Law and Legal
“The Bail Project is an unprecedented national effort to combat mass incarceration by keeping tens of thousands of Americans out of pretrial detention. – With your help, within five years, we will establish 40 sites across the country with the goal of paying bail for 160,000 people over that period. There is a long tradition in the United States of black communities pooling money to buy their loved ones out of slavery. That tradition continues into the present day in the form of community bail funds all across the country. Churches, advocacy groups, and other community members have joined together for decades to post bail, hire attorneys, and provide resources after release. As the criminal legal system grew, communities responded with local efforts to raise bail for family and friends but struggled to keep pace with mass incarceration. Our work builds on those efforts. Our entree into that deep history came in the form of representing people who couldn’t afford cash bail in New York. The Bail Project advances our commitment to reduce the human suffering caused by this unjust system and end mass incarceration. We’re proven. We started out in the Bronx a decade ago and now we’re expanding this model to other high-need jurisdictions…”
Private equity firms overburdened businesses with debt, and now workers are paying the price. Will policymakers do anything about it? By David Dayen. November 14, 2017.
“The Macy’s near my house is closing early next year. The mall where it’s located has seen less and less foot traffic over the years, and losing its anchor store could set off a chain reaction. Cities across the country are facing this uncertainty, with over 6,700 scheduled store closings; it’s become known as the retail apocalypse This story is at odds with the broader narrative about business in America: The economy is growing, unemployment is low, and consumer confidence is at a decade-long high. This would typically signal a retail boom, yet the pain rivals the height of the Great Recession. RadioShack, The Limited, Payless, and Toys“R”Us are among 19 retail bankruptcies this year. Some point to Amazon and other online retailers for wrestling away market share, but e-commerce sales in the second quarter of 2017 only hit 8.9 percent of total sales. There’s still plenty of opportunity for retail outlets with physical space. The real reason so many companies are sick, as Bloomberg explained in a recent feature, has to do with debt. Private equity firms purchased numerous chain retailers over the past decade, loading them up with unsustainable debt payments as part of a disastrous business strategy. Billions of dollars of this debt comes due in the next few years. “If today is considered a retail apocalypse,” Bloomberg reported, “then what’s coming next could truly be scary.” Eight million American retail workers could see their careers evaporate, not due to technological disruption but a predatory financial scheme. The masters of the universe who devised it, meanwhile, will likely walk away enriched, and policymakers must reckon with how they enabled the carnage…”
Myrberg, C., (2017). Why doesn’t everyone love reading e-books?. Insights. 30(3), pp.115–125. DOI: http://doi.org/10.1629/uksg.386 “Why do many students still prefer paper books to e-books? This article summarizes a number of problems with e-books mentioned in different studies by students of higher education, but it also discusses some of the unexploited possibilities with e-books. Problems that students experience with e-books include eye strain, distractions, a lack of overview, inadequate navigation features and insufficient annotation and highlighting functionality. They also find it unnecessarily complicated to download DRM-protected e-books. Some of these problems can be solved by using a more suitable device. For example, a mobile device that can be held in a book-like position reduces eye strain, while a device with a bigger screen provides a better overview of the text. Other problems can be avoided by choosing a more usable reading application. Unfortunately, that is not always possible, since DRM protection entails a restriction of what devices and applications you can choose. Until there is a solution to these problems, I think libraries will need to purchase both print and electronic books, and should always opt for the DRM-free alternative. We should also offer students training on how to find, download and read e-books as well as how to use different devices.”
“Katherine Maher, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation, was our featured day-two keynote on 31 October 2017 at the inaugural OCLC Americas Regional Council (ARC) meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Drawing from the Wikimedia Foundation’s recent, in-depth research into the future of literacy and learning, Maher shared insights into how we can apply these principles to the current trends in technology in order to further our shared missions. From global changes to the local role of librarians, she discussed how all of us—as colleagues and peers in a global movement—can help build a future where the sum of all the world’s knowledge is truly available for all.”
“Dr. Carla D. Hayden, the United States Librarian of Congress, was our first keynote speaker at the inaugural OCLC Americas Regional Council (ARC) meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA on 30 October 2017. Dr. Hayden discussed the history of library innovation and the role that libraries can play as trusted, smart sources in the information ecosystem.”
