Law and Legal
MakeUseOf: “One misstep is all it takes to catch a virus, get hacked, or fall for a scam. Here are all of our tips and tricks for staying safe on your computer, phone, and the web!”
High-Income Nonfilers Owing Billions of Dollars Are Not Being Worked by the Internal Revenue Service
Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration – High-Income Nonfilers Owing Billions of Dollars Are Not Being Worked by the Internal Revenue Service May 29, 2020, Reference Number: 2020-30-015: “The gross Tax Gap is the estimated difference between the amount of tax that taxpayers should pay and the amount paid voluntarily and on time. The average annual gross Tax Gap is estimated to be $441 billion for Tax Years 2011 through 2013, and approximately $39 billion (9 percent) is due to nonfilers, taxpayers who do not timely file a required tax return and timely pay the tax due for such delinquent returns. According to the IRS, high-income nonfilers, although fewer in number, contribute to the majority of the nonfiler Tax Gap…
- The IRS did not work 369,180 high-income nonfilers, with estimated tax due of $20.8 billion. Of the 369,180 high-income nonfilers, 326,579 were not placed in inventory to be selected for work and 42,601 were closed out of the inventory without ever being worked. In addition, the remaining 510,235 high-income nonfilers, totaling estimated tax due of $24.9 billion, are sitting in one of the Collection function’s inventory streams and will likely not be pursued as resources decline.
- The IRS removed high-income nonfiler casesfrom inventory, resulting in 37,217 cases totaling $3.2 billion in estimated tax dollarsthat will not likely be worked by the IRS…”
MakeUseOf – “When was the last time you cleaned your keyboard? It’s not something we think about as we clean up our homes, but it’s a good idea to keep on top of your keyboard hygiene. Let’s explore why you should clean your keyboard and how to do it properly. Why You Should Clean Your Keyboard – First, keyboards aren’t the cleanest object in your home or office. Lots of crumbs from computer-side snacks work their way among the keys and build up underneath them. As a result, holding a keyboard upside-down can dislodge some nasty morsels from the past. It’s so bad that the keyboard can be a safe harbor for germs. Time reported on how 27% of keyboards in the office have an ATP count of 300 or higher, which means they have “high levels of contamination.” The keyboard tends to go under the radar when people clean their office space, allowing germs to flourish on and around the keys freely…”
Princeton Environmental Institute: As civic leaders and urban planners work to make cities more sustainable and livable by investing in outdoor spaces and recreational activities such as biking and walking, Princeton researchers have identified the benefit of an activity largely overlooked by policymakers — home gardening. The researchers found that, across the study’s population, the level of emotional well-being, or happiness, reported while gardening was similar to what people reported while biking, walking or dining out, according to a study published in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning. Home gardening was the only activity out of the 15 studied for which women and people with low incomes reported higher emotional well-being than men and medium- and high-income participants, respectively. “This has implications for equity in food action planning considering that people with lower incomes tend to have less access to healthy food options,” said corresponding author Anu Ramaswami, Princeton’s Sanjay Swani ’87 Professor of India Studies, professor of civil and environmental engineering and the Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI). “Gardening could provide the health benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables, promote physical activity, and support emotional well-being, which can reinforce this healthy behavior.”
The benefits of gardening on happiness were similar across racial boundaries and between urban and suburban areas, said first author Graham Ambrose, a research specialist in Princeton’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. In addition, whether people gardened alone or with others made no difference, and people who kept vegetable gardens reported a higher level of average emotional well-being than people who worked in ornamental gardens…”
TechCrunch: “Apple has updated its own COVID-19 iOS app and website with new features to allow users to anonymously share info including their age, existing health conditions, symptoms, potential exposure risks and the state in which they’re located. This info, which is not associated with any of their personal identifying data in any way according to the company, will be used in an aggregated way to help inform the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and improve the organization’s COVID-19 screening protocol. The app will also use the aggregated data to assist public health agencies and the CDC in their efforts to help the public with the best available information about potential risk factors around COVID-19, and around what constitutes exposure and exposure risk. Apple launched its coronavirus screening app and website back in March, providing not only screening tools to help provide users with guidance on whether or not they should seek testing, but also tips on preventative measures including hand-washing and best practices for sanitization…”
TIME: “One of the more insidious features of the new coronavirus behind COVID-19 is its ability to settle into unsuspecting hosts who never show signs of being sick but are able to spread the virus to others. In a study published June 3 in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers at the Scripps Research Translational Institute reviewed data from 16 different groups of COVID-19 patients from around the world to get a better idea of how many cases of coronavirus can likely be traced to people who spread the virus without ever knowing they were infected. Their conclusion: at minimum, 30%, and more likely 40% to 45%. Such so-called asymptomatic spread is unique for a respiratory virus; most cause symptoms and disease once they infect their hosts. SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, is, however, particularly wily because it can also infect hosts silently and use them as unwitting pawns in its infectious campaign. “The range we found is extraordinarily high,” says Dr. Eric Topol, director and founder of the Institute and one of the authors of the paper. “That means the range of what can happen with SARS-CoV-2 is from no symptoms to [death]. That’s not at all similar to any virus or pathogen we’ve experienced that has killing potential in the past. What we have here is an extraordinary spectrum, including this quiet, stealth mode of infecting somebody.”…
“Whether it’s a virtual visit or a Curator’s corner, there are plenty of ways to keep exploring the British Museum while we’re closed – here are our favourite ones.”
