Law and Legal

World’s biggest city database shines light on our increasingly urbanised planet

Eu Joint Research Center: “The JRC has launched a new tool with data on all 10,000 urban centres scattered across the globe. It is the largest and most comprehensive database on cities ever published. With data derived from the JRC’s Global Human Settlement Layer (GHSL), researchers have discovered that the world has become even more urbanised than previously thought. Populations in urban areas doubled in Africa and grew by 1.1 billion in Asia between 1990 and 2015. Globally, more than 400 cities have a population between 1 and 5 million. More than 40 cities have 5 to 10 million people, and there are 32 ‘megacities’ with above 10 million inhabitants. There are some promising signs for the environment: Cities became 25% greener between 2000 and 2015. And although air pollution in urban centres was increasing from 1990, between 2000 and 2015 the trend was reversed. With every high density area of at least 50,000 inhabitants covered, the city centres database shows growth in population and built-up areas over the past 40 years.  Environmental factors tracked include:

  • ‘Greenness’: the estimated amount of healthy vegetation in the city centre
  • Soil sealing: the covering of the soil surface with materials like concrete and stone, as a result of new buildings, roads and other public and private spaces
  • Air pollution: the level of polluting particles such as PM2.5 in the air
  • Vicinity to protected areas: the percentage of natural protected space within 30 km distance from the city centre’s border
  • Disaster risk-related exposure of population and buildings in low lying areas and on steep slopes.

The data is free to access and open to everyone. It applies big data analytics and a global, people-based definition of cities, providing support to monitor global urbanisation and the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. The information gained from the GHSL is used to map out population density and settlement maps. Satellite, census and local geographic information are used to create the maps…”

Categories: Law and Legal

WaPo – President Trump made 2,140 false or misleading claims in his first year

In the 21st century it has become increasingly critical for every individual to continuously seek out the facts and readily identify them from false and/or misleading information, stories, narratives, and speech, regardless of the person groups or entities that propagate speech that is is predicated on lies. The challenge of accomplishing this goal has ramped up dramatically in the past several years as we are literally overwhelmed by a deluge of “fake-based writing” (whether in the form of memos, videos, social media, official documents, website content, or another number of other formats) – and specifically those that go the root of creating corrupt communications. I use the word corruption with intent – per Merriam Webster – a departure from the original or from what is pure or correct. Blatantly false (as in the opposite of true), incorrect, misleading and simply unsubstantiated statements made by a person or persons in positions of authority, leadership and power have supposedly left whole swaths of Americans’ numb to the truth – unable and unwilling to make the effort necessary to actively and consistently engage with the truth – this is, if I may say, poppycock. Please see this January 20m 2018 Washington Post article:”…one year after taking the oath of office, President Trump has made 2,140 false or misleading claims, according to The Fact Checker’s database that analyzes, categorizes and tracks every suspect statement uttered by the president. That’s an average of nearly 5.9 claims a day. We started this project as part of our coverage of the president’s first 100 days, largely because we could not possibly keep up with the pace and volume of the president’s misstatements. Readers demanded we keep it going for another year. The database has proved so useful — and even sparked the interest of academicians — that we now plan to keep it going for the rest of Trump’s presidency. Our interactive graphic, created with the help of Leslie Shapiro and Kaeti Hinck of The Post graphics department, displays a running list of every false or misleading statement made by Trump. We also catalogued the president’s many flip-flops, since those earn Upside-Down Pinocchios if a politician shifts position on an issue without acknowledging he or she did so. While the president is known to make outrageous claims on Twitter — and that was certainly a major source of his falsehoods — he made most of his false statements in unscripted remarks before reporters. Prepared speeches and interviews were other key sources of false claims. That’s because the president relies on talking points or assertions that he had made in the past — and continued to make, even though they had been fact-checked as wrong. This makes Trump somewhat unique among politicians. Many will drop a false claim after it has been deemed false. But Trump just repeats the same claim over and over, perhaps believing that repetition will make it ring truer…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Leonardo da Vinci Hid Invisible Drawings in His Sketches

ArtNetNews: Now High-Tech Scanners Have Brought Them to Light “Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing,” which will appear across the UK in 2019, has some surprises. “To mark the 500th anniversary of the Leonardo da Vinci‘s death, a collection of his drawings are going on a UK tour next year. But if you think that “Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing,” as the show is called, is just a Renaissance man greatest hits tour, think again. There will be surprises. Some 144 extraordinary illustrated works will be displayed in 12 simultaneous exhibitions at various cities across Britain. These exhibitions will open in tandem in February 2019, before being brought together to be exhibited that May at the the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace. All in all, there will be a total of 200 sheets on display there, making it the largest exhibition of the artist’s work in over 65 years. The revelations in the show come thanks to modern technology. Infrared light is used to show hidden drawings and alternative versions of Leonado’s sketches.”

