Law and Legal
TechCrunch: “Enterprise search has always been a tough nut to crack. The Holy Grail has always been to operate like Google, but in-house. You enter a few keywords and you get back that nearly perfect response at the top of the list of the results. The irony of trying to do search locally has been a lack of content.While Google has the universe of the World Wide Web to work with, enterprises have a much narrower set of responses. It would be easy to think that should make it easier to find the ideal response, but the fact is that it’s the opposite. The more data you have, the more likely you’ll find the correct document. Amazon is trying to change the enterprise search game by putting it into a more modern machine learning-driven context to use today’s technology to help you find that perfect response just as you typically do on the web. Today the company announced the general availability of Amazon Kendra, its cloud enterprise search product that the company announced last year at AWS re:Invent. It uses natural language processing to allow the user to simply ask a question, then searches across the repositories connected to the search engine to find a precise answer…”
Marketplace: “Over the past 15 years, public libraries across the country have been rethinking their role as a public space. They’ve evolved from just a place to check out books into community hubs, and the transformation has come with a lot of new initiatives and programs. The Boston Public Library, for example, has been working on developing more affordable housing to sit atop some of its branches. The Austin Public Library offers citizenship courses for immigrants and hosts naturalization ceremonies. And the Bristol Public Library in Indiana, like many others, allows patrons to check out baking equipment to use at home. A lot of these new changes mean that people spend more time in libraries. And that, right now, poses a problem for libraries as they begin to reopen during the coronavirus pandemic. Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal talked with Jennifer Pearson, director of the Marshall County Library in Tennessee and president of the Association for Rural and Small Libraries about how her library, and libraries across the country, are continuing to adapt and serve the needs of their patrons…”
WSJ.com – Work emails during the coronavirus pandemic must walk a fine line between being sensitive and oversharing – “When Benjamin Schmerler sends an email, his words speak volumes about the current state of the world. Gone are the exclamation points or occasional emojis. The public-relations firm owner replaces his usual “hope you’re well” with something more heartfelt. And when he signs off, his new-go-to is: ” I wish you vigorous health and a robust mind-set”…
The Financial Times – Free to Read – What went wrong in the president’s first real crisis — and what does it mean for the US?: “When the history is written of how America handled the global era’s first real pandemic, March 6 will leap out of the timeline. That was the day Donald Trump visited the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. His foray to the world’s best disease research body was meant to showcase that America had everything under control. It came midway between the time he was still denying the coronavirus posed a threat and the moment he said he had always known it could ravage America. Shortly before the CDC visit, Trump said “within a couple of days, [infections are] going to be down to close to zero”. The US then had 15 cases. “One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear.” A few days afterwards, he claimed: “I’ve felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.” That afternoon at the CDC provides an X-ray into Trump’s mind at the halfway point between denial and acceptance. We now know that Covid-19 had already passed the breakout point in the US. The contagion had been spreading for weeks in New York, Washington state and other clusters. The curve was pointing sharply upwards. Trump’s goal in Atlanta was to assert the opposite…”
The New York Times – A stir-crazy nation wonders: Is it safe to stroll on the beach in a deadly pandemic? How about a picnic in the park? Or coffee with a friend at an outdoor table? The risk is in the details. “…“The virus load is important,” said Eugene Chudnovsky, a physicist at Lehman College and the City University of New York’s Graduate Center. “A single virus will not make anyone sick; it will be immediately destroyed by the immune system. The belief is that one needs a few hundred to a few thousand of SARS-CoV-2 viruses to overwhelm the immune response.” While the risk of outdoor transmission is low, it can happen. In one study of more than 7,300 cases in China, just one was connected to outdoor transmission. In that case, a 27-year-old man had a conversation outdoors with a traveler who had just returned from Wuhan. Seven days later, he had his first symptoms of Covid-19. “The risk is lower outdoors, but it’s not zero,” said Shan Soe-Lin, a lecturer at the Yale Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. “And I think the risk is higher if you have two people who are stationary next to each other for a long time, like on a beach blanket, rather than people who are walking and passing each other.”
“In my opinion, pool water, fresh water in a lake or river, or seawater exposure would be extremely low transmission risk even without dilution (which would reduce risk further),” Dr. Rasmussen said in an email. “Probably the biggest risk for summer water recreation is crowds — a crowded pool locker room, dock or beach, especially if coupled with limited physical distancing or prolonged proximity to others. The most concentrated sources of virus in such an environment will be the people hanging out at the pool, not the pool itself.”..
