Law and Legal
MIT Technology Review: “Your smartphone’s AI algorithms could tell if you are depressed. Smartphones that are used to track our faces and voices could also help lower the barrier to mental-health diagnosis and treatment. Depression is a huge problem for millions of people, and it is often compounded by poor mental-health support and stigma. Early diagnosis can help, but many mental disorders are difficult to detect. The machine-learning algorithms that let smartphones identify faces or respond to our voices could help provide a universal and low-cost way of spotting the early signs and getting treatment where it’s needed. In a study carried out by a team at Stanford University, scientists found that face and speech software can identify signals of depression with reasonable accuracy. The researchers fed video footage of depressed and non-depressed people into a machine-learning model that was trained to learn from a combination of signals: facial expressions, voice tone, and spoken words. The data was collected from interviews in which a patient spoke to an avatar controlled by a physician. In testing, it was able to detect whether someone was depressed more than 80% of the time. The research was led by Fei-Fei Li, a prominent AI expert who recently returned to Stanford from Google. While the new work is at an early stage, the researchers suggest that it could someday provide an easier way for people to get diagnosed and helped…”
The Marshall Project -“Mothers and fathers who have a child placed in foster care because they are incarcerated — but who have not been accused of child abuse, neglect, endangerment, or even drug or alcohol use — are more likely to have their parental rights terminated than those who physically or sexually assault their kids, according to a Marshall Project analysis of approximately 3 million child-welfare cases nationally…In about 1 in 8 of these cases, incarcerated parents lose their parental rights, regardless of the seriousness of their offenses, according to the analysis of records maintained by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services between 2006 and 2016. That rate has held steady over time. Female prisoners, whose children are five times more likely than those of male inmates to end up in foster care, have their rights taken away most often…”
Oxford University Press Blog: “The run-up to the recent mid-term elections saw commentators across the political spectrum claiming that “words matter.” Much of this was in response to violent acts – in particular the Pittsburgh Synagogue massacre and the pipe bombs sent to Democrats – that some argued was a consequence of Donald Trump’s rhetoric. Words always matter of course. But due to the timing and the stakes – in this instance, an upcoming mid-term election of considerable consequence – it turned into a literal war of words. Language was weaponized to an extent not seen before. But how do words matter? The White House claims President Trump bears no responsibility for the violent actions of the Pittsburgh shooter or the Florida pipe-bomber, even though both appear to have been followers of the president. It is true that Trump has never directly issued a command, or even a request, for his followers to perform a violent act, although he has sometimes come close, such as when he told a crowd in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, that they should knock the crap out of anyone planning to throw tomatoes and that he’d pay their legal fees.
But as advertisers, attorneys and other professional persuaders are aware, language can be used to influence the actions of others in more subtle ways. The relationship between language and reality is multi-faceted. For example, people can use their words to alter reality by explicitly directing the actions of others (e.g., “Send pipe bombs to my critics”). In speech act theory these expressions are referred to as directives, and the speaker is on-record for having made such a command or request. But the relationship between language and reality is more complex than this. Sometimes, for example, words by their very nature can alter reality, such as when a minister pronounces a couple man and wife, or when an umpire declares a pitch to have been a strike. In speech act theory these expressions are termed declaratives and their use is tightly governed (e.g., not everyone can perform a marriage)…”
Scientific American – A new report documents suppression of science, denial of climate change, the silencing and intimidation of staff: “…In a new report, Science Under Siege at the Department of the Interior, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has documented some of the most egregious and anti-science policies and practices at the DOI under Secretary Zinke. The report describes suppression of science, denial of climate change, the silencing and intimidation of agency staff, and attacks on science-based laws that help protect our nation’s world-class wildlife and habitats. It is a damning report and required reading for anyone who values public lands, wildlife, cultural heritage, and health and safety. It would be impossible to cover everything this clumsy political wrecking crew is up to, but the report provides details on the most prominent actions that deserve greater scrutiny, such as: the largest reduction in public lands protection in our nation’s history; a systematic failure to acknowledge or act on climate change; unprecedented constraints on the funding and communication of science; and a blatant disregard for public health and safety.
