Law and Legal
Fast Company – “…To get a sense of how far smoke from the current wildfires is traveling, you can turn to a number of interactive maps and data tools that let you track smoke conditions in real time. I’ve rounded up some useful options below:
- AirNow: This fire and smoke map is “designed to provide the public with additional information on levels of particle pollution” and includes data from a number of government sources. Find it here.
- NOAA: This map from the agency’s Office of Satellite and Product Operations includes regularly updated data from satellites. Find it here.
- Esri’s Active Wildfire Story Map: I highlighted this map in a post last week for tracking fires. It also has an overlay option to track smoke. Just check the “smoke forecast” box. Find it here.
- NASA: The space agency’s blog post from yesterday includes satellite imagery from before and after the winds shifted eastward. Although the images are not interactive, they underscore how national weather patterns can have a huge impact on air quality. Find it here…”
“Get an intuitive ‘feel’ of new COVID-19 cases spreading rates. “This simulation shows you the average rate of newly reported COVID-19 cases between September 7, 2020 and September 14, 2020 for each country.” Customize your view by selecting one or more countries.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in collaboration with agencies throughout the federal government, are initiating the National Wastewater Surveillance System (NWSS) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The data generated by NWSS will help public health officials to better understand the extent of COVID-19 infections in communities. CDC is currently developing a portal for state, tribal, local, and territorial health departments to submit wastewater testing data into a national database for use in summarizing and interpreting data for public health action. Participation in a national database will ensure data comparability across jurisdictions. Data from wastewater testing is not meant to replace existing COVID-19 surveillance systems, but is meant to complement them by providing:
- An efficient pooled community sample.
- Data for communities where timely COVID-19 clinical testing is underutilized or unavailable.
- Data at the sub-county level…”
Library of Congress – “The public can now explore more than 1.5 million historical newspaper images online and free of charge. The latest machine learning experience from LC Labs, Newspaper Navigator allows users to search visual content in American newspapers dating from 1789-1963. The user begins by entering a keyword that returns a selection of photos. Then the user can choose photos to search against, allowing the discovery of related images that were previously undetectable by search engines. For decades, partners across the United States have collaborated to digitize newspapers through the Library’s Chronicling America website, a database of historical U.S. newspapers. The text of the newspapers is made searchable by character recognition technology, but users looking for specific images were required to page through the individual issues. Through the creative ingenuity of Innovator in Residence Benjamin Lee and advances in machine learning, Newspaper Navigator now makes images in the newspapers searchable by enabling users to search by visual similarity. To create Newspaper Navigator, Lee trained computer algorithms to sort through 16 million Chronicling America newspaper pages in search of photographs, illustrations, maps, cartoons, comics, headlines and advertisements…
“Newspaper Navigator affords a whole new dimension of access to Chronicling America,” said Molly O’Hagan Hardy of the National Endowment for the Humanities. “Images and words on the printed newspaper page interact to construct meaning for readers past and present, and we miss half of that meaning making when our searches rely exclusively on the written text.” Newspaper Navigator will allow greater access to a large collection and can enable new discoveries from historical newspapers, Hardy said…”
CRS Report via LC – Tracking Federal Awards: USAspending.gov and Other Data Sources, September 15, 2020: USAspending.gov, available at http://www.USAspending.gov, is a government source for data on federal awards by state, congressional district (CD), county, city, and zip code. The awards data in USAspending.gov are provided by federal agencies and represent contracts, grants, loans, and other forms of financial assistance. USAspending.gov also provides tools for examining the broader picture of federal spending obligations within the categories of budget function, agency, and object class.Using USAspending.gov to locate and compile accurate data on federal awards can be challenging due, in part, to continuing data quality issues that have been identified by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). Users of USAspending.gov need to be aware that while search results may be useful for informing consideration of certain questions, these results may be incomplete or contain inaccuracies…”
CRS report via LC – Tracking Federal Awards in States and Congressional Districts Using USAspending.gov, September 15, 2020: “USAspending.gov, available to the public at http://www.USAspending.gov, is a government source for data on federal awards by state, congressional district (CD), zip code, city, and county. The awards data in USAspending.gov is provided by federal agencies and represents grants, contracts, loans, and other financial assistance. Grant awards include money the federal government commits for projects in states, local jurisdictions, regions, territories, and tribal reservations, as well as payments for eligible needs to help individuals and families. Contract awards refer to bids and agreements the federal government makes for specific goods and services.USAspending.gov does not include data on actual spending by recipients.USAspending.gov also provides tools for examining the broader picture of federal spending obligations within the categories of budget function, agency, and object class.Budget function refers to the major purpose that the spending serves, such as Social Security, Medicare, and national defense. Object class refers to the type of item or service purchased by the federal government, such as grants, contracts, and personnel compensation and benefits…”
