Law and Legal

Federal judge calls Chief Justice Roberts ‘masterpiece of disingenuousness’ in law review article

ABA Journal: “A federal judge appointed by President Bill Clinton is criticizing the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority for “undermining American democracy” by weakening the Voting Rights Act, failing to rein in partisan gerrymandering, and increasing the economic and political power of corporations. U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman of Milwaukee airs his dissatisfaction in an upcoming article for the Harvard Law & Policy Review that is raising eyebrows and eliciting astonishment. The review is published by the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy, a liberal organization. The Washington Post and Law360 have coverage…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Federal courts are canceling proceedings and restricting visitors amid coronavirus concerns

ABA Journal: “Some federal courts are changing or suspending some operations as a result of concerns about the coronavirus. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington has suspended all civil and criminal matters that require in-court appearances. Courthouses remain open for filings, according to a press release and coverage by Law360 and Case-by-case exceptions may be made for nonjury matters. In New York, the U.S. District Courts in Manhattan and Brooklyn have barred people who have traveled to high-risk countries from entering the courthouses, according to and another Law360 story. People diagnosed with COVID-19 or who have come into contact with someone with the illness also are barred. Press releases are here and here. The Eastern District is also requiring detainees to be screened before court appearances to determine their body temperature, according to a press release. Any detainee with a temperature of at least 100.4 won’t be allowed to enter the courthouse…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Libraries and the practice of freedom in the age of algorithms

Barbara Fister – Libraries and the Practice of Freedom in the Age of Algorithm – “Abstract: How prepared are librarians, and the students they serve, to navigate technologies that are fundamentally changing how we encounter, evaluate, and create information? In the past decade, a handful of platforms have become powerful information intermediaries that help us search and connect but also are tools to foment disinformation, amplify hate, increase polarization, and compile details of our lives as raw material for persuasion and control. We no longer have to seek information; it seeks us. Project Information Literacy has revealed college students’ lived experience through a series of large-scale research studies. To cap a decade of findings, we conducted a qualitative study that asked students, and faculty who teach them, what they know and how they learn about our current information environment. This talk explores what students have taught us, where education falls short, why it matters, and how time-tested library values – privacy, equity, social responsibility, and education for democracy – can provide a blueprint for creating a socio-technical infrastructure that is more just and equitable in the age of algorithms…”

Categories: Law and Legal

The best, and the worst, of the coronavirus dashboards

MIT Technology Review – There are dozens of sites that show you how coronavirus is spreading around the world. Here is our ranking. “If you’ve been on the web to learn more about the latest pandemic, chances are you’ve stumbled upon at least one or two coronavirus dashboards. These are the landing pages for interactive maps and visuals that show where the virus has spread, as well as numbers on the latest in infection rates and deaths, breakdowns of what countries are suffering from new cases and what regions are likely seeing new outbreaks, and much more. Not all dashboards are created equal, nor do all people have access to the same dashboards (for instance, US sanctions prevent Iranians from accessing the one run by Johns Hopkins University). Some present data you won’t find elsewhere. Some are easier to navigate than others. Some are simply much more stunning to look at…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Smithsonian Releases 2.8 Million Images Into Public Domain

The launch of a new open access platform ushers in a new era of accessibility for the Institution – “Culture connoisseurs, rejoice: The Smithsonian Institution is inviting the world to engage with its vast repository of resources like never before. For the first time in its 174-year history, the Smithsonian has released 2.8 million high-resolution two- and three-dimensional images from across its collections onto an open access online platform for patrons to peruse and download free of charge. Featuring data and material from all 19 Smithsonian museums, nine research centers, libraries, archives and the National Zoo, the new digital depot encourages the public to not just view its contents, but use, reuse and transform them into just about anything they choose—be it a postcard, a beer koozie or a pair of bootie shorts. And this gargantuan data dump is just the beginning. Throughout the rest of 2020, the Smithsonian will be rolling out another 200,000 or so images, with more to come as the Institution continues to digitize its collection of 155 million items and counting. “Being a relevant source for people who are learning around the world is key to our mission,” says Effie Kapsalis, who is heading up the effort as the Smithsonian’s senior digital program officer. “We can’t imagine what people are going to do with the collections. We’re prepared to be surprised.” The database’s launch also marks the latest victory for a growing global effort to migrate museum collections into the public domain. Nearly 200 other institutions worldwide—including Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago—have made similar moves to digitize and liberate their masterworks in recent years. But the scale of the Smithsonian’s release is “unprecedented” in both depth and breadth, says Simon Tanner, an expert in digital cultural heritage at King’s College London…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Waters to Wells Fargo CEO: The Bank You Inherited is Essentially a Lawless Organization

