Law and Legal

District Court denies motion to dismiss case re Trump hotel profits from foreign and state officials

The New York Times: “A lawsuit accusing President Trump of violating the Constitution by maintaining a financial interest in his company’s Washington hotel cleared a critical hurdle on Wednesday when a federal judge allowed the case to move forward. In the first judicial opinion to define how the meaning of the Constitution’s anticorruption clauses should apply to a president, Judge Peter J. Messitte of the United States District Court in Greenbelt, Md., said the framers’ language should be broadly construed as an effort to protect against influence-peddling by state and foreign governments. He ruled that the lawsuit should proceed to the evidence-gathering stage, which could clear the way for an examination of financial records that the president has consistently refused to disclose. The Justice Department is expected to forestall that by seeking an emergency stay and appealing the ruling. The two constitutional clauses at issue restrict a president’s ability to accept financial benefits or “emoluments” from domestic or foreign governments, other than his official salary. No federal judge before has ever interpreted what those bans mean for the president. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, the District of Columbia and the State of Maryland, say that Mr. Trump is violating those bans by accepting profits from the Trump International Hotel, a five-star hotel just blocks from the White House that is frequented by foreign and state officials. The judge earlier ruled that the local jurisdictions had standing to sue because the Trump hotel arguably siphons off business from their convention centers or hotels…”

See also Brookings Paper – The Emoluments Clause: Its Text, Meaning, and Application to Donald J. Trump

Categories: Law and Legal

Sexual Victimization Reported by Adult Correctional Authorities, 2012-15

Bureau of Justice Statistics: “Presents data on allegations and substantiated incidents of inmate-on-inmate and staff-on-inmate sexual victimization reported to correctional authorities in prisons, jails, and other adult correctional facilities for each year from 2012 through 2015. Sexual victimization includes nonconsensual sexual acts, abusive sexual contact, staff sexual misconduct, and inmate or staff sexual harassment. Companion tables in the Survey of Sexual Victimization in Adult Correctional Facilities 2012-15 – Statistical Tables will include counts of sexual victimization reported by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, state prison systems, and large jail jurisdictions. Data are from BJS’s Survey of Sexual Victimization (SSV, formerly the Survey of Sexual Violence), which has annually collected official records on inmate sexual victimization since 2004. Press Release  Summary Full report Data Tables (Zip)


  • Correctional administrators reported 24,661 allegations of sexual victimization in 2015, nearly triple the number recorded in 2011 (8,768).
  • The increase in allegations of sexual victimization from 2011 to 2015 coincided with the release in 2012 of the National Standards to Prevent, Detect, and Respond to Prison Rape.
  • In 2015, an estimated 1,473 allegations were substantiated (determined to have occurred), up 63% from the 902 substantiated in 2011.
  • Fifty-eight percent of substantiated incidents of sexual victimization in 2015 were perpetrated by inmates, while 42% were perpetrated by staff members.
  • The number of allegations in prisons increased from 6,660 in 2011 to 18,666 in 2015 (up 180%).
  • During the 3-year aggregated period of 2013-15, there were an estimated 15,875 allegations of inmate-on-inmate sexual harassment, of which 2,426 (16%) were substantiated based on completed investigations.”
Categories: Law and Legal

White House will no longer issue readouts of Trump’s calls to foreign leaders

CNN: “The White House has suspended the practice of publishing public summaries of President Donald Trump’s phone calls with world leaders, two sources with knowledge of the situation tell CNN, bringing an end to a common exercise from Republican and Democratic administrations. It’s unclear if the suspension is temporary or permanent. A White House spokesman declined to comment. Official descriptions of the President’s calls with foreign leaders — termed “readouts” in Washington parlance — offer administrations the chance to characterize in their own terms the diplomacy conducted at the highest levels between countries. While news is rarely contained in the rote, often dry descriptions, they do offer the only official account that a phone call took place. Readouts are still released internally.,,”

