Law and Legal

The Rising Importance of Soft Skills

Conversable Economist: “What skills are most important for an employee to succeed at Google? Back in 2013, the company undertook Project Oxygen to answer that question.  Cathy N. Davidson described the result in the Washington Post last month (“The surprising thing Google learned about its employees — and what it means for today’s students,” December 20, 2017).  She writes:

“Sergey Brin and Larry Page, both brilliant computer scientists, founded their company on the conviction that only technologists can understand technology. Google originally set its hiring algorithms to sort for computer science students with top grades from elite science universities. In 2013, Google decided to test its hiring hypothesis by crunching every bit and byte of hiring, firing, and promotion data accumulated since the company’s incorporation in 1998. Project Oxygen shocked everyone by concluding that, among the eight most important qualities of Google’s top employees, STEM expertise comes in dead last. The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills: being a good coach; communicating and listening well; possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view); having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues; being a good critical thinker and problem solver; and being able to make connections across complex ideas.”

Well, Google is a big company. Perhaps the soft skills matter for a lot of its employees. But for the A-level invention teams, surely the technical skills count for more? Last spring, Google tested that hypothesis with Project Aristotle. Davidson reports the results…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Selecting Entities on Sites and Performing Tasks On Them Through Google

SEO by the Sea: “A patent granted to Google this week describes a way to easily identify an entity such as a restaurant on a touch device, and select it online and take some action associated with that entity based upon the context of a site the entity is found upon. Actions such as booking a reservation at a restaurant found on a website, or procuring driving directions to that site, or other actions could be easily selected by the user of a site. The patent is:

Semantic selection and purpose facilitation
Inventors: Paul Nordstrom, Casey Stuart Whitelaw,
Assignee: Google
US Patent 9,305,108
Granted April 5, 2016
Filed: October 5, 2012″

Categories: Law and Legal

Study – All fossil-fuel vehicles will vanish in 8 years in twin ‘death spiral’ for big oil and big autos

All fossil-fuel vehicles will vanish in 8 years in twin ‘death spiral’ for big oil and big autos, says study that’s shocking the industries. This speedy revolution, a Stanford economist says, will be driven by technology, not climate policies — and while his timing may be off a few years, there is little doubt about the direction..No more petrol or diesel cars, buses, or trucks will be sold anywhere in the world within eight years. The entire market for land transport will switch to electrification, leading to a collapse of oil prices and the demise of the petroleum industry as we have known it for a century. This is the futuristic forecast by Stanford University economist Tony Seba. His report, with the deceptively bland title Rethinking Transportation 2020-2030, has gone viral in green circles and is causing spasms of anxiety in the established industries.”

Categories: Law and Legal

World Bank Report Finds Rise in Global Wealth, but Inequality Persists

“Global wealth grew significantly over the past two decades but per capita wealth declined or stagnated in more than two dozen countries in various income brackets, says a new World Bank report. Going beyond traditional measures such as GDP, the report uses wealth to monitor countries’ economic progress and sustainability. The Changing Wealth of Nations 2018 tracks the wealth of 141 countries between 1995 and 2014 by aggregating natural capital (such as forests and minerals), human capital (earnings over a person’s lifetime); produced capital (buildings, infrastructure, etc.) and net foreign assets. Human capital was the largest component of wealth overall while natural capital made up nearly half of wealth in low-income countries, the report found. “By building and fostering human and natural capital, countries around the world can bolster wealth and grow stronger. The World Bank Group is accelerating its effort to help countries invest more – and more effectively – in their people,” said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. “There cannot be sustained and reliable development if we don’t consider human capital as the largest component of the wealth of nations.” The report found that global wealth grew an estimated 66 percent (from $690 trillion to $1,143 trillion in constant 2014 U.S. dollars at market prices). But inequality was substantial, as wealth per capita in high-income OECD countries was 52 times greater than in low-income countries.”

Categories: Law and Legal

State of the States 2018: Broadband, Cybersecurity Surface as Priorities “With a wave of gubernatorial elections on the horizon later this year, many states’ top elected leaders were nearing the end of their terms as they delivered their most important policy speech of the year, the State of the State address. So understandably, many seized the opportunity to reflect on their accomplishments while in office. Governors across the map cited positive economic news, like low unemployment rates, number of jobs created and a better fiscal picture than they inherited from their predecessors.    We took a look at the speeches, however, to see whether technology is on the minds of the nation’s governors. A few years ago, explicit mentions of how modern technology can help government deliver on its mission were rare, but tech’s profile has been raised, reflective of how central it is to many policy discussions…”