News release: “Following the release of a Majority staff report entitled, “The Real Wells Fargo: Board & Management Failures, Consumer Abuses, and Ineffective Regulatory Oversight,” Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Committee on Financial Services, convened a full Committee hearing with Charles W. Scharf, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and President of Wells Fargo & Company…Among the disturbing findings uncovered in the report is that the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is aware of dozens of cases at Wells Fargo where the number of consumers or customer accounts requiring remediation for a consumer abuse exceeds 50,000 or the amount of harm exceeds $10 million. I am very concerned that the bank’s pattern of harming its consumers appears to persist. The Majority’s staff report also uncovered notes from a May 2019 Federal Reserve meeting with Wells Fargo reflecting that a senior Wells Fargo executive stated “if he were CEO, he would not allow the addition of any new customers to the company since the firm is operating in this environment.” Based on the findings of the Majority staff report, I agree with the sentiment that Wells Fargo isn’t ready to be America’s bank again. And this is the challenge before you, Mr. Scharf. You must not only rebuild this institution, you must also rebuild America’s trust in it…”

Categories: Law and Legal

U.S. coronavirus testing threatened by shortage of critical lab materials

Politico: “A looming shortage in lab materials is threatening to delay coronavirus test results and cause officials to undercount the number of Americans with the virus. The slow pace of coronavirus testing has created a major gap in the U.S. public health response. The latest problem involves an inability to prepare samples for testing, creating uncertainties in how long it will take to get results. CDC Director Robert Redfield told POLITICO on Tuesday that he is not confident that U.S. labs have an adequate stock of the supplies used to extract genetic material from any virus in a patient’s sample — a critical step in coronavirus testing. “The availability of those reagents is obviously being looked at,” he said, referring to the chemicals used for preparing samples. “I’m confident of the actual test that we have, but as people begin to operationalize the test, they realize there’s other things they need to do the test.”..,

The growing scarcity of these “RNA extraction” kits is the latest trouble for U.S. labs, which have struggled to implement widespread coronavirus testing in the seven weeks since the country diagnosed its first case. Epidemiologists and public health officials say that the delayed rollout, caused in part by a botched CDC test, has masked the scope of the U.S. outbreak and hobbled efforts to limit it…”

Categories: Law and Legal

DuckDuckGo does not track you – ready to leave Google?

Via Jake Voytko’s personal log of bits – DuckDuckGo is good enough for regular use – “…I don’t personally miss most of Google’s result panels. Especially the panels that highlight information snippets. It’s easy to find these. Searching microsoft word justify text provides me a snippet from Microsoft’s Office’s support page explaining what to click or type to justify text. I’ve learned not to trust information in these panels without reading the source they came from. Google seems to cite this information uncritically. I’ve found enough oversimplified knowledge panel answers that I’ve stopped reading most of them. Recently, I was chatting with a Googler who works on these. I asked them if I was wrong to feel this way. And they replied, “I trust them, but I’ve read enough bug reports and user feedback that I don’t blame you.” So my position is wrong, but not very wrong. I’ll take that…[I have been using DuckDuckGo for many years – I do not miss Google – at – all.]

Categories: Law and Legal

Google Scrubs Coronavirus Misinformation on Search, YouTube

Bloomberg – “Since Covid-19 began to spread, Google has aggressively intervened in some of its most popular online services to limit the spread of misinformation. This is a departure for a company that has relied heavily on software and automation to index and rank information throughout its 22-year existence. Google searches related to the virus now trigger an “SOS Alert,” with news from mainstream publications including National Public Radio, followed by information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization displayed prominently. In contrast, a recent search for “flu season” showed the website at the top, while another search for “flu” produced tweets, including one from U.S. President Donald Trump comparing coronavirus to the common flu…On YouTube, Google’s video service, the company is trying to quickly remove videos claiming to prevent the virus in place of seeking medical treatment. And some apps related to the virus have been banned from the Google Play app store, prompting complaints from developers who say they just want to help. An Iranian government app built to keep track of infections was also removed from the Play Store, ZDNet reported…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Harvard and MIT tell students not to return from spring break due to coronavirus

MIT Technology Review: “After an outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease Covid-19 was found spreading through Boston’s biomedical community, Harvard University said it will move classes online and is telling students not to return from spring break. This story is part of our ongoing coverage of the coronavirus/Covid-19 outbreak. You can also sign up to our dedicated newsletter. Online only: The nation’s oldest university said it plans to switch to online classes by March 23 and asked students not to return after spring break week, which begins on March 13.  (Update: later the same day MIT, in an email from its president Rafael Reif, asked its students to do the same, and canceled classes for the week of March 16 to 20. MIT’s spring break is the week after Harvard’s.) Harvard has more than 6,500 undergraduates and more than 20,000 students overall.“These past few weeks have been a powerful reminder of just how connected we are to one another—and how our choices today determine our options tomorrow,” said university president Lawrence Bacow in a statement posted to Harvard’s home page…”

