Law and Legal

Putting Weather Forecasting to Music

The Opposite of Forecasting (by Douglas Lausten) is a streaming radio station that turns weather data from Austin, Texas into music. “The resulting music reacts to a number of atmospheric conditions, including the temperature, humidity, rainfall, wind angle, wind speed, barometric pressure, UV, and solar radiation.” The site uses WordPress Audio Player Free Version – and it is delightful – even if you do not live in Austin.

Categories: Law and Legal New, Tip, and Top for July 2018

In Custodia Legis – LC: “We just passed the two year anniversary of when THOMAS was retired to make way for Congress.govRobert recently shared our second set of enhancements that we had for in June. One area where we have focused is on enhancing committee data.  With this release we are adding a legislative interest column to the House: Legislation with Actions Related to Committees browse page and the ability to search on legislative interest from the Committees section of the Advanced Search page..”

Categories: Law and Legal

Paper – Fake News As We Feel It: Perception and Conceptualization of the Term ‘Fake News’ in the Media

10th International Conference on Social Informatics (SocInfo 2018)Fake News As We Feel It: Perception and Conceptualization of the Term ‘Fake News’ in the Media, July 18, 2018. arXiv:1807.06926v1 [cs.CL] for this version)

“In this article, we quantitatively analyze how the term “fake news” is being shaped in news media in recent years. We study the perception and the conceptualization of this term in the traditional media using eight years of data collected from news outlets based in 20 countries. Our results not only corroborate previous indications of a high increase in the usage of the expression “fake news”, but also show contextual changes around this expression after the United States presidential election of 2016. Among other results, we found changes in the related vocabulary, in the mentioned entities, in the surrounding topics and in the contextual polarity around the term “fake news”, suggesting that this expression underwent a change in perception and conceptualization after 2016. These outcomes expand the understandings on the usage of the term “fake news”, helping to comprehend and more accurately characterize this relevant social phenomenon linked to misinformation and manipulation.”

Categories: Law and Legal

HHS removes sex discrimination prohibition language from civil rights office website

Sunlight Foundation: “The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights has altered messaging on its website related to Section 1557, the provision of the Affordable Care Act prohibiting discrimination, including sex discrimination. Advocates and experts say the changes to informational webpages about Section 1557, detailed in the latest Web Integrity Project report, could foreshadow a shift in policy regarding the prohibition of sex discrimination as the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) prepares to release new regulations as soon as this month. The report documents changes in language pertaining to sex discrimination on the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) website, first discovered by staff at the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), as well as the reduction in access to training materials about Section 1557 for health and healthcare professionals. NWLC, which released a fact sheet about Section 1557, has filed a series of still-pending FOIA requests for information about why these changes were made to the website. Section 1557 has been the focus of a long-running legal battle over whether OCR, the office responsible for enforcing regulations stemming from 1557, can respond to complaints of discrimination against transgender and gender nonconforming individuals. HHS had determined that the text of Section 1557 allowed it to prohibit all forms of sex discrimination, including discrimination based on an individual’s sex, pregnancy, gender identity, and sex stereotyping, and it put in place these Section 1557 regulations to do so. HHS’s ability to implement the Section 1557 regulations, however, was limited after a lawsuit by religiously affiliated healthcare providers argued that they would “require them to perform and provide insurance coverage for gender transitions and abortions,” according to court records. In December of 2016, the federal court in Texas hearing the case issued a nationwide preliminary injunction that prevents OCR from enforcing Section 1557 protections against discrimination based on gender identity and termination of pregnancy, without affecting protections against other forms of sex discrimination…” [h/t Pte Weiss]

Categories: Law and Legal

DOJ plans to alert public to foreign operations targeting U.S. democracy

The Washington Post: “Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein spoke about foreign influence campaigns on July 19 at the Aspen Security Forum. The Justice Department plans to alert the public to foreign operations targeting U.S. democracy under a new policy designed to counter hacking and disinformation campaigns such as the one Russia undertook in 2016 to disrupt the presidential election. The government will inform American companies, private organizations and individuals that they are being covertly attacked by foreign actors attempting to affect elections or the political process. “Exposing schemes to the public is an important way to neutralize them,” said Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who announced the policy at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado. Rosenstein, who has drawn President Trump’s ire for appointing a special counsel to probe Russian election interference, got a standing ovation.

