Law and Legal
“As our nation prepares to ring in the new year, the U.S. Census Bureau projects the U.S. population will be 326,971,407 on Jan. 1, 2018. This represents an increase of 2,314,238, or 0.71 percent, from New Year’s Day 2017. Since Census Day (April 1) 2010, the population has grown by 18,225,587, or 5.90 percent. In January 2018, the United States is expected to experience one birth every 8 seconds and one death every 10 seconds. Meanwhile, net international migration is expected to add one person to the U.S. population every 29 seconds. The combination of births, deaths and net international migration will increase the U.S. population by one person every 18 seconds. The projected world population on Jan. 1, 2018, is 7,444,443,881, an increase of 78,521,283, or 1.07 percent, from New Year’s Day 2017. During January 2018, 4.3 births and 1.8 deaths are expected worldwide every second. The Census Bureau’s U.S. and World Population Clock simulates real-time growth of the United States and world populations at <www.census.gov/popclock>. To learn more about the U.S. and world populations, view the 2018 New Year’s Day Stats for Stories.”
Temperature and humidity based projections of rapid rise in global heat stress exposure during 21st century
Temperature and humidity based projections of a rapid rise in global heat stress exposure during the 21st century. Ethan D Coffel1. Radley M Horton, and Alex de Sherbinin. Published 22 December 2017. Environmental Research Letters, Volume 13, Number 1.
“As a result of global increases in both temperature and specific humidity, heat stress is projected to intensify throughout the 21st century. Some of the regions most susceptible to dangerous heat and humidity combinations are also among the most densely populated. Consequently, there is the potential for widespread exposure to wet bulb temperatures that approach and in some cases exceed postulated theoretical limits of human tolerance by mid- to late-century. We project that by 2080 the relative frequency of present-day extreme wet bulb temperature events could rise by a factor of 100–250 (approximately double the frequency change projected for temperature alone) in the tropics and parts of the mid-latitudes, areas which are projected to contain approximately half the world’s population…”
POGO: “On the Thursday before Christmas, the Department of Justice (DOJ) released its annual fraud recovery numbers. The DOJ announced it had recouped $3.7 billion through settlements and judgments in False Claims Act cases in fiscal year 2017. This amount is nearly 23 percent lower than the previous fiscal year, but roughly in line with FY 2015’s total. This seems to be a trend: a historical analysis of DOJ’s fraud recoveries since 1986 (the year Congress substantially strengthened the False Claims Act) shows that, in recent years, a substantial drop-off occurs in non-election years. Overall, since 1986, the False Claims Act has helped taxpayers claw back more than $56 billion—an average of $1.8 billion per year. As in past years, the largest share of the recoveries—about two-thirds—involved health care fraud. But a substantial sum also came from some of Uncle Sam’s largest contractors…”
Feds declare agreement to share massive project’s costs with NY and NJ “nonexistent” – “President Donald Trump dropped his own New Year’s ball—in the form of a wrecking ball—with a late Friday afternoon announcement that effectively wipes out plans for perhaps the nation’s most crucial infrastructure project. The president officially scrapped his predecessor’s proposal to have the federal government underwrite half the cost of a multi-billion-dollar Amtrak tunnel connecting New Jersey to Penn Station, the busiest transit hub in the U.S. The lone existing tunnel is rapidly deteriorating, threatening to sever Amtrak’s popular Northeast Corridor and to divert tens of thousands of New Jerseyans from their daily Manhattan commutes via New Jersey Transit. The administration released the news on the cusp of a holiday weekend in a letter from a top Federal Transit Administration official to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his New Jersey counterpart Chris Christie, who had agreed with the Obama administration to split the project’s costs 50-50. President Barack Obama’s Department of Transportation, which encompasses the FTA, had consented to that framework with Christie, Cuomo, now-Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and New Jersey Sen. Corey Booker in 2015…”
Using deep learning and Google Street View to estimate demographic makeup of neighborhoods across US
Using deep learning and Google Street View to estimate the demographic makeup of neighborhoods across the United States. Timnit Gebrua, Jonathan Krausea, Yilun Wanga, Duyun Chena, Jia Dengb, Erez Lieberman Aidenc, and Li Fei-Feia. Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Computer Science Department, Stanford University, Stanford, CA; Vision and Learning Laboratory, Computer Science and Engineering Department, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI; The Center for Genome Architecture, Department of Genetics, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX ; Department of Computer Science, Rice University, Houston, TX; and The Center for Genome Architecture, Department of Computational and Applied Mathematics, Rice University, Houston, TX.
