Law and Legal
Times Insider explains who we are and what we do, and delivers behind-the-scenes insights into how our journalism comes together. “Christopher Payne, the industrial and architectural photographer whose last project for The Times Magazine’s Future of Work issue was about nine people who love their jobs, has made more than 40 trips over the last two years to photograph the College Point plant. Mr. Payne’s sense of wonder at what he found there is clear in his photo essay for this weekend’s special section, “The Daily Miracle,” which showcases his photos of the people, presses and metal plates that make The Times and deliver it around the city.”…Mr. Payne’s photographs at the College Point plant capture the blur of up to 80,000 newspapers per hour running through the factory — the daily New York Times, and other papers including USA Today and AM New York…The manager at College Point, Mike Connors, has been with The Times for 43 years; he’s the fourth generation of his family to work in the production of the paper. He checks in with the newsroom nearly every day, and will adjust the presses if changes come in: late-breaking stories, or updates on big stories like New Zealand’s gun control laws or basketball scores.
On a (very) recent visit, Mr. Payne watched “The Daily Miracle” section itself being spun off the rollers. He doesn’t believe print will last forever. “There were guys in the pressroom who were watching photos of themselves being printed,” he said, “They have been working there for 20, 30 or more years, and this was the first time they were honored in this way.”..”
“The Constitution vests Congress with the legislative power, which includes authority to establish federal agencies and conduct oversight of those entities. Criminal investigations and prosecutions, however, are generally regarded as core executive functions assigned to the executive branch. Because of the potential conflicts of interest that may arise when the executive branch investigates itself, there have often been calls for criminal investigations by prosecutors with independence from the executive branch. In response, Congress and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) have used both statutory and regulatory mechanisms to establish a process for such inquiries. These frameworks have aimed to balance the competing goals of independence and accountability with respect to inquiries of executive branch officials…”
Secrecy News: “By refusing to disclose his tax returns, President Trump has breached — and may have demolished — the longstanding norm under which sitting presidents and presidential candidates are expected to voluntarily disclose their federal tax returns. At the same time, there is reason to think that new norms of disclosure can be created. The conditions under which Congress could legally obtain President Trump’s federal tax returns were reviewed in a new assessment from the Congressional Research Service.
CRS “analyzes the ability of a congressional committee to obtain the President’s tax returns under provisions of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC); whether the President or the Treasury Secretary might have a legal basis for denying a committee request for the returns; and, if a committee successfully acquires the returns, whether those returns legally could be disclosed to the public.” See Congressional Access to the President’s Federal Tax Returns, CRS Legal Sidebar, March 15, 2019.”
“Nearly two-thirds of the Lower 48 states face an elevated risk for flooding through May, with the potential for major or moderate flooding in 25 states, according to NOAA’s U.S. Spring Outlook issued today. The majority of the country is favored to experience above-average precipitation this spring, increasing the flood risk.
Portions of the United States – especially in the upper Mississippi and Missouri River basins including Nebraska, Minnesota and Iowa – have already experienced record flooding this year. This early flooding was caused by rapid snow melt combined with heavy spring rain and late season snowfall in areas where soil moisture is high. In some areas, ice jams are exacerbating the flooding. Offices across the National Weather Service have been working with local communities, providing decision-support services and special briefings to emergency managers and other leaders in local, state and federal government to ensure the highest level of readiness before the flooding began.
Additional spring rain and melting snow will prolong and expand flooding, especially in the central and southern U.S. As this excess water flows downstream through the river basins, the flood threat will become worse and geographically more widespread…”
“Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology joined forces to award $750,000 to seven organizations, including ones that help detect deepfakes and promote open access of government data. Last week, Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society and the MIT Media Lab announced seven winners of their first “AI and the News: An Open Challenge” competition. Each winner received a grant to help with the development of technology platforms that address the problem of misinformation in society. Read more at LegalTech News…” [Alternate source, no paywall]
Google blog: “In the last year our News Lab has trained nearly 300,000 journalists in person and online around the world on digital tools for journalism, with a goal to reach 500,000 journalists by 2020. We’ve partnered with the International Fact Check Network and dozens of newsrooms worldwide to quell the spread of misinformation, especially during key times like elections. We’ve supported initiatives like Verificado in Mexico, Comprova in Brazil, CekFakta in Indonesia, FactCheckEU and the journalist training network in India, which included over 100 newsrooms and reached thousands of journalists ahead of key elections—there’s more to come in Australia and Argentina. We’re working with First Draft on their CrossCheck tool, which helps journalists debunk and share information across the world—they’ve already trained hundreds of journalists ahead of the EU elections…”
We’ll soon be launching two tools to help fact checkers work more efficiently and effectively. The Fact Check Markup tool makes it easy for reporters to put structured data markup into their fact checking content using the open standard ClaimReview, and the Fact Check Explorer helps journalists find fact checking articles for various topics through a simple search function. We’re also opening up APIs for these tools to help developers build their own applications to assist fact checkers across the world…”
The New York Times: ““The Wall Street Journal plans to join a new paid subscription news service run by Apple, according to two people familiar with the plans, as other publishers chafe at the terms that the Silicon Valley company is demanding of its partners,” Mike Isaac reports for The New York Times.
