Law and Legal
CRS Legal Sidebar Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress Legal Sidebar. Sidewalks, Streets, and Tweets: Is Twitter a Public Forum? Valerie C. Brannon, Legislative Attorney. May 30, 2018.
“On May 23, 2018, a federal district court in New York in Knight First Amendment Institute v. Trump held that the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment prohibited President Trump from blocking Twitter users solely based on those users’ expression of their political views. In so doing, the court weighed in on the now-familiar but rapidly evolving debate over when an online forum qualifies as a “public forum” entitled to special consideration under the First Amendment. Significantly, the district court concluded that “the interactive space for replies and retweets created by each tweet sent by the @realDonaldTrump account” should be considered a “designated public forum” where the protections of the First Amendment apply. This ruling is limited to the @realDonaldTrump Twitter accountbut implicates a number of larger legal issues, including whena social media account is operated by the government rather than by a private citizen, and when the government has opened up that social media account as a forum for private speech.The ability of public officials to restrict private speech on Twitter may be of particular interest to Congress, given that almost all Members now have a Twitter accounts…”
The Guardian – Immune cells from the woman’s own body used to wipe out tumours: “A woman with advanced breast cancer which had spread around her body has been completely cleared of the disease by a groundbreaking therapy that harnessed the power of her immune system to fight the tumours. It is the first time that a patient with late-stage breast cancer has been successfully treated by a form of immunotherapy that uses the patient’s own immune cells to find and destroy cancer cells that have formed in the body. Judy Perkins, an engineer from Florida, was 49 when she was selected for the radical new therapy after several rounds of routine chemotherapy failed to stop a tumour in her right breast from growing and spreading to her liver and other areas. At the time, she was given three years to live. Doctors who cared for the woman at the US National Cancer Institute in Maryland said Perkins’s response had been “remarkable”: the therapy wiped out cancer cells so effectively that she has now been free of the disease for two years. “My condition deteriorated a lot towards the end, and I had a tumour pressing on a nerve, which meant I spent my time trying not to move at all to avoid pain shooting down my arm. I had given up fighting,” Perkins said. “After the treatment dissolved most of my tumours, I was able to go for a 40-mile hike.”
AP: “National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden blew the lid off U.S. government surveillance methods five years ago, but intelligence chiefs complain that revelations from the trove of classified documents he disclosed are still trickling out. That includes recent reporting on a mass surveillance program run by close U.S. ally Japan and on how the NSA targeted bitcoin users to gather intelligence to combat narcotics and money laundering. The Intercept, an investigative publication with access to Snowden documents, published stories on both subjects. The top U.S. counterintelligence official said journalists have released only about 1 percent taken by the 34-year-old American, now living in exile in Russia, “so we don’t see this issue ending anytime soon.”
“This past year, we had more international, Snowden-related documents and breaches than ever,” Bill Evanina, who directs the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, said at a recent conference. “Since 2013, when Snowden left, there have been thousands of articles around the world with really sensitive stuff that’s been leaked.”
See also The Guardian: “Edward Snowden has no regrets five years on from leaking the biggest cache of top-secret documents in history. He is wanted by the US. He is in exile in Russia. But he is satisfied with the way his revelations of mass surveillance have rocked governments, intelligence agencies and major internet companies. In a phone interview to mark the anniversary of the day the Guardian broke the story, he recalled the day his world – and that of many others around the globe – changed for good. He went to sleep in his Hong Kong hotel room and when he woke, the news that the National Security Agency had been vacuuming up the phone data of millions of Americans had been live for several hours…”
“…around 50 New York indie booksellers [are] featured in a series of portraits by Philippe Ungar and Franck Bohbot, a pair of bibliophilic Frenchmen who met and befriended each other in Brooklyn. The two, writer and photographer respectively, have taken great pleasure in travelling across the city, to neighbourhoods in every borough, to meet and photograph booksellers in their habitats. Despite their diversity, the way their distinct personalities and passions are reflected and amplified in their shops, they are all, says Ungar, “looking for the same thing – a generous vision of sharing culture”. Ungar mentions Corey Farach, owner of the scruffy, adored and longstanding feminist bookshop Bluestockings. Farach, as Ungar recounts with admiration, encourages those people who can’t afford to buy a $40 book to take a seat, make themselves comfortable, and just read it in the shop. “That is to me,” says Ungar, “the spirit of the indie booksellers.” Because, as he sees it, “a bookstore is much more than a bookstore, it’s much more than selling books. It’s a public shelter. Whoever you are, you don’t have to buy anything, they won’t ask you for your ID. You’re free – you can stay for hours and browse. There’s a generosity, an optimism. And that’s what we wanted to enhance.”