Erin S. Bromage, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. “It seems many people are breathing some relief, and I’m not sure why. An epidemic curve has a relatively predictable upslope and once the peak is reached, the back slope can also be predicted. We have robust data from the outbreaks in China and Italy, that shows the backside of the mortality curve declines slowly, with deaths persisting for months. Assuming we have just crested in deaths at 70k, it is possible that we lose another 70,000 people over the next 6 weeks as we come off that peak. That’s what’s going to happen with a lockdown. As states reopen, and we give the virus more fuel, all bets are off. I understand the reasons for reopening the economy, but I’ve said before, if you don’t solve the biology, the economy won’t recover. There are very few states that have demonstrated a sustained decline in numbers of new infections. Indeed, as of May 3rd the majority are still increasing and reopening. As a simple example of the USA trend, when you take out the data from New York and just look at the rest of the USA, daily case numbers are increasing. Bottom line: the only reason the total USA new case numbers look flat right now is because the New York City epidemic was so large and now it is being contained. When you think of outbreak clusters, what are the big ones that come to mind? Most people would say cruise ships. But you would be wrong. Ship outbreaks, while concerning, don’t land in the top 50 outbreaks to date. Ignoring the terrible outbreaks in nursing homes, we find that the biggest outbreaks are in prisons, religious ceremonies, and workplaces, such as meat packing facilities and call centers. Any environment that is enclosed, with poor air circulation and high density of people, spells trouble.
Some of the biggest super-spreading events are: Meat packing: In meat processing plants, densely packed workers must communicate to one another amidst the deafening drum of industrial machinery and a cold-room virus-preserving environment. There are now outbreaks in 115 facilities across 23 states, 5000+ workers infected, with 20 dead. (ref); Weddings, funerals, birthdays: 10% of early spreading events; Business networking: Face-to-face business networking like the Biogen Conference in Boston in late February. As we move back to work, or go to a restaurant, let’s look at what can happen in those environments….
Scott Galloway predicts a handful of elite cyborg universities will soon monopolize higher education
Intelligencer: “WeWork on its “seriously loco” $47 billion valuation a month before the company’s IPO imploded. Now, Galloway, a Silicon Valley runaway who teaches marketing at NYU Stern School of Business, believes the pandemic has greased the wheels for big tech’s entrée into higher education. The post-pandemic future, he says, will entail partnerships between the largest tech companies in the world and elite universities. MIT@Google. iStanford. HarvardxFacebook. According to Galloway, these partnerships will allow universities to expand enrollment dramatically by offering hybrid online-offline degrees, the affordability and value of which will seismically alter the landscape of higher education. Galloway, who also founded his own virtual classroom start-up, predicts hundreds, if not thousands, of brick-and-mortar universities will go out of business and those that remain will have student bodies composed primarily of the children of the one percent. At the same time, more people than ever will have access to a solid education, albeit one that is delivered mostly over the internet. The partnerships he envisions will make life easier for hundreds of millions of people while sapping humanity of a face-to face system of learning that has evolved over centuries. Of course, it will also make a handful of people very, very rich. It may not be long before Galloway’s predictions are put to the test…”
Axios: “The CDC finally released long-delayed reopening guidance for schools, workplaces, camps, childcare centers, mass transit, and bars and restaurants.
- The six one-page “decision tool” documents use traffic signs and other graphics to tell organizations what they should consider before reopening.
- The CDC planned a document for churches, but that wasn’t posted, AP reports. The White House raised concerns about recommended restrictions.
See the checklists:
LC CRS Reports – Congressionally Mandated Reports: Overview and Considerations for Congress, May 14, 2020: “Congress frequently requires the President, departments, agencies, and other entities of the federal government to transmit reports, notifications, studies, and other information on a specified timeline. Reporting requirements may direct agency officials to notify Congress or its committees of forthcoming actions or decisions, describe actions taken on a particular matter, establish a plan to accomplish a specified goal, or study a certain problem or concern.
