Law and Legal
The New York Times – Social media allows us “to see a reality that has been entirely visible to some people and invisible to others – “…Omar Wasow, a professor at Princeton University and co-founder of the pioneering social network BlackPlanet.com, said social media was helping publicize police brutality and galvanizing public support for protesters’ goals — a role that his research found conventional media played a half century ago. And he said he believed that the internet was making it easier to organize social movements today, for good and for ill. Here are excerpts from our conversation…”
The New York Times Critics Notebook, Dwight Garner – “Before the telephone wounded them and email administered the death blow, handwritten letters were useful: They let you know who the crazies were. A lunatic’s barbed wire script would lurch in circles across the page, like a fly with a missing wing. No longer. On Twitter and Gmail and Facebook and elsewhere, the justified left- and right-hand margins can temper a lot of brewing delirium. That’s one reason I miss correspondence. A more essential reason is that, perhaps like you during these months under quarantine, I’ve rarely felt so isolated. I speak with my family and friends on the phone, but my heart is only two-thirds in it; I’m not a telephone person. I dislike Zoom even more. Is that really my walleyed gaze in the “Hollywood Squares” box on my laptop? Last fall I moved out of New York City, for a year, to work on a book. The person I now see most often, besides my wife, is our cheerful and fiercely sun-tanned postal carrier, out on her rounds. I find her appearances on our side porch oddly moving. They’re a sign of normality, proof that government is still clicking on some of its old tracks. The Postal Service has come to mean more to many people during lockdown, and it’s incredible that the president wants to smash it…”
OneZeroMedium: “…In December 2016, at the age of 65, he and his collaborators won an $80 million Department of Defense contract to manufacture replacement tissue and organs on-demand. Wounded soldiers need body parts, the DoD explained at the time. And so do Americans on organ transplant waiting lists — 111,000 people, at last count. Kamen used the grant to help start the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute (ARMI), a nonprofit consortium of some 170 companies, research institutions, and organizations from across the country that pay an annual fee, provide equipment, or contribute in other ways in exchange for sharing research and resources. Including the DoD grant, the project is funded to the tune of about $300 million. Plenty of scientists are trying to grow organs. But what sets Kamen’s group apart is that he’s working a step ahead: He’s making the tools and machinery to mass-produce those organs, if and when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves them for patients. He wants to pump out hearts and kidneys much the same way factories produce smartphones: in high-tech assembly lines. Kamen, now 69, says ARMI will start to get there — “whether it’s an organ or piece of organ” — within a decade…”
CRS report via LC – COVID-19 and the Banking Industry: Risks and Policy Responses June 18, 2020: “The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has caused widespread economic disruption. Millions of businesses were forced to shut down and unemployment soared. The weakened economic conditions are likely to have implications for the financial system, including for banks and the banking industry. Many bank assets are loans to households and businesses, and banks rely on the inflow of repayments on those loans to make profits and meet their obligations to depositors and creditors. If repayments suddenly decline, banks can become distressed and potentially fail. Bank failures can be especially disruptive to the economy because they remove an important credit source for communities, and the financial system can become unstable if failures are widespread. Banks can absorb unanticipated losses on loans, to a point, by writing down the value of the capital. Thus, two key factors in how well banks weather the adverse economic effects of COVID-19are (1) how concentrated their assets are in loans to households and businesses,and (2) how much capital they hold to absorb losses. Bank data reported as of December 31, 2019, suggest the industry as a whole is relatively well-positioned, compared with recent history, to endure losses on household and business loans. In general, banks hold high levels of capital, largely due to changes in bank regulation and behavior made in response to the 2007-2009 financial crisis. However, certain segments of the industry, such as banks holding high concentrations of household loans, business loans, or both, are more exposed to losses and have less capital relative to those exposures than the industry as a whole. For example, household and business loans make up more than 70% of total assets for 535 banks (roughly, about 1 in 10 banks). These banks, on average, have less capital buffer relative to the size of those loans than most banks. By one metric, 87 banks are in danger of becoming seriously distressed.”