$300 billion war beneath the street: Fighting to replace U.S. water pipes: “Bursting pipes. Leaks. Public health scares. America is facing a crisis over its crumbling water infrastructure, and fixing it will be a monumental and expensive task. Two powerful industries, plastic and iron, are locked in a lobbying war over the estimated $300 billion that local governments will spend on water and sewer pipes over the next decade…By 2020, the average age of the 1.6 million miles of water and sewer pipes in the United States will hit 45 years. Cast iron pipes in at least 600 towns and counties are more than a century old, according to industry estimates. And though Congress banned lead water pipes three decades ago, more than 10 million older ones remain, ready to leach lead and other contaminants into drinking water from something as simple as a change in water source. As many as 8,000 children were exposed to unsafe levels of lead in Flint, Michigan, after the city switched to a new water supply but failed to properly treat the water with chemicals to prevent its lead pipes from disintegrating. Corroding iron pipes, meanwhile, have been linked to two outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease in Flint that added to the public health emergency…”
Digital.gov: “We’re excited to announce that the U.S. Web Design Standards has moved over to the Office of Products and Platforms (OPP) and joined the new DigitalGov team, effective October 1, 2017. Over the last 10 years, Digital.gov has become an authoritative destination to learn about the methods, practices, policies, and tools needed to create effective digital services in government. It’s where government goes to learn from experience: building, working, communicating, and adapting to the evolving needs of our digital nation. Our mission has been to help people deliver smart, effective digital services in the government. Going forward, we aim to set an example for how government learns, builds, delivers, and measures digital services in the 21st century. The Standards provides an increasingly important service to government modernization. By moving the Standards to OPP under DigitalGov, we are providing the Standards with the financial, organizational, and communications support needed to focus on delivering a high-quality design system and supporting framework for government sites… ” [h/t/ Pete Weiss]
“New analysis by the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program of more than 500 occupations reveals the rapid pace of their “digitalization” since 2001, suggesting the acquisition of digital skills is now a prerequisite for economic success for American workers, industries, and metropolitan areas.The report, “Digitalization and the American workforce,” provides a detailed analysis of changes in the digital content of 545 occupations representing 90 percent of the workforce in all industries since 2001, rating each occupation on a digital content scale of 0-100. While the digital content of virtually all jobs has been increasing (the average digital score across all occupations rose 57 percent from 2002 to 2016) occupations in the middle and lower end of the digital skill spectrum have increased digital scores most dramatically. Workers, industries,and metropolitan areasbenefit from increased digital skills via enhanced wage growth, higher productivity and pay, and a reduced risk of automation, but adaptive policies are still needed.The report offers recommendations for improving digital education and trainingwhile mitigating its potentially harmful effects, such as worker pay disparities and the divergence of metropolitan area economic outcomes. Mark Muro, a senior fellow at Brookings and the report’s author, said, “We definitely need more coders and high-end IT professionals, but it’s just as important that many more people learn the basic tech skills that are needed in virtually every job.That’s the kind of digital inclusion we need. In that respect, not everybody needs to go to a coding bootcamp but they probably do need to know Excel and basic office productivity software and enterprise platforms.”
European Souther Observatory – “A temperate Earth-sized planet has been discovered only 11 light-years from the Solar System by a team using ESO’s unique planet-hunting HARPS instrument. The new world has the designation Ross 128 b and is now the second-closest temperate planet to be detected after Proxima b. It is also the closest planet to be discovered orbiting an inactive red dwarf star, which may increase the likelihood that this planet could potentially sustain life. Ross 128 b will be a prime target for ESO’s Extremely Large Telescope, which will be able to search for biomarkers in the planet’s atmosphere. A team working with ESO’s High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) at the La Silla Observatory in Chile has found that the red dwarf star Ross 128 is orbited by a low-mass exoplanet every 9.9 days. This Earth-sized world is expected to be temperate, with a surface temperature that may also be close to that of the Earth. Ross 128 is the “quietest” nearby star to host such a temperate exoplanet.
“This discovery is based on more than a decade of HARPS intensive monitoring together with state-of-the-art data reduction and analysis techniques. Only HARPS has demonstrated such a precision and it remains the best planet hunter of its kind, 15 years after it began operations,” explains Nicola Astudillo-Defru (Geneva Observatory – University of Geneva, Switzerland), who co-authored the discovery paper…”
Wineburg, Sam and McGrew, Sarah, Lateral Reading: Reading Less and Learning More When Evaluating Digital Information (October 6, 2017). Stanford History Education Group Working Paper No. 2017-A1. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3048994
“The Internet has democratized access to information but in so doing has opened the floodgates to misinformation, fake news, and rank propaganda masquerading as dispassionate analysis. To investigate how people determine the credibility of digital information, we sampled 45 individuals: 10 Ph.D. historians, 10 professional fact checkers, and 25 Stanford University undergraduates. We observed them as they evaluated live websites and searched for information on social and political issues. Historians and students often fell victim to easily manipulated features of websites, such as official-looking logos and domain names. They read vertically, staying within a website to evaluate its reliability. In contrast, fact checkers read laterally, leaving a site after a quick scan and opening up new browser tabs in order to judge the credibility of the original site. Compared to the other groups, fact checkers arrived at more warranted conclusions in a fraction of the time. We contrast insights gleaned from the fact checkers’ practices with common approaches to teaching web credibility.”
