Law and Legal
“Advances in technology, in particular in artificial intelligence, will continue to have a significant impact on the discipline of law in academia, the practicing profession and the courts. While technological forecasting is a dangerous game, current trends suggest that over the next ten years there will likely be greater reliance on data analytic tools in assessing students, predicting judicial outcomes and making decisions about criminal defendants both pre- and post-conviction. There is also likely to be greater diffusion of expert systems offering standardised legal advice and legal documents, although it is less likely that there will be significant technological innovation in that field. There are significant differences between an artificial intelligence that mirrors doctrinal logic (expert systems) and an artificial intelligence based on projection from empirical observation (data analytics). In particular, few legal professionals understand the mechanisms through which data analytics produces predictions. The limitations inherent and assumptions embedded in these tools are thus often poorly understood by those using them. This essay will explore the limitations of artificial intelligence technologies by considering the ways in which what they produce (for clients, law students and society) differs from what they replace. Ultimately, if we, as legal professionals, want to harness the benefits and limit the detriments of new artificial intelligence technologies, we need to understand what their limitations are, what assumptions are embedded within them and how they might undermine appropriate decision-making in legal practice, legal academia and, most crucially, the judiciary.”
Sundquist, Christian, The Future of Law Schools: COVID-19, Technology, and Social Justice (August 1, 2020). Connecticut Law Review, Vol. 53(1), 2020, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3665221
“The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare not only the social and racial inequities in society, but also the pedagogical and access to justice inequities embedded in the traditional legal curriculum. The need to re-envision the future of legal education existed well before the current pandemic, spurred by the shifting nature of legal practice as well as demographic and technological change. This article examines the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on legal education, and posits that the combined forces of the pandemic, social justice awareness and technological disruption will forever transform the future of both legal education and practice.”
Fast Company – “On social networks, a toxic stew of lies simmered for years—until the president’s supporters responded with violent action at the U.S. Capitol…Despite the many fact-checking outlets and news organization efforts devoted to correcting Trump’s errors, he is un-fact-checkable. His constant stream of half truths and outright lies have fostered an environment where millions of people cannot discern between fact and fiction. For average Americans, this has created confusion. But for a faction of Trump supporters, the president’s rhetoric and claims have created pure delusion. They don’t trust Congress. They don’t believe COVID-19 is real. They won’t wear masks. They think the COVID-19 vaccine is a sham. They follow a conspiracy theory called QAnon that says President Trump is fighting a deep network of government corruption…”
CRS report via LC – Resources for Tracking Federal COVID-19 Spending, Updated January 6, 2021 – “Congress has responded to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic with supplemental appropriations measures providing relief and assistance to individuals and families, state and local governments, businesses, health care providers, and other entities. For more information, see CRS Report R46474, Laws Enacted in Response to COVID-19: Resources for Congressional Offices, by Meredith Sund. This report provides selected sources for tracking COVID-19 relief and assistance spending. It includes links to and information on government sources detailing spending amounts at various levels, including consolidated spending by multiple government agencies, spending by individual government agencies, and spending to specific recipients and geographies. The sources themselves are large government databases, individual agencies, oversight entities, and selected nongovernmental entities that attempt to repackage information on spending amounts obtained from available government sources.Due to the continually evolving nature of information provided by sources that track federal COVID-19 spending, this report may be updated frequently. For a legislative summary of the enacted bills, and a broad discussion of both the discretionary and direct spending measures provided by Congress, see CRS Report R46449, Tallying Federal Funding for COVID-19: In Brief, by William L. Painter. For general information on resources for tracking federal funds, see CRS Report R44027, Tracking Federal Awards: USAspending.gov and Other Data Sources, by Jennifer Teefy.”
