Law and Legal
Via LLRX – What Do Lawyers and Hackers Have in Common – This commentary by Michael Ravnitzky is based on a thought provoking premise – “The activities of attorneys and the activities of hackers are not as different as you might expect, if you define hackers as creative, unconventional problem solvers. Each explores vast spaces of complicated systems, looking to see how they work, both in ways intended and unintended, and to see what they can be made to do…”
The Nation – Ad Hoc Nation – The unmaking of the steady job. Reviewed – Temp: How American Work, American Business, and the American Dream Became Temporary, By Louis Hyman
“…Today’s temps, permalancers, subcontractors, and underemployed do have an advantage that their predecessors didn’t: The effects of the gig economy permeate society more thoroughly and visibly than any of the downsizing and outsourcing that came before them. There are hints of disruption and quiet reminders of insecurity anywhere you care to look. You can order almost anything—cleaning, furniture assembly, food—at the touch of a button and never have to go outside or consider the effects of Uber, TaskRabbit, Seamless, and Craigslist on the industries they’ve taken over. But at the same time, as you scroll through the apps on your phone, how can you be sure your own job won’t be chopped up and posted on Upwork?”
The Hill: “The attorneys general from 14 states and Washington, D.C., are urging a federal district court judge to block Matthew Whitaker from continuing to serve as Acting U.S. attorney general. The state attorneys general filed a friend of the court brief in support of Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh’s request on Nov. 13 for a court to name Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to the interim role. Maryland’s request was filed as part of ongoing litigation over the Affordable Care Act’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions. The states argued in their brief that doubts over the legality of Whitaker’s appointment puts them at risk. They said states make decisions every day in response to Justice Department actions that could now be challenged in court. “The relationship between the Justice Department and the States is so essential — whether it is collaborative or adversarial — that any doubts about the legitimacy of the Acting Attorney General threaten to harm the Amici States,” they argued in the 22-page brief. Maryland in one of several legal actions mounting over Trump’s decision to name Whitaker the acting attorney general after former Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigned at the president’s request on Nov. 7…”
“As many people who work in Washington, D.C. can tell you, the federal government’s taste in architecture has a special proclivity for underground tunnels. District residents navigate the tubes like human submarines, and rely on their services for basic needs like drinking water and central heat. Contributing factors include the city’s unique building height limit, extreme weather, and the security considerations of recent decades. As a result, Washington sits atop an interconnected layer cake of transportation, utility, and pedestrian tunnels extending three dimensionally beneath city streets. Given their importance to daily life in the nation’s capital, it’s surprising to find that the full picture of Washington’s various tunnels remains unpainted. This project aims to complete that picture.
Tunnels in Washington run the gamut: from mundane to idiosyncratic, from heavily trafficked to the little known. Some tunnels are cavernous. WMATA’s standard issue 600-foot long Metro station could easily fit the Washington Monument laid down on its side, and anyone with a SmarTrip card is allowed to walk in. Others are claustrophobic, with searing temperatures and unbearable smells. Access to the General Service Administration’s steam tunnels, for example, is limited to a small gang of maintenance men and law enforcement officers. While many of the city’s tunnels are physically closed off to the public, you can now digitally explore the twisting underground architecture paid for with public tax dollars. (Exploring tunnels in person can be hazardous and illegal, don’t try it.)
The …atlas sets out to map Washington’s underground tubing in several parts. The cartographic side of this project is drawn from open source utility maps and other government documents. The human dimension is colored in with the invaluable D.C. Library newspaper archive, and by the historical reporters that covered tunnel construction in real time, just as they do today with Metro maintenance. Many of these sources were compiled by hand and had not yet been digitized or indexed by search engines. Every effort has been made to include links (currently more than 75) to the newly digitized primary source material, so that other won’t have to hike out to the National Archives in College Park to access them. In order to limit the scope of the project, “tunnels” are defined as fully walkable passageways – no sewer pipes, culverts, or crawlspaces. All the tunnels depicted can accommodate standing adults, assuming that they have proper access credentials.”
Harvard program aims to protect more than wildlife – “According to Harvard Law School lecturer Jonathan Lovvorn, saving the planet and its inhabitants from climate catastrophe begins with the world’s most vulnerable population: animals.