Supreme Court Rules Title VII Bars Discrimination AgainstGay and Transgender Employees: Potential Implications
CRS report via LC – Supreme Court Rules Title VII Bars Discrimination Against Gay and Transgender Employees: Potential Implications, June 17 2020: “On June 15, 2020, the Supreme Court issued a decision in a series of cases brought by gay and transgender workers alleging that their employers violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) by discriminating against them “because of. . . sex. ”The Court held6-3 in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia that Title VII forbids employers from firing an individual for being gay or transgender. The Court’s decision in Bostock was consolidated with two other cases, Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc.v. EEOC.(An earlier Sidebar addresses lower court decisions in these cases and provides further background on Title VII.) This Sidebar explains the Court’s holding in Bostock and highlights some potential implications of the decision for other areas of the law, including the “bona fide occupational qualification” (BFOQ) exception in Title VII; constitutional exceptions and religious-based exemptions to Title VII; various aspects of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972(Title IX); and statutes that incorporate Title IX’s requirements, such as the Affordable Care Act…”
Law360: “In February, the world as we knew it was a very different place. The stock market was posting historic highs, unemployment was at record lows, and American businesses were thriving like never before. Since that time, however, the COVID-19 health crisis has claimed the lives of more than 1 million people living around the world. In addition, this pandemic has rocked global markets, sending thousands of businesses into economic distress and leading others to close their doors for good. And while the COVID-19 outbreak has changed the ways in which the general public lives and works, lawyers too have had to adjust to a new way of working. A majority of lawyers have transitioned to working from home, utilizing various videoconferencing and other online collaboration tools to transmit information to clients and other counsel. With the increase in remote working comes an increased opportunity for attorney-client privilege issues to surface. In this article, we provide an overview of the emergence of online collaboration tools, discuss their potential impact on the attorney-client privilege, and offer suggestions for protecting privileged communications in the current pandemic setting…”
“Despite growing popular unrest and media attention in recent years over excessive use of force by police officers, the latest available case-by-case data show that federal prosecutors rarely bring relevant criminal charges known as “deprivation of rights under the color of law” (18 U.S.C. 242) against law enforcement. In the first seven months of FY 2020, federal prosecutors filed § 242 charges in just 27 cases. In April 2020, just a month before the death of George Floyd sparked civil unrest, federal prosecutors did not report prosecuting a single case with § 242 as the lead charge. Results reported here are based upon referral-by-referral government records analyzed by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University. TRAC obtained these records after lengthy litigation under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)…”
NPR: “If you find yourself scrambling for a good novel to escape the novel coronavirus, you’re not alone. Across the country, libraries have seen demand skyrocket for their electronic offerings, but librarians say they continue to worry about the digital divide and equality in access — not to mention the complicated questions that must be answered before they can reopen for physical lending.
“Since the library closed on March 16, we’ve had about seven thousand people register for library cards,” says Richard Reyes-Gavilan, Executive Director for the District of Columbia Public Libraries. “We’ve had over 300,000 books borrowed since mid-March, which is astounding considering that our collections are limited.” By the library’s accounting, that’s 37% higher than the same period in 2019, and DC isn’t alone in an uptake in digital usage: Weekly library e-book lending across the country has increased by nearly 50 percent since March 9, according to data from OverDrive, a service used by many libraries to let patrons check out media for e-readers, smartphones and computers. Audiobook check-outs are also up 14% — not quite as large a shift, likely because fewer people are in their cars commuting to work…”
60 Minutes: “This fall, college will start with a test. Can America’s universities reopen during the greatest pandemic in a hundred years? Some universities are remaining online, others are still unsure, but a growing number are preparing for perhaps the largest coordinated return institutions have made since the virus hit. In many ways, colleges and universities are the perfect places for an American reawakening. Scientists can track and trace, behavioral experts can make the pitch and philosophers can explain the balance between collective good and the individual. But, we go to college to be social, with no distance. College students are going to have to step up by staying apart. If they do, they may lead the way not just for the next semester, but for the entire country and its future…”
BBC: “With fewer people on the streets, cars on the roads, businesses closed and flights grounded, the daily noise that fills our lives has reduced. Can we hope to keep the hubbub down?…”
Along with tens of millions of others [probably more but…] I was completely inundated with unsolicited, deeply unwelcome, mostly disgusting campaign ads in 2016. This Facebook blog post has a lot of ground to travel in a very short time to achieve any kind of user credibility: “…Starting this summer, we will put the Voting Information Center at the top of people’s Facebook and Instagram feeds. We expect more than 160 million people in the US will see this authoritative information about how to vote in the general election from July through November. We’re also working on updates to the registration reminders, vote-by-mail information, and election day reminders that we’ve run throughout the primaries. These updates will make it even easier for people to find reliable information about participating in the election and share it with their friends across Facebook, Instagram and Messenger. We’ll have more to share here soon. More Control and Transparency for Political Ads – Political ads play an important role in every election – and this year will be no exception. People have told us they want the option to see fewer political ads on Facebook and Instagram. After announcing this feature earlier this year we are now making it available as part of our preparations for the 2020 US elections. Starting today for some people and rolling out to everyone in the US over the next few weeks, people will be able to turn off all social issue, electoral or political ads from candidates, Super PACs or other organizations that have the “Paid for by” political disclaimer on them. You can do this on Facebook or Instagram directly from any political or social issue ad or through each platform’s ad settings. However, we know our system isn’t perfect. So if you’ve selected this preference and still see an ad that you think is political, please click the upper right corner of the ad and report it to us…”