Categories: Law and Legal

No Time to Wait: Building a Public Service for the 21st Century

No Time to Wait: Building a Public Service for the 21st Century. A White Paper by a Panel of the National Academy of Public Administration. “What the federal government most needs, we believe, is a human capital system built on a sturdy three-legged stool: mission first, principles always, and accountability for both. We need a federated system that provides agencies with the flexibility to effectively manage the missions that Congress has set for them. We need a renewed commitment to the principles of merit that have been the foundation of the federal government’s people systems for more than 130 years. And we need an innovative strategy, at the enterprise level, to promote accountability for both of these goals, a strategy that is outcome-based and data-driven. Such a system, we conclude, would:

  • Provide individual agencies the flexibility to create human capital systems that meet the needs of their missions; Uphold the core principles on which a civil service ultimately depends; and
  • Establish a governance and accountability structure that balances the two and uses collaboration and data analytics to redefine accountability and to accelerate the system’s ability to adapt to the future…”
Categories: Law and Legal

How ‘Fake News’ Changed The New York Times – and Didn’t

“When the country’s most venerable paper found itself in President Trump’s crosshairs, new considerations ensued – and instinct kicked in. New York Times media columnist Jim Rutenberg offers this exclusive, behind-the-scenes look.”

Those five words – the facts speak for themselves – continue to be the driving principle of The Times’s coverage in the Trump era, just as they are for its primary competitors. But, as the decision to respond to the president’s pre-inaugural slur showed, The Times’s longstanding credo now comes with an addendum: the facts speak for themselves, sure, but in the Trumpian “fake news” era, they need robust amplification and a swift defensive if they are to survive.

Categories: Law and Legal

Top Trends in State Criminal Justice Reform, 2017

Sentencing Project: “The United States is a world leader in incarceration rates and keeps nearly 7 million persons under criminal justice supervision. More than 2.2 million are in prison or jail, while4.6 million are monitored in the community on probation or parole. Changes in sentencing law and policy, not changes in crime rates, have produced the nation’s high rate of incarceration. Scaling back incarceration will require changing policy and practice to reduce prison populations, address racial disparity, and eliminate barriers to reentry. In recent years a number of states have enacted reforms designed to reduce the scale of incarceration and impact of the collateral consequences of a felony conviction. This briefing paper describes key reforms undertaken in 2017.”

See also Caged Humanity: Conditions of Confinement and Death in Custody by Ken Strutin. The archive of Ken Strutin’s extensive writing on criminal law and civil justice issues is here.

Categories: Law and Legal

National Academy of Public Administration Panel White Paper On Strengthening Organizational Health and Performance in Government

“A panel of experts at the National Academy of Public Administration today released a new white paper, Strengthening Organizational Health and Performance in Government, which offers recommendations for a new management improvement approach that would strategically transform the federal government into an organization that learns from experience, constructively engages employees at all levels, and continually strives toward higher standards of excellence in achieving its many missions and policy objectives. “Today’s extensive report on how the federal government can smartly and strategically evolve using a new data-driven management approach will be a valuable resource for all government agency leaders,” said Terry Gerton, President and CEO of the National Academy of Public Administration. “As the Administration thinks about how to shape its federal management agenda, these Academy Panel recommendations for organizational health are especially relevant.” “A good federal management framework has evolve d over the past two decades ,” said John M. Kamensky, Chairman of the Academy’s Standing Panel on Executive Organization and Management, “but we need to expand the existing framework by creating a new bottom-up demand to improve organizational health and performance that is tailored to the needs of different missions and units. We believe a strategic reorientation that makes front-line managers the focal point, and considers the health and capacity of their organizational units, will pay the greatest performance dividends and reduce future risks of operational failures.”
Categories: Law and Legal

Survey – GDPR requests to take thousands of hours a month “UK and European businesses expect to spend hundreds or thousands of hours a month dealing with customer queries about the upcoming European Union’s (EU’s) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)…Meanwhile, most organisations aren’t confident they know where all their data is stored and most aren’t aware of the fines, which can run into millions of euros, that non-compliance can bring…”

Categories: Law and Legal

18F Guide – Getting prepared to prototype

Mark Headd: “In product development, we often use prototypes — small, lightweight, temporary applications or artifacts — to understand user needs and reduce risk. Prototypes are a great way to test out ideas or approaches before you actually commit to building anything. Although more people are recognizing the value of prototyping, governments are not always set up to develop and use prototypes efficiently before building digital services. Through our work with federal agencies and state governments, we’ve used prototypes to help clarify technical complexity, understand user needs, and to inform software procurements. Here are a list of factors that governments should consider to become better prepared to build prototypes in designing and improving digital services…”

Categories: Law and Legal

The NASEM Annotations to the 2018 State of the Union

National Academies of Sciences and Engineering: “Since 2009, we’ve taken the transcript of the State of the Union and added in publications relevant to the President’s speech. It’s our way of spotlighting our work: providing independent, evidence-based research that addresses the wide variety of challenges and goals of our country and beyond. Below, you’ll find the transcript of last night’s State of the Union from with our publications inline…”