Why is this administration so scared of science? Why cancel a study into the health effects of mountaintop removal coal mining so soon after lifting a moratorium on coal leasing on public lands? Why keep scientists from speaking with the press? Because, while science provides the best evidence we have for making policy decisions that serve the broader public, Ryan Zinke has been very clear that he is in office to serve the oil, gas and mining industries, not the general public…”
Reason.com: “Employees of the federal government were warned this week that both praising and criticizing the Trump administration while on duty may be considered illegal. Federal workers are specifically barred from “advocating” for or against impeachment and from expressing support for the so-called “resistance” to President Donald Trump. Such expressions could be considered violations of the Hatch Act, a 1939 law that largely prohibits federal workers from engaging in political activity while on the clock or in their official capacity as a government employee. In a memorandum released Tuesday, the Office of Special Counsel (no relation to Robert Mueller’s Russia probe) Hatch Act unit explains what kind of speech should be avoided. There are quite a few nuances. Employees aren’t necessarily barred from praising or criticizing a presidential administration’s policies. “Whether a particular statement constitutes political activity depends upon the facts and circumstances,” the memo reads. But in general, on-duty employees must “avoid making statements directed toward the success or failure of, among others, a candidate for partisan political office.”That’s where talk of “impeachment” comes in. The Office of Special Counsel says it’s operating under the assumption that federal officials who are impeached and later removed are disqualified from holding office again. As a result, voicing support for impeachment is considered political activity. “Advocating for a candidate to be impeached, and thus potentially disqualified from holding federal office, is clearly directed at the failure of that candidate’s campaign for federal office,” the memo states. The same goes for employees who speak out against impeachment, though the directive does not apply to speech about people who aren’t running for “partisan elected office.”…
CBO’s Long-Term Social Security Projections: Changes Since 2017 and Comparisons With the Social Security Trustees’ Projections – December 3, 2018: “This report explains the changes to CBO’s long-term Social Security projections since last year and compares CBO’s projections with those of the Social Security Trustees.
- The projected 75-year actuarial balance, a commonly used measure of the system’s financial condition, has not changed as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) since last year, remaining at −1.5 percent of GDP (that is, a deficit of 1.5 percent). As a percentage of taxable payroll, the projected 75-year actuarial balance has improved slightly from −4.5 percent to −4.4 percent.
- Changes to projections of three key inputs have improved the Social Security system’s projected finances: the share of earnings that is subject to Social Security payroll taxes, the labor force participation rate, and interest rates.
- Those improvements have been partially offset by including an additional year of deficit, 2092, in the calculation of the actuarial balance. Technical changes also collectively worsen the 75-year outlook…”
Via the Washington Post – “The most striking part of Bob Mueller’s sentencing memo recommending Michael Flynn serve no prison time, because of his “substantial” assistance to “several ongoing investigations,” is how much got blacked out. It’s a reminder of how many shoes might still drop. The special counsel revealed in a 13-page court filing late Tuesday night that President Trump’s former national security adviser has given 19 interviews to his office or other Justice Department attorneys, in addition to providing “documents and communications.”
Tantalizingly, Mueller teases that “the defendant has provided substantial assistance in a criminal investigation.” Then there are 22 fully redacted lines of text. That is in addition to the special counsel’s probe of “any links or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald J. Trump.” Mueller has asked for several postponements in making a sentencing recommendation since Flynn pleaded guilty to a single felony count of making false statements to the FBI last December, a full year ago now. Just how much he’s gotten out of the career intelligence officer has been a closely held secret.
