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Accurate, Focused Research on Law, Technology and Knowledge Discovery Since 2002
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CDC Finally Posts Guidelines for Activities as States Reopen

Sun, 06/14/2020 - 15:16

These guidelines were released on Friday, June 12, 2020. Yet around the country states and localities had previously ended restrictions on many activities, indoor and outdoor, as well as reopening of commerce – stores, restaurants, and other businesses. The CDC was far behind the curve in providing requisite federal guidelines prior to re-openings that have led to significant spikes in new COVID19 cases (Texas, Arizona, Florida, Alabama, Oregon).

As communities and businesses are opening, you may be looking for ways to resume some daily activities as safely as possible. While there is no way to ensure zero risk of infection, it is important to understand potential risks and how to adopt different types of prevention measures to protect yourself and to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. As a reminder, if you have COVID-19, have symptoms consistent with COVID-19, or have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19, it is important to stay home and away from other people. When you can leave home and be around others depends on different factors for different situations. Follow CDC’s recommendations for your circumstances…”

See alsoStudy: 100% face mask use could crush second, third COVID-19 wave

See also Chronicle of Higher Education – In Some States This Fall, Masks at Public Colleges Will Be ‘Encouraged’ but Not Required

Categories: Law and Legal

The Economist Democracy Index 2019

Sun, 06/14/2020 - 14:36

“The twelfth edition of the Democracy Index finds that the average global score has fallen from 5.48 in 2018, to 5.44. This is the worst average global score since The Economist Intelligence Unit first produced the Democracy Index in 2006. Driven by sharp regressions in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa, four out of the five categories that make up the global average score have deteriorated. Although there were some dramatic downturns in the scores of certain countries, others have bucked the overall trend and registered impressive improvements. Download the free report to find out where your country ranks.” [The US is no longer rated as a “full democracy” and fell down the list to 16th place]

Categories: Law and Legal

New Florida Community Coronavirus Dashboard posted independent of state control

Sun, 06/14/2020 - 13:32

Washington Post – “Tension built for days between Florida Department of Health supervisors and the department’s geographic information systems manager before officials showed her the door, she says, permanently pulling her off the coronavirus dashboard that she operated for weeks. Managers had wanted Rebekah Jones to make certain changes to the public-facing portal, she says. Jones had objected to — and sometimes refused to comply with — what she saw as unethical requests. She says the department offered to let her resign. Jones declined.

Weeks after she was fired in mid-May, Jones has now found a way to present the state’s coronavirus data exactly the way she wants it: She created a dashboard of her own. “I wanted to build an application that delivered data and helped people get tested and helped them get resources that they need from their community,” Jones, 30, said of the site that launched Thursday. “And that’s what I ended up building with this new dashboard.” White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx praised Florida’s official coronavirus dashboard in April as a beacon of transparency. But Jones has asserted that the site under counts the state’s infection total and over counts the number of people tested — with the official numbers bolstering the decision to start loosening restrictions on the economy in early May, when the state had not met federal guidelines for reopening…”

Categories: Law and Legal

A teenager’s guide to building the world’s best pandemic and protest trackers

Sun, 06/14/2020 - 13:27

MIT Technology Review: “Avi Schiffmann, the brains behind the web’s most popular coronavirus tracking site, just launched a protest tracking site. How did he do it? The coronavirus pandemic and the protests sparked by the May 25 murder of George Floyd have been the defining events of 2020 so far, and in both cases one 17-year-old has played a major role online: Avi Schiffmann, the creator of the web’s preeminent covid-19 case tracker and, more recently, a protest tracking site. The trackers have garnered praise for providing concise, instantly updated information. Schiffmann’s coronavirus tracker is so thorough, in fact, that epidemiologists have used it to predict the disease’s spread. Schiffmann has earned the Webby Person of the Year award along with praise from Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who called the teen’s site “essential.” Schiffmann could have rested on his laurels, but the murder of George Floyd prompted another project. This new site is simple and serves one primary purpose: find local protests. So how did Schiffmann do it? We spoke to him to find out how he got involved—and what advice he could give anyone else who fancies doing something similar…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Black Lives Matter Protest Map

