Law and Legal

The iconic brands that could disappear because of coronavirus

Washington Post: “The retail industry, rife with bankruptcies and shuttered stores long before the coronavirus, is facing its biggest test yet. Lockdowns triggered by the pandemic have forced the temporary closures of 263,000 stores, according to GlobalData Retail, and analysts say it remains to be seen how many will be able to reopen. A number of the nation’s most iconic brands are at risk of disappearing, as weeks-long lockdowns and deep economic unrest disrupts consumer spending. More than 100,000 stores could disappear by the end of 2025, according to UBS. There already are signs of distress: Retail sales plummeted 8.7 percent in March, their worst drop on record, and analysts say conditions will only worsen in the coming months…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Bad WiFi is slowing you down. Fix yours without spending a dime.

Washington Post – Our five-step guide will help you speed up your Internet connection and eliminate wireless ‘dead zones’ while you’re stuck at home – “…Here’s some advice you won’t hear from many gadget guys: Don’t buy anything. At least not yet. Yes, some new gear or a different service plan might help. But first, let’s do some tests to get to the root of your problem. A fix could be as simple as moving the location of equipment you never really think about. We might even save you money. Right now it’s not very easy to call a technician over to look at your network. So I wrote this guide to the most common problems and cross-checked my solutions with Internet service providers, or ISPs, including Comcast, Verizon and Sonic — and with WiFi hardware makers Netgear, Google and Eero. My request to all of them: Don’t try to sell us stuff, just help us fix what we’ve got. Think of this guide as CSI: WiFi. Network problems are a mystery you solve through a process of elimination. I’m going to suggest a few tests, possible fixes and tips. If one doesn’t help you, then move on to the next…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Lawyers say Trump’s name on stimulus checks might be a crime

Washington Post – Is President Trump guilty of a crime because he has his name on the coronavirus relief checks? “While some might excuse that as an example of Trump’s narcissism, a letter from three prominent lawyers, who represent disparate points on the political spectrum, says it is more serious than that. The administration’s action, they argue, warrants the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the improper use of government employees and property to promote the president’s reelection campaign. That would be a criminal violation of the Hatch Act.  Checks to individuals and organizations from the $2 trillion relief effort are meant to combat the calamitous economic impact of the covid-19 pandemic. It is the first time a president’s name is on an IRS disbursement check, my colleague Lisa Rein reported.

  •  “President Trump is actively seeking re-election. The signature of President Trump on United States Treasury checks is superfluous to their value, legality, or authenticity. The signature serves no official government purpose,” reads the letter to Attorney General William Barr. “It does serve Mr. Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign by making it appear that he is responsible for a monetary windfall to tens of millions of voters.”…”
Categories: Law and Legal

Zoom or Not? NSA Offers Agencies Guidance for Choosing Videoconference Tools

NextGov: “Video conferencing platforms Zoom and Microsoft Teams are both FedRAMP-approved, but while Zoom offers end-to-end encryption, Microsoft Teams does not.  These are just two of nine factors the National Security Agency cites in its guide to help federal workers choose commercial telework tools for “safely using collaboration services,” as necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic. The guide, which NSA released Friday, applies only to commercial applications, and one strong recommendation from the agency is that, when possible, workers use U.S. government services such as Defense Collaboration Services, Intelink Services and others, which were designed specifically for secure government communications. But government workers still need to interact with external entities which might be sending them invitations via commercial applications, and the NSA has detailed a number of factors for them to weigh in deciding which ones to facilitate…”

Categories: Law and Legal

The Covid-19 Tracker

STAT News: “As the virus that causes Covid-19 spreads worldwide, this dashboard offers a snapshot of the crisis right now. Click on a country name to get a more detailed geographic breakdown at the state, province, or county level. Please note that because of limited testing capacity in some areas, the actual number of cases is believed to be higher. The datasets are drawn from over 15 sources and can be reviewed here. In some cases, data on hospitalizations were not available. This dashboard was produced through a partnership between STAT and Applied XL, a Newlab Venture Studio company. This tool will be updated with new datasets in the future, based on additional reporting and reader input. You can participate by sharing your ideas. What kind of data should we explore next? Let us know.” [In the past two days, the U.S. had a total of over 2,500 coronavirus deaths…]

