Law and Legal
NiemanLab: “Should journalists learn to code?” is an old question that has always had only unsatisfying answers. (That was true even back before it became a useful heuristic for identifying Twitter jackasses.) Some should! Some shouldn’t! Helpful, right? One way the question gets derailed involves what, exactly, the question-asker means by “code.” It’s unlikely a city hall reporter will ever have occasion to build an iPhone app in Swift, or construct a machine learning model on deadline. But there is definitely a more basic and straightforward set of technical skills — around data analysis — that can be of use to nearly anyone in a newsroom. It ain’t coding, but it’s also not a skillset every reporter has. The New York Times wants more of its journalists to have those basic data skills, and now it’s releasing the curriculum they’ve built in-house out into the world, where it can be of use to reporters, newsrooms, and lots of other people too…”
“It used to be that surveillance cameras were passive. Maybe they just recorded, and no one looked at the video unless they needed to. Maybe a bored guard watched a dozen different screens, scanning for something interesting. In either case, the video was only stored for a few days because storage was expensive. Increasingly, none of that is true. Recent developments in video analytics—fueled by artificial intelligence techniques like machine learning—enable computers to watch and understand surveillance videos with human-like discernment. Identification technologies make it easier to automatically figure out who is in the videos. And finally, the cameras themselves have become cheaper, more ubiquitous, and much better; cameras mounted on drones can effectively watch an entire city. Computers can watch all the video without human issues like distraction, fatigue, training, or needing to be paid. The result is a level of surveillance that was impossible just a few years ago…”
Washington Post – The new plan to remove a trillion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere: Bury it – “It sounds like an idea plucked from science fiction, but the reality is that trees and plants already do it. Last month, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere surpassed 415 parts per million, the highest in human history. Environmental experts say the world is increasingly on a path toward a climate crisis. The most prominent efforts to prevent that crisis involve reducing carbon emissions. But another idea is also starting to gain traction — sucking all that carbon out of the atmosphere and storing it underground. It sounds like an idea plucked from science fiction, but the reality is that trees and plants already do it, breathing carbon dioxide and then depositing it via roots and decay into the soil. That’s why consumers and companies often “offset” their carbon emissions by planting carbon-sucking trees elsewhere in the world. But an upstart company, Boston-based Indigo AG, now wants to transform farming practices so that agriculture becomes quite the opposite of what it is today — a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.
By promoting techniques that increase the potential of agricultural land to suck in carbon, the backers of Indigo AG believe they can set the foundation for a major effort to stem climate change. On Wednesday, the company announced a new initiative with the ambitious goal of removing 1 trillion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by paying farmers to modify their practices. Called the Terraton Initiative (a “teraton” is a trillion tons), the company forecasts that the initiative will sign up 3,000 farmers globally with more than 1 million acres in 2019…”
“About Semantic Sanity – Semantic Sanity provides an adaptive ArXiv feed tailored to your research interests. This feed uses an AI model that recommends the latest papers across all ArXiv categories in Computer Science to help you stay up to date. Our AI model learns from you – when you indicate whether or not a paper is relevant, your feed will improve. It only takes a few clicks to see the most relevant research.
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- Open access preprints from all ArXiv categories in Computer Science.
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U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Calls for Limiting Collateral Consequences for People With Criminal Records
“More than 44,000 collateral consequences exist nationwide that continue to punish people with felony records long after the completion of their sentence. Today the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is releasing Collateral Consequences: The Crossroads of Punishment, Redemption and the Effects on Communities, a report highlighting the relevant data and arguments for and against the imposition of collateral consequences on people with felony convictions. The report finds that many collateral consequences are unrelated either to the underlying crime or to a public safety purpose. In these circumstances, the imposition of collateral consequences “negatively affects public safety and the public good.” The Commission’s research and analysis was based in part by expert and public input, including testimony by The Sentencing Project’s Marc Mauer on the negative impacts of felony disenfranchisement laws. The report offers actionable recommendations to the President, Congress, and numerous federal agencies. The Commission’s recommendations include:
- Avoiding punitive mandatory consequences that do not serve public safety, bear no rational relationship to the offense committed, and impede people convicted of crimes from safely reentering society
- Eliminating restrictions on welfare benefits and food stamps based on felony drug convictions
- Limiting discretion of public housing providers to bar people with criminal convictions from accessing public housing
- Lifting restrictions on access to student loans based on criminal convictions and removing the federal ban on Pell Grants to fund in-prison college programs
- Encouraging states to restore voting rights to people upon completion of their prison sentence…”
Forrester – “Small Gains To CX Quality Emerged Amidst Broad Stagnation – Forrester’s 2019 US Customer Experience Index (CX Index) reveals that the overall quality of the US customer experience rose by an anemic 0.4 points, to 70.2. The report is based on Forrester’s CX Index methodology, which measures how well a brand’s CX strengthens the loyalty of its customers. In this year’s report, we reveal the complete numerical scores of all 260 brands across 16 industries, based on a survey of 101,341 US adult customers.
