Law and Legal
Poynter – Strong growth in Asia and Latin America helps fuel global increase – “The number of fact-checking outlets around the world has grown to 188 in more than 60 countries amid global concerns about the spread of misinformation, according to the latest tally by the Duke Reporters’ Lab. Since the last annual fact-checking census in February 2018, we’ve added 39 more outlets that actively assess claims from politicians and social media, a 26% increase. The new total is also more than four times the 44 fact-checkers we counted when we launched our global database and map in 2014.
Globally, the largest growth came in Asia, which went from 22 to 35 outlets in the past year. Nine of the 27 fact-checking outlets that launched since the start of 2018 were in Asia, including six in India. Latin American fact-checking also saw a growth spurt in that same period, with two new outlets in Costa Rica, and others in Mexico, Panama and Venezuela. The actual worldwide total is likely much higher than our current tally. That’s because more than a half-dozen of the fact-checkers we’ve added to the database since the start of 2018 began as election-related partnerships that involved the collaboration of multiple organizations. And some those election partners are discussing ways to continue or reactivate that work— either together or on their own…”
Climate Change: Opportunities to Reduce Federal Fiscal Exposure. GAO-19-625T: Published: Jun 11, 2019. Publicly Released: Jun 11, 2019. “There were 14 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disaster events in the U.S. in 2018—with a total cost of at least $91 billion. These costs will likely rise as the climate changes, researchers say. The federal government’s fiscal exposure from climate change is on our High Risk List. We testified about potential budget impacts from climate change and how the government can reduce fiscal exposure, among other things. Climate change could damage federal property and increase the cost of disaster aid and some property and crop insurance. One way to reduce fiscal exposure is to establish federal strategic climate change priorities….”
Center for American Progress Study, America Adrift, May 5, 2019 – “These days, foreign policy and national security publications are filled with stark warnings about the demise of the U.S.-led rules-based international order—the system of global alliances and institutions that helped advance peace and prosperity for America and its allies in the aftermath of World War II. The Brexit vote in the United Kingdom; the election of President Donald Trump in the United States; new protest movements against global capitalism; the increasing strength of right-wing, anti-immigrant parties in Europe; and the rising power of nondemocratic regimes in China, Russia, and elsewhere are all seen as clear evidence that the old system of international relations is collapsing and may be permanently broken. With the post-war order under assault from both the nationalist right and the anti-imperialist left, observers fear that it is devolving into a fractured system of uncooperative nations led by populist or anti-democratic forces pursuing parochial interests while stoking hostility toward outsiders and fostering distrust of collective global action. But are voters in Western societies experiencing a genuine attitudinal break with the old democratic order, or rather, are they going through a corrective period based on years of pent-up frustrations about economic and social conditions that have yet to improve?…”
Mary Meeker, general partner at venture capital firm Bond Capital, delivered her annual Internet Trends slideshow – for 2019 it is 333 pages.
“Recode has pulled out some of the significant and most interesting trends in Meeker’s report: Some 51 percent of the world — 3.8 billion people — were internet users last year, up from 49 percent (3.6 billion) in 2017. Growth slowed to about 6 percent in 2018 because so many people have come online that new users are harder to come by. Sales of smartphones — which are the primary internet access point for many people across the globe — are declining as much of the world that is going to be online already is. As of last week, seven out of 10 of the world’s most valuable companies by market cap are tech companies, with only Berkshire Hathaway, Visa, and Johnson & Johnson making the Top 10 as non-tech companies: Microsoft; Amazon; Apple; Alphabet; Berkshire Hathaway; Facebook; Alibaba; Tencent; Visa; Johnson & Johnson…”
Hybrid Pedagogy – Maura A. Smale – Undergraduate Access to Course Reading – “Faculty and staff don’t often know how hard it is for students to get their course materials. I’m a library director and professor at New York City College of Technology (City Tech), and I worry about student access to required course readings. Our college is part of the City University of New York (CUNY) system, and most of the CUNY students I’ve spoken with did not begrudge the need to purchase textbooks and other materials in college. For some students the requirement to pay for course books came as a surprise because in high school, all books are provided for them. However, student budgets were limited, even if they anticipated textbook costs. Students made choices about whether and how to acquire their course reading in part based on their perceived utility of the reading for that course. They evaluated multiple factors, including how — and even whether — the reading was likely to be used by themselves and their instructors in their courses, as well as their own interest in the course. Many students did not buy their required course readings at the beginning of the semester, and instead waited to attend the first few class sessions to see whether they truly needed to buy the book. One second-semester City Tech student was very concise when describing their strategy for accessing the required reading for one course, telling me “I’ll get it when we use it.” Others pointed out that many instructors shared their lecture slides with students, uploading the slides to the learning management system or providing other digital access, and that the lecture slides essentially replicated the content of their textbooks. For these students the choice was clear: purchasing the textbook would not give them any advantages in their work for the course, so they did not feel compelled to spend money on the textbook…”
Vice: “The well-known and respected data breach notification website “Have I Been Pwned” is up for sale. Troy Hunt, its founder and sole operator, announced the sale on Tuesday in a blog post where he explained why the time has come for Have I Been Pwned to become part of something bigger and more organized.