The New York Times Magazine: “…For most of human history, people have lived within a surprisingly narrow range of temperatures, in the places where the climate supported abundant food production. But as the planet warms, that band is suddenly shifting north. According to a pathbreaking recent study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the planet could see a greater temperature increase in the next 50 years than it did in the last 6,000 years combined. By 2070, the kind of extremely hot zones, like in the Sahara, that now cover less than 1 percent of the earth’s land surface could cover nearly a fifth of the land, potentially placing one of every three people alive outside the climate niche where humans have thrived for thousands of years. Many will dig in, suffering through heat, hunger and political chaos, but others will be forced to move on. A 2017 study in Science Advances found that by 2100, temperatures could rise to the point that just going outside for a few hours in some places, including parts of India and Eastern China, “will result in death even for the fittest of humans.”
People are already beginning to flee. In Southeast Asia, where increasingly unpredictable monsoon rainfall and drought have made farming more difficult, the World Bank points to more than eight million people who have moved toward the Middle East, Europe and North America. In the African Sahel, millions of rural people have been streaming toward the coasts and the cities amid drought and widespread crop failures. Should the flight away from hot climates reach the scale that current research suggests is likely, it will amount to a vast remapping of the world’s populations…”
The following interview, between Noema Magazine Editor-in-Chief Nathan Gardels and author (previously of “Guns, Germs, and Steel”) Jared Diamond, has been edited for clarity and length.
“Nathan Gardels: In assessing how nations manage crises and successfully negotiate turning points — or don’t — you pass their experience through several filters. Some key filters you use are realistic self-appraisal, selective adoption of best practices from elsewhere, a capacity to learn from others while still preserving core values and flexibility that allows for social and political compromise.
How do you see the way various nations addressed the coronavirus pandemic through this lens?
Jared Diamond: Nations and entities doing well by the criteria of those outcome predictors include Singapore and Taiwan. Doing poorly initially were the government of Italy and now, worst of all, the federal government of the U.S…”
Internet Archive Blogs: Internet Archive has archived and identified 9 million open access journal articles– the next 5 million is getting harder – “Open Access journals, such as New Theology Review (ISSN: 0896-4297) and Open Journal of Hematology (ISSN: 2075-907X), made their research articles available for free online for years. With a quick click or a simple query, students anywhere in the world could access their articles, and diligent Wikipedia editors could verify facts against original articles on vitamin deficiency and blood donation. But some journals, such as these titles, are no longer available from the publisher’s websites, and are only available through the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. Since 2017, the Internet Archive joined others in concentrating on archiving all scholarly literature and making it permanently accessible. The World Wide Web has made it easier than ever for scholars to collaborate, debate, and share their research. Unfortunately, the structure of today’s web means that content can disappear just as easily: as of today the official publisher websites and DOI redirects for both of the above journals go nowhere or have been replaced with unrelated content…Researchers found that 176 open access journals have already vanished from their publishers’ website over the past two decades, according to a recent preprint article by Mikael Laakso, Lisa Matthias, and Najko Jahn. These periodicals were from all regions of the world and represented all major disciplines — sciences, humanities and social sciences. There are over 14,000 open access journals indexed by the Directory of Open Access Journals and the paper suggests another 900 of those are inactive and at risk of disappearing. The pre-print has struck a nerve, receiving news coverage in Nature and Science…”
Statement for Markup of H.R. 8235, the “Open Courts Act of 2020” – “Anyone who goes to the Supreme Court’s website can read any of the documents filed before the Court, free of charge. The same thing is true for the courts in my and Mr. Collins’s home state of Georgia. And that’s the way it should be, because the public has a fundamental right to know what goes on in its courthouses. But if you want to read most of the records of other federal courts, you have to pay a fee. The prices are like a “keep out” sign for regular people: ten cents per search, ten cents per page, and up to three dollars per document. It can cost hundreds of dollars to read the filings in just one big case. The business of the courts is important, so it should be no surprise that the judiciary’s paywall takes in between $100 and $140 million every year. That’s a lot of money taken from people who are exercising their fundamental right to access public court records. And to make matters worse, just last month a court of appeals held that the Administrative Office of the United States Courts was unlawfully using that money to fund a range of programs that had nothing to do with giving the public access to federal court records. Frankly, it’s unjustifiable. And it needs to stop. Now, imagine if we were to charge for access to the U.S. Code. Or the Federal Register. Or Congress.gov. Our courts are a vital part of our American government, and we have a responsibility to make them accessible to the rest of our society.
