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Wired – “…The Soviets ended up evacuating 300,000 people from nearly 2,000 square miles around the plant. The bulk of that area is now called the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone, and the old power plant is now encased in a giant concrete sarcophagus. But what happened to the Exclusion Zone after everyone left is the subject of disagreement in the scientific community. For decades, research in the area said that plant and animal life had been denuded, and the life that remained was mutated, sick. Newer research says otherwise—that plants have regrown, and animal life is even more diverse than before the accident. The Exclusion Zone hasn’t been rewilded so much as de-humaned, more unmanned in folly than anything Lady Macbeth ever worried about. It’s a living experiment in what the world will be like after humans are gone, having left utter devastation in our wake…”
“Teachers and students all over the U.S. need your help to bring their classroom dreams to life. Get crayons, books, telescopes, field trips, and more for a classroom today…” [I bought books for a class in all subjects for the school year – anonymously – and received wonderful and inspiring notes from the teachers and students. The schools in your area really do need your help – thank you.]
Yet another example of the fundamental requirement for librarians and teachers as integral members of organizations in all sectors, around the world…”
Reuters – “Millions of A$50 ($35) banknotes in Australia have an embarrassing typographical error that was overlooked by the country’s central bank before they were printed and circulated. The goof first became known on Thursday when a listener on radio outlet Triple M sent the station a magnified photo of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA) new A$50 note highlighting the word “responsibility” misspelt as “responsibilty” three times. The A$50 currency is the most widely circulated in Australia and accounts for nearly half the total value of other banknotes in use, according to the RBA. The note came into circulation on Oct. 18, 2018 with new security features designed to deter counterfeiting and with tactile elements for the visually impaired. It sports a head-shot of Edith Cowan, who served as the first woman elected to an Australian legislature from 1921 to 1924. The typo appears in an excerpt of Cowan’s maiden speech to Western Australia’s parliament, which features on the A$50 note. The quote, which is repeated over on the banknote, reads: “It is a great responsibilty (sic) to be the only woman here and I want to emphasise the necessity which exists for other women being here.” An RBA spokeswoman said in an emailed statement to Reuters the Bank “is aware of it and the spelling will be corrected at the next print run.” The Bank said in its latest annual report its note printing subsidiary delivered 227 million Australian banknotes in 2017/18, including around 184 million new series A$50 banknotes…”
Library of Congress – “This free-to-use set features images of cats found in the Library’s collections. Staff “experts” contributed their favorite photos, posters & illustrations. Enjoy! Browse more content that is free to use and reuse.”
Washington Post – “Global messaging app WhatsApp, which boasts over 1 billion users, was targeted by hackers last month in a breach that saw mobile devices attacked through the voice-calling functionality of the app. The security flaw potentially gave hackers access to private messages, location data and other personal user information. While WhatsApp hasn’t specifically stated who or how many users were targeted, the platform urged users to update to the latest version of the app to protect their data and devices from hackers. Unsure how to update your WhatsApp or how to check if you’re already running the newest version? Here’s everything you need to know…”
See also TechCrunch – WhatsApp exploit let attackers install government-grade spyware on phones “…The vulnerability (documented here) was discovered by the Facebook-owned WhatsApp in early May, the company confirmed to TechCrunch. It apparently leveraged a bug in the audio call feature of the app to allow the caller to allow the installation of spyware on the device being called, whether the call was answered or not…”
US News Best States Rankings – Measuring outcomes for citizens using more than 70 metrics – “Some states shine in health care. Some soar in education. Some excel in both – or in much more. The Best States ranking of U.S. states draws on thousands of data points to measure how well states are performing for their citizens. In addition to health care and education, the metrics take into account a state’s economy, its roads, bridges, internet and other infrastructure, its public safety, the fiscal stability of state government, and the opportunity it affords its residents.