The New York Times – Imagery from the Cold War’s Corona satellites is helping scientists fill in how we have changed our planet in the past half century. “To map a landscape’s history, foresters like Dr. Nita long depended on maps and traditional tree inventories that could be riddled with inaccuracies. But now they have a bird’s-eye view that is the product of a 20th century American spy program: the Corona project, which launched classified satellites in the 1960s and ’70s to peer down at the secrets of the Soviet military. In the process, these orbiting observers gathered approximately 850,000 images that were kept classified until the mid-1990s. Modern ecologists chronicling precious or lost habitats have given second life to the Corona images [he Corona project, which launched classified satellites in the 1960s and ’70s to peer down at the secrets of the Soviet military…] Paired with modern computing, the space-based snapshots have helped archaeologists identify ancient sites, demonstrated how craters left by American bombs during the Vietnam War became fish ponds and recounted World War II’s reshaping of Eastern Europe’s tree cover. Even though they’re static, the panoramic photos contain discernible imprints — penguin colonies in Antarctica, termite mounds in Africa and cattle grazing trails in Central Asia — that reveal the dynamic lives of earthly inhabitants below. “It’s Google Earth in black and white,” said Catalina Munteanu, a biogeographer at Humboldt University of Berlin who has used Corona images to show that marmots returned to the same burrows throughout decades of destructive agricultural practices in Kazakhstan…”
New York Times – “Each day, our editors collect the most interesting, striking or delightful facts to appear in articles throughout the paper. Here are 74 from the past year that were the most revealing.”
Bloomberg: The U.S. has administered 5.05 million doses; Europe’s rollout begins. Updated: January 5, 2021, 6:31 PM EST
The biggest vaccination campaign in history has begun. More than 15 million doses in 35 countries have been administered, according to data collected by Bloomberg. Delivering billions more will be one of the greatest logistical challenges ever undertaken. Vaccinations in the U.S. began Dec. 14 with health-care workers, and so far 5.05 million doses have been given, according to a state-by-state tally by Bloomberg and data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccines Across America – Across the U.S., 1.5 doses have been administered for every 100 people, and 30% of the shots distributed to states have been administered…”
EveryLibrary Calls on State and Local Health Officials to Prioritize Librarians and Library Workers in Vaccination Plans
EveryLibrary: “Librarians and library workers in public libraries and academic libraries are essential and should be included in state and local Phase 1b or Phase 1c vaccine distribution plans to protect staff and minimize risk to patrons and users. School librarians are included in plans for the education community and should continue to be prioritized. EveryLibrary is concerned that the CDC’s December 22, 2020 Interim Guidance on vaccine distribution does not include most librarians and library workers as either Phase 1b or Phase 1c priorities for vaccinations. This omission is particularly troubling because the CDC’s APIC July 2020 working group report had included librarians in its definition of “essential workers”. With the approval of both the Pfizer and Moderna coronavirus vaccines, the focus has now shifted to state and local health departments for implementation of their vaccination plans. Because we recognize that the Guidance from the CDC is not an order, we are calling on state and local health officials to correct the omission of librarians and library workers and include them in their Phase 1b or Phase 1c vaccination plans. It is important for state and local public health officials to recognize that public and academic libraries perform regular and necessary “frontline services” every day. All library workers, staff, and librarians are therefore in a high-risk group. State and local vaccination plans should consider both the nature of the work librarians do as well as the clear social and educational benefits that libraries accrue. Including librarians and library workers in their Phase 1b or Phase 1c distribution plan will allow our sector to fully reopen public libraries to public service and campus libraries to all students while protecting staff and vulnerable populations. Waiting to until Phase 2 to inoculate librarians and library workers will continue to put our colleagues on the front lines to unnecessary risk and delay significant benefits to our society…”
CDC – “As a result of a data processing issue, some duplicate doses administered were reported for the state of Virginia up through January 5. The corrected number of People Initiating Vaccination for Virginia will appear beginning January 6, 2020. Doses distributed and people initiating vaccination (1st dose received) are for both Moderna and Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and reflect current data available as of 9:00am ET on the day of reporting. Data will be regularly updated daily, Monday through Friday. Updates will occur the following day when reporting coincides with a federal holiday. Healthcare providers report doses to federal, state, territorial, and local agencies up to 72 hours after administration. There may be additional lag for data to be transmitted from the federal, state, territorial, or local agency to CDC. A large difference between the number of doses distributed and the number of people initiating vaccination is expected at this point in the COVID vaccination program due to several factors, including delays in reporting of administered doses and management of available vaccine stocks by jurisdictions and federal pharmacy partners. Numbers reported on CDC’s website are validated through a submission process with each jurisdiction and may differ from numbers posted on other websites. Differences between reporting jurisdictions and CDC’s website may occur due to the timing of reporting and website updates. The process used for reporting doses distributed or people vaccinated displayed by other websites may differ. When the “Rate per 100,000” metric is selected for both doses distributed and people initiating vaccination (1st dose received), federal entities will display as n/a because population-based rates are not applicable. Doses distributed and administered for federal entities will display when the “Counts” metric is selected.