Do Facebook and Google have control of their algorithms anymore? A sobering assessment and a warning
Poynter – Melody Kramer: “If you searched Google immediately after the recent mass shooting in Texas for information on the gunman, you would have seen what Justin Hendrix, the head of the NYC Media Lab, called a “misinformation gutter.” A spokesperson for Google later gave a statement to Gizmodo that placed blame squarely on an algorithm: “The search results appearing from Twitter, which surface based on our ranking algorithms, are changing second by second and represent a dynamic conversation that is going on in near real-time. For the queries in question, they are not the first results we show on the page. Instead, they appear after news sources, including our Top Stories carousel which we have been constantly updating. We’ll continue to look at ways to improve how we rank tweets that appear in search.” In other words, it was an algorithm — not a human making editorial decisions — that was responsible for this gaffe. But as Gizmodo’s Tom McKay pointed out, this kind of framing is intentional and used frequently by Twitter and other social networks when problems arise. He writes: “Google, Twitter, and Facebook have all regularly shifted the blame to algorithms when this happens, but the issue is that said companies write the algorithms, making them responsible for what they churn out.”
“…But as this report will detail, social media teams, on the front lines of both issues, still are largely doing what they’ve done for a decade. A new API survey of 59 U.S. newsrooms conducted for this report shows that posting links to their own content, mostly on Twitter and Facebook, is still by far the top activity of the average social media team. While organizations like Hearken, GroundSource and the Coral Project are working to help newsrooms use social media for audience engagement rather than just for clicks, there is still much progress to be made — in using social platforms as tools to understand communities and to bring audiences into news creation. What’s more, the majority of newsrooms only “sometimes” or “very rarely” address misinformation on social media and comment platforms, our survey shows. And long-term strategies and planning are rare…”
Google Blog: “As tens of thousands of publishers of all sizes push out content every day, chances are you’ve come across a publication you’re not familiar with or one you wanted to learn more about. To help in this situation, publisher Knowledge Panels on Google will now show the topics the publisher commonly covers, major awards the publisher has won, and claims the publisher has made that have been reviewed by third parties. These additions provide key pieces of information to help you understand the tone, expertise and history of the publisher…”
- See also this FAQ for more information on Google Knowledge Panel
“Despite expanding rapidly over the past two decades, federal law enforcement agencies remain almost as male-dominated as they were during the Clinton administration, according to a new POLITICO survey — the first to assess the gender gap in federal law enforcement in nearly a decade. In 1996, women held about 14 percent of the country’s federal law enforcement jobs; today, women represent just 15 percent. At this rate, it will be 700 years before women hold half of these jobs. From Customs and Border Protection to the Secret Service, large agencies are trundling along in a sort of time machine, with men dominating the ranks in ways they no longer do across the rest of government or even many large police departments. On a percentage basis, there are now more female members of Congress than female officers at the Drug Enforcement Administration. The lowest ratio of all belongs to the Border Patrol. Just 5 percent of its agents are female, which means the Border Patrol employs fewer women than the U.S. Marines (at 8 percent). The active-duty military has three times as many women as the Border Patrol, on a proportional basis (at 16 percent)…It’s no surprise that more men go into law enforcement than women, but that doesn’t explain why the San Diego and Detroit police departments have more women on a percentage basis than the FBI. There seems to be something uniquely intractable about federal law enforcement, suggesting a problem beyond the simple math of gender equality. Combined, federal law enforcement agencies represent a police force almost three times the size of the New York City Police Department, with vast powers to arrest and detain civilians. The more skewed their demographics, generally speaking, the less effective they will be….”
