Law and Legal
NBC News: “In 2016, the number of homicides involving firearms was eight times the number of those involving cutting and 30 times those involving suffocation. The number of homicides committed using guns has gone up by nearly a third nationwide in recent years, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC found a 31 percent increase in homicides involving firearms from 2014 to 2016. In 2014, 11,008 homicides involved a gun. The number rose to 14,415 by 2016, the CDC team said. Guns were by far the most common weapon used in homicides, the CDC team found…”
“In 2016, the number of homicides involving firearms was approximately eight times the number of those involving cutting and piercing (1,781) and approximately 30 times those involving suffocation (502),” the CDC team wrote in the agency’s weekly report.
Vox – Wildfires have ignited inside the Arctic Circle – In Sweden, Latvia, and Greece, wildfires are spreading amid a brutal heat wave. “It’s so hot, even parts of the Arctic are on fire. Temperatures this month reached 86 degrees Fahrenheit well inside the Arctic Circle in Sweden, where the worst fires the country has seen in decades are now burning. More than 50 fires have ignited across the country, forcing evacuations. Finland and Norway are also fighting flames. “This is a serious situation and the risk for forest fires is extremely high in the whole country,” Jakob Wernerman, operative head of the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, told the Associated Press. So far, no deaths from wildfires have been reported in Scandinavia, but Greece hasn’t been so fortunate. The country has declared a state of emergency as raging forest fires have killed at least 81 people and injured more than 190….The government suspects arsonists may be behind the fires. But there’s also been intense heat across Europe this summer, and climate scientists say we can expect more of this extreme weather with global warming…”
Boston Globe reports on TSA program that targets travelers who “are not under investigation by any agency”
Boston Globe – Welcome to the Quiet Skies [paywall] – “Federal air marshals have begun following ordinary US citizens not suspected of a crime or on any terrorist watch list and collecting extensive information about their movements and behavior under a new domestic surveillance program that the TSA says little about because it “would make passengers less safe” according to the agency…But some air marshals, in interviews and internal communications shared with the Globe, say the program has them tasked with shadowing travelers who appear to pose no real threat — a businesswoman who happened to have traveled through a Mideast hot spot, in one case; a Southwest Airlines flight attendant, in another; a fellow federal law enforcement officer, in a third. It is a time-consuming and costly assignment, they say, which saps their ability to do more vital law enforcement work. TSA officials, in a written statement to the Globe, broadly defended the agency’s efforts to deter potential acts of terror. But the agency declined to discuss whether Quiet Skies has intercepted any threats, or even to confirm that the program exists….Already under Quiet Skies, thousands of unsuspecting Americans have been subjected to targeted airport and inflight surveillance, carried out by small teams of armed, undercover air marshals, government documents show. The teams document whether passengers fidget, use a computer, have a “jump” in their Adam’s apple or a “cold penetrating stare,” among other behaviors, according to the records. Air marshals note these observations — minute-by-minute — in two separate reports and send this information back to the TSA. All US citizens who enter the country are automatically screened for inclusion in Quiet Skies [emphasis added] — their travel patterns and affiliations are checked and their names run against a terrorist watch list and other databases, according to agency documents…”
Via LLRX – The 6 Types Of Cyber Attacks To Protect Against In 2018 – Lizzie Kardon’s article is a timely guide to the different methods by which cyber attacks are launched and the tools used to deliver them. As the goals and objectives for such attacks differ, it is critical to employ accurate and effective strategic and tactical processes to prevent and to repel attacks that are steadily increasing as the Internet of Things (IoT) expands in arenas that span work, home, government, social media, healthcare and beyond.
