Law and Legal

How Humanity Unleashed a Flood of New Diseases

The New York Times – What do Covid-19, Ebola, Lyme and AIDS have in common? They jumped to humans from animals after we started destroying habitats and ruining ecosystems. “…There is much we don’t know about the origins of the ongoing pandemic and some details that we may never learn. Though genetic sequencing currently indicates that horseshoe bats are the ultimate source of SARS-CoV-2, it’s possible another animal will eventually prove to be the vector. Bats may have initially infected livestock or more exotic captive creatures raised on one of China’s many wildlife farms. Perhaps the bats (or another vector) were smuggled across the southern border from a neighboring country, like Myanmar or Vietnam. Or maybe the virus was intermittently infecting animals and people in rural areas for years before finally finding a route to a major city. Regardless of SARS-CoV-2’s precise trajectory, experts agree that Covid-19 is a zoonosis, a disease that jumped from animals to humans. Between 60 and 75 percent of emerging infectious diseases in humans come from other animals. Many zoonoses — rabies, Lyme, anthrax, mad cow disease, SARS, Ebola, West Nile, Zika — loom large in public consciousness; others are less familiar: Q fever, orf, Rift Valley fever, Kyasanur Forest disease. More than a few, including influenza, AIDS and the bubonic plague, have caused some of the deadliest outbreaks in recorded history. Although zoonoses are ancient, thought to be referenced in Mesopotamian tablets and the Bible, their numbers have increased in the last few decades, along with the frequency of outbreaks…”

Categories: Law and Legal

New annual report from Information Security Oversight Office

2019 Report to the President – Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), June 2020: “…Our Government’s ability to protect and share Classified National Security Information and Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) continues to present serious challenges to our national security. While dozens of agencies now use various advanced technologies to accomplish their missions, a majority of them still rely on antiquated information security management practices. These practices have not kept pace with the volume of digital data that agencies create and these problems will worsen if we do not revamp our data collection methods for overseeing information security programs across the Government. We must collect and analyze data that more accurately reflects the true health of these programs in the digital age…

…An effective classification system depends on a presumption of good faith on the part of classifiers, checked by independent oversight, and some consensual understanding of the meaning of national security. All of these factors are in doubt, absent, or undergoing swift transformation. Meanwhile, classification today is openly wielded as an instrument of political power…”

Categories: Law and Legal

ABA report examines experiences, challenges faced by women lawyers of color

“A new report from the American Bar Association, “Left Out and Left Behind: The Hurdles, Hassles, and Heartaches of Achieving Long-Term Legal Careers for Women of Color,” reveals the experiences and challenges faced by women lawyers of color. Although women of color comprise 14% of all associates, the percentage of women of color partners has remained stuck below 3.5%. The report, authored by social scientist Destiny Peery, past ABA president Paulette Brown and Chicago attorney Eileen Letts, shows that women lawyers of color surveyed were far more likely to want to leave the profession than their white colleagues; were more likely to be subjected to both implicit and explicit bias; and were more likely to report factors that blocked their “access to success,” including access to business development opportunities, being perceived as less committed to career and being denied or overlooked for promotion…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Bringing fact check information to Google Images

Google Blog: “Photos and videos are an incredible way to help people understand what’s going on in the world. But the power of visual media has its pitfalls⁠—especially when there are questions surrounding the origin, authenticity or context of an image. Starting today, we are surfacing fact check information in Google Images globally to help people navigate these issues and make more informed judgments about what they see on the web. This builds on the fact check features in Search and News, which people come across billions of times per year.  Now, when you search on Google Images, you may see a “Fact Check” label under the thumbnail image results. When you tap one of these results to view the image in a larger format, you’ll see a summary of the fact check that appears on the underlying web page. These labels may appear both for fact check articles about specific images and for fact check articles that include an image in the story…”

Categories: Law and Legal

A Glimpse at the Faces Behind Scientific Illustrations

The Fisheries Blog: “The fields of art and the sciences are intimately combined. The detailed illustrations by artists and scientists, that back up years worth of scientific research describing new species, anatomy and behavior, complex processes, and new technologies, make a huge impact on the transfer of knowledge and understanding of these systems to interested parties. As an amateur illustrator, I have been interested in writing a post about historical scientific illustrators for a while now, but there is a more pressing topic that needs to be addressed. The recognition and endorsement of our black illustrators, both scientists and artists, both in the past and in the present.