More weight was accorded to some state measures than others, based on a survey of what matters most to people. Health care and education were weighted most heavily. Then came state economies, infrastructure, and the opportunity states offer their citizens. Fiscal stability followed closely in weighting, followed by measures of crime & corrections and a state’s natural environment…”
Trump’s Lawyers Argue Congress Has Little Power To Investigate A Sitting President’s Personal Affairs
BuzzFeedNews – “As President Donald Trump fights investigations by the Democrat-controlled House on multiple fronts, a court hearing Tuesday highlighted his strategy to fend off inquiries into his personal business affairs. Trump so far is challenging congressional subpoenas for financial records — both personal and from the Trump Organization — in federal courts in Washington, DC, and Manhattan. On Tuesday, a judge in the DC case heard arguments on Trump’s effort to block a House Oversight Committee subpoena to accounting firm Mazars, which has long worked with Trump and his companies.
Trump’s strategy has three parts: First, resist efforts to speed up the litigation. Second, raise sweeping arguments about the limits of Congress’s ability to investigate him that test the bounds of previous US Supreme Court and appeals court decisions. Finally, be prepared to lose and appeal. Tuesday’s hearing was the first of what will likely be numerous court proceedings over Democrats’s subpoenas probing not only Trump’s business affairs but also the goings on of his administration. The federal judge in New York handling Trump’s lawsuit challenging a subpoena to Deutsche Bank and Capital One is scheduled to hear arguments May 22….”
“Today, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Committee on Financial Services, announced the creation of a Task Force on Artificial Intelligence chaired by Congressman Bill Foster (D-IL). “I am excited to Chair the Financial Services Committee’s Task Force on Artificial Intelligence and I thank Chairwoman Waters for her foresight in creating this important Task Force,” Congressman Foster said. “Developments in AI are at the forefront of innovation that is changing the way Americans operate in the marketplace, how we think about identity security, and how we do business with financial institutions. It is affecting everything from how we access our money to how we apply for mortgages and make financial investments. AI has the potential to help break down barriers and make it easier for entrepreneurs, aspiring homeowners, and consumers to interact with banks and utilize financial services, but it is crucial that the application of AI to financial services contributes to an economy that is fair for all Americans. I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues to better understand how we can utilize AI to maintain the competitiveness of our nation’s financial services sector and how it translates into building a financial system that works for everyone.” “As new technologies emerge and the financial services industry puts those technologies to use, Congress must make sure that responsible innovation is encouraged, and that regulators and the law are adapting to the changing landscape to best protect consumers, investors and small businesses,” said Chairwoman Waters. “The new task force on artificial intelligence, under the leadership of Congressman Foster, will help Congress to stay on top of new developments in this area so that we are well-positioned to make policy.”
The Task Force on Artificial Intelligence will examine issues including:
- Applications of machine learning in financial services and regulation
- Algorithms and Big Data: emerging risk management perspectives
- AI, Digital Identification Technologies and Combatting Fraud
- Automation and its impact on jobs in financial services and the overall economy.”
The New York Times – “Carl Malamud believes in open access to government records, and he has spent more than a decade putting them online. You might think states would welcome the help. But when Mr. Malamud’s group posted the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, the state sued for copyright infringement. Providing public access to the state’s laws and related legal materials, Georgia’s lawyers said, was part of a “strategy of terrorism.” A federal appeals court ruled against the state, which has asked the Supreme Court to step in. On Friday, in an unusual move, Mr. Malamud’s group, Public.Resource.Org, also urged the court to hear the dispute, saying that the question of who owns the law is an urgent one, as about 20 other states have claimed that parts of similar annotated codes are copyrighted. The issue, the group said, is whether citizens can have access to “the raw materials of our democracy.” The case, Georgia v. Public.Resource.Org, No. 18-1150, concerns the 54 volumes of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, which contain state statutes and related materials….”
NextGov: “While government leaders across the globe are excited about the unleashing artificial intelligence in their organizations, most are struggling with deploying it for their missions because they can’t wrangle their data, a new study suggests. In a survey released this week, Splunk and TRUE Global Intelligence polled 1,365 global business managers and IT leaders across seven countries. The research indicates that the majority of organizations’ data is “dark,” or unquantified, untapped and usually generated by systems, devices or interactions. AI runs on data and yet few organizations seem to be able to tap into its value—or even find it.