MSPoweruser: “Since the release of Windows 10, Microsoft has been accused of breaching privacy and connecting users to services without proper disclosure. The company now has released a list of websites and services that a Windows PC connects to after a clean install. The list mostly consists of Microsoft services which provide data endpoints to the respective Microsoft apps. The list can be derived after installing Windows 10 (1709 or above) and leaving the PC idle on default settings for a week. This can then be used to Compile reports on traffic going to public IP addresses. However, if you don’t want to go through all that then you can head [to the article] to take a look at the list…”
CRS report via FAS – Judicial Opinions of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, Michael John Garcia, Coordinator, Acting Section Research Manager, July 23, 2018. “On July 9, 2018, President Trump announced the nomination of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (D.C. Circuit) to succeed Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who is scheduled to retire from active status on July 31, 2018. Judge Kavanaugh has served as a judge on the D.C. Circuit since May 30, 2006. He has also sat, by designation, on judicial panels of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, and also served on three-judge panels of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. During his tenure on the bench, Judge Kavanaugh has adjudicated more than 1,500 cases, almost all while a member of either a three-judge or en banc panel of the D.C. Circuit. In part because of the D.C. Circuit’s location in the nation’s capital and the number of statutes providing it with special or even exclusive jurisdiction to review certain agency actions, legal commentators generally agree that the D.C. Circuit’s docket, relative to the dockets of other circuits, contains a greater percentage of nationally significant legal matters. Cases adjudicated by the D.C. Circuit are more likely to concern the review of federal agency action or civil suits involving the federal government than cases adjudicated in other circuits, while the D.C. Circuit docket has a lower percentage of cases involving criminal matters, prisoner petitions, or civil suits between private parties…”
See also The Hill: “The Senate fight over documents related to President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court is boiling over. Trump pick Brett Kavanaugh, a circuit judge since 2006 who previously worked for President George W. Bush’s administration and Kenneth Starr’s independent counsel investigation into former President Clinton, has a voluminous paper trail that lawmakers estimate tops a million pages [emphasis added]. Democrats want to see as many of those papers as they can, while Republicans seeking to confirm Kavanaugh before the midterm elections favor a narrower scope. Battle lines are hardening, with senators trading accusations about whether a double standard is being applied to Kavanaugh, who if confirmed will shape the political leaning of the court for decades. The key part of the battle is Democratic demands for documents tied to Kavanaugh’s work as a staff secretary in the Bush administration. Republicans argue that Democrats are waging a “fishing expedition” to hunt for damaging information…”
See also the Washington Post – Top Senate Democrat Presses Former President George W. Bush For Kavanaugh Documents
“Nearly 1.5 million Americans were incarcerated in state prisons in 2016. That same year, U.S. states spent about $58 billion to keep these people locked up. How much each state spends on prisons goes far beyond a simple per prisoner calculation. In fact, there is little to no correlation between the states that spend the most per capita and the states with more prisoners per capita. Instead, variations in state spending boil down to a range of budgetary factors and policy decisions. Prisons have many expenses related to their main function of confining lawbreakers. In addition to securing the prisoners with infrastructure, technology, and personnel, they have to provide inmates with basic necessities such as food, health care, and even entertainment. On a per capita basis, state prison spending ranges from less than $100 per person to nearly $500 per person. 24/7 Wall st. reviewed the states with the highest and lowest prison spending per person. According to research conducted by the Vera Institute of Justice, an independent nonprofit national research and policy organization, one of the primary drivers of the differences in state prison spending per capita is salaries for prison personnel.
The cost of hiring staff, according to the group’s 2015 report “The Price of Prisons,” accounts for 68% of total prison spending. As a result, states where correctional workers have higher average salaries tend to spend more per capita, and the opposite is true among low spending states. Of the 20 states with the lowest per-capita spending, just four have an average correctional officer annual wage higher than the national average of $43,550. To identify how much each state spends on corrections, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed state prison spending from the National Association of State Budget Officers, as collected by The Sentencing Project, a nonprofit focusing on criminal justice reform. Average annual correctional officer salaries are from the Department of Labor. Incarceration rates and the share of prisoners in private prisons are from The Sentencing Project, and crime rates per 100,000 are from the FBI Unified Crime report. All figures listed are for 2016, with the exception of the private prisoner figure, which is for 2015.”
Urgent Actions Are Needed to Address Cybersecurity Challenges Facing the Nation, GAO-18-645T: Published: Jul 25, 2018. Publicly Released: Jul 25, 2018. “GAO has identified four major cybersecurity challenges and 10 critical actions that the federal government and other entities need to take to address them. GAO continues to designate information security as a government-wide high-risk area due to increasing cyber-based threats and the persistent nature of security vulnerabilities…”
“GAO has made over 3,000 recommendations to agencies aimed at addressing cybersecurity shortcomings in each of these action areas, including protecting cyber critical infrastructure, managing the cybersecurity workforce, and responding to cybersecurity incidents. Although many recommendations have been addressed, about 1,000 have not yet been implemented. Until these shortcomings are addressed, federal agencies’ information and systems will be increasingly susceptible to the multitude of cyber-related threats that exist…”
The Atlantic: “”Why We Forget Most of the Books We Read” This has applications beyond books — it applies to TV, too, and for that matter, email newsletters. Ask me at 4 P.M. what I emailed out that morning and it’s a 50/50 proposition whether I’ll remember. The good news: that’s pretty normal, and arguably appropriate for our digital age.
In the internet age, recall memory—the ability to spontaneously call information up in your mind—has become less necessary. It’s still good for bar trivia, or remembering your to-do list, but largely, Horvath says, what’s called recognition memory is more important. “So long as you know where that information is at and how to access it, then you don’t really need to recall it,” he says.
Research has shown that the internet functions as a sort of externalized memory. “When people expect to have future access to information, they have lower rates of recall of the information itself,” as one study puts it. But even before the internet existed, entertainment products have served as externalized memories for themselves. You don’t need to remember a quote from a book if you can just look it up. Once videotapes came along, you could review a movie or TV show fairly easily. There’s not a sense that if you don’t burn a piece of culture into your brain, that it will be lost forever.