“We have populations everywhere around the world in environmental distress, in economic distress, in political distress,” said Lovvorn, who is senior vice president and chief counsel for the Humane Society of the United States’ division of animal protection litigation. “In those countries, especially in terms of climate change, what we see regarding the exploitation and destruction of wildlife is deeply intertwined with the exploitation or destruction of people, communities, and cultures. We can learn a lot about our own social and legal problems by studying our legal problems with wildlife.”
In a conversation on the Harvard Law campus, Lovvorn also discussed how the School has been leading the charge on animal law in recent years, backed by gifts in 2014 and 2016 from donors concerned about legal safeguards for pets, farm animals, livestock, and wildlife. The gifts have supported a robust Animal Law & Policy Program, led by Professor Kristen Stilt and Executive Director Chris Green. The initiative sponsors discussions and forums, academic and policy fellowships, visiting faculty positions, and an expanding curriculum…”
The Conversation – “Bibliotherapy – the idea that reading can have a beneficial effect on mental health – has undergone a resurgence. There is mounting clinical evidence that reading can, for example, help people overcome loneliness and social exclusion. One scheme in Coventry allows health professionals to prescribe books to their patients from a list drawn up by mental health experts. Even as public library services across Britain are cut back, the healing potential of books is increasingly recognised.
The idea of the healing book has a long history. Key concepts were forged in the crucible of World War I, as nurses, doctors and volunteer librarians grappled with treating soldiers’ minds as well as bodies. The word “bibliotherapy” itself was coined in 1914, by American author and minister Samuel McChord Crothers. Helen Mary Gaskell (1853-1940), a pioneer of “literary caregiving”, wrote about the beginnings of her war library in 1918:
- Surely many of us lay awake the night after the declaration of War, debating … how best we could help in the coming struggle … Into the mind of the writer came, like a flash, the necessity of providing literature for the sick and wounded…”
Dr. Matt Wood – “Today, I’m excited to share that, for the first time, the same machine learning courses used to train engineers at Amazon are now arevailable to all developers through AWS. We’ve been using machine learning across Amazon for more than 20 years. With thousands of engineers focused on machine learning across the company, there are very few Amazon retail pages, products, fulfillment technologies, stores which haven’t been improved through the use of machine learning in one way or another. Many AWS customers share this enthusiasm, and our mission has been to take machine learning from something which had previously been only available to the largest, most well-funded technology companies, and put it in the hands of every developer. Thanks to services such as Amazon SageMaker, Amazon Rekognition, Amazon Comprehend, Amazon Transcribe, Amazon Polly, Amazon Translate, and Amazon Lex, tens of thousands of developers are already on their way to building more intelligent applications through machine learning.Regardless of where they are in their machine learning journey, one question I hear frequently from customers is: “how can we accelerate the growth of machine learning skills in our teams?” These courses, available as part of a new AWS Training and Certification Machine Learning offering, are now part of my answer. There are more than 30 self-service, self-paced digital courses with more than 45 hours of courses, videos, and labs for four key groups: developers, data scientists, data platform engineers, and business professionals. Each course starts with the fundamentals, and builds on those through real-world examples and labs, allowing developers to explore machine learning through some fun problems we have had to solve at Amazon. These include predicting gift wrapping eligibility, optimizing delivery routes, or predicting entertainment award nominations using data from IMDb (an Amazon subsidiary). Coursework helps consolidate best practices, and demonstrates how to get started on a range of AWS machine learning services, including Amazon SageMaker, AWS DeepLens, Amazon Rekognition, Amazon Lex, Amazon Polly, and Amazon Comprehend.
- New AWS Certification for Machine Learning – To help developers demonstrate their knowledge (and to help employers hire more efficiently), we are also announcing the new “AWS Certified Machine Learning – Specialty” certification. Customers can take the exam now (and at half price for a limited time). Customers at re:Invent can sit for the exam this week at our Training and Certification exam sessions. The digital courses are now available at no charge at aws.training/machinelearning and you only pay for the services you use in labs and exams during your training.”
