Law and Legal

2018 Financial Report of the United States Government

The Financial Report of the United States Government (Financial Report) provides the President, Congress, and the American people with a comprehensive view of the federal government’s finances, i.e., its financial position and condition, revenues and costs, assets and liabilities, and other obligations and commitments. The Financial Report also discusses important financial issues and significant conditions that may affect future operations, including the need to achieve fiscal sustainability over the medium and long term. The related Citizen’s Guide provides a concise overview of the information contained in the full Financial Report.”

Categories: Law and Legal

Google announces Smart Compose and email scheduling updates

Google Cloud Blog: “…Assistive email, on the go We introduced Smart Compose to help you draft new emails from scratch, faster. According to a report from International Data Corporation (IDC), by 2020 mobile workers will account for nearly three-quarters (72.3 percent) of the U.S. workforce. Smart Compose already saves people from typing over 1 billion characters each week on the web, and we’re excited to bring the productivity power of Smart Compose to Android devices (with iOS coming soon) and four new languages: Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese.

In addition, Smart Compose can now adapt to the way you write. For example, if you prefer to greet your teams with a friendly, “Hey team,” it can help you stay true to your voice. It can even suggest a subject line based on the body of the message you’ve written. Check out this post to learn more about the ins and outs of how Smart Compose works.

Write now, send laterWe understand that work can often carry over to non-business hours, but it’s important to be considerate of everyone’s downtime. We want to make it easier to respect everyone’s digital well-being, so we’re adding a new feature to Gmail that allows you to choose when an email should be sent. Just write your email as you normally would, then schedule it to arrive in your recipient’s inbox at a later date and time…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Visualizing Income Inequality in Boston

The Atlas of Inequality is a project from the Human Dynamics group at the MIT Media Lab and the Department of Mathematics at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. It is part of a broader initiative to understand human behavior in our cities and how large-scale problems like transportation, housing, segregation or inequality depend in part on the emergent patterns of people’s individual opportunities and choices…”

“Economic inequality isn’t just limited to neighborhoods. The restaurants, stores, and other places we visit in cities are all unequal in their own way. The Atlas of Inequality shows the income inequality of people who visit different places in the Boston metro area. It uses aggregated anonymous location data from digital devices to estimate people’s incomes and where they spend their time. Using that data, we’ve made our own place inequality metric to capture how unequal the incomes of visitors to each place are. Economic inequality isn’t just limited to neighborhoods, it’s part of the places you visit every day…”

Categories: Law and Legal

CRS – Free Speech and the Regulation of Social Media Conteny

Free Speech and the Regulation of Social Media Content. March 27, 2019 – “As the Supreme Court has recognized, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have become important venues for users to exercise free speech rights protected under the First Amendment. Commentators and legislators, however, have questioned whether these social media platforms are living up to their reputation as digital public forums. Some have expressed concern that these sites are not doing enough to counter violent or false speech. At the same time, many argue that the platforms are unfairly banning and restricting access to potentially valuable speech.Currently, federal law does not offer much recourse for social media users who seek to challenge a social media provider’s decision about whether and how to present a user’s content. Lawsuits predicated on these sites’ decisions to host or remove content have been largely unsuccessful, facing at least two significant barriers under existing federal law.First, while individuals have sometimes alleged that these companies violated their free speech rights by discriminating against users’ content, courts have held that the First Amendment, which provides protection against state action, is not implicated by the actions of these private companies. Second, courts have concluded that many non-constitutional claims are barred by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, 47 U.S.C. § 230, which provides immunity to providers of interactive computer services, including social media providers,both for certain decisions to host content created by others and for actions taken “voluntarily”and “in good faith”to restrict access to “objectionable” material..”

Categories: Law and Legal

Congressional Subpoenas: Enforcing Executive Branch Compliance

CRS Report via FAS –Congressional Subpoenas: Enforcing Executive Branch Compliance, March 27, 2019. “Congress gathers much of the information necessary to oversee the implementation of existing laws or to evaluate whether new laws are necessary from the executive branch. While executive branch officials comply with most congressional requests for information, there are times when the executive branch chooses to resist disclosure.

When Congress finds an inquiry blocked by the withholding of information by the executive branch, or where the traditional process of negotiation and accommodation is inappropriate or unavailing, a subpoena—either for testimony or documents— may be used to compel compliance with congressional demands. The recipient of a duly issued and valid congressional subpoena has a legal obligation to comply, absent a valid and overriding privilege or other legal justification. But the subpoena is only as effective as the means by which it may be enforced.