“Other major publishers, including The New York Times and The Washington Post, have opted out of joining the subscription service, said the people, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the plans,” Isaac reports. “Apple and The Wall Street Journal plan to announce the deal Monday at a media event at Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. The event is intended to draw attention to the company’s bet on news and entertainment, including a streaming service that will put Apple in direct competition with Netflix, Amazon and HBO.”
“The service, described by some as a ‘Netflix for news,’ will offer access to a new paid tier of the Apple News app. Through that tier, readers will be able to consume articles from hundreds of participating magazines and news outlets,” Isaac reports. “The app’s free tier will still let people read a smattering of select articles from a wide variety of publishers.”…
“This is the 7th World Happiness Report. The first was released in April 2012 in support of a UN High level meeting on “Wellbeing and Happiness: Defining a New Economic Paradigm”. That report presented the available global data on national happiness and reviewed related evidence from the emerging science of happiness, showing that the quality of people’s lives can be coherently, reliably, and validly assessed by a variety of subjective well-being measures, collectively referred to then and in subsequent reports as “happiness.” Each report includes updated evaluations and a range of commissioned chapters on special topics digging deeper into the science of well-being, and on happiness in specific countries and regions. Often there is a central theme. This year we focus on happiness and community: how happiness has been changing over the past dozen years, and how information technology, governance and social norms influence communities. The world is a rapidly changing place. Among the fastest changing aspects are those relating to how people communicate and interact with each other, whether in their schools and workplaces, their neighbourhoods, or in far-flung parts of the world. In last year’s report, we studied migration as one important source of global change, finding that each country’s life circumstances, including the social context and political institutions were such important sources of happiness that the international ranking of migrant happiness was almost identical to that of the native born. This evidence made a powerful case that the large international differences in life evaluations are driven by the differences in how people connect with each other and with their shared institutions and social norms…”
“When Americans peer 30 years into the future, they see a country in decline economically, politically and on the world stage. While a narrow majority of the public (56%) say they are at least somewhat optimistic about America’s future, hope gives way to doubt when the focus turns to specific issues. A new Pew Research Center survey focused on what Americans think the United States will be like in 2050 finds that majorities of Americans foresee a country with a burgeoning national debt, a wider gap between the rich and the poor and a workforce threatened by automation. Majorities predict that the economy will be weaker, health care will be less affordable, the condition of the environment will be worse and older Americans will have a harder time making ends meet than they do now. Also predicted: a terrorist attack as bad as or worse than 9/11 sometime over the next 30 years.
These grim predictions mirror, in part, the public’s sour mood about the current state of the country. The share of Americans who are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country – seven-in-ten in January of 2019 – is higher now than at any time in the past year…”
Krebs on Security – “Hundreds of millions of Facebook users had their account passwords stored in plain text and searchable by thousands of Facebook employees — in some cases going back to 2012, KrebsOnSecurity has learned. Facebook says an ongoing investigation has so far found no indication that employees have abused access to this data.
Facebook is probing a series of security failures in which employees built applications that logged unencrypted password data for Facebook users and stored it in plain text on internal company servers. That’s according to a senior Facebook employee who is familiar with the investigation and who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.
The Facebook source said the investigation so far indicates between 200 million and 600 million Facebook users may have had their account passwords stored in plain text and searchable by more than 20,000 Facebook employees. The source said Facebook is still trying to determine how many passwords were exposed and for how long, but so far the inquiry has uncovered archives with plain text user passwords in them dating back to 2012..”
“The recent sentencing of Paul Manafort by federal judges in two different district courts has renewed interest in the sentencing practices of individual judges. Countless studies over the years have documented a basic fact: while decisions should be determined by the law and the facts, in reality there is a third very important force at work. This ingredient is the identity of the judge assigned to a given case. Again and again, court records show that the particular predilections of individual judges influence the legal decisions that they reach, including those involving sentences. The record of Judge Thomas Selby Ellis III who sentenced Manafort on March 7 contrasts somewhat with that of Judge Amy Berman Jackson who serves on the District of Columbia court and sentenced Manafort in a separate case on March 13, six days later. Court records further show that the sentencing patterns at the two courthouses also differ.