See also Google Arts and Culture – Take a virtual gallery tour – explore the museum’s galleries from home – using Google Street View.
NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights – Who Moderates the Social Media Giants? A Call to End Outsourcing. Paul M. Barrett, June 2020: “In our latest report on the social media industry, we look at how the major platforms handle the problem of content moderation: deciding what remains on their sites and what should be removed. Despite the centrality of this task—without it, the platforms would be inundated by harmful content—the social media companies outsource content moderation to third-party vendors. The report examines the consequences of this marginalization of a core element of the social media business model, including how content moderation has played out during the coronavirus pandemic.
Washington Post: “Shutdown orders prevented about 60 million novel coronavirus infections in the United States and 285 million in China, according to a research study published Monday that examined how stay-at-home orders and other restrictions limited the spread of the contagion. A separate study from epidemiologists at Imperial College London estimated that the shutdowns saved about 3.1 million lives in 11 European countries, including 500,000 in the United Kingdom, and dropped infection rates by an average of 82 percent, sufficient to drive the contagion well below epidemic levels. The two reports, published Monday in the journal Nature, provide fresh evidence that aggressive and unprecedented shutdowns, which caused massive economic disruptions and job losses, were necessary to halt the exponential spread of the novel coronavirus…
But the overwhelming majority of people remain susceptible to the virus. Only about 3 to 4 percent of people in the countries being studied have been infected to date, said Samir Bhatt, senior author of the Imperial College London study…”
Via LLRX – Pete Recommends Weekly highlights on cyber security issues June 6, 2020 – Privacy and security issues impact every aspect of our lives – home, work, travel, education, health and medical records – to name but a few. On a weekly basis Pete Weiss highlights articles and information that focus on the increasingly complex and wide ranging ways technology is used to compromise and diminish our privacy and security, often without our situational awareness. Four highlights from this week: How to take back the information you’ve given to all your favorite apps and websites; More Cyber Training Does Not Mean Fewer Data Breaches; Google faces $5 billion lawsuit in U.S. for tracking ‘private’ internet use; and COVID-19 Complicates Already Challenged FDA Foreign Inspection Program.
“The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture launched Talking About Race [on May 31, 2020], a new online portal designed to help individuals, families, and communities talk about racism, racial identity and the way these forces shape every aspect of society, from the economy and politics to the broader American culture. The online portal provides digital tools, online exercises, video instructions, scholarly articles and more than 100 multi-media resources tailored for educators, parents and caregivers—and individuals committed to racial equality. A rash of racially charged incidents—from an altercation in Central Park to acts of police brutality resulting in the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and the protests they provoked in cities around the country—prompted the Museum to move up the release date of Talking About Race. By releasing the new portal today, the Museum aims to help individuals and communities foster constructive discussions on one of the nation’s most challenging topics: racism, and its corrosive impact…Talking About Race builds upon decades of work by the museum’s educators. It is the result of extensive research, studies, consultations, and educational resources from these fields: history, education, psychology and human development. It includes published research from leading experts, activists, historians, and thought leaders on race, equity, and inclusion, including Brené Brown, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, Robin DiAngelo, Julie Olsen Edwards, Jerry Kang, Ibram X Kendi, Enid Lee, Audre Lorde, Beverly Daniel Tatum, Bishop Desmond Tutu, and Tim Wise…”
The Marshall Project – Disproportionate use of force can turn a peaceful protest violent, research shows. “…Watching a peaceful protest turn into something much less palatable is hard. There has been a lot of hard the past few days, as people in dozens of cities have released pent-up anger against discriminatory police tactics. Cars and buildings have burned. Store windows have been smashed. Protesters and police have been hurt. When protests take a turn like this we naturally wonder … why? Was this preventable? Does anyone know how to stop it from happening? Turns out, we do know some of these answers. Researchers have spent 50 years studying the way crowds of protesters and crowds of police behave—and what happens when the two interact. One thing they will tell you is that when the police respond by escalating force—wearing riot gear from the start, or using tear gas on protesters—it doesn’t work. In fact, disproportionate police force is one of the things that can make a peaceful protest not so peaceful. But if we know that (and have known that for decades), why are police still doing it? “There’s this failed mindset of ‘if we show force, immediately we will deter criminal activity or unruly activity’ and show me where that has worked,” said Scott Thomson, the former chief of police in Camden, New Jersey. “That’s the primal response,” he said. “The adrenaline starts to pump, the temperature in the room is rising, and you want to go one step higher. But what we need to know as professionals is that there are times, if we go one step higher, we are forcing them to go one step higher.”…
