Law and Legal
Prof. Timothy D. Lytton: “Gun rights activist Cody Wilson got a green light from the Trump administration in June to publish digital blueprints on the internet that will enable anyone with a 3D printer to make a plastic gun. A federal judge blocked distribution of those blueprints. But thousands of people have already downloaded them. Designs include handguns and semi-automatic assault-style weapons. Federal background check laws applicable to the physical sale of firearms do not apply to the electronic posting of digital blueprints, and state restrictions on assault weapons will be impossible to enforce for any weapons made from Wilson’s designs because there will be no production or sales records. Wilson’s harnessing of computer technology and his self-proclaimed radical ideology have added a new, unpredictable dimension to America’s struggle to reduce gun violence. But my research into the marketing, distribution and sales practices of the U.S. firearms industry reveals that there is nothing new in attempts by gun makers to exploit loopholes in government regulations…”
Association of Corporate Counsel: “More than 40 percent of in-house lawyers stated their companies plan to change data security standards, breach notification procedures, and incident response plans as a result of the upcoming European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and 63 percent in the United States strongly favor the implementation of a federal law that sets uniform data security and breach notification expectations, according to the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) Foundation: The State of Cybersecurity Report. Released by the ACC Foundation, which supports the mission of ACC, and underwritten by Ballard Spahr LLP, the report incorporated data and insights from more than 617 in-house lawyers at over 412 companies in 33 countries.
In-house lawyers anticipate their role in cybersecurity prevention and response, as well as cybersecurity budgets, to increase over the next 12 months. In fact, 63 percent of respondents noted growth in company funds dedicated to cyber incidents, compared to 53 percent in 2015. Chief legal officers (CLO) and general counsel (GC) at large companies are also more likely to serve as members of a data breach response team, compared with those at smaller companies.
“With the rising number of high-profile data breaches and increased focus on technology, it’s no shock to see protection of corporate data become the fastest rising area of concern for legal and business executives,” said Veta T. Richardson, ACC president and CEO. “Data can be a company’s most valuable and most vulnerable resource. Legal departments play an essential role in formulating policies and procedures to mitigate cyber risk.”
Wealthy countries dominate industrial fishing. Science Advances 01 Aug 2018: Vol. 4, no. 8, eaau2161. DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau2161
“The patterns by which different nations share global fisheries influence outcomes for food security, trajectories of economic development, and competition between industrial and small-scale fishing. We report patterns of industrial fishing effort for vessels flagged to higher- and lower-income nations, in marine areas within and beyond national jurisdiction, using analyses of high-resolution fishing vessel activity data. These analyses reveal global dominance of industrial fishing by wealthy nations. Vessels flagged to higher-income nations, for example, are responsible for 97% of the trackable industrial fishing on the high seas and 78% of such effort within the national waters of lower-income countries. These publicly accessible vessel tracking data have important limitations. However, insights from these new analyses can begin to strategically inform important international- and national-level efforts underway now to ensure equitable and sustainable sharing of fisheries.”
NPR: “You can buy water with electrolytes, minerals or completely “purified.” You can buy it with the pH changed to make it alkaline. You can purify your own tap water or even add nutrients back into it. But after seeing a video of a pricey, high-tech filter (about $400 U.S. on sale) that you can monitor with your phone, we wondered, how much of our water filtration fixation is healthy, and how much of it is hype? As it turns out, scientists say that most tap water in the U.S. is just as good as the water in bottles or streaming out of a filter. “Assuming that the [tap] water satisfies all health and safety codes for the community, yeah, it’s perfectly fine,” says Dan Heil, a professor of health and human performance at Montana State University. U.S. tap water is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, which sets safety thresholds for the amount of microorganisms, chemicals and other contaminants in the water. “In general, the drinking water quality in the U.S. is very good,” says Stuart Batterman, a professor of environmental health sciences at University of Michigan. Of course, there are exceptions, the most glaring being the lead pollution of Flint, Michigan’s water brought on by crumbling infrastructure and government mismanagement. The toxic effects of lead can be especially troublesome in children, and even low levels of lead exposure have been linked to nervous system damage, learning disabilities, short stature and impaired hearing…”
“CityLab Editor’s note: Earlier this month, the White House surprised many observers by declaring a successful end to the War on Poverty. Now, the future of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is in the hands of Congress as it negotiates a farm bill. So CityLab visual storyteller Ariel Aberg-Riger is taking a closer look at food aid for low-income Americans…” Please share this information and these facts. $1.86 per meal per person is 99% less than what meals in 99% of U.S. counties. This is America.