- Doses distributed are cumulative counts of COVID-19 vaccine doses recorded as shipped in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Vaccine Tracking System (VTrckS) since December 13, 2020.
- People initiating vaccination (1st dose received) are cumulative counts of individual COVID-19 vaccine first doses administered as reported to the CDC by state, territorial, and local public health agencies and four federal entities (Bureau of Prisons, Department of Defense, Indian Health Service, and Veterans Health Administration) since December 14, 2020.
- Long-term care facility (LTCF) data is a subset of the overall national data, specific to the Federal Pharmacy Partnership for Long-term Care (LTC) Program, and primarily includes skilled nursing and assisted living facilities. Doses distributed refers to doses distributed to pharmacy partners to administer onsite at LTCFs, and people initiating vaccination (1st dose received) includes both LTCF residents and staff vaccinated through the program. This data does not include doses distributed and administered to LTCF residents and staff outside the Federal Pharmacy Partnership Program. Vaccine administration through the federal program launched nationally on December 21st for Pfizer vaccine and on December 28th for Moderna vaccine. As of December 29, 2020, a total of 52 jurisdictions have started the program. Program start dates vary based on the jurisdiction. A difference between the number of doses distributed to pharmacy partners and the number of people initiating vaccination is expected because jurisdictions are transferring doses to pharmacy partners in advance to prepare for vaccination clinics in subsequent weeks.
- Rates per 100,000 population use the U.S. Census Bureau 2019 American Community Survey 1-year population estimates..”
Mashable: “…There are a number of reasons why hashtag flooding can be impactful, but Volsky feels a hashtag’s ability to help people reclaim a narrative is one of the strongest. “I think the way social media is structured is to reward the loudest most obnoxious, most controversial voices out there, and that’s part of the reason why particularly hateful and incendiary language kind of floats to the top,” Volsky said. “The power of taking over hashtags, I think, comes from the sense that most Americans have, which is to say that those kinds of hateful messages don’t represent us and don’t represent what we believe. And we’re going to use our power — the power of numbers — to flood and overtake those hateful messages with messages of love and hope.” When doing research for #HashtagActivism, Bailey also saw that members of marginalized groups often utilize a hashtag’s power to help amplify their voices. “Black women, women of color, and other people who are on the margins have really used these tools in unique ways that have advanced their particular issues,” she said. “Some of the hashtags that we’ve looked at in the book are also from communities trying to talk to or go through some of their experiences,” Bailey said. She points to #YouOKSis, which Feminista Jones launched to address the issue of street harassment and let people know how to support someone who’s experiencing street harassment — as an example…”
TorrentFreak: “Following in the footsteps of the entertainment industries, publishers are increasingly trying to have pirate sites shut down or blocked to prevent the unlicensed spread of academic and scientific papers. Their main targets are Sci-Hub (‘The Pirate Bay of Science’) and Libgen (Library Genesis), platforms with a key aim of distributing such papers freely to the masses for the purposes of spreading knowledge. Of course, this runs counter to the publishers’ business model, as a lawsuit filed in India by several publishing giants explained last month. Complaint Filed at High Court in Delhi – On December 21, 2020, Elsevier, Wiley, and American Chemical Society, filed a lawsuit hoping to have the court compel Indian ISPs to block both Sci-Hub and Libgen. Accusing the platforms of blatantly infringing their rights on a massive scale, the publishers said that due to the defiant nature of the platforms, ISP blocking is the only effective solution to hand. The massive complaint, which runs to 2,169 pages, was received by Sci-Hub with little time to review its contents. This not-insignificant issue was quickly pointed out to the Court, with counsel for Sci-Hub asking for an extension. After Sci-Hub assured the Court (pdf) that “no new articles or publications, in which the plaintiffs have copyright” would be uploaded to the site in advance of the next hearing, more time was granted to respond…”