Sun, 06/14/2020 - 12:51
  • 2020 George Floyd / Black Lives Matter Protests – Showing to date – 3429 cities or towns with protests (throughout the world – with the majority in the US and Europe) since May 25 2020. Updated June 13. 2020.
  • The New York Times – How Black Lives Matter reached every corner of America – “On any given day, they spill out onto the streets, driven by fury. They march. They kneel. They sing. They cry. They pray. They light candles. They chant and shout, urgent voices, muffled behind masks. They block freeways and bridges and fill public squares. They press their bodies into hot asphalt, silently breathing for eight minutes and 46 seconds. They do all this beneath the watchful gaze of uniformed police officers standing sentry…race, the warm spring air was already charged. A killer virus had ripped through black communities. Bullets, too. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. And then the death of a black man after an encounter with a white police officer, who pressed his left knee on the neck of the man the world now knows as George Floyd. His death during the last light of Memorial Day has unleashed one of the most explosive trials of American racism in modern times…”
  • See also Kadir Nelson’s “Say Their Names”A closeup examination of the artist’s latest cover, in which the murder of George Floyd embodies the history of violence inflicted upon black people in America. By The New Yorker – “An annotated version zeroes in on these lives, including Ahmaud Arbery, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Rodney King, Martin Luther King Jr., Trayvon Martin, David McAtee, Rosa Parks, Tamir Rice, Breonna Taylor, Emmett Till, and the unnamed millions of black people enslaved in America.”
Categories: Law and Legal

The Internet’s most important—and misunderstood—law, explained

Sun, 06/14/2020 - 11:09

Ars Technica – Section 230 is the legal foundation of social media, and it’s under attack.”…To understand Section 230, you have to understand how the law worked before Congress enacted it in 1996. At the time, the market for consumer online services was dominated by three companies: Prodigy, CompuServe, and AOL. Along with access to the Internet, the companies also offered proprietary services such as real time chats and online message boards. Prodigy distinguished itself from rivals by advertising a moderated, family-friendly experience. Employees would monitor its message boards and delete posts that didn’t meet the company’s standards. And this difference proved to have an immense—and rather perverse—legal consequence…”

Categories: Law and Legal

COVID-19: Remote Voting Trendsand the Election Infrastructure Subsector

Sun, 06/14/2020 - 10:59

CRS report via LC – COVID-19: Remote Voting Trends and the Election Infrastructure Subsector, June 10, 2020: “The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) designated the systems and assets used to administer elections as a critical infrastructure subsector in 2017. The federal elections policyframework—including infrastructure protection—has generally assumed in-person voting at official polling places as the primary means of elections administration. Therefore, infrastructure security efforts have focused on reducing risk to existing systems and assetssuch as voter registration databases, voting machines, polling places, and elections storage facilities. However, recent elections cycles have witnessed increased use of alternatives to in-person voting…”


Categories: Law and Legal

Larger Businesses and COVID-19 – Financial Relief and Assistance Resources

Sun, 06/14/2020 - 10:55

CRS report via LC: Larger Businesses and COVID-19: Financial Relief and Assistance Resources Updated June 11, 2020: “This CRS Insight presents selected resources and CRS products potentially relevant to medium and large businesses directly affected by the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic seeking economic relief and assistance. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, enacted on March 27, 2020, contains provisions to assist businesses. This Insight focuses on potential sources of assistance designated for medium and large businesses that do not qualify for Small Business Administration programs or other assistance programs for small businesses. For small business assistance programs, see CRS Insight IN11301, Small Businesses and COVID-19: Relief and Assistance Resources, by Maria Kreiser. Note that this Insight may not include every instance of federal assistance to medium or large firms provided in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Firms of this size may have, on occasion, received funding via other CARES Act mechanisms or facilities. These firms’ eligibility for this other funding may be due to factors or combinations of factors such as the structure of particular programs, how the firm is organized, or situations involving a specific industry…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Libraries are needed more than ever

Sun, 06/14/2020 - 01:55

USA Today – But many aren’t sure how to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic – “…Just 37% of libraries plan to reopen by July, according to a recently released survey from the American Library Association. Nearly half of the nation’s libraries – 47% – do not have plans to reopen their doors to the public anytime soon, according to the association, which surveyed 3,800 libraries from all 50 states in May. Librarians and library patrons say it is an especially difficult time for libraries to be closed, with many school systems closed to students who might not have internet access at home and more than 44.2 million Americans filing jobless claims, many of whom would normally be able to seek assistance at their local library branch…”

Categories: Law and Legal

CDC Document Shows Just How Badly the U.S. Is Handling Coronavirus

Thu, 06/11/2020 - 23:58

Gizmodo: “The U.S. government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic continues to be faltering, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Leaked CDC documents dated June 9 that were obtained and published by Yahoo News this week show the U.S. is still exhibiting astronomical increases in new cases of the virus, doing far worse to contain it than the other nine nations who have experienced the highest number of total cases: Brazil, Russia, the United Kingdom, India, Spain, Italy, Peru, Germany, and Iran. The CDC document shows that the U.S. experienced an estimated 36.5% uptick in confirmed daily cases, which is far above any of the other countries. (The closest is Peru, which saw a 4.46% increase in confirmed daily cases.)