And a bonus fact – So many people visited fact-checking website PolitiFact during the State of the Union, it crashed

Categories: Law and Legal

Ensuring Access to Information: International Law’s Contribution to Global Justice

Benvenisti, Eyal, Ensuring Access to Information: International Law’s Contribution to Global Justice (December 1, 2017). GlobalTrust Working Paper Series 2017-09; University of Cambridge Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 17/2018. Available at SSRN:

“This essay examines the role of international law is in promoting indirectly global (and domestic) distributive justice. This focus on institutions and processes at the global level is grounded on the assumption that questions of the just allocation and reallocation of resources are ultimately resolved through processes of public deliberation or open contestation (including through the involvement of courts). I argue that the key to approaching a more just allocation of resources is by addressing the democratic deficits that underlie the skewed distribution (or the lack of redistribution) of assets and opportunities. My claim is that international law can play a role in the political empowerment of weak constituencies (within and between states). In doing so, international law can indirectly shape the distribution and redistribution of resources, in a manner that is more dignified and preferable to handing them charitable contributions. Just like the empowerment of labor by the freedom of association, legal intervention that empowers disadvantaged communities will not only increase their bargaining power, but also enable them to function as agents rather than as charity recipients.”

Categories: Law and Legal

Trump and the Media: A sentiment analysis of news articles before and after his inauguration

Data Driven Journalism – Mahima Singh is a data journalist at the Palm Beach Post in South Florida – Link to full text of this article: “Donald Trump’s relationship with the media has been a constant tug of war. Even before he became the President of the United States, the collective opinion about him in news kept shifting. While today the sentiment in the mainstream media seems overly negative towards Trump, a year ago it was less polarized. The idea – In 2016, as I read news about the president’s campaign, his election and then his inauguration, I felt that there was a sudden shift in the way news media was talking about Trump, especially during the lead up to his inauguration and the first few weeks of his presidency. I wanted to see if data could prove my hypothesis that there was a shift in news sentiment towards Trump before and after his inauguration. For the final project of our natural language processing class at Syracuse University, Daniela Fernández Espinosa from the Information School, James Troncale from the Linguistics Department and I, built a prototype sentiment analyzer to help political figures make better media strategy plans. I visualized the results of that project and hosted it on my GitHub. Text analysis There have been multiple sentiment analysis done on Trump’s social media posts. While these projects make the news and garner online attention, few analyses have looked at the media itself. During the presidential campaign in 2016, Data Face ran a text analysis on news articles about Trump and Clinton. The results gained a lot of media attention and steered conversations. I planned to follow a similar approach…”

Categories: Law and Legal

A reintroduction to Google’s featured snippets

Google Blog: ” Sometimes when you do a search, you’ll find that there’s a descriptive box at the top of Google’s results. We call this a “featured snippet.” In this post—the first in a new series going behind-the-scenes on how Google Search works—we’ll explore when, where and why we provide featured snippets. What is a featured snippet? Let’s start with a look at a featured snippet, in this case, one that appears for a search on “Why is the sky blue?” We call these featured snippets because unlike our regular web listings, the page’s description—what we call a “snippet”—comes first. With featured snippets, we reverse the usual format. We’re featuring the snippet, hence the “featured snippet” name. We also generate featured snippets in a different way from our regular snippets, so that they’re easier to read. We display featured snippets in search when we believe this format will help people more easily discover what they’re seeking, both from the description and when they click on the link to read the page itself. It’s especially helpful for those on mobile or searching by voice. Here are a few examples where featured snippets enhance the search experience by making it easier to access information from good sources, big and small…”

Categories: Law and Legal

The Business of Planting Trees

The Nature Conservancy: “Approximately 41 million trees are cut down every day—far faster than we are currently replanting them. The consequences of deforestation and other types of land degradation are severe, exacerbating climate change, biodiversity loss, and declines in ecosystem services that hundreds of millions of people depend on. In response, governments around the world have committed to restore 160 million hectares—an area larger than South Africa. But it will take more than government action to execute on these commitments; the private sector has an important role to play, too. In fact, these commitments are spurring increased demand for companies that can deliver large projects cost-effectively—restoring degraded land has the potential to become a big business opportunity, on top of providing much needed climate mitigation and other ecosystem benefits. Established companies and entrepreneurs alike are finding new ways to make money from sustainably managed forests and farms. Some are responding to governmental incentives; others are responding directly to the market, restoring land to generate new products and services, or to differentiate their offerings from the competition. Some entrepreneurs are betting that a huge new business opportunity for natural carbon capture and sequestration will emerge as more governments charge a fee for emissions driving climate change. New research by The Nature Conservancy, World Resources Institute and other partners shows that restoration and other land management improvements could provide more than a third of the emissions reductions necessary to keep global warming under 2°C. Yet hurdles remain, and one of the biggest is funding. Many investors still know little about restoration opportunities. This report is intended to bridge that information gap; it includes case studies of 14 innovative enterprises across eight countries. They cover a fascinating range of activities, from drones that shoot seeds into hardened soils to genetic research on tree species threatened with extinction…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Chief data officer’s guide to an AI strategy