National Capital Region Delegation Urges House Leaders To Issue Mask Directive To Members Of Congress
“June 17, 2020 (Washington, D.C.) – Members of Congress representing the National Capital Region today wrote to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy urging them to “issue strong, explicit directives to Members of the House regarding proper face coverings” as Congress prepares to cast votes next week. The letter, led by Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) and signed by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), and Reps. Anthony Brown (D-MD), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Jennifer Wexton (D-VA), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), and David Trone (D-MD), noted that refusal by some of their colleagues to wear face coverings “endangers our constituents who work in their proximity, some of whom have contacted us to say they are not comfortable working on Capitol Hill around Members of Congress who do not prioritize their safety.” They wrote: “We represent the residents of the National Capital Region, including those who live or work on Capitol Hill. To date, over 2,700 people living in the region have died from COVID-19, and tens of thousands have tested positive. That figure includes Capitol Police officers, construction workers involved in projects at congressional office buildings, congressional staff, and Members of Congress. It is abundantly clear that no one is immune to the deadly effects of this virus. “Given the toll this pandemic has taken on residents of Washington, D.C. and the surrounding area, we are dismayed by the reluctance of many of our colleagues serving in the House to take necessary precautions to protect those around them. We have personally observed Members of the House refusing to engage in social distancing or wear face coverings, and mocking those who do. We have read accounts and interviews with colleagues in which they defend their refusal to wear masks. Such conduct misses an opportunity which all of us as leaders should embrace – to model good, responsible behavior. Worse, it directly endangers our constituents who work in their proximity, some of whom have contacted us to say they are not comfortable working on Capitol Hill around Members of Congress who do not prioritize their safety.
- “We therefore ask that you issue strong, explicit directives to Members of the House regarding proper face coverings, social distancing, and other public health precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and local public health departments with all possible haste. Such measures will help protect Members of Congress and those whose work requires close contact with them.
- This virus will not be impressed by cavalier attitudes or political posturing, nor will its spread discriminate based on partisan allegiance. Social distancing and wearing masks saves lives. Congress should put sound medical and scientific advice first, and adopt them uniformly.”
- The letter followed news that a Member of the House recently tested positive for COVID-19 after previously refusing to wear a face covering during interactions with colleagues and staff.
- While new guidance from the Office of the Attending Physician (OAP) strongly recommends that Members wear masks in indoor locations on Capitol Hill under certain conditions, and extends a new requirement for hearings, some Members ignored prior OAP guidance which recommended the adoption of masks beginning in April…”
Top Challenges Facing Federal Agencies: COVID-19 Emergency Relief and Response Efforts As reported by Offices of Inspector General across government – June 17, 2020. “…Each year, OIGs identify and report on the top management and performance challenges facing their agencies. CIGIE also issues an annual report that includes a list of the top challenges faced by agencies. While not required by the CARES Act, the PRAC developed this report on the top challenges identified by Inspectors General for the federal agencies involved in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic as part of CIGIE’s efforts to make the work of the federal Inspector General community more transparent and accessible to the public. Based on the PRAC’s review of submissions by 37 OIGs overseeing agencies involved in the pandemic response, Inspectors General reported a wide range of challenges, including many related to specific agency programs. However, the submissions also reflected areas of common concern among agencies of different sizes and with disparate agency missions: Financial management of CARES Act and other funds, Grant management, Information technology security and management, and Protecting health and safety while maintaining effective operations. As discussed in the Introduction, OIGs frequently cited the large amount of funds appropriated under the CARES Act and related legislation, the need to distribute aid rapidly under emergency conditions, and the need to maintain agency operations as factors that impact these challenges. By identifying these top challenges across the federal government, the PRAC hopes to assist agency managers and policymakers in determining how best to address them…”
- See also Bloomberg – Trillions in Stimulus Go Unchecked With Watchdogs Kept Toothless
- and Popular Information – Judd Legum – The $500 billion black box – “The COVID-19 pandemic has been an acute threat to millions of small businesses. Congress created the Paycheck Protection Program as a lifeline. The program provided loans — equivalent to about two-and-a-half months of payroll — to businesses with 500 employees or less. As long as most of the money was spent on payroll, the loans are forgiven by the government. Thus far, the program has allocated over $500 billion in taxpayer dollars. But who got the money? The Trump administration won’t say…”
“On June 4, 2020 Digital Science released a report highlighting the global research landscape trends and cultural changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The report How COVID-19 is Changing Research Culture analyses publication trends, regional focal points of research, collaboration patterns, and top institutional producers of research in COVID-19. The report key findings include:
- As of 1 June 2020, there have been upwards of 42,700 scholarly articles on COVID-19 published, 3,100 clinical trials, 420 datasets, 270 patents, 750 policy documents, and 150 grants.