Reporting requirements may be designed to serve a range of purposes that facilitate congressional oversight of the executive branch and inform congressional decision making. Required reports may help legislators monitor executive activity, ensure compliance with legislative intent, focus agency attention on matters of importance to Congress, and assess the effectiveness of existing programs and policies.Certain reports on complex or emerging issues may also help originate or inform legislative proposals.
This report discusses the potential benefits and challenges of reporting requirements, and analyzes a number of statutory reporting requirements enacted during the 115th Congress. (Patterns gleaned from these data may not be generalizable to requirements enacted in other years.) This report analyzes features common to legislative language establishing reporting requirements…
Scientific American – “The coronavirus, as we all know, has brought our economy to its knees. As the search for vaccines and treatments accelerates, geneticists are now looking to our genes to understand why some recover quickly or show no symptoms, while others die. To do so, they are searching DNA databases and cross-referencing them with COVID-19 cases. This research holds great promise for addressing the pandemic. Yet if scientists do find answers in our genes, we need to consider the implications for genetic privacy. Armed with the ability to identify who is vulnerable and who is not, how will society proceed? On the one hand, health care providers could use genetic testing to help vulnerable patients stay safe. But there would also be a temptation to use genetic testing in the workplace. Companies could use genetic test results to manage the risks for all employees, for example by controlling the activities of those who are most vulnerable. Businesses will also see opportunities to use genetic test results in the marketplace, for example by tailoring insurance offerings according to genetic risk. Currently, there are some limited legal protections against genetic discrimination and health privacy intrusions, but the pandemic has already led the federal government to scale back some of those protections for the time being…”
lifehacker – “If you are new to wearing a face mask, and are one of the two-thirds of American adults who wear prescription glasses, you may have noticed a problem: foggy lenses. It sounds minor, but now that the CDC has recommended that everyone wear cloth face masks when we go outside, to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, what was once an issue for those in certain professions is now affecting the rest of the population. Before this pandemic started, I spent a year and a half wearing face masks for long periods of time while caring for my mother who was being treated for leukemia with chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant. We were told that she had the immune system of an infant without any vaccines and were advised to wear masks around her. As a glasses-wearer, this posed a challenge: It’s hard getting stuff done when your glasses are fogged up all the time… [So here are methods for preventing foggy glasses while wearing a face mask…]”
ars technica – Fed up with cryptojacking ads? Google developers have you covered. “Chrome browser users take heart: Google developers are rolling out a feature that neuters abusive ads that covertly leach your CPU resources, bandwidth, and electricity. The move comes in response to a swarm of sites and ads first noticed in 2017 that surreptitiously use visitors’ computers to mine bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. As the sites or ads display content, embedded code performs the resource-intensive calculations and deposits the mined currency in a developer-designated wallet. To conceal the scam, the code is often heavily obfuscated. The only signs something is amiss are whirring fans, drained batteries, and for those who pay close attention, increased consumption of network resources. In a post published on Thursday, Chrome Project Manager Marshall Vale said that while the percentage of abusive ads is extremely low—somewhere around 0.3 percent—they account for 28 percent of CPU usage and 27 percent of network data…
- Chrome users who want to turn the feature on sooner can enable the flag at chrome://flags/#enable-heavy-ad-intervention…”
MIT Technology Review – How researchers, archivists, and citizens are racing to preserve a record of how we lived and changed during this strange period of history: “…According to Brewster Kahle, the Internet Archive’s founder, his organization is already collecting about 1 billion URLs a day across the web. Archiving the pandemic means trying to identify and collect the pages their ordinary efforts might otherwise overlook, relying on a network of library professionals and members of the public: local and international public health pages, petitions, resources for medical professionals trying to fight covid-19, and accounts from those who have had the virus. It’s not easy. “The average life of a web page is only 100 days before it’s changed or deleted,” he says…”
The flow of people, trade and capital will be slowed, May 14 2020 edition. “Editor’s note: The Economist is making some of its most important coverage of the covid-19 pandemic freely available to readers of The Economist Today, our daily newsletter. To receive it, register here. For our coronavirus tracker and more coverage, see our hub
