Law and Legal
Bloomberg via Yahoo Finance: “Google said it will block some autocomplete search suggestions to stop misinformation spreading online during the U.S. presidential election in November. The autocomplete feature of the world’s largest search engine regularly recommends full queries once users begin typing words. The company said on Thursday it will remove predictions that could be interpreted as claims for or against any candidate or political party. In addition, Google said it will pull claims from the autocomplete feature about participation in the election, including statements about voting methods, requirements, the status of voting locations and election security. For instance, if you type in “you can vote” into Google’s search engine, the system may have suggested a full query that includes misleading or incorrect information. Typing those three words into Google on Thursday produced the full phrase “You can vote yourself into socialism” as the top recommended query…”
CRS – A Low-Yield, Submarine-Launched Nuclear Warhead: Overview of the Expert Debate Updated September 9, 2020 – “The Trump Administration has developed a new low-yield version of the W-76 warhead for existing submarine-launched Trident II (D-5) missiles. Unclassified sources state that the current W76-1 warhead has an explosive yield of around 100 kilotons. The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has said the low-yield version, the W76-2, would be configured “for primary-only detonation.” This could mean a yield of less than 10 kilotons. Congress appropriated $65 million for the W76-2 warhead in FY2019 and $10 million to complete work in FY2020. NNSA completed the first modified warhead in February 2019 and began delivering warheads to the Navy by late 2019. The Pentagon announced that the Navy had begun to deploy the warheads on February 4,2020. Congress authorized $19.6 million in the FY2020 NDAA (P.L. 116-92) for the Navy to begin integrating the warhead into the submarine force. NNSA has not disclosed the total number of planned W76-2 warheads, although it is expected to be a very small portion of the W76 stockpile (estimated, in unclassified sources, to be around 1,300 total warheads). The Trump Administration introduced the low-yield version of the W76 warhead in the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review(NPR). It cited the need for additional “tailored” and “flexible” capabilities to address the danger of coercive nuclear use, a concept described below, by Russia and North Korea. The NPR stated that this warhead would supplement existing U.S. strategic nuclear capabilities to “enhance deterrence by denying potential adversaries any mistaken confidence that limited nuclear employment can provide a useful advantage over the United States and its allies,” and that low-yield warheads would not add to the number of deployed SLBM warheads, but would replace some “higher-yield [SLBM warheads] currently deployed.”The NPR report, and its argument in favor of a low-yield SLBM warhead, launched a debate among U.S. experts about the rationale for the development of such a warhead and the benefits and risks that might accrue from its deployment. While some argue that this warhead is a response to Russia’s so-called“escalate to de-escalate” strategy that will strengthen deterrence and raise the nuclear threshold, others contend that it will lower the threshold for U.S. use and increase the risk of nuclear war…”
“Globally, monitored population sizes of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles, and amphibians have declined an average of 68% between 1970 and 2016, according to World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Living Planet Report 2020. Populations in Latin America and the Caribbean have fared worst, with an average decline of 94%. Global freshwater species have also been disproportionately impacted, declining 84% on average. As an important indicator of planetary health, these drastic species population trends signal a fundamentally broken relationship between humans and the natural world, the consequences of which—as demonstrated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic—can be catastrophic.
This report reminds us that we destroy the planet at our peril—because it is our home. As humanity’s footprint expands into once-wild places, we’re devastating species populations. But we’re also exacerbating climate change and increasing the risk of zoonotic diseases like COVID-19. We cannot shield humanity from the impacts of environmental destruction. It’s time to restore our broken relationship with nature for the benefit of species and people alike,” says WWF-US President and CEO Carter Roberts…”
Google Blog: “For many people, Google Search is a place they go when they want to find information about a question, whether it’s to learn more about an issue, or fact check a friend quoting a stat about your favorite team. We get billions of queries every day, and one of the reasons people continue to come to Google is they know that they can often find relevant, reliable information that they can trust. Delivering a high-quality search experience is core to what makes Google so helpful. From the early days when we introduced the PageRank algorithm, understanding the quality of web content was what set Google apart from other search engines. But people often ask: What do you mean by quality, and how do you figure out how to ensure that the information people find on Google is reliable?…”
Murphy, Michael, The Search for Clarity in an Attorney’s Duty to Google (August 23, 2020). U of Penn Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 20-30, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3682235 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3682235
“Attorneys have a professional duty to investigate relevant facts about the matters on which they work. There is no specific rule or statute requiring that an attorney perform an internet search as part of this investigation. Yet attorneys have been found by judges to violate a “Duty to Google” when they have failed to conduct an internet search for relevant information about, for example, a claim, their own client, and even potential jurors in a trial.