See also Buzzfeed News: “…Trump has adopted an informal stance on phone conversations since early in his presidency. Shortly after taking office, he passed out his cellphone number to foreign leaders, the Washington Post reported. And in April 2017, White House officials were reportedly surprised to learn that Trump, on his own, had a phone conversation with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. By contrast, past calls between presidents and foreign leaders have more commonly been extensively planned events, with experts briefing the commander-in-chief beforehand and advisers sometimes listening during the conversation. The resulting readouts also provided the White House with a chance to characterize how its diplomacy with other countries was going…”

Categories: Law and Legal

National Parks Conservation Association Map of Habitat for Threatened and Endangered Species

“National parks are places where plants and animals have the opportunity to thrive. While this site provides detailed information on species in a few national parks across the National Park System, this map shows all national parks that, based on our methodology, provide habitat for threatened and endangered species. Explore the map or use the links below to download the full dataset or to learn more about how the maps was developed.”

From California condors to Florida panthers, there are more than 1,600 threatened and endangered species throughout the United States. And while only about a third of those species are found in national parks, places like Great Smoky Mountains, Glacier, and Big Bend National Parks provide some of the best, last or most protected habitats for these plants and animals. This site provides a snapshot of how the protections provided by national parks and by the Endangered Species Act work together to protect species for the long term.

Learn more about the plants and animals found in specific national parks or explore our map to see how endangered species are spread throughout national parks across the country…”

Categories: Law and Legal

One more time – No, Amazon Cannot Replace Libraries

Vice: “In Saturday, Forbes published an article titled “Amazon Should Replace Local Libraries to Save Taxpayers Money,” that elicited extremely strong backlash on Twitter from librarians and library patrons alike. The article has since been taken down, though the (extremely ratioed) tweet from the author about it remains. In the article, writer Panos Mourdoukoutas argued that libraries are no longer important to the community as the result of alternative “third places” like Starbucks, and “no shortage of places to hold community events,” as well as streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime and the rise of e-books that have “turned physical books into collector’s items, effectively eliminating the need for library borrowing services.” Hundreds of Twitter users took to the platform to share both their anger with the piece and their love for libraries. People seemed to especially take issue with the author picking Amazon—notorious for its horrible treatment of employees, and accusations of ruining the cities it opens warehouses in—as a potential replacement. Obviously, as the outrage from these users demonstrates, libraries are beloved and important in communities. Mourdoukoutas’s argument that libraries are becoming less useful is patently false, in a way that’s fairly obvious. But the notion that libraries aren’t worth their value to taxpayers—one that fails to take into account the financial returns of a library and expenses of buying these items on one’s own—fails to address the vast importance a library has on its community as a physical space open to anyone in the public…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Bloomberg – Inside Google’s Shadow Workforce

About half of Google’s workers are contractors who don’t receive the same benefits as direct employees – “Every day, tens of thousands of people stream into Google offices wearing red name badges. They eat in Google’s cafeterias, ride its commuter shuttles and work alongside its celebrated geeks. But they can’t access all of the company’s celebrated perks. They aren’t entitled to stock and can’t enter certain offices. Many don’t have health insurance. Before each weekly Google all-hands meeting, trays of hors d’oeuvres and, sometimes, kegs of beer are carted into an auditorium and satellite offices around the globe for employees, who wear white badges. Those without white badges are asked to return to their desks. Google’s Alphabet Inc. employs hordes of these red-badged contract workers in addition to its full-fledged staff. They serve meals and clean offices. They write code, handle sales calls, recruit staff, screen YouTube videos, test self-driving cars and even manage entire teams – a sea of skilled laborers that fuel the $795 billion company but reap few of the benefits and opportunities available to direct employees. Earlier this year, those contractors outnumbered direct employees for the first time in the company’s twenty-year history, according to a person who viewed the numbers on an internal company database. It’s unclear if that is still the case. Alphabet reported 89,058 direct employees at the end of the second quarter. The company declined to comment on the number of contract workers.

