Law and Legal
Science: “Artificial intelligence (AI) just seems to get smarter and smarter. Each iPhone learns your face, voice, and habits better than the last, and the threats AI poses to privacy and jobs continue to grow. The surge reflects faster chips, more data, and better algorithms. But some of the improvement comes from tweaks rather than the core innovations their inventors claim—and some of the gains may not exist at all, says Davis Blalock, a computer science graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Blalock and his colleagues compared dozens of approaches to improving neural networks—software architectures that loosely mimic the brain. “Fifty papers in,” he says, “it became clear that it wasn’t obvious what the state of the art even was.” The researchers evaluated 81 pruning algorithms, programs that make neural networks more efficient by trimming unneeded connections. All claimed superiority in slightly different ways. But they were rarely compared properly—and when the researchers tried to evaluate them side by side, there was no clear evidence of performance improvements over a 10-year period. The result, presented in March at the Machine Learning and Systems conference, surprised Blalock’s Ph.D. adviser, MIT computer scientist John Guttag, who says the uneven comparisons themselves may explain the stagnation. “It’s the old saw, right?” Guttag said. “If you can’t measure something, it’s hard to make it better.”…
Bookmarkos – “The following is an attempt to categorize every bookmark manager ever made into the following categories: visual-based, list-based, start pages, search-based, tag-based, tab management, read it later, image bookmarking, privacy focused, sync-based, offline downloadable solutions, and other…”
Politico – Test counts inflated, death tolls deflated, metrics shifted: “Federal and state officials across the country have altered or hidden public health data crucial to tracking the coronavirus’ spread, hindering the ability to detect a surge of infections as President Donald Trump pushes the nation to reopen rapidly. In at least a dozen states, health departments have inflated testing numbers or deflated death tallies by changing criteria for who counts as a coronavirus victim and what counts as a coronavirus test, according to reporting from POLITICO, other news outlets and the states’ own admissions. Some states have shifted the metrics for a “safe” reopening; Arizona sought to clamp down on bad news at one point by simply shuttering its pandemic modeling. About a third of the states aren’t even reporting hospital admission data — a big red flag for the resurgence of the virus…”
See also BuzzFeed news – “The CDC Released New Death Rate Estimates For The Coronavirus. Many Scientists Say They’re Too Low. Public health experts are accusing the CDC of bending under political pressure to say the coronavirus is less deadly…”
EFF: “As part of EFF’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, we’ve edited and compiled our critical thoughts on digital rights and the pandemic into an ebook: EFF’s Guide to Digital Rights and the Pandemic. To get the ebook, you can make an optional contribution to support EFF’s work, or you can download it at no cost. We released the ebook under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0), which permits sharing among users…”
Newsweek: “The video-conference app Zoom plans to strengthen the encryption of its service for paying customers, but the upgrade will not be available to users of its free service. The tech company discussed the encryption boost on a call with civil liberties groups earlier this week. Zoom security consultant Alex Stamos later confirmed the details of the reported move in an interview with Reuters, which first reported the changes on Friday. But he also told the news outlet that Zoom’s plans could still change…”
BuzzFeedNews – By Digital Contact Tracing Apps – “Imagine you arrive at work. Before you’re allowed to clock in, you have to complete a quiz on your phone that asks if you have any of the symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. If you’re healthy, you get to walk in. Once inside, you go about your day while your phone uses Bluetooth beacons, GPS tracking, or both to determine the people you have been near. If one day you do come down with symptoms, the app alerts HR, which then alerts the people you’ve been in contact with. This is already a reality for thousands of workers around the world — in particular, those working in sectors like mining, energy, manufacturing, field services (like appliance installation or repair), construction, or hospitality. Digital contact tracing — using an app or another form of technology to track who you’ve been in touch with, with the goal of stopping the spread of the coronavirus — isn’t mandated by any states or governments in the US. But there’s nothing stopping private companies from encouraging or even requiring workers to participate…”
Survey of 1,400+ Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses participants highlights status of loan funds and that COVID-19 will change how they operate their businesses – “The impact of COVID-19 on small businesses and communities all over the world is significant. Consistent with our firm’s purpose of advancing sustainable economic growth and financial opportunity, Goldman Sachs is committed to supporting relief efforts, elevating the voices of our small business community to policymakers, and working across sectors on innovative sources of funding…”
COVID-19 – New tools aim to tame pandemic paper tsunami, Jeffrey Brainard, Science 29 May 2020: Vol. 368, Issue 6494, pp. 924-925. DOI: 10.1126/science.368.6494.924. “Timothy Sheahan, a virologist studying COVID-19, wishes he could keep pace with the growing torrent of new scientific papers related to the pandemic. But there have just been too many—more than 5000 papers a week. “I’m not keeping up,” says Sheahan, who works at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. “It’s impossible.” A loose-knit army of data scientists and software developers is pressing hard to change that. They are creating digital collections of papers and building search tools powered by artificial intelligence (AI) that could help researchers quickly find the information they seek. The urgency is growing: The COVID-19 literature has grown to more than 31,000 papers since January and by one estimate is on pace to hit more than 52,000 by mid-June—among the biggest explosions of scientific literature ever. The volume of information “is like what you would get in a medical conference that used to happen yearly. Now, that’s happening daily,” says Sherry Chou, a neurologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center who is studying COVID-19’s neurologic effects…”
Library Journal – NO ONE SIZE FITS ALL – “We understand our plans may not be applicable to everyone’s situation. In fact, our experience shows how specific needs and situations will drive the different decisions each library makes. Our campuses range from dense urban centers to suburban settings. Even within the same city, our five libraries have different plans for re-opening.
