Law and Legal

CRS – Election Security: Issues in the 2018 Midterm Elections

Election Security: Issues in the 2018 Midterm Elections August 16, 2018 IN10955

In the wake of assessments about foreign interference in the 2016 presidential election, concerns have been mounting about the security of the 2018 midterm elections. Security efforts are complicated by the complex, multidimensional election life cycle, with each dimension involving a broad array of components. The main dimensions can be thought of as election administration, campaign activities, and media coverage. Traditionally, concerns about election security have focused largely on election administration. In the wake of the 2016 election, the Department of Homeland Security designated election-administration infrastructure as a critical infrastructure (CI) subsector. That made the state and local offices and private-sector entities involved in running elections eligible for enhanced federal technical assistance and information sharing on both physical- and cyber-security. The CI designation expressly applies only to the election-administration dimension. However, malicious actors are unlikely to respect such limitations. The increasing use of internet connectivity in all three dimensions is creating a convergence of security risks not only within the dimensions but across them

  • Attacks on election infrastructure might involve registration databases, voting systems, reporting of results, or other components or processes. The goal might be to exfiltrate (surreptitiously obtain) information such as voter files, to disrupt the election process, or even to change vote counts and results.
  • Attacks on political parties and campaigns might involve exfiltration of candidate information or communications, disruption of events, or other goals. For example, data from the information networks of a political party could offer a foreign adversary insights into the prospective operations, priorities, and vulnerabilities of an incoming government, should the party prevail at the polls.
  • Exploits involving media coverage, especially social media, might include, for example, spreading false or misleading information to voters with the aim of affecting their votes or eroding confidence in the election outcome. Voter information obtained through attacks on political party or government entities, or by other means, could be used to target voters considered susceptible to such misinformation. For example, Cambridge Analytica reportedly acquired and used data on more than 50 million Facebook users to influence voters in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and Brexit referendum. Although Facebook maintains that the case did not constitute a data breach, the legality of how such information was and is obtained, as well as its potential impacts, remains controversial. Both House and Senate committees have held hearings on the topic…”
Categories: Law and Legal

CRS – Gun Control: 3D-Printed AR-15 Lower Receivers

Gun Control: 3D-Printed AR-15 Lower Receivers August 22, 2018. IN10957

“The possibility that criminals could use three dimensional-printing (3D-printing) technology to produce “untraceable” firearms, including AR-15s, is an issue of growing concern for some lawmakers. It overlaps in part with the issue of 3D-printed “undetectable” firearms discussed in a previous Insight (CRS Insight IN10953, Gun Control: 3D-Printed Firearms). Defense Distributed, a federally licensed firearms manufacturer, recently uploaded 3D-printable computer assisted design (CAD) files on its website for an AR-15 type rifle, including its lower receiver. The lower receiver is the “controlled part” of an AR-15 under federal law and, thus, the main component around which a fully functional firearm can be assembled. Defense Distributed demonstrated that a 3D printer could be used to produce an AR-15 lower receiver out of a polymer material, but functional reliability appeared to remain an issue. On July 31, 2018, a federal judge granted a temporary injunction preventing Defense Distributed from leaving those files posted on its website. These circumstances have called attention to the fact that it is legally permissible for any person to build a firearm, as long as that individual is not prohibited from possessing a firearm and does not build it with intent to sell it. Unlicensed firearms builders are not required to identify their firearms with a serial number and other markings. If later lost or stolen, and used in a crime, it would be difficult for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to trace such firearms back to their builders and possibly determine sources and patterns of firearms trafficking. Consequently, those untraceable home-built (“do-it-yourself”) firearms have become known as “ghost guns.”

