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U.S Department of Defense Standards of Conduct Office – Encyclopedia of Ethical Failure1Revised October 2019
The Standards of Conduct Office of the Department of Defense General Counsel’s Office has assembled the following selection of cases of ethical failure for use as a training tool. Our goal is to provide DoD personnel with real examples of Federal employees who have intentionally or unwittingly violated the standards of conduct. Some cases are humorous, some sad, and all are real. Some will anger you as a Federal employee and some will anger you as an American taxpayer…”
“U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI), Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, released a report detailing the results of his investigation into how operational changes at the United States Postal Service (USPS) ordered by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy resulted in compromised service and serious harm for veterans, small businesses, rural communities, seniors, and millions of Americans who rely on the mail. The report determined that delays increased steeply nationwide as a result of DeJoy’s actions, according to USPS data. These delays resulted in an estimated 85 million more late deliveries in a single week by early August, an example of the impacts that have lasted for months.
The report – Failure to Deliver: Harm Caused by U.S. Postmaster General DeJoy’s Changes to Postal Service Mail Delivery – also highlights data from Michigan confirming the steep decline in on-time First Class mail delivery resulting from Postmaster General DeJoy’s July 2020 directives. In the Detroit area, on-time delivery fell to 65.7 percent following DeJoy’s directives, a 19.1 percentage point drop..”
Vox – Most states have not contained their COVID-19 outbreaks: “The US is now in the middle of what can only be described as a national Covid-19 epidemic, with cases across the country rising at alarming rates in recent weeks. Public health experts look at a few markers to determine how bad things are in each state: the number of daily new cases; the infection rate, which can show how likely the virus is to spread; the percentage of tests that come back positive, which should be low in a state with sufficient testing; and the percentage of hospital beds that are occupied by very sick patients. A Vox analysis indicates the vast majority of states report alarming trends across all four benchmarks for coronavirus outbreaks. Most states still report a high — sometimes very high — number of daily new Covid-19 cases. Most still have high infection rates. Most still have test positive rates that are too high, indicating they don’t have enough tests to track and contain the scope of their outbreaks. (The US overall has seen a decrease in new cases in recent weeks, but the numbers are still much too high.) And most still have hospitals with intensive care units that are too packed…”
AP – “The government outlined a sweeping plan Wednesday to make vaccines for COVID-19 available for free to all Americans when proven safe and effective, though a top public health official made clear that widespread vaccination of millions of Americans couldn’t come until well into next year. In a report to Congress and an accompanying “playbook” for states and localities, federal health agencies and the Defense Department sketched out complex plans for a vaccination campaign to begin gradually in January or even late this year, eventually ramping up to reach any American who wants a shot… CDC Director Robert Redfield said any vaccine available in November or December would be in “very limited supply,” and reserved for first responders and people most vulnerable to COVID-19. The shot wouldn’t be broadly available until the spring or summer of 2021, he estimated.
Redfield and other health officials testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee also emphasized the effectiveness of masks in stopping the pandemic’s spread, given that no vaccine is 100% protective. The flu vaccine, for example, is generally about 40% to 60% effective against the annual viral strain. Redfield, masked in the hearing room, said,“I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine.”
The Dirt: “California, Oregon, and Washington, along with nine other states in the West are now experiencing record-breaking wildfires. According to experts, there are a number of reasons: climate change is creating the underlying conditions for more extreme weather events. Heat waves over the summer dried out much of Western forests, which were already impacted by years of drought and bark beetles. Unusually high winds have spread embers. And human activity in the wildland-urban interface keeps creating new sparks: downed electrical lines have set many blazes, while, infamously, a gender reveal party with a “pyrotechnic device” created a massive conflagration. Amid the continuing devastation, an interactive map from ESRI, which creates geographic information system software, enables users to track active fires by name or location in near real time and sort by timeline and magnitude. The map indicates each fire’s estimated start date and its current level of containment. Another layer provides a smoke forecast for any given location…”
CRS via LC – Patent Law: A Handbook for Congress, September 16, 2020: “A patent gives its owner the exclusive right to make, use, import, sell, or offer for sale the invention covered by the patent. The patent system has long been viewed as important to encouraging American innovation by providing an incentive for inventors to create. Without a patent system, the reasoning goes, there would be little incentive for invention because anyone could freely copy the inventor’s innovation. Congressional action in recent years has underscored the importance of the patent system, including a major revision to the patent laws in 2011 in the form of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act. Congress has also demonstrated an interest in patents and pharmaceutical pricing; the types of inventions that may be patented (also referred to as “patentable subject matter”); and the potential impact of patents on a vaccine for COVID-19.