Washington Post – “Here’s a phone alert you wouldn’t want to miss: “You have likely been exposed.” The coronavirus surge is upon us, and your phone might be able to help. More than 150 million Americans, now including California residents, have the ability to get pop-up notifications from local health authorities when they’ve personally spent time near someone who later tested positive for the coronavirus. But exposure notifications only work if you and the people around you turn them on. Yes, you! There’s early evidence this anonymous smartphone technology works — but so far isn’t helping very many Americans. In August, I wrote about the first of these state-sponsored alerts, Virginia’s Covidwise app. In the three months that followed, only 488 people have used the state’s app to send alerts about a positive diagnosis to others. The alerts use software built by Apple and Google into iPhones and Android devices to detect when people (or the phones they’re holding) get into close contact with each other. That might sound like a privacy invasion, but they figured out how to track encounters between people in a way that’s anonymous — and doesn’t store your location — by using the Bluetooth wireless technology in phones. With an update to iOS on Dec. 14, it now works on handsets as old as the iPhone 6…
Exposure alerts worked for the governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam. He and the first lady tested positive for the coronavirus in September, and because they had it working on their phones, staff members exposed to them got notified. And they’re picking up steam: In its first week in December, California’s system was activated 6.5 million times, reaching about 16 percent of its population. More than 68 percent of Washington, D.C. has opted in as of Dec. 14…”
Fast Company – “…To fix the problem, several things need to change. The Biden administration can help by giving clear guidance to states about how many vaccines they’re getting and how long they can be stored, providing training materials for staff, and setting targets for vaccinating a certain number of people by a certain date, says the University of Washington’s Baseman. Others have also argued that the federal government should have given better guidance to states from the beginning. “That comprehensive vaccination plans have not been developed at the federal level and sent to the states as models is as incomprehensible as it is inexcusable,” Utah Senator Mitt Romney said recently. The federal government can also help recruit staff or a volunteer corps to administer vaccines so that states and counties don’t have to spend weeks finding new employees as programs scale up. It can offer communication tools to help fight misinformation about vaccines; states and cities will need to mobilize far more to make sure that everyone who can be vaccinated is choosing to get the vaccine. The new round of funding will be critical, but the administration will also need to push Congress for more…”
NextGov – Vinton G. Cerf, Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist, Google: “In 2011, the movie “Contagion“ eerily predicted what a future world fighting a deadly pandemic would look like. In 2020, I, along with hundreds of thousands of people around the world, saw this Hollywood prediction play out by being diagnosed with COVID-19. It was a frightening year by any measure, as every person was impacted in unique ways. Having been involved in the development of the Internet in the 1970s, I’ve seen first-hand the impact of technology on people’s lives. We are now seeing another major milestone in our lifetime—the development of a COVID-19 vaccine. What the “Contagion” didn’t show is what happens after a vaccine is developed. Now, as we enter 2021, and with the first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine being administered, a return to normal feels within reach. But what will our return to “normal” look like really? Here are three predictions for 2021…” [h/t Pete Weiss]
“The 2021 Medicare & You eHandbook has been updated on Medicare.gov. Since the 2021 version was released in September 2020, we updated premiums and other costs for Medicare Parts A and B for 2021. We’ve also added some new information about the Competitive Bidding Program for off-the-shelf back and neck braces, an enhanced tool to find providers who opt out of Medicare, and the new Medicare Direct Contracting Model, along with some other enhancements. The 2021 Medicare & You eHandbook has been updated on Medicare.gov! Since the 2021 version was released in September 2020, we updated premiums and other costs for Medicare Parts A and B for 2021. We’ve also added some new information about the Competitive Bidding Program for off-the-shelf back and neck braces, an enhanced tool to find providers who opt out of Medicare, and the new Medicare Direct Contracting Model, along with some other enhancements.” [h/t Pete Weiss]
