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CRS reports via LC: HEROES Act (H.R. 6800): Selected Federal Reserve Provisions, May 26, 2020: On May 15, 2020, the House passed the HEROES Act (H.R. 6800), a wide-ranging Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) relief bill. This Insight discusses selected provisions related to the Federal Reserve (Fed). Background – In response to COVID-19, the Fed has taken a number of actions to promote economic and financial stability. Traditionally, the Fed acts as “lender of last resort,”providing solvent banks with short-term liquidity to manage cash flow. In response to the unprecedented economic disruptions posed by the pandemic, the Fed extended that role to nonbank firms and markets to ensure they have continued access to needed funding. In some cases, the Fed provided long-term assistance to borrowers who may not remain solvent if the pandemic persists for an extended time period. To date, the Fed has created nine emergency facilities in response to COVID-19 under its emergency authority found in Section 13(3) of the Federal Reserve Act…”
CRS Report via LC: HEROES Act (H.R. 6800): Selected Consumer Loan Provisions, May 26, 2020: “The economic impact of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has been largely due to illnesses, quarantines, social distancing, local stay-at-home orders, and other business disruptions. Consequently, many Americans have lost income and face financial hardship.On May 15, 2020, the House passed the HEROES Act (H.R. 6800), a wide-ranging COVID-19 relief bill. This Insight discusses selected provisions in Division K, Title IV related to consumer loans and the financial services industry…”
Fast Company: “Until recently, Sabrina Paseman worked at Apple as a mechanical engineer for products such as the MacBook Pro. Now, she and an ex-Apple marketer are trying to tackle a completely different problem: the global shortage of N95 masks during the COVID-19 pandemic In a new project called Fix the Mask, Paseman and cofounder Megan Duong suggest a simple design for essential workers who can’t access N95 masks, the respirators that are recommended for healthcare workers to avoid infection from the coronavirus. Surgical masks, which are loose fitting, don’t provide as much protection because the virus can easily travel around the edges of the mask. But Paseman and Duong realized that the masks could easily be modified—even with a handful of rubber bands….”
“The Lumen database collects and analyzes legal complaints and requests for removal of online materials, helping Internet users to know their rights and understand the law. These data enable us to study the prevalence of legal threats and let Internet users see the source of content removals…” Lumen is an independent research project studying cease and desist letters concerning online content. We collect and analyze requests to remove material from the web. Our goals are to educate the public, to facilitate research about the different kinds of complaints and requests for removal–both legitimate and questionable–that are being sent to Internet publishers and service providers, and to provide as much transparency as possible about the “ecology” of such notices, in terms of who is sending them and why, and to what effect. Our database contains millions of notices, some of them with valid legal basis, some of them without, and some on the murky border. The fact that Lumen has a notice in its database does not mean that Lumen is authenticating the provenance of that notice or making any judgment on the validity of the claims it raises. Conceived, developed, and founded in 2002 by then-Berkman Klein Center Fellow Wendy Seltzer, the project, then called “Chilling Effects”, was initially focused on requests submitted under the United States’ Digital Millennium Copyright Act. As the Internet and its usage has evolved, so has Lumen, and the database now includes complaints of all varieties, including trademark, defamation, and privacy, domestic and international, and court orders. The Lumen database grows by more than 40,000 notices per week, with voluntary submissions provided by companies such as Google, Twitter, YouTube, Wikipedia, Counterfeit Technology, Medium, Stack Exchange, Vimeo, DuckDuckGo, aspects of the University of California system, and WordPress. As of the summer of 2019, the project hosts approximately twelve million notices, referencing close to four billion URLs. In 2018, the project website was visited over ten million times by users from virtually every country in the world. Lumen is supported by a grant from Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin…”
Via LLRX – Re-Opening Your Law Firm: There’s a Bar Association Guide for That! – After months of business closures, many states are beginning to slowly allow more essential businesses to open their doors. In most states, law firms will be among the first wave of businesses that are permitted to resume providing services to the public. This is a welcome development for lawyers, but one that comes hand in hand with uncertainty. After all, resuming business in the midst of a pandemic is uncharted territory, and opening your firm doesn’t mean you’ll be returning to business as usual. Attorney Nicole L. Black identifies the host of issues that must be considered when re-opening, not the least of which is to ensure that the health of both law firm employees and clients is protected.
