Law and Legal
The Hill: “The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday publicly released its first tranche of documents from Brett Kavanaugh’s work in the George W. Bush White House. The batch being released, totaling more than 5,700 pages, is part of more than 125,000 pages given to the committee last week by the George W. Bush Presidential Library. The office of Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said they expect more of the tranche to be cleared for public release over the next “several days.” William Burck, a lawyer for Bush’s legal team, noted in a letter to Grassley that due to “constraints” on National Archives staff, the legal team was in the process of determining which documents do not include privileged information and can be publicly released…”
Alexa Blog: “As Alexa-enabled devices continue to expand into new countries, finding information across languages that use different scripts becomes a more pressing challenge. For example, a Japanese music catalogue may contain names written in English or the various scripts used in Japanese — Kanji, Katakana, or Hiragana. When an Alexa customer, from anywhere in the world, asks for a certain song, album, or artist, we could have a mismatch between Alexa’s transcription of the request and the script used in the corresponding catalogue. To address this problem, we developed a machine-learned multilingual named-entity transliteration system. Named-entity transliteration is the process of converting a name from one language script to another. We describe the design challenges of building such a system in a paper we are presenting this month at the 27th International Conference on Computational Linguistics (COLING 2018). The first challenge is obtaining a large dataset that contains name pairs in different languages. Since we could not find a publicly available dataset that satisfied our needs, we created a new dataset based on Wikidata, a central knowledge base for Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects. We have released our dataset online, together with our code, under a Creative Commons license. The Wikidata page for a given person will usually list versions of his or her name in multiple languages. We automatically collected all available pairings of English versions of names with Japanese, Hebrew, Arabic, or Russian versions. We then applied a few heuristics to filter out noisy pairs, which we detail in the paper. (We initially collected data on titles of works as well, but they too frequently involved translation, not just transliteration.) In most names, the pronunciation of the last name is independent of the ﬁrst or middle names. So it makes sense to train a transliteration system on independent pairs of first names, last names, and so on. Wikidata doesn’t include separate tags for first, middle, and last names, but there are systematic correspondences between the positions of names in different transliterations. So we wrote some scripts that use those correspondences to extract pairs of one-name transliterations. For example, the English/Russian Wikidata label pair [“Amy Winehouse”, “Эми Уайнхаус”] would produce two data instances in our training set: [“Amy”, “Эми”] and [“Winehouse”, “Уайнхаус”]. The result was a dataset containing almost 400,000 one-name pairs. We then used our dataset to train several machine-learning systems, employing both traditional approaches and more recent neural approaches that have yielded strong results on machine translation tasks. We achieved the best results using the Transformer, a neural-network architecture that dispenses with some of the complexities of convolutional or recurrent networks and instead relies on attention mechanisms, which focus the network on particular aspects of the data passing through it…”
The Chronicle of Higher Education – “Every day, critics of the American president decry his penchant for “false or misleading claims,” while he and his supporters fire back with accusations of “fake news.” It’s no wonder those of us who teach are worried more than ever about information literacy. The flourishing of misperceptions makes it harder for us to do our jobs in the college classroom. Many faculty members believe a key part of our role is helping students understand and thrive in the world as it is. But to do that, don’t we need to find some kind of shared understanding of that world? To succeed in college and in life afterward, students need to be able to tell a truth from a falsehood. And clearly, that is not as easy as it seems. I would argue that, whatever your discipline, you should be teaching information literacy — the capacity to understand, assess, evaluate, and apply information to solve problems or answer questions — as part of your courses. It’s a necessary skill to teach, even if you don’t see educating students to navigate the outside world as part of your mission as an instructor. Here are ways to incorporate much-needed information literacy into your courses this fall…”
“The U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) is collaborating with the Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives, the Office of the Secretary of the Senate, and the Office of the Federal Register on parallel projects to convert a subset of enrolled bills, public laws, the Statutes at Large, the Federal Register, and the Code of Federal Regulations into United States Legislative Markup (USLM) XML. A draft of the United States Legislative USLM 2.0.0 schema, a schema review guide, and sample USLM XML files are now available for comment on GPO’s GitHub repository at https://github.com/usgpo/uslm/tree/proposed.”
