Law and Legal
The New York Times – Our “hidden enemy,” in plain sight.”…For at least six months now, the virus has replicated among us. The toll has been devastating. Officially, more than six million people worldwide have been infected so far, and 370,000 have died. (The actual numbers are certainly higher.) The United States, which has seen the largest share of cases and casualties, recently surpassed 100,000 deaths, one-fourth the number of all Americans who died in World War II. Businesses are shuttered — in 10 weeks, some 40 million Americans have lost their jobs — and food banks are overrun. The virus has fueled widespread frustration and exposed our deepest faults: of color, class and privilege, between the deliverers and the delivered to…By March, at least 1,388 variants of the coronavirus had been detected around the world, all functionally identical as far as scientists could tell. Arrayed as an ancestral tree, these lineages reveal where and when the virus spread. For instance, the first confirmed case of Covid-19 in New York was announced on March 1, but an analysis of samples revealed that the virus had begun to circulate in the region weeks earlier. Unlike early cases on the West Coast, which were seeded by people arriving from China, these cases were seeded from Europe, and in turn seeded cases throughout much of the country. The roots can be traced back still further. The first known patient was hospitalized in Wuhan on Dec. 16, 2019, and first felt ill on Dec. 1; the first infection would have occurred still earlier. Sometime before that the virus, or its progenitor, was in a bat — the genome is 96 percent similar to a bat virus. How long ago it made that jump, and acquired the mutations necessary to do so, is unclear. In any case, and contrary to certain conspiracy theories, SARS-CoV-2 was not engineered in a laboratory…”
“Water is vital to our health, communities, environment, and economy. But there are tremendous challenges to the quality and quantity of our water. Public awareness, concern, and action on water must increase. waterloop aims to be part of the solution by presenting conversations and commentary in a podcast about water in our lives and on our planet. waterloop highlights the importance of water, explores various pressures, and shares positive success stories…”
“Swim Guide is a website and smartphone app for iPhone® and Android. It helps you easily find your closest beaches, know at a glance which ones are safe for swimming, and share your love of beaches with friends and family. Swim Guide delivers free real-time water quality information for over 7,000 beaches, lakes, rivers, and swimming holes in Canada, the U.S., Mexico, the Bahamas, Costa Rica, Ireland, France, Denmark, New Zealand, Australia, and Kenya. Swim Guide is available in English, French, and Spanish. Created and managed by Swim Drink Fish Canada (formerly Lake Ontario Waterkeeper), Swim Guide can be used by any public interest club, organization, or agency to share beach information with the public. Find the best beaches – Swim Guide offers water quality information for a wide variety of beaches, ranging from city parks to remote lakes ideal for camping…”
ALA – “Most years, June marks a shift for students from classroom learning and research to summer vacations, internships, and packed public libraries for reading and learning programs. This year is different, and libraries are rising to the challenge. A new American Library Association (ALA) survey of U.S. libraries documents a shift in services to support students, faculty, and communities at large during the crisis and phased preparations for the months ahead. While virtually all libraries (99%) report limited access to the physical building, survey respondents shared leaps in the use of digital content, online learning, and virtual programs. More than 3,800 K-12 school, college and university, public and other libraries from all 50 states responded to the survey between May 12-18. Survey responses show that libraries are involved in community crisis response, cautiously planning for re-opening facilities, working to meet the educational needs of students and researchers, reporting increased use of digital services, and anticipating future demands.
