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Accurate, Focused Research on Law, Technology and Knowledge Discovery Since 2002
Updated: 2 hours 45 min ago

June 2018 ranks third warmest on record for U.S.

Mon, 07/09/2018 - 18:41

NOAA – Nation hit with 6 billion-dollar disasters so far this year

“We’re halfway through 2018 and the U.S. has already experienced six billion-dollar weather disasters. These include four severe storms and two winter storms that were responsible for 36 deaths combined and caused significant and costly damage. The average June temperature across the contiguous U.S. was 71.5 degrees F (3.0 degrees above average), making it the third-warmest June in the 124-year record. The warmer temperatures stretched across much of the lower U.S., but near and below-average temperatures prevailed in the Northwest and Northeast, according to scientists at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI). The average precipitation for June was 3.08 inches (0.15 inch above average), which ranked near the middle of the record books. Parts of the U.S. experienced significant flooding, with areas of the Midwest recording much-above average precipitation. Portions of the West and South saw below-average precipitation…”

Categories: Law and Legal

More Recycling Won’t Solve Plastic Pollution

Mon, 07/09/2018 - 18:06

Scientific American: “The only thing worse than being lied to is not knowing you’re being lied to. It’s true that plastic pollution is a huge problem, of planetary proportions. And it’s true we could all do more to reduce our plastic footprint. The lie is that blame for the plastic problem is wasteful consumers and that changing our individual habits will fix it. Recycling plastic is to saving the Earth what hammering a nail is to halting a falling skyscraper. You struggle to find a place to do it and feel pleased when you succeed. But your effort is wholly inadequate and distracts from the real problem of why the building is collapsing in the first place. The real problem is that single-use plastic—the very idea of producing plastic items like grocery bags, which we use for an average of 12 minutes but can persist in the environment for half a millennium—is an incredibly reckless abuse of technology. Encouraging individuals to recycle more will never solve the problem of a massive production of single-use plastic that should have been avoided in the first place…”

See also the Washington Post – How to break your plastic, foil and paper addiction in the kitchen: “…According to marine research organization Algalita, Americans throw out 185 pounds of plastic per person each year, and National Geographic reported in 2017 that just 9 percent of all plastic worldwide is recycled. The first plastic sandwich bags were introduced in 1957…The truth is, both plastic bags and aluminum foil can be recycled (but only if you live somewhere that offers recycling for those specific products), and they can biodegrade in landfills (although that could take anywhere from 50 to hundreds of years). According to a study published last year in the journal Science Advances, about 60 percent of all plastic that has been produced since the 1950s is sitting in landfills around the world, noting that “none of the mass-produced plastics biodegrade in a meaningful way.”

Categories: Law and Legal

NBER paper – economists attempt to infer demographics based on people’s consumer behavior or media consumption

Mon, 07/09/2018 - 18:02

BusinessInsider: “A new paper from University of Chicago economists attempts to infer demographics based on people’s consumer behavior or media consumption. The researchers found that “no individual brand is as predictive of being high-income as owning an Apple iPhone” based on 2016 data. In the United States, if you have an Apple iPhone or iPad, it’s a strong sign that you make a lot of money. That’s one of the takeaways from a new National Bureau of Economic Research working paper from University of Chicago economists Marianne Bertrand and Emir Kamenica.

“Across all years in our data, no individual brand is as predictive of being high-income as owning an Apple iPhone in 2016,” the researchers wrote. There are details and caveats to the research, but the economists found that owning an iPhone gave them a 69% chance to correctly infer that the owner was “high-income,” which they defined as being in the top quartile of income for households of that type — like single adult or couple with dependents, for example…”Knowing whether someone owns an iPad in 2016 allows us to guess correctly whether the person is in the top or bottom income quartile 69 percent of the time,” they write. The research also suggests that owning an Android phone or using Verizon are a strong indicators of being high-income as well…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Box CEO says mistrust of Google and Facebook is a ‘contagion’ that could spread to every tech company

Mon, 07/09/2018 - 17:58

Recode: The worst-case scenario for us is that Silicon Valley gets so far behind on these issues that we just can’t be trusted as an industry. “Aaron Levie isn’t worried about his company, Box, being regulated — but he is worried about what happens if the government has to do something about Facebook. “It’s a contagion because it’s going to reduce trust in these types of platforms,” Levie said on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher. Box’s clients include some of the world’s biggest companies, such as Coca-Cola, General Electric and Pfizer, helping their employees share files and collaborate securely in the cloud. Levie said it has a “strong vested interest” in seeing Google and Facebook “resolve their issues” and get on a good footing with wannabe tech regulators in the government…”

Categories: Law and Legal

The Economist – What if people were paid for their data?

