Law and Legal
The New York Times – After researchers noticed fewer nearsighted patients in a hospital ward in China, they speculated that wearing glasses might offer some protection against Covid-19. “…It may be that eyeglasses act as a partial barrier, protecting eyes from the splatter of a cough or sneeze. Another explanation for the finding could be that people who wear glasses are less likely to rub their eyes with contaminated hands. A 2015 report on face touching found that over the course of an hour, students watching a lecture touched their eyes, nose or mouth, on average, about 10 times, though the researchers did not look into whether wearing glasses made a difference. The current study, published in JAMA Ophthalmology, was accompanied by a commentary from Dr. Lisa Maragakis, an infectious disease specialist and associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, who urged caution in interpreting the results…But Dr. Steinemann noted that the study shouldn’t cause worry among people who don’t wear glasses. “It probably can’t hurt to wear glasses, but does everybody need to do that? Probably not,” he said. “I think you have to consider the practicality of wearing eye protection or a face shield. People in certain occupations, first responders, caregivers for someone who is ill, those are people who should maybe take special notice.”…
CRS report via LC – Police Reform and the 116th Congress: Selected Legal Issues, September 16, 2020: “…Congress has extensive power to regulate federal law enforcement. However, federalism principles embodied in the Constitution place limits on Congress’s power to regulate state and local police—an issue that the Constitution generally entrusts to the states. Congress, however, possesses some authority to regulate state and local law enforcement. Two primary tools Congress may use to act in this area are statutes designed to enforce the protections of the Fourteenth Amendment and legislation requiring states to take specified action in exchange for federal funds disbursed under the Spending Clause.Legislating within the scope of its enumerated powers, Congress has enacted multiple statutes that regulate federal, state, and local law enforcement. Key existing legal authorities related to federal regulation of law enforcement include Department of Justice (DOJ) civil enforcement against patterns and practices of unconstitutional policing, laws imposing civil and criminal liability for officer misconduct, and grant conditions designed to spur state and local compliance with federal policies.Federal courts have supplemented these statutory authorities with certain judicially created doctrines defining the contours of liability for police misconduct…”
CRS Insight via LC – COVID-19: Financial Relief and Assistance Resources for Renters, September 10, 2020: “This Insight highlights resources from selected federal agencies and other organizations that may aid renters at risk of eviction due to circumstances related to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)pandemic. These resourcesprovide information on COVID-19 related renter protections and resources at federal, state, and local levels…”
Collaborative effort between the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Forest Service: “Search for Current Fire and Smoke Conditions in a city, state or area. (e.g. “Seattle, WA”, “Washington”, “Smith River, CA”) Or search for conditions near your current location – “The Fire and Smoke Map displays information on ground level air quality monitors recording fine particulates (PM2.5) from smoke and other sources, as well as information on fires, smoke plume locations, and special statements about smoke issued by various sources.
This map is designed to:
- Allow the user to browse current conditions
- Show information relevant to the current location or another location of interest..”
Hubble Space Telescope: “This latest image of Jupiter, taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope on 25 August 2020, was captured when the planet was 653 million kilometres from Earth. Hubble’s sharp view is giving researchers an updated weather report on the monster planet’s turbulent atmosphere, including a remarkable new storm brewing, and a cousin of the Great Red Spot changing colour — again. The new image also features Jupiter’s icy moon Europa. A unique and exciting detail of Hubble’s new snapshot appears at mid-northern latitudes as a bright, white, stretched-out storm moving at 560 kilometres per hour. This single plume erupted on 18 August 2020 and another has since appeared. While it’s common for storms to pop up in this region, often several at once, this particular disturbance appears to have more structure behind it than observed in previous storms. Trailing behind the plume are small, counterclockwise dark clumps also not witnessed in the past. Researchers speculate this may be the beginning of a longer-lasting northern hemisphere spot, perhaps to rival the legendary Great Red Spot that dominates the southern hemisphere. Hubble shows that the Great Red Spot, rolling counterclockwise in the planet’s southern hemisphere, is ploughing into the clouds ahead of it, forming a cascade of white and beige ribbons. The Great Red Spot is currently an exceptionally rich red colour, with its core and outermost band appearing deeper red. Researchers say the Great Red Spot now measures about 15 800 kilometres across, big enough to swallow the Earth. The super-storm is still shrinking, as noted in telescopic observations dating back to 1930, but its rate of shrinkage appears to have slowed. The reason for its dwindling size is a complete mystery…”