MIT Technology Review – Facebook and Twitter might have the bells and whistles, but the word processing software’s simplicity and accessibility have made it a winning tool. “In the week after George Floyd’s murder, hundreds of thousands of people joined protests across the US and around the globe, demanding education, attention, and justice. But one of the key tools for organizing these protests is a surprising one: it’s not encrypted, doesn’t rely on signing in to a social network, and wasn’t even designed for this purpose. It’s Google Docs. In just the last week, Google Docs has emerged as a way to share everything from lists of books on racism to templates for letters to family members and representatives to lists of funds and resources that are accepting donations. Shared Google Docs that anyone can view and anyone can edit, anonymously, have become a valuable tool for grassroots organizing during both the coronavirus pandemic and the police brutality protests sweeping the US. It’s not the first time. In fact, activists and campaigners have been using the word processing software for years as a more efficient and accessible protest tool than either Facebook or Twitter…Now, in the wake of George Floyd’s murder on Memorial Day weekend, communities are using the software to organize. One of the most popular Google Docs to emerge in the past week is “Resources for Accountability and Actions for Black Lives,” which features clear steps people can take to support victims of police brutality. It is organized by Carlisa Johnson, a 28-year-old graduate journalism student at Georgia State University…”
Daily Beast – The fastest George Floyd protest updates come from Twitter accounts run by a collective of anonymous journalists, which they intend to be both pro-demonstrator and also accurate. It sounds a full-time job, and then some.“Pretty much all my time is dedicated to this,” one of the reporters behind the NYC Protest Updates 2020 (@protest_nyc) Twitter account told The Daily Beast. “I wake up and open my laptop. If I’m on the streets that day, I eat and then fall asleep as soon as I get home. If I’m not, I’m on the scanner, doing research or organizing logistics pretty much all day.” Since its creation last week, over 11,000 people have followed NYC Protest Updates for fast, on-the-ground reporting conducted by self-described “young, independent journalists.” These reporters, who requested to remain anonymous to protect their jobs and safety, face no shortage of competition from mainstream and local media. But the group’s fast, accurate tweets have become a trusted source for protesters and larger outlets alike. Two professional reporters began the account. One is a man recently laid off from a Brooklyn paper due to coronavirus-related cuts and another is a woman currently employed by local television news in New York. They are both in their early to mid-twenties and rely on a network of volunteers. One of the volunteers has freelanced for print publications, but the rest are, in the organizers’ words, “amateurs.” “[They] have blown us away with the quality of their reporting,” the male journalist said over a direct message. “They send their information, pictures, and videos to us for editorial oversight.” Around 10 reporters cover the protests on-the-ground and 20 more monitor police scanners. A public relations professional has volunteered to promote the account….”
Washington Post – 50 years of data from old landings and satellite images helped create a surface blueprint. “In the year 2024, NASA plans to send astronauts 239,000 miles to the moon. It will be the first time since 1972 that humans have touched down on Earth’s only natural satellite. The mission will also include the first woman to travel to the moon. NASA will have a cool new tool to help it with this mission: the Unified Geologic Map of the Moon. This is a topographical map — that is, it shows physical features, such as the height of mountains and the depth of valleys. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) calls it the “definitive blueprint of the moon’s surface geology.” The USGS, which released the map in April, makes a lot of maps of Earth. It is also the “only institution in the world that creates standardized maps for surfaces that are not on Earth,” says USGS research geologist James Skinner. That includes Mars and other planets and moons in our solar system. The new moon map took more than 50 years to make. It started with six original maps collected from the Apollo missions to the moon in the 1960s and ’70s. The maps did a good job of showing the basic layout of the moon. New technology has made it possible to create an updated map and “turn it into information scientists can use,” says Skinner…”
The direct link to the map and the xml metadata is here.