“The American people have a right to know if foreign governments are targeting them with propaganda,” he said. The Obama administration struggled in 2016 to decide whether and when to disclose the existence of the Russian intervention, fearing that it would be portrayed as a partisan move. Concerns about appearing to favor the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, weighed on President Obama, who was reluctant to give then-GOP-nominee Donald Trump ammunition for his accusation that the election was rigged…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Trump administration seeks to roll back Endangered Species Act

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) jointly propose revisions to regulations that implement portions of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In 2017, we sought public input on how the Federal government can improve upon the regulatory framework. We received substantial input from a wide range of stakeholders on modernizing the implementation of the ESA in order to improve collaboration, efficiency, and effectiveness. Firstly, the agencies propose changes to some of the parameters under which other federal agencies must consult with the Service and NOAA Fisheries to ensure their actions do not jeopardize the continued existence of listed species, or destroy or adversely modify critical habitat. The agencies also propose various measures to clarify and improve some of the standards under which listings, delisting, and reclassifications, and critical habitat designations are made. In addition, the Service independently proposes a change in its approach to applying protections to threatened species that would align its practice with NOAA Fisheries so the two agencies are consistent in their application of this provision of the ESA. The Service proposes to remove its blanket rule under section 4(d) of the ESA that automatically conveys the same protections for threatened species as for endangered species. This change will not affect the protections for species currently listed as threatened, but will ensure that species listed as threatened in the future receive the protections tailored to the species’ individual conservation needs. All changes are being proposed as part of a robust, transparent public process. The agencies encourage the public to provide input to ensure these regulations are effective in furthering the ESA’s ultimate goal—recovery of our most imperiled species to the point they no longer need federal protection.

Categories: Law and Legal

Can a President Amend Regulations by Executive Order?

Can a President Amend Regulations by Executive Order?CRS Legal Sidebar, July 18, 2018.

“An executive order signed by President Trump on July 10, 2018, raises the question of whether a President—with the stroke of a pen—can amend federal rules codified in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). In Executive Order 13843, the President changed the hiring process for administrative law judges (ALJs), “excepting” them from the competitive service. Somewhat unusually, the order directly amends three provisions in the CFR, rather than directing an agency to amend the regulations. Generally, rules may only be amended through special procedures governed by the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). This process, known as notice-and-comment rulemaking, usually requires advance notice and a period for public comment on proposed rule amendments. As a result, Executive Order 13843 raises the question of whether the President, if otherwise vested with the authority to make rules, could bypass this normal process and directly amend the rule by executive order. Supreme Court precedent suggests that presidential actions, such as executive orders, are not reviewable under the APA. But the APA’s procedural requirements still apply to agencies when they act to implement any presidential directives, raising the question of when presidential action ends and when agency implementation begins. This Sidebar explores the scope of the presidential exception to the normal rulemaking process.”

Categories: Law and Legal

2018 Global Slavery Index

“The 2018 Global Slavery Index provides a country by country ranking of the number of people in modern slavery, as well as an analysis of the actions governments are taking to respond, and the factors that make people vulnerable. This year, so that we might better understand the problem, we have also included an analysis of trade flows and data on state imposed forced labour in North Korea, risk factors in the fishing industry, and the prevalence of forced labour in the cocoa sector.”

Categories: Law and Legal

Fortune’s 2018 Global 500

Global 500 / Search and Explore The 500 -“The world’s 500 largest companies generated $30 trillion in revenues and $1.9 trillion in profits in 2017. Together, this year’s Fortune Global 500 companies employ 67.7 million people worldwide and are represented by 33 countries.