Even before the pandemic, globalisation was in trouble. The open system of trade that had dominated the world economy for decades had been damaged by the financial crash and the Sino-American trade war. Now it is reeling from its third body-blow in a dozen years as lockdowns have sealed borders and disrupted commerce (see Briefing). The number of passengers at Heathrow has dropped by 97% year-on-year; Mexican car exports fell by 90% in April; 21% of transpacific container-sailings in May have been cancelled. As economies reopen, activity will recover, but don’t expect a quick return to a carefree world of unfettered movement and free trade. The pandemic will politicise travel and migration and entrench a bias towards self-reliance…”
The New York Times – “In Georgia, barbers are giving haircuts armed with face masks and latex gloves. In Texas, movie theaters are filling with customers, who crunch on popcorn several seats away from the nearest stranger. People are sweating at gyms again in Tennessee. America’s reopening has begun in force, just weeks after the coronavirus put most of the country on lockdown. More than half the states have started to reopen their economies in some meaningful way or have plans to do so soon, raising concerns among public health experts about a possible surge in new infections and deaths. Many states that are reopening failed to meet criteria recommended by the Trump administration before loosening restrictions on businesses and social activities. The New York Times is tracking when orders to stay at home are lifted in each state, as well as when broad reopenings are allowed in public spaces, such as restaurants, retail stores, salons, gyms and houses of worship. In some cases, stay-at-home orders are lifting separately from restrictions on businesses. This page will be updated regularly…”
MEDIAMANA – “[This article is a part of an online symposium on the value of Internet Openness at the time of COVID19. The symposium is a joint outcome of the Internet Governance Forum coalition on Net Neutrality and Community Connectivity. Read all the articles in the symposium here.] The novel SARS-COV-2 virus that leads to COVID-19 disease is teaching us a great many lessons about infrastructure writ large. We are discovering weaknesses in socio-economic safety nets, in our healthcare systems, public transportation system, our education systems and many others. Societies around the world are organized around a presumption that people can work, play and interact with each other in close proximity. Our dependence on this assumption has been upended by a virus that propagates through proximity and through the air and on commonly touched surfaces. Among the responses, social distancing has become a strong recommendation around the globe. But our physical infrastructure is operationally dependent on people being able to work together in proximity. That includes traveling together. One has only to look at the airline industry to see how quickly that mode of travel has evaporated. Schools have been closed in favor of remote education and “work from home” has become a guideline for those whose jobs permit it. For many, of course, work requires proximity, from haircuts to grocery stores, people need to be present. If that isn’t safe, many people cannot work and the economic impact is catastrophic. To the degree that working and living can be done in some remote way, the Internet has become an important component of COVID-19 response. It permits remote interaction with customers and even patients. It allows people to order goods and services online for delivery to doorsteps. It provides researchers with access to global sources of information and to computing power in unprecedented quantities. The openness, interoperability and distributed nature of the Internet has contributed to its utility. Its scalability in many dimensions has allowed it to expand to accommodate new demands. Remarkably, the capacity to support streaming video is now also supporting real-time videoconferencing as a substitute for in-person meetings…”
“The goal of Life in Quarantine: Witnessing Global Pandemic is to produce a public historical archive documenting how the extreme new conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are changing the routines, expectations, and dreams of people from all walks of life, all nationalities, communities, genders, and aged groups across the globe. Although the spread of COVID-19 is global in its impact, people everywhere are not experiencing it uniformly. This project is an attempt to collect, document, and demonstrate the virus’ varied effects on peoples’ lives through personal accounts. In this surreal historical moment our hope is that through an archive of lived experiences we can promote cultural and personal interconnectedness and solidarity. This archive is designed to function as a public resource and historical record to inform individuals, governments, organizations, and businesses about peoples’ paramount fears, hopes, priorities, needs, and concerns during this and other potential global crises. We aim to provide a comprehensive picture of the varied ways in which people are experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic across the globe, and therefore we invite you to submit a written account in which you reflect on your lived experiences under these new circumstances…”