Mon, 07/09/2018 - 17:54

Advocates of “data as labour” think users should be paid for using online services [paywall – you may read this free if you have not visited the site this month]: “DATA SLAVERY.” Jennifer Lyn Morone, an American artist, thinks this is the state in which most people now live. To get free online services, she laments, they hand over intimate information to technology firms. “Personal data are much more valuable than you think,” she says. To highlight this sorry state of affairs, Ms Morone has resorted to what she calls “extreme capitalism”: she registered herself as a company in Delaware in an effort to exploit her personal data for financial gain. She created dossiers containing different subsets of data, which she displayed in a London gallery in 2016 and offered for sale, starting at £100 ($135). The entire collection, including her health data and social-security number, can be had for £7,000. Only a few buyers have taken her up on this offer and she finds “the whole thing really absurd”. Yet if the job of the artist is to anticipate the Zeitgeist, Ms Morone was dead on: this year the world has discovered that something is rotten in the data economy. Since it emerged in March that Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy, had acquired data on 87m Facebook users in underhand ways, voices calling for a rethink of the handling of online personal data have only grown louder. Even Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, recently called for a price to be put on personal data, asking researchers to come up with solutions…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Coalition to breakup Facebook gains momentum

Mon, 07/09/2018 - 17:50

Bloomberg: “The top U.S. communications union is joining a coalition calling for the Federal Trade Commission to break up Facebook Inc., as the social media company faces growing government scrutiny and public pressure. “We should all be deeply concerned by Facebook’s power over our lives and democracy,” said Brian Thorn, a researcher for the 700,000-member Communications Workers of America, the newest member of the Freedom From Facebook coalition. For the FTC not to end Facebook’s monopoly and impose stronger rules on privacy “would be unfair to the American people, our privacy, and our democracy,” Thorn said in an email. Facebook disclosed July 2 that it’s cooperating with probes by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Bureau of Investigation on how political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica obtained personal information from as many as 87 million of the site’s users without their consent. The FTC, the Department of Justice and some state regulators were already probing the matter, which prompted Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg to testify before Congress in April. Facebook also faces calls for regulation from many lawmakers and the public over the privacy issue, Russian efforts to manipulate the 2016 presidential election and the spread of false information on the platform. Facebook declined to comment on the union’s move. The CWA doesn’t represent Facebook employees, but it does represent more than 100,000 workers at AT&T Inc., which has clashed with Facebook on public policy before. And although Facebook’s workers don’t belong to unions, the contracted shuttle drivers and cafeteria workers are unionized…”

Categories: Law and Legal

POGO Informs Treasury – Federal Spending Site Still Lacks Data After Revamp

Sun, 07/08/2018 - 19:18

Via BGOV: “…A recently revamped federal website designed to make contract spending information publicly accessible is plagued with major data gaps, a watchdog group reports. A new version of the Treasury Department-run, officially launched March 2, was designed to remedy missing or faulty information on federal contract awards and executive compensation. The site was re-launched under the DATA Act, the law passed in 2014 to make federal expenditures more transparent. Yet eight of the 97 agencies the website tracks are late in reporting DATA Act spending information—including the Defense Department, which is almost a year behind in its submissions, according to a June 28 letter from the Project on Government Oversight, a Washington-based nonpartisan, independent government watchdog. Other government programs have submitted very few spending records or none, according to the group…”

See POGO: “As advocates for government openness, the Project On Government Oversight fully supports the work of the Treasury Department (Treasury), Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and other federal agencies in updating and providing the public with robust access to federal spending data. The latest version of the site is helpful and offers some great features for people interested in exploring federal spending. We should also note that we strongly support the iterative and transparent approach that Treasury has applied to developing the new USAspending website. Launching the site and taking ongoing feedback has encouraged greater input from outside stakeholders. More agencies should follow suit and involve potential users earlier in the development process for new websites or online tools. In keeping with that development process, we would like to raise a series of concerns with the current website, the functions available, and the data currently posted. Some of the issues below represent significant gaps in the functionality of the site. We urge Treasury and OMB to address these concerns as quickly as possible, as the identified problems are likely resulting in frustration and confusion among many users. The public would have been better served if Treasury had kept this version in beta and maintained the former USAspending site until more of the critical functionality for the new site was operating properly. Many of the issues and recommendations we raise are inter-related, but we have organized them into three main groupings:

  • Search Filter Issues
  • Data Presentation Issues
  • Data Issues…”
Categories: Law and Legal

How to Read Long Privacy Policies the Easy Way

Sun, 07/08/2018 - 19:10

the quint: “So once I tried reading the privacy policy of a company and post that the process ran its natural course. There were parts I felt were absolutely inconsequential and the excessive use of jargon resulted in me giving up and ultimately clicking “I Agree”. I’m sure it’s just not me and almost 90  percent of people who use these websites and services don’t even read the privacy policy. I get it! You don’t have the time to go through a 2,500-word-long document. And, of course, the language used is a bit convoluted and filled with legalese. Since data privacy policy holds some key information, many companies try to eschew critical information in order to sell the data to ad companies. The introduction of GDPR has instilled a certain amount of fear among such companies, but still users don’t find validity in reading the whole policy. So, is there an easier way to extract the important bits of a privacy policy without diving into its extraneous side? Maybe this can help…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Biography of Marc Chagall, Artist of Folklore and Dreams

Sun, 07/08/2018 - 18:49

ThoughtCo., Jackie Craven: “Marc Chagall (1887-1985) emerged from a remote Eastern European village to become one of the most loved artists of the 20th century. Born in a Hasidic Jewish family, he harvested images from folklore and Jewish traditions to inform his art. During his 97 years, Chagall traveled the world and created at least 10,000 works, including paintings, book illustrations, mosaics, stained-glass, and theater set and costume designs. He won accolades for brilliantly-colored scenes of lovers, fiddlers, and comical animals floating over rooftops.  Chagall’s work has been associated with Primitivism, Cubism, Fauvism, Expressionism, and Surrealism, but his style remained deeply personal. Through art, he told his story…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Legacy of Scott Pruitt at the EPA

Sun, 07/08/2018 - 18:20

The Atlantic – “…There’s no doubt that Trump and Pruitt have already altered the EPA. More than 700 agency employees, including 200 scientists, resigned from the agency during 2017 alone, The New York Times. The agency is referring record-low numbers of environmental crime to the Department of Justice. And its science advisory board was also shuffled to include more industry-friendly researchers. Trump’s proposed rollbacks of climate policy have encouraged higher carbon emissions. The United States is not on track to meet its Obama-era commitments under the Paris Agreement, according to a report last week from the Rhodium Group, an energy research firm. Trump’s policies are “already deferring investments that might otherwise have led us to a better pathway,” an author of that report told me. Clearly there have been near-term consequences of Pruitt’s EPA. But outside experts told me that they were less sure that his legal work would result in long-term policy change. Sure, they said, Pruitt has generated lots of news stories by canceling Obama-era climate programs—but he has actually done this too quickly, with too little bureaucratic process, to secure their permanent scuttling…”

  • Referenced Report by Rhodium Group – Taking Stock 2018: “We find that US emissions under current policy are heading towards 12 to 20% below 2005 levels in 2025, a far cry from the US Paris commitment of a 26-28% reduction. This wide range represents uncertainty surrounding the fate of federal climate policies, how much pollution will be offset by sequestration from US forests, and the long-term viability of today’s low-carbon energy trends. Cheap natural gas and renewables continue to thrust coal out of the market, but after 2025 those same forces push a larger share of zero-emitting nuclear plants into retirement — leading to a rebound in power sector emissions. Transportation remains America’s largest source of emissions through most of our outlook, and while more affordable electric vehicles start to bend the curve, we find there is little downward pressure on economy-wide emissions post-2025…”
Categories: Law and Legal

Law Review Article – Carpenter v. United States: Big Data is Different

Sun, 07/08/2018 - 15:51

Carpenter v. United States, 585 U.S. ___ (2018) (Roberts, C.J.). Response by Margot E. Kaminski Geo. Wash. L. Rev. On the Docket (Oct. Term 2017) Slip OpinionSCOTUSblog

“A central truism of U.S. privacy law is that if you share information, you do not have an expectation of privacy in it. This reasoning runs through both Fourth Amendment jurisprudence and privacy tort cases, and has repeatedly been identified as a central failing of American privacy law in the digital age. On June 22, in Carpenter v. United States, the Supreme Court did away with this default. While repeatedly claiming to be fact-bound and incremental, Chief Justice Roberts’s opinion has paradigm-shifting implications not only for Fourth Amendment law, but also for private-sector privacy law.”