In a just completed study of judge sentencing differences at 155 federal courthouses across the country the judge with the lowest average prison sentence was compared with the judge with the highest average sentence at each courthouse. Based upon case-by-case sentencing records, the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University found that half of federal judges served at courthouse where the average prison sentence differed by at least 23 months depending upon which judge handled the case. Sixty-six of these judges served at six courthouses where the average prison sentence length differed by more than 48 months. The Orlando courthouse in the Middle District of Florida with seven judges had a range of over 80 months between the judge with the shortest versus the longest average prison sentence. This was followed by the Greenbelt courthouse in Maryland with over 64 months difference among the seven judges serving there.
The existence of judge-to-judge differences in sentences of course is not synonymous with finding unwarranted disparity in sentencing practices. A key requirement for achieving justice is that the judges in a court system have sufficient discretion to consider the totality of circumstances in deciding that a sentence in a specific case is just. No set of rules, including the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, can substitute for this necessary flexibility. But a fair court system always seeks to provide equal justice under the law, working to ensure that sentencing patterns of judges not be widely different when they are handling similar kinds of cases. To examine current sentencing differences at each of the 155 federal courthouses included in the study, read the full report at: https://trac.syr.edu/tracreports/judge/552/.”
Gizmodo: “A recent experiment by Josh Frantz, a senior security consultant at Rapid7, suggests that users are taking few if any steps to protect their private information before releasing their used devices back out into the wild. For around six months, he collected used desktop, hard disks, cellphones and more from pawn shops near his home in Wisconsin. It turned out they contain a wealth of private data belonging to their former owners, including a ton of personally identifiable information (PII)—the bread and butter of identity theft.
Frantz amassed a respectable stockpile of refurbished, donated, and used hardware: 41 desktops and laptops, 27 pieces of removable media (memory cards and flash drives), 11 hard disks, and six cellphones. The total cost of the experiment was a lot less than you’d imagine. “I visited a total of 31 businesses and bought whatever I could get my hands on for a grand total of around $600,” he said.
Frantz used a Python-based optical character recognition (OCR) tool to scan for Social Security numbers, dates of birth, credit card information, and other sensitive data. And the result was, as you might expect, not good.
The pile of junk turned out to contain 41 Social Security numbers, 50 dates of birth, 611 email accounts, 19 credit card numbers, two passport numbers, and six driver’s license numbers. Additionally, more than 200,000 images were contained on the devices and over 3,400 documents. He also extracted nearly 150,000 emails…”
Go on – admit it – you still use this product after even after all these years (fill in the blank) – I also still use that nifty correction tape roller – Via The Atlantic: Correction fluids have improbably outlasted the typewriter and survived the rise of the digital office. “…The sticky, white fluid and its chief rival, Liquid Paper, are peculiar anachronisms, throwbacks to the era of big hair, big cars, and big office stationery budgets. They were designed to help workers correct errors they made on typewriters without having to retype documents from the start. But typewriters have disappeared from the modern office, relegated to attics and museums. Even paper is disappearing from the modern office, as more and more functions are digitized. But correction fluids are not only surviving—they appear to be thriving, with Wite-Out sales climbing nearly 10 percent in 2017, according to the most recent public numbers. It’s a mystery of the digital age…[and we do all appreciate mysteries…]
The Guardian – The UK Intellectual Property Office estimates that 17% of ebooks are consumed illegally. “…The UK government’s Intellectual Property Office estimates that 17% of ebooks are consumed illegally. Generally, pirates tend to be from better-off socioeconomic groups, and aged between 30 and 60. Many use social media to ask for tips when their regular piracy website is shut down; when I contacted some, those who responded always justified it by claiming they were too poor to buy books – then tell me they read them on their e-readers, smartphones or computer screens – or that their areas lacked libraries, or they found it hard to locate books in the countries where they lived. Some felt embarrassed. Others blamed greedy authors for trying to stop them.
When we asked Guardian readers to tell us about their experiences with piracy, we had more than 130 responses from readers aged between 20 and 70. Most regularly downloaded books illegally and while some felt guilty – more than one said they only pirated “big names” and when “the author isn’t on the breadline, think Lee Child” – the majority saw nothing wrong in the practice. “Reading an author’s work is a greater compliment than ignoring it,” said one, while others claimed it was part of a greater ethos of equality, that “culture should be free to all”…”
The website everyone uses to follow the Mueller probe is a hopeless, costly disaster. By Seamus Hughes, deputy director of George Washington University’s Program on Extremism. He also runs a company providing services on navigating the federal court records system.