- Preprints have rapidly established as a mainstream research output and a key part of COVID-19 research efforts. They started at relatively low levels in early January 2020 and accounted for around one quarter of research output by the beginning of May 2020.
- To date, more than 8,300 organisations have been involved in supporting COVID-19 research, with over 71,800 individual researchers identified as working on COVID-19 research.
- The highest intensity of research into COVID-19 began in China and gradually migrated west mirroring the movement of the virus itself.
- While the US and EU have both now published more than China in journals such as The Lancet, New England Journal of Medicine and JAMA, China continues to benefit from an early mover advantage and continues to enjoy the lionshare of the citations. While research in the field is clearly moving quickly, it currently remains anchored to China’s early publications
- A density map of global COVID-19 paper production shows there are three to four major centres of research: an extended area in China composed of several cities—Wuhan, where the virus is alleged to have started, Beijing and Shanghai; Europe, specifically Italy and the UK, two of the harder hit countries; the US’s east coast research corridor including Boston and New York; and finally, a lighter focus from the Californian institutions on the West coast.
- The top producing institution of COVID-19 research (since the beginning of 2020) is in China, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, followed by Harvard University and the University of Oxford.
- The top healthcare producers of COVID-19 research (since the beginning of 2020) are Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University, then Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University, and Massachusetts General Hospital…”
“A Handsome Box” – The Adams Building – Construction, architecture, and history of services in the John Adams Building at the Library of Congress, By Natalie Burclaff, Science, Technology & Business Division, Library of Congress.: “When the Library of Congress moved out of its space in the Capitol and into its own nearby building in 1897, it was estimated that the capacity of the Jefferson building would meet the needs of the Library for “a century and a half to come.” However, by the late 1920s, it was clear that we were running out of space! See and read the story of the construction, architecture, and history of services in the John Adams Building at the Library of Congress. The narrative is accompanied by historic photos, architectural drawings, and designs, and an excellent bibliography. Thank you Natalie.
ACUS – “ACUS is pleased to release a new report, Administrative Recusal Rules: A Taxonomy and Study of Existing Recusal Standards for Agency Adjudicators. The report, prepared by Stetson University College of Law Professor Louis J. Virelli, III, collects and analyzes a wide-ranging set of recusal standards and practices employed by more than 60 agencies across the federal government. Recusal, the voluntary or involuntary withdrawal of an adjudicator from a particular proceeding, is an important tool for maintaining the integrity of adjudication. In Recommendation 2018-4, Recusal Rules for Administrative Adjudicators, ACUS recognized the importance of this feature to agency adjudications. Among its potential benefits, agency recusal rules help to ensure that parties to an adjudicative proceeding have their claims resolved by an impartial decisionmaker and inspire public confidence in the adjudication. Prof. Virelli’s new report develops a taxonomy of substantive recusal standards and documents the procedural requirements agencies have adopted for recusal. It finds, for example, that a large majority of the agencies surveyed do not have rules which instruct adjudicators to explain their recusal decisions on the record even though there may be numerous benefits to be gained from such a requirement. Prof. Virelli also explores how recusal standards might vary according to certain institutional features and examines issues surrounding the form in which agencies choose to publish their standards (i.e., by legislative rule or in a guidance document)….”