The judiciary’s paywall imposes unnecessary burdens on journalists, academics, and pro se litigants as they engage in the constitutionally-enshrined activities of observing and reporting on the courts’ activities or petitioning the courts for redress. This matters more now than ever before. At a time when many have concerns that the executive branch represents only some of its citizens, a democratic process limited to a select group that can participate—those who can afford it—should concern us all. But this bill is about more than just democratic ideals and transparency. It’s about changing the system to make it fairer for everyone…”
Gizmodo – “Most of us open a web browser and either stare at whatever tabs we never closed or a homepage that’s not quite as customized as it could be. This is our launchpad for the web, which is why it’s important to make it as useful as possible. The major browsers now make a distinction between the homepage that appears when the browser starts up, and the new tab page that appears when you open a tab (although you can set the homepage to be the new tab page, if you want). The two differ slightly. Your homepage, for example, can be all the pages you had open the last time you closed the browser, while the new tab can be more easily customized with add-ons. Your homepage is just that: a page (or a set of pages) on the internet. It makes sense to pick one or two that you rely on, or that give you a quick overview of what’s happening in the world at the moment. The new tab page is much more versatile, and can include personalized wallpaper, shortcuts to bookmarks, and so on…”
The New York Times Opinion: “…It is much more likely that life in 2021, especially in the first half of the year, will need to look much like life does now. Those who think that we have just a few more months of pain to endure will need to adjust their expectations. Those thinking that school this fall will be a one-off, that we will be back to normal next year, let alone next semester, may be in for a rude awakening. As Dr. Fauci told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, “If you’re talking about getting back to a degree of normality which resembles where we were prior to Covid, it’s going to be well into 2021, maybe even towards the end of 2021.” We wasted our chance to get a better summer in the spring. We wasted our chance to plan for the fall in the summer. We’re wasting time again now. Next year isn’t that far away. We still need to figure out how to live in this new world, now, and that means embracing, finally, all the strategies for fighting the virus that many of us have resisted…”
Pew Report – Ratings for Trump remain poor – “Since Donald Trump took office as president, the image of the United States has suffered across many regions of the globe. As a new 13-nation Pew Research Center survey illustrates, America’s reputation has declined further over the past year among many key allies and partners. In several countries, the share of the public with a favorable view of the U.S. is as low as it has been at any point since the Center began polling on this topic nearly two decades ago. For instance, just 41% in the United Kingdom express a favorable opinion of the U.S., the lowest percentage registered in any Pew Research Center survey there. In France, only 31% see the U.S. positively, matching the grim ratings from March 2003, at the height of U.S.-France tensions over the Iraq War. Germans give the U.S. particularly low marks on the survey: 26% rate the U.S. favorably, similar to the 25% in the same March 2003 poll. Part of the decline over the past year is linked to how the U.S. had handled the coronavirus pandemic. Across the 13 nations surveyed, a median of just 15% say the U.S. has done a good job of dealing with the outbreak. In contrast, most say the World Health Organization (WHO) and European Union have done a good job, and in nearly all nations people give their own country positive marks for dealing with the crisis (the U.S. and UK are notable exceptions). Relatively few think China has handled the pandemic well, although it still receives considerably better reviews than the U.S. response…”
TIME: “Like many of the virus’s hardest hit victims, the United States went into the COVID-19 pandemic wracked by preexisting conditions. A fraying public health infrastructure, inadequate medical supplies, an employer-based health insurance system perversely unsuited to the moment—these and other afflictions are surely contributing to the death toll. But in addressing the causes and consequences of this pandemic—and its cruelly uneven impact—the elephant in the room is extreme income inequality.