The Guardian – Documents alleged to contain revelations on data and privacy controls that led to Cambridge Analytica scandal – “Parliament has used its legal powers to seize internal Facebook documents in an extraordinary attempt to hold the US social media giant to account after chief executive Mark Zuckerberg repeatedly refused to answer MPs’ questions. The cache of documents is alleged to contain significant revelations about Facebook decisions on data and privacy controls that led to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. It is claimed they include confidential emails between senior executives, and correspondence with Zuckerberg…The seizure is the latest move in a bitter battle between the British parliament and the social media giant. The struggle to hold Facebook to account has raised concerns about limits of British authority over international companies that now play a key role in the democratic process…”
Picht, Peter Georg and Loderer, Gaspare, Framing Algorithms – Competition Law and (Other) Regulatory Tools (October 30, 2018). Max Planck Institute for Innovation & Competition Research Paper No. 18-24. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3275198 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3275198
“As other fields of law, competition law is put to the test by new technologies in general and algorithmic market activity in particular. This paper takes a holistic approach by looking at areas of law, namely financial regulation and data protection, which have already put in place rules and procedures to deal with issues arising from algorithms. Before making the bridge and assessing whether the application of any such tool might be fruitful for competition law, the paper discusses important competition cases regarding algorithms, including the Google Shopping, Lufthansa and Facebook case. It concludes with some policy recommendations.”
Axios: Fourth National Climate Assessment Volume II: Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United StatesThe National Climate Assessment (NCA) assesses the science of climate change and variability and its impacts across the United States, now and throughout this century. The Black Friday climate report, formally known as the National Climate Assessment, follows a landmark U.N. science report in October, and Volume I of yesterday’s report, published a year ago.
- The bottom line: The decisions made in the next few years will set the course of the planet’s climate far into the future.
- President Trump dismisses climate report on “Axios on HBO.”
- Key global warming target slipping out of reach, UN scientists warn.
- SUMMARY FINDINGS
- REPORT CHAPTERS
- DOWNLOADS – “The details: The contents of the new report, which consists of 29 chapters that were extensively peer reviewed, are bleak. The report points out that the era of climate consequences for the U.S. is well underway, and only actions taken in the next few years can be effective in addressing the scope and severity of the problem…”
Oxford University Blog: “Over the course of history, the word “political” has evolved from being synonymous with “public sphere” or “good government” to meaning “calculating” or “partisan.” How did we get here? This adapted excerpt from Keywords for Today: A 21st Century Vocabulary explains the evolution. The problems posed by political result from a combination of the term’s semantic shift over the last several centuries and the changing face of post-national politics that have become so important since mid-twentieth century.
One hallmark of modern politics is its asymmetry. Whereas the political was formerly imagined as practically synonymous with the public sphere, and with conflicts between institutions or nation states, now it can just as frequently designate conflicts between an individual and an institution, or between a non-national group and an ideology (e.g., between G8 protestors and police in various countries, or between the Taliban and ‘the west’). This shift has affected the linguistic fortunes of the words politics and political, as the adjectival and nominal forms have developed different connotations over the last several decades.
The adjective political has developed to have two relatively exclusive meanings. Political has supplanted the now largely archaic adjectival form politic. Both forms derive ultimately from Greek polis, initially a city-state and then later, by extension, the body politic. In medieval usage, the adjective politik connoted that which was prudent, sensible, and sagacious, a meaning that continued even as the usual form migrated to political. The political as a realm of public speech was imagined as elevated and righteous, often contrasting the perceived benefits of constitutional governments against the characteristics of despotism or tyranny…”
Via Axios – “Phil Singer and his team at Marathon Strategies are quick out of the gate with a 136-page guide to the House members, including these talkers:
- Katie Hill (R-CA-25): Rock climbing enthusiast
- Gil Cisneros (R-CA-39): Won $266 million in Mega Millions lottery
- Donna Shalala (R-FL-27): Former HHS Secretary
- Sharice Davids (R-KS-03): Former MMA fighter
- Pete Stauber (R-MN-08): Former Detroit Red Wings hockey player
- Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH-16): Former Indianapolis Colts wide receiver
- Antonio Delgado (D-NY-19): Former rapper
- Daniel Crenshaw (R-TX-02): Appeared on “SNL”
- Chip Roy (R-TX-21): Former Chief of Staff to Ted Cruz
- Colin Allred (D-TX-32): Former Tennessee Titans linebacker.”