Other companies, such as Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc., some of the most cash-rich public companies, also rely on a steady influx of contractors. Investors watch employee headcount closely at these tech powerhouses, expecting that they keep posting impressive gains by maintaining skinnier workforces than older corporate titans. Hiring contractors keeps the official headcount low, and frees up millions of dollars to retain superstars in fields like artificial intelligence. The result is an invisible workforce, off the company payrolls, that does the grunt work for the Silicon Valley giants with few of the rewards. “Many of these workers don’t have a voice on the job. They don’t necessarily get the benefits that many of us think about when working at a big, glitzy tech company,” said Maria Noel Fernandez, campaign director for Silicon Valley Rising, a union-backed group based in San Jose, California that advocates on labor and housing issues. “And they’re not really part of this wealth…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Federal Motor Vehicle Product Liability Litigation Up 89%

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse: “The latest available data from the federal courts through June 2018 show that new federal motor vehicle product liability lawsuits have risen sharply.  During four out of six of the past months, the number of new cases filed set new records.  So far during the first nine months of FY 2018, there have been 570 new suits filed. If this filing pace continues, the projected number of filings will reach 760 during FY 2018. This filing pace is up 89 percent over that of last year. During all of FY 2017 only 403 such suits were filed. Motor vehicle product liability litigation previously peaked during FY 2010.  That year saw 508 cases filed.  After 2010, lawsuits fell until they reached a low point during FY 2013 when only 238 suits were filed. Activity in three out of the 94 federal judicial districts account for most of this jump.  The largest number of lawsuits this year were filed in the Southern District of New York (Manhattan).  The Southern District of Florida (Miami) and the Central District of California (Los Angeles) also experienced sharp jumps this year. Remaining districts either saw little change or even experienced declines. For further details, see:”

Categories: Law and Legal

Where in the world does your e-waste go?

HuffPo: “In a sparse and sprawling factory complex on the outskirts of Shanghai, thousands of tiny plastic resin pellets are shivering along narrow conveyor belts, ready to be transformed into something new. The dark pellets are unremarkable at first glance, resembling any plastic granule used for manufacturing. But follow their journey from consumer to conveyor belt, and their significance — particularly for the world’s burgeoning electronic waste crisis, and what companies and their customers can do to address it — becomes clear.  The pellets are made from a blend of virgin plastic and the recycled product of some of the millions of pounds of e-waste that Dell, the American computer giant, collects from consumers every year.  In 2017, Dell said it gathered more than 177 million pounds of used electronics from people in 83 participating countries and territories. If you were one of these consumers, this Chinese factory ― run by Dell’s Taiwanese recycling partner, Wistron Corp. ― might be where parts of your old laptop or PC ended up…”

…Computers and phones contain materials that can be salvaged and repurposed, like plastic and metals like gold and silver. In 2016, the estimated value of recoverable raw materials in discarded e-waste was more than $55 billion globally, according to a United Nations University report. As the researchers pointed out, that’s “more than the 2016 Gross Domestic Product of most countries in the world.” As it stands, however, only a fraction of the world’s e-waste gets recycled. Shantanu Bhattacharya, a supply chain expert and professor at Singapore Management University, told HuffPost that only about 15 percent to 25 percent of the world’s e-waste is recycled or reused…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Meet the human Google – Edda Tasiemka, 95

The Oldie – “Edda has filled her London house with news cuttings for fifty years. Now she’s giving away her archive, she tells Miles Goslett Authors, journalists and programme-makers have been visiting an anonymous suburban house in Golders Green, north London, for nearly forty years. What has drawn them there is the Hans Tasiemka Archive, a privately owned collection of more than six million magazine and newspaper cuttings – including from The Oldie – dating from the 19th century to the present day. Since 1979, this jewel of journalism has been run by Edda Tasiemka, Hans’s remarkable widow, now 95. During a recent research trip, I was told that Mrs Tasiemka had finally resolved to lay down her scissors and part with her extraordinary library. It is a big decision. An institution is coming to an end. Mercifully, the treasure trove is not going to be incinerated or recycled, but has instead been given free of charge as a going concern to another archivist, James Hyman, on condition he keeps it intact. He has exciting plans for its expansion (of which more later)…” [h/t/ Barclay Walsh]