The names and faces behind amazing scientific illustrations can sometimes be overlooked, as their illustrative work generally focuses on telling a story or clarifying research. This post began as a dedication to the recognition of black scientific illustrators who focused specifically on illustrating fishes, a topic more on theme with what the Fisheries Blog tries to highlight. My search for these illustrators was in vain, as I realized that after hours of online research, I was unable to come up with any names. I widened my search to incorporate black individuals who illustrate birds, reptiles, fossils, cells, anything…. Although I was able to pull a few names, both historical and current, the list is not long. I implore our readers to learn about these fantastic illustrators, their backgrounds, their illustrative focus, and to comment with names of individuals in the field I have most definitely missed…”

Categories: Law and Legal

John Bolton’s Book That Trump Wanted to Stop Is Spreading Widely on Piracy Sites

Motherboard: ‘The Room Where it Happened’ is tearing up the charts on sites where people download the book for free. Former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s memoir The Room Where It Happened is set to release tomorrow, but it’s already a huge hit on pirate sites. According to Torrent Freak, The Pirate Bay, Google Drive, Drop Box, and various other private trackers are moving thousands of copies of the book. Two copies of the memoir are now the most popular e-books on The Pirate Bay. Writing a memoir of the troubled Oval Office has become de rigueur for anyone who witnessed it firsthand, and we’ve known Bolton’s book was coming since Trump forced him out of the White House. When House Democrats pressed him to testify under oath during the recent impeachment hearings, Bolton declined saying he was under orders from the White House not to speak. Democrats never subpoenaed Bolton, and Bolton said he’d fight any subpoena that didn’t come from the Republican-controlled senate. He later criticized the impeachment for being too narrow in scope and too hastily thrown together. He reportedly got a $2 million advance to write a memoir publisher Simon & Schuster rushed to print. As copies of the 500-page manuscript made its way to reviewers and the press, the White House sought an injunction to stop the book’s publication.

On Saturday night [June 22, 2020], a federal judge chastised Bolton and his publisher, acknowledged that Bolton’s memoir will probably damage America, but said there’s nothing the government could do to stop the book’s publication. “For reasons that hardly need to be stated, the Court will not order a nationwide seizure and destruction of a political memoir,” the Court’s decision said

Categories: Law and Legal

‘BlueLeaks’ Exposes Files from Hundreds of Police Departments

Krebs on Security – “Hundreds of thousands of potentially sensitive files from police departments across the United States were leaked online last week. The collection, dubbed “BlueLeaks” and made searchable online, stems from a security breach at a Texas web design and hosting company that maintains a number of state law enforcement data-sharing portals. The collection — nearly 270 gigabytes in total — is the latest release from Distributed Denial of Secrets (DDoSecrets), an alternative to Wikileaks that publishes caches of previously secret data. In a post on Twitter, DDoSecrets said the BlueLeaks archive indexes “ten years of data from over 200 police departments, fusion centers and other law enforcement training and support resources,” and that “among the hundreds of thousands of documents are police and FBI reports, bulletins, guides and more.” Fusion centers are state-owned and operated entities that gather and disseminate law enforcement and public safety information between state, local, tribal and territorial, federal and private sector partners…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Covid-19 Is History’s Biggest Translation Challenge

Wired – “Services like Google Translate support only 100 languages, give or take. What about the thousands of other languages—spoken by people just as vulnerable to this crisis?…It’s easy to overlook how important language is for health if you’re on the English-speaking internet, where “is this headache actually something to worry about?” is only a quick Wikipedia article or WebMD search away. For over half of the world’s population, people can’t expect to Google their symptoms, nor even necessarily get a pamphlet from their doctor explaining their diagnosis, because it’s not available in a language they can understand. This health-language gap isn’t unique to Covid…”


Categories: Law and Legal

NYC Law Firms Officially Cleared for June 22 Reopening, Cuomo Says “New York City is the last part of the state to enter phase two of the reopening plan, but the move is still a dramatic turnaround for a city once at the epicenter of the nation’s COVID-19 crisis. Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday confirmed that New York City law firms would be able to return to in-office work starting June 22 as coronavirus business restrictions are loosened for the area. He said experts have reviewed COVID-19 data and have given the city the greenlight to move into phase two of the state’s reopening scheme June 22. That phase allows companies to bring back office-based jobs, real estate services and in-store shopping in the city..”