…Since 1963, the AR-15 has grown in popularity with the gun-owning public. It is used in marksmanship competitions, including the National Matches authorized by Congress in 1903. The AR-15 can be built in, or modified to accept, a wide variety of cartridges, including cartridges commonly used for hunting. Many firearms enthusiasts view the AR-15 as the “modern sporting rifle,” while others also view it as a good option for self-defense. However, gun control advocates view the AR-15 as an “assault weapon” that criminals have used in some of the deadliest mass shootings. They note further that AR-15 “ghost guns” were used in two mass shootings in California. Under the Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA), the definition of a “firearm” includes the frame or receiver of any such weapon. A “receiver” is the basic component of a rifle to which the barrel and stock are attached. It generally houses the breechblock, bolt, hammer, and trigger. In pistols, revolvers, and break-open firearms, it is called a “frame.” The “receiver” or “frame” is generally the “controlled part” of a firearm. Some firearms like the AR-15, however, were designed with a lower and upper receiver. ATF ruled that the lower receiver is the “controlled part” of an AR-15…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Hundreds of Researchers From Harvard, Yale and Stanford Were Published in Fake Academic Journals

Motherboard: “…In the so-called “post-truth era,” science seems like one of the last bastions of objective knowledge, but what if science itself were to succumb to fake news? Over the past year, German journalist Svea Eckert and a small team of journalists went undercover to investigate a massive underground network of fake science journals and conferences. In the course of the investigation, which was chronicled in the documentary “Inside the Fake Science Factory,” the team analyzed over 175,000 articles published in predatory journals and found hundreds of papers from academics at leading institutions, as well as substantial amounts of research pushed by pharmaceutical corporations, tobacco companies, and others. Last year, one fake science institution run by a Turkish family was estimated to have earned over $4 million in revenue through conferences and journals…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Bill Gates – Not enough people are paying attention to this economic trend

Gates Notes: The Blog of Bill Gates – “The portion of the world’s economy that doesn’t fit the old model just keeps getting larger. That has major implications for everything from tax law to economic policy to which cities thrive and which cities fall behind, but in general, the rules that govern the economy haven’t kept up. This is one of the biggest trends in the global economy that isn’t getting enough attention…the brilliant new book Capitalism Without Capital by Jonathan Haskel and Stian Westlake is about as good an explanation as I’ve seen. They start by defining intangible assets as “something you can’t touch.” It sounds obvious, but it’s an important distinction because intangible industries work differently than tangible industries. Products you can’t touch have a very different set of dynamics in terms of competition and risk and how you value the companies that make them…

“…What the book reinforced for me is that lawmakers need to adjust their economic policymaking to reflect these new realities. For example, the tools many countries use to measure intangible assets are behind the times, so they’re getting an incomplete picture of the economy. The U.S. didn’t include software in GDP calculations until 1999. Even today, GDP doesn’t count investment in things like market research, branding, and training—intangible assets that companies are spending huge amounts of money on. Measurement isn’t the only area where we’re falling behind—there are a number of big questions that lots of countries should be debating right now. Are trademark and patent laws too strict or too generous? Does competition policy need to be updated? How, if at all, should taxation policies change? What is the best way to stimulate an economy in a world where capitalism happens without the capital? We need really smart thinkers and brilliant economists digging into all of these questions. Capitalism Without Capital is the first book I’ve seen that tackles them in depth, and I think it should be required reading for policymakers. It took time for the investment world to embrace companies built on intangible assets. In the early days of Microsoft, I felt like I was explaining something completely foreign to people. Our business plan involved a different way of looking at assets than investors were used to. They couldn’t imagine what returns we would generate over the long term…” [h/t Darlene Fichter]

Categories: Law and Legal

The Water Crises Aren’t Coming—They’re Here

Esquire: “For eons, the earth has had the same amount of water—no more, no less. What the ancient Romans used for crops and Nefertiti drank? It’s the same stuff we bathe with. Yet with more than seven billion people on the planet, experts now worry we’re running out of usable water. The symptoms are here: multiyear droughts, large-scale crop failures, a major city—Cape Town—on the verge of going dry, increasing outbreaks of violence, fears of full-scale water wars. The big question: How do we keep the H20 flowing?…”