Now we know it’s a lot, but what exactly Mueller got remains a mystery. “While this [document] seeks to provide a comprehensive description of the benefit the government has thus far obtained from the defendant’s substantial assistance, some of that benefit may not be fully realized at this time because the investigations in which he has provided assistance are ongoing,” said Mueller…
UK Investigation – Facebook allegedly offered advertisers special access to users’ data and activities
Washington Post: “A key British lawmaker alleged Wednesday that Facebook maintained “whitelisting agreements” that gave select companies preferential access to valuable user data several years ago, offering insight into how the company balanced concerns about user privacy with the business imperative of growing revenue. Damian Collins, chairman of a British parliamentary committee that has led a wide-ranging investigation into Facebook and its dealings with political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, on Wednesday released a summary of findings drawn from documents from a lawsuit against the social network, along with more than 200 pages of documents, many of them labeled “Confidential.” Collins’ allegation echoes a key claim from the lawsuit, which was filed by an app developer in a California court. Facebook, which has long said it does not sell user data, on Wednesday denied that it used its data as a bargaining chip in exchange for advertising and other concessions, as the app developer, Six4Three, has alleged in its suit.
The documents released in Britain, part of a larger trove which long have been sealed in the lawsuit, affording a rare glimpse into the inner workings of one of the world’s most prominent and profitable companies during an uncertain time. The period covered by the documents was when Facebook, as a newly-public company, sought to reorganize around emerging mobile devices while seeking to manage persistent claims that it was cavalier with user privacy. Some of the companies mentioned in the newly-released documents include Airbnb, Netflix, Royal Bank of Canada, Lyft, Tinder and Badoo…”
AALL State of the Profession Survey – Please respond by December 7, 2018 – “The inaugural AALL State of the Profession Survey seeks input from those with expertise in law libraries and equivalent organizations. The goal of the project is to deliver a report to identify, clarify, and support the value of your individual and collective roles.”
As a member of the AALL State of the Profession Survey Advisory Group, I am encouraging you to please participate by completing the survey. The members of the Advisory Group worked together for more than 6 months to create and deliver a survey that identified the multi faceted types of law libraries that represent our profession, and to identify the challenges and objectives we individually and collectively h in delivering mission critical services, training, education and knowledge to our communities and to our customers.
We are seeking input from staff and those in director-level roles. Responses are due on Friday, December 7. If you haven’t received an invitation, please contact ARI at firstname.lastname@example.org with the following subject line: AALL State of the Profession Survey Requests. Those who complete the survey can opt in to get a 10 percent discount on the final report and/or to win a $100 gift card. Additional information can be found on AALLNet.
Thank you very much for taking the time to participate so your voices will be heard – the survey takes approximately 24 minutes to complete based on the close to 600 surveys that have been completed.
Axios: “New data from Twitter shows the top 10 U.S. politicians who were most tweeted about in the few months after the midterm election were Democrats, replacing a list that was once dominated by GOP lawmakers the majority of 2018. Why it matters: The political clout and conversation is changing with its politicians. Republicans like Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) who once dominated the subject of tweets, are now being replaced by nominated House speaker Nancy Pelosi and outgoing Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke in the rankings, per Twitter…”
- See also via Axios – Trump’s tweets are less read and influential than people may think: “A new Public Affairs Council/Morning Consult poll reveals that a majority of Americans have become indifferent toward President Trump’s tweets on business, political news and campaign finances practices…”
Duck Duck Go: “Over the years, there has been considerable discussion of Google’s “filter bubble” problem. Put simply, it’s the manipulation of your search results based on your personal data. In practice this means links are moved up or down or added to your Google search results, necessitating the filtering of other search results altogether. These editorialized results are informed by the personal information Google has on you (like your search, browsing, and purchase history), and puts you in a bubble based on what Google’s algorithms think you’re most likely to click on. The filter bubble is particularly pernicious when searching for political topics. That’s because undecided and inquisitive voters turn to search engines to conduct basic research on candidates and issues in the critical time when they are forming their opinions on them. If they’re getting information that is swayed to one side because of their personal filter bubbles, then this can have a significant effect on political outcomes in aggregate…
Google has claimed to have taken steps to reduce its filter bubble problem, but our latest research reveals a very different story. Based on a study of individuals entering identical search terms at the same time, we found that:
- Most participants saw results unique to them. These discrepancies could not be explained by changes in location, time, by being logged in to Google, or by Google testing algorithm changes to a small subset of users.