Categories: Law and Legal

Google 3D animals and objects

9To5Google – Google 3D animals and objects: Which ones are available and how to use them – “Google’s AR objects in search are incredibly easy to access. The objects are added to search in the belief that the easiest way to learn about something is to see it. By seeing things in augmented reality (AR), users can see the scale of an object and also details they might not notice from just a simple picture. To keep this easy to access, Google puts its 3D animals and other AR objects right at the top of search. For example, searching for “tiger” will show a Google Search Knowledge Panel. These panels are often shown for movies, famous celebrities, and other subjects. In the case of a 3D animal through Google, you’ll see an overview of what the animal is, a few images or it, and a section which says “Meet a life-sized tiger up close” and a “View in 3D” button. That button launches the AR experience…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Coronavirus Resource: How your agency is reopening

Federal News Network: “Everything we know so far is collected on this page, which will be updated as additional information, updates and resources become available. We’re also collecting agency reopening plans. Send us updates about what your agency is doing to prepare for the possible reopening of your offices, facilities and workspaces using our website comment tool…”

Categories: Law and Legal

OPM will allow certain federal employees to hold on to unused annual leave during pandemic

Federal News Network: “The Office of Personnel Management has a plan to help certain federal employees, whose essential services are needed to respond to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, hold on to the annual leave they’d otherwise have to forfeit at the end of the year. Recent guidance from OPM described the agency’s intent to issue new regulations on the topic. The forthcoming regulations will deem the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as an “exigency of the public business” for the purposes of restoring forfeited annual leave. Specifically, the regulations will allow employees who have annual leave balances that exceed the usual statutory carryover limit to “schedule” that excess leave and therefore, have it restored…”

Categories: Law and Legal

The Covid-19 Vaccine Should Belong to the People

The Nation – The US government has the authority under existing law to break patent monopolies. “…The idea that some people would not receive a vaccine was once unthinkable. In a now legendary story, Jonas Salk developed the polio vaccine in 1955—and then gave it away for free. An interviewer once asked Salk who owned the patent for his polio vaccine. He responded, “Well, the people, I would say. There is no patent.” Salk was incredulous. “Could you patent the sun?” Since then, pharmaceutical corporations have patented the medical equivalent of the moon and the stars. Patent monopolies have fueled the current drug pricing crisis, and they may block access to any future Covid-19 vaccine…The public should get a say. Like Salk, Bancel has benefited greatly from public dollars. His corporation received millions in funding as early as 2013 to help develop its new way of making vaccines. Federal scientists helped design the new Covid-19 vaccine and are now running the critical human tests. The government also just gave $483 million to scale manufacturing. The public is paying at every stage for this potential vaccine—and so many others. All five candidates Trump is expected to short-list have benefited from public funding…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Adobe Flash Is Actually Going to Die This Time, For Real

Gizmodo: “Three years ago, long after the rise (and fall) of Flash, Adobe announced that its once-ubiquitous multimedia platform was finally going away. But Adobe never provided a specific date for when Flash would reach its end-of-life. Now we know: Adobe Flash is going to officially die on December 31, 2020...”

Categories: Law and Legal

2035 Report – Renewable Energy Costs & Our Clean Electricity Future

“The United States can deliver 90 percent clean, carbon free electricity nationwide by 2035, dependably, at no extra cost to consumer bills and without the need for new fossil fuel plants, according to a study released today from the University of California, Berkeley. The study also finds that without robust policy reforms, most of the potential to reduce emissions and increase jobs will not be realized. 2035 Report: Plummeting Solar, Wind, and Battery Costs Can Accelerate Our Clean Energy Future is the first study of its kind to show how recent cost declines for solar, wind, and battery storage allow the U.S. to dramatically reduce generation and emissions from existing fossil power plants, while retiring coal and reducing gas generation by 70 percent…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Facebook technology makes 3D models of people from photos