Water cannot be created or destroyed; it can only be damaged. When Peter Gleick says we’ll never run out, he means that at some point, millions of years ago, there was all the water there is, a result of the law of the conservation of matter. Having evaporated from lakes and rivers and oceans and returned as snow and rain, the water we consume has been through innumerable uses. Dinosaurs drank it. The Caesars did, too. It’s been places, and consorted with things, that you might not care to think about. In theory, there’s enough freshwater in the world for everyone, but like oil or diamonds or any other valuable resource, it is not dispersed democratically. Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Peru, Indonesia, and Russia have an abundance—about 40 percent of all there is. America has a decent amount. India and China, meanwhile, have a third of the world’s people and less than a tenth of its freshwater. It is predicted that in twelve years the demand for water in India will be twice the amount on hand. Beijing draws water from an aquifer beneath the city. From being used faster than rain can replenish it, the aquifer has dropped several hundreds of feet in the last forty years, and in places the city is sinking four inches every year…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Commentary – The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction is the Best Place on the Internet

Literary Hub, MH Rowe: “Of all the things you can read on the internet, The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction is one of the only good ones. In perpetual conversation with itself, ever growing and expanding—perhaps threatening, in its accumulated obsessions, to become self-aware—this index of the fantastic documents possible pasts and futures alike. It bristles with Tarzan arcana and the history of Croatian science fiction. It features enthusiastic discussions of Medieval futurism, feminism, bug-eyed monsters, dream hacking, and Leonardo da Vinci. Almost any sci-fi author you care to mention has an entry there, alongside accounts of many authors no one cares to mention at all. That you could be reading it right now goes without saying, since in some alternate universe you surely are.

While the SFE’s purview is “science fiction” broadly conceived, its articles have warring impulses. On the one hand, they aim to educate. Within these pages, you’ll find explanations of numerous literary tropes, both those well-known (the generation starship used in many tales of space exploration) and those more obscure (a jonbar point, or the small, seemingly insignificant moment that proves to be the difference between two alternate histories, in time-travel stories). But when the entry on Gene Wolfe declares that he is “quite possibly” science fiction’s most important writer, no shy excuse for this partiality follows. More than informative, this encyclopedia enthuses, anoints, or dismisses. What it has to say about Joanna Russ, Octavia Butler, Kim Stanley Robinson, and J.G. Ballard is aimed squarely at canons and reputations. The SFE quarrels its way into being encyclopedic…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Federal Judge Strikes Down Portions of Trump’s Executive Orders Undermining Federal Employees

The Hill: “A federal judge on Saturday [August 25, 2018] struck down several key provisions in President Trump‘s executive orders that he signed earlier this year that would have made it easier to fire federal workers. In a court ruling, U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson wrote that unions were right in arguing that the provisions included in the orders infringed upon areas that are negotiated between federal employee unions and the government. Jackson, an appointee of former President Obama, wrote that the orders “impair the ability of agency officials to keep an open mind, and to participate fully in give-and-take discussions, during collective bargaining negotiations.” The Trump administration issued the orders in May, saying the rules changes were aimed at saving taxpayers around $100 million per year. The White House pointed to instances of misconduct committed by federal employees as reasoning for the rule change, which encouraged agencies to fire poor-performing employees instead of first suspending them. It also cut the amount of time low-performing workers were given to improve. “Tenured Federal employees have stolen agency property, run personal businesses from work, and been arrested for using drugs during lunch breaks and not been fired,” the White House said in a statement at the time. “To empower our civil servants to best help others, the government must always operate more efficiently and more securely,” Trump added in a statement included in the release.