Via LLRX – Pete Recommends Weekly highlights on cyber security issues May 24, 2020 – Privacy and security issues impact every aspect of our lives – home, work, travel, education, health and medical records – to name but a few. On a weekly basis Pete Weiss highlights articles and information that focus on the increasingly complex and wide ranging ways technology is used to compromise and diminish our privacy and security, often without our situational awareness. Four highlights from this week: Foreign Hackers Swipe Millions in Unemployment Benefits; An Apple whistleblower has publicly slammed the company, claiming it violated ‘fundamental rights’ after Siri recorded users’ intimate moments without consent; Google censored search results after bogus copyright claims; and COVID-19 data sharing with law enforcement sparks concern.
C/NET – These tips are helpful when you need to find a parking spot in a hurry or if you get lost: “You haven’t traveled anywhere in what seems like ages due to coronavirus quarantine, but as cities and state parks begin to open up, you may find that you’re mapping out a drive or beginning to think about your daily commute. Fortunately, the Google Maps app for Android and iPhone ($699 at Apple) can remove a bit of the strain from driving with some of its hidden features. And even if you aren’t planning to go anywhere far for awhile, you can tuck some of these tips away for when you do. You probably know that with the Google Maps app, you can save addresses, like for work and home, so with a tap you can get directions to the places you travel to frequently. You can also get information about a place — including what to eat, where to stay and what you can do there — to help you make the most of a trip. But Google Maps can help with other tasks you may not know about, such as letting you download a map to use offline. It’ll also show you your driving time to get a more accurate ETA. It can even help you find somewhere to park. Read on to learn how to use these features for making your trip as smooth as possible…”
Forbes – Rob Shevlin: “Amazon has no incentive to cut banks out of the lending or deposit business. Amazon can make more money by providing technology services to help financial institutions underwrite, process, and service loans. Banks will gladly pay for this, because Amazon will do it for a lower cost that what banks incur to do it today.” My argument then, as it is now, is that Amazon is poised to be a vendor—not a competitor—to financial institutions. Google’s Banking Forays Four recent stories regarding Google signal that it, too, is following a similar path and is on its way to becoming the next big fintech vendor: 1) Google checking account; 2) Google debit card; 3) Google AI tool for Paycheck Protection Program loan processing; 4) Google Cloud bank deal….”
The Trust for Public Land just released the 2020 ParkScore® index—ranking the 100 largest U.S. cities by park system. How does your city stack up? D.C. has an excellent 83.3% rating.
Harvard Dataverse: “ParlSpeech V2 contains complete full-text vectors of more than 6.3 million parliamentary speeches in the key legislative chambers of Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, covering periods between 21 and 32 years. Meta-data include information on date, speaker, party, and partially agenda item under which a speech was held. The accompanying release note provides a more detailed guide to the data. (2020-03-11)…”
American Libraries – Library workers say contact tracing is a good fit for their skills: “Gathering information, educating patrons, hunting down hard-to-find items—it’s all part of the everyday work of librarians. That’s why some cities are turning to them to serve on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic as so-called contact tracers. The work entails searching for individuals believed to have been exposed to someone infected with COVID-19, warning them that they might have contracted the virus, and encouraging them to self-quarantine. As city employees are often unable to report to work because of building closures and furloughs, librarians are being reassigned not only to work as contact tracers but also making masks and organizing at food banks. “I think it’s a great fit,” says Lisa Fagundes, adult services librarian at San Francisco Public Library’s (SFPL) Main Library, who first discovered the contact tracer program through a local news story. About 40 to 50 librarians from SFPL are now working as contact tracers, she says. Their skill set dovetails with the work because librarians are already trained on the ethics of maintaining patron privacy, and they also make a practice of asking open-ended questions to help identify patrons’ needs, Fagundes says. “That’s useful for contact tracing,” she says…”
