expletive and others will be the focus on Monday when the nine justices hear arguments in a free-speech case brought by Los Angeles-based clothing designer Erik Brunetti. His streetwear brand “FUCT” – which sounds like, but is spelled differently than, a profanity – was denied a trademark by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Brunetti has tried to calm concern about the potential for foul language during arguments in the ornate courtroom. In a written brief, his lawyer told the justices “the discussion will be purely clinical, analogous to when medical terms are discussed.”

At issue is a provision of U.S. trademark law that lets the trademark office deny requests for trademarks on “immoral” and “scandalous” words and symbols. Brunetti, 50, is challenging the law as an infringement of his right to freedom of expression, protected by the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. In 2017, a Washington-based federal appeals court ruled in his favor. President Donald Trump’s administration has appealed that ruling to the conservative-majority Supreme Court. The provision at issue has been on the books for more than a century…”

Categories: Law and Legal

GAO – Action Is Needed to Address the Federal Government’s Fiscal Future

The Nation’s Fiscal Health: Action Is Needed to Address the Federal Government’s Fiscal Future, GAO-19-314SP: Published: Apr 10, 2019. Publicly Released: Apr 10, 2019. “This report provides an update on the nation’s fiscal health as of the end of FY 2018, and describes its likely fiscal future if policies don’t change. Among its findings:

  • The federal government’s current fiscal path is unsustainable
  • The federal deficit increased to $779 billion—and will reach $1 trillion in the next few years for the first time since 2012
  • Publicly held debt was 78% of GDP at the end of FY 2018 and will surpass its historical high of 106% within 13 to 20 years—sooner than projected last year
  • Other agencies join GAO in saying that the longer action is delayed, the greater and more drastic the changes will have to be
  • The 2018 Financial Report, the Congressional Budget Office, and GAO all project that federal debt held by the public will continue to grow unsustainably into the future.”
Categories: Law and Legal

A bibliophile’s paradise: the National Library of France in a classic documentary from 1956

Aeon: “Before there was the internet, there was la Bibliothèque nationale de France (the National Library of France) in Paris: an ever-expanding collection of books, manuscripts, maps and other cultural artifacts that has been operating continuously since the 15th century. The documentary Toute la mémoire du monde (All the Memory in the World), made by the influential and celebrated French filmmaker Alain Resnais in 1956, is an astounding tour of the institution before digitisation, when the world’s largest well of information wasn’t at our fingertips, but fastidiously collected and sorted behind library walls. Resnais focuses not only on the imposing scope of the library’s holdings, but also explores the vast enterprise of maintaining it for centuries to come, as well as the facility’s role as a bustling home for curiosity and enquiry. Through moody black-and-white cinematography of the library’s collection, architecture and meticulous processes, the film explores a place that, like human knowledge itself, is ‘destined to be forever a work in progress’. A dramatic score by Maurice Jarre – by turns pulsing, soaring and delicate – acts as a further guide through the labyrinth of the library, and the film itself.”

Categories: Law and Legal

‘Extraordinary’ 500-year-old library catalogue reveals books lost to time

The Guardian: “It sounds like something from Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s The Shadow of the Wind and his The Cemetery of Forgotten Books: a huge volume containing thousands of summaries of books from 500 years ago, many of which no longer exist. But the real deal has been found in Copenhagen, where it has lain untouched for more than 350 years. The Libro de los Epítomes manuscript, which is more than a foot thick, contains more than 2,000 pages and summaries from the library of Hernando Colón, the illegitimate son of Christopher Columbus who made it his life’s work to create the biggest library the world had ever known in the early part of the 16th century. Running to around 15,000 volumes, the library was put together during Colón’s extensive travels. Today, only around a quarter of the books in the collection survive and have been housed in Seville Cathedral since 1552. The discovery in the Arnamagnæan Collection in Copenhagen is “extraordinary”, and a window into a “lost world of 16th-century books”, said Cambridge academic Dr Edward Wilson-Lee, author of the recent biography of Colón, The Catalogue of Shipwrecked Books…” [h/t/ Jose Luis Santos]

Categories: Law and Legal

How To Find Old Websites That Google Won’t Show

Lifehacker – “…Million Short, which allows you to run a search and automatically skip the most popular answers to probe deeper into the web. is a “search engine for classic websites,” made to help people find hobbyist pages and other archaic features of the internet. The Hacker news thread also brings up Pinboard, a minimalist bookmarking service similar to Pocket, which has a key feature for archivists: If you sign up for its premium service — $15 per year — Pinboard will make a web archive of every page you save. If you’re looking at older, unindexed material, such a tool can make it easier to go back to specific parts of the older internet that you may want or need to recall again…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Libraries lean on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to reel you in – From pithy tweets to Insta Novels on Instagram, libraries around the world are using social media to entertain and reach their audiences. “:ast summer, the New York Public Library wanted to make classic literature more enticing to young readers. You know, readers who are more likely to scroll through a text message than turn a page. So the NYPL created “Insta Novels,” digitized versions of classics designed to be read on a smartphone. Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland was the first classic to get the treatment. Others, including Charlotte Perkins’ The Yellow Wallpaper and Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, were hot on Alice’s heels. The books, complete with art and animation, are available on the NYPL’s Instagram page. The project, which included New York ad agency Mother, proved a huge success. Shortly after Insta Novels debuted, the NYPL racked up 100,000 new Instagram followers.