How big is this elephant? A staggering $50 trillion. That is how much the upward redistribution of income has cost American workers over the past several decades.
This is not some back-of-the-napkin approximation. According to a groundbreaking new working paper by Carter C. Price and Kathryn Edwards of the RAND Corporation, had the more equitable income distributions of the three decades following World War II (1945 through 1974) merely held steady, the aggregate annual income of Americans earning below the 90th percentile would have been $2.5 trillion higher in the year 2018 alone. That is an amount equal to nearly 12 percent of GDP—enough to more than double median income—enough to pay every single working American in the bottom nine deciles an additional $1,144 a month. Every month. Every single year…”
Via LLRX – Pete Recommends – Weekly highlights on cyber security issues, September 12, 2020 – Privacy and security issues impact every aspect of our lives – home, work, travel, education, health and medical records – to name but a few. On a weekly basis Pete Weiss highlights articles and information that focus on the increasingly complex and wide ranging ways technology is used to compromise and diminish our privacy and security, often without our situational awareness. Four highlights from this week: Even a Federal Judge Agrees That the FBI and NSA Are Flouting Civil Liberty Safeguards; Chinese hackers go after UNC for COVID-19 vaccine info; COVID-19 and Emerging Global Patterns of Financial Crime; and The State Of Identity Security, 2020.
“For years, public trust in the federal government has hovered at near-record lows. That remains the case today, as the United States struggles with a pandemic and economic recession. Just 20% of U.S. adults say they trust the government in Washington to “do the right thing” just about always or most of the time. Yet Americans also have long expressed positive views of the federal government’s performance in several specific areas. And majorities want the government to play a major role on everything from keeping the country safe from terrorism to ensuring access to health care and alleviating poverty. Attitudes about the appropriate role for government and its performance have changed only modestly since 2017, though Democrats have become more critical of government performance in some areas since then. Among the public overall, majorities say the government does a very good or somewhat good job keeping the country safe from terrorism (72%), responding to natural disasters (62%), ensuring safe food and medicine (62%), strengthening the economy (54%) and maintaining infrastructure (53%). Americans are far more critical of how the government handles several other issues, including managing the immigration system (just 34% say it does a good job), helping people get out of poverty (36%) and effectively handling threats to public health (42%)…These are among the findings of Pew Research Center’s study of attitudes about government, which updates studies from 2019, 2017 and 2015. ..”