With its streaming services and Wikipedia articles, the internet has lowered the stakes on remembering the culture we consume even further. But it’s hardly as if we remembered it all before…”
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Law Technology Today: “Is your staff using analytics, blockchain and OCR yet? Corporations are ever-focused on their legal spend and demand more value from their outside counsel. Further disrupting the legal field are alternative legal service providers fueling the competitive landscape to become more crowded and innovative. As a result, Thomson Reuters’ 2018 Report on the State of the Legal Market surmised that declining profit margins, weakening collections, falling productivity, and loss of market share to alternative legal service providers are chipping away at the foundations of firm profitability. To counteract these market pressures and to differentiate themselves from competitors, law firms are embracing technology to improve operational efficiencies and transform the way attorneys and their firms interact with clients, answer their questions, and tackle their legal challenges. The law firms that embrace technology as a means to provide more cost-effective services to their clients will have a competitive advantage. For example, digitization and automation technologies have emerged that streamline internal processes and reduce workloads, so lawyers can spend more time advising clients and less time with administrative work…”
Data Interview Qs: “Many executives in public companies sit on multiple boards of directors, meaning they have a vested interest in multiple companies. For example, if a board member sits on both Company A and Company B, then it’s in this individual’s best interest to ensure that Company A’s decisions don’t negatively impact Company B, and vice versa. This creates a ‘link’ or ‘connection’ between the two (or three, or four) companies. Within the largest 50 companies in the S&P 500 (the scope of this analysis), 39/50 (or 78%), are directly connected to one another through 1 or more board member. It’s worth noting that the # of connections get much larger when you expand the scope beyond 50 companies or expand to second and third degree connections, but it becomes pretty difficult to fit into any sort of visualization, so I’ve limited scope significantly for this analysis. Th[is] visualization shows the board member connections within the 50 largest public companies (if two companies share at least one board member, then they are flagged as connected). You can hover over a specific company to see its connection(s), and the # of connections for each company are shown in parenthesis next to the name.”
Reporters Without Borders: “In a report published today, entitled “Online harassment of journalists: the trolls attack”, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) voices concern about the scale of a new threat to press freedom, the mass harassment of journalists online. The perpetrators may be ordinary “haters” (individuals or communities of individuals hiding behind their screens) or “troll armies” of online mercenaries created by authoritarian regimes. In both cases the goal is the same, to silence journalists whose reporting annoys, often using exceptionally abusive methods. For months, RSF documented these new online attacks and analyzed the modus operandi of the press freedom predators, who have been able to exploit the latest technologies to extend their oppressive reach.
“Online harassment is a phenomenon that is spreading throughout the world and now constitutes one of the gravest threats to press freedom,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “We have discovered that information wars are not just waged between countries at the international level. Journalism’s predators also deploy troll armies to hunt down and harass all those who investigate and report the facts honestly. These despots let their mercenaries train their guns on journalists on the virtual terrain as others do in actual war zones.”
NBC News: “The watchdog charged with tracking government spending in Afghanistan has released its first estimate of the total amount of money wasted there — a staggering $15.5 billion over 11 years — but says even that figure is probably “only a portion.” In response to a request from three congressman in 2017, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) began tallying the waste and fraud in the U.S. effort to rebuild the country. After 10 months of research, SIGAR sent a letter back to the congressmen that estimated the waste at $15.5 billion between SIGAR’s inception in 2008 and Dec. 31, 2017, or 29 percent of the spending it audited. In the letter, obtained by NBC News, Special Inspector General John Sopko describes the figure as “likely … only a portion of the total waste, fraud, abuse and failed efforts..”