Insta Novels is just one example of how libraries, now celebrating National Library Week in the US, are leaning on social media to connect with patrons in the digital era. University of Liverpool Library tweets tongue-in-cheek admonishments, including a long-running gag imploring patrons not to remove “do not remove” signs. The Düsseldorf Public Libraries use Snapchat to reach young people and runs a popular blog called buchstabensuppe, or alphabet soup…”

Categories: Law and Legal

You elected them to write new laws. They’re letting corporations do it instead.

This story was published in partnership with USA TODAY and The Arizona Republic: “Each year, state lawmakers across the U.S. introduce thousands of bills dreamed up and written by corporations, industry groups and think tanks. Disguised as the work of lawmakers, these so-called “model” bills get copied in one state Capitol after another, quietly advancing the agenda of the people who write them. This story was produced as part of a collaboration between USA TODAY, The Arizona Republic and the Center for Public Integrity. More than 30 reporters across the country were involved in the two-year investigation, which identified copycat bills in every state. The team used a unique data-analysis engine built on hundreds of cloud computers to compare millions of words of legislation provided by LegiScan. A two-year investigation by USA TODAY, The Arizona Republic and the Center for Public Integrity reveals for the first time the extent to which special interests have infiltrated state legislatures using model legislation.

USA TODAY and the Republic found at least 10,000 bills almost entirely copied from model legislation were introduced nationwide in the past eight years, and more than 2,100 of those bills were signed into law. The investigation examined nearly 1 million bills in all 50 states and Congress using a computer algorithm developed to detect similarities in language. That search – powered by the equivalent of 150 computers that ran nonstop for months – compared known model legislation with bills introduced by lawmakers. The phenomenon of copycat legislation is far larger. In a separate analysis, the Center for Public Integrity identified tens of thousands of bills with identical phrases, then traced the origins of that language in dozens of those bills across the country…”

Categories: Law and Legal

When Prisons Cut Off Visits – Indefinitely

The Marshall Project – ” It’s been nearly 25 years since Michigan adopted a controversial visitation policy. Families have been fighting it ever since. Looking Back at the stories about, and excerpts from, the history of criminal justice. In 1995, Michigan prison officials implemented a controversial new policy: Any inmate found guilty of two substance-abuse violations would lose all rights to visits, except from their lawyer or minister. The state prison population had grown significantly in the early 1990s, as had the use of drugs inside. Guards worried contraband was being smuggled into facilities and wanted to limit the number of outsiders coming in. Families were outraged. Thousands wrote letters, and hundreds testified in public hearings. In addition to the punishment for drug use, the state had banned any minors from visiting prisoners who weren’t their parents. That meant nieces, nephews, siblings, cousins and godchildren were cut off entirely. While prisons often take away visits for disciplinary reasons, this ban was uniquely severe and long-lasting. People in Michigan prisons and their loved ones have been fighting the rule ever since.

A group of incarcerated women sued the corrections department five months after the policy was announced. They contended it violated their right to “intimate association” with young family members, and that the substance-abuse rule was cruel and unusual punishment. The lead plaintiff, Michelle Bazzetta, was not going to see her nephew, who had just been born, until his 18th birthday. Others in the suit would never get to see their young children who had been adopted by friends or family members…” [Note – this posting, and all my postings on criminal justice, are in honor of my late colleague and friend, Ken Strutin].

Categories: Law and Legal

House Democrats launch probe into EPA officials’ ties to utilities

POLITICO: “The House Energy and Commerce Committee is launching an investigation into whether top EPA officials violated ethics rules by launching a rollback of air pollution regulations that benefited their former lobbying clients in the electric utility sector. The committee’s Democrats are seeking to probe communications between the utilities and an industry group that was run from the offices of the lobbying firm Hunton Andrews Kurth, which had employed Bill Wehrum, EPA’s air chief, and David Harlow, the EPA air office’s senior counsel. That industry organization, the Utility Air Regulatory Group, generated $8.2 million in 2017 alone for the lobbying firm and raised questions about whether Wehrum’s involvement with it followed ethics guidelines, as first reported by POLITICO…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Ten-Fold Difference in Odds of ICE Enforcement Depending Upon Where You Live