GW Today – Researchers warn scientists are fighting health misinformation in the wrong place. “Communities on Facebook that distrust establishment health guidance are more effective than government health agencies and other reliable health groups at reaching and engaging “undecided” individuals, according to a first-of-its-kind study published today by researchers at George Washington University and other institutions in the journal Nature. The researchers tracked the vaccine conversation among 100 million Facebook users during the height of the 2019 measles outbreak. The new study and its “battleground” map reveal how distrust in establishment health guidance could spread and dominate online conversations over the next decade, potentially jeopardizing public health efforts to protect populations from COVID-19 and future pandemics through vaccinations. Professor Neil Johnson and his GW research team, including professor Yonatan Lupu and researchers Nicolas Velasquez, Rhys Leahy and Nico Restrepo, collaborated with researchers at the University of Miami, Michigan State University and Los Alamos National Laboratory to better understand how distrust in scientific expertise evolves online, especially related to vaccines. [h/t Pete Weiss]
“There is a new world war online surrounding trust in health expertise and science, particularly with misinformation about COVID-19, but also distrust in big pharmaceuticals and governments,” Dr. Johnson said. “Nobody knew what the field of battle looked like, though, so we set to find out.”…
Bracewell LLP: “This guide describes the key provisions of the Main Street Loan Facilities and the Primary Market Corporate Credit Facility (collectively, the “Facilities”) that were recently introduced and expanded by the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury, and provides considerations about the programs for borrowers, lenders and other interested parties. Part I provides an Executive Summary; Part II describes the terms of the Main Street Loan Facilities and provides related practical considerations; and Part III describes the Primary Market Corporate Credit Facility and provides related practical considerations…”
CRS report via LC: What’s the Difference?—Comparing U.S. and Chinese Trade Data, May 20, 2020 – “The size of the U.S. bilateral trade deficit with the People’s Republic of China (China) has been and continues to be an important issue in bilateral trade relations. President Trump and some Members of Congress view the deficit as a sign of unfair economic policies in China.In the 116thCongress, the Fair Trade with China Enforcement Act (H.R. 704 and S. 2) and the United States Reciprocal Trade Act (H.R. 764) mention U.S. trade deficits as a reason for the proposed legislation. The escalation of the Sino-U.S. trade tensions and both sides’ imposition of tariffs on one anothers’ trades since spring 2018 contributed to a significant decline in bilateral merchandise trade in 2019, and the corresponding merchandise trade balance. According to the U.S. International Trade Commission, the 2019bilateral merchandise trade deficit with China was $345.6billion, down from $419.2 billion in 2018. According to China’s General Administration of Customs, China’s trade surplus with the United States in 2019 was $295.5 billion, a decline of $27.9 billion from 2018. The difference between the officially reported trade balances of the two nations was less than $55 billion for the first time in 20 years.
This report examines the differences in the trade data reported by the Chinese and U.S. governments in two ways. First, it compares the trade figures using the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (Harmonized System)to discern any patterns in the discrepancies between the U.S. and Chinese data. This comparison reveals that 96% of the difference in the value of China’s exports to the United States in 2019arises primarily from differences in the reported values for four types of goods. Those four types of goods, in order of the size of the discrepancy, were electrical machinery, toys and sporting goods, machinery, and footwear; all four have been major sources of the discrepancy for over a decade..”