Categories: Law and Legal

Legal Tracker LDO Index

Sun, 07/08/2018 - 15:48

Thomson Reuters: “In this third edition of the Thomson Reuters Legal Tracker Legal Department Operations (LDO) Index, we highlight qualitative and quantitative insights into corporate legal department operations. The LDO Index includes responses to a survey conducted among Legal Tracker customers in May 2018. The survey received responses from 217 legal departments, including 76 corporations in the Fortune 1000. Legal departments responded across 34 industries. Top industries of legal departments responding include 11% Healthcare, 10% Financial Services, 8% Consumer Products Manufacturers, and 7% Computer Software. Legal Tracker data is comprised of over $83B in legal spending from over 1,200 legal departments and 62,000 law firms. For purposes of data reporting, we have found the greatest correlation between legal departments with similar annual outside counsel legal spend. Unless otherwise noted in the report, we have segmented legal department size in the following categories…”

Categories: Law and Legal

An Open Source Publishing Platform from the MIT Media Lab and the MIT Press

Sun, 07/08/2018 - 15:46

“The Internet has vastly accelerated the rate at which research can be conducted and shared. It has opened new paths for bringing researchers together across disciplines, permitting synthesis and conversations not previously possible. But these breakthroughs have also brought a host of new challenges for traditional publishing. How can publishers promote the increasingly open and collaborative nature of research? How can they help to make published works accessible worldwide in a way that stimulates important cross-disciplinary, real-time discussion? PubPub, an open-authoring and publishing platform, responds to many of these challenges. Created by MIT Media Lab graduate students Travis Rich and Thariq Shihipar in 2015, PubPub is the primary open access, online publishing platform for the MIT Press. Optimized for public discussion around digital academic journals and books, PubPub socializes the process of knowledge creation. This allows for real-time collaborative editing, versioning, instant publishing, continuous review, annotation, discussion, and grassroots journalism. It is collaborative, dynamic, and open access, using an intuitive graphical format that allows both authors and readers to embed illustrations, PDFs, videos, LaTeX math, code, and citations. A key feature of PubPub is the ability for an entire team to conduct reviews—privately or publicly—either before or after publication. Given PubPub’s flexibility, it is a platform not only suited for more open academic publishing, but also for publications that range from government legislation to classroom projects. All PubPub code is open source and available to anyone. PubPub is written as a full-stack javascript website. It uses React for server-rendering and client-side interactions. The server is cloud hosted on AWS, as is the open source database which stores all PubPub content. Additionally, there are a number of separate services built for PubPub, such as an asset-hosting and a content-delivery network process, an image resizing service, and an automated backup solution. This architecture allows for additional services (e.g., a PDF rendering service or an EPUB importing service) to be created, updated, or interchanged as needed…”

Categories: Law and Legal

From Nazi hunters to warriors against today’s fascism

Sun, 07/08/2018 - 15:35

CNN – “For six decades, Serge and Beate Klarsfeld devoted their lives to hunting former Nazis — from death camp guards to leaders of the Gestapo — and bringing them to justice. It was the Klarsfelds who identified the Butcher of Lyons, Klaus Barbie, who was living in exile in Bolivia under an assumed name. Thanks largely to their efforts, Barbie was extradited to France and spent his last years in a French prison, convicted for having sent some 14,000 French Jews and resistance leaders to their death. The Klarsfelds identified fascists who had scattered after the end of World War II, at times to hidden exiles. The duo pursued them, often at great risk, and held to account politicians and diplomats who sought to mask their Nazi backgrounds and carve out a new life in post-Holocaust Europe. In 1968, at a conference of Germany’s ruling Christian Democratic Union party, Beate rushed onto the stage and slapped Chancellor Kurt Georg Kiesinger, who’d served in the Nazi Party during the war. For shouting “Nazi, Nazi, Nazi,” she was briefly imprisoned, but Kiesinger lasted less than a year in office after that. To this day, the Klarsfelds recently told me, they believe this action played a central role in the arrival of the moderate Willy Brandt as Kiesinger’s successor. Today, 73 years after the end of World War II, with most of their Nazi targets dead or imprisoned, the Klarsfelds have turned their attention to the rise of neo-fascism and, inevitably, the comfort and support the far right is feeling from Donald Trump. The duo’s focus now is on the power of Europe’s resurgent extreme right…”