Categories: Law and Legal

Forbes “deletes” opinion piece by economist advocating replacing public libraries with Amazon

Quartz: “On Saturday morning Forbes published an opinion piece by LIU Post economist Panos Mourdoukoutas with the headline “Amazon Should Replace Local Libraries to Save Taxpayers Money.” It quickly received enthusiastic backlash from actual American libraries and their communities. As of around 10am US eastern time this morning, the story had nearly 200,000 views, according to a counter on the page. As of 11am, though, the story’s URL has been down. “Forbes advocates spirited dialogue on a range of topics, including those that often take a contrarian view,” a Forbes spokesperson says in a statement. “Libraries play an important role in our society. This article was outside of this contributor’s specific area of expertise, and has since been removed.” In his article, Mourdoukoutas argued that local libraries are no longer useful. If libraries closed, he wrote, taxpayers would save money, and Amazon could open bookstores to provide those communities with physical books.“[Libraries] don’t have the same value they used to,” the article argued. The functions of the library, Mourdoukoutas said, have been replaced: community and wifi are now provided by Starbucks; video rentals by Netflix and Amazon Prime; and books by Amazon…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Poynter guide to anti-misinformation actions around the world

Poynter has updated this very useful guide – Here’s where governments are taking action against online misinformation – subject matter includes hate speech law, misinformation. media literacy, fake news, election misinformation, political bots and advertising, foreign disinformation campaigns, media regulation, internet regulation.

Categories: Law and Legal

Paper – Susceptibility to partisan fake news is better explained by lack of reasoning than by motivated reasoning

Lazy, not biased: Susceptibility to partisan fake news is better explained by lack of reasoning than by motivated reasoning. Gordon Pennycook and David G. Rand. Cognition. Available online 20 June 2018 [paywall – but Table of Contents, Abstract, Figures and Supplementary Data are available at no fee]

  • Participants rated perceived accuracy of fake and real news headlines.
  • Analytic thinking was associated with ability to discern between fake and real.
  • We found no evidence that analytic thinking exacerbates motivated reasoning.

“Falling for fake news is more a result of a lack of thinking than partisanship. Why do people believe blatantly inaccurate news headlines (“fake news”)? Do we use our reasoning abilities to convince ourselves that statements that align with our ideology are true, or does reasoning allow us to effectively differentiate fake from real regardless of political ideology? Here we test these competing accounts in two studies (total N = 3446 Mechanical Turk workers) by using the Cognitive Reflection Test (CRT) as a measure of the propensity to engage in analytical reasoning. We find that CRT performance is negatively correlated with the perceived accuracy of fake news, and positively correlated with the ability to discern fake news from real news – even for headlines that align with individuals’ political ideology. Moreover, overall discernment was actually better for ideologically aligned headlines than for misaligned headlines. Finally, a headline-level analysis finds that CRT is negatively correlated with perceived accuracy of relatively implausible (primarily fake) headlines, and positively correlated with perceived accuracy of relatively plausible (primarily real) headlines. In contrast, the correlation between CRT and perceived accuracy is unrelated to how closely the headline aligns with the participant’s ideology. Thus, we conclude that analytic thinking is used to assess the plausibility of headlines, regardless of whether the stories are consistent or inconsistent with one’s political ideology. Our findings therefore suggest that susceptibility to fake news is driven more by lazy thinking than it is by partisan bias per se – a finding that opens potential avenues for fighting fake news.”