“Over the course of an eventful first 18 months in office, President Donald Trump’s approval ratings have remained remarkably stable. There has also been a wider gap between Republicans’ and Democrats’ views of Trump than for any other U.S. president in the modern era of polling. Four-in-ten Americans approve of Trump’s job performance while 54% say they disapprove, according to a Pew Research Center survey in June. Trump’s approval ratings have hardly moved in surveys conducted by the Center this year, and his current rating is nearly identical to the 39% who said they approved of his performance in February 2017, shortly after his inauguration. Trump’s steady ratings early in his tenure are unique among recent presidents. And while his ratings are also the most polarized along party lines, this divide represents a continuation of a trend seen in assessments of recent presidents, including Barack Obama and George W. Bush…”
NIH: “Welcome to the History of Medicine Finding Aids Consortium, a discovery tool providing keyword search services across a union catalog of finding aids describing archival collections broadly related to the history of medicine and its allied sciences. We currently index nearly 11,000 finding aids from over 100 special collections and archival repositories throughout the U.S. The Consortium leads you to the rich primary source information found in historical documents, personal papers, business records, and more. Finding aids provide contextual information about these collections, often with detailed inventories, to help researchers locate relevant materials. Links to finding aids direct users to web sites hosted by the participating institutions. All questions regarding the collection contents should be directed to the owning institution.”
Washington State AG leading multistate lawsuit to block criminal access to downloadable 3D printed weapons
Washington State Office of Attorney General – Downloadable guns make weapons easier for criminals to obtain: “Attorney General Bob Ferguson today announced he is leading a multistate lawsuit to block a Trump Administration action that gives criminals and terrorists access to downloadable, untraceable and undetectable 3D-printed weapons. This lawsuit is being filed in federal court in Seattle. Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Maryland, New York and the District of Columbia joined Washington’s lawsuit. In 2015, Defense Distributed, an organization dedicated to global distribution of open-source, downloadable 3D-printed guns, sued the federal government after the U.S. State Department forced the removal of the instruction manuals from the internet. The federal government successfully argued that the manuals violate firearm export laws before two federal judges. The United States Supreme Court declined to hear the case. Then, in an abrupt reversal, the federal government settled the case on June 29, 2018. As part of the settlement, the Trump Administration will allow the downloadable guns for unlimited public distribution in any form. This will give anyone with a 3D printer access to these weapons. Defense Distributed recently announced that on Aug. 1, it would upload the data files to the internet, essentially giving plug-and-play access to guns. Ferguson filed a lawsuit today in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington against The Trump Administration arguing the Trump Administration actions resulting from the settlement violate the Administrative Procedure Act and the Tenth Amendment. Ferguson also asks the court for a nationwide temporary restraining order, both to bar the federal government from lifting export controls for these tutorials, and to prevent Defense Distributed from posting the downloadable guns online…”
The Essential Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh Reader: What Cases Should You Read?, CRS Legal Sidebar, July 25, 2018
“Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, whom President Trump has nominated to fill the impending Supreme Court vacancy caused by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s retirement from the Court, has amasseda voluminous record of judicial writings during his legal career. These writings are certain to be a key topic of interest as the Senate prepares to hold hearings and a possible vote on Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to the High Court. CRS has published a report, Judicial Opinions of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, which provides a tabular listing of every judicial opinion authored by Judge Kavanaugh during his time on the federal bench, briefly describing each opinion (and the contrasting approach taken in any separate judicial opinion authored by another member of the panel on which Judge Kavanaugh served) and the primary legal subject the ruling addresses. While the report provides succinct descriptions of more than 300 judicial opinions authored by Judge Kavanaugh (the overwhelming majority as part of a D.C. Circuit panel, though a handful were authored as part of three-judge district court panels), some of the judicial opinions might be particularly useful to Members, congressional committees, and staff seeking to better understand Judge Kavanaugh’s approach to different subjects. The following table, adapted from the larger report, highlights many of Judge Kavanaugh’s judicial opinions that have received the greatest degree of attention from legal observers…”
Via EveryCRSReport.com: “On July 16, 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin held a summit in Helsinki, Finland. This was the first U.S.-Russia summit since 2010, when President Barack Obama met with Putin’s predecessor Dmitry Medvedev in Prague to sign the New START strategic arms reduction treaty. The Presidents characterized the July 2018 summit as a first step to improving relations. President Trump stated his view that the United States and Russia need “to find ways to cooperate in pursuit of shared interests” and resolve global challenges. President Putin said his goal is to restore an acceptable level of trust and past levels of cooperation on issues of mutual interest. Media reports have focused on President Trump’s remarks about whether or not he believes the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. However, the summit discussions apparently ranged widely and touched on many issues central to U.S.-Russia relations. Some observers suggest the Trump Administration’s efforts at rapprochement are no different than efforts of past Administrations to “reset” relations with Russia. Others point out these past efforts were temporary at best or that rapprochement is not possible until Russia reverses its actions in Ukraine and ceases interfering in U.S. and European domestic affairs, among other hostile activities. Neither the White House nor the Russian administration has released a formal readout of the summit, which included a private meeting of the Presidents. The main topics were reportedly as follows, based on transcripts of the summit press conference and media interviews in English (here, here, and here) and in Russian (here and here), and subsequent official clarifications…”
Trump Town Tracking White House Staffers, Cabinet Members and Political Appointees Across the Government
ProPublicaProject Trump Town – “The Trump administration has appointed hundreds of staffers to powerful positions across the federal government. Some are old policy hands from conservative D.C. think tanks. Others have little-to-no government experience and come straight from the industries they are now tasked to regulate and oversee. We’ve collected personnel records for thousands of these appointees. Use this database to search for them by name, former employer and agency.”