Categories: Law and Legal

AP – Trump lawyers call Comey ‘Machiavellian’ in note to Mueller

Sun, 07/08/2018 - 15:32

WASHINGTON (AP) — “Lawyers for President Donald Trump unleashed a blistering attack on former FBI Director James Comey in a confidential memo last year to the special counsel, casting him as “Machiavellian,” dishonest and “unbounded by law and regulation” as they sought to undermine the credibility of a law enforcement leader they see as a critical witness against the president. The letter, obtained by The Associated Press, underscores the intense effort by Trump’s legal team over the last year to tarnish Comey’s reputation and pit the president’s word against that of the former FBI director. Comey’s firing in May 2017 helped set in motion the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller, and one-on-one conversations with Trump that Comey documented in a series of memos helped form the basis of Mueller’s inquiry into whether the president obstructed justice. The June 27, 2017, letter was written by Marc Kasowitz, then the president’s lead lawyer, as Mueller and his team were in the early stages of their investigation into Trump associates and as they had begun examining whether the president, by firing Comey, had sought to stymie an FBI investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. The White House initially pointed as justification for the firing to a Justice Department memo that faulted Comey for his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, though Trump later said that “this Russia thing” was on his mind when he made the move…”

Categories: Law and Legal

The Longform Guide to the Supreme Court

Sun, 07/08/2018 - 15:30 “Stories about the cases that wind through the Old Supreme Court Chamber and the justices who have shaped its legacy.”

  • To Have and to Hold – Sex, the Constitution, and the Supreme Court. New Yorker May 2015
  • The Case of Sacco And Vanzetti – Analysis of the trial from future Supreme Court justice. The Atlantic – Mar 1927
  • “An Odd, Almost Senseless Series of Events” – Every law student knows John Brady’s name. But few know the story of the bumbling murder that ended in a landmark legal ruling.   The Marshall Project Jun 2018
  • In Conversation: Antonin Scalia – The Supreme Court justice on gay rights, the problem with consensus, and the Devil. New York  Oct 2013
  • On the Death Sentence – In 1976, newly appointed Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens voted to reinstate capital punishment in the United States. Thirty years later, he argued that it’s unconstitutional. Here, he explains why he changed his mind. New York Review of Books – Dec 2010
  • Money Unlimited – How Chief Justice John Roberts pulled off Citizens United. New Yorker May 2012
  • Little Scalia – How Neil Gorsuch became the second-most-polarizing man in Washington. New York May 2018
  • The Thomases vs. Obama’s Health-Care Plan – On the combined force of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife Virginia, a Tea Party stalwart. New Yorker Aug 2011
  • The Hustler – No one argues before the Supreme Court more than Tommy Goldstein. The New Republic Apr 2006
Categories: Law and Legal

Studies again show pen and paper beats laptop for retaining info in class

Sun, 07/08/2018 - 12:40

Yes, we say again – we know this – and we continue to “take notes” using pen and paper – this is not about technology – it is about comprehension and retention (knowledge management). “Even though technology allows us to do more in less time, it does not always foster learning. That’s why some college professors are saying “no more laptops or tablets” and going old-school, forcing note taking on paper only. But, students who grew up more familiar with keyboards than cursive are struggling to adjust to this device-free stance. University of Kansas associate professor of journalism Carol Holstead is one of many across the country who initially noticed how distracted students became while taking notes on their laptops. One day, she even observed two rows of students gawking at one student’s computer, clearly watching a funny YouTube video. After that, she declared her classrooms device-free zones…” Same for meetings at work!

Categories: Law and Legal

NIH-funded scientists put socioeconomic data on the map

Thu, 07/05/2018 - 21:30

NIH: “The Neighborhood Atlas (link is external), a new tool to help researchers visualize socioeconomic data at the community level is now available. This online platform allows for easily ranking and mapping neighborhoods according to socioeconomic disadvantage. Seeing a neighborhood’s socioeconomic measures, such as income, education, employment and housing quality, may provide clues to the effects of those factors on overall health, and could inform health resources policy and social interventions. The Neighborhood Atlas is housed at the University of Wisconsin, and described in a perspective in the June 28 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. The project is funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), both part of the National Institutes of Health…”

Categories: Law and Legal

US: Economic indicators and trade with EU

Thu, 07/05/2018 - 19:21

EU: “The USA remains the EU’s top trading partner and export market. The EU and US economies account for about half the entire world’s GDP, and for nearly a third of world trade flows. The European Commission reported in 2016 that over 10 million European jobs depend on exports to the USA. This Infographic provides you with essential data on trade between the EU and US.”

Categories: Law and Legal