Without a process by which Congress can coerce compliance or deter non-compliance, the subpoena would be reduced to a formalized request rather than a constitutionally based demand for information. Congress currently employs an ad hoc combination of methods to combat non-compliance with subpoenas. The two predominant methods rely on the authority and participation of another branch of government. First, the criminal contempt statute permits a single house of Congress to certify a contempt citation to the executive branch for the criminal prosecution of an individual who has willfully refused to comply with a committee subpoena. Once the contempt citation is received, any prosecution lies within the control of the executive branch. Second, Congress may try to enforce a subpoena by seeking a civil judgment declaring that the recipient is legally obligated to comply. This process of civil enforcement relies on the help of the courts to enforce congressional demands. But these mechanisms do not always ensure congressional access to requested information…”

Categories: Law and Legal

5 Awesome AI Experiences You Can Test Out in Your Browser Right Now

Gizmodo UK:: “Artificial intelligence is already everywhere, and its influence is growing. It can be hard to get your head around exactly what AI does and how it can be deployed though, which is why we present to you these five fun online experiments—all you need is a web browser and a few minutes to see some of the party tricks AI is already capable of…”

Categories: Law and Legal

House Judiciary to Hold Markup to Authorize Subpoenas for Full Mueller Report and Related Matters

The Committee Will Vote on Authorizing the Chairman to Issue SubpoenasWashington, D.C. – On April 3, 2019 at 9 a.m., the House Judiciary Committee will markup a resolution to authorize subpoenas for Special Counsel Mueller’s full and complete report, its underlying evidence and related matters. This markup will provide the Committee an opportunity to vote on authorizing the issuance of subpoenas. The timing of the issuance will be left to the discretion of Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY). House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) released the following statement on the markup to authorize the subpoena for the full and complete Mueller report and evidence:
“As I have made clear, Congress requires the full and complete Special Counsel report, without redactions, as well as access to the underlying evidence. Attorney General Barr has thus far indicated he will not meet the April 2 deadline set by myself and five other Committee chairs, and refused to work with us to provide the full report, without redactions, to Congress.  The Attorney General should reconsider so that we can work together to ensure the maximum transparency of this important report to both Congress and the American people.  The full and complete report must be released to Congress without delay.”

The resolution to be marked up will also authorize subpoenas to five individuals, Donald McGahn, Steven Bannon, Hope Hicks, Reince Priebus and Ann Donaldson. All of these individuals were sent document requests on March 4, 2019, as part of the House Judiciary Committee’s investigation into the alleged obstruction of justice, public corruption, and other abuses of power by President Trump, his associates, and members of his Administration. These individuals may have received documents from the White House relevant to the Special Counsel investigation and the Committee’s investigation, or their outside counsel may have. That would waive any applicable privileges under the law and prevent privileges from being used to block requests for documents. The Committee will be authorizing subpoenas as the next step in its efforts to obtain these documents and related testimony. The Committee will not need to issue subpoenas if the documents are produced…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Facebook has new tool that explains why you’re seeing certain posts on your News Feed

CNBC: “Facebook is rolling out a new tool that lets users find out why they’re seeing certain posts on their News Feed. The new feature, called “Why am I seeing this post?”, essentially does what it says on the tin, showing a user the reasoning behind Facebook’s ranking of posts from friends, pages and groups on their timeline. “This is the first time that we’ve built information on how ranking works directly into the app,” Ramya Sethuraman, product manager at Facebook, said in a blog post explaining the new tool. The new button can be found in the drop down menu on the right hand corner of a post. Once clicked on, it will expand to show a user how the post has been tailored specifically to them. That includes information on how often they interact with that post’s author, how often they interact with the post’s medium — whether it be videos, photos or links — and the popularity of the post compared to others…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Archivists are cataloguing every tweet, article spreadsheet #MeToo movement has ever produced

Harvard University’s Schlesinger Library is preserving the history in case it disappears from the internet – The Challenge of Preserving the Historical Record of #MeToo..

The archivists use a tool, created at George Washington University and called Social Feed Manager, to perform weekly downloads of roughly fifty hashtags, which capture both trending conversations (#MuteRKelly) and sector-specific ones (#MeTooMedicine, #TimesUpTech), and also the parallel universe of counter-denunciations that collect under banners like #MeTooLiars and #IStandWithBrett. On the day of my visit, they scrolled through the latest haul of tweets from the evangelical #ChurchToo movement to demonstrate how the app creates spreadsheets of the posts’ metadata (information such as the number of retweets, the number of followers, and geolocation, if user-enabled). Twitter’s A.P.I. permits this kind of free mass download for the first week or so after a post appears on the Web, and the library is working with the company to purchase the nearly nineteen million tweets from the first year of the hashtags’ use…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Equifax and FICO selling consumer data to banks

