Law and Legal

GPO and LC release digitized version of Congressional Record 1891-1911

“The U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) partners with the Library of Congress to release the digital version of the bound Congressional Record from 1891-1911 on GPO’s govinfo ( This release covers the debates and proceedings of the 52nd through the 61st Congresses. This era of Congress covers historical topics such as:

  • The final two years of the administration of President Benjamin Harrison; the election of President Cleveland for a nonconsecutive second term; the election, reelection, and assassination of President McKinley; the first term and reelection of President Theodore Roosevelt; and the election and first two years of the administration of President Taft
  • Admission of Utah and Oklahoma as states
  • The Panic of 1893
  • The Spanish-American War
  • The first flight by the Wright Brothers
  • Passage of the Antiquities Act
  • Passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act
  • Construction of the Panama Canal
  • Final years of the Gilded Age and beginning of the Progressive Era.”
Categories: Law and Legal

After Sutherland Springs, Cornyn Announces Bill to Strengthen Background Check System

The New York Times – Air Force Error Allowed Texas Gunman to Buy Weapons – “The Air Force admitted that it didn’t enter Devin P. Kelley’s domestic violence court-martial into a database that could have prevented him from buying a gun.”

News release: “‘As each new detail emerges from what is still an ongoing investigation, we need to study the whole puzzle, ask ourselves how did this happen, why so many lives were lost and what if anything could have been done to prevent it.’ ‘I plan to introduce legislation… to ensure that all federal departments and agencies, including the Department of Defense, upload the required conviction records into the national database.’ ‘According to the Department of Justice, the number of these records that are actually uploaded is staggeringly low. That is unacceptable and it must change.’ ‘We need to better understand why our existing laws didn’t work in this instance and that’s what my proposed legislation will do.’

Today on the Senate floor, U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) announced plans to introduce legislation that would incentivize federal agencies, including the military, to expeditiously and efficiently upload the already-required criminal conviction records into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Sen. Cornyn previously introduced the Mental Health and Safe Communities Act, a bill to encourage states and agencies to upload more mental health records into NICS and to improve crisis response by law enforcement. Excerpts of Sen. Cornyn’s remarks are below, and video of his remarks can be found here.”

Categories: Law and Legal

Twitter postings are now 240 characters for most users

Twitter blog posting, November 7, 2017: “In September, we launched a test that expanded the 140 character limit so every person around the world could express themselves easily in a Tweet. Our goal was to make this possible while ensuring we keep the speed and brevity that makes Twitter, Twitter. Looking at all the data, we’re excited to share we’ve achieved this goal and are rolling the change out to all languages where cramming was an issue.* During the first few days of the test many people Tweeted the full 280 limit because it was new and novel, but soon after behavior normalized (more on this below). We saw when people needed to use more than 140 characters, they Tweeted more easily and more often. But importantly, people Tweeted below 140 most of the time and the brevity of Twitter remained. Highlights are below and in our additional blogs about our experimentation process, extensive data analysis, research, and design work…”

Categories: Law and Legal

NYT – Visualizing the Rise and Fall of ISIS

Center for Data Innovation: “The New York Times has created a data visualization illustrating how the size of territory controlled by ISIS has grown and shrunk since 2014. In 2014, ISIS controlled several important cities in Iraq and Syria, seizing control of over 50 cities and towns in June 2014, and growing to control nearly every province in Syria and northern and central Iraq by 2017. Throughout 2017, ISIS suffered heavy losses and though not defeated, now only controls a small handful of areas.”

Categories: Law and Legal

Why Some Companies Restrict Data Access to Reduce Competition and How Open APIs Can Help

Center for Data Innovation: Blocked: Why Some Companies Restrict Data Access to Reduce Competition and How Open APIs Can Help, By Daniel Castro and Michael Steinberg | November 6, 2017.  Over the past few years, some scholars, advocates, and policymakers have argued that businesses which possess large quantities of data, such as social media companies, present inherent competition concerns.  These concerns are misplaced for a number of reasons, one being that competitors can often obtain similar data from other sources. But in some industries and markets, a small number of firms have exclusive access to particular datasets, and they exploit their market power to limit access to that data through both technical and administrative means without any legitimate business justification. This type of anti-competitive behavior limits innovation and hurts consumers, and when these problematic practices occur, policymakers should intervene.”