Categories: Law and Legal

Women in Congress 1917-2018: Service Dates and Committee Assignments by Member, and Lists by State and Congress

CRS Report via FAS – Women in Congress 1917-2018: Service Dates and Committee Assignments by Member, and Lists by State and Congress. February 6, 2018.

“In total, 327 women have been elected or appointed to Congress, 212 Democrats and 115 Republicans. These figures include six non-voting Delegates, one each from Guam, Hawaii, the District of Columbia, and American Samoa, and two from the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as one Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico. Of these 327 women there have been:

  • 276 (178 Democrats, 98 Republicans) women elected only to the House of Representatives;
  • 39 (25 Democrats, 14 Republicans) women elected or appointed only to the Senate;
  • 12 (9 Democrats, 3 Republicans) women who have served in both houses; A record 111 women currently serve in the 115th Congress. Of the 111 women there are:
  • 22 in the Senate (17 Democrats and 5 Republicans); 89 in the House (65 Democrats and 24 Republicans);
  • 5 women in the House (3 Democrats and 2 Republicans) who serve as Delegates or Resident Commissioner, representing the District of Columbia, Guam, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.

This report includes committee assignments, dates of service, district information, and listings by Congress and state, and (for Representatives) congressional districts of the 327 women who have been elected or appointed to Congress.”

Categories: Law and Legal

Dow Jones – 100 Year Historical Chart

Macrotrends: “Interactive chart of the Dow Jones Industrial Average stock market index for the last 100 years. Historical data is inflation-adjusted using the headline CPI and each data point represents the month-end closing value. The current month is updated on an hourly basis with today’s latest value. The current price of the Dow Jones Industrial Average as of February 09, 2018 is 24,190.90.” [h/t]

Categories: Law and Legal

Crowdsourcing Judgments of News Source Quality

Pennycook, Gordon and Rand, David G., Crowdsourcing Judgments of News Source Quality (February 7, 2018). Available at SSRN

“The spread of misinformation and disinformation, especially on social media, is a major societal challenge. Here, we assess whether crowdsourced ratings of trust in news sources can effectively differentiate between more and less reliable sources. To do so, we ran a preregistered experiment (N = 1,010 from Amazon Mechanical Turk) in which individuals rated familiarity with, and trust in, 60 news sources from three categories: 1) Mainstream media outlets, 2) Websites that produce hyper-partisan coverage of actual facts, and 3) Websites that produce blatantly false content (“fake news”). Our results indicate that, despite substantial partisan bias, laypeople across the political spectrum rate mainstream media outlets as far more trustworthy than either hyper-partisan or fake news sources (all but 1 mainstream source, Salon, was rated as more trustworthy than every hyper-partisan or fake news source when equally weighting ratings of Democrats and Republicans). Critically, however, excluding ratings from participants who are not familiar with a given news source dramatically reduces the difference between mainstream media sources and hyper-partisan or fake news sites. For example, 30% of the mainstream media websites (Salon, the Guardian, Fox News, Politico, Huffington Post, and Newsweek) received lower trust scores than the most trusted fake news site ( when excluding unfamiliar ratings. This suggests that rather than being initially agnostic about unfamiliar sources, people are initially skeptical – and thus a lack of familiarity is an important cue for untrustworthiness. Overall, our findings indicate that crowdsourcing media trustworthiness judgments is a promising approach for fighting misinformation and disinformation online, but that trustworthiness ratings from participants who are unfamiliar with a given source should not be ignored.”
Categories: Law and Legal

