Law and Legal

The pie chart: Why data visualization’s greatest villain will never die

Quartz – “The point of charts is to communicate data effectively. Or, at least, that is the point according to data-visualization experts. The truth about why people like and use charts is more complicated than that. For the regular person, it’s more about art than science. There is no better demonstration of this than the popularity of the pie chart. The pie chart has long been reviled by data-visualization experts. “The circle with sectors is not a desirable form of presentation,” wrote the engineer and visualization researcher William Brinton in his 1914 book Graphical Methods. Brinton believed pie charts were difficult to decipher and that it was nearly always better to use a bar chart to convey information. Over the following century, nearly every other serious chart maker came to the same conclusion. Experimental evidence also backed them up. In a paper published in 1984 (paywall), statisticians William Cleveland and Robert McGill showed that people are much more likely to accurately assess information when it’s put in a bar chart than in a pie chart. This is because people tend to underestimate the size of acute angles (<90°), and overestimate the size of obtuse ones (>90°)…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Intel Committee Publishes Russia Report

Washington, April 27, 2018 – House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes issued the following statement today: “The Intelligence Community has finished its declassification review of the House Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation final report. Given the substantial public interest at stake, the Committee is publishing the redacted version we’ve received. However, we object to the excessive and unjustified number of redactions, many of which do not relate to classified information. The Committee will convey our objections to the appropriate agencies and looks forward to publishing a less redacted version in the near future.”

  • The report is available here and here.
  • CNBC – The House Intelligence Committee ended its probe of the 2016 election, saying it found no evidence of collusion between candidate Trump and Russia. The committee is led by Rep. Devin Nunes, one of Trump’s closest supporters in the House
  • The House Intelligence Committee report on Russia doesn’t change these 5 facts/CNN: 1) This is a finding of only the Republicans on the committee; 2) The Senate Intelligence Committee investigation continues; 3) The Intelligence Community has unanimously concluded Russia meddled to help Trump; 4) Republicans are shaky on whether Russia wanted Trump to win; 5) The Mueller investigation just keeps chugging.
  • Wired – “…The committee’s Democrats argue that the investigation was not carried out in good faith. Their Republican counterparts don’t dispute that Moscow wanted to influence the election, but say they couldn’t find direct evidence that Putin helped Trump win. The question, though, is whether they really tried to look.
  • Washington Post – Comey calls House Intelligence Committee’s Russia investigation ‘a wreck’ – “On “Meet the Press,” the former FBI chief criticized the panel’s report as a “political document.” While the president has praised the report, Democrats released a rebuttal and charged that their Republican colleagues ended their work prematurely.”
Categories: Law and Legal

Origin of our species: Why humans were once so much more diverse

New Scientist – The idea that all humans evolved from a small population in East Africa turns out to be wrong. Our beginnings were far stranger and more colourful. “…if you were to travel back to the very beginnings of our species and select a random group of humans, they would look unlike anyone living today in Africa or elsewhere. What’s more, they would show extraordinary physical variation – greatly exceeding that in modern human populations. Far from becoming more diverse as we have adapted to life in different parts of the planet, Homo sapiens is more homogeneous today than our ancestors were.”

Categories: Law and Legal

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice is the nation’s first memorial dedicated to the legacy of enslaved black people, people terrorized by lynching, African Americans humiliated by racial segregation and Jim Crow, and people of color burdened with contemporary presumptions of guilt and police violence.  Work on the memorial began in 2010 when EJI staff began investigating thousands of racial terror lynchings in the American South, many of which had never been documented.  EJI was interested not only in lynching incidents, but in understanding the terror and trauma this sanctioned violence against the black community created. Six million black people fled the South as refugees and exiles as a result of these “racial terror lynchings.”  This research ultimately produced Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror in 2015 which documented thousands of racial terror lynchings in twelve states. Since the report’s release, EJI has supplemented its original research by documenting racial terror lynchings in states outside the Deep South. EJI staff have also embarked on a project to memorialize this history by visiting hundreds of lynching sites, collecting soil, and erecting public markers, in an effort to reshape the cultural landscape with monuments and memorials that more truthfully and accurately reflect our history. The Memorial for Peace and Justice was conceived with the hope of creating a sober, meaningful site where people can gather and reflect on America’s history of racial inequality.  EJI partnered with artists like Kwame Akoto-Bamfo whose sculpture on slavery confronts visitors when they first enter the memorial. EJI then leads visitors on a journey from slavery, through lynching and racial terror, with text, narrative, and monuments to the lynching victims in America. In the center of the site, visitors will encounter a memorial square, created with assistance from the Mass Design Group. The memorial experience continues through the civil rights era made visible with a sculpture by Dana King dedicated to the women who sustained the Montgomery Bus Boycott.  Finally, the memorial journey ends with contemporary issues of police violence and racially biased criminal justice expressed in a final work created by Hank Willis Thomas. The memorial displays writing from Toni Morrison, words from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and a reflection space in honor of Ida B. Wells…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Taxing Wages 2018