Sharon Block, a former senior Labor Department official and National Labor Relations Board member under the Obama administration, told The New York Times that Saturday’s ruling was a “stinging rebuke” of the Trump administration…”

From the text of the opinion… See Exec. Order No. 13,836, 83 Fed. Reg. 25329 (May 25, 2018); Exec. Order No. 13,837, 83 Fed. Reg. 25335 (May 25, 2018); Exec. Order No. 13,839, 83 Fed. Reg. 25343 (May 25, 2018) (collectively, “the Orders”). Among other things, these Orders seek to regulate both the collective bargaining negotiations that federal agencies enter into with public-sector unions andthe matters that these parties negotiate. The Orders place limits on the activities that federal employees may engage in when acting as labor representatives; guide agencies toward particular negotiating positions during the collective bargaining process; and address the approaches agencies shall follow when disciplining or evaluating employees working within the civil service…”
Categories: Law and Legal

Now You Can Read Entire Books on Instagram Thanks to the NPLs ‘InstaNovels’

Fortune: “The New York Public Library is introducing a new way for you to get your read on: the “InstaNovel.” As of Wednesday, the NYPL will begin posting classic novels to its Instagram account, in the form of Instagram stories. The project, called InstaNovels, is deemed a “reimagining of Instagram Stories to provide a new platform for iconic stories.” The InstaNovels were created in conjunction with independent advertising and creative agency, Mother in New York. The first book to be featured is Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which has been illustrated by designer Magoz. That will be followed by the short story The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis in the coming months.

We’re bringing some of the world’s most incredible stories to Instagram Stories with #InstaNovels. Follow @nypl on Instagram to start reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland:

Find all of the ways to discover these stories at

— NY Public Library (@nypl) August 22, 2018…”

Categories: Law and Legal

70 Books (and Other Resources) for Internal Change Agents

Via John Cutler – “Multiple hat-wearer. Product development nut. I love wrangling complex problems and answering the why with qual/quant data. @johncutlefish on Twitter.”

“What books / research / models / frameworks might you recommend for change agents with low/no positional authority hoping to coax their orgs in a new direction?” See – 70 Books (and Other Resources) for Internal Change Agents

Categories: Law and Legal

FTC – How to avoid a Bitcoin blackmail scam

Threats, intimidation and high-pressure tactics are classic signs of a scam. Learn how to stay ahead of clever crooks with these practical tips, and check out the ways you can keep your personal information secure…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Announcing PACER Docket Alerts for Journalists, Lawyers, Researchers, and the Public

Free Law Project: “Today we are thrilled to announce the general availability of PACER Docket Alerts on Once enabled, a docket alert will send you an email whenever there is a new filing in a case in PACER. We started CourtListener in 2010 as a circuit court monitoring tool, and we could not be more excited to continue expanding on those roots with this powerful new tool.

The best way to get started with Docket Alerts is to just make one. Try loading a popular case like U.S. v. Manafort or The District of Columbia v. Trump. Once the case is open, just press the “Get Alerts” button near the top. Then, just wait for your first alert.

We believe PACER Docket Alerts will be a valuable resource to journalists, researchers, lawyers, and the public as they grapple with staying up to date with the latest PACER filings. Our goal with docket alerts is to make them as simple as possible to use. Once you have found a case you are interested in, a single click is all it takes to turn on an alert for that docket. From then on, we will send you an email as soon as we detect a new filing in that case. For more details on how to use docket alerts, please see our help page

Categories: Law and Legal

Paper – Police, Race, and the Production of Capital Homicides

Fagan, Jeffrey and Geller, Amanda, Police, Race, and the Production of Capital Homicides (July 12, 2018). Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 14-593. Available at SSRN:
“Racial disparities in capital punishment have been well documented for decades. Over 50 studies have shown that Black defendants more likely than their white counterparts to be charged with capital-eligible crimes, to be convicted and sentenced to death. Racial disparities in charging and sentencing in capital-eligible homicides are the largest for the small number of cases where black defendants murder white victims compared to within-race killings, or where whites murder black or other ethnic minority victims. These patterns are robust to rich controls for non-racial characteristics and state sentencing guidelines. This article backs up the research on racial disparities to an earlier stage of capital case processing: the production of capital-eligible cases beginning with the identification of potential defendants by the police. It seeks to trace these sentencing disparities to examining earlier stages in the processing of homicides. Using data from the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Reports, we examine every homicide reported between 1976 and 2009, and find that homicides with white victims are significantly more likely to be “cleared” by the arrest of a suspect than are homicides with minority victims. We estimate a series of hierarchical regressions to show that a substantial portion of this disparity is explained by social and demographic characteristics of the county in which homicides take place. Most notably, counties with large concentrations of minority residents have lower clearance rates than do predominantly white counties; however, county characteristics do not fully explain the observed race-of-victim disparities. Our findings raise equal protection concerns, paving the way for further research into the production of capital homicides and the administration of the death penalty.” [h/t Mary Whisner]