LexPredict: “When we first open-sourced ContraxSuite, we emphasized the role contract analytics will play in migrating legacy contracts to new smart contracts that are blockchain-enabled. The distributed ledger technology of blockchain has the potential to mitigate risk, streamline processes, and lower the barrier to entry for all market actors. It has the potential to enhance important services to individuals, organizations, and society as a whole. One problem in the current landscape is that most discussions of blockchain center around cryptocurrency, particularly Bitcoin. What sometimes gets lost in excited discussions of how blockchain can change the world, is how it can change the world, and exactly why this technology is so important. Cryptocurrency use cases only scratch the surface of what blockchain can do. And legal professionals should have at least a basic understanding, not necessarily of the cryptocurrencies blockchain makes possible, but of the other ways blockchain will impact the future of legal. Bitcoin may never be critical for legal professionals to understand, but blockchain will be required reading…”
Columbia Journalism Review: “Given the seemingly never-ending litany of transgressions we find all around us on social-media platforms—whether it’s Facebook giving up data to Cambridge Analytica and being manipulated by Russian trolls, or Twitter’s complicity in racism and online harassment—it’s difficult to imagine a case being made that social media in general is anything but a looming danger to society and democracy. Despite this, however, Ethan Zuckerman—who runs the Center for Civic Media at MIT and teaches at MIT’s Media Lab—did his best to put together a list of the ways in which social media can or should help democracy and society, in a post he published Wednesday on his blog and at Medium. Whether his argument ultimately succeeds or not is hard to say, but it’s a worthwhile question. As Zuckerman puts it:
I’m interested in what social media should do for us as citizens in a democracy. We talk about social media as a digital public sphere, invoking Habermas and coffeehouses frequented by the bourgeoisie. Before we ask whether the internet succeeds as a public sphere, we ought to ask whether that’s actually what we want it to be.
Zuckerman uses as his template an essay that Columbia journalism professor (and CJR board member) Michael Schudson wrote as part of his 2008 book Why Democracies Need an Unlovable Press, in which he argues that good journalism can accomplish a number of things that are worthwhile for society—including informing the public, investigating important issues, analyzing complex topics and serving as a tool for social empathy…” [h/t Pete Weiss]
“It was information based”: Student Reasoning when Distinguishing Between Scholarly and Popular Sources
“It was information based”: Student Reasoning when Distinguishing Between Scholarly and Popular Sources. Amy Jankowski, Alyssa Russo and Lori Townsend. In the Library with the Lead Pipe, May 16, 2018.
We asked students to find an article and answer the following questions: Is this a popular or scholarly article? How can you tell? We analyzed student answers to better understand the reasoning used to distinguish between scholarly and popular sources. Our results suggest that framing sources as “scholarly or popular” is confusing rather than clarifying for students.
BookRiot: 8 Reasons to Catalog Your Books (and How to Do It) – “There’s something about being a bookselling book nerd that makes you want to bring your work home with you. Which is why, about a week after doing our store’s inventory, I decided I wanted to inventory all my books in my personal library. Yup, I scanned every single one and uploaded it to my LibraryThing. You may ask yourself: are there benefits to such a task? Or was I engaging in a mix of self congratulation (look at all my books!) and obsessive behavior?…”
The New York Times: “President Trump’s lawyers have for months quietly waged a campaign to keep the special counsel from trying to force him to answer questions in the investigation into whether he obstructed justice, asserting that he cannot be compelled to testify and arguing in a confidential letter that he could not possibly have committed obstruction because he has unfettered authority over all federal investigations. In a brash assertion of presidential power, the 20-page letter — sent to the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and obtained by The New York Times — contends that the president cannot illegally obstruct any aspect of the investigation into Russia’s election meddling because the Constitution empowers him to, “if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon.” [Read the Trump lawyers’ confidential memo to Mr. Mueller here.] Mr. Trump’s lawyers fear that if he answers questions, either voluntarily or in front of a grand jury, he risks exposing himself to accusations of lying to investigators, a potential crime or impeachable offense. Mr. Trump’s broad interpretation of executive authority is novel and is likely to be tested if a court battle ensues over whether he could be ordered to answer questions. It is unclear how that fight, should the case reach that point, would play out. A spokesman for Mr. Mueller declined to comment.