As patent law continues to be an area of congressional interest, this report provides background and descriptions of several key patent law doctrines. The report first describes the various parts of a patent, including the specification (which describes the invention) and the claims (which set out the legal boundaries of the patent owner’s exclusive rights). Next, the report provides detail on the basic doctrines governing patentability, enforcement, and patent validity. For patentability, the report details the various requirements that must be met before a patent is allowed to issue. These requirements include the following…”
Gizmodo: “Since this year hasn’t been spooky enough, thousands of migratory birds are now dropping dead across the Southwest. In late August, biologists got word about dozens of birds falling from the sky at the White Sands Missile Range and White Sands National Monument, both in southern New Mexico. Since then, people throughout Colorado, Texas, Arizona, and as far north as Nebraska have discovered the dead creatures scattered along hiking paths, golf courses, and even their own driveways. Finches, flycatchers, swallows, warblers, and bluebirds are among the species that have been reported. It’s not uncommon for some birds to die during their autumn migration, but not in these numbers and certainly not plummeting out of the sky in droves…
Scientists aren’t yet sure what’s causing this mass bird death, but researchers at Cornell University’s ornithology lab suspect it has to do with the smoke from the historic wildfires burning in the western U.S., which has drifted across the country on easterly breezes. They cite a 2017 study, which shows that exposure to smoke can lead to immunosuppression, respiratory distress, and other severe health problems for avian populations. Another possibility is that the birds may be having trouble adapting to the unusually dry heat that the Southwest has seen of late amid the worsening climate crisis. These conditions can be unfavorable to the insect populations that migratory birds rely on for food, which studies show has caused bird populations to decrease…”
Fast Company – “…To get a sense of how far smoke from the current wildfires is traveling, you can turn to a number of interactive maps and data tools that let you track smoke conditions in real time. I’ve rounded up some useful options below:
- AirNow: This fire and smoke map is “designed to provide the public with additional information on levels of particle pollution” and includes data from a number of government sources. Find it here.
- NOAA: This map from the agency’s Office of Satellite and Product Operations includes regularly updated data from satellites. Find it here.
- Esri’s Active Wildfire Story Map: I highlighted this map in a post last week for tracking fires. It also has an overlay option to track smoke. Just check the “smoke forecast” box. Find it here.
- NASA: The space agency’s blog post from yesterday includes satellite imagery from before and after the winds shifted eastward. Although the images are not interactive, they underscore how national weather patterns can have a huge impact on air quality. Find it here…”
“Get an intuitive ‘feel’ of new COVID-19 cases spreading rates. “This simulation shows you the average rate of newly reported COVID-19 cases between September 7, 2020 and September 14, 2020 for each country.” Customize your view by selecting one or more countries.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in collaboration with agencies throughout the federal government, are initiating the National Wastewater Surveillance System (NWSS) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The data generated by NWSS will help public health officials to better understand the extent of COVID-19 infections in communities. CDC is currently developing a portal for state, tribal, local, and territorial health departments to submit wastewater testing data into a national database for use in summarizing and interpreting data for public health action. Participation in a national database will ensure data comparability across jurisdictions. Data from wastewater testing is not meant to replace existing COVID-19 surveillance systems, but is meant to complement them by providing:
- An efficient pooled community sample.
