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Gizmodo: “A new study using lasers suggests that face shields and masks outfitted with an exhaust valve aren’t particularly great at protecting others from tiny respiratory droplets containing contagious germs like the coronavirus that causes covid-19. These aerosols can spill through and around these types of face equipment, the study found, weakening their potential to keep users from spreading an infection to others. Mask wearing has been embraced by public health experts as one of the most impactful ways to reduce the chances of someone giving covid-19 to other people. To a lesser extent, masks seem to also lower the risk of wearers catching the coronavirus from others. And despite a noisy contingent of skeptics, particularly in the U.S., much of the public in countries around the world have adapted to wearing masks in situations where they’re around people outside their household…”
The agency’s new guidelines are wrong, so states have to step up on their own to suppress the coronavirus. By Harold Varmus and Rajiv Shah. Harold Varmus is a former director of the National Institutes of Health. Rajiv Shah is the president of the Rockefeller Foundation. “We were startled and dismayed last week to learn that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a perplexing series of statements, had altered its testing guidelines to reduce the testing of asymptomatic people for the coronavirus. These changes by the C.D.C. will undermine efforts to end the pandemic, slow the return to normal economic, educational and social activities, and increase the loss of lives. Like other scientists and public health experts, we have argued that more asymptomatic people, not fewer, need to be tested to bring the pandemic under control. Now, in the face of a dysfunctional C.D.C., it’s up to states, other institutions and individuals to act. Understanding what needs to be done requires understanding the different purposes of testing. Much of the current testing is diagnostic. People should get tested if they have symptoms — respiratory distress, loss of smell, fever. There is no argument about this testing, and the altered C.D.C. guidelines do not affect it. But under its revised guidelines, the C.D.C. seeks to dissuade people who are asymptomatic from being tested. Yet this group poses both the greatest threat to pandemic control and the greatest opportunity to bring the pandemic to an end. It is with this group that our country has failed most miserably…”
CNN describes each of the false videos “A series of deceptively edited and misleading videos shared by prominent Republicans have run up millions of views across Facebook and Twitter in just the past few days. And while both companies have pledged to combat misinformation, their responses to these videos followed a familiar pattern: often they act too late, do too little, or don’t do anything at all. Between Sunday and Monday, high-profile Republicans, including President Donald Trump, shared at least four misleading videos online. One that circulated widely was a false video about Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden posted to the Twitter account of House Minority Whip Steve Scalise. After an outcry, including from a person in the video who had words put in his mouth in order to distort what Biden was saying, Twitter took the action it takes in such instances, labeling the video as “manipulated media.”
The manipulated media label is just that, however — a label appearing below the video when people look at the specific tweet to which it has been applied. It’s small and potentially missed by users, and though it may potentially make some users pause before sharing a given video, it does not actually stop them if they decide to go ahead anyway…”
Power The Polls: “America is facing a record shortage of poll workers this year due to the coronavirus. Our democracy depends on ordinary people who make sure elections run smoothly and everyone’s vote is counted. You can make sure we have a safe, fair, efficient election for all. Poll workers get: PPE, Training and are Paid (varies by district).”
ABC News: “Current and former national security officials are raising concerns over Attorney General William Barr’s recent decision to remove the head of a Justice Department office that helps ensure federal counterterrorism and counterintelligence activities are legal – and replace him with a political appointee with relatively limited experience. “It’s very alarming,” said Katrina Mulligan, who worked for the Obama administration in several national security roles and then, after President Donald Trump‘s inauguration, joined the Office of Law and Policy in the Justice Department’s National Security Division. For much of the past decade, that little-known office has been led by Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brad Wiegmann, a 23-year career public servant, not a political appointee. But two weeks ago, Wiegmann, 54, was told he is being reassigned and replaced with a political appointee, according to a Justice Department spokesman and sources familiar with the matter…”
New Subject Offering: “COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2 and the Pandemic” – “In Fall 2020, all MIT students and the general public are welcome to join Professors Richard Young and Facundo Batista as they discuss the science of the pandemic during this new class. Special guest speakers include: Anthony Fauci, David Baltimore, Britt Glaunsinger, Bruce Walker, Eric Lander, Michel Nussenzweig, Akiko Iwasaki, Arlene Sharpe, Kizzmekia Corbett, and others. The class will run from September 1, 2020 through December 8, 2020 and begin each Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. ET. See the syllabus for lecture details.”
Allison Christians, Really Basic Rules for Writing Good Papers in Law School, 23 Green Bag 2d 181 (2020) – “This extremely brief guide is intended to help students write good papers in law school. It covers paper structure, substance, and style.”