“Libraries are places of learning and connection for all ages and backgrounds, so this crisis has challenged us to work creatively to adapt services while our facilities are closed,” said ALA President Wanda Brown. “From bridging the digital divide to addressing learning loss to aiding job seekers and small businesses, we know library services are essential to campus and community recovery and resilience.”…
Forbes: “During the virus crisis, ridership and service in both public transit and taxis (including Uber/Lyft) has fallen off a cliff. Scooter micromobility has plunged, too. People don’t want to get into a vehicle with others, or where unknown others just were. Of course, far few people are travelling. If they have access to a private car, that’s what they’re using. Because travel is so low, that works fine, as roads are empty and parking is plentiful. Green Bay Metro shut down entirely. What happens when travel is restored? It won’t happen overnight — many people were restricting travel well before the lockdowns, and many companies had switched to work-from-home in advance as well. In time, it will increase, though some wonder if work-from-home will become a new normal that permanently dents traffic. Many doubt that — traffic finds a way to expand to fill the capacity available. Even so, much of the fear of shared vehicles will remain. We’ll know that the virus is still out there, just beaten back for a while. We’ll be keeping it in check not with a lockdown, but with masks, social distancing and good hygiene, at least until a vaccine or treatment. The at-risk: Those over 55 or with pre-existing conditions, will remain just as cautious. To a large extent, those taking public transit will be those without much of a choice. (That’s partly true already in many towns, but the factor will be multiplied.) Public transportation has been on its way to a crisis and revolution, and the pandemic lockdown will hasten that and put it into sharp relief…”
Testing, Testing,(Phase)1-2-3: Legal Considerations for Clinical Trials of Potential COVID-19 Vaccines
CRS report via LC – Testing, Testing, (Phase) 1-2-3: Legal Considerations for Clinical Trials of Potential COVID-19 Vaccines, June 1, 2020: “In the race to develop a Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine, several pharmaceutical companies, governments, and educational institutions around the world have begun testing their potential COVID-19 vaccines in clinical trials. Clinical trials are used to assess whether a new pharmaceutical product, such as a vaccine, is safe for humans and effective in achieving its intended purpose. Companies must generally test new pharmaceutical products on humans through clinical trials to obtain U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval to market the product. But using human subjects to test these novel products exposes them to unknown health and safety risks, raising ethical considerations for FDA and for the sponsors and Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) overseeing the investigations. These stakeholders—sponsors, IRBs, and FDA—aim to balance the need to ensure that the product is safe and effective against the desire to bring the product to market quickly, tensions that are heightened during a worldwide pandemic. Existing law requires FDA and IRBs to weigh these considerations when evaluating proposed clinical trial designs for COVID-19 vaccines. This Sidebar describes the legal and regulatory framework that governs clinical trials for pharmaceutical products, such as vaccines, and some avenues researchers and Congress may consider for accelerating that process during the COVID-19 pandemic. (For ease of reference, this Sidebar uses the term drugs includes both traditional drugs and biological products, including vaccines.)…”
CNet – The bipartisan effort aims to protect users as technology is used to trace the spread of the novel coronavirus. “A group of US senators on Monday introduced a bill to regulate contact-tracing apps, aiming to protect user privacy as technology is used to track the spread of the novel coronavirus. The proposal is called the Exposure Notification Privacy Act and seeks to ensure that people couldn’t be forced to use the technology. It also would make sure that the data isn’t used for advertising or commercial purposes and that people can delete their data. The bill seeks to require that notification systems only rely on “an authorized diagnosis” that came from medical organization…”
Popular Mechanics – President Trump retreated underground amid Washington, D.C. protests. But how far down did he actually go?: “In the midst of ongoing protests of police violence and racial injustice around the U.S., President Trump was whisked away to a “White House bunker” on Friday night. An inside source told the Associated Press that Trump “spent nearly an hour in the bunker, which was designed for use in emergencies like terrorist attacks.” There’s a whole city’s worth of stuff underneath the White House and other government buildings in and around Washington, D.C. But what exactly do we know about the bunker where President Trump would be?…”
Reuters: “Google was sued on Tuesday in a proposed class action accusing the internet search company of illegally invading the privacy of millions of users by pervasively tracking their internet use through browsers set in “private” mode. The lawsuit seeks at least $5 billion, accusing the Alphabet Inc unit of surreptitiously collecting information about what people view online and where they browse, despite their using what Google calls Incognito mode. According to the complaint filed in the federal court in San Jose, California, Google gathers data through Google Analytics, Google Ad Manager and other applications and website plug-ins, including smartphone apps, regardless of whether users click on Google-supported ads. This helps Google learn about users’ friends, hobbies, favorite foods, shopping habits, and even the “most intimate and potentially embarrassing things” they search for online, the complaint said. Google “cannot continue to engage in the covert and unauthorized data collection from virtually every American with a computer or phone,” the complaint said…”
- Brown et al v Google LLC et al, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 20-03664.