The New York Times – Dr. Bonnie Henry kept the disease in check in British Columbia without harsh enforcement methods. Now, she is leading the way out of lockdown. “…That day, March 17, Dr. Henry ended her presentation with a line that would become her trademark, and a mantra for many Canadians struggling to cope under a lockdown. It has since been hung in windows, painted on streets, printed on T-shirts, stitched on shoes, folded into songs and stamped on bracelets. “This is our time to be kind,” she said in her slow and low-pitched voice that many call comforting, “to be calm and to be safe.” In the next few months, Dr. Henry would prove to be one of the most effective public health officials in the world, with lessons for nations struggling to emerge from lockdowns. While Ontario and Quebec, the two most populous provinces, are still grappling with hundreds of new cases every day, British Columbia has now reopened schools, restaurants and hair salons. This week, the province of five million reported fewer than 80 new cases. “By all rights, British Columbia should have been clobbered,” said Colin Furness, an outspoken infection control epidemiologist in Toronto. The province is on the coast, above Washington State, he noted, with a large population that travels back and forth to China, where the outbreak began. “They took decisive action, did it early without hesitation and communicated effectively,” Mr. Furness added. “People listened to her.”…
Slate – “Police officers around the country have been responding with violence as demonstrators gather to protest the killing of George Floyd. Much of this violence has been caught on video and has been instrumental in pushing authorities to hold officers accountable. In Buffalo, for example, two police officers were charged after video went viral of officers shoving a 75-year-old protester to the ground. In New York, two police officers were suspended for violence that was caught on video: an officer violently pushing a woman to the ground and another pulling a protester’s face mask down before blasting pepper spray. The sheer volume of material coming out of the demonstrations though makes it difficult to keep track so two activists decided to start compiling the clips into a handy spreadsheet that is available online. Lawyer T. Greg Doucette and mathematician Jason Miller have been working to compile the videos in the Google Sheet titled “GeorgeFloyd Protest – police brutality videos on Twitter.” The database currently has 428 videos. Doucette started the effort as a Twitter thread. Miller saw that and realized it was going to be long and unwieldy so he wanted to create a way for people to easily access and sort the videos. For those who aren’t obsessively scrolling through their timelines all day, the spreadsheet can help easily locate videos of police violence in their area because they can be sorted by city and state. The activists have also created a Google Drive with backups of all the videos…”
The New York Times – The pandemic has hastened the departure of witnesses to the wrenching conflicts of the last century, allowing rising political forces to recast history: “For years, Gildo Negri visited schools to share his stories about blowing up bridges and cutting electrical wires to sabotage Nazis and fascists during World War II. In January, the 89-year-old made another visit, leaving his nursing home outside Milan to help students plant trees in honor of Italians deported to concentration camps. But at the end of February, as Europe’s first outbreak of the coronavirus spread through Mr. Negri’s nursing home, it infected him, too. Shut inside, he grew despondent about missing the usual parades and public speeches on Italy’s Liberation Day, grander this year to mark the 75th anniversary. But the virus canceled the April 25 commemorations. Mr. Negri died that night.
“The memory is vanishing, and the coronavirus is accelerating this process,” said Rita Magnani, who worked with Mr. Negri, at the local chapter of the National Association of Italian Partisans. “We are losing the people who can tell us in first person what happened. And it’s a shame, because when we lose the historical memory we lose ourselves.” Time and its ravages have already cut down the lives and blurred the memories of a generation that saw close up the ideologies and crimes that turned Europe into a killing field….
“Here at Book Riot, we are obviously into books. We love all books equally, but sometimes prefer a certain format when it comes to reading. Some Rioters detest hardcover books. Others love mass market paperbacks. Of course, we know audiobooks are more than just a trend. Personally, I prefer reading ebooks because I can easily highlight passages, make notes for reviews, and I always have a book on my phone wherever I go. No matter our reading preferences, we can all agree there is only one appropriate response to the ebook versus physical book debate. Whichever of the different book formats you use to get your read on, bibliophiles know the usual publishing timeline. Hardcover books come first. Paperbacks get a set of steak knives. Everything else gets in where it fits in. Nonetheless, with all the various ways to consume books and with all of us book nerds ready and willing to give publishers our hard-earned money for books in all of their various formats, I couldn’t help but wonder: “Why do we have to wait months for publishers to release the paperback version of hardcover books?”…
Washington Post – A citizen’s guide to not helping trolls, bots and other online disinformers during turbulent times – “Everyone knows you shouldn’t feed a troll. But more than ever, you should go out of your way not to retweet, share or follow one, either. First came the pandemic. Now we’re facing an infodemic. Misinformation from so-called trolls, bots and other online agitators is spiking about the death of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter protests, following a tsunami of falsehoods about the coronavirus. And the people who care most intensely about those issues may be inadvertently spreading it further — a hard-learned lesson from social media meddling in the 2016 and 2018 elections. To avoid being taken advantage of, we need to learn their ways — and learn some new techniques of our own to challenge what we see on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, YouTube, Reddit and Nextdoor. Whether you’re 16 or 60, spending a few seconds to do the things I list below can help keep you from becoming a tool in someone else’s information war.”