BleepingComputer: “DuckDuckGo, the privacy-focused search engine, announced that August 2020 ended in over 2 billion total searches via its search platform. While Google remains the most popular search engine, DuckDuckGo has gained a great deal of traction in recent months as more and more users have begun to value their privacy on the internet. DuckDuckGo saw over 2 billion searches and 4 million app/extension installations, and the company also said that they have over 65 million active users. DuckDuckGo could shatter its old traffic record if the same growth trend continues. Even though DuckDuckGo is growing rapidly, it still controls less than 2 percent of all search volume in the United States. However, DuckDuckGo’s growth trend has continued throughout the year, mainly due to Google and other companies’ privacy scandal…”
CNET – Election officials and the FBI say it’s almost impossible to pull off fraud via mail-in ballots. Spreading disinformation about voting-by-mail is much easier. “Millions of Americans have voted by mail securely for more than 150 years, with fraud historically being so rare that election officials wouldn’t even consider it significant enough to be a rounding error. But with the coronavirus pandemic pushing a record number of absentee ballot requests, President Donald Trump and his administration have attacked the time-tested system, claiming that it will lead to a chaotic Election Day outcome. Since April, Trump has questioned the legitimacy of vote-by-mail on Twitter, saying it will “lead to massive corruption and fraud,” without offering any evidence of what security flaws are present. Attorney General William Barr also claimed, in June, that voting by mail “opens the floodgates to fraud,” also without any proof. In a press briefing on election security on Aug. 26, senior FBI officials said they’ve found no evidence of coordinated fraud with mail-in ballots and also highlighted how unlikely the scenario would be.
It would be extraordinarily difficult to change a federal election outcome through this type of fraud alone, given the range of processes that would need to be affected or compromised by an adversary at the local level,” the FBI said…”
See also FBI director: It’s a mistake to get election information on social media – “If you want accurate details on when and where to vote, he says, don’t look to Facebook or Twitter…”
Vox: “…Julia Marcus is an epidemiologist at Harvard Medical School and a contributing writer for the Atlantic who has penned a brilliant series of essays about how to think about risk in the midst of this pandemic. Marcus’s starting point, which emerges from her previous work on HIV prevention, is that an all-or-nothing approach is blindly unrealistic: Everything is a trade-off. Shaming is a terrible public health strategy. And we can’t have a conversation about risk that ignores the reality of benefits, too. In this conversation on The Ezra Klein Show, Marcus offers a framework for making key life decisions while at the same time managing coronavirus risk. We also discuss what the risk calculation for someone living in Germany or South Korea looks like, how the US government’s abdication of responsibility has shifted the burden of risk management onto individuals, the kinds of activities we tend to underestimate and overestimate the riskiness of, the principles that should guide us in the age of coronavirus, how long we can expect this pandemic to last, and much more…”
“As the nation heads toward Election Day in the midst of a persistent pandemic and simmering social unrest, a new Pew Research Center survey finds that Americans’ deep partisan divide, dueling information ecosystems, and divergent responses to conspiracy theories and misinformation are all fueling uncertainty and conflict surrounding the presidential election. While Americans across the political spectrum have been getting information about key election-related storylines, their knowledge and opinions about these issues – as well as the candidates themselves – differ strikingly based on their party affiliation and key news sources, according to the new survey, conducted Aug. 31-Sept. 7, 2020, as part of the Center’s American News Pathways project. One central issue creating confusion in this campaign is the reliability of voting by mail, which figures to be more widespread than ever this year as people try to avoid crowded polling places during the coronavirus outbreak. President Donald Trump has repeatedly promoted the unsupported idea that mail-in voting will lead to significant fraud and has put the U.S. Postal Service in the campaign spotlight.
While evidence indicates that mail-in voting is associated with only minuscule levels of fraud, 43% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents identify voter fraud as a “major problem” associated with mail-in ballots. By contrast, only 11% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say the same thing…”
“As efforts to develop and test a COVID-19 vaccine spur debate around the timing and release of a federally approved vaccine, the share of Americans who say they would get vaccinated for the coronavirus has declined sharply since earlier this year. About half of U.S. adults (51%) now say they would definitely or probably get a vaccine to prevent COVID-19 if it were available today; nearly as many (49%) say they definitely or probably would not get vaccinated at this time. Intent to get a COVID-19 vaccine has fallen from 72% in May, a 21 percentage point drop. The share who would definitely get a coronavirus vaccine now stands at just 21% – half the share that said this four months ago…The new national survey by Pew Research Center, conducted Sept. 8-13 among 10,093 U.S. adults, finds intent to get a COVID-19 vaccine has declined across all major political and demographic groups…”
The New York Times / Opinion – Trump’s former director of national intelligence on how to firmly and unambiguously reassure all Americans that their votes will be counted. By Dan Coats. Mr. Coats served as the director of national intelligence from 2017 to 2019.