Another document from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, also from June 9, confirmed the 36.5% statistic, according to Yahoo News. The FEMA document also shows that the rolling average of daily deaths in the U.S. is beginning to exceed 1,000 per day. The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine tracker shows that of the 7.4 million confirmed cases globally, just over 2 million of them have been in the U.S., which has also seen over 113,000 of the nearly 460,000 deaths. (These numbers are likely an undercount.) The U.S., however, has charged ahead with reopening businesses and other institutions initially shut down under emergency lockdown measures in all 50 states, despite most of the states falling short of federal guidelines on coronavirus containment and the U.S. failing to come anywhere close to the progress seen in many other nations loosening restrictions…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Over 1,000 metric tons of microplastic particles fall into 11 protected areas in western U.S. each year

Thu, 06/11/2020 - 23:45

Wired – Plastic Rain Is the New Acid Rain – Researchers find that over 1,000 metric tons of microplastic fall on 11 protected areas in the US annually, equivalent to over 120 million plastic water bottles: “Writing today in the journal Science, researchers report a startling discovery: After collecting rainwater and air samples for 14 months, they calculated that over 1,000 metric tons of microplastic particles fall into 11 protected areas in the western US each year. That’s the equivalent of over 120 million plastic water bottles. “We just did that for the area of protected areas in the West, which is only 6 percent of the total US area,” says lead author Janice Brahney, an environmental scientist at Utah State University. “The number was just so large, it’s shocking.”

It further confirms an increasingly hellish scenario: Microplastics are blowing all over the world, landing in supposedly pure habitats, like the Arctic and the remote French Pyrenees. They’re flowing into the oceans via wastewater and tainting deep-sea ecosystems, and they’re even ejecting out of the water and blowing onto land in sea breezes. And now in the American West, and presumably across the rest of the world given that these are fundamental atmospheric processes, they are falling in the form of plastic rain—the new acid rain…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Policing the Police: Qualified Immunity and Considerations for Congress

Thu, 06/11/2020 - 23:19

CRS report via LC – Policing the Police: Qualified Immunity and Considerations for Congress, June 10, 2020: “In the wake of unrest arising from George Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020,after a Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee into his neck, broader questions have arisen with regard to how existing law regulates the conduct of local police officers. While these issues are explored more broadly in these separate Sidebars, one particular issue of recent judicial and legislative focus has been the doctrine of qualified immunity. Qualified immunity is a judicially created doctrine shielding public officials who are performing discretionary functions from civil liability. The doctrine plays a particularly prominent role in defense of civil rights lawsuits against federal law enforcement officials under the Bivens doctrine and against state and local police under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Section 1983). With regard to its role in civil lawsuits concerning violations of constitutional norms regulating the police, defenders of the doctrine have suggested that qualified immunity plays an important role in affording police officers some level of deference when making split-second decisions about whether to, for example, use force to subdue a fleeing or resisting suspect. Critics of the doctrine have questioned its legal origins and have argued that its practice has provided too much deference to the police at the expense of accountability and the erosion of criminal suspects’ constitutional rights. With increasing focus on whether Congress should legislate to abrogate or otherwise modify the doctrine, this Sidebar explores the legal basis for qualified immunity, how it has operated in practice, and current debate over the efficacy of the doctrine. The Sidebar concludes by discussing considerations for Congress regarding qualified immunity…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Libraries Strive to Stay ‘Community Living Rooms’ as They Reopen