“Today the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) released a letter that is being sent to local and state election officials and state party officials around the country. This letter highlights key aspects of Election Mail delivery processes — and ways to help educate the public on what to expect when using the mail to vote. The letter, signed by USPS General Counsel and Executive Vice President Thomas J. Marshall, is a continuation of an ongoing outreach effort aimed at educating all interested parties about the Postal Service’s mailing requirements and services in advance of the 2020 elections. “It is critical that the Postal Service’s delivery standards be kept in mind when informing voters how to successfully participate in an election using the mail,” says Marshall, noting the importance of this information “when state and local election officials are making decisions as to the establishment of deadlines and the means used to send a piece of Election Mail to voters.”
The letter and the accompanying Publication 632, State and Local Election Mail — User’s Guide, are intended to provide boards of election and other election officials the tools needed to make the upcoming elections more successful when voting by mail. These guides are a follow-up to the more extensive 2020 Official Election Mail Kit (Kit 600), which was distributed to 11,500 election officials in March. All of these materials are also available on the Postal Service’s Election Mail website, about.usps.com/election-mail/election-mail-resources.htm. Publication 632 includes an overview of how to properly use the mail during the election process, the mailing standards of the Postal Service, postmarking guidelines and the specifics of military, diplomatic and overseas mailing instructions. The Postal Service has personnel ready to assist election officials with mailpiece design and everything else needed for a successful election cycle…”
CRS report via LC – Women in Congress, 1917-2020: Service Dates and Committee Assignments by Member, and Lists by State and Congress, Updated June 1, 2020: “In total 366women have been elected or appointed to Congress, 247 Democrats and 119Republicans. These figures include six nonvoting 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 366 women, there have been
- 309 (211 Democrats, 98 Republicans) women elected only to the House of Representatives;
- 41 (25 Democrats, 16 Republicans) women elected or appointed only to the Senate; and
- 16 (11 Democrats, 5 Republicans) women who have served in both houses.
A record 131 women were initially sworn in for the 116th Congress. One has since resigned, and one has been appointed. Of 131 women currently in Congress, there are
- 26 in the Senate (17 Democrats and 9 Republicans);
- 101 Representatives in the House (88 Democrats and 13 Republicans); and
- 4 women in the House (2 Democrats and 2 Republicans) who serve as Delegates or Resident Commissioner, representing the District of Columbia, American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.
- This report includes brief biographical information, committee assignments, dates of service, district information, and listings by Congress and state, and (for Representatives) congressional districts of the 366 women who have been elected or appointed to Congress. It will be updated when there are relevant changes in the makeup of Congress…”
Of Dollars and Data – Nick Maggiulli – “As riots erupt across America following the murder of George Floyd, race relations have once again taken center stage in the United States. Though there is a lot of focus on the social inequalities occurring in the U.S., we should also take a deeper look at the economic inequalities as well. Because it is my belief that many of the social issues experienced by people of color throughout America would be greatly mitigated if they had more economic power. Before we get to that discussion, let’s examine the size of the racial wealth gap to see where things stand currently…”
“The National Police Accountability Project (NPAP) condemns the use of overwhelming force by law enforcement to block legitimate protest against the racist and unconstitutional use of deadly force against Black Americans and other minorities. We denounce the president of the United States for using armed military units to clear the streets of peaceful demonstrators in order to create a photo op for him to spew his divisive and hateful rhetoric. Tear gas, pepper gas, so-called “rubber” bullets, and truncheons will not create an atmosphere in which needed changes can be made or healing occur. Unless and until we address the underlying causes of an epidemic of violence against Black persons, our society will not be at peace and cannot be united. The racism that leads to police violence is systemic and deeply rooted in our society, not merely the result of individual rogue officers. NPAP president Michael Avery stated, “We have seen case after case in which Black men and women are murdered or severely injured by police officers. It must stop. The police must be held accountable. All four officers who participated in the murder of George Floyd must be prosecuted and brought to justice.”…
@ABCNewsPolitics: “Attorney General Bill Barr releases statement on protests in Washington, D.C., saying, “there will be even greater law enforcement resources and support in the region tonight…”
- Meanwhile our area remains under consistent surveillance overhead by military helicopters, planes and drones.
- Via Wired – The Feds Are Now Using ‘Stingrays’ in Planes to Spy on Our Phone Calls
- Via Elizabeth Warren – “AG William Barr reportedly ordered law enforcement to clear Lafayette Square for Trump’s photo-op himself. He should resign. And @JusticeOIG should investigate the role that AG Barr & @TheJusticeDept personnel played in this ugly propaganda event.”