Google Blog: “In a polarized world, facts and data can provide valuable context for the debates swirling around us. And there has never been more data out there, with record numbers of data journalists working to make sense of it all. In fact, a study by the Google News Lab found that just over half of all newsrooms now have a dedicated data journalist. One of the ways we seek to support data journalists through our Google News Initiative is to work to make data easier to discover, and we’re continuing this work with a new feature on Search. Data journalism takes many forms, and it’s not always clear from the headline that there is potentially useful data within that document or story. The way that data is presented can vary as well, and though data tables are often the most useful format for data journalists, it isn’t always easy for Google Search to detect and understand tables of data to surface the most relevant results. Based on feedback from 30 of the top data journalists in the world, we identified an opportunity to improve how tabular data appears in Google Search and in doing so make it easier for all people to find the data they’re looking for. It works like this: news organizations that publish data in the form of tables can add additional structured data to make the dataset parts of the page easier to identify for use in relevant Search features. One of the participants, ProPublica has been testing the structured data on its interactive databases (for example, on its Non-profits Explorer)…”
A Policy Paper on Autonomous Vehicle: “This policy paper introduces some of the main policy and regulatory actions that are being undertaken in the international arena in relation to automated vehicles (AVs). We cover initiatives from the G7 international meetings, the United States, the European Union, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, China, and New Zealand. This primer is not intended to serve as comprehensive analysis of the governing regimes established within these jurisdictions, but rather to provide a broad overview of noteworthy developments that have taken place within a sample of jurisdictions. From this collection, we identify trends in public policy and regulatory strategies on AVs. These trends may include the motivations driving governments toward adopting certain policies or specific actions being taken to deploy AVs, such as harmonizing regulatory frameworks, coordinating actions with stakeholders, analyzing socio-economic and ethical impacts, or supporting research and development of the technology. We revisit these trends in the concluding remarks section of this paper. Learning from one another’s experiences can inspire creative actions and facilitate improved AV policies. However, the impact of the initiatives will depend on the legal, social, and economic environment in which they are developed and implemented. To be successful, each initiative will need to be adapted to the specific context of its region.”
Bloomberg: “There are many statistical measures that show how productive the U.S. is. Its economy is the largest in the world and grew at a rate of 4.1 percent last quarter, its fastest pace since 2014. The unemployment rate is near the lowest mark in a half century. What can be harder to decipher is how Americans use their land to create wealth. The 48 contiguous states alone are a 1.9 billion-acre jigsaw puzzle of cities, farms, forests and pastures that Americans use to feed themselves, power their economy and extract value for business and pleasure…Using surveys, satellite images and categorizations from various government agencies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture divides the U.S. into six major types of land. The data can’t be pinpointed to a city block—each square on the map represents 250,000 acres of land. But piecing the data together state-by-state can give a general sense of how U.S. land is used. Gathered together, cropland would take up more than a fifth of the 48 contiguous states. Pasture and rangeland would cover most of the Western U.S., and all of the country’s cities and towns would fit neatly in the Northeast…”
Micheler, Eva and Whaley, Anna, Regulatory Technology – Replacing Law with Computer Code (July 9, 2018). LSE Legal Studies Working Paper No. 14/2018. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3210962
“Recently both the Bank of England and the Financial Conduct Authority have carried out experiments using new digital technology for regulatory purposes. The idea is to replace rules written in natural legal language with computer code and to use artificial intelligence for regulatory purposes. This new way of designing public law is in line with the government’s vision for the UK to become a global leader in digital technology. It is also reflected in the FCA’s business plan. The article reviews the technology and the advantages and disadvantages of combining the technology with regulatory law. It then informs the discussion from a broader public law perspective. It analyses regulatory technology through criteria developed in the mainstream regulatory discourse. It contributes to that discourse by anticipating problems that will arise as the technology evolves. In addition, the hope is to assist the government in avoiding mistakes that have occurred in the past and creating a better system from the start.”