So much information is now available to attorneys so easily in electronic search results, it is time to wonder where, when, and how much attorneys should be searching. This Article examines the following questions: is the “Duty to Google” merely yet another example of how attorneys must become proficient in technology to meet their professional ethical obligations? Or is it something more? Where should this duty be codified, if anywhere? At what point does technology like a search engine become so “mainstream” that attorneys have a duty to use it or face allegations of malpractice? How will attorneys know how much Googling is enough?
This article explores an attorney’s duty of investigation and notes that this duty has been, like the rest of legal practice, forever changed (and ever changing) by technology. It examines the potential sources of a Duty to Google and argues that this responsibility is poorly defined. Accordingly, this article argues for a better-defined duty of investigation, codified in a rule of professional conduct. The article concludes by looking to the future and suggesting industry-wide changes to better prepare attorneys to meet their (better defined) obligations of technological competency.”
Fast Company – “The world’s population has tripled since 1950, and the number of megacities has grown from one—New York City—to more than 30, from Mexico City to Shenzhen to Hyderabad. But roughly half of the land on the planet is still in a natural or semi-natural state. A new map shows exactly where that land is, and why it’s critical to protect. The project, called the Global Safety Net, maps out both areas that are already protected, such as national parks, and those that need to be protected to tackle simultaneous crises: climate change and the loss of biodiversity..”
MakeUseOf: “You need an email address to use almost every website these days, but you probably don’t want to use your real email all the time. Perhaps you don’t trust a site, want to avoid spam, or need to make a second account on a service you already use. We’ll show you services that let you access temporary email addresses to let you send and receive email without using your real address. Keep in mind that most of these sites don’t promise any kind of security, as anyone can access an inbox by name. Also, many websites block these domains, so they might not work everywhere..”
New England Journal of Medicine: “As SARS-CoV-2 continues its global spread, it’s possible that one of the pillars of Covid-19 pandemic control — universal facial masking — might help reduce the severity of disease and ensure that a greater proportion of new infections are asymptomatic. If this hypothesis is borne out, universal masking could become a form of “variolation” that would generate immunity and thereby slow the spread of the virus in the United States and elsewhere, as we await a vaccine. One important reason for population-wide facial masking became apparent in March, when reports started to circulate describing the high rates of SARS-CoV-2 viral shedding from the noses and mouths of patients who were presymptomatic or asymptomatic — shedding rates equivalent to those among symptomatic patients. Universal facial masking seemed to be a possible way to prevent transmission from asymptomatic infected people. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) therefore recommended on April 3 that the public wear cloth face coverings in areas with high rates of community transmission — a recommendation that has been unevenly followed across the United States…
Ultimately, combating the pandemic will involve driving down both transmission rates and severity of disease. Increasing evidence suggests that population-wide facial masking might benefit both components of the response…”
Science Magazine – and no one preserved them – “Eighty-four online-only, open-access (OA) journals in the sciences, and nearly 100 more in the social sciences and humanities, have disappeared from the internet over the past 2 decades as publishers stopped maintaining them, potentially depriving scholars of useful research findings, a study has found. An additional 900 journals published only online also may be at risk of vanishing because they are inactive, says a preprint posted on 3 September on the arXiv server. The number of OA journals tripled from 2009 to 2019, and on average the vanished titles operated for nearly 10 years before going dark, which “might imply that a large number … is yet to vanish,” the authors write. The study didn’t identify examples of prominent journals or articles that were lost, nor collect data on the journals’ impact factors and citation rates to the articles. About half of the journals were published by research institutions or scholarly societies; none of the societies are large players in the natural sciences. None of the now-dark journals was produced by a large commercial publisher…”
The COVID-19 Pandemic, the Courts and Online Hearings: Maintaining Open Justice, Procedural Fairness and Impartiality
Legg, Michael, The COVID-19 Pandemic, the Courts and Online Hearings: Maintaining Open Justice, Procedural Fairness and Impartiality (2021). Forthcoming (2021) Federal Law Review, UNSW Law Research No. 20-46, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3681165
“The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing mandated health protections saw courts turn to communications technology as a means to be able to continue to function. However, courts are unique institutions that exercise judicial power in accordance with the rule of law. Even in a pandemic courts need to function in a manner consistent with their institutional role and its essential characteristics. This article uses the unique circumstances brought about by the pandemic to consider how courts can embrace technology but maintain the core or essential requirements of a court. This article identifies three essential features of courts – open justice, procedural fairness and impartiality – and examines how this recent adoption of technology has maintained or challenged those essential features. This examination allows for both an assessment of how the courts operated during the pandemic, but also provides guidance for making design decisions about a technology-enabled future court.”