Barron’s: “Equifax (ticker: EFX), the credit reporting company, is planning to team up with Fair Isaac (ticker FICO), the creator of the FICO credit score, to sell consumer data to banks, the companies said Wednesday. The goal of the partnership is to take Equifax’s troves of data on millions of Americans and “connecting it and embedding with FICO’s differentiated software,” Equifax CEO Mark Begor told Barron’s in an interview Wednesday. “It really allows companies to more easily absorb data.”…

Categories: Law and Legal

Trends in the Information Technology sector

Brookings: “The U.S. leads the global landscape in technology innovation. The country’s competitive edge, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2018 Global Competitive Index, is due to its business dynamism, strong institutional pillars, financing mechanisms, and vibrant innovation ecosystem. Innovation is a trademark feature of American competitiveness and has powered its global dominance since the post-World-War industrial revolution. Countries that lead the world in generating advanced technologies and leveraging the full productive capacity of their digital economies can gain a strategic competitive advantage…

“Tracking the digital economy’s growth trajectory is essential because it serves as an integral forward-looking barometer of U.S. economic growth and international competitiveness.”

Categories: Law and Legal

Tracking House oversight in the Trump era

“House Democrats in the 116th Congress have several oversight tools to hold the Trump administration accountable and investigate executive branch misconduct. Two of the most significant mechanisms include holding congressional hearings as well as sending letters to executive branch agencies and to individuals involved in executive branch operations. Developed by Governance Studies, Brookings’s House Oversight Tracker monitors the actions being taken by House committees to conduct oversight of administration actions and policies since the 2016 election. Search hearings or letters by clicking on the numbered icons below, or view all activity in a specific policy area by selecting one of the relevant boxes underneath. Click on any row to view additional information about each hearing/letter. The data is updated frequently, and new oversight items will be added on a regular basis. For more information on the tracker, read Brookings’s methodology used to identify executive branch oversight in hearings and letters…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Yes – RSS Is Better Than Twitter

Gizmodo – “…RSS is a family of technologies that give you a simple feed from a spot on the web—a news site, a podcast, a blog—into your RSS reader. It’s a timeline of sorts, yes, but it runs at a sane speed, and it stays in your control, unlike Facebook or Twitter’s unknowable whims, and it excludes the vast majority of toxic noise that characterizes so much of social media. Folks, RSS is still good. More than just good, RSS is better in many ways than Twitter…”

See also via LLRX – this related article by Pete Weiss – A guide to RSS feeds using beSpacific research updates

Categories: Law and Legal

Dome Watch via Office of Majority Leader Steny Hoyer

Dome Watch is a product of the Office of Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. It is designed to help House staff, the press, and the public better follow the latest developments from the House Floor. The app uses data from both and, which is the official intranet for House Democratic staff (available only within the House of Representatives firewall). Please send any bug reports, questions, or feature suggestions to”

Categories: Law and Legal

Verizon offers new ways to battle robocalls

Company begins deployment of STIR/SHAKEN technology – “Verizon customers are about to get new and improved tools to help identify and block robocalls. A free version of the Call Filter service, which offers spam alerts and more, is starting to be rolled out today to Verizon Wireless customers. In addition, this week, the company began deployment of STIR/SHAKEN caller ID technology as part of its network interconnections. Both tools will offer significant help for consumers who are consistently harassed by unwanted and annoying robocalls. “Far too frequently, customers tell me they want relief from the bombardment of bothersome robocalls,” said Ronan Dunne, president of Verizon’s consumer unit. “I’m confident that our new, free version of Call Filter and STIR/SHAKEN will put a big dent in the problem.” The company’s free Call Filter product offers wireless customers new protection from robocalls. With it, customers can get alerts when a call is likely spam, report unsolicited numbers, and automatically block robocalls based on their preferred level of risk. All postpaid wireless customers with a compatible device can enroll, though certain features will vary based on the type of phone that a customer has…”

Categories: Law and Legal

The Beginning of the End for the ‘Big Deal’?

The Chronicle of Higher Education – Inspired by University of California’s decision to drop its “big deal” with Elsevier, university librarians are laying the foundation to follow suit. ” University librarians have long griped about the rising cost of their “big deals” with major publishers, but relatively few have followed through on threats to cancel them — fearing the impact that losing instant access to new research may have on their institution’s academic standing. The UC system’s cancellation has given many librarians hope that they, too, can push for change. If one of the largest university systems in the country can do it, why can’t they? The University of Virginia, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Minnesota, Duke University and Iowa State University are among the institutions whose librarians have recently published statements in support of the UC system’s decision. The statements praise the UC system for fighting for a financially sustainable scholarly publishing model and gaining the support of faculty members in the process, but they also serve a strategic purpose — priming academics for tougher negotiating tactics and the possibility of more big deal cancellations to come…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Source – Our Search for the Best OCR Tool, and What We Found

Source is an OpenNews project designed to amplify the impact of journalism code and the community of developers, designers, journalists, and editors w”ho make it.”