WSJ – DHS Forms New Cyber Hub to Protect Critical U.S. Infrastructure Secretary Nielsen Says ‘Our Intelligence Community Had it Right’ About Russian Interference – What What What ⸮⸮⸮ [see my previous posting about this punctuation mark]
As this article is behind a paywall – you may want to avail yourself via US-CERT of the video of the conference during which this about face was announced – What is the DHS National Cybersecurity Summit? “The DHS National Cybersecurity Summit will bring together a diverse group of stakeholders across government, industry, and academia to reinforce DHS’s collective defense mission and its commitment to working across a wide range of industries and sectors to protect national critical functions. Through panels, keynote addresses, and breakout sessions, the Summit will aim to advance substantive discussions on important cybersecurity and infrastructure protection risk management issues…”
See also PHYS.org – New Homeland Security center to guard against cyberattacks – “The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is creating a center aimed at protecting banks, electric companies and other critical infrastructure against cyberattacks—a threat that now exceeds the danger of a physical attack against the U.S. by a hostile foreign group, Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said Tuesday. The National Risk Management Center will work to quickly identify and address potential threats and improve safeguards across a range of industries, she said. It will prioritize risks to industries that most Americans rely on, like the power grid. It is designed to be a partnership with private companies and federal agencies, with Homeland Security as the lead agency. The department’s election security task force, created last year, will become part of the new center, officials said…”
Via Haggard Hawks – “In the late 1500s, the English printer Henry Denham proposed using a reverse question mark, ⸮, called a PERCONTATION POINT to indicate that a question was rhetorical and so didn’t require an answer.” So – just an idea – how about we use this as a standard response rather than reacting to the 24/7 Twitter Scream and Shout that has since the last election imposed itself in place of official United State Government Documents.
The New York Times – The Freshest Ideas Are in Small Grocery Stores – “As big supermarkets struggle, a new crop of local groceries are innovating to serve niche audiences and advance social causes…But some of the most radical reinvention is happening at the local level, in both cities and small towns, where a new breed of small community stores use the grocery aisles to fill cultural niches and address social needs..At Nada, everything, including toothpaste and chocolate, is sold package-free. Shoppers can buy scoops of frozen berries, a handful of crackers and just one egg, if that’s all they need. There’s no plastic wrap or paper at the deli counter. Customers bring their own containers, buy reusable ones at the store or take some from a stack that have been cleaned and sanitized, using a digital scale to weigh and tag them before they start shopping…” [Note – we need more innovative alternatives in as many communities as possible around the nation as many of these alternative grocery stores are solo projects]
As referenced in this article via CivilEats, Zero-Waste Stores Ask Shoppers to Bring Their Own Everything – “When you’ve never bought a produce bag before, you kind of have to build that habit,” says [Celia Ristow, who co-founded the advocacy group Zero Waste Chicago.] “But then it becomes second nature.” After all, low-waste shopping is not a new concept—it’s what grocery shopping looked like 100 years ago…” Developing and maintaining new habits that lower our personal and collective eco-footprints are critical, especially as we are living with accelerated examples of climate change which is exacerbated by a serious roll back of regulations that were engaged protect our water, air and land.
Yale Environment 360 “Coal companies conducted widespread mountaintop removal mining from 1985-2015 at the intersections of Perry, Knot, and Breathitt counties in Kentucky. From 1985 to 2015, coal companies blasted an average of 21,000 acres of Appalachian land every year in search of coal — an area about half the size of Washington, D.C., according to a new satellite mapping tool that allows users to track mountaintop removal over the last three decades in 74 key coal-mining counties. Since the 1970s, scientists estimate that 1.5 million acres of mountainside in Appalachia have been removed for coal mining. “That is an area 18 percent larger than the state of Delaware,” Andrew Pericak, an environmental monitoring expert at Duke University, said in a statement. Pericak and colleagues at Duke worked with researchers at the nonprofit organizations SkyTruth and Appalachian Voices to create the new mapping tool. They published their findings this month in the journal PLOS One.
The scientists found that coal in the region is getting more difficult to extract. In the 1980s and 1990s, coal companies had to blast 100 square feet of land to get one ton of coal. By 2010, this had jumped to 160 square feet per ton, and by 2015, more than 300 square feet…”