“Neglected by business and IT managers, dark data is an underused asset that demands a more sophisticated approach to how organizations collect, manage and analyze information,” the report said. “Yet respondents also voiced hesitance about diving in.” A third of respondents said more than 75% of their organizations’ data is dark and only one in every nine people reports that less than a quarter of their organizations’ data is dark. Many of the global respondents said a lack of interest from their leadership makes it hard to recover dark data. Another 60% also said more than half of their organizations’ data is not captured and “much of it is not even understood to exist.”…
The Verge -Keep your ‘Hey Google’ questions off the record (or isn’t it time you used DuckDuckGo)
“Home assistants such as Alexa and Google Assistant are becoming ubiquitous, and as that happens, more and more users are discovering how much of their data is actually being collected by these handy items. The Washington Post’s Geoffrey A. Fowler was so taken aback by the amount of audio material that Amazon collected that he actually made a song out of his clips. If all this makes you uneasy, you can delete the recordings already made by Alexa and Google Assistant — but of the two, only Google Assistant lets you pause the process so that your voice won’t be recorded in the first place. Here’s how to do it…”
EFF – Skip the Surveillance By Opting Out of Face Recognition At Airports – “…It might sound trite, but right now, the key to opting out of face recognition is to be vigilant. There’s no single box you can check, and importantly, it may not be possible for non-U.S. persons to opt out of face recognition entirely. For those who can opt out, you’ll need to spot the surveillance when it’s happening. To start, TSA PreCheck, Clear, and other ways of “skipping the line” often require biometric identification, and are often being used as test cases for these sorts of programs. Once you’re at the airport, be on the lookout for any time a TSA, CBP, or airline employee asks you to look into a device, or when there’s a kiosk or signage like those below. That means your biometric data is probably about to be scanned.
…To skip the surveillance, CBP says you “should notify a CBP Officer or an airline or airport representative in order to seek an alternative means of verifying [your] identity and documents.” Do the same when you encounter this with an airline. While there should be signage near the face recognition area, it may not be clear. If you’re concerned about creating a slight delay for yourself or other passengers, take note: though CBP has claimed to have a 98% accuracy rating in their pilot programs, the Office of the Inspector General could not verify those numbers, and even a 2% error rate would cause thousands of people to be misidentified every day. Most face recognition technology has significantly lower accuracy ratings than that, so you might actually be speeding things up by skipping the surveillance…”
New York Magazine – Intelligencer: “Jared Diamond’s new book, Upheaval, addresses itself to a world very obviously in crisis, and tries to lift some lessons for what do about it from the distant past. In that way, it’s not so different from all the other books that have made the UCLA geographer a sort of don of “big think” history and a perennial favorite of people like Steven Pinker and Bill Gates…Today, the risk that we’re facing is not of societies collapsing one by one, but because of globalization, the risk we are facing is of the collapse of the whole world.,..