Categories: Law and Legal

Spyware Company Leaves ‘Terabytes’ of Selfies, Text Messages, and Location Data Exposed Online

“This story is part of When Spies Come Home, a Motherboard series about powerful surveillance software ordinary people use to spy on their loved ones. A company that markets cell phone spyware to parents and employers left the data of thousands of its customers—and the information of the people they were monitoring—unprotected online. The data exposed included selfies, text messages, audio recordings, contacts, location, hashed passwords and logins, Facebook messages, among others, according to a security researcher who asked to remain anonymous for fear of legal repercussions. Last week, the researcher found the data on an Amazon S3 bucket owned by Spyfone, one of many companies that sell software that is designed to intercept text messages, calls, emails, and track locations of a monitored device. Motherboard was able to verify that the researcher had access to Spyfone’s monitored devices’ data by creating a trial account, installing the spyware on a phone, and taking some pictures. Hours later, the researcher sent back one of those pictures…”

Categories: Law and Legal

How encrypted communications apps failed to protect Michael Cohen

FastCompany: “Within the detailed federal allegations against former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty yesterday to eight charges including campaign finance violations, are multiple references to texts sent by Cohen and even a call made “through an encrypted telephone application.” Cohen was apparently a fan of encrypted communications apps like WhatsApp and Signal, but those tools failed to keep his messages and calls out of sight from investigators. In June, prosecutors said in a court filing the FBI had obtained 731 pages of messages and call logs from those apps from Cohen’s phones. Investigators also managed to reconstruct at least 16 pages of physically shredded documents.

Prosecutors at Cohen hearing yesterday, according to transcript:

Evidence to support campaign finance charges includes “audio recordings made by Mr. Cohen,” “messages sent over encrypted applications” and Trump Organization records.— Steve Reilly (@BySteveReilly) August 22, 2018

Those logs, judging by the charging document, appear to have helped document at least Cohen’s communications with officials at the National Enquirer about allegations from porn actress Stormy Daniels—whom Cohen allegedly paid on behalf of Trump, violating campaign finance law. It’s unclear if the FBI actually broke through any layers of encryption to get the data. It’s possible that Cohen, who apparently at times taped conversations, stored the conversation logs in a less-than-secure way. Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, himself found guilty of eight counts of federal offenses yesterday, also saw his encrypted WhatsApp and Telegram communications brought up in court over alleged witness tampering. Those messages appeared to have been found through Manafort’s Apple iCloud account. The bottom line: People sending messages through encrypted apps should probably not hang on to copies of their messages and call logs any longer than they have to if they really want to keep those messages secret…”

Categories: Law and Legal

New on LLRX – Banks should brace for impact: The Big Techs are coming!

Via LLRXBanks should brace for impact: The Big Techs are coming! – Data, BI & Analytics expert Siraj Patel discusses the global financial services and products industry in the context of the urgency for existing business models to adapt and innovate in this time of disintermediation, product un-bundling and marketplaces that offer customer rapidly changing banking options.