Categories: Law and Legal

Mass Shootings in America Are Spreading Like a Disease

The Atlantic: “Several years ago, Malcolm Gladwell wrote an article in The New Yorker positing that national school shootings might spread like a disease. He cited the models of the Stanford University sociologist Mark Granovetter, whose theory of social-influence “thresholds” explained the gathering force of a riot. Imagine an avalanche, where the first tranche of snowpack to move might be quite unsteady, but as the wave of snow gathers force, it becomes powerful enough to dislocate even the most stable trees and houses. Similarly, a riot might begin with one wild rebel throwing a rock through a window just to get a rush. It becomes a public movement when the momentum is powerful enough to move even the relatively stable people nearby to join in the rock-hurling. But according to a 2015 paper out of Arizona State University, “Contagion in Mass Killings and School Shootings,” there is some data that mass shootings often occur in bunches, suggesting that they “infect” new potential murderers, not unlike a disease. “We find significant evidence that mass killings involving firearms are incented by similar events in the immediate past,” the authors wrote. Suicide and terrorism, too, have been found to be similarly contagious. (Interestingly, the authors found “no significant association” between the rate of school and mass shootings and the state’s prevalence of mental illness.) Diseases spread between individuals, but the contagion of mass shootings seems to spread through broadcast media.” [h/t/ Pete Weiss]

Categories: Law and Legal

Comcast internet has been down across the country today

“Since this Monday morning November 6, 2017], there have been massive Comcast internet outages across the U.S., particularly in big cities like New York, D.C., Portland and San Francisco, according to Level 3’s outtage map. Comcast tweeted this morning, “Some customers are having issues with their XFINITY Internet service. We apologize & appreciate your patience while we work to fix.” Why it matters: We have yet to hear any reason for the outages. Spectrum and Verizon costumers have also reported outages today, according to BGR, but not at the same rate as Comcast costumers.” Folks – this is not a drill – this is what does and will continue to happen when the “series of tubes” [that are the internet] are severed by unknown actors – who know all about the global undersea location of Internet Fiber Optic Cables on the ocean floor.

Categories: Law and Legal

Problems and Solutions for Court Videoconferencing

Court Tech Bulletin: Problems and Solutions for Court Videoconferencing “A BuzzFeed News article brought to our attention a report done on the use of videoconferencing in the Courts of the United Kingdom and Wales.  We share some notes from the articles and discuss our potential technology solutions and other resources below. An article was posted on BuzzFeed News titled “This Man Had To Defend Himself Without A Lawyer Via Videolink With Terrible Audio. He Lost.” It was based on a report from the “charity Transform Justice” that goes into more detail that we will discuss below. The article describes a UK Court of Appeal hearing in January 2016 presided over by Dame Julia Wendy Macur. The defendant, Folarin Oyebola was “appealing a confiscation order of a property” from prison.  He was quoted as saying: ‘It was horrible,” he recalled. “[The judge] didn’t understand what I was saying at all. It was like speaking into a hollow chamber. I was shouting and it kept echoing back.”

The Report – The article is based upon a report (PDF) titled, “Defendants on video – conveyor belt justice or a revolution in access? by Penelope Gibbs, published in October 2017.  The report goes into much more and better detail and is recommended reading.  I have attempted a summary of the summary section of the report here:

1. The use of video hearings has increased “with little scrutiny or consultation”.  They note that there was “no data on the number of video court hearings held, or for what purpose”.
2. Next, “(t)here is no research on the effect of appearing on video on a defendants’ ability to participate, on their relationship with their lawyer or probation officer, and on perceptions of a jury or judge.”
3. They further allege with little evidence (one study) that “defendants who appeared on video from police stations were more likely to get prison sentences and less likely to get community sentences.”
4. Interviews for the report “suggests that appearing on video can increase defendants’ feelings of isolation and stress. Alarm bells are ringing particularly loud about the use of video for people with mental health problems, learning disabilities, and autism.”
5. And, “(t)his report suggests ways to improve the way video hearings work. But to make the system fit for purpose would cost millions – millions the MoJ does not have. And the outcomes in terms of justice (sentencing and remand decisions) may always be more punitive for those appearing on video. So is it worth it? If cost saving is the over-riding objective of the move to video hearings, the jury is still out on whether they save money now. It may well be more expensive to create a virtual court that works properly than to use existing physical courts.”
The report was based upon an online survey that received responses on each question from at least 180 persons, telephone interviews with eight of the online respondents, and a round table discussion with the courts and other experts that was held on July 5, 2017.”