Attempt: An Overview of Federal Criminal Law, Updated May 13, 2020: “Attempt is the incomplete form of some other underlying offense. Unlike state law, federal law does not feature a general attempt statute. Instead, federal law outlaws the attempt to commit a number of federal underlying offenses on an individual basis. Occasionally, federal law treats attempt-like conduct as an underlying offense; outlawing possession of drugs with intent to traffic, for instance. One way or another, it is a federal crime to attempt to commit nearly all of the most frequently occurring federal offenses. Attempt consists of two elements. One is the intent to commit the underlying offense. The other is taking some substantial step, beyond mere preparation, collaborative of the intent to commit the underlying offense. The line between mere preparation and a substantial step can be hard to identify. Some suggest that the more egregious the underlying offense, the sooner preparation will become a substantial step. Defenses are few and rarely recognized. Impossibility to complete an attempted offense offers no real obstacle to conviction. Abandonment of the effort once the substantial-step line has been crossed is no defense. Entrapment may be a valid defense when the government has induced commission of the crime and the defendant lacks predisposition to engage in the criminal conduct. The penalties for attempt and for the underlying offense are almost always the same. The United States Sentencing Guidelines may operate to mitigate the sentences imposed for attempts to commit the most severely punished underlying offenses. Attempt to commit a particular crime overlaps with several other grounds for criminal liability. The offense of conspiracy, for example, is the agreement of two or more to commit an underlying offense at some time in the future. Attempt does not require commission of the underlying offense; nor does conspiracy. Attempt requires a substantial step; conspiracy may, but does not always, require an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy. A defendant may be convicted of both an underlying offense and conspiracy to commit that offense. A defendant may be convicted of either an attempt to commit an underlying offense or the underlying offense, but not both. A defendant may be convicted of both attempt and conspiracy to commit the same underlying crime. Aiding and abetting is not a separate crime. Aiders and abettors (accomplices before the fact) are treated as if they committed the underlying offense themselves. Aiding and abetting requires a completed underlying offense; attempt does not. The punishment for aiding and abetting is the same as for hands-on commission of the offense; the punishment for attempt is often the same as for the underlying offense. A defendant may convicted of attempting to aid and abet or of aiding and abetting an attempted offense.Attempt and its underlying offense are distinct crimes. A defendant may not be convicted of both attempt and its underlying offense. Completion of the underlying offense is no defense to a charge of attempt.”
How Social Security Benefits Are Computed: In Brief Updated May 13, 2020 – “Social Security,the largest program in the federal budget (in terms of outlays), provides monthly cash benefits to retired or disabled workers and their family members as well as to the family members of deceased workers. In 2019, benefit outlays were approximately $1,048 billion, with roughly 64 million beneficiaries and 178 million workers in Social Security-covered employment. Under current law, Social Security’s revenues are projected to be insufficient to pay full scheduled benefits after 2035. Monthly benefit amounts are determined by federal law. Social Security is of ongoing interest both because of its role in supporting a large portion of the population and because of its long-term financial imbalance, and policymakers have considered numerous proposals to change its benefit computation rules.The Social Security benefits that are paid to worker beneficiaries and to workers’ dependents and survivors are based on workers’ past earnings. The computation process involves three main steps First, a summarized measure of lifetime earnings is computed. That measure is called the average indexed monthly earnings (AIME). Second, a benefit formula is applied to the AIME to compute the primary insurance amount(PIA). The benefit formula is progressive. As a result, workers with higher AIMEs receive higher Social Security benefits, but the benefits received by people with lower earnings replace a larger share of past earnings. Third, an adjustment may be made based on the age at which a beneficiary chooses to begin receiving payments. For retired workers who claim benefits at the full retirement age (FRA) and for disabled workers, the monthly benefit equals the PIA. Retired workers who claim earlier receive lower monthly benefits, and those who claim later receive higher benefits.Retired worker benefits can be affected by other adjustments…”
“Emtrain’s Workplace Culture Report 2020 identifies the root causes of workplace culture failures. The Workplace Culture Diagnostic employs millions of data points to establish a threshold for unhealthy workplace norms. Companies can benchmark their own organizational health against other companies across the country…Giving companies the Confidence to Act – This report provides brand new insights on workplace culture problems. Emtrain’s diagnostic approach enables workplace culture experts, senior leadership, and employees to identify issues, change behaviors and solve problems. Emtrain launched a new type of online training that embeds dialogue-based research tools within the learner experience with the clear goal: help the learner and their organization with behavior change, informed by real data on the situational dynamics that lead to culture problems.
Emtrain’s Workplace Culture Report 2020 will:
- Shine a spotlight on the situational dynamics at the root of culture-failures
- Illuminate six key indicators and how they manifest themselves in organizations today
- Provide a diagnostic framework to understand what influences healthy workplace culture
- Quantify company performance across a Workplace Culture Diagnostic Benchmark…”