- On the first page of search results, Google included links for some participants that it did not include for others, even when logged out and in private browsing mode.
- Results within the news and videos infoboxes also varied significantly. Even though people searched at the same time, people were shown different sources, even after accounting for location.
- Private browsing mode and being logged out of Google offered very little filter bubble protection. These tactics simply do not provide the anonymity most people expect. In fact, it’s simply not possible to use Google search and avoid its filter bubble…”
Oxford University Press Blog: “Our polls have officially closed, and while it was an exciting race, our Place of the Year for 2018 is Mexico. The country and its people proved their resilience this year by enduring natural disasters, navigating the heightened tensions over immigration and border control, engaging in civic action during an election year, and advancing in the economic sphere. The historic events in Mexico in 2018 have resonated with our followers.
Mexico withstood multiple natural disasters in 2018. Using a measurement called accumulated cyclone energy, which combines the number of storms and their intensity through their duration to indicate a measurement of tropical activity in a region, the 2018 hurricane season in the northeast Pacific is the most active on record. Including the most recent Hurricane Willa on the western coast of Mexico, there have been 10 major hurricanes in the area this year. Additionally, tropical Storm Xavier became the 22nd named tropical storm of the 2018 eastern Pacific hurricane season in early November. Mexico has also had multiple earthquakes, including one with a magnitude of 7.2 in southeastern Mexico, epicentered in the state of Oaxaca. Following a surprise victory over World Cup champions Germany in June, it was initially reported that the ferocity of the fans celebration caused earthquake detectors to go off. However, it was later discovered to be a naturally occurring earthquake, unrelated to the fans’ festivities…”
“The University of California is renegotiating its systemwide licenses with some of the world’s largest scholarly journal publishers, including industry giant Elsevier. These negotiations may create significant changes in our access to new articles published in Elsevier journals as soon as January 1, 2019. (See below for details on town hall meetings where you can learn more regarding access and timing. Importantly, the UC has adopted a new approach to these negotiations, seeking not only to constrain the runaway costs of journal subscriptions, but to make it easier and more affordable for UC authors to publish their research with open access. Depending on how the negotiations proceed, a range of potential outcomes could materialize:
- If we are successful, the UC may begin to implement a new system for publishing research in Elsevier journals in the near future.
- On the other hand, if we are unable to reach an agreement before our current contract ends on December 31, we may lose access to future articles in Elsevier’s journals through their ScienceDirect platform…”
- govinfo is a service of the United States Government Publishing Office (GPO), which is a Federal agency in the legislative branch. govinfo provides free public access to official publications from all three branches of the Federal Government. govinfo will replace FDsys
- GPO launched govinfo in February 2016 as a beta website to replace its predecessor, GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys). Learn about the transition.
- govinfo is more than just a website – In addition to providing an advanced, metadata-powered search experience, govinfo also includes a content management system and a standards-compliant preservation repository.
These three components comprise GPO’s world-class system for the comprehensive management of electronic information:
- Public access – GPO combines modern search technology with extensive metadata creation to ensure the highest quality search experience. Users can easily access documents for free by searching or browsing the mobile-friendly website.
- Content management – GPO securely controls digital content throughout its lifecycle to ensure content integrity and authenticity. This includes the application of digital signatures to PDF files so users can verify documents have not been altered and are the official versions.
- Digital preservation – GPO’s standards-compliant preservation repository follows archival system standards and ensures content is preserved for future generations despite technical failure, aging of hardware, or technological change. GPO is seeking to become the first Federal agency to be named as a Trustworthy Digital Repository for Government information through certification under ISO 16363.