Categories: Law and Legal

Some “Acting” Officials in the Federal Government Will Authority

Steve Aftergood – Secrecy News, November 6, 2017: “Some government officials who are serving on an “acting” basis because a permanent replacement has not yet been named will lose their ability to function this month when their legal authority is nullified under the terms of the Vacancies Act. In the Trump Administration there are hundreds of government agency positions requiring Senate confirmation that have gone unfilled. In many cases, their responsibilities have been assumed by “acting” officials. But by law, that arrangement can only be temporary. The Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998 specifies that “acting” officers can fill positions requiring confirmation for no more than 210 days. If the position is vacant at the start of a new Administration, an extension of 90 days is allowed, for a total of 300 days. The 300 day period from Inauguration Day last January 20 will end on November 16, 2017. After that, certain acting officials will no longer be able to carry out their duties. “If the acting officer remains in office and attempts to perform a nondelegable function or duty — one that a statute or regulation expressly assigns to that office — that action will ‘have no force or effect’,” according to a new brief from the Congressional Research Service. See Out of Office: Vacancies, Acting Officers, and Day 301, CRS Legal Sidebar, November 1, 2017. See also The Vacancies Act: A Legal Overview, October 30, 2017. President Trump does not appear to be concerned about the matter. Asked about high level vacancies in the State Department last week, he told Laura Ingraham of Fox that most of the government positions awaiting confirmed nominees were superfluous. “I’m the only one that matters,” he said.”

Categories: Law and Legal

Challenges in Machine Generation of Analytic Products from Multi-Source Data

“The Intelligence Community Studies Board of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine convened a workshop on August 9-10, 2017 to examine challenges in machine generation of analytic products from multi-source data. Workshop speakers and participants discussed research challenges related to machine-based methods for generating analytic products and for automating the evaluation of these products, with special attention to learning from small data, using multi-source data, adversarial learning, and understanding the human-machine relationship. This publication summarizes the presentations and discussions from the workshop.”

Categories: Law and Legal

US Court Grants ISPs and Search Engine Blockade of Sci-Hub

Torrent Freak: “Sci-Hub, often referred to as the “Pirate Bay of Science,” has suffered another blow in a US federal court. The American Chemical Society has won a default judgment of $4.8 million for alleged copyright infringement against the site. In addition, the publisher was granted an unprecedented injunction which requires search engines and ISPs to block the platform. Earlier this year the American Chemical Society (ACS), a leading source of academic publications in the field of chemistry, filed a lawsuit against Sci-Hub and its operator Alexandra Elbakyan. The non-profit organization publishes tens of thousands of articles a year in its peer-reviewed journals. Because many of these are available for free on Sci-Hub, ACS wants to be compensated. Sci-Hub was made aware of the legal proceedings but did not appear in court. As a result, a default was entered against the site. In addition to millions of dollars in damages, ACS also requested third-party Internet intermediaries to take action against the site…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Offshore Trove Exposes Trump-Russia links and Piggy Banks of the Wealthiest 1 Percent

International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) – A new leak of confidential records reveals the financial hideaways of iconic brands and power brokers across the political spectrum.

“A trove of 13.4 million records exposes ties between Russia and U.S. President Donald Trump’s billionaire commerce secretary, the secret dealings of the chief fundraiser for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the offshore interests of the queen of England and more than 120 politicians around the world. The leaked documents, dubbed the Paradise Papers, show how deeply the offshore financial system is entangled with the overlapping worlds of political players, private wealth and corporate giants, including Apple, Nike, Uber and other global companies that avoid taxes through increasingly imaginative bookkeeping maneuvers. One offshore web leads to Trump’s commerce secretary, private equity tycoon Wilbur Ross, who has a stake in a shipping company that has received more than $68 million in revenue since 2014 from a Russian energy company co-owned by the son-in-law of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In all, the offshore ties of more than a dozen Trump advisers, Cabinet members and major donors appear in the leaked data. The new files come from two offshore services firms as well as from 19 corporate registries maintained by governments in jurisdictions that serve as waystations in the global shadow economy. The leaks were obtained by German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and a network of more than 380 journalists in 67 countries….”

Categories: Law and Legal

New on LLRX – Why Big Data Doesn’t Reveal Process Waste

Via LLRX – Why Big Data Doesn’t Reveal Process Waste Ken Grady describes, documents and illustrates the successful use of a waste-reduced standardized process that will permit a firm to accurately estimate the time it takes to prepare specific work product, such as a draft stock purchase agreement.

Categories: Law and Legal

New on LLRX – 200 universities just launched 560 free online courses. Here’s the full list.