“…Our democracy’s enemies, foreign and domestic, want us to concede in advance that our voting systems are faulty or fraudulent; that sinister conspiracies have distorted the political will of the people; that our public discourse has been perverted by the news media and social networks riddled with prejudice, lies and ill will; that judicial institutions, law enforcement and even national security have been twisted, misused and misdirected to create anxiety and conflict, not justice and social peace. If those are the results of this tumultuous election year, we are lost, no matter which candidate wins. No American, and certainly no American leader, should want such an outcome. Total destruction and sowing salt in the earth of American democracy is a catastrophe well beyond simple defeat and a poison for generations. An electoral victory on these terms would be no victory at all. The judgment of history, reflecting on the death of enlightened democracy, would be harsh. The most urgent task American leaders face is to ensure that the election’s results are accepted as legitimate. Electoral legitimacy is the essential linchpin of our entire political culture. We should see the challenge clearly in advance and take immediate action to respond…”
The New York Times – A Secret Diary Chronicled the ‘Satanic World’ That Was Dachau – “For two years, a prisoner in the German concentration camp kept a journal that would later be used to convict those who had persecuted him and killed his fellow prisoners.
The final article from “Beyond the World War II We Know,” a series by The Times that documents lesser-known stories from the war, remembers Edgar Kupfer-Koberwitz, a prisoner at Dachau who secretly documented everything he observed in the concentration camp in a diary, which he then buried until the American liberation.”
“Julius Berman, President of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (Claims Conference), announces the release of a comprehensive national survey of Holocaust awareness and knowledge among adults in the United States on the occasion of Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day). The survey found there are critical gaps both in awareness of basic facts as well as detailed knowledge of the Holocaust, and there is a broad-based consensus that schools must be responsible for providing comprehensive Holocaust education. In addition, a significant majority of American adults believe that fewer people care about the Holocaust today than they used to, and more than half of Americans believe that the Holocaust could happen again…
The study also found significant gaps in knowledge about the Holocaust:
- Nearly one-third of all Americans (31 percent) and more than 4-in-10 Millennials (41 percent) believe that substantially less than 6 million Jews were killed (two million or fewer) during the Holocaust
- While there were over 40,000 concentration camps and ghettos in Europe during the Holocaust, almost half of Americans (45 percent) cannot name a single one – and this percentage is even higher amongst Millennials..”
U.S Department of Defense Standards of Conduct Office – Encyclopedia of Ethical Failure1Revised October 2019
The Standards of Conduct Office of the Department of Defense General Counsel’s Office has assembled the following selection of cases of ethical failure for use as a training tool. Our goal is to provide DoD personnel with real examples of Federal employees who have intentionally or unwittingly violated the standards of conduct. Some cases are humorous, some sad, and all are real. Some will anger you as a Federal employee and some will anger you as an American taxpayer…”
“U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI), Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, released a report detailing the results of his investigation into how operational changes at the United States Postal Service (USPS) ordered by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy resulted in compromised service and serious harm for veterans, small businesses, rural communities, seniors, and millions of Americans who rely on the mail. The report determined that delays increased steeply nationwide as a result of DeJoy’s actions, according to USPS data. These delays resulted in an estimated 85 million more late deliveries in a single week by early August, an example of the impacts that have lasted for months.
The report – Failure to Deliver: Harm Caused by U.S. Postmaster General DeJoy’s Changes to Postal Service Mail Delivery – also highlights data from Michigan confirming the steep decline in on-time First Class mail delivery resulting from Postmaster General DeJoy’s July 2020 directives. In the Detroit area, on-time delivery fell to 65.7 percent following DeJoy’s directives, a 19.1 percentage point drop..”