Categories: Law and Legal

Some Amazon Sellers Are Paying $10,000 A Month To Trick Their Way To The Top

BuzzFeedNews – An emerging black market offers Amazon sellers pricey ways to cheat the marketplace and mislead customers, according to documents obtained by BuzzFeed News. “The most prominent black hat companies for US Amazon sellers offer ways to manipulate Amazon’s ranking system to promote products, protect accounts from disciplinary actions, and crush competitors. Sometimes, these black hat companies bribe corporate Amazon employees to leak information from the company’s wiki pages and business reports, which they then resell to marketplace sellers for steep prices. One black hat company charges as much as $10,000 a month to help Amazon sellers appear at the top of product search results. Other tactics to promote sellers’ products include removing negative reviews from product pages and exploiting technical loopholes on Amazon’s site to lift products’ overall sales rankings. These services make it harder for Amazon sellers who abide by the company’s terms of service to succeed in the marketplace, and sellers who rely on these tactics mislead customers and undermine trust in Amazon’s products…”

Categories: Law and Legal

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act—Tax Relief for Individuals and Businesses

Via LC – The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act—Tax Relief for Individuals and Businesses Updated April 28, 2020: “The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act—Tax Relief Congressional Research Service 1ongress has considered a number of proposals that seek to mitigate the economic effects of the Coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19, pandemic. One such proposal, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (P.L. 116-136), was signed into law on March 27, 2020…This report briefly summarizes the major individual and business tax provisions of the CARES Act, as enacted. Links to CRS resources that offer additional information are provided. The Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimated that the individual and business tax provisions in the CARES Act would reduce federal tax revenue by $543.4 billion over the 10-year FY2020 through FY2030 budget window. The JCT also prepared a technical explanation of the provisions…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Fintech: Overview of Innovative Financial Technology and Selected Policy Issues

EveryCRSReport.com – Fintech: Overview of Innovative Financial Technology and Selected Policy Issues, April 28, 2020: “Advances in technology allow for innovation in the ways businesses and individuals perform financial activities. The development of financial technology—commonly referred to as fintech—is the subject of great interest for the public and policymakers. Fintech innovations could potentially improve the efficiency of the financial system and financial outcomes for businesses and consumers. However, the new technology could pose certain risks, potentially leading to unanticipated financial losses or other harmful outcomes. Policymakers designed many of the financial laws and regulations intended to foster innovation and mitigate risks before the most recent technological changes. This raises questions concerning whether the existing legal and regulatory frameworks, when applied to fintech, effectively protect against harm without unduly hindering beneficial technologies’ development…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Small Businesses and COVID-19: Relief and Assistance Resources

Via LC – Small Businesses and COVID-19: Relief and Assistance Resources Updated April 28, 2020 – “This CRS Insight presents selected websites and CRS products potentially relevant to small businesses that are directly affected by the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and seeking economic relief and assistance. For an analysis of the small business provisions in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, enacted on March 27, 2020, see CRS Report R46284, COVID-19 Relief Assistance to Small Businesses: Issues and Policy Options, by Robert Jay Dilger, Bruce R. Lindsay, and Sean Lowry. For a list of all CRS products related to COVID-19, see the CRS COVID-19 Resources page…”

Categories: Law and Legal

We Asked All 50 States About Their Contact Tracing Capacity

NPR – Here’s What We Learned [readers may enter a state’s name to see current, planned and projected staffing levels] – Spoiler Alert / there is only state that meets the current requirement for contact tracers – North Dakota.  “States are eager to open up and get people back to work, but how do they do that without risking new coronavirus flare-ups? Public health leaders widely agree that communities need to ramp up capacity to test, trace and isolate. The idea behind this public health mantra is simple: Keep the virus in check by having teams of public health workers — epidemiologists, nurses, trained citizens — identify new positive cases, track down their contacts and help both the sick person and those who were exposed isolate themselves.