“This annual flagship publication provides details of taxes paid on wages in OECD countries. It covers personal income taxes and social security contributions paid by employees, social security contributions and payroll taxes paid by employers, and cash benefits received by in-work families. It illustrates how these taxes and benefits are calculated in each member country and examines how they impact household incomes. The results also enable quantitative cross-country comparisons of labour cost levels and the overall tax and benefit position of single persons and families on different levels of earnings. The publication shows average and marginal effective tax rates on labour costs for eight different household types, which vary by income level and household composition (single persons, single parents, one or two earner couples with or without children). The average tax rates measure the part of gross wage earnings or labour costs taken in tax and social security contributions, both before and after cash benefits, and the marginal tax rates the part of a small increase of gross earnings or labour costs that is paid in these levies. Taxing Wages 2018 includes a special feature entitled: “Differences in the Disposable Incomes of Households with and without Children”.”

Categories: Law and Legal

Government Leads Major Industries In Email Security

NextGov: “The federal government is now using anti-phishing security on its emails at a higher rate than any major industry sector, according to a report released Thursday. The study from the email security firm ValiMail comes roughly six months after the Homeland Security Department mandated the email security tool called DMARC for all federal agencies. As of the first quarter of 2018, 68 percent of federal government email domains had the tool installed compared with only 50 percent of tech sector domains, 36 percent of bank domains, and 26 percent of health care sector domains. The lowest adoption was among media companies where only 13 percent of email domains used DMARC. That’s a big change from the final quarter of 2017, before the Homeland Security deadline, when government was near the bottom of the list with about 19 percent adoption. ValiMail CEO Alexander Garcia-Tobar described that shift as evidence that “a well-thought-out, carefully crafted directive” can “be incredibly effective in turning a lagging sector into a leading one” when it comes to email security…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Key findings on Americans’ views of the U.S. political system and democracy

“The strength and stability of democracy has become a subject of intense debate in the United States and around the world. But how do Americans feel about their own democracy? As part of a year-long effort to study “Facts, Trust and Democracy” Pew Research Center has conducted a major survey of public views of the U.S. political system and American democracy. The survey finds that while Americans are in broad agreement on important ideals relating to democracy in the U.S., they think the nation is falling short in realizing many of these ideals. Here are some of the survey’s other major findings..”

Categories: Law and Legal

The Realities of Research Data Management – Part Four: Sourcing and Scaling University RDM Services

“The Realities of Research Data Management is a four-part series that explores how research universities are addressing the challenge of managing research data throughout the research lifecycle. In this series, we examine the context, influences, and choices higher education institutions face in building or acquiring RDM capacity—in other words, the infrastructure, services, and other resources needed to support emerging data management practices. Our findings are based on case studies of four institutions: University of Edinburgh (UK), the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (US), Monash University (Australia) and Wageningen University & Research (the Netherlands), in four very different national contexts. Part Four: Sourcing and Scaling University RDM Services – Another key facet of RDM capacity acquisition is determining where that capacity will be sourced: will it be built and maintained internally, or will it be acquired from an external provider? Similarly, the question of scale must be addressed: should RDM solutions be deployed as institution-scale services, or should they be organized at scales above the institution? This final report of the series examines the sourcing and scaling choices made by the four research universities regarding their acquisition of RDM capacity. What variables are being maximized in these decisions: efficiency/cost reduction? Reliability/trust? The choices that individual institutions make with respect to sourcing and scaling likely depend on a host of factors, including local staffing and infrastructure, availability of cooperatively sourced or nationally provisioned services and willingness to pay for commercially sourced solutions. While each of the four case studies partners pursued a different strategy, there are trends that span the institutions, including: curation services are the most likely to be externalized; eucation and expertise services are largely local in scale . . . so far one size does not fit all: sourcing and scaling RDM changes to fit institutional needs.”