“We don’t know what the law is on the intersection between the obstruction statutes and the president exercising his constitutional power to supervise an investigation in the Justice Department,” said Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard Law School professor who oversaw the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel during the Bush administration. “It’s an open question.”
The Economist: “A wave of automation anxiety has hit the West. Just try typing “Will machines…” into Google. An algorithm offers to complete the sentence with differing degrees of disquiet: “…take my job?”; “…take all jobs?”; “…replace humans?”; “…take over the world?” Job-grabbing robots are no longer science fiction. In 2013 Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne of Oxford University used—what else?—a machine-learning algorithm to assess how easily 702 different kinds of job in America could be automated. They concluded that fully 47% could be done by machines “over the next decade or two”. A new working paper by the OECD, a club of mostly rich countries, employs a similar approach, looking at other developed economies. Its technique differs from Mr Frey and Mr Osborne’s study by assessing the automatability of each task within a given job, based on a survey of skills in 2015. Overall, the study finds that 14% of jobs across 32 countries are highly vulnerable, defined as having at least a 70% chance of automation. A further 32% were slightly less imperilled, with a probability between 50% and 70%. At current employment rates, that puts 210m jobs at risk across the 32 countries in the study…”
Nedelkoska, L. and G. Quintini (2018), “Automation, skills use and training“, OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers, No. 202, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/2e2f4eea-en – “This study focuses on the risk of automation and its interaction with training and the use of skills at work. Building on the expert assessment carried out by Carl Frey and Michael Osborne in 2013, the paper estimates the risk of automation for individual jobs based on the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC). The analysis improves on other international estimates of the individual risk of automation by using a more disaggregated occupational classification and identifying the same automation bottlenecks emerging from the experts’ discussion. Hence, it more closely aligns to the initial assessment of the potential automation deriving from the development of Machine Learning. Furthermore, this study investigates the same methodology using national data from Germany and United Kingdom, providing insights into the robustness of the results. The risk of automation is estimated for the 32 OECD countries that have participated in the Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC) so far. Beyond the share of jobs likely to be significantly disrupted by automation of production and services, the accent is put on characteristics of these jobs and the characteristics of the workers who hold them. The risk is also assessed against the use of ICT at work and the role of training in helping workers transit to new career opportunities.”
Via Common Dreams: “The United Nations has released a scathing report on poverty and inequality in the United States. The findings, which will be presented to the U.N. Human Rights Council on June 21, follow an official visit to the United States by Philip Alston, the U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, to investigate whether economic insecurity in the country undermines human rights. The conclusions are damning. “The United States already leads the developed world in income and wealth inequality, and it is now moving full steam ahead to make itself even more unequal,” the report concludes. “High child and youth poverty rates perpetuate the intergenerational transmission of poverty very effectively, and ensure that the American dream is rapidly becoming the American illusion.” The U.N. explicitly lays blame with the Trump administration for policies that actively increase poverty and inequality in the country. “The $1.5 trillion in tax cuts in December 2017 overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy and worsened inequality. The consequences of neglecting poverty and promoting inequality are clear,” it concludes. “The policies pursued over the past year seem deliberately designed to remove basic protections from the poorest, punish those who are not in employment and make even basic health care into a privilege to be earned rather than a right of citizenship.”“The $1.5 trillion in tax cuts in December 2017 overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy and worsened inequality” In December, Alston visited seven locations throughout the country—ranging from Los Angeles’s Skid Row neighborhood to rural Alabama, West Virginia, and Puerto Rico—to meet with people experiencing deep poverty, along with experts and civil society groups…”Report of the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights on his mission to the United States of America – A/HRC/38/33/Add.13 The Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights visited the United States of America from 1 to 15 December 2017, in accordance with Human Rights Council resolution 35/19. The purpose of the visit was to report to the Council on the extent to which the Government’s policies and programmes relating to extreme poverty are consistent with its human rights obligations and to offer constructive recommendations to the Government and other stakeholders…During his visit, the Special Rapporteur met with government officials at the federal, state, county and city