“The United States spends more than $250 million each year on the American Community Survey (ACS), a labor-intensive door-to- door study that measures statistics relating to race, gender, edu- cation, occupation, unemployment, and other demographic factors. Although a comprehensive source of data, the lag between demographic changes and their appearance in the ACS can exceed several years. As digital imagery becomes ubiquitous and machine vision techniques improve, automated data analysis may become an increasingly practical supplement to the ACS. Here, we present a method that estimates socioeconomic characteristics of regions spanning 200 US cities by using 50 million images of street scenes gathered with Google Street View cars. Using deep learning-based computer vision techniques, we determined the make, model, and year of all motor vehicles encountered in particular neighborhoods. Data from this census of motor vehicles, which enumerated 22 million automobiles in total (8% of all automobiles in the United States), were used to accurately estimate income, race, education, and voting patterns at the zip code and precinct level. (The average US precinct contains ∼1,000 people.) The resulting associations are surprisingly simple and powerful. For instance, if the number of sedans encountered during a drive through a city is higher than the number of pickup trucks, the city is likely to vote for a Democrat during the next presidential election (88% chance); otherwise, it is likely to vote Republican (82%). Our results suggest that automated systems for monitoring demographics may effectively complement labor-intensive approaches, with the potential to measure demographics with fine spatial resolution, in close to real time.” [emphasis added]
CRS report via FAS – Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC): Structure and Activities. Jeffrey M. Stupak, Analyst in Macroeconomic Policy. December 22, 2017.
Summary: “The Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) and its Office of Financial Research (OFR) were established by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (P.L. 111- 203) to address several potential sources of systemic risk. Some observers argue that communication and coordination of financial regulators was insufficient to prevent the financial crisis of 2008. To foster coordination and communication, the FSOC assembles the heads of federal financial regulators, representatives from state regulatory bodies, and an independent insurance expert in a single venue. The OFR supports the FSOC with data collection, research, and analysis. The FSOC does not generally have direct regulatory authority; its role is to make policy recommendations to member agencies where authority already exists or to Congress where additional authority is needed. However, it is responsible for monitoring financial stability and designating nonbank financial companies and financial market utilities as systemic, which subjects those entities to heightened prudential regulation and the direct regulatory authority of other agencies. The FSOC considers a company to pose a threat to financial stability if a company’s financial distress or activities could be transmitted to other firms or markets, causing broader disruptions to financial intermediation or other financial market functions. Three of the many relevant factors used for designation include leverage, interconnectedness with other systemically important nonbank financial institutions (SIFIs), and whether a primary prudential regulator already has responsibility for the SIFI and the activity.”
This is a must read article – it is a positive, illuminating, thought provoking and informative shout-out to women in legal tech – some of whom you may know, and many to whom you will be introduced – who have redefined this male dominated sector with their innovative and multifaceted work in multiple arenas of an increasingly high profile and competitive sector. I am honored that I am included for BeSpacific and LLRX, and look forward to learning valuable lessons throughout 2018 and beyond from these dynamic women.
Robert Ambrogi – LawSites: “As 2017 comes to a close, I took time to think back over the major trends and developments in legal technology over the past 12 months. I figured I write about such notable trends as artificial intelligence, bots and blockchain. But as I was thinking about the year, something else stood out – the prominence of women in legal tech….But it felt to me that the tide changed in 2017. Yes, legal tech has long been a male-dominated field. Yes, it continues to be a male-dominated field. Yes, women continue to face hurdles breaking into and achieving success in this field. I do not want to minimize any of that. Even so, it felt to me as if we reached a tipping point in which women’s voices and influence combined to form an undeniable force. Women are not just contributing to the legal tech conversation, they are driving it as never before. This did not start in 2017 and it certainly won’t end here. But at the close of a year that started with legal tech entrepreneurs such as Alma Asay feeling frustrated about being a woman in a male-dominated industry, women are, themselves, the legal tech year’s greatest success story.