How to Geek – “You’d think that with the vast amount of information on the Internet, learning a new language would be easy. But the availability of all that information is part of the problem. We’ve scoured the depths of the Internet to compile this list of the best websites for learning a new language…”
US Holocaust Memorial Museum – “Public opinion polls show that most Americans disapproved of Nazism during the 1930s and 1940s. Yet, the majority of Americans also hoped to stay out of war in Europe, and many opposed admitting refugees fleeing from Nazism.”
- Tune in to watch this program live on November 28 at 7 p.m. ET. Click any of the links in this message to receive a brief email reminder before the program begins.
Quartz – “Researchers have found that as many as 15% of Twitter accounts are bots, which drive two-thirds of the links on the site. But not all bots are bad. There are bots that make the internet more beautiful, more useful, even kinder. Here at Quartz, we have a whole department dedicated to making informative newsbots. The issue is not that automated accounts exist; it’s that they can be—and have been—weaponized.
“In the run-up to the 2018 midterms, bots were used to disenfranchise voters, harass activists, and attack journalists,” says Sam Woolley, the director of the digital lab at the Institute for the Future. “But at a fundamental level, Facebook and Twitter are dis-incentivized from doing anything about it.” The problem with social media always comes back to business models. Platforms have never had an incentive to punish accounts that worsen the experience for so many of their users; it’s just that—until recently—they didn’t have a strong enough incentive to eradicate the bad behavior either…”
Washington Post: Women’s lives, behind the data – “The story of women is often told through numbers. Reports and studies tell us how much less women make than men, how much more unusual it is for girls to go to school than it is for boys or how much less likely women are to hold elected office or run companies than men. Those analyses are important, but they can sometimes obscure the deeper truths and facts on the ground of women’s lived experience. We know 62 million girls are not in school. Why is that the case, and how can we do better? We are told one in five women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. How accurate are those numbers, and what can they really tell us about safety? We have heard women outlive men, often by a decade or more. What does life look like after a partner dies. Here are some of the stories behind those numbers…Bans — and growing disapproval — aren’t stopping female genital mutilation..”
World Health Organization – “As the world gets hotter and more crowded, our engines continue to pump out dirty emissions, and half the world has no access to clean fuels or technologies (e.g. stoves, lamps), the very air we breathe is growing dangerously polluted: nine out of ten people now breathe polluted air, which kills 7 million people every year. The health effects of air pollution are serious – one third of deaths from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease are due to air pollution. This is an equivalent effect to that of smoking tobacco, and much higher than, say, the effects of eating too much salt. Air pollution is hard to escape, no matter how rich an area you live in. It is all around us. Microscopic pollutants in the air can slip past our body’s defences, penetrating deep into our respiratory and circulatory system, damaging our lungs, heart and brain.”
- News release: More than 90% of children breathe toxic air
- WHO report: Air pollution and child health: prescribing clean air…”
Washington Post: “For decades, changes in American religious behavior and the District’s demographics spurred a slow emptying of city houses of worship. And in recent years, many have shuttered, largely because of skyrocketing real estate prices, an exodus of African Americans from the city and millennials’ desire for unusual abodes. But how great is the loss, and how much does it really matter? The year-old nonprofit Sacred Spaces Conservancy has started quantifying the disappearance of houses of worship in the District’s most intensely developed neighborhoods, where the buildings are rapidly being torn down or converted into housing, especially around H Street NE. Using city data, the group has found that between 2008 and 2018, Capitol Hill has lost about 40 percent of buildings owned by congregations of various faith backgrounds and used regularly for worship. The group’s incomplete research estimates Shaw-Bloomingdale has lost about 30 percent of such buildings, and the entire city may have lost around 25 percent.
To Sacred Spaces, and some researchers of civic life, these buildings have abundant spiritual and communal value, making their decline a cause for alarm. They have pointed to research suggesting places of worship generate the equivalent of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars apiece in savings annually through the services they offer the community, including help for the poor and below-market rental rates for community groups…”