Law and Legal
“Welcome to the 2019 Best Books for Adults. The New York Public Library is a premier resource for connecting readers with great books, with a staff dedicated to spreading a love of reading and sharing their book expertise. Our librarians—through their experience recommending books to patrons and as readers themselves—have highlighted their picks for 100 best books written for adults and published in 2019. No matter what kind of reader you are, what genres or subjects you normally gravitate to, we’re confident that you will find a book to pull you deep into its world or open yours up. Browse through the categories below, or go straight to our top 10 list (selected by a vote among our staff), and find your next great read…”
Library of Congress Blog – The Signal: “The Digital Content Management section has been working to extract and make available sets of files from the Library’s significant Web Archives holdings. The outcome of the project is a series of web archive file datasets, each containing 1,000 files of related media types selected from .gov domains. You can read more about this series here. PowerPoint presentations have become a nearly ubiquitous form of communication document in the digital era. At the most basic level, PowerPoint files present a sequence of slides containing text, images and multimedia. Today, we are excited to share out a dataset of 1,000 random slide decks from U.S. government websites, collected via the Library of Congress Web Archive, such as the presentation on transporting hazardous materials in Figure 1. You can download a CSV file of data about the files, you can learn more about the dataset from this README, and you can also download the entire 3.7 GB dataset of the actual files…”
Economic Roundtable: “Amazon is flourishing as a corporation. On good days in the stock market it is worth $1 trillion, making it most valuable company on the planet. Amazon has come of age financially. This report examines its standing as a socially accountable corporate citizen, with close attention to the impact of Amazon’s logistics operations on the public balance sheet in the four-county Los Angeles region. This region purchased an estimated $7.2 billion in goods from Amazon in 2018. Amazon’s trucks hauled an estimated 15.5 billion ton-miles of truck cargo in the region last year, altering how land is used, making heavy use of the transportation infrastructure, affecting air quality, and shaping the economic and living conditions of workers and their families. Amazon’s warehouses have been welcomed by some communities as a source of jobs and economic growth, but there has not been an assessment of the costs of its presence. As with individuals, communities that have come of age are able to make decisions that shape their own future and safeguard their own well-being. The most successful cities take purposeful action to influence the economy in ways that help workers earn sustaining livelihoods.
Amazon’s customers are concentrated in affluent coastal and hillside neighborhoods, but warehouses and workers are concentrated 60 to 70 miles away in struggling working class communities. This geographic divide reflects the economic polarization and structure of privilege in the four-county region. And public infrastructure and local communities bear the financial and environmental costs of trucking goods from ports to warehouses to consumers. Truck routes from ports to warehouses traverse low-income communities of color, adversely affecting air quality and health in those communities. The popularity of Amazon attests to its excellent customer care. This report provides a balance sheet from the public perspective to support greater transparency in fiscal policy, broader risk assessment, and financial equity with the employees and communities that drive its profitability…”
Democrats mostly agree the federal government should do more on climate, while Republicans differ by ideology, age and gender – “Majorities of Americans say the federal government is doing too little for key aspects of the environment, from protecting water or air quality to reducing the effects of climate change. And most believe the United States should focus on developing alternative sources of energy over expansion of fossil fuel sources, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. A majority of U.S. adults say they are taking at least some specific action in their daily lives to protect the environment, though Democrats and Republicans remain at ideological odds over the causes of climate change and the effects of policies to address it, according to the survey of 3,627 U.S. adults conducted Oct. 1 to Oct. 13, 2019, using the Center’s American Trends Panel. These findings come amid the Trump administration’s intention to officially withdraw from the 2016 Paris climate accord and ongoing efforts to roll back domestic environmental protection regulations, including relaxing limits on methane and carbon emissions. About two-thirds of U.S. adults (67%) say the federal government is doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change, and similar shares say the same about government efforts to protect air (67%) and water quality (68%) – findings that are consistent with results from a 2018 Center survey…”
Vox: “Some studies suggest that kids will have over 1,000 photos of them on social media before they’re 5 years old. But posting cute pictures of your children online can make their images vulnerable to pornographic use or identity theft. So even if your social media settings are set to private, all it takes is for somebody to take a screenshot of that picture and then repost it in a public-facing way or for somebody to have crept into your social circle under false pretenses. So you think you’re sharing with a closed community and you’re really not. I really do worry about thinking we’re keeping something private when actually we’re broadcasting it to thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people…”