Vox – We don’t need people with the (largely preventable) flu flooding our hospitals in a pandemic….How overlapping Covid-19 and flu symptoms are going to make this season very confusing. As US Surgeon General Jerome Adams noted in a radio interview earlier this month, “This is the most important flu season that we’ve faced, I’d say, in my lifetime.” Beyond pushing hospitalization capacity, flu season also has the potential to overwhelm clinics and testing resources. “Both Covid-19 and the flu are contagious respiratory illnesses that present with similar symptoms,” Libby Richards, who teaches nursing at Purdue University and studies individual health behavior, wrote to Vox in an email…It can be hard to tell the difference between Covid-19, flu, and cold symptoms — and some Covid-19 carriers never show any symptoms at all..”
- This article includes a clear guide to help compare the three illnesses, and see a doctor if you think you could have Covid-19.
House Intel Cmte Releases Whistleblower Reprisal Complaint Alleging Serious Misconduct By Senior Trump Administration Officials
The whistleblower retaliation complaint filed by former Acting Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis Brian Murphy outlines grave and disturbing allegations that senior White House and Department of Homeland Security officials improperly sought to politicize, manipulate, and censor intelligence in order to benefit President Trump politically. This puts our nation and its security at grave risk. “Mr. Murphy’s allegations are serious — from senior officials suppressing intelligence reports on Russia’s election interference and making false statements to Congress about terrorism threats at our southern border, to modifying intelligence assessments to match the President’s rhetoric on Antifa and minimizing the threat posed by white supremacists. We have requested Mr. Murphy’s testimony before the Committee, pursuant to subpoena if necessary, alongside other already scheduled interviews with other DHS officials…”
CFTC – “The Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s Climate-Related Market Risk Subcommittee of the Market Risk Advisory Committee (MRAC) today released a report entitled Managing Climate Risk in the U.S. Financial System. The Climate Subcommittee voted unanimously 34-0 to adopt the report. CFTC Commissioner Rostin Behnam, sponsor of the MRAC, noted: “Today would not be possible without the dedication and devotion of the Climate Subcommittee members. They spent tireless hours drafting an incredibly thorough report that has far exceeded expectations. I want to personally thank them for their work on this groundbreaking effort during unprecedented times….Managing Climate Risk in the U.S. Financial System is the first of-its-kind effort from a U.S. government entity. Commissioner Behnam initiated this effort to examine climate-related impacts on the financial system in June 2019 when the MRAC convened to examine climate change-related financial risks. At that meeting, Behnam pointed to the critical importance of undertaking this effort, highlighting ongoing work by private market participants and government entities across the globe, including more than 40 central banks and supervisors like the European Central Bank, the World Bank, and the People’s Bank of China…”
Popular Science – The best credential is one even you don’t know – “Using a password manager is one of the best and easiest ways to keep your online accounts safe. If you’re worried about making the jump, don’t be—they’re simple to set up and very much worth your while. There might be slight differences between them, but all password managers work similarly. In our opinion, 1Password is one of the best available, so we’ll go through that setup process so you know what to expect. For other alternatives, check out Dashlane, LastPass, Keeper, Bitwarden, and NordPass…”
Mashable: “Even though California is setting record high temperatures this Labor Day weekend, autumn is mere weeks away. It might not feel like fall yet, but the changing foliage is definitely coming. And we have a digital map to prove it. The 2020 Fall Foliage Prediction Map from SmokyMountains.com is finally live, which means you can officially start planning your outdoor fall activities and scenic road trips. If you’ve never used the annual interactive tool before, you’re in for a real treat. This year’s map begins on Sept. 7, a day when minimal and patchy foliage is predicted in only a few states. The map concludes on Nov. 23, when nearly the entire country will be be past-peak foliage…”