Via LLRX 200 universities just launched 560 free online courses. Here’s the full list. Dhawal Shah, Founder of the online course search engine – – identifies free online courses in a dozen disciplines: Computer Science, Mathematics, Programming, Data Science, Humanities, Social Sciences, Education & Teaching, Health & Medicine, Business, Personal Development, Engineering, Art & Design, and Science. You are certain to find a few if not many self-paced courses to leverage for continuing education, professional development, as well as just for the fun of learning and applying new subject matter expertise.

Categories: Law and Legal

New on LLRX – The State of Law Library eBooks 2017-18 Part Two: Brass Tacks

Via LLRX – The State of Law Library eBooks 2017-18 Part Two: Brass TacksEllyssa Kroski discusses the range of eBook pricing models that are currently available along with the pros and cons respective to each. Kroski’s article also addresses other critical issues relevant to managing subscription-based, patron-driven acquisitions, short term loans, access-to-own, as well as strategies for controlling costs, and questions to ask before choosing an eBook solution. Also see Kroski’s The State of Law Library eBooks 2017-18 Part One: The Landscape.

Categories: Law and Legal

Libraries inspire their communities through green inititatives

Via American Libraries Magazine: “Michigan State University (MSU) Library Environmental Committee (LEC). LEC supports an impressive array of eco-initiatives, including diversion—the rate at which material is removed from the waste stream through recycling, composting, or reuse. MSU Libraries surpassed a campuswide goal for a 70% diversion rate by 2017. By comparison, nationwide, less than 35% of municipal solid waste is recycled or composted, according to a 2016 Environmental Protection Agency report.  Still, library staffers push themselves to improve. In 2016, during a two-month intensive waste-reduction campaign called Zero Waste Mania, the library’s diversion rate reached 84%. It achieved this simply by improving its signage, adjusting the placement of its bins, and heavily promoting reuse and recycling. In some cases, diversion has inspired one-of-a-kind reuse: for instance, flower planters made from old bunk beds. The MSU library offers a model for another sustainability measure: deaccessioning books. Not much literature exists around what happens to books once libraries weed them. MSU Libraries launched its own data analysis, and partnered with the MSU Surplus Store—a shop where the public can buy things like dorm furniture and books that might otherwise be sent to a landfill—to either reuse or recycle 100% of the material withdrawn from the library collection or collected from public donation bins. The Surplus Store staff sells or debinds and recycles the texts. Through online and onsite sales, the Surplus Store has sold about $150,000 worth of books, and have debound and recycled about 90 tons of materials…” [Note – libraries are throwing millions of books into the trash – the consequences are more than environmental.]

Categories: Law and Legal

Twitter’s list of 2,752 Russian trolls

Follow up to previous posting – Senate Intel Cmte Hearing – Social Media Influence in the 2016 U.S. Elections see Recode: “As the U.S. Congress continues to investigate Russian efforts to meddle in last year’s presidential election — in favor of Donald Trump — it has released a list of 2,752 now-deactivated Twitter accounts that the company identified as being tied to Russia’s “Internet Research Agency” troll farm. The list, distributed as a 65-page PDF file, contains a hodgepodge of Twitter handles and their corresponding account ID numbers.”

Categories: Law and Legal

2017 National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year Contest, Part II

Alan Taylor via The Atlantic – “National Geographic’s annual photo competition is still open, with the deadline for submissions coming up on November 17. The Grand Prize Winner will receive $7,500, publication in National Geographic Magazine, and a feature on National Geographics Instagram account. Contest runners have allowed me to choose a few more of this year’s contest entries for display [in this article]. The captions [in this article] were written by the individual photographers and were lightly edited for style.” Enjoy!

Categories: Law and Legal

America’s Most and Least Popular Governors

“The latest installment of Morning Consult’s Governor Approval Rankings — a survey of more than 255,000 registered voters nationwide conducted online from July 1 to Sept. 30 — features a shuffling at the top and bottom, along with a debutant on the list and a new entrant in the highest ranks. Margins of error vary by state; see table below. Full methodology available here.”

Categories: Law and Legal

J.F.K. Assassination Records now fully searchable free

The Black Vault‏ @blackvaultcom – “Just converted 52,000+ ARRB Emails into searchable .pdf files – now indexed on #JFKFiles Search tool at #blackvault. The search engine has 12,742,440 terms – consisting 100% of the recent #JFKFiles release.”

Categories: Law and Legal


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