“It’s that time of year when American Forests unveils the latest National Register of Champion Trees—a listing of the largest and most impressive trees in the United States. This year’s National Register is spectacular. It includes nearly 700 champions. We are grateful to the public participants who search for America’s giant trees throughout the year, then nominate them for the National Register. And, the state coordinators and National Cadre of Tree Measuring Experts who give their time to measure and verify trees on behalf of American Forests. This year, Florida has the most significant number of champs—over 100. Virginia and Texas came in second and third, with 96 and 78, respectively. A magnificent new champion crowned was Quercus virginiana, also known as the Live Oak tree, with a 440-inch circumference, found in Ware, Georgia. The Register, which has been published annually since 1940, is a compilation of America’s largest trees reported to American Forests…”
Brainpickings – 800 Years of Symbolic Diagrams Visualizing Human Knowledge – “Why is it that when we behold the oldest living trees in the world, primeval awe runs down our spine? We are entwined with trees in an elemental embrace, both biological and symbolic, depending on them for the very air we breathe as well as for our deepest metaphors, millennia in the making. They permeate our mythology and our understanding of evolution. They enchant our greatest poets and rivet our greatest scientists. Even our language reflects that relationship — it’s an idea that has taken “root” in nearly every “branch” of knowledge. How and why this came to be is what designer and information visualization scholar Manuel Lima explores in The Book of Trees: Visualizing Branches of Knowledge (public library) — a magnificent 800-year history of the tree diagram, from Descartes to data visualization, medieval manuscripts to modern information design, and the follow-up to Lima’s excellent Visual Complexity: Mapping Patterns of Information…”
Washington Post: “In her ruling that Don McGahn must comply with a congressional subpoena, U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of Washington goes to great lengths to illustrate how far out on a constitutional limb President Trump and Attorney General Bill Barr have crawled with their absolutist claims of executive power. Jackson invokes “Animal Farm” as she dismisses the Justice Department’s position that the president alone has the authority to make unilateral determinations regarding whether he and his senior aides, current and former, will respond to, or defy, subpoenas from House committees during investigations of potential wrongdoing by his own administration.
“For a similar vantagepoint, see the circumstances described by George Orwell,” the judge writes in her 118-page decision. “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.” House Democrats want the former White House counsel, who left his position in October 2018, to testify about the episodes of possible obstruction of justice that former special counsel Bob Mueller outlined in his report. They are debating whether to proceed with articles of impeachment related to the president’s alleged efforts to undermine that investigation. Jackson said McGahn can assert executive privilege when asked specific questions, but Trump cannot issue a blanket order to stop his former aide from showing up to testify. “Compulsory appearance by dint of a subpoena is a legal construct, not a political one, and per the Constitution, no one is above the law,” she concludes…”
“The UN Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Climate Change (UNFCCC) have been working together since 2014 to support countries in developing their national climate plans –Nationally Determined Contributions for the Paris Agreement or NDCs.” – The Heat is On – Taking Stock of Global Climate Ambition – “So far, temperatures are already up about 1.0°C from pre-industrial times and the last four years were the warmest on record – including July 2019, which was the hottest month of all. And there are ever starker signs of harmcaused by climate change. Coral reefs are dying, Arctic sea ice is shrinking, and sea levels are rising, while droughts, floods, and hurricanes grow more severe…
2020 is emerging as a critical year for galvanising support from across all of society for bolder climate action so that greater ambition is locked in as quickly as possible. In order to reach net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050, decisions need to be taken and enacted within the next two years…”
NeimanLab – Three researchers argue the dangers of deepfakes are overblown, but they will still require journalists to give thought to how they handle unconfirmed information. “…While deepfakes might be novel in form, there’s good reason to be skeptical of their capacity to radically transform public discourse and opinion-forming. In part that’s because propagandists are pragmatists, and low-barrier-to-entry mediums like text and crude photoshops might serve their purposes just as well. Many of those who might be taken in by outright conspiracy theories are not persuaded by the theories’ persuasiveness so much as by motivated reasoning: They’d like to believe them to be true. When threadbare theories have currency, it’s not clear that novel tools to make them appear objectively more solid would bring that many more people along. The impact of deepfakes may be further blunted by rapidly improving detection capabilities, and by growing public awareness around the technology, courtesy of the sort of press coverage referenced above…”
Center for Data Innovation: “Bloomberg has created a series of data visualizations illustrating the amount of time presidential candidates spent discussing topics in the most recent Democratic debate. The visualizations show that topics such as foreign policy and democracy replaced healthcare and gun control as the most discussed issues. In addition, the visualizations demonstrate that the debate included discussions of several issues that candidates had previously not discussed at length in debates, including paid family leave, voter suppression, and abortion rights.”