“To date, every line of code, every configuration and every breached record has been handled by me alone. There is no ‘HIBP team’, there’s one guy keeping the whole thing afloat,” Hunt wrote. “it’s time for HIBP to grow up. It’s time to go from that one guy doing what he can in his available time to a better-resourced and better-funded structure that’s able to do way more than what I ever could on my own.”..
Via Axios: “The July/August issue of Foreign Affairs offers what editor Gideon Rose calls “an autopsy of the last decades of American global leadership — the years when U.S. elites squandered the inheritance and good name bequeathed to them.” Fareed Zakaria on “The Self-Destruction of American Power”:Sometime in the last two years, American hegemony died. The age of U.S. dominance was a brief, heady era, about three decades marked by two moments, each a breakdown of sorts. It was born amid the collapse of the Berlin Wall, in 1989. The end, or really the beginning of the end, was another collapse, that of Iraq in 2003, and the slow unraveling since…”
Automated temperature settings aren’t always accurate, but Consumer Reports’ tests are: “For the food in your refrigerator to stay fresh for as long as possible—no ice crystals on the lettuce or bacteria breeding in warm spots—the refrigerator temperature should hover right around 37° F. In the freezer, a temperature of 0° F will keep foods thoroughly frozen. Armed with this information, you’d set your refrigerator to those temperatures, right? But the temperature controls on many refrigerators only allow you to choose from a series of numbers—say, from 1 to 5, with 1 being the coldest and 5 the warmest. To further complicate matters, even when refrigerators have digital controls that allow you to set a specific refrigerator temperature, our tests have found that the settings aren’t always accurate. But the temperature-measuring equipment Consumer Reports uses in its lab tests is extremely precise, down to a fraction of a degree. As a result, we can tell you exactly where to set your refrigerator temperature to achieve optimal freshness…” [h/t Pete Weiss]
ars technica – Bucking a major trend, company speaks out against the age-old practice. ” Microsoft is finally catching on to a maxim that security experts have almost universally accepted for years: periodic password changes are likely to do more harm than good. In a largely overlooked post published late last month, Microsoft said it was removing periodic password changes from the security baseline settings it recommends for customers and auditors. After decades of Microsoft recommending passwords be changed regularly, Microsoft employee Aaron Margosis said the requirement is an “ancient and obsolete mitigation of very low value.”