CRS via LC – Presidential Removal of IGs Under the Inspector General Act May 22, 2020: “President Trump has recently removed or replaced a number of acting and permanent Inspectors General (IGs), including the Intelligence Community IG, the State Department IG, and acting IGs at the Department of Transportation and Department of Defense. These actions have stirred both immediate concern by some within Congress and a larger conversation on IG independence. While governing statutes provide that IGs are intended to be “independent and objective units” tasked with auditing and investigating agency programs, they are not entirely insulated from presidential influence. In most cases it is the President that both selects and removes IGs, subject to checks on that authority discussed below. With respect to his replacement of the acting IGs, President Trump appears to have taken action permitted by the Vacancies Act, which generally provides the President with discretion to fill temporarily vacancies in positions requiring Senate confirmation. That law does not appear expressly to restrict the President’s authority to replace acting officials. With respect to the permanent IGs, who had been confirmed to their position by the Senate, the governing statute is principally the Inspector General Act of 1978 (IG Act). That law requires the President to notify Congress of the reasons for the removal of an IG not later than 30days before taking action. In each recent instance where President Trump removed a permanent IG, he gave advanced notice to Congress, and in each case justified the action on the ground that he “no longer” had “confidence” in the official to be removed. Some Members of Congress expressed concern about the articulated reasons for these removals, including a bipartisan group of Senators who concluded that “an expression of lost confidence, without further explanation, is not sufficient to fulfill the requirements” of the IG Act.The House-passed Heroes Act includes several provisions that seek to provide IGs with further independence from presidential influence, and the bill would also amend the IG Act’s notification requirements to extend to situations where an IG is placed on administrative leave This Sidebar addresses the removal notification provision of the IG Act and the requirements it may impose upon the President…”
Google Blog: “Imagine making plans to go somewhere new, taking the journey to get there and arriving— only to be stuck outside, prevented from sitting with family or being unable to access the restroom. It’s a deeply frustrating experience I’ve had many times since becoming a wheelchair user in 2009. And it’s an experience all too familiar to the 130 million wheelchair users worldwide and the more than 30 million Americans who have difficulty using stairs. So imagine instead being able to “know before you go” whether a destination is wheelchair accessible, just as effortlessly as looking up the address. In recognition of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, we’re announcing a new Google Maps feature that does just that. People can now turn on an “Accessible Places” feature to have wheelchair accessibility information more prominently displayed in Google Maps. When Accessible Places is switched on, a wheelchair icon will indicate an accessible entrance and you’ll be able to see if a place has accessible seating, restrooms or parking. If it’s confirmed that a place does not have an accessible entrance, we’ll show that information on Maps as well. Today, Google Maps has wheelchair accessibility information for more than 15 million places around the world. That number has more than doubled since 2017 thanks to the dedication of more than 120 million Local Guides and others who’ve responded to our call to share accessibility information. In total, this community has contributed more than 500 million wheelchair accessibility updates to Google Maps. Store owners have also helped, using Google My Business to add accessibility information for their business profiles to help users needing stair-free access find them on Google Maps and Search…”
NYT Open – A team of technicians have scanned over a million photos into a New York Times database. It took a team of technologists to make those photos searchable. “A block away from the hustle and bustle of Times Square in New York City, buried three floors below street level, lies The New York Times archive. The archive is housed in a sprawling room that is packed with hundreds of steel filing cabinets and cardboard boxes, each containing news clippings, encyclopaedias, photographs and other archival material. Started in the late 1800s, the archive first served as a collection of news clippings about newsworthy events and people. In the late 1960s, it was merged with a photo library managed by The Times’s art department. The archive (which is sometimes referred to as “the morgue”) now contains tens of millions of news clippings and an estimated five million printed photographs. Many of these historical documents are available only in print form, however in 2018, The Times embarked on a project — as part of a technology and advertising collaboration with Google — to preserve the photographs in the collection and store them digitally. A team of technicians manually scan about 1,000 photographs per day into a server, and in July, 2019, they scanned their one millionth photograph. Many of these photographs have found a new life in stories produced by The Times’s archival storytelling project, Past Tense. With a digital photographic archive now at over a million scans, we needed to build an asset management system that allows Times journalists to search and browse through the photos in the archive from their laptops…”
Urban Observatory – Trends represent the day-to-day rate of new cases with a focus on the most recent 10 to 21 days. We use data collected by Johns Hopkins University CSSE that also appear in their US Cases by County dashboard. For more information about COVID-19 trends, see our country level trends story map and the full methodology. Use these links to zoom to see: Alaska, Hawaii, American Samoa (no cases), Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands.]