The New York Times: “For years, President Trump has used Twitter as his go-to public relations weapon, mounting a barrage of attacks on celebrities and then political rivals even after advisers warned he could be creating legal problems for himself. Those concerns now turn out to be well founded. The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is scrutinizing tweets and negative statements from the president about Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey, according to three people briefed on the matter. Several of the remarks came as Mr. Trump was also privately pressuring the men — both key witnesses in the inquiry — about the investigation, and Mr. Mueller is examining whether the actions add up to attempts to obstruct the investigation by both intimidating witnesses and pressuring senior law enforcement officials to tamp down the inquiry. Mr. Mueller wants to question the president about the tweets. His interest in them is the latest addition to a range of presidential actions he is investigating as a possible obstruction case: private interactions with Mr. Comey, Mr. Sessions and other senior administration officials about the Russia inquiry; misleading White House statements; public attacks; and possible pardon offers to potential witnesses…”
Pew Research Center – Favorable views of FBI have fallen sharply among Republicans – A new survey of public attitudes toward federal agencies finds that partisan differences in views of the FBI have increased markedly over the past year. And Americans’ opinions about Immigration and Customs Enforcement are deeply polarized: 72% of Republicans view ICE favorably, while an identical share of Democrats view it unfavorably. Overall public views of the FBI remain positive: 65% have a favorable opinion of the FBI, while 26% view it unfavorably. But since early 2017, the share of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents with a positive view of the bureau has fallen 16 percentage points, from 65% to 49%. Today, Republicans are divided in their views of the FBI (49% favorable, 44% unfavorable). In January 2017, shortly before President Donald Trump took office, positive views of the FBI among Republicans outnumbered negative opinions by about three-to-one (65% to 21%). Democrats’ views of the FBI have changed little over this period: 77% of Democrats and Democratic leaners view the agency favorably, compared with 76% early last year…”
Axios Research and Analysis: “The CEOs running S&P 500 companies cumulatively took home $10 billion in 2017, an amount that is 44% higher than what is usually reported, according to an Axios analysis of Securities and Exchange Commission filings. The big reason: CEOs cashing in their stock. Why it matters: Annual proxy filings bury the fact that many of America’s top executives are sometimes paid even more than what headlines suggest, due almost entirely to the huge gains they reap from the stock market. Meanwhile, worker wages are stagnant, the average household is living on $59,000 a year, and income inequality has become one of the most visible political rallying cries…”
Pew – “Robocalls — those nettlesome autodial telephone calls from both scammers and legitimate businesses — skyrocketed in the first half of 2018, and have prompted the most complaints to federal and most state enforcement officials of any consumer topic in recent years. But as much as top state law enforcement officers would love to go after the robocallers, who often operate outside the law, the combined hurdles of technology, economics and geography make the job difficult. Robocalls jumped dramatically nationwide this year, from 2.9 billion in January to 4.1 billion in June, according to YouMail Inc., a company that tracks robocalls and sells software to block them. Unwanted calls are the biggest complaint to the Federal Communications Commission, making up about 60 percent of complaints the agency gets. Robocalls also are the top complaint at the Federal Trade Commission, which in fiscal 2017 received more than 4.5 million robocall complaints. [h/t Pete Weiss]
Robocalls are the No. 1 consumer complaint to the Federal Communications Commission, its chairman said last year. “It’s the No. 1 consumer complaint,” said Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, a Democrat, referencing the national figures. “The Do Not Call list doesn’t work.” That list is not the real problem, according to the Federal Trade Commission, which is the lead federal agency, along with the FCC, in tracking and prosecuting unlawful telephone scams, which often involve robocalls. The Do Not Call Registry, on which telephone customers can put their numbers and request not to be bothered by telemarketers, does work — up to a point. The call registry does the job it was intended to do by blocking calls from companies that follow the law, said Barlow, of the FTC. “If people are speeding on the highway, does that mean speed limits are broken?” The problem is that many companies, both in the United States and overseas, don’t obey the law…
Election Security Update: Top 18 Most Vulnerable States, Committee on House Administration – Democrats – July 2018.
“It is now well-known that Russian hackers targeted voter registration databases in at least 21 states and attempted to access credentials of election technology vendors and election officials. If these attacks had succeeded, hackers could have deleted voter registration records, altered poll books, caused chaos on Election Day, and potentially swayed the results of the election. Moreover, the Intelligence Community has warned that foreign actors will likely continue to seek to interfere in our elections. In May, Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen said, ‘We see [Russia] continuing to conduct foreign influence campaigns.’ In June, Robert Mueller echoed this finding, stating in a court filing that foreign ‘individuals and entities’ are continuing to ‘engage in interference operations.’ In light of the ongoing threat of foreign interference in our nation’s elections, Congress appropriated $380 million in March 2018 to the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) for distribution to states to enhance election security. […] This report looks at the eighteen states with the most vulnerable election infrastructure and assesses: 1) whether they have requested the EAC grant money; 2) how the state plans on spending the grant money; and 3) whether the state’s response is sufficient given the threats and vulnerabilities it is facing.”
EurekAlert: “People are either Facebook users or they are not. Facebook user data can be used to draw conclusions about general social phenomena. According to Eric P.S. Baumer, who studies human-computer interaction, the simple statements above are, in fact, not so simple–nor are they true. Baumer’s new research takes a fine-grained look at Facebook use and non-use, using a more nuanced approach than has previously been undertaken. Rather than employing a simple binary of two categories–use and non-use–Baumer’s study looks at demographic and socioeconomic factors that impact Facebook use and non-use using four categories:
- current user, who currently has and uses a Facebook account;
- deactivated, who has temporarily deactivated her/his account but could technically reactivate at any time;
- considered deactivating, who has considered deactivating her/his account but never actually done so; and
- never used, who has never had a Facebook account…”