Law and Legal

As fake news flourishes UK’s fact-checkers are turning to automation to compete

Wired – Speed is everything in a post-truth world of alternative facts, online propaganda and political lies. Full Fact, the UK’s fact-checkers, are increasingly relying on technology to tackle counter-narratives: “..Since its inception in 2010, Full Fact has been parsing claims from British politicians and media, cross-referencing them with reliable data and labelling them as inaccurate or correct. Claims are picked from sources including TV programmes such as Question Time or Newsnight, newspapers, electoral materials, and PMQs, which Full Fact probes before posting results in real time on Twitter….Claims will be broken down to essentials: facts, numbers, contextual information – which in turn will be dissected and compared with data from the Government, institutions such as the Office for National Statistics, or research organisations such as the Institute for Fiscal Studies. In some cases, Full Fact will ask the opinion of independent experts. If the facts cannot be found anywhere, one of the fact-checkers will phone the person who made the claim and ask where they got the information. The eventual outcome will be an online article providing “the whole picture” about the claim, often with the aid of graphs and always linking to the original sources. At the top of the page, there will be a banner juxtaposing the original statement with Full Fact’s conclusion.

Full Fact only checks declarations about the economy, Europe, health, crime, education, immigration and law, focusing on national politics and limiting itself to claims that can be verified with publicly available information: O’Leary, for example, will not touch the Cambridge Analytica scandal, until after an inquiry. “We take the view that if a member of the public had to check this information, could they? If they can, we’ll fact-check that,” he says. Are Full Fact researchers just full-time citizens?, I ask. A half-smile flickers on O’Leary’s lips. “Full-time citizens with a lot of skills.”..”

Categories: Law and Legal

Disappearing Acts – the mass extinction of species accelerates

“We are living in an age of loss: the sixth mass extinction. Following this year’s shocking report that the planet has lost half its wildlife in the past 40 years, and the 2018 Remembrance Day for Lost Species, we bring you ‘The Vanishing’. In this new section, we seek responses not only to extinction – the deaths of entire species – but to the quieter extirpations, losses and disappearances that are steadily stripping our world of its complexity and beauty. How do we, as writers and artists, stay human during such times? Today Dark Mountain art editor Charlotte Du Cann considers the ‘right’ response to disappearance, through the lens of four artists and photographers…”
Categories: Law and Legal

The impact of expansive natural gas fields on the people and animals of the Arctic Tundr

Lens culture: There Is Gas Under the Tundra – In the far reaches of the Arctic tundra, fire and ice coexist in expansive natural gas fields. “We typically think of ice and fire as elemental opposites – two of nature’s most primal forces that cannot exist in the same place at once. But the Russian Arctic’s Yamal Peninsula is home to one of the largest gas fields in the world, where the resource is tapped and harvested for use all over the planet. We’ve become dependent on natural gas for everything from taking a shower to turning on the lights in our homes, and our dependency has made its harvest a lucrative venture. But even in the depths of the Arctic, there are civilizations to be displaced by modern development…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Congressional Oversight of Intelligence: Background and Selected Options for Further Reform

EveryCRSReport.com – Congressional Oversight of Intelligence: Background and Selected Options for Further Reform, December 4, 2018: “Prior to the establishment of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) in 1976 and 1977, respectively, Congress did not take much interest in conducting oversight of the Intelligence Community (IC). The Subcommittees on the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the congressional Armed Services Committees had nominal oversight responsibility, though Congress generally trusted that IC could more or less regulate itself, conduct activities that complied with the law, were ethical, and shared a common understanding of national security priorities. Media reports in the 1970s of the CIA’s domestic surveillance of Americans opposed to the war in Vietnam, in addition to the agency’s activities relating to national elections in Chile, prompted Congress to change its approach. In 1975, Congress established two select committees to investigate intelligence activities, chaired by Senator Frank Church in the Senate (the “Church Committee”), and Representative Otis Pike in the House (the “Pike Committee”). Following their creation, the Church and Pike committees’ hearings revealed the possible extent of the abuse of authority by the IC and the potential need for permanent committee oversight focused solely on the IC and intelligence activities. SSCI and HPSCI oversight contributed substantially to Congress’s work to legislate improvements to intelligence organization, programs, and processes and it enabled a more structured, routine relationship with intelligence agencies. On occasion this has resulted in Congress advocating on behalf of intelligence reform legislation that many agree has generally improved IC organization and performance. At other times, congressional oversight has been perceived as less helpful, delving into the details of programs and activities…

An oft-cited observation of the Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States (i.e., the 9-11 Commission) that congressional oversight of intelligence is “dysfunctional” continues to overshadow discussion of whether Congress has done enough. Does congressional oversight enable the IC to be more effective, better funded and organized, or does it burden agencies by the sheer volume of detailed inquiries into intelligence programs and related activities? A central question for Congress is: Could additional changes to the rules governing congressional oversight of intelligence enable Congress to more effectively fund programs, influence policy, and legislate improvements in intelligence standards, organization and process that would make the country safer?..”