“The Drug Enforcement Administration has been granted sweeping new authority to “conduct covert surveillance” and collect intelligence on people participating in protests over the police killing of George Floyd, according to a two-page memorandum obtained by BuzzFeed News. Floyd’s death “has spawned widespread protests across the nation, which, in some instances, have included violence and looting,” the DEA memo says. “Police agencies in certain areas of the country have struggled to maintain and/or restore order.” The memo requests the extraordinary powers on a temporary basis, and on Sunday afternoon a senior Justice Department official signed off. Attorney General William Barr issued a statement Saturday following a night of widespread and at times violent protests in which he blamed, without providing evidence, “anarchistic and far left extremists, using Antifa-like tactics,” for the unrest. He said the FBI, DEA, US Marshals, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives would be “deployed to support local efforts to enforce federal law.”…
The New York Times – The enormous independent bookstore in Portland, Ore., became an unlikely tourist attraction. Now that it’s shut, Emily Powell, the chief executive, is having to rethink the books business. “Powell’s Books was selling books online before Amazon.com existed. Over the years, its flagship store grew to occupy a full city block in Portland, Ore. And the company, which until recently employed some 500 people, is still family owned. But when the coronavirus hit, Powell’s — like many businesses around the world — suddenly faced an existential crisis. Its chief executive, Emily Powell, closed the company’s stores in mid March. Without customers browsing the aisles, revenues dried up immediately, and the company’s head count was slashed by some 90 percent in a matter of days. As word of the layoffs spread, online orders spiked, allowing Powell’s to rehire many workers. Yet with its stores still closed and the virus still spreading, Ms. Powell — who took over the business from her father and grandfather — says it remains unclear how a sprawling bookstore will be able to safely reopen to the public. This conversation, which was condensed and edited for clarity, was part of a series of new live Corner Office calls discussing the crisis…”
The New York Times – By Anthony W. Marx, president of the New York Public Library. To stay true to their mission during the coronavirus pandemic, libraries should offer more digital services. “As we face tragedy, devastating economic turmoil and dislocation, public libraries will play a key part in the recovery of our country, cities and lives. Libraries offer all people — regardless of background or circumstance — free access to the tools and knowledge they need to open doors of opportunity and be productive members of society. To remain true to their mission, all libraries must undergo radical change. To serve the public in the face of unprecedented challenges, libraries will need to transition their services to the virtual space and explore new avenues to serve the public and bring people together, even while we are apart. Since the New York Public Library has invested for years in digital offerings, we have been able to quickly transition and expand a wide variety of online services. Our goal has been to replicate, as best we can, the unique experience of being in a library while at home. We offer online story times, tutoring and other educational tools for parents coping with remote learning, virtual book clubs, author talks, a book discussion podcast, virtual consultations with reference librarians, interactive online book recommendations and small business and job search webinars that have attracted thousands of participants. We worked with vendors to provide at-home access to research databases, made available thousands of special collections and improved access to hundreds of thousands of free e-books to browse and borrow instantly via our e-reader. And that is only scratching the surface…”
“#LIBREV says library workers make libraries as institutions possible. The COVID-19 crisis has made it clear that it is time to recenter the conversation in our field. Libraries will be necessary and important to their communities as we begin to strategize and recover from this crisis. It’s time to treat library staff as if we are necessary and important, too.
In hopes of building affinity and solidarity among similar groups, and helping like-minded folks find their collective power in this challenging time, we are attempting to continue the momentum built at the May 4, 2020 #LIBREV conference in a different kind of space.
This is an invitation to join us in our online community. It may become something more, but here’s a place to start. Let’s get to work on building a better future together.”
Pete Recommends – Weekly highlights on cyber security issues, May 31, 2020 – Four highlights from this week: A flood of coronavirus apps are tracking us. Now it’s time to keep track of them; Johns Hopkins releases report on digital contact tracing to aid COVID-19 response; Coronavirus stimulus payments mistaken for junk mail; IRS issues clarification; and Reality bites: Data privacy edition.
“Reuters today announced that TASS, the Russian news agency, has become a partner on its award-winning digital content marketplace, Reuters Connect here” [thoughts on impact on WestLaw and customer usage]