The Verge – The open-source program is designed for security researchers: “Today, researchers at Trustwave released a new open-source tool called Social Mapper, which uses facial recognition to track subjects across social media networks. Designed for security researchers performing social engineering attacks, the system automatically locates profiles on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other networks based on a name and picture. Those searches can already be performed manually, but the automated process means it can be performed far faster and for many people at once. “Performing intelligence gathering online is a time-consuming process,” Trustwave explained in a post this morning. “What if it could be automated and done on a mass scale with hundreds or thousands of individuals?” Social Mapper doesn’t require API access to social networks, a restriction that has hampered social media tracking tools like Geofeedia. Instead, the system performs automated manual searches in an instrumented browser window, then uses facial recognition to scan through the first 10 to 20 results for a match. The manual searches mean the tool can be quite slow compared to API-based scans. The developer estimates that searching a target list of 1,000 people could take more than 15 hours. The end result is a spreadsheet of confirmed accounts for each name, perfect for targeted phishing campaigns or general intelligence gathering. Trustwave’s emphasis is on ethical hacking — using phishing techniques to highlight vulnerabilities that can then be fixed — but there are few restrictions on who can use the program. Social Mapper is licensed as free software, and it’s freely available on GitHub…”
Pew Research Center: “On the face of it, these should be heady times for American workers. U.S. unemployment is as low as it’s been in nearly two decades (3.9% as of July) and the nation’s private-sector employers have been adding jobs for 101 straight months – 19.5 million since the Great Recession-related cuts finally abated in early 2010, and 1.5 million just since the beginning of the year. But despite the strong labor market, wage growth has lagged economists’ expectations. In fact, despite some ups and downs over the past several decades, today’s real average wage (that is, the wage after accounting for inflation) has about the same purchasing power it did 40 years ago. And what wage gains there have been have mostly flowed to the highest-paid tier of workers. The disconnect between the job market and workers’ paychecks has fueled much of the recent activism in states and cities around raising minimum wages, and it also has become a factor in at least some of this year’s congressional campaigns. Average hourly earnings for non-management private-sector workers in July were $22.65, up 3 cents from June and 2.7% above the average wage from a year earlier, according to data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s in line with average wage growth over the past five years: Year-over-year growth has mostly ranged between 2% and 3% since the beginning of 2013. But in the years just before the 2007-08 financial collapse, average hourly earnings often increased by around 4% year-over-year. And during the high-inflation years of the 1970s and early 1980s, average wages commonly jumped 7%, 8% or even 9% year-over-year…”
U.S. Census Bureau – Computer and Internet Use in the United States: 2016 – “The presence and use of computers has grown considerably over the past few decades. In 1984, 8 percent of households reported owning a computer according to the Current Population Survey (CPS). Over half of adults who said they used a computer at home in 1984, 59 percent reported they were learning how to use it. Adults used computers for a limited number of activities such as word processing, video games, and jobs. By 2015, however, the percentage of households with a computer had increased almost tenfold to 79 percent in the CPS. In 2016, the American Community Survey (ACS) found that 89 percent of households had a computer, making it a common feature of everyday life. Nowadays, people use computers for an even wider range of uses including online banking, entertainment, socializing, and accessing health care…Highlights From the Report
- Among all households in 2016, 89 percent had a computer, which includes smartphones, and 81 percent had a broadband Internet subscription.
- In 2016, the U.S. Census Bureau measured smartphone ownership or use and tablets separately for the first time, in addition to more traditional desktop or laptop computers. Seventy-six percent of households had a smartphone, and 58 percent of households had a tablet, but desktop or laptop computers still led the way with use by 77 percent of households.
- Smartphone use has become common among younger households (headed by people under age 45), households headed by Blacks or Hispanics, and households with low incomes (under $25,000) where smartphones were more prevalent than traditional laptop and desktop computers. Households headed by Hispanics were more likely to have a smartphone than households headed by non-Hispanic Whites.