The Energy Policy Institute of the University of Chcago: “Particulate matter (PM) air pollution is the most deadly form of air pollution globally. Its microscopic particles penetrate deep into the lungs, bypassing the body’s natural defenses. From there it can enter the bloodstream, causing lung disease, cancer, strokes, and heart attacks. There is also evidence of detrimental effects on cognition. Yet, in spite of these risks, the relationship between particulate matter air pollution levels and human health is not widely comprehended by society at large. For most people, their only insight into particulate air pollution exposure and risk is the popular Air Quality Index, which uses a color-coded system to provide a normative assessment of daily air quality. But these colors do little to convey actual health risk, and are often accompanied by measurements of units that are unfamiliar to almost everyone (e.g., micrograms of pollution per cubic meter).
The Air Quality Life Index, or AQLI, represents a completely novel advancement in measuring and communicating the health risks posed by particulate matter air pollution. This is because the AQLI converts particulate air pollution into perhaps the most important metric that exists: its impact on life expectancy. The AQLI reveals that, averaged across all women, men, and children globally, particulate matter air pollution cuts global life expectancy short by nearly 2 years relative to what they would be if particulate concentrations everywhere were at the level deemed safe by the World Health Organization (WHO). This life expectancy loss makes particulate pollution more devastating than communicable diseases like tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, behavioral killers like cigarette smoking, and even war.
Some areas of the world are impacted more than others. For example, in the United States, where there is less pollution, life expectancy is cut short by just 0.1 years relative to the WHO guideline. In China and India, where there are much greater levels of pollution, bringing particulate concentrations down to the WHO guideline would increase average life expectancy by 2.9 and 4.3 years, respectively..”
Lawfare: “On Nov. 11  at 11:00 a.m., more than 70 world leaders walked towards the Arc de Triomphe in Paris to commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War and to honor the 19 million people who lost their lives in it. French President Emmanuel Macron delivered a charged speech denouncing nationalism and urging all leaders to pursue peace through multilateralism. On November 12th 2018 at the Internet Governance Forum, Macron unveiled France’s first international initiative to that end, the “Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace.” The Paris Call is not the first of its kind. In April 2018, Microsoft launched its “Digital Peace” campaign along with a “Cybersecurity Tech Accord” aimed at getting the internet and the technology industry to better protect their customers’ privacy and security against cyberattacks. Similarly, Siemens unveiled in May 2018 a “Charter of Trust” that seeks to develop adherence to security principles and processes, with the aim of developing a “global standard” for cybersecurity. Until those recent developments, norm-building initiatives were the prerogative of states. In 2015, the U.N.’s Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) recognized that international humanitarian law applied to cyberspace, though it then deadlocked when it closed at the end of 2017. Similarly, two blocs—one group led by the United States and another by China and Russia—reached a stalemate at the U.N. Disarmament Commission.
Approaching the issue from various stakeholders’ perspectives, the Paris Call is an attempt to move away from this international deadlock. Macron, at its unveiling at UNESCO, made the case for rebuffing what he described as a binary choice between “a Californian Internet and a Chinese Internet.” So far, he argued, these two opposite narratives have monopolized the debate and imposed two radically different yet unsatisfactory alternatives: either a model of mere technical governance led by Silicon Valley, or an overwhelming regulation led by authoritarian regimes. While the former does not address issues of privacy and malicious actors, the latter cracks down on human rights and could lead to a “balkanisation” of internet and of wider cyberspace…”
VentureBeat: “Real-time captions and subtitles are heading to PowerPoint and Skype, the company today revealed in a pair of announcements timed to coincide with the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities (UN IDPD). “The word ‘empower’ means a lot to every Microsoft employee, it’s a key word in our mission ‘to empower every person on the planet to achieve more’, including the [more than a billion people] with disabilities,” Jenny Lay-Flurrie, chief accessibility officer at Microsoft, wrote in a blog post. “So, this year has special meaning to us and want to share some new features, and programs that we hope empower a more inclusive, diverse, and productive world…”