Categories: Law and Legal

YouTube, WhatsApp, Twitter, FB take new steps to combat fake news

Poynter: “YouTube will be surfacing authoritative sources in search results during breaking news in order to push out the regular dribble of conspiracy theories, but defining “authoritative” might be tricky. WhatsApp is now labeling forwarded messages and working with fact-checkers and researchers, but will it be enough to limit the spread of viral rumors? Facebook launched its data-sharing partnership with academics, but will it result in meaningful methods to counter fake news? Twitter suspended more than 70 million fake accounts in May and June — with more on the way — but will it cut down on breaking news hoaxes? At a press event yesterday in New York City, Facebook took questions from reporters about its anti-misinformation efforts. They got a few mixed answers, and a lot of questions still remain about tech companies’ ability to single-handedly limit misinformation — but hey, at least they’re doing something…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Firefox browser adds feature to block autoplaying web audio

Engadget: “Firefox is finally joining the ranks of web browsers that block autoplaying web sounds. Mozilla’s latest Nightly builds for Firefox now include an option to mute autoplaying audio, hopefully saving you from jumping out of your seat when an obnoxious video ad makes its presence felt. It’s finer-grained than Chrome’s recently removed automatic muting, too. You can turn the feature off entirely, force it to ask for permission and make exceptions for specific sites. These are Nightly releases, so you can expect plenty of bugs and rough edges. It’s likely to take weeks or more before this reaches beta and developer builds, let alone the polished version. Nonetheless, it’s heartening news. If you’re no big fan of browsers like Chrome or Safari, you’ll soon have a way to put annoying web media in its place…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Chrome is flagging HTTP sites as “not secure”

In case you have not noticed, your workplace security team has no doubt started blocking your access to websites that are not using HTTPS encryption – via ZDNet: “Chrome will today start marking sites that don’t use HTTPS as “not secure. First announced two years ago, Google said it would flag any site that still uses unencrypted HTTP to deliver its content in the latest version of Chrome, out Tuesday. It’s part of the company’s years-long effort effort to gradually nudge more webmasters and site owners into adopting HTTPS, a secure encryption standard for data in transit. Any site that doesn’t load with green padlock or a “secure” message in the browser’s address bar will be flagged — and shamed — as insecure In simple terms, HTTPS provides security but also integrity. That green padlock means any data sent from your computer or device to that website and vice versa is transmitted securely and can’t be intercepted by an attacker. Because HTTPS wraps an encrypted tunnel around the site and anyone who visits it, users also know that the site hasn’t been modified in any way by anyone other than the website owner…”

Categories: Law and Legal

DHS signals intent to reopen all immigration cases that were administratively closed

Via Sarah Pierce @SarahPierceEsq Policy Analyst/Immigration Attorney

“In a memo to ICE attorneys, @DHSgov says it intends to reopen ALL immigration cases that were administratively closed. That is over 355,000 cases. This is a result of Sessions’ decision in Castro-Tum, that judges do not have the authority to admin close.”

Categories: Law and Legal

Half Of U.S. Voters Say Russians Have Something On Trump, Quinnipiac University National Poll

Half Of U.S. Voters Say Russians Have Something On Trump, Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds; But Voters Say Both Sides At Fault For Bad Relations PDF format Trend Information Sample and Methodology detail

“American voters believe 51 – 35 percent “that the Russian government has compromising information about President Trump,” according to a Quinnipiac University National Poll released today. Republicans don’t believe 70 – 18 percent there is compromising information, the only listed party, gender, education, age or racial group which does not believe it, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University National Poll finds. Two other groups are divided:

  • 44 percent of white voters with no college degree believe the Russians have something and 43 percent don’t believe it;
  • 42 percent of white men believe it and 43 percent don’t believe it.

The U.S. and Russia share the blame for the relationship between the two countries, 54 percent of U.S. voters say, while 38 percent say Russia is to blame and 4 percent say the U.S. is to blame. The Helsinki summit between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin was a failure for the U.S., voters say 52 – 27 percent. The summit was a success for Russia, voters say 73 – 8 percent. Trump was not acting in the best interest of the U.S., voters say 54 – 41 percent.