World Economic Forum: “…Machine learning is all around us: it informs everything from our Facebook feed, our suggested traffic routes in Google Maps, our autopilot email spam filters, and even the security of our banking information. But current day iterations of machine learning have r adically evolved since the 1600s. Today, machines can learn with only minimal human intervention. Through machine learning, technologists have mimicked the way the human brain works by producing sophisticated systems called neural networks. In turn, neural networks enable deep learning, an outcome that has produced computer systems superseding human intelligence…”
“Moments after President Donald Trump took the oath of office last January, nearly all references to climate change disappeared from the White House official website. A page detailing former President Barack Obama’s plans to build a clean energy economy, address climate change, and protect the environment became a broken link (archived here). Instead, “An America First Energy Plan” appeared, which touted Trump’s commitment to eliminating “harmful and unnecessary policies,” such as the Climate Action Plan that proposed a reduction in carbon emissions. Now, the web address leads to a collection of energy and environment fact sheets, White House news, and remarks by the president. Whenever a new administration takes charge, government websites are often revised. But during the Trump administration’s first year in office, a striking number of references to science, climate, energy, and the environment have all but disappeared from various governmental websites….But even though website changes range from negligible to rebranding, in some cases they reach the level of what critics assert is outright censorship. “Each one represents a slow chipping away at science communication from the government,” said Gretchen Goldman, the research director for the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists…”
ABA Journal: ” Every week brings news of major new cyberattacks—the stealing of personal information from Equifax and the federal Office of Personnel Management, the Petya and WannaCry ransomware worms, the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s emails, to name a few. Indeed, the cyberthreat from criminals, hacktivists and state actors is growing. The costs associated with these malicious activities are staggering: Last year, the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property estimated that the annual cost of IP theft in three major categories may be as high as $600 billion and that the low-end total exceeds $225 billion, or 1.25 percent of the U.S. economy. Law firms have not been immune. In fact, they have been a ripe target…The nature of their work and the resulting sensitive data make law firms enticing targets. Law firms conduct due diligence and internal investigations, negotiate settlements, provide advice on regulatory issues, and handle important contractual negotiations and litigations. In the course of their representations, they often have access to a wide range of confidential client information, including trade secrets and other intellectual property, financial data, business strategies and national security information. All of this can be valuable to criminals seeking monetary gain, to businesses seeking a competitive edge or to foreign intelligence services…”
Bitcoin.com: “Bitcoinlawhub.com is a newly launched site [by attorneys Dave and Susan Berson] that lives up to its name. It provides a repository where US citizens can access a wealth of resources pertaining to digital currencies. If you’ve ever wondered how anti-money laundering laws affect bitcoin ATMS, or how bitcoin fits into estate planning, you’ll find the answer here. The site doesn’t purport to offer ironclad legal advice, and its information should be taken as guidance rather than gospel. As an introduction to US law and how it affects you as a cryptocurrency user, however, it’s just the ticket.” [h/t Pete Weiss]
The Chief Justice’s 2017 Year-End Report – Chief Justice John Roberts: “…We have a new challenge in the coming year. Events in recent months have illuminated the depth of the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace, and events in the past few weeks have made clear that the judicial branch is not immune. The judiciary will begin 2018 by undertaking a careful evaluation of whether its standards of conduct and its procedures for investigating and correcting inappropriate behavior are adequate to ensure an exemplary workplace for every judge and every court employee. I have asked the Director of the Administrative Office to assemble a working group to examine our practices and address these issues. I expect the working group to consider whether changes are needed in our codes of conduct, our guidance to employees—including law clerks—on issues of confidentiality and reporting of instances of misconduct, our educational programs, and our rules for investigating and processing misconduct complaints. These concerns warrant serious attention from all quarters of the judicial branch. I have great confidence in the men and women who comprise our judiciary. I am sure that the overwhelming number have no tolerance for harassment and share the view that victims must have clear and immediate recourse to effective remedies…”
A new investigative report by the Georgetown Law Center on Privacy & Technology – Not Ready for Takeoff Face Scans at Airport Departure Gates