And if you like to see papers with consistent headings and useful tables of contents: Allison Christians, Using Word Styles to Improve Writing (July 22, 2019) [both references via Mary Whisner]
Gizmodo, Joanna Nelius – “Microsoft just added an extremely useful feature to Word on the web: transcription! Sure, Google Docs and apps like Otter.ai are free and let you type with your voice, like Word’s Dictation feature. However, Word on the web now allows you to upload entire audio files in addition to live transcription, merging the best of what Google Docs and Otter already offer, plus giving users a little something extra. Like Google Docs, Word’s dictation feature puts whatever you say into your microphone directly on the page. Both programs are mostly accurate, but sometimes they get hung up on processing a lot of words at once and might skip a sentence or two, or get a few words wrong. The same thing happens with Otter, too, especially if there’s a lot of ambient noise. Word’s new transcribe feature is not immune to mistakes, but at first glance it seems to be more accurate than Google Docs, Otter, and even Word Dictate. If you’re recording live via Word’s Transcribe, the tool will upload your audio file to OneDrive for processing, and then spit it back out in the side bar, complete with time stamps and the option to add in speakers’ names. From there, you can import that transcription directly into the Word doc itself with a click of a button. You can also listen back to the audio directly in Word and edit any part of the transcript the software misinterpreted…”
Via LLRX – Pete Recommends – Weekly highlights on cyber security issues, August 29, 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: How Smartphone Location Tracking Works, and What You Can Do About It; Deep Fakes and National Security; How Facebook and Other Sites Manipulate Your Privacy Choices; and Voice phishing attacks on the rise, CISA, FBI warn private sector.
Via LLRX – Why Steve Bannon faces fraud charges: 4 questions answered – Federal prosecutors in New York have arrested former senior Trump adviser Steve Bannon and three other men, and charged them with allegedly defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors to an online fundraising campaign to build portions of wall along the U.S. border with Mexico. Lloyd Hitoshi Mayer, a University of Notre Dame law professor who researches nonprofits, explains what’s going on and what the consequences could be.
“This video, by Alena Wolotira, Head of Public Services, Gallagher Law Library, covers the major changes to the Bluebook: A Uniform System of citation, 21st edition, published in the summer of 2020.” [h/t Mary Whisner]
Google Blog: “First, we’re making it easier to find licensable images. For results where the publisher or image creator provided licensing information, we will display a “licensable” badge over the image. When you select a badged image to view, we will show a link to the license details of the image, and if provided by the publisher, you’ll also find a link to where you can purchase or license the image…”
CRS report via LC – The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA): A Legal Overview, Updated August 24, 2020: “Originally enacted in 1966, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) establishes a three-part system that requires federal agencies to disclose a large swath of government information to the public. First, FOIA directs agencies to publish substantive and procedural rules, along with certain other important government materials,in the Federal Register. Second, on a proactive basis, agencies must electronically disclose a separate set of information that consists of, among other things, final adjudicative opinions and certain “frequently requested”records. And lastly, FOIA requires agencies to disclose all covered records not made available pursuant to the aforementioned affirmative disclosure provisions to individuals, corporations, and others upon request. While FOIA’s main purpose is to inform the public of the operations of the federal government, the act’s drafters also sought to protect certain private and governmental interests from the law’s disclosure obligations. FOIA, therefore, contains nine enumerated exemptions from disclosure that permit—but they do not require—agencies to withhold a range of information, including certain classified national security matters, confidential financial information, law enforcement records, and a variety of materials and types of information exempted by other statutes. And FOIA contains three “exclusions”that authorize agencies to treat certain law enforcement records as if they do not fall within FOIA’s coverage…”
The Atlantic – COVID-19 transmission would go down if we spoke less, or less loudly, in public spaces. Why aren’t more people saying so?: “…Every route of viral transmission would go down if we talked less, or talked less loudly, in public spaces,” Jose L. Jimenez, a professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, who studies disease transmission, told me. “This is just a very clear fact. It’s not controversial.” Silence is golden as an antiviral strategy because of how this disease spreads. The coronavirus seems to move primarily through viral particles that erupt from our faces when we sneeze, cough, talk, or sing. Some of these particles are heavy enough to splash on a nearby surface or fall quickly to the ground. Those are called large droplets. They are large only in comparison with the smaller globs that spray from our mouths and linger in the air in a swirling particle cloud. These are called aerosols…”