The New York Times – Researchers are creating tools to find A.I.-generated fake videos before they become impossible to detect. Some experts fear it is a losing battle…”For internet companies like Google, finding the tools to spot deepfakes has gained urgency. If someone wants to spread a fake video far and wide, Google’s YouTube or Facebook’s social media platforms would be great places to do it…”
Follow up to previous posting – an article by WSJ.com – How Google Interferes With Its Search Algorithms and Changes Your Results – please read – Search is complicated. The WSJ appeared set on seeing that complexity through a conspiratorial lens. Barry Schwartz on November 18, 2019. “…At first, I thought maybe the Wall Street Journal had uncovered something. But as I read through page after page while being shuttled down the West Side Highway towards my office in West Nyack, New York, I was in disbelief. Not disbelief over anything Google may have done, but disbelief in how the Wall Street Journal could publish such a scathing story about this when they had absolutely nothing to back it up. The subtitle of the story read, “The internet giant uses blacklists, algorithm tweaks and an army of contractors to shape what you see.” This line alone shows a lack of understanding on how search works and why the WSJ report on Google got a lot wrong, as my colleague Greg Sterling reported last week. Google is not certainly perfect, but almost everything in the Wall Street Journal report is incorrect. I’ll go through many of the points [in this article]…”
The New York Times Opinion – I Invented the World Wide Web. Here’s How We Can Fix It. I wanted the web to serve humanity. It’s not too late to live up to that promise. By Tim Berners-Lee: “My parents were mathematicians. My mother helped code one of the first stored-program computers — the Manchester Mark 1. They taught me that when you program a computer, what you can do is limited only by your imagination. That excitement for experimentation and change helped me build the World Wide Web. I had hoped that 30 years from its creation, we would be using the web foremost for the purpose of serving humanity. Projects like Wikipedia, OpenStreetMap and the world of open source software are the kinds of constructive tools that I hoped would flow from the web. However, the reality is much more complex. Communities are being ripped apart as prejudice, hate and disinformation are peddled online. Scammers use the web to steal identities, stalkers use it to harass and intimidate their victims, and bad actors subvert democracy using clever digital tactics. The use of targeted political ads in the United States’ 2020 presidential campaign and in elections elsewhere threatens once again to undermine voters’ understanding and choices.
We’re at a tipping point. How we respond to this abuse will determine whether the web lives up to its potential as a global force for good or leads us into a digital dystopia. The web needs radical intervention from all those who have power over its future: governments that can legislate and regulate; companies that design products; civil society groups and activists who hold the powerful to account; and every single web user who interacts with others online…
- The most effective way to protect yourself against hackers is to build good password habits, experts say.
- Cybersecurity experts shared straightforward tips with Business Insider that can make it exponentially harder for hackers to break into your account.