- A small percentage of households have smartphones but no other type of computer for connecting to the Internet. These “smartphone only” households were more likely to be low income, Black or Hispanic.
- Nearly half of all households (48 percent) have “high connectivity”—a term used here to refer to households with a laptop or desktop computer, a smartphone, a tablet, and a broadband Internet connection. High connectivity ranged from 80 percent of households with an income of $150,000 or more, to 21 percent of households with an income under $25,000.
- Households with an Asian householder were most likely to own or use a desktop or laptop, own or use a smartphone, own or use a table and have a broadband Internet subscription.
- Households in metropolitan areas were more likely to report owning or using each type of computer—desktop or laptop, a smartphone, or a tablet, and subscribing to broadband Internet compared to their nonmetropolitan counterparts.
- States on the Pacific Coast and most states in the Northeast had higher levels of broadband Internet compared to the national average. Washington had the highest rate of broadband subscriptions (87 percent), while Arkansas and Mississippi had the lowest (71 percent)…”
Tech Foresight: “A dashboard of 100 wonderful, weird (and possibly worrying) ways the world might change in the foreseeable future. The purpose of this publication is to make individuals and institutions future ready. Also, to make people think, at least periodically. It is a mixture of prediction and provocation intended to stimulate debate, but be aware that other elements should always be considered when assessing potential impact, especially the wider psychological and regulatory landscape in which technologies exist. Most importantly, the technologies highlighted on this table appear without any discussion of moral or ethical factors. Generally speaking, no technology should be used unless it improves the human condition and with potentially disruptive technologies always remember that “with great power comes great responsibility”. (There are various attributions for this quote ranging from Spiderman, Dr Spock, Yoda, Churchill, Roosevelt and possibly the French Revolution). Each of the 100 technologies has been subjectively categorised according to five broad themes, which are:
- Data Ecosystems
- Smart Planet
- Extreme Automation
- Human Augmentation
- Human-Machine Interactions..”
- Imperial Tech Foresight…”
CRS report via FAS: Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Education, August 1, 2018: “Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Education Educational tools enabled by AI have recently attracted attention for their potential to improve education quality and enhance traditional teaching and learning methods. Although there is no single consensus definition, AI generally allows computers to perform tasks that are conventionally thought to require human intelligence. Congress may consider the benefits and risks of AI in classrooms, including the impact of AI on issues such as student data privacy, teacher preparation, and technology development and procurement. Current Applications of AI in Classrooms. Today, both startups and established companies seek to integrate AI into marketable products. In some cases, AI performs functions independently of teachers, while in others it augments teaching capabilities. Applications of AI-based education technology include the following:
- Tutoring. AI programs commonly referred to as Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITS) or adaptive tutors engage students in dialogue, answer questions, and provide feedback.
- Personalizing Learning. ITS and adaptive tutors tailor learning material, pace, sequence, and difficulty to each student’s needs. AI can also provide support for special needs students, for instance by teaching autistic children to identify facial expressions.T
- Testing. Computer adaptive assessments adjust the difficulty of successive questions based on the accuracy of the student’s answers, enabling more precise identification of a student’s mastery level.
- Automating Tasks. AI can perform routine tasks such as taking attendance, grading assignments, and generating test questions.
- As well, at least one public school district has partnered with a university to provide a K-12 AI program aimed at teaching students AI concepts and technologies…”
Rockefeller Institute- Robert J. Spitzer “Many knowledgeable Florida political observers were shocked when the state legislature passed, and Republican Governor Rick Scott signed in March, a modest gun-control measure that included raising the purchase age for firearms from eighteen to twenty-one, banning bump stocks, and giving police greater power to seize weapons from those deemed mentally unfit. Political observers were surprised both because Scott and the legislature have been closely allied with the National Rifle Association (NRA), and because Florida has long been the NRA’s testing ground for gun-friendly measures. Chief among them was Florida’s enactment of a beefed-up stand-your-ground law in 2005. Under the 2005 Florida law and ones like it, a person who has harmed or killed another in a public place can presumptively claim self-defense to avoid prosecution or make conviction far less likely. In so doing, police must accept the claim’s validity. That is, the individual need only assert the belief that the use of force was necessary to prevent serious harm or death. Coupled with that is special legal protection making the person (as the Florida law says) “immune from criminal prosecution and civil action.” Prosecution is still possible, but much more difficult..