“Every day, dozens of hungry reporters lurk inside something called PACER, the online records system for America’s federal courts. These days, they’re mostly looking for the latest scraps of intel on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian inference into the 2016 presidential election. And everyone, from lawyers to researchers to activists, uses the system to find similar criminal cases, track the latest arrests of terrorism suspects or argue for sentencing reform. But I’m here to tell you that PACER—Public Access to Court Electronic Records—is a judicially approved scam. The very name is misleading: Limiting the public’s access by charging hefty fees, it has been a scam since it was launched and, barring significant structural changes, will be a scam forever…”
ZDNet: “A database containing 257,287 legal documents, with some marked as “not designated for publication,” was left exposed on the public internet without a password, allowing anyone to access and download a treasure trove of sensitive legal materials. The database, which was left online for roughly two weeks, contained unpublished legal documents relating to US court cases, the security researcher who found it told ZDNet. “Cases are from 2002-2010 era, from all over the [US] States,” Bob Diachenko, Cyber Threat Intelligence Director for Security Discovery told ZDNet today in an interview. The leaked files are documents usually exchanged between lawyers and the court before filing official versions. The database contained both public and non-public versions alike, showing a full history of how some cases evolved…”
Washington Post: “As you toil away on your computers and other devices day after day, how many gigabytes of data are you churning out each year in the form of photos, financial records, creative endeavors and other priceless digital files? More importantly, what if the computer or external drive where all those files are stored suddenly dies? Unfortunately, mechanical drives last only about five to 10 years with normal wear and tear. Flash drives and newer solid-state drives have no moving parts, but their chips live only so long. Drives and devices also get dropped and run over. People mistakenly delete files and accidentally re-format their drive. Viruses and failed upgrades and installs corrupt data. So what do you do when your data suddenly goes poof? Don’t panic. Lost data can probably be recovered, though it can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars. Here’s what to do if disaster strikes — and how to avoid it in the first place…”
EAB: “Whether you’re a president, department head, or academic advisor, you need strong communication skills to be a successful campus leader. Communication is an integral part of every professional’s daily life. “In 2019, we Slack, ping, text, Zoom, email, call, and meet face-to-face,” career expert Jill Jacinto tells Jillian Kramer at Glassdoor. “No matter which method you use, you’ll need to develop an appropriate method to interact with your [coworkers, students, or] employees.” Strong communication skills can also set you apart from your peers, says career coach Hallie Crawford. “How well you communicate impacts efficiency, effectiveness, trust between employees, your brand, and how you come across as a professional, and much more,” says Crawford. Based on her conversations with Jacinto and Crawford, Kramer rounds up the seven essential communication skills every leader, manager, and employee needs to know. [h/t Lea Wade]
“Established in 1964, The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species has evolved to become the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global conservation status of animal, fungi and plant species. The IUCN Red List is a critical indicator of the health of the world’s biodiversity. Far more than a list of species and their status, it is a powerful tool to inform and catalyze action for biodiversity conservation and policy change, critical to protecting the natural resources we need to survive. It provides information about range, population size, habitat and ecology, use and/or trade, threats, and conservation actions that will help inform necessary conservation decisions.” Learn more about The IUCN Red List [h/t Pete Weiss]
- Start an advanced search by selecting criteria options. For example, view all regions, view all species in the Mammalia taxonomy, Grassland habitat, or all species that are Near Threatened. Or, draw a geographic outline straight onto the map.
“Many people in OECD countries believe public services and social benefits are inadequate and hard to reach. More than half say they do not receive their fair share of benefits given the taxes they pay, and two-thirds believe others get more than they deserve. Nearly three out of four people say they want their government to do more to protect their social and economic security. These are among the findings of a new OECD survey, “Risks that Matter”, which asked over 22,000 people aged 18 to 70 years old in 21 countries about their worries and concerns and how well they think their government helps them tackle social and economic risks.This nationally representative survey finds that falling ill and not being able to make ends meet are often at the top of people’s lists of immediate concerns. Making ends meet is a particularly common worry for those on low incomes and in countries that were hit hard by the financial crisis. Older people are most often worried about their health, while younger people are frequently concerned with securing adequate housing. When asked about the longer-term, across all countries, getting by in old age is the most commonly cited worry…
In every country surveyed except Canada, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands, most people say that their government does not incorporate the views of people like them when designing social policy…”