FCW – White House looks to cut workforce, civilian-side funding

Federal computer Week: “…In its proposal, the White House terms the current civil service system “a relic of an earlier era,” and calls the laws and regulations surrounding hiring, pay, performance management and retirement “complex and outdated.” One of the proposed reforms to the civil service includes a pay freeze for civilian employees in 2019; military members, by comparison, would receive a 2.6 percent pay raise. “We did not propose a civilian pay raise this year,” Mulvaney said in a Feb. 12 press call. “Instead what we’ve done is set up a $1 billion fund with an idea toward giving managers the ability to give pay to people who actually merit the increase. Somewhere in the high 90’s of federal workers get programmatic performance based increases every year. I think it’s fair to say that’s probably not a true performance-based indicator.” The proposal also outlines significant cuts to federal retirement benefits. The White House estimates the proposed changes — eliminating cost-of-living adjustments for Federal Employee Retirement System retirees; reducing Civil Service Retirement System retiree cost-of living adjustments to 0.5 percent; recalculating the pension formula from the average of an employee’s three highest salary years to the five highest; increasing employee retirement contributions by one percent per year; and reducing the G-fund interest rate — would save more than $2.5 billion in fiscal year 2019, and almost $84 billion over 10 years…”

Categories: Law and Legal

He Predicted The 2016 Fake News Crisis. Now He’s Worried About An Information Apocalypse.

BuzzFeedNews- What happens when anyone can make it appear as if anything has happened, regardless of whether or not it did?” technologist Aviv Ovadya warns: “For Ovadya — now the chief technologist for the University of Michigan’s Center for Social Media Responsibility and a Knight News innovation fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia — the shock and ongoing anxiety over Russian Facebook ads and Twitter bots pales in comparison to the greater threat: Technologies that can be used to enhance and distort what is real are evolving faster than our ability to understand and control or mitigate it. The stakes are high and the possible consequences more disastrous than foreign meddling in an election — an undermining or upending of core civilizational institutions, an “infocalypse.” And Ovadya says that this one is just as plausible as the last one — and worse. Worse because of our ever-expanding computational prowess; worse because of ongoing advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning that can blur the lines between fact and fiction; worse because those things could usher in a future where, as Ovadya observes, anyone could make it “appear as if anything has happened, regardless of whether or not it did.”

Categories: Law and Legal

President’s Budget FY19 and associated documents

Addendum to the President’s FY19 Budget to Account for the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018
An American Budget – President’s Budget FY 2019
Major Savings and Reforms
Mid-Session Review FY 2018
Analytical Perspectives
Historical Tables
Supplemental Materials
Fact Sheets
Supplementals, Amendments, and Releases
Past President’s Budgets

  • See also Politico – “The White House released a decade-long budget request Monday that lays out $3.6 trillion in deficit reduction while calling for hundreds of billions more to be pumped into the Pentagon. The Trump administration is proposing deeper cuts to safety net programs — including Medicare, which the president on the campaign trail swore he wouldn’t touch — to help fund what it calls a “more lethal” military. But the White House’s request is a jumble of mixed messages, since the Trump administration was forced to do some fast accounting after lawmakers on Friday cleared a massive two-year spending deal.”
  • The Hill – The 22 agencies and programs Trump’s budget would eliminate – including The Institute of Museum and Library Services, which funds museums and libraries nationwide with grants.”
  • Axios – “President Trump has sent Congress his $4.4 trillion spending plan for FY 2019. As Jonathan Swan reported, the budget reads like “science fiction.”
Categories: Law and Legal

Thousands of US, UK government, academic websites hijacked

The Register: “Thousands of websites around the world – from the UK’s NHS and ICO to the US government’s court system – were today secretly mining crypto-coins on netizens’ web browsers for miscreants unknown. The affected sites all use a fairly popular plugin called Browsealoud, made by Brit biz Texthelp, which reads out webpages for blind or partially sighted people. This technology was compromised in some way – either by hackers or rogue insiders altering Browsealoud’s source code – to silently inject Coinhive’s Monero miner into every webpage offering Browsealoud. For several hours today, anyone who visited a site that embedded Browsealoud inadvertently ran this hidden mining code on their computer, generating money for the miscreants behind the caper. A list of 4,200-plus affected websites can be found here: they include The City University of New York (, Uncle Sam’s court information portal (, Lund University (, the UK’s Student Loans Company (, privacy watchdog The Information Commissioner’s Office ( and the Financial Ombudsman Service (, plus a shedload of other and sites, UK NHS services, and other organizations across the globe…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Dead zone conditions expanding rapidly throughout shallow coastal seas and lakes

Quartz: “On January 5, 2018, a paper published in the journal Science delivered a sobering message: The oxygenation of open oceans and coastal seas has been steadily declining during the past half century. The volume of ocean with no oxygen at all has quadrupled, and the volume where oxygen levels are falling dangerously low has increased even more. We’re seeing the same thing happen in major lakes. The main culprits are warming and—especially in coastal seas and lakes—eutrophication caused by enhanced nutrient loads in runoff. The findings reaffirm that we urgently need to address global warming, and that we are in need of an updated Clean Water Act. We only need to look to the Mediterranean Sea and, more recently, the North American Great Lakes region for dramatic illustrations of what lies in store if we don’t act now…”