  • InteractiveVisualize – “The Global 500 Each year a whole host of factors – the global economy, trade policies, mergers and acquisitions and corporate upheaval among them – push and pull at the Global 500 rankings. To help you quickly see how each country is represented on the list, we put the Global 500 on a world map. Now you can see each company’s location, revenue and profit at a glance. We also invite you to take a look at how each Global 500 company has moved around in the ranks over the past two decades.”
Categories: Law and Legal

Big changes are underway in the world of Natural Language Processing (NLP)

The Gradient – NLP’s ImageNet moment has arrived: “Big changes are underway in the world of Natural Language Processing (NLP). The long reign of word vectors as NLP’s core representation technique has seen an exciting new line of challengers emerge: ELMo, ULMFiT, and the OpenAI transformer. These works made headlines by demonstrating that pretrained language models can be used to achieve state-of-the-art results on a wide range of NLP tasks. Such methods herald a watershed moment: they may have the same wide-ranging impact on NLP as pretrained ImageNet models had on computer vision…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Librarians on bikes: cycling through US libraries

Oxford University Press Blog: “After working for 26 years as academic librarians, we have reached a point in our careers where we are right-sizing professionally and personally. This year, we requested and were granted a nine-month contract, enabling us to pursue our dream of cycling across the United States, from Washington, D.C., to Astoria, Oregon. Along the way, we are visiting public libraries, taking photos, and making notes about library services and programming, and in particular, services available to bicycle tourists and other non-resident patrons. Although our careers have been in academic libraries, we are big supporters of public libraries: one of the few welcoming and safe spaces that offer services to the public at no cost. Serving as advocates for public libraries, we are writing about our library visits, sharing photos, and tracking our progress cross-country. As bicycle tourists, libraries provide a refuge and a personal connection. Crossing Kansas and Eastern Colorado, with 102-degree afternoon heat, libraries allowed us to get out of the high temperatures, spend time working on the computers, or log in to the library WiFi to conserve our cellular data. In talking with the librarians throughout our trip, we created a personal connection with the towns, learning so much more about the local history, the people that live there, and services and programs provided by the library. Currently, our route follows the Adventure Cycling Association’s (ACA) TransAmerica Bicycle Trail, a route that originated in 1976 as the Bikecentennial Route. On their maps, ACA lists amenities (camping, hospitals, grocery stores, etc.) for towns situated along the 4,240-mile route. Around 2001, cyclists traveling on the route requested that ACA include sites providing internet access. ACA recognized potential problems with listing internet cafes due to their transient nature and decided the logical place for connectivity was public libraries. Since that time, ACA has included more than 1,500 public libraries on their maps.”

Categories: Law and Legal

Citizens Against Government Waste Releases 2018 Pig Book Detailing Government Waste

“The Congressional Pig Book is CAGW’s annual compilation of the pork-barrel projects in the federal budget. A “pork” project is a line-item in an appropriations bill that designates tax dollars for a specific purpose in circumvention of established budgetary procedures. To qualify as pork, a project must meet one of seven criteria that were developed in 1991 by CAGW and the Congressional Porkbusters Coalition….It should come as no surprise that the dam burst on earmarks in fiscal year (FY) 2018. Congress had set the stage for a significant increase in every category of spending when the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) of 2018 was approved on February 8, 2018. This legislation obliterated the spending caps set in the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) and increased spending by $143 billion, or 13.4 percent, in FY 2018 compared to FY 2017…”

Features: Summary | 2018 Database
Historical Trends | Order a Copy | PDF
Pork Hall of Shame 

Categories: Law and Legal

Is the Library Card Dying?

The Atlantic – Sara Polsky: “..Serious library-card collectors approach the pursuit more systematically than I do. A high-school freshman in California, for example, maintains a collection of more than 3,000 cards. A librarian in Nebraska scans valid library cards from all over the world and posts the images online. The retired librarian Larry Nix maintains a web page of older library cards, or “library tickets,” dating back to 1846, which demonstrate more variety in size, color, and wording than the library cards of today. Library cards have always had the same purpose—to keep track of borrowers’ loans—but originally they were invented for a different type of library. The first cards, Nix told me, were probably issued at membership libraries, 18th-century organizations where members contributed fees (and sometimes books from their own collections) in exchange for the right to check out materials. The Library Company of Philadelphia, which Benjamin Franklin co-founded in 1731, was the first membership library in the U.S., though many existed before that in England. Because they were formed by people with common interests, these libraries often coalesced around themes. Once members were allowed to walk off the premises with books, library cards—also known as tickets—made it more likely that those books would come back…

In the pre-computer era, library cards were just one part of a complex system that kept track of book loans and returns. Depending on the size of the library, cards were paired with ledgers, slips, second cards, or indicators (a primarily British system using color-coded blocks in holes to represent books) that remained in the building. Librarians used these systems to record checkouts by date, title, or borrower; in professional journals, they noted minute evolutions in the system, such as the switch from recording loans by checkout date to recording them by due date..”