This is the strategy that has been proven to work in other countries, including China, South Korea and Germany. For it to work in the U.S., states and local communities will need ample testing and they’ll need to expand their public health workforce. By a lot. An influential group of former government officials released a letter Monday calling for a contact tracing workforce of 180,000. Other estimates of how many contact tracers are needed range from 100,000 to 300,000. NPR surveyed all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia to ask them how many contact tracers they currently have — and how many they were planning to add, if any. We got data for 41 states and the District of Columbia and found they have in total approximately 7,602 workers who do contact tracing on staff now, with plans to surge to a total of 36,587…”

Categories: Law and Legal

GAO Report on pedestrian safety documents lack of interest in the matter by NHTSA

Pedestrian Safety: NHTSA Needs to Decide Whether to Include Pedestrian Safety Tests in Its New Car Assessment Program – GAO-20-419: Published: Apr 23, 2020. Publicly Released: Apr 23, 2020.– “On average, 17 pedestrians died each day in 2018 as a result of vehicle crashes—up 43% from 2008. Automakers offer safety features on many new cars to help protect pedestrians. For example, crash avoidance technologies use cameras or radar to detect pedestrians and warn drivers or automatically slow or stop the car. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has researched pedestrian safety and developed procedures to test new cars. In 2015, NHTSA proposed including these tests in its new car assessment program, but hasn’t made a decision on how to move forward or set a timeline for that to happen. We recommended they decide…”

Categories: Law and Legal

The Coolest Ways to Experience Boston Museums Virtually Right Now

Boston City Life – Simple slideshows? No way. Check out these interactive, multi-sensory, and downright fun online resources. “Even as art galleries sit empty and museum doors stay shut, cultural institutions everywhere are still coming up with creative ways to connect with the public during the pandemic. Beyond virtual museum tours available for free via Google Arts & Culture, Boston’s best museums are rolling out plenty of innovative new ideas and activities this spring. From a digital music playlist that animates an urban art exhibit, to an interactive game that lets history buffs play sailor, check out these exciting ways to engage online with Boston’s museums right now…” [This is for Jackie – who has been my partner in discovering the wonders of the MFA]

Categories: Law and Legal

Pentagon formally releases 3 Navy videos showing “unidentified aerial phenomena”

CBSNews: “The Pentagon on Monday formally released three unclassified videos taken by Navy pilots that have circulated for years showing interactions with “unidentified aerial phenomena.” One of the videos shows an incident from 2004, and the other two were recorded in January 2015, according to Sue Gough, a Defense Department spokeswoman. The videos became public after unauthorized leaks in 2007 and 2017, and the Navy previously verified their authenticity “After a thorough review, the department has determined that the authorized release of these unclassified videos does not reveal any sensitive capabilities or systems, and does not impinge on any subsequent investigations of military air space incursions by unidentified aerial phenomena,” Gough said… [Note – the unidentified object remain – unidentified!]

Categories: Law and Legal

USGS Releases First-Ever Comprehensive Geologic Map of the Moon

USGS: “For the first time, the entire lunar surface has been completely mapped and uniformly classified by scientists from the USGS Astrogeology Science Center, in collaboration with NASA and the Lunar Planetary Institute. The lunar map, called the “Unified Geologic Map of the Moon,” will serve as the definitive blueprint of the moon’s surface geology for future human missions and will be invaluable for the international scientific community, educators and the public-at-large. The digital map is available online now and shows the moon’s geology in incredible detail (1:5,000,000 scale). “People have always been fascinated by the moon and when we might return,” said current USGS Director and former NASA astronaut Jim Reilly. “So, it’s wonderful to see USGS create a resource that can help NASA with their planning for future missions.” To create the new digital map, scientists used information from six Apollo-era regional maps along with updated information from recent satellite missions to the moon. The existing historical maps were redrawn to align them with the modern data sets, thus preserving previous observations and interpretations. Along with merging new and old data, USGS researchers also developed a unified description of the stratigraphy, or rock layers, of the moon. This resolved issues from previous maps where rock names, descriptions and ages were sometimes inconsistent…”

Categories: Law and Legal

CDC posts info on additional COVID-19 symptoms

CDC: “Watch for symptoms – People with COVID-19 have had a wide range of symptoms reported – ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus. People with these symptoms or combinations of symptoms may have COVID-19:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

Or at least two of these symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Children have similar symptoms to adults and generally have mild illness. This list is not all inclusive. Please consult your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you…”
Categories: Law and Legal