Via LLSDC Common Abbreviations and Legal Citation Examples for Selected Federal Government Documents: Legislative, Regulatory and Statutory (2017, 6 p. – PDF) [h/t/ Rick McKinney]
Do you ever think…I sure am grateful for the experts at CRS who are regularly providing top notch, comprehensive, accurate, timely subject matter specific research on demand to Congress (that is still not available directly to the public). Every week as we are reading (and/or listening to) news pertaining to critical issues that impact our government, society, and our future, CRS is publishing reports that provide critical insight, facts and information on topics that range from: the courts, to health care, energy and the environment, domestic terrorism, social services, defense, government documents, natural disasters, food and drug issues, and the list goes on and on. Thank you to the experts at CRS (that include librarians and attorneys) for the wealth of knowledge they provide to the Hill, and to the organizations such as FAS who have made these documents public, so that we may collectively benefit and gain a greater understanding of current affairs, law, legislation, and history. And now, please see the following brief sidebar, memorandum, and primer on an issue which is very much in the news, and on our minds:
- Can Congress Limit the President’s Power to Launch Nuclear Weapons?
- CRS Memorandum – Legislation Limiting the President’s Power to Use Nuclear Weapons: Separation of Powers Implications
- Defense Primer: President’s Constitutional Authority with Regard to the Armed Forces, CRS In Focus.
- See also Senator Markey has introduced the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act with Congressman Ted Lieu (CA-33) to limit any American president’s ability to conduct a nuclear first strike without prior authorization from Congress.
I have used Firefox as my primary browser for many years now, and welcome Quantum’s new design, added speed, and new features that facilitate faster, more efficient browsing and applications integration.
The Atlantic- The transparency organization asked the president’s son for his cooperation—in sharing its work, in contesting the results of the election, and in arranging for Julian Assange to be Australia’s ambassador to the United States.
“…The messages, obtained by The Atlantic, were also turned over by Trump Jr.’s lawyers to congressional investigators. They are part of a long—and largely one-sided—correspondence between WikiLeaks and the president’s son that continued until at least July 2017. The messages show WikiLeaks, a radical transparency organization that the American intelligence community believes was chosen by the Russian government to disseminate the information it had hacked, actively soliciting Trump Jr.’s cooperation. WikiLeaks made a series of increasingly bold requests, including asking for Trump’s tax returns, urging the Trump campaign on Election Day to reject the results of the election as rigged, and requesting that the president-elect tell Australia to appoint Julian Assange ambassador to the United States…”
- See also the Washington Post – The clear timeline suggesting Donald Trump Jr. coordinated with WikiLeaks
Freedom House – Freedom of the Net 2017: “Governments around the world have dramatically increased their efforts to manipulate information on social media over the past year. The Chinese and Russian regimes pioneered the use of surreptitious methods to distort online discussions and suppress dissent more than a decade ago, but the practice has since gone global. Such state-led interventions present a major threat to the notion of the internet as a liberating technology. Online content manipulation contributed to a seventh consecutive year of overall decline in internet freedom, along with a rise in disruptions to mobile internet service and increases in physical and technical attacks on human rights defenders and independent media. Nearly half of the 65 countries assessed in Freedom on the Net 2017 experienced declines during the coverage period, while just 13 made gains, most of them minor. Less than one-quarter of users reside in countries where the internet is designated Free, meaning there are no major obstacles to access, onerous restrictions on content, or serious violations of user rights in the form of unchecked surveillance or unjust repercussions for legitimate speech. The use of “fake news,” automated “bot” accounts, and other manipulation methods gained particular attention in the United States. While the country’s online environment remained generally free, it was troubled by a proliferation of fabricated news articles, divisive partisan vitriol, and aggressive harassment of many journalists, both during and after the presidential election campaign. Russia’s online efforts to influence the American election have been well documented, but the United States was hardly alone in this respect. Manipulation and disinformation tactics played an important role in elections in at least 17 other countries over the past year, damaging citizens’ ability to choose their leaders based on factual news and authentic debate. Although some governments sought to support their interests and expand their influence abroad—as with Russia’s disinformation campaigns in the United States and Europe—in most cases they used these methods inside their own borders to maintain their hold on power…”
“In this paper, we investigate the application of text classication methods to support law professionals. We present several experiments applying machine learning techniques to predict with high accuracy the ruling of the French Supreme Court and the law area to which a case belongs to. We also investigate the inuence of the time period in which a ruling was made on the form of the case description and the extent to which we need to mask information in a full case ruling to automatically obtain training and test data that resembles case descriptions. We developed a mean probability ensemble system combining the output of multiple SVM classiers. We report results of 98% average F1 score in predicting a case ruling, 96% F1 score for predicting the law area of a case, and 87.07% F1 score on estimating the date of a ruling.”