Law and Legal
9To5Google – Google 3D animals and objects: Which ones are available and how to use them – “Google’s AR objects in search are incredibly easy to access. The objects are added to search in the belief that the easiest way to learn about something is to see it. By seeing things in augmented reality (AR), users can see the scale of an object and also details they might not notice from just a simple picture. To keep this easy to access, Google puts its 3D animals and other AR objects right at the top of search. For example, searching for “tiger” will show a Google Search Knowledge Panel. These panels are often shown for movies, famous celebrities, and other subjects. In the case of a 3D animal through Google, you’ll see an overview of what the animal is, a few images or it, and a section which says “Meet a life-sized tiger up close” and a “View in 3D” button. That button launches the AR experience…”
Federal News Network: “Everything we know so far is collected on this page, which will be updated as additional information, updates and resources become available. We’re also collecting agency reopening plans. Send us updates about what your agency is doing to prepare for the possible reopening of your offices, facilities and workspaces using our website comment tool…”
Federal News Network: “The Office of Personnel Management has a plan to help certain federal employees, whose essential services are needed to respond to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, hold on to the annual leave they’d otherwise have to forfeit at the end of the year. Recent guidance from OPM described the agency’s intent to issue new regulations on the topic. The forthcoming regulations will deem the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as an “exigency of the public business” for the purposes of restoring forfeited annual leave. Specifically, the regulations will allow employees who have annual leave balances that exceed the usual statutory carryover limit to “schedule” that excess leave and therefore, have it restored…”
The Nation – The US government has the authority under existing law to break patent monopolies. “…The idea that some people would not receive a vaccine was once unthinkable. In a now legendary story, Jonas Salk developed the polio vaccine in 1955—and then gave it away for free. An interviewer once asked Salk who owned the patent for his polio vaccine. He responded, “Well, the people, I would say. There is no patent.” Salk was incredulous. “Could you patent the sun?” Since then, pharmaceutical corporations have patented the medical equivalent of the moon and the stars. Patent monopolies have fueled the current drug pricing crisis, and they may block access to any future Covid-19 vaccine…The public should get a say. Like Salk, Bancel has benefited greatly from public dollars. His corporation received millions in funding as early as 2013 to help develop its new way of making vaccines. Federal scientists helped design the new Covid-19 vaccine and are now running the critical human tests. The government also just gave $483 million to scale manufacturing. The public is paying at every stage for this potential vaccine—and so many others. All five candidates Trump is expected to short-list have benefited from public funding…”
Gizmodo: “Three years ago, long after the rise (and fall) of Flash, Adobe announced that its once-ubiquitous multimedia platform was finally going away. But Adobe never provided a specific date for when Flash would reach its end-of-life. Now we know: Adobe Flash is going to officially die on December 31, 2020...”
“The United States can deliver 90 percent clean, carbon free electricity nationwide by 2035, dependably, at no extra cost to consumer bills and without the need for new fossil fuel plants, according to a study released today from the University of California, Berkeley. The study also finds that without robust policy reforms, most of the potential to reduce emissions and increase jobs will not be realized. 2035 Report: Plummeting Solar, Wind, and Battery Costs Can Accelerate Our Clean Energy Future is the first study of its kind to show how recent cost declines for solar, wind, and battery storage allow the U.S. to dramatically reduce generation and emissions from existing fossil power plants, while retiring coal and reducing gas generation by 70 percent…”
PIFuHD: Multi-Level Pixel-Aligned Implicit Function for High-Resolution 3D Human Digitization – S. Saito, T. Simon, J. Saragih, H. Joo. CVPR 2020. [Paper] [Video] [Code] [Demo]: “Recent advances in image-based 3D human shape estimation have been driven by the significant improvement in representation power afforded by deep neural networks. Although current approaches have demonstrated the potential in real world settings, they still fail to produce reconstructions with the level of detail often present in the input images. We argue that this limitation stems primarily form two conflicting requirements; accurate predictions require large context, but precise predictions require high resolution. Due to memory limitations in current hardware, previous approaches tend to take low resolution images as input to cover large spatial context, and produce less precise (or low resolution) 3D estimates as a result. We address this limitation by formulating a multi-level architecture that is end-to-end trainable. A coarse level observes the whole image at lower resolution and focuses on holistic reasoning. This provides context to an fine level which estimates highly detailed geometry by observing higher-resolution images. We demonstrate that our approach significantly outperforms existing state-of-the-art techniques on single image human shape reconstruction by fully leveraging 1k-resolution input images.“
” To help you and your families better understand COVID-19—and learn how to protect yourselves—National Geographic is providing free access to a selection of coronavirus stories.