2015 GAO Report on Air Travel and Communicable Diseases was ignored

AIR TRAVEL AND COMMUNICABLE DISEASES: Comprehensive Federal Plan Needed for U.S. Aviation System’s Preparedness GAO-16-127: Published: Dec 16, 2015. Publicly Released: Dec 16, 2015. “All of the 14 airports and 3 airlines GAO reviewed have plans for responding to communicable disease threats from abroad, although the United States lacks a comprehensive national aviation-preparedness plan aimed at preventing and containing the spread of diseases through air travel. U.S. airports and airlines are not required to have individual preparedness plans, and no federal agency tracks which airports and airlines have them. Consequently, it is not clear the extent to which all U.S. airports and airlines have such plans. The plans GAO reviewed generally addressed the high-level components that GAO identified as common among applicable federal and international guidance, such as establishment of an incident command center and activation triggers for a response. GAO identified these components to provide a basis for assessing the breadth of the plans. The plans GAO reviewed for each airport were developed by, or in collaboration with, relevant airport stakeholders, such as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) airport staff. As provided in Annex 9, the Chicago Convention, an international aviation treaty to which the United States is a signatory, obligates member states to develop a national aviation-preparedness plan for communicable disease outbreaks. The Department of Transportation (DOT) and CDC officials contend that some elements of such a plan already exist, including plans at individual airports. However, FAA has reported that individual airport plans are often intended to handle one or two flights with arriving passengers, rather than an epidemic, which may require involvement from multiple airports on a national level. Most importantly, a national aviation-preparedness plan would provide airports and airlines with an adaptable and scalable framework with which to align their individual plans—to help ensure that individual airport and airline plans work in accordance with one another. DOT and CDC officials agree that a national plan could add value. Such a plan would provide a mechanism for the public-health and aviation sectors to coordinate to more effectively prevent and control a communicable disease threat while minimizing unnecessary disruptions to the national aviation system…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Covid-19: Novel Coronavirus Content Free to Access

Wiley Online Library – “Following an outbreak of pneumonia without a clear cause in the city of Wuhan in China, a novel strain of coronavirus (2019-nCoV) was detected in December 2019. Coronaviruses were identified in the mid-1960s and are known to infect humans and a variety of animals (including birds and mammals). Since 2002, two coronaviruses infecting animals have evolved and caused outbreaks in humans: SARS-CoV (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) identified in southern China in 2003, and MERS-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), identified in Saudi Arabia in 2012. Together, they have caused more than 1600 deaths. It’s in these times of crisis where communities come together even more. As a publisher of trusted health science, we’ve made the relevant research articles, book chapters and entries in our major references freely available below, in support of the global efforts in diagnosis, treatment, prevention and further research in this disease and similar viral respiratory infections. Our approach is to use the world-class information we have available to directly improve health and to support the virtual efforts of healthcare practitioners globally. We are continually monitoring the developments and we will update the content of this page periodically.”

Categories: Law and Legal

Did the Paycheck Protection Program Hit the Target?

Granja, Joao and Makridis, Christos and Yannelis, Constantine and Zwick, Eric, Did the Paycheck Protection Program Hit the Target? (April 25, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3585258

“This paper takes an early look at the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a large and novel small business support program that was part of the initial policy response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We use new data on the distribution of PPP loans and high-frequency micro-level employment data to consider two dimensions of program targeting. First, we do not find evidence that funds flowed to areas more adversely affected by the economic effects of the pandemic, as measured by declines in hours worked or business shutdowns. If anything, funds flowed to areas less hard hit. Second, we find significant heterogeneity across banks in terms of disbursing PPP funds, which does not only reflect differences in underlying loan demand. The top-4 banks alone account for 36% of total pre-policy small business loans, but disbursed less than 3% of all PPP loans. Areas that were significantly more exposed to low-PPP banks received much lower loan allocations. As data become available, we will study employment and establishment responses to the program and the impact of PPP support on the economic recovery. Measuring these responses is critical for evaluating the social insurance value of the PPP and similar policies.”

Categories: Law and Legal

89% fear economic collapse

“89% of Americans — both Republicans and Democrats — now worry about the economy collapsing, Axios White House editor Margaret Talev writes from the newest Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

  • Why it matters: In this 50-50 nation, we almost never see lopsided results like that. This figure is one of the most vivid indications yet that real panic about the future is settling in throughout America.
  • Three-fourths of those polled said they fear their communities will reopen too soon, although there’s a massive partisan gulf on that question…”
Categories: Law and Legal

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