levels, members of Congress, representatives of civil society, academics and people living in poverty. He also received more than 40 detailed written submissions in advance of his visit. He visited California (Los Angeles and San Francisco), Alabama (Lowndes County and Montgomery), Georgia (Atlanta), Puerto Rico (San Juan, Guayama and Salinas), West Virginia (Charleston) and Washington, D.C…The strict word limit for this report makes it impossible to delve deeply into even the key issues. Fortunately, there is already much excellent scholarship and many civil society analyses of the challenges of poverty in the United States. In the present report, the Special Rapporteur aims to bring together some of those analyses, identify the key poverty-related problems and explain the relevance of the international human rights obligations of the United States in this context…”
Atlas Obscura: “For as long as libraries have been repositories of wisdom and knowledge, there has been a place on the shelf for cookbooks. In fact, many early cookbooks were more than just recipe collections—instructions for concocting medicine often jostled with dinner ideas for page space. Atlas Obscura has previously displayed ancient recipe collections, such as the Yale Peabody Museum’s Babylonian tablets, which contain the oldest known recorded recipes, and the New York Academy of Medicine’s 9th-century De re culinaria, the oldest surviving cookbook in the West. Cookbooks were once intended mainly for upper-class households. Only relatively recently did printing and educational advances make them more democratic. Today’s versions tend to hold well-lit photographs and elegant prose. But humanity has long turned to cookbooks for inspiration and entertainment, and whether sauce-stained or Gothic-lettered, cookbooks offer glimpses of humanity’s food history. Here is a collection of some of the oldest cookbooks from libraries around the world…”
“…the current U.S. administration is eager to proceed with the two lease sales, of at least 400,000 acres each, ordered by the new law. Assuming various regulatory and legal hurdles can be cleared, Alaska and the U.S. government will split the proceeds, which the Congressional Budget Office puts at $2.2 billion. Recent lease prices suggest that’s wildly optimistic. Alaska, a state with neither a sales tax nor an income tax, needs every dime. The oil and gas industry funds 90 percent of the state budget—plus an annual dividend of over $1,000 to each Alaskan—mostly through a tax on North Slope oil flowing through the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS). Since oil prices plummeted in 2014, the state has suffered multibillion-dollar budget deficits. More ominously, in spite of a recent uptick, the amount of oil oozing through the pipeline has fallen steadily since 1988. A 2012 report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimated that if oil prices stayed low, the pipeline would shut down by 2026.
The World in 2050 – “This report sets out our latest long-term global growth projections to 2050 for 32 of the largest economies in the world, accounting for around 85% of world GDP. Key results of our analysis (as summarised also in the accompanying video) include:
- The world economy could more than double in size by 2050, far outstripping population growth, due to continued technology-driven productivity improvements
- Emerging markets (E7) could grow around twice as fast as advanced economies (G7) on average
- As a result, six of the seven largest economies in the world are projected to be emerging economies in 2050 led by China (1st), India (2nd) and Indonesia (4th)
- The US could be down to third place in the global GDP rankings while the EU27’s share of world GDP could fall below 10% by 2050
- UK could be down to 10th place by 2050, France out of the top 10 and Italy out of the top 20 as they are overtaken by faster growing emerging economies like Mexico, Turkey and Vietnam respectively
- But emerging economies need to enhance their institutions and their infrastructure significantly if they are to realise their long-term growth potential…”
TechRepublic – Andy Wolber: “You might want to mass delete email from Gmail for many reasons: To remove non-work-related messages from an account, to achieve “inbox zero” as part of a personal productivity effort, or—more mundanely—to reduce the storage space used by attachments. Some people pursue #NoEmail—and start to treat email as an ephemeral communication channel instead of a permanent archive. Before you start to mass delete items from Gmail, I recommend that you export your current email data. To do this, use Google Takeout at https://takeout.google.com. Choose the “Select None” button, then scroll down the page to Mail. Move the slider to the right of Mail to “on.” (You may export just some of your email: Select the down arrow to the left of the slider, then choose one—or more—Gmail labels to select items tagged with those labels to export.)…”
“Genoscoper Laboratories and Wisdom Health contribute to the canine genetics research community through scientific exploration of canine disease heritage. Through comprehensive genetic screening, we aim to provide unprecedented insight into the distribution and prevalence of canine genetic disease variants across breeds. The data that is made available through this interactive breed portal has its foundation in peer-reviewed scientific publications by Genoscoper Laboratories and its collaborators. The prevalence information is made available for breed health research purposes only and is done so on a non-profit basis. Genotype frequencies are updated weekly, and shown when a minimum of 30 dogs have been tested from a breed.”