- There’s no reason that your password should be a single word — a “passphrase” consisting of multiple words is much safer…”
The Republic: “A national poll in September, one of the first taken after Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the House of Representatives would initiate a formal impeachment inquiry regarding the president’s dealings with Ukraine, turned up a plurality of respondents already backing Trump’s impeachment. The spread of opinion was as follows: 42 percent of Americans thought Donald Trump deserved to be impeached, 22 percent thought it was too soon to say, and 36 percent had already made up their minds that Donald Trump should not be impeached. An October 1998 poll conducted shortly after the House of Representatives opened a formal impeachment inquiry against Bill Clinton, unearthed by NBC News’ Steve Kornacki, showed that 60 percent of Americans did not believe Clinton deserved impeachment. And 37 percent believed he did. That rough third of American voters who were convinced from the start that Clinton must go and Trump must stay are the same—functionally, not literally, as many among that cohort died off and were replaced between 1998 and 2019. Every serious attempt to remove a president has had to confront this segment of the electorate’s loyalty—or fervent opposition—to the president under investigation. If Democrats have spent much of Donald Trump’s presidency acting as if they fear Americans are not on their side, it is because these are the Americans they are thinking of.
In a bit of fortuitous timing, spring 2019 saw the publication of Brenda Wineapple’s The Impeachers: The Trial of Andrew Johnson and the Dream of a Just Nation, a new history of the barely remembered impeachment of the seventeenth president. Johnson is known mostly as Lincoln’s reelection running mate, a loutish, ticket-balancing Southern Democrat who, after his elevation to the presidency, became a bitter foe of the Radical Republicans’ plan for postwar Reconstruction in the former Confederacy…”
In Custodia Legis – guest post by Elizabeth Boomer, a legal research analyst in the Global Legal Research Directorate.”Blockchain, a technology regularly associated with digital currency, is increasingly being utilized as a corporate social responsibility tool in major international corporations. This intersection of law, technology, and corporate responsibility was addressed earlier this month at the World Bank Law, Justice, and Development Week 2019, where the theme was Rights, Technology and Development. The law related to corporate responsibility for sustainable development is increasingly visible due in part to several lawsuits against large international corporations, alleging the use of child and forced labor. In addition, the United Nations has been working for some time on a treaty on business and human rights to encourage corporations to avoid “causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts through their own activities and [to] address such impacts when they occur.”…
Stars and Stripes – “Police officers who download videos from homeowners’ Ring doorbell cameras can keep them forever and share them with whomever they’d like without providing evidence of a crime, the Amazon-owned firm told a lawmaker earlier this month. More than 600 police forces across the country have entered into partnerships with the camera giant allowing them to quickly request and download video captured by Ring’s motion-detecting, internet-connected cameras inside and around Americans’ homes. The company says the videos can be a critical tool in helping law enforcement investigate crimes such as trespassing, burglary and package theft. But some lawmakers and privacy advocates say the systems could also empower more widespread police surveillance, fuel racial profiling and spark new neighborhood fears. In September, following a report about Ring’s police partnerships in The Washington Post, Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., wrote to Amazon asking for details about how it protected the privacy and civil liberties of people caught on camera. Since that report, the number of law enforcement agencies working with Ring has increased nearly 50%...”
ZDNET -“The new Edge browser, built on the same open source code as Google Chrome, contains a new Tracking Prevention feature that blocks third-party trackers and, at the Strict setting, many ads. My tests show that one in four items blocked are from Google. On January 15, 2020, Microsoft is scheduled to roll out a completely revamped Edge browser to the general public. That browser, which is available for beta testing now on all supported versions of Windows and MacOS, includes a feature called Tracking Prevention…If you’re running the new Edge, you’ll find Tracking Prevention on the Edge Settings page, under the Privacy And Services heading. The simple user interface includes an on-off switch for the feature (1), three boxes that define the extent of tracker blocking (2), and a place to manage exceptions (3)…”
Gallagher blogs about library research, library news and more… “I saw a house” tells you something. But what if I told you I saw a mansion, a shack, a villa, a hovel, or a two-story clapboard Cape Cod? Even if you have one word that will get the job done, it’s always useful to have a wider vocabulary so that you can get the job done a little better (or understand someone else’s writing or speech a little better). Here are a few online resources to build and polish your vocabulary…”