CIO – Develop a data-driven culture but be mindful of regulatory and ethical considerations: “Artificial intelligence (AI) is set to be a priority for more than 30 percent of CIOs by 2020, according to Gartner. While AI promises game changing capabilities, this is only going to happen if your organisation applies it effectively. If you’re a chief data officer (CDO) trying to realise the full potential of AI, now’s the time to broaden your strategy, assess the impact on both business models and customer experiences, and prepare for other strategic challenges. Much of the current wave of attention is the result of gains in advanced analytics and machine learning. This current shift is partially attributable to the emergence of inexpensive, massive and readily available computing power, as well as the mountains of data available to train machines, form patterns and produce insights. Although top of mind, many organisations are just beginning their AI journey — gathering knowledge and developing strategies for applying it. If you’re like many data and analytics leaders, the need to define an AI strategy and identify uses is a real challenge…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Citizen Satisfaction with US Federal Government Advances to 11-Year High

American Customer Satisfaction Survey (ACSI) – Federal Government Report 2017: “Citizen satisfaction with U.S. federal government services improves for a second year, increasing 2.5% to 69.7 on a 0 to 100 scale. This uptick follows a huge gain in 2016, which was the biggest one-year improvement for government in nearly 20 years of ACSI measurement. This year, the ACSI federal government satisfaction score reaches its best level since 2006, representing an 11-year high. Unlike last year, when improvements in federal e-government website services stood out as the driving force behind higher satisfaction, a more diverse array of attributes are prompting the current ACSI increase. The ACSI predictive model includes four primary drivers (or predictors) of citizen satisfaction with the federal government. These drivers are core generic aspects of most federal government services that influence citizen satisfaction. Among the four attributes, three improve to reach three-year highs in 2017. Only one driver—the courtesy and professionalism of customer service personnel—declines slightly (down 1% to 77). The timeliness and efficiency of government processes (such as completing required forms, applying for benefits, or receiving a response to an application) shows the largest gain (+3% to 72), but stays the lowest-scoring of the four attributes. The remaining two attributes—the clarity and accessibility of the information received from agencies and the quality of federal websites (measured by their ease and usefulness)—rise 1% each to 73 and 77, respectively. Taken together, the better performance for process, information, and website outweighs the slight drop in customer service and explains the growth in aggregate federal citizen satisfaction…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Review – best free anonymous browsing software for Windows

TechRadarPro: “If you’re looking for the best free privacy software to help you browse the web anonymously, then you’ve come to the right place, as we’ve listed the top choices to help protect your privacy. There are plenty of legitimate reasons why you’d like to use privacy software to browse anonymously.  As well as preventing third parties building up a profile of you, the best free privacy software can open up the web, granting you access to sites blocked in your country, to access region-locked content when you’re travelling away from home, and to add a layer of protection when you use a public Wi-Fi network. If you would prefer to keep your personal details private, a VPN or proxy tool will help. You can check out our best VPN buying guide (or our best free VPN guide) or See our guide to setting up and maintaining a VPN.”

Categories: Law and Legal

Banking Law: An Overview of Federal Preemption in the Dual Banking System

CRS report via FAS: Banking Law: An Overview of Federal Preemption in the Dual Banking System, Jay B. Sykes, Legislative Attorney. January 23, 2018. “Banks play a critical role in the United States economy, channeling funds from savers to borrowers and thereby facilitating economic activity. To address the risks of bank failures and excessive risk-taking, and the problem that consumers at times lack the information or expertise to make sound choices concerning financial products and services, both federal and state lawmakers have imposed a host of regulations on commercial banks. The United States has what is referred to as a “dual banking system,” in which banks can choose to apply for a charter from a state banking authority or a federal charter from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), a bureau within the Department of the Treasury. A bank’s choice of chartering authority is also a choice of primary regulator, as state regulatory agencies serve as the primary regulators of state-chartered banks, and the OCC serves as the primary regulator of national banks. Despite receiving their authorities from state law, state banks are subject to many federal laws. Among other federal laws, state banks are subject to certain federal tax, consumer protection, and antidiscriminationlaws. Similarly, although they receive their powers from federal law, national banks are not wholly immune from state law. Rather, national banks are often subject to generally applicable state laws concerning contracts, torts, property rights, and debt collection when those laws do not conflict with or frustrate the purpose of federal law.”

Categories: Law and Legal


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