The change of heart is largely the result of research that shows passwords are most prone to cracking when they’re easy for end users to remember, such as when they use a name or phrase from a favorite movie or book. Over the past decade, hackers have mined real-world password breaches to assemble dictionaries of millions of words. Combined with super-fast graphics cards, the hackers can make huge numbers of guesses in off-line attacks, which occur when they steal the cryptographically scrambled hashes that represent the plaintext user passwords…”
Slate – A new paper used YouTubers’ voices to guess what they looked like. We’re going to see more of this. “There’s a lot you might guess about a person based on their voice: their gender, their age, perhaps even their race. That’s your brain making an educated guess about the identity of a speaker based on what you’ve experienced, but sometimes, those guesses are wrong. (People I talk to on the phone who don’t know my name often assume I’m white because I speak English without an accent. They frequently express surprise to learn I’m Asian.) In a recent paper, a group of MIT researchers set out to investigate what a computer can guess about a person’s appearance from their voice…”
The Chronicle of Higher Education interview with the president of the Association of University Presses (AUPresses), Jennifer Crewe: “…Our biggest challenge remains the low sales of scholarly monographs, such as revised dissertations or scholarly books with a narrow focus in a small field. Libraries share copies, and individuals don’t purchase the new books in their fields as they did 20 years ago. We want to publish these books. They are the building blocks of our own reputation and they are often groundbreaking, field-changing works. We’re looking for publishing grants to support them, and we try each season to publish enough profitable books to cover the losses on monographs. But today’s model isn’t sustainable. There are a number of experiments under way to figure out how to publish specialized monographs in a freely available open-access format. But open access doesn’t mean “free,” except to the end user. Someone still has to pay the upfront costs of curation, peer review, editing, design, discoverability, publicity — plus promotion, to make sure people notice the book when its published. Those costs are actually much higher than the paper, printing, and binding costs that you save when you publish in digital format only. Publishers need grants up front to cover those costs, and right now there is no established system for that. I should also point out that tenure committees, reviewers, and authors still prefer print books for the most part, so I don’t see the system changing right away…”
Washington Post – A new algorithm developed by Stanford University engineers is putting the spotlight on advances in video editing that could make it more difficult to separate fact from fiction online. “A team of researchers has developed new technology allowing editors to alter the words of anyone who appears on video in an image from the shoulders up, making doing so as easy as typing changes into a word processing program. In practice, this could be a talking head, a politician, a news anchor or any other person who influences political discourse. The researchers say this technology could be used to adapt instructional videos or quickly make edits to movies — but experts warn it could have more sinister effects if applied to politics. It raises serious ethical concerns because it could make it far easier for bad actors to manipulate videos from typically trusted sources.
Here’s how the new technology works: Editors can simply delete or add words to a transcript, and the application will assemble the right word or speech motions from another point in the video and use machine learning to edit the video version of the transcript in a way that appears seamless to the natural eye. Jack Clark, policy director at San Francisco artificial intelligence research center OpenAI, warned that if the technology were widely released, it could make it far cheaper to spread propaganda…”
SafeHaven: “A new study identifies powerful psychological factors that connect people to places, and mean more to them than money. Mobility in the United States has fallen to record lows. In 1985, nearly 20 percent of Americans had changed their residence within the preceding 12 months, but by 2018, fewer than ten percent had. That’s the lowest level since 1948, when the Census Bureau first started tracking mobility. The decline in Americans’ mobility has been staggering, as the chart below shows. Mobility rates have fallen for nearly every group, across age, gender, income, homeownership status, and marital status. Declining mobility contributes to a host of economic and social issues: less economic dynamism, lower rates of innovation, and lower productivity. By locking people into place, it exacerbates inequality by limiting the economic opportunities for workers…
A wide range of explanations have been offered to account for these substantial declines in mobility. Many consider the culprit to be the economic crisis, which locked people into declining-value homes; others attribute it to the huge differential in the housing prices in expensive cities. Some economists contend that job opportunities have become similar across places, meaning people are less likely to move for work; others see rising student debt as a key factor that has kept young Americans in their parents’ basements…”
Nature – Since 1900, nearly 3 species of seed-bearing plants have disappeared per year ― 500 times faster than they would naturally. “The world’s seed-bearing plants have been disappearing at a rate of nearly 3 species a year since 1900 ― which is up to 500 times higher than would be expected as a result of natural forces alone, according to the largest survey yet of plant extinctions.
The project looked at more than 330,000 species and found that plants on islands and in the tropics were the most likely to be declared extinct. Trees, shrubs and other woody perennials had the highest probability of disappearing regardless of where they were located. The results were published on 10 June in Nature Ecology & Evolution1.
The study provides valuable hard evidence that will help with conservation efforts, says Stuart Pimm, a conservation scientist at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. The survey included more plant species by an order of magnitude than any other study, he says. “Its results are enormously significant.”..”