Categories: Law and Legal

Robert Crown Law Library preserves stories of women legal pioneers

Sharon Driscoll – Stanford News:  “In the last half-century, women in law have made huge strides. But women who came before them faced huge hurdles—and many of them overcame those hurdles, making history by attending law school and succeeding in the profession against the odds. BROOKSLEY BORN, JD ’64, BA ’61, and Linda Ferren, executive director of the Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit, set out to capture their stories when they initiated the Women Trailblazers in the Law Project (WTP), a collaborative research project of the ABA and the American Bar Foundation. Born’s own story is included in the collection. Born was the first woman president of the Stanford Law Review and went on to serve as chairperson of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission from 1996 to 1999.

At Born’s suggestion, the full WTP collection is now housed at the Robert Crown Law Library at Stanford. The Library of Congress and the Schlesinger Library at Harvard have selected oral histories from WTP. “Our goal at Stanford Law has been to enhance public access to and discoverability of these oral histories for the benefit of law students, legal scholars, and anyone interested in the rich and inspiring stories of these pioneering women. It is our honor to preserve this priceless collection,” said BETH WILLIAMS, director of the Robert Crown Law Library and a senior lecturer in law. Among those included in the collection is BARBARA BABCOCK, the Judge John Crown Professor of Law, Emerita, who recalled in her oral history her first semester contracts class at Yale Law, when a well-known professor called on her. Babcock also interviewed her former student, LADORIS CORDELL, JD ’74, the first female African American judge in Northern California, for the series.

Categories: Law and Legal

Study Shows Reading Remediation Improves Children’s Reading Skills and Positively Alters Brain Tissue

Carnegie Mellon University scientists Timothy Keller and Marcel Just have uncovered the first evidence that intensive instruction to improve reading skills in young children causes the brain to physically rewire itself, creating new white matter that improves communication within the brain. As the researchers report today in the journal Neuron, [Timothy A. Keller, Marcel Adam Just. Altering Cortical Connectivity: Remediation-Induced Changes in the White Matter of Poor Readers. Neuron, 2009; 64 (5): 624-631 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2009.10.018] brain imaging of children between the ages of 8 and 10 showed that the quality of white matter — the brain tissue that carries signals between areas of grey matter, where information is processed — improved substantially after the children received 100 hours of remedial training. After the training, imaging indicated that the capability of the white matter to transmit signals efficiently had increased, and testing showed the children could read better.

“Showing that it’s possible to rewire a brain’s white matter has important implications for treating reading disabilities and other developmental disorders, including autism,” said Just, the D.O. Hebb Professor of Psychology and director of Carnegie Mellon’s Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging (CCBI). Dr. Thomas R. Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, agreed. “We have known that behavioral training can enhance brain function. The exciting breakthrough here is detecting changes in brain connectivity with behavioral treatment. This finding with reading deficits suggests an exciting new approach to be tested in the treatment of mental disorders, which increasingly appear to be due to problems in specific brain circuits..”

Categories: Law and Legal

Lists of Best Books and Holiday Tech Gifts – 2018

Curated List – The Best Books of 2018 – Jason Kottke: “2018 was the year that tsundoku entered our cultural vocabulary. It’s a Japanese word that doesn’t translate cleanly into English but it basically means you buy books and let them pile up unread. The end-of-the-year book lists coming out right now won’t help any of us with our tsundoku problems, but there are worse things in life than having too many books around. I took at look at a bunch of these lists and picked out some of the best book recommendations for 2018 from book editors, voracious readers, and retailers. Let’s dig in…”

Mari Cheney – Assistant Director, Research and Instruction, at Boley Law Library, Lewis and Clark Law School, Portland, Oregon. “Do you have a tech lover in your life? Not sure what to add to your own wishlist this holiday season? Here’s a link roundup of gift guides for tech lovers.