See also the Washington Post – “…Both Maryland’s public university system and American University in the District announced plans to keep students away from campus for a short time after spring break, teaching them online instead of in person, in an effort to slow the spread of the virus in the region. Other colleges and universities in the region and throughout the country are taking similar steps…”

And Stanford, others switch to online classes temporarily amid coronavirus fears

Categories: Law and Legal

The best advice is – Cancel Everything

The Atlantic – Social distancing is the only way to stop the coronavirus. We must start immediately. “…The coronavirus could spread with frightening rapidity, overburdening our health-care system and claiming lives, until we adopt serious forms of social distancing.  This suggests that anyone in a position of power or authority, instead of downplaying the dangers of the coronavirus, should ask people to stay away from public places, cancel big gatherings, and restrict most forms of nonessential travel.stay away from work when they are sick—the federal government should also take some additional steps to improve public health. It should take on the costs of medical treatment for the coronavirus, grant paid sick leave to stricken workers, promise not to deport undocumented immigrants who seek medical help, and invest in a rapid expansion of ICU facilities. The past days suggest that this administration is unlikely to do these things well or quickly (although the administration signaled on Monday that it will seek relief for hourly workers, among other measures). Hence, the responsibility for social distancing now falls on decision makers at every level of society…”

See also Vox – How canceled events and self-quarantines save lives, in one chart – This is how we all help slow the spread of coronavirus.

Categories: Law and Legal

Why the US Sucks at Building Public Transit

Motherboard – America is worse at building and operating public transit than nearly all of its peers. Why is that? And what can we do to fix it? – “American cities are facing a transportation crisis. There’s terrible traffic. Public transit doesn’t work or go where people need it to. The cities are growing, but newcomers are faced with the prospects of paying high rents for reasonable commutes or lower rents for dreary, frustrating daily treks. Nearly all Americans, including those in cities, face a dire choice: spend thousands of dollars a year owning a car and sitting in traffic, or sacrifice hours every day on ramshackle public transit getting where they need to go. Things are so broken that, increasingly, they do both. Nationwide, three out of every four commuters drive alone. The rate in metro areas is not much different…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Sitting in traffic costs DC area residents average of $1,761 per year

Washington Post – “…the 2019 Global Traffic Scorecard released today by traffic analytics firm INRIX found that commuters spend an average of 99 hours sitting in traffic at a cost of $88 billion, or an average $1,377 per person. What’s more, sitting in traffic costs Washington area residents an average of more than $1,700 a year Boston, where commuters lose 149 hours a year sitting in traffic, was the most congested city for the second year in a row, followed by Chicago (145 hours), Philadelphia (142 hours), New York City (140) and Washington (124 hours).

Categories: Law and Legal

Georgetown Prof Explains The Rise Of Nonlawyer Navigators

Law360: “Each year, 30 million people lack legal representation in high-stakes civil court cases involving evictions, restraining orders, child custody and more. They do not have the statutory right to an attorney. If they cannot afford one, none is provided to them. Lawyers cannot close this so-called justice gap by themselves: Even if every licensed attorney in the country logged 180 pro bono hours, each household with a legal problem would receive just one hour of assistance, legal services experts estimate But lawyers don’t have to provide access to justice by themselves, according to research by Mary McClymont, a senior fellow at Georgetown University Law Center’s Justice Lab. In an increasing number of courts across the country, she found nonlawyer navigators — laypeople who provide legal information to unrepresented litigants — stepping in to fill the void. “Time after time, court staff would say, ‘You can’t believe how helpful these navigators are,’” she said. “They find them absolutely essential in delivering services.” Her recent report, “Nonlawyer Navigators in State Courts: An Emerging Consensus,” surveys the national landscape of nonlawyer navigator programs and provides an in-depth look at how they fit into the day-to-day routines of courthouses from California to New York… [[h/t Mary Whisner]

Categories: Law and Legal

Dressing for the Surveillance Age

..If the government were to demand pictures of citizens in a variety of poses, against different backdrops, indoors and outdoors, how many Americans would readily comply? But we are already building databases of ourselves, one selfie at a time. Online images of us, our children, and our friends, often helpfully labelled with first names, which we’ve posted to photo-sharing sites like Flickr, have ended up in data sets used to train face-recognition systems. In at least two cases, face-recognition companies have strong connections to photo-management apps. EverRoll, a photo-management app, became Ever AI (now Paravision), and Orbeus, a face-recognition company that was acquired by Amazon, once offered a consumer photo app. And even when our images are supposedly protected on social-media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, how secure are they?