- Some scores at the brand level inched upward. Although 14% of brand scores rose, 5% of scores declined and a whopping 81% stagnated. Of the brands that posted statistically significant score changes, the size of the gains and losses were about the same — a modest 3 points…”
Federal Agencies Rank Dead Last in Forrester Customer Experience Index – “..As they have in the past, federal agencies measured in the index comprised several of the worst overall brand scores, with USAJobs.Gov—the federal government’s jobs portal—scoring an index-worst 46.5. Other poor scorers falling in the lowest scoring metric—“very poor,” or scores lower than 55—include Healthcare.Gov, the IRS and Education Department…”
LawFare: “The House of Representatives adopted a resolution on June 11 authorizing Rep. Jerrold Nadler, chair of the House Committee on the Judiciary, to go to court to pursue civil enforcement of subpoenas issued to Attorney General William Barr and former White House Counsel Don McGahn. Importantly, however, the measure also makes changes that will increase the power of House committees to pursue enforcement of additional subpoenas.
At present, House Democrats have chosen not to open a formal impeachment inquiry against President Trump. But other efforts to investigate potential misconduct by the executive branch and to check the president’s use of executive authority are proceeding on several fronts. In a number of cases—such as the attempts to obtain Trump’s personal financial records and to limit the administration’s ability to spend money on a border wall—this work has involved going to court. The resolution regarding subpoena power sets up the potential for another round of lawsuits…”
CRS Legal Sidebar via LC – Regulating Big Tech: Legal Implications. June 11, 2019. “Amidst growing debate over the legal framework governing social media sites and other technology companies, several Members of Congress have expressed interest in expanding current regulations of the major American technology companies, often referred to as “Big Tech.” This Legal Sidebar provides a high-level overview of the current regulatory framework governing Big Tech, several proposed changes to that framework, and the legal issues those proposals may implicate. The Sidebar also contains a list of additional resources that may be helpful for a more detailed evaluation of any given regulatory proposal…”
CRS Report via LC – Staff Pay Levels for Selected Positions in House Member Offices, 2001-2018. June 11, 2019.
“Levels of pay for congressional staff are a source of recurring questions among Members of Congress, congressional staff, and the public.There may be interest in congressional pay data from multiple perspectives, including assessment of the costs of congressional operations, guidance in setting pay levels for staff in Member offices, or comparison of congressional staff pay levels with those of other federal government pay systems.This report provides pay data for 15 staff position titles that are typically used in House Members’ offices. The positions include the following: Caseworker, Chief of Staff, Communications Director, Constituent Services Representative, Counsel, District Director, Executive Assistant, Field Representative, Legislative Assistant, Legislative Correspondent, Legislative Director, Office Manager, Press Secretary, Scheduler, and Staff Assistant.The following table provides the change in median pay levelsfor these positionsin constant 2019dollars,between 2017 and 2018…”
“Levels of pay for congressional staff are a source of recurring questions among Members of Congress, congressional staff, and the public.There may be interest in congressional pay data from multiple perspectives, including assessment of the costs of congressional operations, guidance in setting pay levels for staff in Member offices, or comparison of congressional staff pay levels with those of other federal government pay systems.This report provides pay data for 16 staff position titles that are typically found in Senators’ offices. The positions include the following: Administrative Director, Casework Supervisor, Caseworker, Chief of Staff, Communications Director, Constituent Services Representative, Counsel, Executive Assistant, Field Representative, Legislative Assistant, Legislative Correspondent, Legislative Director, Press Secretary, Scheduler, Staff Assistant, and State Director.The following table provides the change in median pay levels for these positions, in constant 2019 dollars between FY2017 and FY2018…”
EFF Report – “While social media platforms are increasingly giving users the opportunity to appeal decisions to censor their posts, very few platforms comprehensively commit to notifying users that their content has been removed in the first place, raising questions about their accountability and transparency, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said today in a new report. How users are supposed to challenge content removals that they’ve never been told about is among the key issues illuminated by EFF in the second installment of its Who Has Your Back: Censorship Edition report. The paper comes amid a wave of new government regulations and actions around the world meant to rid platforms of extremist content. But in response to calls to remove objectionable content, social media companies and platforms have all too often censored valuable speech.