- Data for communities where timely COVID-19 clinical testing is underutilized or unavailable.
- Data at the sub-county level…”
Library of Congress – “The public can now explore more than 1.5 million historical newspaper images online and free of charge. The latest machine learning experience from LC Labs, Newspaper Navigator allows users to search visual content in American newspapers dating from 1789-1963. The user begins by entering a keyword that returns a selection of photos. Then the user can choose photos to search against, allowing the discovery of related images that were previously undetectable by search engines. For decades, partners across the United States have collaborated to digitize newspapers through the Library’s Chronicling America website, a database of historical U.S. newspapers. The text of the newspapers is made searchable by character recognition technology, but users looking for specific images were required to page through the individual issues. Through the creative ingenuity of Innovator in Residence Benjamin Lee and advances in machine learning, Newspaper Navigator now makes images in the newspapers searchable by enabling users to search by visual similarity. To create Newspaper Navigator, Lee trained computer algorithms to sort through 16 million Chronicling America newspaper pages in search of photographs, illustrations, maps, cartoons, comics, headlines and advertisements…
“Newspaper Navigator affords a whole new dimension of access to Chronicling America,” said Molly O’Hagan Hardy of the National Endowment for the Humanities. “Images and words on the printed newspaper page interact to construct meaning for readers past and present, and we miss half of that meaning making when our searches rely exclusively on the written text.” Newspaper Navigator will allow greater access to a large collection and can enable new discoveries from historical newspapers, Hardy said…”
CRS Report via LC – Tracking Federal Awards: USAspending.gov and Other Data Sources, September 15, 2020: USAspending.gov, available at http://www.USAspending.gov, is a government source for data on federal awards by state, congressional district (CD), county, city, and zip code. The awards data in USAspending.gov are provided by federal agencies and represent contracts, grants, loans, and other forms of financial assistance. USAspending.gov also provides tools for examining the broader picture of federal spending obligations within the categories of budget function, agency, and object class.Using USAspending.gov to locate and compile accurate data on federal awards can be challenging due, in part, to continuing data quality issues that have been identified by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). Users of USAspending.gov need to be aware that while search results may be useful for informing consideration of certain questions, these results may be incomplete or contain inaccuracies…”
CRS report via LC – Tracking Federal Awards in States and Congressional Districts Using USAspending.gov, September 15, 2020: “USAspending.gov, available to the public at http://www.USAspending.gov, is a government source for data on federal awards by state, congressional district (CD), zip code, city, and county. The awards data in USAspending.gov is provided by federal agencies and represents grants, contracts, loans, and other financial assistance. Grant awards include money the federal government commits for projects in states, local jurisdictions, regions, territories, and tribal reservations, as well as payments for eligible needs to help individuals and families. Contract awards refer to bids and agreements the federal government makes for specific goods and services.USAspending.gov does not include data on actual spending by recipients.USAspending.gov also provides tools for examining the broader picture of federal spending obligations within the categories of budget function, agency, and object class.Budget function refers to the major purpose that the spending serves, such as Social Security, Medicare, and national defense. Object class refers to the type of item or service purchased by the federal government, such as grants, contracts, and personnel compensation and benefits…”
The New York Times Magazine: “…For most of human history, people have lived within a surprisingly narrow range of temperatures, in the places where the climate supported abundant food production. But as the planet warms, that band is suddenly shifting north. According to a pathbreaking recent study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the planet could see a greater temperature increase in the next 50 years than it did in the last 6,000 years combined. By 2070, the kind of extremely hot zones, like in the Sahara, that now cover less than 1 percent of the earth’s land surface could cover nearly a fifth of the land, potentially placing one of every three people alive outside the climate niche where humans have thrived for thousands of years. Many will dig in, suffering through heat, hunger and political chaos, but others will be forced to move on. A 2017 study in Science Advances found that by 2100, temperatures could rise to the point that just going outside for a few hours in some places, including parts of India and Eastern China, “will result in death even for the fittest of humans.”