Congressional Budget Office, September 8, 2020: “The federal budget deficit in August 2020 was $198 billion, CBO estimates, $3 billion less than the deficit in August of last year. However, that comparison is distorted by shifts in the timing of certain payments in both years that had opposite effects on the August deficit in their respective years. Because September 1, 2019, fell on a weekend, federal payments totaling about $52 billion were made in August rather than in September of that year (increasing the deficit in August). A similar shift, of $57 billion, occurred this year, but from August into July, reducing the August 2020 deficit. Without those timing shifts, the deficit this August would have been $106 billion (or 72 percent) larger than in the same month last year. Outlays for unemployment compensation contributed significantly to the deficit this August, accounting for about half of the increase in government spending (excluding the timing shifts). The cumulative federal budget deficit for the first 11 months of fiscal year 2020 was $3.0 trillion, CBO estimates, $1.9 trillion more than the deficit recorded for the same period last year. Revenues were 1 percent lower and outlays were 46 percent higher through August 2020 than in the same 11-month period in fiscal year 2019. CBO projects that the 2020 deficit will total $3.3 trillion. At 16.0 percent of gross domestic product, that would be the largest shortfall relative to the size of the economy since 1945…”
Gizmodo: “Most of us open a web browser and either stare at whatever tabs we never closed or a homepage that’s not quite as customized as it could be. This is our launchpad for the web, which is why it’s important to make it as useful as possible. The major browsers now make a distinction between the homepage that appears when the browser starts up, and the new tab page that appears when you open a tab (although you can set the homepage to be the new tab page, if you want). The two differ slightly. Your homepage, for example, can be all the pages you had open the last time you closed the browser, while the new tab can be more easily customized with add-ons. Your homepage is just that: a page (or a set of pages) on the internet. It makes sense to pick one or two that you rely on, or that give you a quick overview of what’s happening in the world at the moment. The new tab page is much more versatile, and can include personalized wallpaper, shortcuts to bookmarks, and so on…”
Google Blog: “Businesses often rely on phone calls to reach out to new customers and serve existing ones. But here’s the hang-up: customers often don’t answer the call if they don’t recognize the number. They worry it could be spam, or worse, a scam: a 2019 FTC report found that phone calls were the number one way people reported being contacted by scammers. While most people said they hung up on those calls, those who lost money reported a median loss of $1,000. Spam and scam calls erode trust in businesses and increase costs to consumers. Verified Calls aims to solve this problem by showing the caller’s name, logo, reason for calling and a verification symbol indicating the business has been authenticated by Google. This is done in a secure way—Google doesn’t collect or store any personally identifiable information after verification. Verified Calls is a feature on Google’s Phone app, which comes pre-loaded on many Android phones and will be available for download starting later this week on even more Android devices…”
Ars Technica: “AT&T smartphone users who see their network indicators switch from “4G” to “5G” shouldn’t necessarily expect that they’re about to get faster speeds. In PCMag’s annual mobile-network testing, released today, 5G phones connected to AT&T got slower speeds than 4G phones in 21 out of 22 cities. PCMag concluded that “AT&T 5G right now appears to be essentially worthless,” though AT&T’s average download speed of 103.1Mbps was nearly as good as Verizon’s thanks to a strong 4G performance. Of course, AT&T 5G should be faster than 4G in the long run—this isn’t another case of AT&T misleadingly labeling its 4G network as a type of 5G. Instead, the disappointing result on PCMag’s test has to do with how today’s 5G phones work and with how AT&T allocates spectrum…”