PA Courts: “Over the last five years, Pennsylvania has seen a gradual decrease in identity theft cases. Identity theft is defined as the fraudulent use of another person’s identifying information (social security number, bank account, birth certificate etc.). The infographic below highlights key data including defendant demographics, identity theft case counts and outcomes as well as county-level data where identity theft is most prevalent (also see editor’s note). A high-resolution file of the graphic is available for download here.” [h/t Pete Weiss]
NASA dataset includes more than a Trillion precise measurements of Earth’s height at various locations
Center for Data Innovation: “NASA has released a dataset that includes more than a trillion precise measurements of the Earth’s height at various locations, including the height of glaciers and the height of the canopy of forests. NASA gathered the data, which includes the exact latitude and longitudes for a corresponding elevation, by shooting photons from a satellite 310 miles in space and recording how long it takes for the photon to bounce off the Earth and return to the satellite. This data can help researchers track the effects of the Earth’s warming climate and the health of forests…”
“Government agencies will implement the Federal Data Strategy through steps identified in annual government-wide Action Plans. These plans will identify priority Action Steps for a given year, incrementally build from year to year, and complement as needed requirements of new statute and policy. The priority of the draft 2019-2020 Federal Data Strategy Action Plan (hereinafter Year-1 Action Plan) is to align existing efforts and establish a firm basis of tools, processes, and capacities to leverage data as a strategic asset. The draft Year-1 Action Plan describes the steps that are viewed as fundamental during the first year to execute the full breadth of the Federal Data Strategy over time. They are informed by and built upon previous efforts, align with ongoing Federal Government programs and policies, and complement new statutory requirements.
The goal of the draft Year-1 Action Plan is to begin to implement the Federal Data Strategy through a set of fundamental actions. Specifically:
- Designated entities will develop and share government-wide resources and/or tools for implementing the Federal Data Strategy related to governance, ethical data management and use, data protection, workforce training, streamlined access to federal data assets, and the establishment of data inventories and data cataloging.
- Specific federal communities will improve the management and use of specific data asset portfolios including geospatial data and financial management data.
- Federal agencies will begin working across silos to determine how they can better support their missions and serve stakeholders by making better use of the Federal Government’s full portfolio of data assets. Agencies will be investing in necessary infrastructure improvements, including workforce training and improvements related to data protection and access…”
The Verge: “In the latest example of deepfake technology, researchers have shown off new software that uses machine learning to let users edit the text transcript of a video to add, delete, or change the words coming right out of somebody’s mouth. The work was done by scientists from Stanford University, the Max Planck Institute for Informatics, Princeton University, and Adobe Research, and shows that our ability to edit what people say in videos and create realistic fakes is becoming easier every day.
You can see a number of examples of the system’s output below, including an edited version of a famous quotation from Apocalypse Now, with the line “I love the smell of napalm in the morning” changed to “I love the smell of french toast in the morning.” This work is just at the research stage right now and isn’t available as consumer software, but it probably won’t be long until similar services go public. Adobe, for example, has already shared details on prototype software named VoCo, which lets users edit recordings of speech as easily as a picture, and which was used in this research…”
The New York States Senate and Assembly have passed bills that would require developers to use prevailing wages on projects using state financial assistance. Since the bill would apply to projects that receive tax credits, it could apply to projects enrolled in the brownfield cleanup program (BCP). If signed into law, this bill could have a devastating impact on BCP projects-especially affordable housing projects.
The text of the Assembly bill is available at:https://tinyurl.com/y3obylmn
The post NY Legislature Passes Bill that would require prevailing wage at brownfield sites. appeared first on Schnapf Environmental Law.
Pew – Politicians viewed as major creators made-up news, but journalists seen as the ones who should fix it – “Many Americans say the creation and spread of made-up news and information is causing significant harm to the nation and needs to be stopped, according to a new Pew Research Center survey of 6,127 U.S. adults conducted between Feb. 19 and March 4, 2019, on the Center’s American Trends Panel. Indeed, more Americans view made-up news as a very big problem for the country than identify terrorism, illegal immigration, racism and sexism that way. Additionally, nearly seven-in-ten U.S. adults (68%) say made-up news and information greatly impacts Americans’ confidence in government institutions, and roughly half (54%) say it is having a major impact on our confidence in each other.
U.S. adults blame political leaders and activists far more than journalists for the creation of made-up news intended to mislead the public. But they believe it is primarily the responsibility of journalists to fix the problem. And they think the issue will get worse in the foreseeable future. The vast majority of Americans say they sometimes or often encounter made-up news. In response, many have altered their news consumption habits, including by fact-checking the news they get and changing the sources they turn to for news. In addition, about eight-in-ten U.S. adults (79%) believe steps should be taken to restrict made-up news, as opposed to 20% who see it as protected communication…”