  1. From The Digital Edge (a Legal Talk Network podcast): ‘Tis the Season: Tech Toys for the Holidays 2018. This list includes a voice-activated trash can, a smartphone sanitizer and charger, and a smart mini projector.
  2. From Ars Technica: The Ars Holiday Gift Guide 2018 — Good Tech for the Power User in Your Life. This list includes a USB security key, a media streamer, and a tech toolkit.
  3. From CNET: Holiday Gift Guide 2018: CNET Editors’ Top Picks. This list includes headphones, a video streamer, and a dual-USB charger and built-in battery.
  4. From Forbes: These are the Best Technology Gifts You Can Buy This Year. This list includes a ceramic Bluetooth mug, a wireless power bank, and a sleep trainer.
  5. From the New York Times: 2018 Holiday Gift Guide–Tech. This list includes a digital pet sitter, a digital photo frame, and wireless headphones.”

 

Categories: Law and Legal

CDC data – Large cities still segregated even as nation becoming more diverse

Washington Post: “…Even as the United States becomes increasingly diverse, neighborhood segregation patterns persist in large urban areas, including in the Washington metro region, according to five-year trend data from the Census Bureau. Segregation has remained most entrenched between black and white residents, while segregation between whites and Hispanics and whites and Asians is more fluid, according to an analysis of the bureau’s latest American Community Survey data. Some of the starkest black-white urban divide can be seen in Midwestern and Northeastern cities with long-concentrated and slow-growing black populations, including Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, New York and St. Louis, said William Frey, a senior demographer at the Brookings Institution, who analyzed the data. These cities all have segregation levels above 70, meaning that 70 percent or more of black residents would have to move into a different neighborhood to fully integrate the city. But overall, segregation was down since 2000, when several metropolitan areas had levels above 80. The urban area with the lowest black-white segregation level is Las Vegas, at 39.5. In the Washington region, the black-white segregation level was 61.3, down from 63.6 in 2000…”

Categories: Law and Legal

The long, tortured quest to make Google unbiased

The Verge – Can a search engine ever be meaningfully neutral: “[December 11, 2018], Sundar Pichai will try to reassure Congress that Google’s search engine isn’t rigged. The Google CEO is testifying before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday [TheHearing is titled – Transparency & Accountability: Examining Google and its Data Collection, Use and Filtering Practices] answering questions about “potential bias and the need for greater transparency” in Google’s business practices. It’s Republican lawmakers’ latest move in a series of hearings over Silicon Valley political bias. “Google has created some of the most powerful and impressive technology applications,” wrote House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy in the announcement. “Unfortunately, recent reports suggest Google might not be wielding its vast power impartially. Its business practices may have been affected by political bias.” We don’t know exactly what questions will arise during Pichai’s testimony. But this summer, President Donald Trump caused a brief uproar by claiming (without evidence) that Google suppressed positive news about him. Reports indicated Trump might even direct regulators to investigate Google and other platforms for bias. But that proposal hadn’t come from one of Silicon Valley’s many ideological enemies — it was supposedly promoted by recommendations site Yelp, which has spent years protesting what it calls unfair demotion of its search results.

That investigation never came to pass. But it highlighted a major underpinning of the current anti-Google backlash: a decade-long fight over how search engines, which have become many people’s primary gateway to the internet, should treat the websites they list.”

Categories: Law and Legal

Poynter launching podcast about fact checking and misinformation

Poynter: “Over the next three weeks, the International Fact-Checking Network is releasing a limited-run podcast about fact-checking and fake news. In each of the three episodes, we talk to fact-checkers, journalists and experts around the world to try and answer one big question about the industry. In the first episode, we talk to Amy Sippitt of Full Fact and Brendan Nyhan of the University of Michigan about the audience for fact-checking: who reads it, who fact-checkers write for and who needs fact checks the most. Find that episode later this week on our website and wherever you get your podcasts. In the second and third episodes, we will speak to reporters and academics about how to avoid amplifying conspiracies while debunking them and whether or not fact-checking can scale to misinformation on the internet. Those episodes will be released on Wednesday, Dec. 12 and Wednesday, Dec. 19. Sign up for our newsletter to get them in your inbox every week…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Annual update of the Global Carbon Atlas released

“The Global Carbon Atlas is an online platform to explore, visualize and interpret global and regional carbon data arising from both human activities and natural processes. The graphics and data sources are made available in the belief that their wide dissemination will lead to new knowledge and better-informed decisions to limit and cope with human-induced climate change. The Global Carbon Atlas is a community effort under the umbrella of the Global Carbon Project based on the contributions of many research institutions and individual scientists around the world who make available observations, models, and interpretation skills.