The importance of street trees to urban avifauna, Eric M. Wood and Sevan Esaian 11 June 2020 Ecological Applications 2020 e02149: “Street trees are public resources planted in a municipality’s right‐of‐way and are a considerable component of urban forests throughout the world. Street trees provide numerous benefits to people. However, many metropolitan areas have a poor understanding of the value of street trees to wildlife, which presents a gap in our knowledge of conservation in urban ecosystems. Greater Los Angeles (LA) is a global city harboring one of the most diverse and extensive urban forests on the planet. The vast majority of the urban forest is nonnative in geographic origin, planted throughout LA following the influx of irrigated water in the early 1900s. In addition to its extensive urban forest, LA is home to a high diversity of birds, which utilize the metropolis throughout the annual cycle. The cover of the urban forest, and likely street trees, varies dramatically across a socioeconomic gradient. However, it is unknown how this variability influences avian communities. To understand the importance of street trees to urban avifauna, we documented foraging behavior by birds on native and nonnative street trees across a socioeconomic gradient throughout LA. Affluent communities harbored a unique composition of street trees, including denser and larger trees than lower‐income communities, which in turn, attracted nearly five times the density of feeding birds. Foraging birds strongly preferred two native street‐tree species as feeding substrates, the coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia ) and the California sycamore (Platanus racemosa ), and a handful of nonnative tree species, including the Chinese elm (Ulmus parvifolia ), the carrotwood (Cupaniopsis anacardioides ), and the southern live oak (Quercus virginiana ), in greater proportion than their availability throughout the cityscape (two to three times their availability). Eighty‐three percent of street‐tree species (n = 108, total) were used in a lower proportion than their availability by feeding birds, and nearly all were nonnative in origin. Our findings highlight the positive influence of street trees on urban avifauna. In particular, our results suggest that improved street‐tree management in lower‐income communities would likely positively benefit birds. Further, our study provides support for the high value of native street‐tree species and select nonnative species as important habitat for feeding birds.”
“An interdisciplinary team from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania, alongside global experts, are tracking and projecting the COVID-19 epidemic across 384 counties with active outbreaks as it spreads across the United States. Utilizing data from a variety of publicly available sources, the researchers built their model to observe how social distancing, population density, and daily temperatures affect the number and spread of COVID-19 infections over time across a county, accounting for population characteristics, such as age, insurance status and smoking prevalence. For social distancing, which the model identified as the most important factor in reducing transmission, the researchers used cell phone movement data. For the latest comments on our findings from the lead researchers, read this blog post, and to learn more about the methods behind this model, see this abstract. For more information on this project, click here…
“Doctors behind a COVID-modeling study used by the president’s coronavirus task force are now warning that virus hot spots are beginning to converge and jump from county to county as people increase their travel for work and summer vacation. According to doctors working on a study put together by PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the virus is moving along major highways and interstates—such I-10 in California, I-85 in the south and I-95 on the East Coast—as states continue to reopen their economies. With an uptick of coronavirus cases taking place in states in the south and southwestern parts of the country, this new finding has raised fears that new outbreaks may soon move north to major metropolitan regions, reversing the progress already made in flattening the curve. “There’s a convergence of metro areas that’s now leading to these larger epicenters of transmission. Places that were already in trouble … are the ones that are slipping out of control,” said Dr. David Rubin, the director of PolicyLab. “For example the southwest outbreak is moving right up the I-5. You can see the risk all the way up. We’re a week or two away from Sacramento and San Francisco.” The findings from PolicyLab are the latest warning sign to emerge as the majority of states have now moved into the second phase of their reopening plans, with restaurants, religious communities and some places of work open for business. Rubin’s fear, as culled from the data, is that as individuals begin to relax their own social distancing measures they have begun to travel more within their communities and to other surrounding states, thereby spreading the disease…” [“
Fox29 Philadelphia: “A feature exclusively available for Apple users called “Shortcuts,” which was launched in 2018, allows users to conduct tasks on their phones that would normally require multiple actions with a single voice command of the iPhone’s artificial intelligence capability, Siri. The feature has been the subject of renewed focus recently as protests against police brutality continue across the U.S. in the wake of the death of George Floyd during a May 25 encounter with Minneapolis police. One iPhone user created a shortcut that prompts an iPhone to begin recording police interactions by the user simply uttering the phrase: “Hey Siri, I’m getting pulled over.” Twitter user Robert Petersen posted a link to the shortcut and an explanation of what it does…
- Users can download the police shortcut, but must make sure to have the Shortcuts app installed.
- While Petersen said he hopes the tool will be useful for some, the specific feature is not available for Android users. Apps with similar functions have been developed, including one called “Stop and Frisk Watch,” which is available for both Android and Apple devices and is designed to record incidents by “simply pushing a trigger on the phone’s frame,” according to the developer’s website….”
Law360: “When the novel coronavirus closed down courthouses and law firms, technology allowed attorneys, their clients and judges to move litigation forward without jeopardizing public health. Some of those emergency fixes could stick around even after life returns to normal. Legal experts say embracing remote technology has boosted efficiency, transparency and access to the courts. Here are some of the top tech fixes that attorneys hope will stick around after the pandemic…”