County Trend Summary as of 20 May, 2020
- 59 with Emergent trend and fewer than ten cases
- 967 with Spreading trend
- 877 with Epidemic trend
- 641 with Controlled trend
- 396 with End Stage trend
- 202 with Zero Confirmed Cases
ProPublica: “Update, May 21, 2020: After a story in The Atlantic reported that states may be inflating test numbers, we changed this map to display positive tests per capita rather than as a percentage of total tests. Many states are lifting stay-at-home orders and other restrictions on social and business activity that were put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19. Questions linger, however, about whether some states meet criteria set by public health experts and the federal government for doing so. Experts are keeping a close eye on whether states that have reopened are seeing an uptick in cases or a worsening in other key metrics. To give people context on state reopenings, and what happens afterward, we are tracking metrics derived from a set of guidelines published by the White House for states to achieve before loosening restrictions. Even if these criteria are met, without a vaccine, reopening may cause an increase in cases. What’s more, some states may meet all of the criteria and still have a high infection rate. We plan on updating this data daily. Read more about how we chose these metrics…”
The New York Times: “For many, the past few weeks have been tough, but at least we’ve had a respite from pollution: With Americans staying home, emptying the roads and highways of traffic, skies have cleared across the country. That, at least, feels good. But for neighborhoods with historically high levels of air pollution, a temporary clearing of the air won’t reverse years of damage wrought by the high levels of particulate pollution, ozone and other pollutants in the air they breathe. I featured three such neighborhoods in my recent look at the effects of coronavirus and air pollution. Research has shown that polluting industries are disproportionately located in or near low-income, predominantly black or Latino neighborhoods. And, while the exact relationship between air pollution and Covid-19 is still unclear, research has shown that exposure to air pollution can make people more vulnerable to similar respiratory illnesses. As Michigan State Representative Tyrone Carter, a Detroit native who tested positive for the virus in late March, told me: “Your environment and your ZIP code have a lot to do with your life expectancy…
The Trump administration has added to concerns of these local communities by drastically relaxing rules for polluters in response to the pandemic, and declining to tighten regulations on industrial emissions that came up for review ahead of the coronavirus outbreak. We track these reversals, and more, in our comprehensive rollback tracker.
See also the New York Times – The Trump Administration Is Reversing 100 Environmental Rules. Here’s the Full List.
- Via The Atlantic see – America’s Patchwork Pandemic Is Fraying Even Further – “The coronavirus is coursing through different parts of the U.S. in different ways, making the crisis harder to predict, control, or understand..This pattern exists because different states have experienced the coronavirus pandemic in very different ways. In the most severely pummeled places, like New York and New Jersey, COVID-19 is waning. In Texas and North Carolina, it is still taking off. In Oregon and South Carolina, it is holding steady. These trends average into a national plateau, but each state’s pattern is distinct. Currently, Hawaii’s looks like a child’s drawing of a mountain. Minnesota’s looks like the tip of a hockey stick. Maine’s looks like a (two-humped) camel. The U.S. is dealing with a patchwork pandemic. The patchwork is not static. Next month’s hot spots will not be the same as last month’s. The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is already moving from the big coastal cities where it first made its mark into rural heartland areas that had previously gone unscathed. People who only heard about the disease secondhand through the news will start hearing about it firsthand from their family. “Nothing makes me think the suburbs will be spared—it’ll just get there more slowly,” says Ashish Jha, a public-health expert at Harvard…”
- and ‘How Could the CDC Make That Mistake?’ – The government’s disease-fighting agency is conflating viral and antibody tests, compromising a few crucial metrics that governors depend on to reopen their economies. Pennsylvania, Georgia, Texas, and other states are doing the same. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is conflating the results of two different types of coronavirus tests, distorting several important metrics and providing the country with an inaccurate picture of the state of the pandemic. We’ve learned that the CDC is making, at best, a debilitating mistake: combining test results that diagnose current coronavirus infections with test results that measure whether someone has ever had the virus. The upshot is that the government’s disease-fighting agency is overstating the country’s ability to test people who are sick with COVID-19. The agency confirmed to The Atlantic on Wednesday [May 20, 2020] that it is mixing the results of viral and antibody tests, even though the two tests reveal different information and are used for different reasons…”