Thu, 06/11/2020 - 23:09

The New York Times – “Safely lending books is just the beginning. Libraries are figuring out everything from how to remain welcoming spaces to how to respond to changing reader behavior. In pockets of Virginia, Illinois, Missouri and Ohio, there are books sitting in quarantine. They are public library books that have been returned, and then spend at least three days sitting on tables or in big metal carts, carefully labeled with the dates they came in. After that, they can they go back on the shelves. Libraries around the country are tiptoeing toward reopening, but they’re not just trying to figure out how to safely lend out books. These are community hubs where parents bring their toddlers for story time, where people come to use the computer, where book groups meet. Now all of that has to be rethought. “It’s awful because it’s the opposite of what we normally try to do,” said Karen Kleckner Keefe, the executive director of the Hinsdale Public Library just outside of Chicago. “We want to be the community living room, we want everyone to stay and get comfortable. And to design service to prevent lingering and talking is so different from everything we’ve been working toward.” With their doors closed, libraries moved whatever they could online. Book clubs were held on Zoom. The Queens Public Library in New York changed a job-search training session to focus on online networking. Author events became virtual, too, which, while lacking an in-person touch, sometimes meant they could include special guests…Branches around the country have also been offering curbside pickup, where books are left by the front door or dropped in the trunks of waiting cars, along with library catalogs and leaflets about their cleaning protocols. And even when the lights were off, many libraries kept their Wi-Fi humming so people park themselves outside and use it for free…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Trump trashes 50-year-old environmental law, blames coronavirus

Thu, 06/11/2020 - 19:47

grist – “With the nation’s eyes on ongoing protests for racial justice (not to mention a seemingly endless public health crisis), last week President Trump signed an executive order that would waive key requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The landmark 1970 law requires federal agencies to consider the environmental impacts of proposed federal actions and projects, including the construction of major highways, airports, oil and gas drilling, and pipelines. Trump’s new executive order relaxes the law’s requirement that major new infrastructure and energy projects undergo environmental reviews to ensure they will not significantly harm the environment and nearby public. (Industry representatives often blame the environmental impact statements required by the law for the extensive delay of permit approvals.) …Early this year, the Trump administration announced plans to overhaul key elements of the law, including by limiting requests for community input prior project approval, disregarding project alternatives, and shortening the deadline for environmental impact statements and environmental assessments. Pollution-burdened communities have long leveraged NEPA as a defense mechanism to protect their health and the environment — examples include the fights against the controversial Keystone XL pipeline and the expansion of the 710 freeway in Long Beach, California…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Activists rally to save Internet Archive as lawsuit threatens site

Thu, 06/11/2020 - 19:28

Follow up to previous posting – Publishers file suit against Internet Archive for systematic mass scanning and distribution of literary works – via Decrypt: “…In March, as the COVID-19 pandemic led to the shutdown of public libraries, the Internet Archive created the National Emergency Library and temporarily suspended book waitlists—the kind that make you cool your jets for 12 weeks to download “A Game of Thrones” onto your Kindle—through the end of June. In doing so, it essentially allowed for a single copy of a book to be downloaded an infinite number of times. Book publishers weren’t happy. Last Monday, Hachette, HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, and Wiley—four publishing behemoths—sued the organization. The lawsuit argues that “IA’s actions grossly exceed legitimate library services, do violence to the Copyright Act, and constitute willful digital piracy on an industrial scale.” Perhaps in response, today the Internet Archive announced it was closing the National Emergency Library two weeks early. Founder Brewster Kahle wrote that he hoped the plaintiffs would “call off their costly assault.” If the court finds that Internet Archive “willfully” infringed copyright, the library could be on the hook for up to $150,000 in damages—per each of the 1.4 million titles. (You do the math.)…”

Categories: Law and Legal

MIT, guided by open access principles, ends Elsevier negotiations

Thu, 06/11/2020 - 19:15

MIT News: “Standing by its commitment to provide equitable and open access to scholarship, MIT has ended negotiations with Elsevier for a new journals contract. Elsevier was not able to present a proposal that aligned with the principles of the MIT Framework for Publisher Contracts.  Developed by the MIT Libraries in collaboration with the Ad Hoc Task Force on Open Access to MIT’s Research and the Committee on the Library System in October 2019, the MIT Framework is grounded in the conviction that openly sharing research and educational materials is key to the Institute’s mission of advancing knowledge and bringing that knowledge to bear on the world’s greatest challenges. It affirms the overarching principle that control of scholarship and its dissemination should reside with scholars and their institutions, and aims to ensure that scholarly research outputs are openly and equitably available to the broadest possible audience, while also providing valued services to the MIT community…More than 100 institutions, ranging from multi-institution consortia to large research universities to liberal arts colleges, decided to endorse the MIT Framework in recognition of its potential to advance open scholarship and the public good…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Coronavirus Could Make America’s Gun Problem Even Deadlier