EFF examined the content moderation policies of 16 platforms and app stores, including Facebook, Twitter, the Apple App Store, and Instagram. Only four companies—Facebook, Reddit, Apple, and GitHub—commit to notifying users when any content is censored and specifying the legal request or community guideline violation that led to the removal. While Twitter notifies users when tweets are removed, it carves out an exception for tweets related to “terrorism,” a class of content that is difficult to accurately identify and can include counter-speech or documentation of war crimes. Notably, Facebook and GitHub were found to have more comprehensive notice policies than their peers.
Library of Congress Blog: “It’s in (almost) every book you read, but you’ve probably paid little attention to it. The Library’s Cataloging in Publication (CIP) information — that copy-block on the reverse side of the book’s title page spelling out the author, title, subject, its International Standard Book Number, and other information — is an essential beginning to a book’s publication. The Cataloging information provided by the Library allows publishers to get the book’s information relayed to libraries and booksellers months in advance of publication — ask any author how important that is — and keeps the publication process rolling. (It’s different from copyrights, although the Library does that, too.)
And now, for the first time in 16 years, the Library is rolling out an all-new CIP database. It’s called PrePub Book Link (PPBL), and it overhauls the sturdy-but-outdated 2003 system. Book buyers won’t notice any changes, but publishers and Library staff certainly will. The overhaul took more than one and a half years, involves more than 3,000 major scholarly and trade publishers and more than 50,000 books each year. The Library’s system for smaller publishing houses, the Preassigned Control Number Program, will be merged into PPBL, too…”
Google Blog: ““I hope I can entrust you with everything that I haven’t been able to share with anyone, and I hope you will be a great support to me.” These are the first words Anne Frank wrote in the diary she received on her thirteenth birthday. Three weeks later, the Frank family went into hiding. Since then, the story of Anne has moved people across the globe who want to learn more about her life.
Google Arts & Culture has worked with the Anne Frank House to shed a light on Anne’s life at Merwedeplein 37-2 in Amsterdam, where her family lived before they went into hiding. In honor of what would have been her 90th birthday, you can explore an online exhibit and indoor Street View imagery of Anne’s childhood home. For the first time it will be possible to view all rooms of the flat to get a unique insight into Anne Frank’s home that has been restored to its original 1930s style, including the bedroom that she shared with her sister Margot. The accompanying online exhibit features precious insights and documents such as the only video of Anne known to exist—taken by pure coincidence at a wedding—as well as the only picture of her an her parents and sister…”
Live Science: “Have you ever constructed a mental image of a person you’ve never seen, based solely on their voice? Artificial intelligence (AI) can now do that, generating a digital image of a person’s face using only a brief audio clip for reference. Named Speech2Face, the neural network — a computer that “thinks” in a manner similar to the human brain — was trained by scientists on millions of educational videos from the internet that showed over 100,000 different people talking. From this dataset, Speech2Face learned associations between vocal cues and certain physical features in a human face, researchers wrote in a new study. The AI then used an audio clip to model a photorealistic face matching the voice.
The findings were published online May 23 in the preprint jounral arXiv and have not been peer-reviewed. Thankfully, AI doesn’t (yet) know exactly what a specific individual looks like based on their voice alone. The neural network recognized certain markers in speech that pointed to gender, age and ethnicity, features that are shared by many people, the study authors reported. “As such, the model will only produce average-looking faces,” the scientists wrote. “It will not produce images of specific individuals.” AI has already shown that it can produce uncannily accurate human faces, though its interpretations of cats are frankly a little terrifying…”
omgubuntu.com: “CERN is best known for pushing the boundaries of science and understanding, but the famed research outfit’s next major experiment will be with open-source software. The cost of various commercial software licenses has increased 10x. The European Organisation for Nuclear Research, better known as CERN, and also known as home of the Large Hadron Collider, has announced plans to migrate away from Microsoft products and on to open-source solutions where possible. Why? Increases in Microsoft license fees. Microsoft recently revoked the organisations status as an academic institution, instead pricing access to its services on users. This bumps the cost of various software licenses 10x, which is just too much for CERN’s budget…”
Chicago Tribune – “In a major defeat for opponents, a federal judge ruled Tuesday that the city of Chicago was within its authority when it approved the Obama Foundation’s plan to build the Obama Presidential Center on publicly owned property in Jackson Park. The center “surely provides a multitude of benefits to the public. It will offer a range of cultural, artistic, and recreational opportunities … as well as provide increased access to other areas of Jackson Park and the Museum of Science and Industry,” U.S. District Judge John Robert Blakey said in a written ruling hours after hearing arguments on both sides in a Chicago courtroom Tuesday. The foundation still has to finish a federal review process before it can break ground on the $500 million, sprawling development. And the environmental group that sued to stop the project has vowed to appeal Blakey’s ruling. But Tuesday’s decision removes one major hurdle…”
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…”