Beneath the waves, oxygen disappears – “As plastic waste pollutes the oceans and fish stocks decline, unseen below the surface another problem grows: deoxygenation. Breitburg et al. review the evidence for the downward trajectory of oxygen levels in increasing areas of the open ocean and coastal waters. Rising nutrient loads coupled with climate change—each resulting from human activities—are changing ocean biogeochemistry and increasing oxygen consumption. This results in destabilization of sediments and fundamental shifts in the availability of key nutrients. In the short term, some compensatory effects may result in improvements in local fisheries, such as in cases where stocks are squeezed between the surface and elevated oxygen minimum zones. In the longer term, these conditions are unsustainable and may result in ecosystem collapses, which ultimately will cause societal and economic harm…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Free to Use and Reuse: Making Public Domain and Rights-Clear Content Easier to Find

The Library of Congress: “One of our biggest challenges is letting you know about all of the content available at Another challenge we have is letting you know what you can do with it (in a nice way). We are working on several fronts to improve the visibility of public domain and rights-clear content. We moved one step in that direction today with the launch of our Free to Use and Reuse page…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Verge: Science’s pirate queen Alexandra Elbakyan is plundering the academic publishing establishment

The Verge: “The publisher Elsevier owns over 2,500 journals covering every conceivable facet of scientific inquiry to its name, and it wasn’t happy about either of the sites. Elsevier charges readers an average of $31.50 per paper for access; Sci-Hub and LibGen offered them for free. But even after receiving the “YOU HAVE BEEN SUED” email, Elbakyan was surprisingly relaxed. She went back to work. She was in Kazakhstan. The lawsuit was in America. She had more pressing matters to attend to, like filing assignments for her religious studies program; writing acerbic blog-style posts on the Russian clone of Facebook, called vKontakte; participating in various feminist groups online; and attempting to launch a sciencey-print T-shirt business. That 2015 lawsuit would, however, place a spotlight on Elbakyan and her homegrown operation. The publicity made Sci-Hub bigger, transforming it into the largest Open Access academic resource in the world. In just six years of existence, Sci-Hub had become a juggernaut: the 64.5 million papers it hosted represented two-thirds of all published research, and it was available to anyone…”

See also previous BeSpacific postings on SciHub:

Categories: Law and Legal

University Futures, Library Futures: a multi-dimensional model of US higher education institutions “Over the last several months, OCLC Research has been working to develop a framework for exploring emerging directions in US higher education, to better understand the institutional needs that academic libraries will need to support and advance in years to come. We undertook this work as part of an ongoing collaboration with Ithaka S+R on our University Futures, Library Futures project, generously supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Our framework is informed by an extensive literature review examining current scholarship on the US higher education landscape, which identified a range of factors important in shaping institutional direction that are imperfectly or inadequately captured in current typologies. For example, it is widely recognized that the changing demographics of student enrollment (e.g. increasing ethnic diversity, growing share of adult and part-time learners) is altering institutional approaches to advancing student success in colleges and universities with different enrollment profiles, yet the commonly used basic Carnegie categories reveal little about the character of the prevailing educational model. A Baccalaureate College–Arts & Sciences institution that is actively growing an online baccalaureate completion program targeting adult learners will look very different from a Baccalaureate Colleges–Arts & Sciences institution with a robust full-time, first-time undergraduate enrollment pipeline. Similarly the institutional profile of a Doctoral Universities: Highest Research Activity institution pursuing an aggressive strategy to diversify its undergraduate enrollment while improving retention and completion, will be different from a similarly classed research university with a highly selective undergraduate enrollment…”

Categories: Law and Legal


The 2018 Edelman TRUST BAROMETER reveals a world of seemingly stagnant distrust. People’s trust in business, government, NGOs and media remained largely unchanged from 2017 — 20 of 28 markets surveyed now lie in distruster territory, up one from last year. Yet dramatic shifts are taking place at the market level and within the institution of media.

The Polarization of Trust – The world is moving apart in trust. In previous years, market-level trust has moved largely in lockstep, but for the first time ever there is now a distinct split between extreme trust gainers and losers. No market saw steeper declines than the United States, with a 37-point aggregate drop in trust across all institutions. At the opposite end of the spectrum, China experienced a 27-point gain, more than any other market.