Pew – “…The divides that exist across urban, suburban and rural areas when it comes to views on social and political issues don’t necessarily extend to how people are experiencing life in different types of communities. Rural and suburban adults are somewhat more rooted in their local areas, but substantial shares in cities, suburbs and rural areas say they have lived in their communities for more than 10 years. And about six-in-ten in each type of community say they feel at least some sense of attachment to their communities, though relatively few say they are very attached. For adults who currently live in or near the place where they grew up – roughly half in rural areas and about four-in-ten in cities and suburbs – family ties stand out as the most important reason why they have never left or why they moved back after living away. And, when it comes to their interactions with neighbors, urban, suburban and rural residents are about equally likely to say they communicate with them on a regular basis. In addition, urban and rural residents share some of the same concerns. Roughly equal shares of urban (50%) and rural (46%) residents say that drug addiction is a major problem in their local community. When it comes to the availability of jobs, rural adults are somewhat more likely to say this is a major problem where they live (42% say so), but a substantial share of urban dwellers (34%) say the same, significantly higher than the share in suburban communities (22%). Other problems – such as access to affordable housing in cities and access to public transportation in rural areas – are felt more acutely in some areas than in others…”
Sunlight Foundation: “The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) removed a cache of materials on its asylum process shortly after President Donald Trump took office, a reduction in access detailed in our latest Web Integrity Project report. The 26 removed documents, which collectively run to several hundred pages, constitute training materials for USCIS asylum officers, offering detailed instructions on how the agency screens immigrants under U.S. law and international asylum agreements. Immigration attorneys who spoke with the Web Integrity Project said the materials, which are still relevant under current policy, were an important training resource for them as well, offering a valuable glimpse at an often opaque process. The materials, which had been available on the USCIS website in an easily accessible format since at least 2013, spanned a wide range of subjects. One contained a primer on international human rights law. Another detailed the U.S. statutes and international agreements that established the framework for the asylum process. A six part series on interview techniques described everything from how to approach conversations with torture victims, to working with interpreters and proper note taking. Some of the most useful documents, according to Victoria Neilson, a senior attorney for the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., dealt with the mechanics of the asylum process. As part of her work with the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s Asylum and Refugee Committee, Neilson helps train lawyers who are new to the particulars of asylum work. Documents describing the day-to-day process that asylum seekers face can help inexperienced lawyers prepare their clients for what they might face in an interview, Neilson says. And the documents that used be hosted on the USCIS site were an invaluable resource…” [h/t Pete Weiss]
“The Ad Hoc Government Digital Services Playbook compiles what we’ve learned from four years of delivering digital services for government clients. Our playbook builds on and extends the Digital Services Playbook by the United States Digital Service. The USDS playbook is a valuable set of principles, questions, and checklists for government to consider when building digital services. If followed, the plays make it more likely a digital services project will succeed. Today, we’re publishing the opinions we developed and lessons we learned while implementing the original plays of the USDS playbook. We want to share our knowledge in hopes that other teams can continue to build on the progress we and many other organizations are making in improving government digital services. In 2014, we founded Ad Hoc with the same catalyst that created the USDS: the failed launch of HealthCare.gov. Since then, we’ve been using these plays to help government reform the way it serves users, who have come to expect more from the digital products and services they use. Building digital services for government means orienting and aligning around the user experience, for all audiences and abilities, and doing so securely, protecting users’ privacy and data. To the user of digital services, availability and usability are paramount. Slow, confusing interfaces drive them away and erode their trust. This essential user-centrism is at the core of government digital services. It distinguishes them from enterprise software, where users are expected to have substantial training and domain knowledge, or conform to confusing business-processes-as-software. While government had substantial experience building enterprise software systems prior to 2013, when HealthCare.gov launched, it didn’t have comparable experience delivering digital services, such as those users have become accustomed to in the commercial sector. The challenge of the past four years has been introducing to government the practices and processes that set user-centered services up for success. Our playbook contributes additional detail on how to accomplish this task…” [h/t Pete Weiss]