I would estimate the chances are about 49 percent that the world as we know it will collapse by about 2050. I’ll be dead by then but my kids will be, what? Sixty-three years old in 2050. So this is a subject of much practical interest to me. At the rate we’re going now, resources that are essential for complex societies are being managed unsustainably. Fisheries around the world, most fisheries are being managed unsustainably, and they’re getting depleted. Farms around the world, most farms are being managed unsustainably. Soil, topsoil around the world. Fresh water around the world is being managed unsustainably. With all these things, at the rate we’re going now, we can carry on with our present unsustainable use for a few decades, and by around 2050 we won’t be able to continue it any longer. Which means that by 2050 either we’ve figured out a sustainable course, or it’ll be too late…”
The New York Times Opinion – Lesson One: Don’t let Trump take the initiative. By Jamelle Bouie
“…I have been revisiting a few popular histories of the Civil War, both for personal interest and future work. It’s almost impossible to count all of the connections to make between that period, Reconstruction and present-day political life. But there’s one event, or series of events, that stands out as a potentially useful analogy for thinking about the Democratic Party’s decision-making as it prepares, again, to face Trump in a presidential election….The next election will be about Trump. His base, as well as most Republican voters, will almost certainly be with him. What Democrats need is the confidence of their position. At this stage, when most Americans say they won’t vote for Trump in 2020, they have the public. They have evidence of wrongdoing. They have all the tools they need to seize the initiative and center the next year of political conflict on the president’s contempt for the Constitution and the welfare of the American people…”
The art of telling an entire story with a single word: “At Merriam-Webster we know that words have the power to shape worlds both real and imagined. And we know that writing is hard work. To distill a story, its characters, and all the associated emotions into a single word is no small feat. That’s why we’ve partnered with eleven of our favorite authors who have shared the story and significance behind their one-word-title books…”
A USA TODAY Network investigation uncovered records of thousands of police officers investigated for serious misconduct. “…we’re releasing a searchable database of the most cut-and-dried cases of troubled cops—30,000 officers from 44 states who were decertified by state oversight agencies. Decertification essentially bans those officers from carrying a badge anywhere in the state. Their infractions run the gamut. They’ve beaten members of the public, planted evidence, and used their badges to harass women. Others have lied, stolen, dealt drugs, driven drunk, abused spouses, and pursued relationships with minors, among a wide range of other infractions, depending on the aggressiveness of their state’s rules for police behavior. For years, a private police organization has cobbled the states’ lists of decertifications together into a nationwide clearinghouse and encouraged police agencies to use it for screening new hires. But that list is kept secret from anyone outside law enforcement.
USA TODAY requested the records about banned officers from all 50 states by filing requests under state sunshine laws, obtaining records from 44 states so far. The information includes the officers’ names, the department they were working for when they lost their certification and—in most cases—at least a vague summary of the reasons why. The list is incomplete because of the absence of records from states like California, which has the largest number of law enforcement officers in the U.S. The level of oversight varies widely from state to state. While Georgia and Florida decertified thousands of police officers for everything from crimes to serious questions about their fitness to serve, other states banned almost none….”
Inside Higher Ed – “What a difference preparation makes when it comes to doing research in Arctic-level air-conditioned academic libraries (or ones that are otherwise freezing — or not air-conditioned at all). Luckily, Megan L. Cook, assistant professor of English at Colby College, published a crowdsourced document called “How Cold Is that Library?” Alas, the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., is rated “very cold,” for example. But hark! A box of shawls is kept behind the circulation desk, available on request. And the library’s New Reading Room has “better light.” Cook, who was not immediately available for comment, has said the document was group effort. Juliet Sperling, a faculty fellow in American art at Colby, credited her colleague’s “brilliance” but said the document was “generally inspired by conversations we’ve had as co-fellows” in the Andrew W. Mellon Society of Fellows in Critical Bibliography. The society brings together 60-some scholars of rare books and material texts from a variety of disciplinary or institutional approaches, she said, “so collectively, we’ve all spent quite a bit of time in libraries of various climates all over the world.” In addition to library temperatures, lighting and even humidity levels, the scholars trade research destinations’ photo policies and nearby eateries and drinking holes, among other tips. A spreadsheet opens up that resource to others, Sperling said. The document already has dozens of entries, from the U.S. to South America and Europe…”
EveryCRSReport.com – Terrorism, Violent Extremism, and the Internet: Free Speech Considerations, May 6, 2019 R45713: “Recent acts of terrorism and hate crimes have prompted a renewed focus on the possible links between internet content and offline violence. While some have focused on the role that social media companies play in moderating user-generated content, others have called for Congress to pass laws regulating online content promoting terrorism or violence. Proposals related to government action of this nature raise significant free speech questions, including (1) the reach of the First Amendment’s protections when it comes to foreign nationals posting online content from abroad; (2) the scope of so-called “unprotected” categories of speech developed long before the advent of the internet; and (3) the judicial standards that limit how the government can craft or enforce laws to preserve national security and prevent violence.