Components  – The Atlas has three components with objectives and information relevant to different users:
  • OUTREACH takes you on a journey tracing the history and possible future relationship between carbon emissions and human development. It is intended as an educational experience for the broad public while utilizing robust and up-to-date observations and modeling from climate change science.
  • EMISSIONS is a tool to explore, display and download data and figures on carbon dioxide emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels, cement production and land use change over multiple decades, including their drivers. Information is available at the global, regional and national levels with tools that allow comparison, ranking and to visualize changes over time. Data from Contributors.
  • RESEARCH provides tools to create custom global and regional maps and time series of carbon fluxes from research models and datasets. Data are contributed by many research institutions (see Contributors). This component will further advance collaborative international research on the functioning of the carbon cycle and its interactions with the climate system…”
Categories: Law and Legal

SciHub continues to get attacked around the world

Motherboard – ‘The Pirate Bay of Science’ Continues to Get Attacked Around the World: “A scientific research depository intended to provide open access to scientific data has had its domains blocked in Russia, after a Russian court declared that the website violates publisher copyrights. It’s the latest salvo in a global war on efforts to bring valuable scientific data out from behind paywalls and into the light of day to better benefit the public at large.  Created back in 2011, Sci-Hub is largely the brain child of one woman: scientific researcher and hacker Alexandra Elbakyan. Occasionally dubbed “the Pirate Bay of science,” Elbakyan’s research repository is her solution to the rampant paywalls and copyright restrictions that keep valuable research out of the public domain. Operating as a sort of web scraper, Sci-Hub is effectively a script that downloads HTML and PDF pages from the Web—including data hidden by paywalls. Providing access to more than 48 million scholarly research articles obviously hasn’t pleased traditional publishers, who profit from keeping such tight access restrictions intact…”

Categories: Law and Legal

UN Dag Hammarskjöld Library publishes “UDHR70: 30 Articles – 30 Documents” online exhibit

Are the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) still valid?  And if they are, how do they relate to the world we live in today? These are the questions that the Dag Hammarskjöld Library’s online exhibit “30 Articles, 30 Documents” explores. To celebrate the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the UDHR, the exhibit presents thirty key documents, each one expanding on and illustrating the specific human rights and fundamental freedoms proclaimed in each individual article comprising the Declaration. Documents include well-established international instruments adopted decades ago, but also more recent reports that may not be widely known. The exhibit presents them in sometimes unusual and surprising contexts, thereby inviting “visitors” to reflect upon and deepen their insights into the meaning of human rights in today’s globalized world. The documents highlighted in this exhibit point to tremendous progress achieved, as well as to current challenges in the human rights arena:  the protection of the rights of migrants and refugees, the right to a clean environment as a prerequisite for the enjoyment of other rights, tax abuse and modern forms of slavery as violations of human rights, or the obligation to remove obstacles in society that prevent persons with disabilities from fully enjoying their rights on an equal footing with others. The exhibit suggests that the Declaration is indeed a living document and that, in the words of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, “…human rights are not impractical philosophical ideals. They are sound policy choices, which build strong, economically healthy, secure and peaceful societies.”

Categories: Law and Legal

2018 National Geographic Photo Contest

National Geographic’s Photo Contest winners have applied focus, discipline, skill, insight, and and an often disarming sensitivity to people, places, animals, the environment, and things that we may never have the opportunity to see or experience first hand. So enjoy these photos, and revel in the sights you will see.

See also via NPR – A Royal Hue: ‘Living Coral’ Crowned Color Of The Year For 2019

Categories: Law and Legal

Your smartphone’s AI algorithms could tell if you are depressed

MIT Technology Review: “Your smartphone’s AI algorithms could tell if you are depressed. Smartphones that are used to track our faces and voices could also help lower the barrier to mental-health diagnosis and treatment. Depression is a huge problem for millions of people, and it is often compounded by poor mental-health support and stigma. Early diagnosis can help, but many mental disorders are difficult to detect. The machine-learning algorithms that let smartphones identify faces or respond to our voices could help provide a universal and low-cost way of spotting the early signs and getting treatment where it’s needed. In a study carried out by a team at Stanford University, scientists found that face and speech software can identify signals of depression with reasonable accuracy. The researchers fed video footage of depressed and non-depressed people into a machine-learning model that was trained to learn from a combination of signals: facial expressions, voice tone, and spoken words. The data was collected from interviews in which a patient spoke to an avatar controlled by a physician. In testing, it was able to detect whether someone was depressed more than 80% of the time. The research was led by Fei-Fei Li, a prominent AI expert who recently returned to Stanford from Google. While the new work is at an early stage, the researchers suggest that it could someday provide an easier way for people to get diagnosed and helped…”