“The odds of being arrested and deported by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) vary greatly depending upon where an individual lives. Sanctuary jurisdictions that limit local cooperation with ICE enforcement officers often reduce these odds. Despite ICE statements that the agency uses stepped-up arrests out in the community when local jurisdictions fail to cooperate, ICE records do not show that the odds of a “community arrest” are greater in sanctuary versus non-sanctuary jurisdictions. In the first national study comparing Secure Community (SC) removals and ICE community arrest levels, the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University found more than a ten-fold difference in the odds of ICE enforcement actions among states, and even larger differences among counties. During FY 2018, ICE deported 77,858 individuals through its Secure Communities program. As there are an estimated 11 million undocumented people in the country, this meant 6.9 SC removals for every 1,000 individuals, or a 0.69 percent deportation rate. Los Angeles County, California, with the largest unauthorized population in the country, had only one-fourth the national rate of Secure Community deportations. New York City and Cook County, Illinois, where Chicago is located, each had only one-fifth the national rate. Yet all three also had below-average ICE community arrest rates. The odds of SC deportations for states with 100,000 or more undocumented residents ranged from a low of 1.9 per thousand in New Jersey to a high of 22.8 per 1,000 in Arizona. The same set of states also had highly variable rates of ICE community arrests, ranging from a low of 2.4 per 1,000 undocumented in Virginia to a high of 25.6 per 1,000 in Pennsylvania. No relationship was evident among states that have lower rates of SC deportations and those with higher rates of community arrests, or vice-versa.

Whatever the faults may be in our current immigration laws, the manner in which these laws are being administered has resulted in a country in which the location of your home has an outsize influence on whether ICE will target you. This has also not resulted in an effective system for achieving this Administration’s stated policies or its goals. To read the full report, go to:

Categories: Law and Legal

The Power of Judicial Review

In Custodia Legis: The following is a guest post by Janeen Williams, a Legal Reference Specialist with the Public Services Division of the Law Library of Congress. “The federal judiciary has the authority to review actions of the legislative and executive branches to verify that they comport with the Constitution see Marbury v. Madison). However, judicial review does not extend to all issues. A case is justiciable if it is the type of dispute that a court can properly adjudicate. Justiciability is determined by examining a variety of factors or requirements. One factor that determines justiciability is the subject or issue at the heart of the dispute. The dispute must be an actual case or controversy between two adverse parties in order to be justiciable. The “Political Question Doctrine” is another justiciability factor.  Political questions are non-justiciable because Congress and the executive branch, or the political branches, are in a better position to resolve question that are political in nature. Historically, the judiciary has deemed disputes that are political and require examination of powers given to the other branches by the Constitution to be outside the realm of judicial review. The modern political question doctrine first emerged in Baker v. Carr, which was decided in the early 1960s.  The Court in Baker established a six-factor test to determine if the issue in question in a controversy is a political question. A podcast episode from Radiolab’s More Perfect takes a deep dive into the Baker case and its lasting implications…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Systematic Reviews of Our Metadata

Hanging Together – The OCLC Research Blog: “That was the topic discussed recently by OCLC Research Library Partners metadata managers, initiated by Melanie Wacker of Columbia University, Roxanne Missingham of Australian National University, and Sharon Farnel of University of Alberta. Librarians and administrators are well aware of the tension that exists between delivering access to our library collections in a timely manner and providing good quality description. The metadata descriptions must be full enough to allow us to manage our collections and to support accessibility and discoverability for the end-user. Many libraries need to compromise by using vendor records, by creating minimal or less-than-full level descriptions (according to existing guidelines such as BIBCO or creating their own) for certain types of resources, and by limiting authority work. We need to better understand the impact that these compromises are having on our end users…”

Categories: Law and Legal

How the Law Can Boost Recession Recovery

Knowledge@Wharton – “In the Great Recession, the two key tools for rescuing the economy — fiscal and monetary policy — had big limitations, according to Yair Listokin, author of a new book: Law and Macroeconomics: Legal Remedies to Recessions. The big increases in government spending needed to get the economy cooking again were mostly a non-starter — too many opposed raising the debt, even if, as many economists argued, that could solve most of the immediate problems and be paid back in due course. That put most of the onus on monetary policy. But not much could be done using interest rates once they hit zero or close to it. And that left unconventional monetary policy — quantitative easing and the like. Listokin thinks that probably prevented the Great Recession from getting worse, but “it did not work out that well” and “may have fueled asset price bubbles whose eventual bursting could cause yet more damage.” What’s more, such measures “suffer … from a lack of democratic legitimacy,” he says. Listokin proposes instead a new way of stimulating the economy when it hits the so-called zero-bound level, where standard monetary tools stop working well. His solution: Leverage the law, including rules affecting government departments and even the judiciary…”

Categories: Law and Legal


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