Categories: Law and Legal

The U.S. Isn’t Ready for What’s About to Happen

The Atlantic – Even with a robust government response to the novel coronavirus, many people will be in peril. And the United States is anything but prepared – Juliette Kayyem Former Department of Homeland Security official and author of Security Mom

“For the professionals who try to manage homeland-security threats, reassuring the public after a natural disaster or terrorist attack—or amid a coronavirus outbreak like the one the world now faces—is just part of the job. I am a former federal and state homeland-security official. I study safety and resiliency issues in an academic setting, advise companies on their emergency-response plans, and trade ideas with people in public health, law enforcement, and many other disciplines. Since the beginning of the disease now known as COVID-19, I’ve also been receiving more and more text messages from nervous relatives and friends. The rash decisions that panic breeds have never made any emergency better. So like many others in my field, I’ve been urging people, in as calm a tone as I can muster, to listen to experts and advising them about concrete steps they can take to keep their families, communities, and businesses safe. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Avoid large gatherings. Don’t panic, and prepare as best you can. Advice like mine is meant to be empowering, but now I fear it may also be misleading. If Americans conclude that life will continue mostly as normal, they may be wrong. The United States is far less prepared than other democratic nations experiencing outbreaks of the novel coronavirus. Low case counts so far may reflect not an absence of the pathogen but a woeful lack of testing…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Study – People ‘shed’ high levels of coronavirus but most are likely not infectious after recovery begins

Stat News: “People who contract the novel coronavirus emit high amounts of virus very early on in their infection, according to a new study from Germany that helps to explain the rapid and efficient way in which the virus has spread around the world. At the same time, the study suggests that while people with mild infections can still test positive by throat swabs for days and even weeks after their illness, those who are only mildly sick are likely not still infectious by about 10 days after they start to experience symptoms.

The study, by scientists in Berlin and Munich, is one of the first outside China to look at clinical data from patients who have been diagnosed with Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and one of the first to try to map when people infected with the virus can infect others. It was published Monday on a preprint server, meaning it has not yet been peer-reviewed, but it could still provide key information that the public health response has been lacking…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Winter is over in DC – What Winter?

Crocuses, daffodils, magnolias, forsythia Chinese plum/Japanese apricot, Virginia bluebells, snow drops (no snow), more hellebores than I can ever recall in decades herald the end of the non winter in DC and the arrival of a new kind of spring (#climatecrisis, #globalheating) – the Washington Post – “Winter was barely perceptible in Washington this year, and now, we can put a fork in it. We see no more potential for enduring cold or substantial snowfall. Spring is here. Our what-is-known-as winter was about as tame as it gets. Temperatures averaged nearly five degrees above normal, and the period from December through February ranked as the seventh-warmest on record. Days with highs in the 50s or warmer outnumbered those in the 40s or colder (54 percent of the days between December and February hit at least 50 degrees). The snowfall output was meager, with only 0.6 inches falling, the third-lowest amount on record. During February, typically Washington’s snowiest month, just a trace of snow was observed. Spring is clearly in the air. Flowers started blooming in February, and, based on the emergence of tree leaves and other vegetation, the USA National Phenology Network indicated that spring reached Washington at the beginning of March (more than three weeks ahead of schedule)…” [Note – the cherry blossoms will be two week earlys this year]

Categories: Law and Legal

Hand washing with soap – the facts add up!

This Twitter thread is authored by @PalliThordarson – Professor, School of Chemistry UNS – – 1/25 Part 1 – Why does soap work so well on the SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus and indeed most viruses? Because it is a self-assembled nanoparticle in which the weakest link is the lipid (fatty) bilayer. A two part thread about soap, viruses and supramolecular chemistry #COVID19

Categories: Law and Legal

How Long Will It Take to Develop a Coronavirus Vaccine?

The New Yorker – “On Monday, Donald Trump held a meeting in the White House to discuss his Administration’s response to COVID-19, the novel coronavirus that has spread to every continent except Antarctica. At the time there had been more than a hundred and five thousand cases reported in at least eighty-three countries, leading to more than thirty-five hundred deaths. Seated around an oval table in the Cabinet Room were health experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the National Institutes of Health, as well as pharmaceutical executives from Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi, and others. With more than a hundred cases already discovered in the U.S., which had resulted in six deaths (the virus has since infected nearly four hundred people in the U.S., and killed at least nineteen of them), Trump was concerned. But he was also confused, despite having had several previous briefings with the Administration’s top health officials. Grasping for some good news, he pressed the executives to deliver a vaccine within a few months, at which point Anthony Fauci, the longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (N.I.A.I.D.), spoke up. “A vaccine that you make and start testing in a year is not a vaccine that’s deployable,” he said. The earliest it would be deployable, Fauci added, is “in a year to a year and a half, no matter how fast you go.”

Categories: Law and Legal


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