The Atlantic – “Enormous differences separate today’s protest movements from those of the 1960s. But they may ultimately prove united by the magnitude of the change they impose… Today’s long wave of protest shares one other quality with its predecessor: It has changed popular culture and the contours of public opinion more quickly than it has public policy or the nation’s electoral landscape. Now, as then, an electoral system that favors older generations—through structural imbalances that favor rural states with older and less diverse voters—is responding slowly to calls for change from younger Americans.
And yet, just as with the Baby Boomers before them, Millennials, Gen Z, and the generation following them will eventually define the new American mainstream through their priorities and viewpoints, as over time they become a majority of the nation’s population. In that way, the huge number of people on the streets of America’s major cities this month may offer a preview of how profoundly these younger generations may reshape the country’s politics once they vote in numbers that more closely approximate their growing presence in the population overall. “This transition is inevitable,” says Ben Wessel, the executive director of NextGen America, a group that organizes young people for progressive causes. “The question is: How quickly is it going to get here?”…
“The New York Technical Services Librarians, an organization that has been active since 1923 – imagine all that has happened in tech services since 1923! – invited me to give a talk about bias in algorithms. They quickly got a recording up on their site and I am, more slowly, providing the transcript. Thanks for the invite and all the tech support, NYTSL.
The Bigot in the Machine: Bias in Algorithmic Systems – Abstract: We are living in an “age of algorithms.” Vast quantities of information are collected, sorted, shared, combined, and acted on by proprietary black boxes. These systems use machine learning to build models and make predictions from data sets that may be out of date, incomplete, and biased. We will explore the ways bias creeps into information systems, take a look at how “big data,” artificial intelligence and machine learning often amplify bias unwittingly, and consider how these systems can be deliberately exploited by actors for whom bias is a feature, not a bug. Finally, we’ll discuss ways we can work with our communities to create a more fair and just information environment. I want to talk about what we mean by “the age of algorithms,” and about how bias creeps into or is purposefully designed into algorithmic systems using examples in public health surveillance and in law enforcement. We’ll talk about how racists exploit the affordances of these systems to pollute our information environment. Finally, because I want to be hopeful, we’ll talk about some of the ways people are apply anti-racism to address the bigot in the machine and what we can do as librarians…”
Reuters: “A newly discovered spyware effort attacked users through 32 million downloads of extensions to Google’s market-leading Chrome web browser, researchers at Awake Security told Reuters, highlighting the tech industry’s failure to protect browsers as they are used more for email, payroll and other sensitive functions. Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google said it removed more than 70 of the malicious add-ons from its official Chrome Web Store after being alerted by the researchers last month. “When we are alerted of extensions in the Web Store that violate our policies, we take action and use those incidents as training material to improve our automated and manual analyses,” Google spokesman Scott Westover told Reuters. Most of the free extensions purported to warn users about questionable websites or convert files from one format to another. Instead, they siphoned off browsing history and data that provided credentials for access to internal business tools. Based on the number of downloads, it was the most far-reaching malicious Chrome store campaign to date, according to Awake co-founder and chief scientist Gary Golomb…”
The New York Times – “It’s a question that has haunted scientists since the pandemic began: Does everyone infected with the virus produce antibodies — and if so, how long do they last? Not very long, suggests a new study published Thursday in Nature Medicine. Antibodies — protective proteins made in response to an infection — may last only two to three months, especially in people who never showed symptoms while they were infected. The conclusion does not necessarily mean that these people can be infected a second time, several experts cautioned. Even low levels of powerful neutralizing antibodies may still be protective, as are the immune system’s T cells and B cells. But the results offer a strong note of caution against the idea of “immunity certificates” for people who have recovered from the illness, the authors suggested. Antibodies to other coronaviruses, including those that cause SARS and MERS, are thought to last about a year. Scientists had hoped that antibodies to the new virus might last at least as long…”
Lifehacker – “After months of working from home and only from home, you might be excited by the prospect of going back to your office. Shared microwaves! Water-cooler chit-chat! Conference room reservations running over! All inconveniences of the past, but novelties of the new normal. But although some offices are starting to open, coronavirus cases are still adding up, and we’re far from being in the clear. Before you get too comfortable in your old office routines, you need to plan for what will happen if someone gets sick. That someone, in this case, is you, or someone for whom you provide care…”
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)…”