Categories: Law and Legal

Coastlines around tworld boast hints of ancient humans who gathered traveled along edges of world where land meets sea

Hakai Magazine – Where Our Human Ancestors Made an Impression: “Human tracks encode a startling amount of information, enough for scientists to create a brief, but illuminating, biography of a person or group of people. The average person takes an estimated 224,000,000 steps over the course of a lifetime. When preserved, footprints are a library of clues about a human’s activities, speed of travel, height, weight, and sometimes even sex. They are, however, remarkably rare in the archaeological record. At a conference in Cologne, Germany, last year, researchers from around the world gathered to compare notes on some of the most prominent finds. Some of the sites were well known: prehistoric human tracks have been found on fossilized lakebeds in Saudi Arabia, deep inside caves in France, and pressed into the ground in Tanzania. The oldest ever found, made by a group of early hominins walking through wet volcanic ash in present-day Tanzania, date back 3.6 million years. In the past few years, researchers have found them in unexpected places scattered around the world: modern beaches. Finding ancient footprints in such a dynamic environment seems counterintuitive. Is there anything more ephemeral, after all, than footprints in the sand? You’d think that the action of waves and wind would wipe footprints away quickly. But, in 2012, massive storms in Wales revealed fossilized forests—and the footprints of a child, facing a prehistoric sea. In 2013, researchers stumbled across the 800,000-year-old tracks left behind by children and adults, a small family perhaps, playing on a windswept English beach. The following year, researchers working on British Columbia’s Calvert Island found footprints dating back to the earliest days of human presence in the Americas. The one thing they all have in common is proximity to the ocean…”

Categories: Law and Legal

This Twitterbot keeps you up-to-date on fires burning near you

FastCompany: “As fire seasons in the U.S. gets hotter and drier, a new Twitterbot will show you if a wildfire is burning near your house, where the fire is headed, and if a plume of smoke is traveling in your direction by posting an updated time-lapse video and infrared images every six hours. The tool, called @WildfireSignal, went live on Twitter on July 18. Scientists and programmers at Descartes Labs, a startup that processes images from satellites, designed the tool to pull a list of active fires from a government database, then clean up near-real-time images from the GOES-16 satellite at each fire’s location. Using the massive amount of data generated by the satellite, it automatically builds a time-lapse video of each fire and embeds it in a tweet with a hashtag of the fire’s name…”

See also: Wildfires Are Destroying Our Air Pollution Gains – The new mega fires raging across the West are polluting the air above states like Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming the worst.

Categories: Law and Legal

New tool helps you find 48,000+ open Amazon S3 buckets

The Daily Swig: “Hundreds of thousands of potentially sensitive files are publically available through open Amazon buckets, a new online tool can reveal. The free tool, created by software engineer GrayhatWarfare, is a searchable database where a current list of 48,623 open S3 buckets can be found. Amazon’s S3 cloud storage, or Simple Storage Service, is used by the private and public sector alike as a popular way to cache content. Files are allocated buckets, which are secured and private by default, but can easily be set for public access. While it is perfectly acceptable to set S3 buckets as available for all to read, numerous data breaches have been the result of an administrator’s misconfiguration. In March of this year, for example, an unsecured bucket at a US-based jewelry company resulted in the exposure of the personal details of over 1.3 million people, including addresses, emails, and IP identifiers. Bob Diachenko of Kromtech Security was the first to report the incident, and has helped create a tool aimed at detecting bucket permissions, similar to the one created by GrayhatWarefare.