Washington Post – “Once again, people around the world are waiting eagerly for a vaccine. As with polio, rabies and other infections in the past, teams of scientists are racing to develop one. If they succeed, Americans will line up to be immunized, part of a global campaign to protect the world’s population from the novel coronavirus. But if history is any guide, some will hesitate, frightened by claims that the new, potentially lifesaving vaccines are part of a government effort to control our bodies, that they are harmful or that some untested, alternative treatment is preferable. Vaccines are one of humanity’s greatest achievements, a testament to our species’ intelligence, science and altruism. Smallpox, once a constant threat in most regions of the globe, killed about 30 percent of its victims each year in England and France before a vaccine was introduced there during the first half of the 19th century. By 1850, smallpox deaths in France, estimated at 50,000 to 80,000 annually before the advent of the vaccine, had declined to a tenth of their previous level…Opposition to vaccines persists today, periodically gaining traction in the United States and other countries. Berman, an assistant professor of basic science at an osteopathic medical school, explores the history of anti-vaccine movements and how best to counter them. Such movements, he finds, share beliefs and features: wariness of government control, distrust of the medical establishment and its products, false claims about vaccines (often made by people with economic interests), and unfounded fears of harm, spread by misinformation and social media. Those most vulnerable to such claims are often parents trying to decide what is best for their children’s health. Rather than learning from reliable sources why childhood vaccines are necessary to protect both individuals and the population as a whole from infections, they may receive unreliable information from others in their community who oppose vaccination…”
U.S. National Strategy for Financial Literacy 2020 – U.S. Financial Literacy and Education Commission, September 2020 – “Financial education is key to unlocking the foundations of economic opportunity and powering a strong and resilient economy. Americans must acquire financial skills and knowledge to fully participate in our dynamic economy. In a 2018 study, only one-third of adults could answer at least four of five financial literacy questions on fundamental concepts such as mortgages, interest rates, inflation and risk. Similarly, a 2018 assessment of 15-year-old students found that 16 percent were below a proficient level of financial literacy, 22 percent demonstrated a basic level of financial literacy, while 12 percent successfully demonstrated the highest level of financial skills assessed. Additional performance gaps persist in financial literacy between minority populations and the U.S. population as a whole…To address these disparities in financial literacy, both the private and public sectors offer additional support for minority populations to develop knowledge, skills, and confidence to make more informed financial decisions. These offerings help people attain their goals and financial well-being in what is an increasingly complex environment that contains competing sources of information and influence…”
Like Hacker – “While, sure, anybody could just drive by your house to see what it looks like—all the tin foil in the world isn’t going to shield you from that privacy “violation,” though a fence might help—you can make it harder for people to see your home on Google Maps. The solution involves blurring out your entire house, and while it’s a sure-fire way to make your abode the ugliest-looking address on your virtual block, you may still want to do it. If you don’t like the image Google captured with one of its many Street View cars, or you want to keep random internet strangers from doing digital drive-bys, the option is there. There’s also one big caveat if you use it. Once you elect to blur your address, you can’t unblur it. Full stop. I’m not sure Google even makes exemptions if you’re the new owner of a house that was previously blurred; you can try, but I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you. I also believe this request persists even if, or when, Google takes new Street View images of your area…” [Yes it does persist. Also note, you can request the same blurring of your home on Microsoft Bing – but it is not automatic and can take more than a week to complete.]
Consumer Reports – There is a connection between your diet and your ears: “About 44 million American adults have hearing loss, and that number is expected to almost double to 73 million by 2060. It’s no surprise that minimizing exposure to high-decibel noise protects your ears. But recent and accumulating research indicates that following a healthy diet may be another way to prevent hearing loss. “It’s clear now that diet is a factor, along with other issues such as noise pollution, age, certain types of medications, and even certain medical conditions such as diabetes,” says Enrique Perez, MD, an otolaryngologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. In a 2020 review of 22 studies, researchers in Spain found evidence linking fruits and vegetables, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidant nutrients, such as vitamins A, C, and E to a lower risk of developing age-related hearing loss. Other research shows that people who ate fish two to four times a week had about a 20 percent less chance of hearing problems and that getting too little folate—less than 200 mg per day—raised the risk…” [h/t Pete Weiss]
The New York Times – Open water and rain, rather than ice and snow, are becoming typical of the region, a new study has found. “The Arctic is among the parts of the world most influenced by climate change, with sharply rising temperatures, thawing permafrost and other effects in addition to shrinking sea ice. The study, by Laura Landrum and Marika M. Holland of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., is an effort to put what is occurring in the region in context. “Everybody knows the Arctic is changing,” said Dr. Landrum, a climate scientist and the lead author of the study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change. “We really wanted to quantify if this is a new climate.” In other words, she said, “has the Arctic changed so much and so fast that the new climate cannot be predicted from the recent past?”
Using years of observational data from the region and computer models, the researchers found that sea ice is already in a new climate, in effect: The extent of ice in recent years is consistently less than what would be expected in even the worst year for ice in the mid-20th century…”