People are already beginning to flee. In Southeast Asia, where increasingly unpredictable monsoon rainfall and drought have made farming more difficult, the World Bank points to more than eight million people who have moved toward the Middle East, Europe and North America. In the African Sahel, millions of rural people have been streaming toward the coasts and the cities amid drought and widespread crop failures. Should the flight away from hot climates reach the scale that current research suggests is likely, it will amount to a vast remapping of the world’s populations…”
The following interview, between Noema Magazine Editor-in-Chief Nathan Gardels and author (previously of “Guns, Germs, and Steel”) Jared Diamond, has been edited for clarity and length.
“Nathan Gardels: In assessing how nations manage crises and successfully negotiate turning points — or don’t — you pass their experience through several filters. Some key filters you use are realistic self-appraisal, selective adoption of best practices from elsewhere, a capacity to learn from others while still preserving core values and flexibility that allows for social and political compromise.
How do you see the way various nations addressed the coronavirus pandemic through this lens?
Jared Diamond: Nations and entities doing well by the criteria of those outcome predictors include Singapore and Taiwan. Doing poorly initially were the government of Italy and now, worst of all, the federal government of the U.S…”
Internet Archive Blogs: Internet Archive has archived and identified 9 million open access journal articles– the next 5 million is getting harder – “Open Access journals, such as New Theology Review (ISSN: 0896-4297) and Open Journal of Hematology (ISSN: 2075-907X), made their research articles available for free online for years. With a quick click or a simple query, students anywhere in the world could access their articles, and diligent Wikipedia editors could verify facts against original articles on vitamin deficiency and blood donation. But some journals, such as these titles, are no longer available from the publisher’s websites, and are only available through the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. Since 2017, the Internet Archive joined others in concentrating on archiving all scholarly literature and making it permanently accessible. The World Wide Web has made it easier than ever for scholars to collaborate, debate, and share their research. Unfortunately, the structure of today’s web means that content can disappear just as easily: as of today the official publisher websites and DOI redirects for both of the above journals go nowhere or have been replaced with unrelated content…Researchers found that 176 open access journals have already vanished from their publishers’ website over the past two decades, according to a recent preprint article by Mikael Laakso, Lisa Matthias, and Najko Jahn. These periodicals were from all regions of the world and represented all major disciplines — sciences, humanities and social sciences. There are over 14,000 open access journals indexed by the Directory of Open Access Journals and the paper suggests another 900 of those are inactive and at risk of disappearing. The pre-print has struck a nerve, receiving news coverage in Nature and Science…”
Statement for Markup of H.R. 8235, the “Open Courts Act of 2020” – “Anyone who goes to the Supreme Court’s website can read any of the documents filed before the Court, free of charge. The same thing is true for the courts in my and Mr. Collins’s home state of Georgia. And that’s the way it should be, because the public has a fundamental right to know what goes on in its courthouses. But if you want to read most of the records of other federal courts, you have to pay a fee. The prices are like a “keep out” sign for regular people: ten cents per search, ten cents per page, and up to three dollars per document. It can cost hundreds of dollars to read the filings in just one big case. The business of the courts is important, so it should be no surprise that the judiciary’s paywall takes in between $100 and $140 million every year. That’s a lot of money taken from people who are exercising their fundamental right to access public court records. And to make matters worse, just last month a court of appeals held that the Administrative Office of the United States Courts was unlawfully using that money to fund a range of programs that had nothing to do with giving the public access to federal court records. Frankly, it’s unjustifiable. And it needs to stop. Now, imagine if we were to charge for access to the U.S. Code. Or the Federal Register. Or Congress.gov. Our courts are a vital part of our American government, and we have a responsibility to make them accessible to the rest of our society.