Executive Summary [snipped]: “At Boston’s Logan International Airport, travelers at one international boarding gate will be surprised that they are being told to stop before what looks like a sophisticated camera. But it’s more than just a camera—the device compares each traveler’s face to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) biometric database to verify her identity and flags as many as 1 in 25 travelers for further scrutiny. These face scans have been deployed at eight other airports, too. In Atlanta, Chicago, Las Vegas, Miami, New York City, Houston, and Washington, D.C., travelers departing on certain international flights have their faces scanned by DHS. If DHS’ current plans are executed, every traveler flying overseas, American and foreign national alike, will soon be subject to a face recognition scan as part of this “biometric exit” program. This sophisticated biometric screening system could cost up to one billion dollars. Congress has already created a “9-11 Response and Biometric Exit Account” to fund a biometric exit program in that amount. Yet, curiously, neither Congress nor DHS has ever justified the need for the program. Congress never provided a rationale for it. For its part, DHS says that airport face scans are designed to verify the identities of travelers as they leave the country and stop impostors traveling under someone else’s identity. But DHS itself has repeatedly questioned “the additional value biometric air exit would provide” compared with the status quo and the “overall value and cost of a biometric air exit capability,” even as it has worked to build it. DHS’ biometric exit program also stands on shaky legal ground. Congress has repeatedly ordered the collection of biometrics from foreign nationals at the border, but has never clearly authorized the border collection of biometrics from American citizens using face recognition technology. Without explicit authorization, DHS also is failing to comply with a federal law requiring it to conduct a rulemaking process to implement the airport face scanning program—a process that DHS has not even started…The privacy concerns implicated by biometric exit are at least as troubling as the system’s legal and technical problems. As currently envisioned, the program represents a serious escalation of biometric scanning of Americans, and there are no codified rules that constrain it.16 It may also lead to an even greater and more privacy-invasive government surveillance system. In addition, the program may hasten the development and deployment of privacy-invasive commercial technology by the airlines and technology vendors participating in biometric exit…”
The Washington Post: “Nearly a year into his takeover of Washington, President Trump has made a significant down payment on his campaign pledge to shrink the federal bureaucracy, a shift long sought by conservatives that could eventually bring the workforce down to levels not seen in decades. By the end of September, all Cabinet departments except Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs and Interior had fewer permanent staff than when Trump took office in January — with most shedding many hundreds of employees, according to an analysis of federal personnel data by The Washington Post. The diminishing federal footprint comes after Trump promised in last year’s campaign to “cut so much your head will spin,” and it reverses a boost in hiring under President Barack Obama. The falloff has been driven by an exodus of civil servants, a diminished corps of political appointees and an effective hiring freeze…”
The rise of female whistleblowers. Oxford Bibliographies. Andrea Hickerson. January 1, 2018. [Andrea Hickerson is the Director of the School of Communication and an Associate Professor at Rochester Institute of Technology.]
“Until recently, I firmly believed whistleblowers would increasingly turn to secure, anonymizing tools and websites, like WikiLeaks, to share their data rather than take the risk of relying on a journalist to protect their identity. Now, however, WikiLeaks is implicated in aiding the election of Donald Trump, and “The Silence Breakers,” outspoken victims of sexual assault, are Time’s 2017 Person of the Year…Historically, women wouldn’t have been likely candidates to report internally because they haven’t been listened to or empowered in the workplace At work they are undervalued,underrepresented in leadership roles, and underpaid compared to male colleagues. This signals to women that their concerns will not be taken seriously or instigate change. Therefore, many choose to remain silent. Whistleblowing comes with enormous risks, and those risks are greater for women….In today’s whistleblowing moment women are creating de facto public support organizations by coming out in groups. This signals to others with similar stories that it is okay to speak out and their stories can be believed…I’m hopeful that the media’s coverage and careful reporting on sexual assault whistleblowers can transcend politics and help further restore media trust so that more women will feel comfortable confiding in journalists, and believe that their stories can effect change…”
An idea to kick off 2018 – think of each librarian (this includes all relevant job titles) to be in essence, a living breathing library. The wide ranging expertise of each librarian engages skills that include communications, marketing, research, technology innovation, teaching, training, knowledge discovery, building communities (including those of best practice), ensuring access to increasingly discreet information and resources that even a decade ago were free (millions of books have been discarded from libraries in all sectors). If considered in this light, the regular predictions of the demise of libraries (which have been spoken and written since at least 1990), take on a different hue. From now forward in time, may we all share the critical value of our profession and our services, on a regular basis, with all the communities, large and small, for whom we work. Stepping off tiny soap box and on to: The Extinction of Libraries: Why the Predictions aren’t Coming True