Categories: Law and Legal

New AAA study – Hit-and-run deaths at all-time high with cyclists and pedestrians at top of the list

ABC News: “Deaths from hit-and-run crashes in the United States are now at an all-time high, according to a new study released Thursday by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. 2049 people were killed by hit-and-run crashes in 2016 — a 62 percent increase from 2009, the last year in which a downward trend was recorded. AAA said the data makes 2016 the deadliest year since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began compiling statistics on fatal motor vehicle crashes in 1975. “Hit-and-run crashes in the United States are trending in the wrong direction,” said Dr. David Yang, executive director of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The new study found that most victims of fatal hit-and-run collisions — 65 percent — were pedestrians or cyclists and that almost 20 percent of all pedestrian deaths over the last decade were caused by hit-and-run crashes, compared to 1 percent of driver fatalities…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Paper – Status threat, not economic hardship, explains the 2016 presidential vote

Status threat, not economic hardship, explains the 2016 presidential vote. Diana C. Mutz. PNAS April 23, 2018. 201718155; published ahead of print April 23, 2018. Edited by Jennifer A. Richeson, Yale University, New Haven, CT, and approved March 26, 2018 (received for review October 16, 2017)

“Support for Donald J. Trump in the 2016 election was widely attributed to citizens who were “left behind” economically. These claims were based on the strong cross-sectional relationship between Trump support and lacking a college education. Using a representative panel from 2012 to 2016, I find that change in financial wellbeing had little impact on candidate preference. Instead, changing preferences were related to changes in the party’s positions on issues related to American global dominance and the rise of a majority–minority America: issues that threaten white Americans’ sense of dominant group status. Results highlight the importance of looking beyond theories emphasizing changes in issue salience to better understand the meaning of election outcomes when public preferences and candidates’ positions are changing.”

Categories: Law and Legal

Facebook Inches Toward More Transparency and Accountability

EFF: “Facebook took a step toward greater accountability this week, expanding the text of its community standards and announcing the rollout of a new system of appeals. Digital rights advocates have been pushing the company to be more transparent for nearly a decade, and many welcomed the announcements as a positive move for the social media giant. The changes are certainly a step in the right direction. Over the past year, following a series of controversial decisions about user expression, the company has begun to offer more transparency around its content policies and moderation practices, such as the “Hard Questions” series of blog posts offering insight into how the company makes decisions about different types of speech…”

Categories: Law and Legal

The Great Recession, Ten Years Later

Morning Consult: “Ten years later, how much of an impact does The Great Recession continue to have on Americans, their perceptions of the financial industry, and their personal finances? This new report provides key insights, including:

    • 65% of Americans are concerned another economic downturn will happen in the near future
    • 76% say they’re avoiding taking on debt out of concern for future downturn
    • 59% consider the financial industry to be responsible.”
Categories: Law and Legal

Covert Action and Clandestine Activities of the Intelligence Community

CRS Report via FAS – Covert Action and Clandestine Activities of the Intelligence Community: Selected Definitions in Brief – “While not defined by statute, DOD doctrine describes clandestine activities as “operations sponsored or conducted by governmental departments in such a way as to assure secrecy or concealment” that may include relatively passive intelligence collection information gathering operations. Unlike covert action, clandestine activities do not require a presidential finding but may require notification of Congress. This definition differentiates clandestine from covert, using clandestine to signify the tactical concealment of the activity. By comparison, covert operations are “planned and executed as to conceal the identity of or permit plausible denial by the sponsor.” Since the 1970s, Congress has established and continued to refine oversight procedures in reaction to instances where it had not been given prior notice of intelligence activities—particularly covert action—that had significant bearing on United States national security. Congress, for example, had no foreknowledge of the CIA’s orchestration of the 1953 coup that overthrew Iran’s only democratically elected government, or of the U-2 surveillance flights over the Soviet Union that ended with the Soviet shoot-down of Francis Gary Powers in 1960. Eventually, media disclosures of the CIA’s domestic surveillance of the anti-Vietnam War movement and awareness of the agency’s covert war in Laos resulted in Congress taking action. In 1974, Congress began its investigation into the scope of past intelligence community activities that provided the basis for statutory provisions for intelligence oversight going forward. The 1974 Hughes-Ryan Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (§32 of P.L. 93-559) provided the earliest provisions for congressional oversight of covert action. In the late 1970s, Congress established a permanent oversight framework, standing up the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI). These committees were given exclusive oversight jurisdiction of the intelligence community. Recent events in North Korea, Yemen, and elsewhere have underscored the important function Congress can have in influencing the scope and direction of intelligence policy that supports United States national security. However, despite Congress’s work during the past decades to establish statutory provisions for conducting intelligence oversight, those efforts have not always achieved Congress’s desired result. For example, there has been occasional confusion over whether the congressional intelligence or defense committees have jurisdiction for oversight purposes. This confusion is due in part to overlapping or mutually supporting missions of the military and intelligence agencies, particularly in the post-9/11 counter terrorism environment. Intelligence and military activities fall under different statutory authorities, but they may have similar characteristics that warrant congressional notification (e.g., a need to conceal United States sponsorship and serious risk of exposure, compromise, and loss of life).”

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