In Search of Truth – Globally, nearly seven in 10 respondents among the general population worry about fake news or false information being used as a weapon, and 59 percent say that it is getting harder to tell if a piece of news was produced by a respected media organization. In this environment, media has become the least-trusted institution for the first time in Trust Barometer history — yet, at the same time, the credibility of journalists rose substantially. A number of factors are driving this paradox.Confusion about the credibility of news is connected to the broad, wide definition of media that Trust Barometer respondents now hold. Some people consider platforms to be part of “the media” — including social media (48 percent) and search engines (25 percent) — alongside journalism (89 percent), which includes publishers and news organizations.”

Categories: Law and Legal

NYT – When You’re a ‘Digital Nomad,’ the World Is Your Office

When You’re a ‘Digital Nomad,’ the World Is Your Office – NY Times Magazine: “A global network of live-work spaces is springing up to serve this new breed of millennial wanderer.”
“At the time of the inn’s construction, the surrounding area was known as Riverside; like the rest of the city, it became a hotbed of real estate speculation over the coming decades. As a new residential neighborhood grew around it, the inn remained a holdout from another era. In the ’80s, its rent was $100 a week, and the buildings were crumbling. Then, in 1990, a preservationist bought the property and turned it into a bed-and-breakfast, and in 2015, it was flipped again to a hip hotel group. Two years ago, the buildings were leased by a start-up that intended to return them to their original use, housing itinerant workers — albeit a very different kind. That company is called Roam, and since its founding in 2015, it has constructed an international housing network for so-called digital nomads, a growing demographic of people who travel the world while working remotely over the internet. Roam operates complexes of furnished, single-occupancy residences in four cities (Miami, Tokyo, London and Ubud, in Bali), with three more on the way (in New York, Berlin and San Francisco). The idea is that you never have to leave the system: Roam is everywhere you want to be. Residents pay rent starting at $500 a week to comfortably live and work, two activities that quickly become indistinguishable within Roam’s confines. More than a mere chain of upscale hostels, Roam signals the crystallization of a moment long in the making. Telecommuting has been feasible since the days of dial-up, but the early digital nomads were pioneers, planning solo trips around the world, seeking out spare rooms and spotty connections in the name of escaping drudgery back home. Roam aims to make dislocation easy and glamorous, transforming digital nomadism into a mainstream, off-the-rack proposition. To date, Roam has hosted more than 2,200 members, a wandering group of entrepreneurs, programmers, freelancers, retirees and tourists who call themselves “Roamies” the way stationary types might namedrop their hometowns…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Economist – Democracy Index 2016 – US downgraded to “flawed democracy”

The Economist Intelligence Unit: “According to the 2016 Democracy Index almost one-half of the world’s countries can be considered to be democracies of some sort, but the number of “full democracies” has declined from 20 in 2015 to 19 in 2016. The US has been downgraded from a “full democracy” to a “flawed democracy” because of a further erosion of trust in government and elected officials there. The “democratic recession” worsened in 2016, when no region experienced an improvement in its average score and almost twice as many countries (72) recorded a decline in their total score as recorded an improvement (38). Eastern Europe experienced the most severe regression. The 2016 Democracy Index report, Revenge of the “deplorables”, examines the deep roots of today’s crisis of democracy in the developed world, and looks at how democracy fared in every region…”

Categories: Law and Legal

ABA resolution supporting work and funding of Library of Congress

“Urges Congress to approve appropriations necessary to enable the Library of Congress to adequately staff, maintain, modernize, and enhance its services, collections, facilities, digital projects and outreach efforts.”

“The magnitude and maintenance of such a unique collection brings great challenges to the development and daily administration of the collection while maintaining it for the benefit of our nation and the world. Relied on by Congress, the Supreme Court, and the nation’s lawyers, the LLC persistently faces challenges to reaching its full potential. Sustained enthusiastic support from the American Bar Association (“ABA”) and its Standing Committee on the Law Library of Congress, cognizant of current conditions, remains critical.  As the need for this information and expertise grows, and new technologies emerge, the challenge of maintaining appropriate staffing and caring for collections increases.  Collections care includes that facilities are maintained and that collections are preserved, stored at optimum humidity and temperature, and readily accessible.”

Proposed Resolution and Report
Final Resolution

Categories: Law and Legal


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