COVID-19: Brief Update on Initial Federal Response to the Pandemic. GAO-20-708: Published: Aug 31, 2020. Publicly Released: Aug 31, 2020. “This report updates our oversight of some aspects of the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Findings include: Spending. Federal obligations totaled $1.5 trillion and expenditures totaled $1.3 trillion, as of June 30. Public health. Between January 1 and June 30, about 125,000 more deaths occurred from all causes than would normally be expected—an indicator of the pandemic’s effect on health care outcomes. Actions. Agencies have taken action on some of our June 2020 recommendations. For example, Treasury officials stated that nearly 70 percent of $1.6 billion in economic impact payments sent to the deceased has been recovered [note – no documentation was provided to GAO by Treasury respective to this statement]
Bloomberg (Part 1 of 2 articles) – The Electoral Count Act of 1887 was designed to avert constitutional chaos. That’s the hope anyway. “Election Day — there is a chance of constitutional chaos. It could take the form of acute uncertainty, not only about who won the election but also about the process by which that question will be settled. We might have a perfect storm: close contests in key states, issues with mail-in voting, allegations of voter suppression and fraud, and an incumbent president who is unwilling to accept a loss (and who is already paving the way toward contesting the results as “rigged”). To see the problem, it is essential to understand that Nov. 3 is only the first of three defining days. The second is Dec. 14, when members of the Electoral College cast their votes. The third is Jan. 6, 2021, when Congress meets in joint session to declare the winner. What happens on Nov. 3 is almost always enough to decide the presidential election. That isn’t because victory goes to the candidate with the most votes nationally, but because the popular vote, within the states, settles the outcome in the Electoral College. In nearly every state, the candidate who receives the most votes statewide is entitled to the vote of all of the state’s electors.
Washington Post – One of distance learning’s early pioneers shares tips on how to make the most of class over computers – Do less, and turn off the camera “…Now millions of schools are starting the fall semester with distance learning over laptops and tablets to minimize the spread of the novel coronavirus, while many others have started with a hybrid of in-person and online learning. Teachers, parents and kids are figuring out what works or doesn’t, fumbling and adjusting along the way. Khan hopes to help guide them. Khan is the founder of the nonprofit Khan Academy, a collection of online learning tools and video classes for kids that he started in 2008 after successfully tutoring his own cousins over video. In 2014, he started an in-person school in Silicon Valley called the Khan Labs School, which has also had to make the switch to online classes this month…”
Via LLRX – Finding Email Addresses – Across most sectors, customer support is no longer provided by human contacts but rather leads customers into endless telephone loops of menus, dealing with chatbots, or receiving emails from “no-reply” addresses. Finding email addresses for actual people is very difficult but Michael Ravnitzky’s article features proven tools and techniques to locate and use the email address of individuals within organizations who should be responding to your issues and complaints, and providing acceptable responses.
The New York Times – “A goal of journalism is to bear witness to history as faithfully as possible. This is especially true for photo and video journalists, who put themselves close to the action in order to visually document events. Visual journalists are always searching for new technologies to help them capture more detail and get the news out faster. But they’ve operated within the constraints of a camera lens, a two-hundred-year-old technology that gives readers a single, 2D representation of an event. What if we could break free of the rectangle and let readers experience a setting the same way the journalist did? Instead of just looking at a photo of a space, what if we could move through it?..”
Emma Copley Eisenberg in Esquire: Fact Checking Is the Core of Nonfiction Writing. Why Do So Many Publishers Refuse to Do It? An interesting, surprising look at how fact-checking works. “Fact checking is a comprehensive process in which, according to the definitive book on the subject, a trained checker does the following: “Read for accuracy”; “Research the facts”; “Assess sources: people, newspapers and magazines, books, the Internet, etc”; “Check quotations”; and “Look out for and avoid plagiarism.” Though I had worked as a fact checker in two small newsrooms, did I trust myself to do the exhaustive and detailed work of checking my own nonfiction book? I did not. From reading up on the subject and talking to friends who had published books of nonfiction, I knew that I would be responsible for hiring and paying a freelance fact checker myself. This is the norm, not the exception; in almost all book contracts, it is the writer’s legal responsibility, not the publisher’s, to deliver a factually accurate text. As a result, most nonfiction books are not fact checked; if they are, it is at the author’s expense. Publishers have said for years that it would be cost-prohibitive for them to provide fact checking for every nonfiction book; they tend to speak publicly about a book’s facts only if a book includes errors that lead to a public scandal and threaten their bottom line. Recent controversies over books containing factual errors by Jill Abramson, Naomi Wolf, and, further back, James Frey, come to mind…”