“On the one hand, it [GrayhatWarfare’s tool] follows the same path as Shodan does,” Diachenko told The Daily Swig. “It gives researchers and the general audience a possibility to check if their infrastructure is safe. At the same time, it opens doors for ‘passwords-seekers’ and people with malicious intents to leverage upon data found in this ‘Semsem’ cave…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Court Vacates Injunction Against Publishing the Law

EFF – Win for Public Right to Know: Court Vacates Injunction Against Publishing the Law – Industry Groups Want to Control Access to Legal Rules and Regulation: “San Francisco – A federal appeals court today ruled that industry groups cannot control publication of binding laws and standards. This decision protects the work of (PRO), a nonprofit organization that works to improve access to government documents. PRO is represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the law firm of Fenwick & West, and attorney David Halperin. Six large industry groups that work on building and product safety, energy efficiency, and educational testing filed suit against PRO in 2013. These groups publish thousands of standards that are developed by industry and government employees. Some of those standards are incorporated into federal and state regulations, becoming binding law. As part of helping the public access the law, PRO posts those binding standards on its website. The industry groups, known as standards development organizations, accused PRO of copyright and trademark infringement for posting those standards online. In effect, they claimed the right to decide who can copy, share, and speak the law. The federal district court for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the standards organizations in 2017, and ordered PRO not to post the standards…”

Categories: Law and Legal

MOU on information-sharing relationship between LC and Peace Palace Library in The Hague

“July 19, 2018 – Two of the world’s most comprehensive international law libraries, the Law Library of Congress and the Peace Palace Library based in The Hague, Netherlands, have agreed to form an information-sharing relationship to exchange information and better serve library users. A memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed today in a ceremony at the Library of Congress by Law Librarian of Congress Jane Sánchez and Librarian of the Peace Palace Library Jeroen Vervliet.  The agreement Provides Valuable Insight into Services, Collections and Cataloging at Two Leading Law Libraries…”

Categories: Law and Legal

House Cmte panel approves bill to expedite fed firings “The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee advanced a bill that would make it easier to fire federal employees. The Modern Employment Reform, Improvement and Transformation Act, introduced by Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.), would allow the head of an agency to remove a federal employee “if the head determines the performance or misconduct of the individual warrants such removal.” The bill would also reduce the amount of time employees have to appeal a decision on their removal to the Merit Systems Protection Board to seven days and would reduce the MSPB’s time to adjudicate the decision to 30 days, after which time, the removal would become final. Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-Mich.) introduced an amendment that would prohibit the protest of “adverse actions” and reductions in force through negotiated grievance procedures. The amendment also requires the benefit annuity of a federal worker convicted of a felony and fired to be reduced and allows the head of an agency to recoup bonuses determined to have been “wrongly paid” to employees. It also extends the probationary period for federal employees from one year to two years…” [h/t Pete Weiss]

Categories: Law and Legal

CRS – Private Activity Bonds: An Introduction – Private Activity Bonds: An Introduction June 9, 2006 – July 13, 2018

“The federal tax code classifies state and local bonds as either governmental bonds or private activity bonds. Governmental bonds are intended for governmental projects, and private activity bonds are for projects that primarily benefit private entities. Typically, the interest earned by holders of governmental bonds is exempt from federal income taxes. The federal tax code allows state and local governments to use tax-exempt bonds to finance certain projects that would be considered private activities. The private activities that can be financed with tax-exempt bonds are called “qualified private activities.” Congress uses an annual state volume cap to limit the amount of tax-exempt bond financing generally and restricts the types of qualified private activities that would qualify for tax-exempt financing to selected projects defined in the tax code. The economic rationale for the federal limitation on tax-exempt bonds for private activities stems from the inefficiency of the mechanism to subsidize private activity and the lack of congressional control of the subsidy absent a limitation. This report explains the rules governing qualified private activity bonds, describes the federal limitations on private activity bonds, lists the qualified private activities, and reports each state’s private activity bond volume cap. Since private activity bonds were defined in 1968, the number of eligible private activities has been gradually increased from 12 activities to 27. The state volume capacity limit has increased from $150 million and $50 per capita in 1986 to the greater of $311.38 million or $105 per capita in 2018. Because of the $311.38 million floor, many smaller states are allowed to issue relatively more private activity bonds (based on the level of state personal income) than larger states. Also, more recent additions to the list of qualified activities have been exempt from a state-by-state cap and subject to a national aggregate cap.”

Categories: Law and Legal


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