PIFuHD: Multi-Level Pixel-Aligned Implicit Function for High-Resolution 3D Human Digitization – S. Saito, T. Simon, J. Saragih, H. Joo. CVPR 2020. [Paper] [Video] [Code] [Demo]: “Recent advances in image-based 3D human shape estimation have been driven by the significant improvement in representation power afforded by deep neural networks. Although current approaches have demonstrated the potential in real world settings, they still fail to produce reconstructions with the level of detail often present in the input images. We argue that this limitation stems primarily form two conflicting requirements; accurate predictions require large context, but precise predictions require high resolution. Due to memory limitations in current hardware, previous approaches tend to take low resolution images as input to cover large spatial context, and produce less precise (or low resolution) 3D estimates as a result. We address this limitation by formulating a multi-level architecture that is end-to-end trainable. A coarse level observes the whole image at lower resolution and focuses on holistic reasoning. This provides context to an fine level which estimates highly detailed geometry by observing higher-resolution images. We demonstrate that our approach significantly outperforms existing state-of-the-art techniques on single image human shape reconstruction by fully leveraging 1k-resolution input images.

Categories: Law and Legal

The Rage Unifying Boomers and Gen Z

The Atlantic – “Enormous differences separate today’s protest movements from those of the 1960s. But they may ultimately prove united by the magnitude of the change they impose… Today’s long wave of protest shares one other quality with its predecessor: It has changed popular culture and the contours of public opinion more quickly than it has public policy or the nation’s electoral landscape. Now, as then, an electoral system that favors older generations—through structural imbalances that favor rural states with older and less diverse voters—is responding slowly to calls for change from younger Americans.

And yet, just as with the Baby Boomers before them, Millennials, Gen Z, and the generation following them will eventually define the new American mainstream through their priorities and viewpoints, as over time they become a majority of the nation’s population. In that way, the huge number of people on the streets of America’s major cities this month may offer a preview of how profoundly these younger generations may reshape the country’s politics once they vote in numbers that more closely approximate their growing presence in the population overall. “This transition is inevitable,” says Ben Wessel, the executive director of NextGen America, a group that organizes young people for progressive causes. “The question is: How quickly is it going to get here?”…

Categories: Law and Legal

The Bigot in the Machine: Bias in Algorithmic Systems

The New York Technical Services Librarians, an organization that has been active since 1923 – imagine all that has happened in tech services since 1923! – invited me to give a talk about bias in algorithms. They quickly got a recording up on their site and I am, more slowly, providing the transcript. Thanks for the invite and all the tech support, NYTSL.

The Bigot in the Machine: Bias in Algorithmic Systems Abstract: We are living in an “age of algorithms.” Vast quantities of information are collected, sorted, shared, combined, and acted on by proprietary black boxes. These systems use machine learning to build models and make predictions from data sets that may be out of date, incomplete, and biased. We will explore the ways bias creeps into information systems, take a look at how “big data,” artificial intelligence and machine learning often amplify bias unwittingly, and consider how these systems can be deliberately exploited by actors for whom bias is a feature, not a bug. Finally, we’ll discuss ways we can work with our communities to create a more fair and just information environment. I want to talk about what we mean by “the age of algorithms,” and about how bias creeps into or is purposefully designed into algorithmic systems using examples in public health surveillance and in law enforcement. We’ll talk about how racists exploit the affordances of these systems to pollute our information environment. Finally, because I want to be hopeful, we’ll talk about some of the ways people are apply anti-racism to address the bigot in the machine and what we can do as librarians…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Massive spying on users of Google’s Chrome shows new security weakness

Reuters: “A newly discovered spyware effort attacked users through 32 million downloads of extensions to Google’s market-leading Chrome web browser, researchers at Awake Security told Reuters, highlighting the tech industry’s failure to protect browsers as they are used more for email, payroll and other sensitive functions.  Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google said it removed more than 70 of the malicious add-ons from its official Chrome Web Store after being alerted by the researchers last month. “When we are alerted of extensions in the Web Store that violate our policies, we take action and use those incidents as training material to improve our automated and manual analyses,” Google spokesman Scott Westover told Reuters. Most of the free extensions purported to warn users about questionable websites or convert files from one format to another. Instead, they siphoned off browsing history and data that provided credentials for access to internal business tools. Based on the number of downloads, it was the most far-reaching malicious Chrome store campaign to date, according to Awake co-founder and chief scientist Gary Golomb…”

Categories: Law and Legal


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