Categories: Law and Legal

How Incarcerated Parents Are Losing Their Children Forever

The Marshall Project -“Mothers and fathers who have a child placed in foster care because they are incarcerated — but who have not been accused of child abuse, neglect, endangerment, or even drug or alcohol use — are more likely to have their parental rights terminated than those who physically or sexually assault their kids, according to a Marshall Project analysis of approximately 3 million child-welfare cases nationally…In about 1 in 8 of these cases, incarcerated parents lose their parental rights, regardless of the seriousness of their offenses, according to the analysis of records maintained by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services between 2006 and 2016. That rate has held steady over time. Female prisoners, whose children are five times more likely than those of male inmates to end up in foster care, have their rights taken away most often…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Words always matter

Oxford University Press Blog: “The run-up to the recent mid-term elections saw commentators across the political spectrum claiming that “words matter.” Much of this was in response to violent acts – in particular the Pittsburgh Synagogue massacre and the pipe bombs sent to Democrats – that some argued was a consequence of Donald Trump’s rhetoric. Words always matter of course. But due to the timing and the stakes – in this instance, an upcoming mid-term election of considerable consequence – it turned into a literal war of words. Language was weaponized to an extent not seen before.  But how do words matter? The White House claims President Trump bears no responsibility for the violent actions of the Pittsburgh shooter or the Florida pipe-bomber, even though both appear to have been followers of the president. It is true that Trump has never directly issued a command, or even a request, for his followers to perform a violent act, although he has sometimes come close, such as when he told a crowd in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, that they should knock the crap out of anyone planning to throw tomatoes and that he’d pay their legal fees.

But as advertisers, attorneys and other professional persuaders are aware, language can be used to influence the actions of others in more subtle ways. The relationship between language and reality is multi-faceted. For example, people can use their words to alter reality by explicitly directing the actions of others (e.g., “Send pipe bombs to my critics”). In speech act theory these expressions are referred to as directives, and the speaker is on-record for having made such a command or request. But the relationship between language and reality is more complex than this. Sometimes, for example, words by their very nature can alter reality, such as when a minister pronounces a couple man and wife, or when an umpire declares a pitch to have been a strike. In speech act theory these expressions are termed declaratives and their use is tightly governed (e.g., not everyone can perform a marriage)…”

Categories: Law and Legal

The Bloomberg 50

The Bloomberg 50: “What does Black Panther director Ryan Coogler have in common with Ben van Beurden, chief executive officer of Royal Dutch Shell? Or Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with Michael Gelband, co-founder and CEO of ExodusPoint Capital Management? A place on the second annual Bloomberg 50, our look at the people in business, entertainment, finance, politics, and technology and science whose 2018 accomplishments were particularly noteworthy. Some who made the list are familiar faces up to new tricks, such as actor-producer Reese Witherspoon; others, like Sarah Friar, CEO of Nextdoor, the social network for neighbors, are just starting to make their mark. Once you’re done with 2018, go to the bottom of the page to find out which 20 people you might be reading about in 2019.”

 

Categories: Law and Legal

Monumental Disaster at the Department of the Interior

Scientific American – A new report documents suppression of science, denial of climate change, the silencing and intimidation of staff: “…In a new report, Science Under Siege at the Department of the Interior, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has documented some of the most egregious and anti-science policies and practices at the DOI under Secretary Zinke. The report describes suppression of science, denial of climate change, the silencing and intimidation of agency staff, and attacks on science-based laws that help protect our nation’s world-class wildlife and habitats. It is a damning report and required reading for anyone who values public lands, wildlife, cultural heritage, and health and safety. It would be impossible to cover everything this clumsy political wrecking crew is up to, but the report provides details on the most prominent actions that deserve greater scrutiny, such as: the largest reduction in public lands protection in our nation’s history; a systematic failure to acknowledge or act on climate change; unprecedented constraints on the funding and communication of science; and a blatant disregard for public health and safety.

Why is this administration so scared of science? Why cancel a study into the health effects of mountaintop removal coal mining so soon after lifting a moratorium on coal leasing on public lands? Why keep scientists from speaking with the press? Because, while science provides the best evidence we have for making policy decisions that serve the broader public, Ryan Zinke has been very clear that he is in office to serve the oil, gas and mining industries, not the general public…”

Categories: Law and Legal

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