The New York Times: “Just over one-fifth of U.S. hospitals with intensive care units, or 638 total hospitals, reported that at least 95 percent of their I.C.U. beds were full in the week ending Dec. 31. Nationwide, 77 percent of intensive care hospital beds were occupied. These numbers, which come from a dataset released weekly by the Department of Health and Human Services, show a continuation of the worrisome state of hospitalizations indicated by the previous week’s dataset. For the week ending Dec. 24, 19 percent of U.S. hospitals with intensive care units reported that at least 95 percent of their I.C.U. beds were full, and 78 percent of I.C.U. beds were occupied nationwide. This week’s dataset may not yet capture the effect that holiday gatherings and travel have had on the number of U.S. residents who are very sick with Covid-19. For the last two weeks of 2020, the Transportation Security Administration said it screened an average of more than one million travelers per day. Because days pass between when a person becomes infected and requires hospitalization, and because lags in reporting may have been exacerbated by the holidays, the picture may become clearer with the dataset that the health department is expected to release next Monday. See how the pandemic has affected recent hospital capacity in the map below, which shows data reported by individual hospitals. Health officials said that the data should not discourage sick people from seeking care…”
“The global coronavirus pandemic upended life in the United States and around the world in 2020, disrupting how people work, go to school, attend religious services, socialize with friends and family, and much more. But the pandemic wasn’t the only event that shaped the year. The videotaped killing of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis sparked an international outcry and focused new attention on the treatment of racial and ethnic minorities in the U.S. And November’s presidential election appears to have shattered turnout records as around 160 million Americans cast ballots and elected Joe Biden the 46th president. As 2020 draws to a close, here are 20 striking findings from Pew Research Center’s studies this year, covering the pandemic, race-related tensions, the presidential election and other notable trends that emerged during the year…”
“The 117th Congress and the incoming Presidential administration will be taking office in a time that presents significant challenges to the government. Today the U.S. Government Accountability Office launched a new webpage dedicated to informing incoming lawmakers and administration officials about major challenges facing the federal government, as well as possible solutions. This Presidential and Congressional Transition webpage identifies issues needing urgent attention.
The webpage includes links to a number of resources, such as GAO’s priority recommendations across government, to bring elected officials up to speed on options for improving vital government services or achieving significant savings for taxpayers. Users can locate issues by topic and by agency, and a find-an-expert tool will connect them with GAO staff who can provide insights on specific agencies or programs. “GAO is pulling together this information and our priority recommendations so that new and returning lawmakers and Presidential appointees can tackle critical challenges facing the nation, including the coronavirus pandemic,” said Gene L. Dodaro, Comptroller General of the United States and the head of GAO. “GAO has drawn on its tremendous experience examining federal programs to identify a range of pressing issues facing our nation. We believe that lawmakers and appointees will find our transition webpage helpful in prioritizing policy matters and developing oversight agendas.”
The online transition material includes GAO work on a number of national issues such as the coronavirus pandemic, federal responses to economic downturns, and race in America, and provides resources and recommendations to spur progress in addressing them. It also highlights GAO work examining shortcomings in the federal government’s ability to meet the needs of the American people in a rapidly changing world. This includes weaknesses in such areas as human capital management and investment in information technology. More broadly, GAO remains concerned about the federal government’s fiscal outlook due to the growing debt and the lack of a long-term fiscal plan to help control it…”
CNet: “Did you know that the IRS and US Treasury are only making second stimulus check payments through Jan. 15? Well, it’s complicated. But if you’re trying to sort out when exactly your $600 stimulus money will arrive through direct-deposit, paper checks and EIP cards, you’ve come to the right place. (By the way, here’s how to calculate your new stimulus check total.) You can now track your second stimulus check through the IRS’ Get My Payment portal, which has been updated to include information about the new payment. The free tool can help people who are eligible for the second stimulus check monitor how much money they can expect to get, their payment status and any issues that might be holding up delivery. You can also see a payment schedule for your first stimulus payment, if you’re still waiting for that, too. Here’s how to track the status of your second stimulus check, how to decode error messages and more (and here’s a different way to track your mailed check to your house)…”