The judiciary’s paywall imposes unnecessary burdens on journalists, academics, and pro se litigants as they engage in the constitutionally-enshrined activities of observing and reporting on the courts’ activities or petitioning the courts for redress. This matters more now than ever before. At a time when many have concerns that the executive branch represents only some of its citizens, a democratic process limited to a select group that can participate—those who can afford it—should concern us all. But this bill is about more than just democratic ideals and transparency. It’s about changing the system to make it fairer for everyone…”
Gizmodo – “Most of us open a web browser and either stare at whatever tabs we never closed or a homepage that’s not quite as customized as it could be. This is our launchpad for the web, which is why it’s important to make it as useful as possible. The major browsers now make a distinction between the homepage that appears when the browser starts up, and the new tab page that appears when you open a tab (although you can set the homepage to be the new tab page, if you want). The two differ slightly. Your homepage, for example, can be all the pages you had open the last time you closed the browser, while the new tab can be more easily customized with add-ons. Your homepage is just that: a page (or a set of pages) on the internet. It makes sense to pick one or two that you rely on, or that give you a quick overview of what’s happening in the world at the moment. The new tab page is much more versatile, and can include personalized wallpaper, shortcuts to bookmarks, and so on…”
The New York Times Opinion: “…It is much more likely that life in 2021, especially in the first half of the year, will need to look much like life does now. Those who think that we have just a few more months of pain to endure will need to adjust their expectations. Those thinking that school this fall will be a one-off, that we will be back to normal next year, let alone next semester, may be in for a rude awakening. As Dr. Fauci told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, “If you’re talking about getting back to a degree of normality which resembles where we were prior to Covid, it’s going to be well into 2021, maybe even towards the end of 2021.” We wasted our chance to get a better summer in the spring. We wasted our chance to plan for the fall in the summer. We’re wasting time again now. Next year isn’t that far away. We still need to figure out how to live in this new world, now, and that means embracing, finally, all the strategies for fighting the virus that many of us have resisted…”
Pew Report – Ratings for Trump remain poor – “Since Donald Trump took office as president, the image of the United States has suffered across many regions of the globe. As a new 13-nation Pew Research Center survey illustrates, America’s reputation has declined further over the past year among many key allies and partners. In several countries, the share of the public with a favorable view of the U.S. is as low as it has been at any point since the Center began polling on this topic nearly two decades ago. For instance, just 41% in the United Kingdom express a favorable opinion of the U.S., the lowest percentage registered in any Pew Research Center survey there. In France, only 31% see the U.S. positively, matching the grim ratings from March 2003, at the height of U.S.-France tensions over the Iraq War. Germans give the U.S. particularly low marks on the survey: 26% rate the U.S. favorably, similar to the 25% in the same March 2003 poll. Part of the decline over the past year is linked to how the U.S. had handled the coronavirus pandemic. Across the 13 nations surveyed, a median of just 15% say the U.S. has done a good job of dealing with the outbreak. In contrast, most say the World Health Organization (WHO) and European Union have done a good job, and in nearly all nations people give their own country positive marks for dealing with the crisis (the U.S. and UK are notable exceptions). Relatively few think China has handled the pandemic well, although it still receives considerably better reviews than the U.S. response…”
TIME: “Like many of the virus’s hardest hit victims, the United States went into the COVID-19 pandemic wracked by preexisting conditions. A fraying public health infrastructure, inadequate medical supplies, an employer-based health insurance system perversely unsuited to the moment—these and other afflictions are surely contributing to the death toll. But in addressing the causes and consequences of this pandemic—and its cruelly uneven impact—the elephant in the room is extreme income inequality.
How big is this elephant? A staggering $50 trillion. That is how much the upward redistribution of income has cost American workers over the past several decades.
This is not some back-of-the-napkin approximation. According to a groundbreaking new working paper by Carter C. Price and Kathryn Edwards of the RAND Corporation, had the more equitable income distributions of the three decades following World War II (1945 through 1974) merely held steady, the aggregate annual income of Americans earning below the 90th percentile would have been $2.5 trillion higher in the year 2018 alone. That is an amount equal to nearly 12 percent of GDP—enough to more than double median income—enough to pay every single working American in the bottom nine deciles an additional $1,144 a month. Every month. Every single year…”