At the outset, it is not clear that a foreign national (i.e., a non-U.S. citizen or resident) could invoke the protections of the First Amendment in a specific U.S. prosecution or litigation involving online speech that the foreign national posted from abroad. The Supreme Court has never directly opined on this question. However, its decisions regarding the extraterritorial application of other constitutional protections to foreign nationals and lower court decisions involving speech made by foreign nationals while outside of the United States suggest that the First Amendment may not apply in that scenario. In contrast, free speech considerations are likely to be highly relevant in evaluating the legality of (1) proposals for the U.S. government to regulate what internet users in the United States can post, or (2) the enforcement of existing U.S. laws where the government seeks to hold U.S. persons liable for their online speech.
Although the government typically can regulate conduct without running afoul of the First Amendment, regulations that restrict or burden expression often do implicate free speech protections. In such circumstances, courts generally distinguish between laws that regulate speech on the basis of its content (i.e., the topic discussed or the message expressed) and those that do not, subjecting the former to more stringent review. A law that expressly restricts online communications or media promoting violence or terrorism is likely to be deemed a content-based restriction on speech; whereas a law that primarily regulates conduct could be subject to a less stringent standard of review, unless its application to speech turns on the message expressed. Whether such laws would survive First Amendment scrutiny depends on a number of factors…”
Congressional Access to the President’s Federal Tax Returns, CRS Legal Sidebar, updated May 7, 2019: “On April 3, 2019, the Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee sent a letter to the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service requesting the individual income tax returns of President Trump, income tax returns for various business entities related to President Trump, and additional administrative files and audit information relating to such returns. The request covers returns filed for tax years 2013 through 2018. On May 6, 2019, the Secretary of the Treasury informed the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee that, on the advice of the Department of Justice, he will not release the President’s tax return information because “the Committee’s request lacks a legitimate legislative purpose.” The Secretary also stated that the Department of Justice will publicly release its legal reasoning on the subject “as soon as practicable.”
The Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee is reportedly preparing to send a request to the Treasury Department’s Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to obtain President Trump’s federal tax returns. This request appears prompted by the President’s departure from the past practice of sitting presidents and presidential candidates voluntarily disclosing their recent tax returns. This Sidebar analyzes the ability of a congressional committee to obtain the President’s tax returns under provisions of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC); whether the President or the Treasury Secretary might have a legal basis for denying a committee request for the returns; and, if a committee successfully acquires the returns, whether those returns legally could be disclosed to the public..”
c/net: “Justin Paine sits in a pub in Oakland, California, searching the internet for your most sensitive data. It doesn’t take him long to find a promising lead. On his laptop, he opens Shodan, a searchable index of cloud servers and other internet-connected devices. Then he types the keyword “Kibana,” which reveals more than 15,000 databases stored online. Paine starts digging through the results, a plate of chicken tenders and fries growing cold next to him. “This one’s from Russia. This one’s from China,” Paine said. “This one is just wide open.”
From there, Paine can sift through each database and check its contents. One database appears to have information about hotel room service. If he keeps looking deeper, he might find credit card or passport numbers. That isn’t far-fetched. In the past, he’s found databases containing patient information from drug addiction treatment centers, as well as library borrowing records and online gambling transactions. Paine is part of an informal army of web researchers who indulge an obscure passion: scouring the internet for unsecured databases. The databases — unencrypted and in plain sight — can contain all sorts of sensitive information, including names, addresses, telephone numbers, bank details, Social Security numbers and medical diagnoses. In the wrong hands, the data could be exploited for fraud, identity theft or blackmail. The data-hunting community is both eclectic and global. Some of its members are professional security experts, others are hobbyists. Some are advanced programmers, others can’t write a line of code. They’re in Ukraine, Israel, Australia, the US and just about any country you name. They share a common purpose: spurring database owners to lock down your info.
The pursuit of unsecured data is a sign of the times. Any organization — a private company, a nonprofit or a government agency — can store data on the cloud easily and cheaply. But many software tools that help put databases on the cloud leave the data exposed by default. Even when the tools do make data private from the start, not every organization has the expertise to know it should leave those protections in place. Often, the data just sits there in plain text waiting to be read. That means there’ll always be something for people like Paine to find. In April, researchers in Israel found demographic details on more than 80 million US households, including addresses, ages and income level…”