Categories: Law and Legal

New on LLRX – Library Acquisition Patterns: Preliminary Findings

Via LLRX – Library Acquisition Patterns: Preliminary Findings – Katherine Daniel, Joseph J. Esposito, Roger C. Schonfeld: Several years ago, we set out to better understand how both library acquisition practices and the distribution patterns of publishers and vendors were evolving over time. Within the academic publishing community, there is a sense that academic libraries are acquiring fewer and fewer books and that university presses are struggling amid declining sales. The latter may certainly be true—a recent UK study found that between 2005 and 2014, retail sales of academic books dropped by 13 percent—but what if the academic libraries that constitute part of that market were in reality not making fewer purchases? As new vendors and acquisition methods disrupt customary means of acquiring books, Joseph Esposito, Ithaka S+R’s frequent collaborator and consultant, was inspired to ask whether book sales were actually depressed, or if they only appeared to be because academic libraries were bypassing the traditional wholesale vendors whose metrics are used by university presses to assess sales to libraries for companies like Amazon.

Categories: Law and Legal

How to Trace Emails Back to Their Source IP Address “The first thing you do when you hear that email notification is check the sender, right? It is the quickest way to figure out who the email is from, as well as the likely content. But did you know each email comes with a lot more information than what appears in most email clients? There’s a host of information about the sender included in the email header—information you can use to trace the email back to the source. Here’s how to trace that email back to where it came from, and why you might want to…”

Categories: Law and Legal

How Teens and Parents Navigate Screen Time and Device Distractions

“54% of U.S. teens say they spend too much time on their cellphones, and two-thirds of parents express concern over their teen’s screen time. But parents face their own challenges of device-related distraction: “Amid roiling debates about the impact of screen time on teenagers, roughly half of those ages 13 to 17 are themselves worried they spend too much time on their cellphones. Some 52% of U.S. teens report taking steps to cut back on their mobile phone use, and similar shares have tried to limit their use of social media (57%) or video games (58%), a new Pew Research Center survey finds. Teens’ sometimes hyperconnected relationship with their devices is also evident in other findings from the Center. Fully 72% of teens say they often or sometimes check for messages or notifications as soon as they wake up, while roughly four-in-ten say they feel anxious when they do not have their cellphone with them. Overall, 56% of teens associate the absence of their cellphone with at least one of these three emotions: loneliness, being upset or feeling anxious. Additionally, girls are more likely than boys to feel anxious or lonely without their cellphone. Parents, too, are anxious about the effects of screen time on their children, a separate survey shows. Roughly two-thirds of parents say they are concerned about their teen spending too much time in front of screens, and 57% report setting screen time restrictions for their teen in one way or another.

At the same time, some parents of teens admit they also struggle with the allure of screens: 36% say they themselves spend too much time on their cellphone. And 51% of teens say they often or sometimes find their parent or caregiver to be distracted by their own cellphone when they are trying to have a conversation with them…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Fanning the Flames of Hate: Social Media and Hate Crime

Müller, Karsten and Schwarz, Carlo, Fanning the Flames of Hate: Social Media and Hate Crime (May 21, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

“This paper investigates the link between social media and hate crime using Facebook data. We study the case of Germany, where the recently emerged right-wing party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) has developed a major social media presence. We show that right-wing anti-refugee sentiment on Facebook predicts violent crimes against refugees in otherwise similar municipalities with higher social media usage. To further establish causality, we exploit exogenous variation in major internet and Facebook outages, which fully undo the correlation between social media and hate crime. We further find that the effect decreases with distracting news events; increases with user network interactions; and does not hold for posts unrelated to refugees. Our results suggest that social media can act as a propagation mechanism between online hate speech and real-life violent crime.”

Categories: Law and Legal

You’re a Lawyer, but Can You Run a Law Firm?

Bloomberg Law: “The legal-education model of reading countless cases is evolving as law schools add courses in marketing, technology, and problem-solving to equip students for today’s competitive legal climate. “You have to be an entrepreneur. It’s not enough to be a lawyer,” L.A. attorney Sean Bigley told Bloomberg Law. “My law school gave me an outstanding legal education, but the actual mechanics of running a law firm was the missing piece of the puzzle.” Law schools are starting to get the message. Some are providing formal business-of-law courses, others are concentrating on legal technology, and still others have programs to help students start their own firms…”

Categories: Law and Legal


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