Thu, 06/11/2020 - 18:30

The New York Times Opinion – We studied 26 million Americans over 12 years. Here’s what we learned about gun ownership. By David Studdert, Matthew Miller and Garen Wintemute Mr. Studdert is a professor at Stanford University, Mr. Miller at Northeastern University, and Mr. Wintemute at U.C. Davis: “Millions of Americans have experienced the coronavirus pandemic directly, as they or their loved ones suffered through infection. But for most of us, the experience is defined by weeks and months on end stuck at home. The shut-ins are testing the safety of our home environments. Stress and isolation combined with another feature of American life — easy access to firearms — could form a deadly brew. Last week we released results of a new study — the largest ever on the connection between suicide and handgun ownership — in The New England Journal of Medicine revealing that gun owners were nearly four times as likely to die by suicide than people without guns, even when controlling for gender, age, race and neighborhood…

Our study compiled information on 26 million Americans over 12 years. We tracked handgun acquisitions in a large sample of California residents and then compared the frequency of death among those who did and didn’t own them. The elevated suicide rates among handgun owners were driven by their higher rates of suicide by firearm — eight times higher for men and 35 times higher for women, compared with non-owners of the same gender. By contrast, handgun owners did not have higher rates of suicide from other methods or higher rates of death by other causes. These results are consistent with those from every serious study that has examined the relationship between gun access and suicide in the United States. If anything, we find a stronger connection than most others have…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Voter Registration: Recent Developments and Issues for Congress

Thu, 06/11/2020 - 18:10

CRS report via LC: Voter Registration: Recent Developments and Issues for Congress. June 10, 2020: “…The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) expanded registration opportunities by creating a federal mail-based registration form and requiring states to provide voter registration opportunities alongside services provided by departments of motor vehicles (DMVs) and at other agencies. NVRA remains a fundamental component of federal voter registration policy and contains a number of other provisions affecting voter registration administration. Other key provisions of NVRA are related top pocesses used for voter list maintenance or removing voters from the registration list, among other provisions….Many view congressional activity related to voter registration as an extension of the federal government’s role in upholding the constitutional right to vote and ensuring the integrity of election processes…Certain voter registration measures, however, may be viewed as barriers that inhibit otherwise eligible individuals from being able to vote. Some may question whether further expanding the federal role in voter registration is necessary, given existing federal and state practices. Imposing uniform standards across states could also present challenges because of the decentralized nature of U.S. election administration and the variety of election practices currently in place under state laws. Other measures addressing elements of election administration or election integrity, unrelated to voter registration, may also be a legislative priority…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Harvard health expert predicts an additional 100,000 US coronavirus deaths by September

Thu, 06/11/2020 - 14:46

Business Insider via Yahoo – “Close to 113,000 people have already died from the coronavirus in the US.  The main model being used by officials to estimate the impact of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States also revised its death toll this week to 193,347 COVID-19 deaths by October 1.  Dr. Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that the current data shows that somewhere between 800 to 1,000 Americans are dying from the virus daily, and even if that does not increase, the US is poised to cross 200,000 deaths sometime in September. “I think that is catastrophic. I think that is not something we have to be fated to live with,” Jha told CNN. “We can change the course. We can change course today.” So far close to 113,000 people have died from the coronavirus in the US. Jha stressed that the numbers he’s predicted are only for the next several months.  “The pandemic won’t be over in September,” Jha said. “So, I’m really worried about where we’re going to be in the weeks and months ahead.”…

Categories: Law and Legal

What Will Greetings Look Like in a Post-Coronavirus World?

Thu, 06/11/2020 - 14:26

The New York Times – It might be a while before we can offer a hug or handshake. But that’s OK. “…While some people may be eager to resume their usual behaviors after social-distancing measures have been relaxed, in the absence of a coronavirus vaccine, many will be more cautious with their interpersonal interactions, Dr. Molinsky said. Instead of reverting to familiar physical greetings, he said, society will adopt new ones with similar meanings. Instead of interpreting a neighbor’s beeline to the other side of the street with a quick nod as cold and distant, we may perceive it as a safe acknowledgment….While it’s true we may miss out on some of the many health benefits of daily human touch — decreases in heart rate, blood pressure and stress hormones and increases in bonding hormones like oxytocin — Dr. Field said that interpersonal contact wasn’t the only way to get the feel-good benefits of touch. As long as the skin is being activated by exercise, stretching or even a prolonged scrub in the shower, you’re stimulating the skin’s pressure receptors, and activating therapeutic responses within the body that induce relaxation and reduce depression, anxiety and heart rate…”

Categories: Law and Legal