“Whether it is with love or not, President Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia has delivered a small blow to his already poor standing with the American people,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “Following his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Trump’s job approval is back below 40 percent again. “The president gets a split 49 – 47 percent score on the economy, but he receives negative reviews on his handling of a bevy of international problems and especially his relationship with Russia.”

President Trump should defend all of America’s NATO allies, American voters say 78 – 16 percent. A total of 68 percent of American voters are “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” about President Trump’s relationship with Russia, while 32 percent are “not so concerned” or “not concerned at all.”

Categories: Law and Legal

Another article identifies why public libraries are amazing

Current Affairs: “…It’s worth appreciating just how extraordinary libraries are, why they matter, and what they can tell us about the kinds of institutions we should build. They’re spaces of absolute equality, where anyone can come, regardless of financial resources, to study, learn, and hang out. You don’t have to purchase anything in order to get to sit in them, you don’t have to be means-tested or background-checked. They give the same things to everybody, and there’s something beautiful (and increasingly rare) about that. Privatization generally involves the elimination of that kind of place. Economist Noah Smith has explained what the results of that can be: when everything costs money, life becomes far more stressful (though that stress is distributed unequally). He discusses the situation in Japan:

What would it really feel like to live in a society where almost every single thing is privately owned and priced?  Walking around urban Japan, I feel like I am seeing a society that is several steps closer to that ideal than the United States. You may have heard that Japan is a government-directed society, and in many ways it is. But in terms of the constituents of daily life being privately owned and marginally priced, it is a libertarian’s dream world. For example, there are relatively few free city parks. Many green spaces are private and gated off (admission is usually around $5). On the streets, there are very few trashcans; people respond to this in the way libertarians would want, by exercising personal responsibility and carrying their trash home with them in little baggies. There are also very few public benches. In cafes, each customer must order something promptly or be kicked out; outside your house or office, there is basically nowhere to sit down that will not cost you a little bit of money. Public buildings generally have no drinking fountains; you must buy or bring your own water. Free wireless? Good luck finding that! Does all this private property make me feel free? Absolutely not! Quite the opposite—the lack of a “commons” makes me feel constrained. It forces me to expend a constant stream of mental effort, calculating whether it’s worth it to spend $4 to sit and rest for 10 minutes, whether it’s worth $2 to get a drink…” [h/t Susan Fournier]

Categories: Law and Legal

State Constitutions in the Era of a Shifting Supreme Cour

The Rockefeller Institute of Government and the Government Law Center at Albany Law School recently hosted “How Can State Constitutions Respond to a Shifting Supreme Court?” to examine the role state constitutions can play if the Supreme Court begins to roll back federal protections. With the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and the recent nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to take his place, the Supreme Court is expected to shift further to the conservative end of the ideological spectrum, with the potential for weakening or even extinguishing important constitutional protections. Much attention is being paid to the possible implications for reproductive rights, protections for immigrants, affirmative action, environmental protections, LGBTQ rights, and other issues. So what does it mean for New Yorkers — or for states more generally? Although we often don’t think of state constitutions, many of them offer protections above and beyond what is provided in the federal Constitution. What role can state constitutions play if the Supreme Court begins to weaken federal protections? In many ways, your position on the states-versus-federal rights issue often depends upon where you sit. Last year the Rockefeller Institute and Government Law Center at Albany Law School issued a report on the topic, available here. Bringing clarity to the cacophony of confusion was a stellar panel of some of the most respected legal minds in New York State…” Video of the panel presentation is available.

Categories: Law and Legal

New on LLRX – Web Guide for the New Economy 2018

Via LLRX – Web Guide for the New Economy 2018 – This new comprehensive guide to reliable and wide ranging resources on the New Economy by Marcus Zillman provides researchers who focus on law, finance and business sectors with many options from which to choose specific to sources of data, analytical information, statistics and knowledge published by the federal government, corporations, NGOs, nonprofits and subject matter experts as well as publishers. Zillman also includes Open Data Sets and databases that are available to the public.

Categories: Law and Legal


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