A study of Florida murders reported in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2017 found a 75 percent increase in justifiable homicides in the state after enactment of its stand-your-ground law from the period of 2006-2015, as compared with state homicides between 1995 and 2005...
Management Report: Actions Needed to Improve National Nuclear Security Administration Contract Document Management. GAO-18-246R: Published: Aug 1, 2018. Publicly Released: Aug 1, 2018.
“The National Nuclear Security Administration spent over $11 billion in 2016 on management and operating contracts at the federal sites that maintain the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal, among other things. We found that NNSA was unable to promptly locate key contract documents, which NNSA officials need to effectively oversee these contracts, and justify awarding millions of federal dollars. We recommended that NNSA take steps to provide more timely and complete access to management and operating contract documents.”
Wired: “Miriam Adelson is an accomplished physician who has published around a hundred research papers on the physiology and treatment of addiction. She also runs a high-profile substance-abuse clinic in Las Vegas. Oh, and she’s the publisher of Israel’s largest newspaper and, with her billionaire husband Sheldon, a philanthropist and influential Republican party donor. Yet Wikipedia does not have an entry for her. Adelson was among thousands of names flagged by Quicksilver, a software tool by San Francisco startup Primer designed to help Wikipedia editors fill in blind spots in the crowdsourced encyclopedia. Its under representation of women in science is a particular target. The world’s fifth-most-visited website has a long-running problem with gender bias: Only 18 percent of its biographies are of women. Surveys estimate that between 84 and 90 percent of Wikipedia editors are male. Quicksilver uses machine-learning algorithms to scour news articles and scientific citations to find notable scientists missing from Wikipedia, and then write fully sourced draft entries for them…”
Real Clear Health: “Americans are willing to share personal data — even sensitive medical data — to advance the common good. A recent Stanford University study found that 93 percent of medical trial participants in the United States are willing to share their medical data with university scientists and 82 percent are willing to share with scientists at for-profit companies. In contrast, less than a third are concerned that their data might be stolen or used for marketing purposes. However, the majority of regulations surrounding medical data focus on individuals’ ability to restrict the use of their medical data, with scant attention paid to supporting the ability to share personal data for the common good. Policymakers can begin to right this balance by establishing a national medical data donor registry that lets individuals contribute their medical data to support research after their deaths. Doing so would help medical researchers pursue cures and improve health care outcomes for all Americans…”
Via Mary Whisner – Research Services Librarian- Gallagher Law Library, Univ. of Washington School of Law – “I came across theses from the University of Nevada Reno’s graduate program in judicial studies and thought I’d share. The Judicial Studies Graduate Degree Program has been carefully designed to accommodate the busy schedules and demands facing judicial officers. Our model provides the flexibility necessary for judges to complete their degrees while maintaining full time employment and also provides unsurpassed opportunities to learn from and network with expert faculty and judicial colleagues. Although the University confers the degrees, the program operates in collaboration with the National Judicial College (NJC) and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) to offer a broad range of core and elective courses for our students. Further, program faculty are drawn from institutions from across the country, including the University of Nevada, Reno; University of California, Berkeley; University of Virginia; University of Minnesota; NJC and NCJFCJ; and others. Each is a recognized expert in his or her field (e.g., law, medicine, social science, literature, economics, media, etc.) with extensive experience teaching advanced students and judicial officers. So far, 25 theses are posted, with dates from 2013 to 2018. Topics vary. Some are historical; others are empirical. Many look interesting. The first one I came across was in Google Scholar and ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global, so it’s not like you’d never find these if you were looking for a specific topic. But it’s nice to be able to browse. For instance, I saw a study of juvenile diversion programs written by the Juvenile Corrections Manager of a nearby county, and sent the link along to our folks who are interested in juvenile justice. I wouldn’t have gone out looking for that specific study, but was happy to see it when I did.”