Our Search for the Best OCR Tool, and What We Found: A side-by-side comparison of seven OCR tools using multiple kinds of documents, from Factful – There are a lot of OCR options available. Some are easy to use, some require a bit of programming to make them work, some require a lot of programming. Some are quite expensive, some are free and open source. We selected several documents—two easy to read reports, a receipt, an historical document, a legal filing with a lot of redaction, a filled in disclosure form, and a water damaged page—to run through the OCR engines we are most interested in. We tested three free and open source options (Calamari, OCRopus and Tesseract) as well as one desktop app (Adobe Acrobat Pro) and three cloud services (Abbyy Cloud, Google Cloud Vision, and Microsoft Azure Computer Vision). All the scripts we used, as well as the complete output from each OCR engine, are available on GitHub. You can use the scripts to check our work, or to run your own documents against any of the clients we tested…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Democracy in Retreat – Freedom in the World 2019

Freedom House – “Unpacking 13 years of Decline – Freedom in the World has recorded global declines in political rights and civil liberties for an alarming 13 consecutive years, from 2005 to 2018. The global average score has declined each year, and countries with net score declines have consistently outnumbered those with net improvements. Freedom in the World 2019 Map – A total of 68 countries suffered net declines in political rights and civil liberties during 2018, with only 50 registering gains.

  • A widespread problem: The 13 years of decline have touched all parts of the world and affected Free, Partly Free, and Not Free countries alike. Every region except Asia-Pacific has a lower average score for 2018 than it did in 2005, and even Asia declined when countries with less than 1 million people—mostly small Pacific Island states—are excluded. Not Free countries as a group suffered a more significant score drop than Free or Partly Free countries, which also declined.
  • Faltering post–Cold War democratization: The end of the Cold War facilitated a wave of democratization in the late 20th century, but a large share of countries that made progress during that time were unable to maintain it. On average, countries that earned a status upgrade—from Not Free to Partly Free, or Partly Free to Free—between 1988 and 2005 have faced an 11 percent drop in their numerical score during the 13 years of decline.
  • Consolidated democracies slip: Social and economic changes related to globalization have contributed to a crisis of confidence in the political systems of long-standing democracies. The democratic erosion seen among Free countries is concentrated in consolidated democracies—those that were rated Free from 1985 through 2005, the 20-year period before the 13-year decline.

Despite a continued downward trajectory overall, there were several more countries with net improvements in 2018 than in 2017, and a somewhat smaller number with net declines. This does not mean the threat to democracy is coming to an end. Hostile forces around the world continue to challenge the institutions meant to protect political rights and civil liberties, and the damage accrued over the past 13 years will not soon be undone…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Commentary – You’re either with your coworkers or you’re against them.

Forget Your Middle-Class Dreams By Alex N. PressWhen it comes to workplace organizing, there’s no such thing as a “privileged” worker. You’re either with your coworkers or you’re against them.

“…Building power for blue- (and pink-) collar workers requires building working-class power everywhere. Unionizing one workplace makes it easier to unionize another. It builds up unions’ coffers. It strengthens a culture of unionism, something desperately in need of a comeback when union membership in the United States stands at a lowly 10.7 percent. Plus, at their best, unions are vehicles for building working-class power as a class, rather than just interest groups looking out for their members’ interests — we’re far from that vision of unionism, but we won’t get anywhere near it without rebuilding the labor movement. We need more unions, not less…”

Categories: Law and Legal

New York City’s Bail Success Story

The Marshall Project – Judges have drastically cut back on bail and jail in criminal cases, a new study shows. And defendants are still showing up in court. “..Yet a new report analyzing more than 5 million criminal cases in New York City since 1987 suggests the city has already done a better job of slashing its use of bail and jail than nearly any other urban area in the United States. And that’s because of a culture change among judges and other decision-makers, not any change in statutes or court rules. Over the past three decades, the percentage of cases in New York City in which bail is set has dropped from 48 percent to 23 percent, while the rate at which defendants are released without having to pay money has jumped from 50 percent to 76 percent, according to data released Thursday by the New York City Criminal Justice Agency. The approximately three-quarters of defendants “released on their own recognizance” in the city (meaning free to go without cost) compares with a national average of about 45 to 50 percent and as low as 11 percent in New Orleans, according to one study…”

Categories: Law and Legal


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