Vox – Most states have not contained their COVID-19 outbreaks: “The US is now in the middle of what can only be described as a national Covid-19 epidemic, with cases across the country rising at alarming rates in recent weeks. Public health experts look at a few markers to determine how bad things are in each state: the number of daily new cases; the infection rate, which can show how likely the virus is to spread; the percentage of tests that come back positive, which should be low in a state with sufficient testing; and the percentage of hospital beds that are occupied by very sick patients. A Vox analysis indicates the vast majority of states report alarming trends across all four benchmarks for coronavirus outbreaks. Most states still report a high — sometimes very high — number of daily new Covid-19 cases. Most still have high infection rates. Most still have test positive rates that are too high, indicating they don’t have enough tests to track and contain the scope of their outbreaks. (The US overall has seen a decrease in new cases in recent weeks, but the numbers are still much too high.) And most still have hospitals with intensive care units that are too packed…”
AP – “The government outlined a sweeping plan Wednesday to make vaccines for COVID-19 available for free to all Americans when proven safe and effective, though a top public health official made clear that widespread vaccination of millions of Americans couldn’t come until well into next year. In a report to Congress and an accompanying “playbook” for states and localities, federal health agencies and the Defense Department sketched out complex plans for a vaccination campaign to begin gradually in January or even late this year, eventually ramping up to reach any American who wants a shot… CDC Director Robert Redfield said any vaccine available in November or December would be in “very limited supply,” and reserved for first responders and people most vulnerable to COVID-19. The shot wouldn’t be broadly available until the spring or summer of 2021, he estimated.
Redfield and other health officials testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee also emphasized the effectiveness of masks in stopping the pandemic’s spread, given that no vaccine is 100% protective. The flu vaccine, for example, is generally about 40% to 60% effective against the annual viral strain. Redfield, masked in the hearing room, said,“I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine.”
The Dirt: “California, Oregon, and Washington, along with nine other states in the West are now experiencing record-breaking wildfires. According to experts, there are a number of reasons: climate change is creating the underlying conditions for more extreme weather events. Heat waves over the summer dried out much of Western forests, which were already impacted by years of drought and bark beetles. Unusually high winds have spread embers. And human activity in the wildland-urban interface keeps creating new sparks: downed electrical lines have set many blazes, while, infamously, a gender reveal party with a “pyrotechnic device” created a massive conflagration. Amid the continuing devastation, an interactive map from ESRI, which creates geographic information system software, enables users to track active fires by name or location in near real time and sort by timeline and magnitude. The map indicates each fire’s estimated start date and its current level of containment. Another layer provides a smoke forecast for any given location…”
CRS via LC – Patent Law: A Handbook for Congress, September 16, 2020: “A patent gives its owner the exclusive right to make, use, import, sell, or offer for sale the invention covered by the patent. The patent system has long been viewed as important to encouraging American innovation by providing an incentive for inventors to create. Without a patent system, the reasoning goes, there would be little incentive for invention because anyone could freely copy the inventor’s innovation. Congressional action in recent years has underscored the importance of the patent system, including a major revision to the patent laws in 2011 in the form of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act. Congress has also demonstrated an interest in patents and pharmaceutical pricing; the types of inventions that may be patented (also referred to as “patentable subject matter”); and the potential impact of patents on a vaccine for COVID-19.
As patent law continues to be an area of congressional interest, this report provides background and descriptions of several key patent law doctrines. The report first describes the various parts of a patent, including the specification (which describes the invention) and the claims (which set out the legal boundaries of the patent owner’s exclusive rights). Next, the report provides detail on the basic doctrines governing patentability, enforcement, and patent validity. For patentability, the report details the various requirements that must be met before a patent is allowed to issue. These requirements include the following…”
Gizmodo: “Since this year hasn’t been spooky enough, thousands of migratory birds are now dropping dead across the Southwest. In late August, biologists got word about dozens of birds falling from the sky at the White Sands Missile Range and White Sands National Monument, both in southern New Mexico. Since then, people throughout Colorado, Texas, Arizona, and as far north as Nebraska have discovered the dead creatures scattered along hiking paths, golf courses, and even their own driveways. Finches, flycatchers, swallows, warblers, and bluebirds are among the species that have been reported. It’s not uncommon for some birds to die during their autumn migration, but not in these numbers and certainly not plummeting out of the sky in droves…
Scientists aren’t yet sure what’s causing this mass bird death, but researchers at Cornell University’s ornithology lab suspect it has to do with the smoke from the historic wildfires burning in the western U.S., which has drifted across the country on easterly breezes. They cite a 2017 study, which shows that exposure to smoke can lead to immunosuppression, respiratory distress, and other severe health problems for avian populations. Another possibility is that the birds may be having trouble adapting to the unusually dry heat that the Southwest has seen of late amid the worsening climate crisis. These conditions can be unfavorable to the insect populations that migratory birds rely on for food, which studies show has caused bird populations to decrease…”