WSJ.com [paywall – try this link via Twitter – please read – it is timely, meaningful and good] – The LeBron James Interview About Bicycles – “LeBron James is arguably the world’s greatest basketball player. He’s also a serious cyclist, and he’s giving every student at his new school a bicycle in part because it changed his own life when he was a kid. In an interview with Jason Gay, the NBA superstar holds court about bikes. Note per the author – “I spoke to LeBron James about bicycles on Friday. This was a few hours before President Trump decided to go onto Twitterto challenge James’s intellect, which was more than a little absurd. James is not a Trump fan—to say the least—but this was a week in which the NBA superstar helped open a brand-new public school for at-risk children in his Akron, Ohio, hometown, pledging a University of Akron scholarship to every student who graduates…
“Me and my friends, when we got on our bikes, we would just ride,” he recalled. “Sometimes we would even get lost, because we’d be gone for so long. But there was a sense of joy and comfort. There was nothing that really could stop us. We felt like we were on top of the world.” “It was a way of life. If you had a bike, it was a way to kind of let go and be free.”
[Appeared in the August 6, 2018, print edition as ‘What Bikes Mean to LeBron James.’]
“We are all in denial, some of the time at least. Part of being human, and living in a society with other humans, is finding clever ways to express – and conceal – our feelings. From the most sophisticated diplomatic language to the baldest lie, humans find ways to deceive. Deceptions are not necessarily malign; at some level they are vital if humans are to live together with civility. As Richard Sennett has argued: “In practising social civility, you keep silent about things you know clearly but which you should not and do not say. Just as we can suppress some aspects of ourselves in our self-presentation to others, so we can do the same to ourselves in acknowledging or not acknowledging what we desire. Most of the time, we spare ourselves from the torture of recognising our baser yearnings. But when does this necessary private self-deception become harmful? When it becomes public dogma. In other words: when it becomes denialism. Denialism is an expansion, an intensification, of denial. At root, denial and denialism are simply a subset of the many ways humans have developed to use language to deceive others and themselves. Denial can be as simple as refusing to accept that someone else is speaking truthfully. Denial can be as unfathomable as the multiple ways we avoid acknowledging our weaknesses and secret desires. Denialism is more than just another manifestation of the humdrum intricacies of our deceptions and self-deceptions. It represents the transformation of the everyday practice of denial into a whole new way of seeing the world and – most important – a collective accomplishment. Denial is furtive and routine; denialism is combative and extraordinary. Denial hides from the truth, denialism builds a new and better truth…”
Do a robot’s social skills and its objection discourage interactants from switching the robot off?. Aike C. Horstmann, Nikolai Bock, Eva Linhuber, Jessica M. Szczuka, Carolin Straßmann, Nicole C. Krämer. PLOS .Published: July 31, 2018 https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0201581
“Building on the notion that people respond to media as if they were real, switching off a robot which exhibits lifelike behavior implies an interesting situation. In an experimental lab study with a 2×2 between-subjects-design (N = 85), people were given the choice to switch off a robot with which they had just interacted. The style of the interaction was either social (mimicking human behavior) or functional (displaying machinelike behavior). Additionally, the robot either voiced an objection against being switched off or it remained silent. Results show that participants rather let the robot stay switched on when the robot objected. After the functional interaction, people evaluated the robot as less likeable, which in turn led to a reduced stress experience after the switching off situation. Furthermore, individuals hesitated longest when they had experienced a functional interaction in combination with an objecting robot. This unexpected result might be due to the fact that the impression people had formed based on the task-focused behavior of the robot conflicted with the emotional nature of the objection.”
Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse: “The push to prioritize prosecuting illegal border crossers has begun to impact the capacity of federal prosecutors to enforce other federal laws. In March 2018, immigration prosecutions dominated so that in the five federal districts along the southwest border only one in seven prosecutions (14%) were for any non-immigration crimes. But by June 2018, this ratio had shrunk so just one in seventeen prosecutions (6%) were for anything other than immigration offenses. Federal prosecutors are responsible for enforcing a wide range of important federal laws – designed to combat narcotics trafficking and weapons offenses, battle those polluting air and water, counter corporate and other schemes to defraud the public, and much more. There is a combined population in these five southwest border districts of close to 30 million people. However, the number of prosecutions for committing any non-immigration crimes dwindled from a total of 1,093 in March 2018 to just 703 prosecutions in June 2018. Meanwhile, immigration prosecutions continue to climb. The latest available case-by-case records for June 2018 reveal a total of 11,086 new federal prosecutions were brought as a result of referrals from Customs and Border Protection in the five federal judicial districts along the southwest border. June numbers were up 20.3 percent from the 9,216 such prosecutions recorded during May, and up 74.1 percent over March figures. Despite this increase, only 46 percent of all Border Patrol arrests of adults in June were criminally prosecuted. The number of families arrested by the Border Patrol showed little indication of materially dropping. Numbers have remained quite similar during April, May and June. This meant that Border Patrol officials still had to pick and choose which adults to refer to federal prosecutors, and which adults not to criminally prosecute.”
- To read the full report, including additional details by district, go to: http://trac.syr.edu/immigration/reports/524/
Varsava, Nina, The Citeable Opinion: A Quantitative Analysis of the Style and Impact of Judicial Decisions (July 8, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3197209 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3197209
“Many commentators surmise a relationship between the style of judicial opinions and their legal impact or precedential power. However, little empirical work has been done to explore this relationship quantitatively. If writing style matters legally we should expect elements of style to vary systematically with a given decision’s uptake in subsequent decisions. Studying the relationship between style and citations can put that hypothesis to the test, and can help illuminate how and to what extent style matters to the law. I employ methods of computational textual analysis and natural language processing to uncover patterns between legal impact and stylistic features such as certainty, informality, and suspense. I derived my stylistic features of interest from the literature on judicial writing and measured their frequency or density in a sample of federal appellate opinions. I then investigated the relationship between these features and the number of cases that cite the decision. My results, generated from a series of regression analyses, suggest that readily measurable elements of style have strong associations with a decision’s precedential power. Qualities such as deference, lengthiness, and hesitancy are all positively associated with citation counts, whereas qualities such as certainty, suspense, and informality are negatively associated with citations. In general, the more citeable opinions are those that are relatively dull and legalistic in terms of style.”
Public Domain Review: “Although best known for developing the practical telephone — for which he became the first, in 1876, to secure a US patent — the Scottish-born inventor Alexander Graham Bell is also noted for his work in aerodynamics, a rather more photogenic endeavour perhaps, as evidenced by the wonderful imagery documenting his experiments with tetrahedral kites. The series of photographs depict Bell and his colleagues demonstrating and testing out a number of different kite designs, all based upon the tetrahedral structure, to whose pyramid-shaped cells Bell was drawn as they could share joints and spars and so crucially lessen the weight-to-surface area ratio. The juxtaposition of the era’s expected array of suits and somewhat stilted poses, with the stark geometry of these complex abstract structures — which at times look as if born from some new mathematics of a future or alien civilisation — often lend the images a touch of the uncanny, almost anachronistic. This is particularly so in some of the offerings from the National Geographic, painting onto the photographs as they have to emphasise even more the crisp lines and geometric shapes of the unusual structures. Bell began his experiments with tetrahedral box kites in 1898, eventually developing elaborate structures comprised of multiple compound tetrahedral kites covered in maroon silk, constructed with the aim of carrying a human through the air. Named Cygnet I, II, and III (for they took off from water) these enormous tetrahedral beings were flown both unmanned and manned during a five year period from 1907 until 1912. The delightful images [in this article] have mainly been sourced from three places: Bell’s own private journals, which meticulously log his progress not only with text but also with numerous photographs pasted into the pages (from 1903–104); a couple of articles (from 1903 and 1907) in the National Geographic Magazine; and the Bulletin of his Aerial Experiment Association, which he led from its beginning in 1907 until it disbanded in 1909…”