- One library with a very small staff is only offering remote services as long as instruction at their college remains online-only.
- Another library supports several healthcare assistant training programs requiring in-person instruction. We need to re-open that library as soon as possible for those students.
- Staff at another library want to be very cautious. They interacted with someone later confirmed to have been infected with COVID-19 from the Mount Vernon, WA, choir practice at which 45 of 60 choir members got sick even while following distancing guidelines.
It’s important to consider what’s best for your situation and review local and state health organizations recommendations…”
engadget: “Google wants to help the approximately 48 million American adults who live with anxiety-related disorders find support. Starting today, the company’s search engine will allow users in the US to complete a Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 (GAD-7) questionnaire from home. When you look for information about anxiety, you’ll see the seven-question survey appear inside the knowledge panel, the part of the platform’s interface that highlights some of the more pertinent facts related to your search query. The clinically-validated survey includes some of the same questions a health professional might ask a patient in person. It is designed to provide perspective to those who feel anxious about how their symptoms compare to ones experienced by other people…”
“As Millennials reach a new stage of life – the oldest among them will turn 39 this year – a clearer picture of how members of this generation are establishing their own families is coming into view. Previous research highlights not only the sheer size of the Millennial generation, which now surpasses Baby Boomers as the largest, but also its racial and ethnic diversity and high rates of educational attainment. This research also notes that Millennials have been slower than previous generations to establish their own households. A new analysis of government data by Pew Research Center shows that Millennials are taking a different path in forming – or not forming – families. Millennials trail previous generations at the same age across three typical measures of family life: living in a family unit, marriage rates and birth rates.
Living with a family is defined here as living with a spouse, one’s own child (or children) or both a spouse and child. Using this definition, Millennials are much less likely to be living with a family of their own than previous generations when they were the same age. In 2019, 55% of Millennials lived in this type of family unit. This compares with 66% of Gen Xers in 2003, 69% of Boomers in 1987 and 85% of members of the Silent Generation in 1968.
Millennials lag furthest behind in the share living with a spouse and child. Only three-in-ten Millennials fell into this category in 2019, compared with 40% of Gen Xers, 46% of Boomers and 70% of Silents when they were the age Millennials are now. At the same time, the share of Millennials who live with a spouse and no child is comparable to previous generations (13%), while the share living with a child but no spouse (12%) is the same as Gen X but higher than Boomers and Silents…”
Sizable majority favors option of voting by mail – “Over the past two months, the outbreak of the novel coronavirus has had a devastating impact on nearly all aspects of life in the United States. And now, most Americans expect it will disrupt the presidential election in November. With just over six months until Election Day, two-thirds of Americans (67%) – including 80% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents and half of Republicans and Republican leaners – say it is very or somewhat likely that the coronavirus outbreak will significantly disrupt people’s ability to vote in the presidential election. The national survey by Pew Research Center, conducted April 7 to 12 among 4,917 U.S. adults on the Center’s American Trends Panel, finds broad public support for giving voters the option of voting by mail – and less widespread but growing support for conducting all elections by mail. Overall, 70% favor allowing any voter to vote by mail if they want to, including 44% who strongly support this policy. About half of the public (52%) favors conducting all elections by mail. The share supporting this proposal has increased 18 percentage points since 2018…”
POGO – “As the coronavirus pandemic continues, our country faces numerous challenges that will require not only extraordinary responses, but extraordinary vigilance to prevent the abuse of power during this crisis. And as unprecedented as many of these challenges are, the fear the virus provokes is not entirely novel. Accordingly, responses to past crises—most notably, several national security crises—offer a set of cautionary tales that policymakers today would be wise to heed. It is critical that we learn from our nation’s reactions to those situations to protect democratic society during this pandemic, and in the years to come. History shows that times of crisis are when civil rights and civil liberties are at the greatest risk. Constitutional rights are often not convenient. In fact, the framers of the Constitution designed many of those rights to inconvenience government. But it is essential that the government not treat national security and constitutional rights as an either-or, even and especially during a crisis, when the challenges at hand may also hamper good policymaking. The Constitution prohibits the government from infringing upon our personal liberty because the threats posed by breaches of our rights can be far worse than the problems the government may seek to solve. Infringements upon individual rights can have a corrosive effect on democracy that makes them hard to reverse…”
Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget – “The novel coronavirus (COVID) pandemic and resulting economic crisis has been met with an unprecedented policy response. Through legislative, administrative, and Federal Reserve actions, policymakers are currently working to pour trillions of dollars into the economy. COVID Money Tracker is a new initiative of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget focused on identifying these dollars and tracking their disbursement. The project will ultimately feature a state-of-the-art interactive database similar to Stimulus.org, where we tracked stimulus, financial rescue, and extraordinary Federal Reserve measures enacted in response to the 2008 financial crisis. COVID Money Tracker will ultimately track every major action taken by Congress, the Federal Reserve, the executive branch, and various federal agencies, following how much is disbursed over time, where the funds go, and how much is recovered through loan repayments, dividends, or equity repurchases…”
The New York Times – Temperature checks, desk shields and no public transit: The guidelines would remake office life. Some may decide it’s easier to keep employees at home. “Upon arriving at work, employees should get a temperature and symptom check. Inside the office, desks should be six feet apart. If that isn’t possible, employers should consider erecting plastic shields around desks. Seating should be barred in common areas. And face coverings should be worn at all times. These are among sweeping new recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the safest way for American employers reopening their offices to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. If followed, the guidelines would lead to a far-reaching remaking of the corporate work experience. They even upend years of advice on commuting, urging people to drive to work by themselves, instead of taking mass transportation or car-pooling, to avoid potential exposure to the virus.
The C.D.C. recommended that the isolation for employees should begin before they get to work — on their commute. In a stark change from public policy guidelines in the recent past, the agency said individuals should drive to work — alone…”
Washington Post – “President Trump on Thursday signed an executive order that could open the door for the U.S. government to assume oversight of political speech on the Internet, a broadside against Silicon Valley that a wide array of critics derided as a threat to free speech. The new directive seeks to change a federal law that has spared tech companies from being sued or held liable for most posts, photos and videos shared by users on their sites. Tech giants herald these protections, known as Section 230, as the bedrock of the Internet. But Trump repeatedly has argued they allow Facebook, Google and Twitter to censor conservatives with impunity — charges these companies deny….The order signed Thursday encourages the Federal Communications Commission to rethink the scope of Section 230 and when its liability protections apply. The order also seeks to channel complaints about political bias to the Federal Trade Commission, an agency that the White House has asked to probe whether tech companies’ content-moderation policies are in keeping with their pledges of neutrality. The order additionally created a council in cooperation with state attorneys general to probe allegations of censorship based on political views. And it tasked federal agencies with reviewing their spending on social media advertising. While Trump has threatened to penalize tech companies for years, his signing of the order Thursday came in response to a decision by Twitter earlier in the week to mark two of his erroneous tweets with fact-checking labels. The small move set off a firestorm of tweets by the president threatening social media companies with regulations and other punishments…”
Book Riot: “These days, everyone is sitting at home whenever possible. And if you’re a bookish person like I am, you have perhaps been sifting through your books, deciding which to keep and which you can release back into the world for someone else to find and love. While we may not be able to create the secret passage bookshelf of our dreams at the moment, there’s a more attainable secret project sitting in that pile of books waiting for the local donation store to open up. So grab a hardback from the pile, a few things from around the house, and let’s learn how to hollow out a book together!…”
AP: “President Donald Trump escalated his war on social media companies Thursday, signing an executive order challenging the liability protections that have served as a bedrock for unfettered speech on the internet. Still, the move appears to be more about politics than substance, as the president aims to rally supporters after he lashed out at Twitter for applying fact checks to two of his tweets. Trump said the fact checks were “editorial decisions” by Twitter and amounted to political activism. He said it should cost those companies their protection from lawsuits for what is posted on their platforms. Trump, who personally relies heavily on Twitter to verbally flog his foes, has long accused the tech giants in liberal-leaning Silicon Valley of targeting conservatives by fact-checking them or removing their posts. “We’re fed up with it,” Trump said, claiming the order would uphold freedom of speech.
It directs executive branch agencies to ask independent rule-making agencies including the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission to study whether they can place new regulations on the companies — though experts express doubts much can be done without an act of Congress. Companies like Twitter and Facebook are granted liability protection under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act because they are treated as “platforms,” rather than “publishers,” which can face lawsuits over content…”
HelpMeFind.com: “A website devoted to roses, clematis and peonies and all that is gardening related, including selecting, buying, breeding, caring for and exhibiting. We have cataloged over 54,000 plants and have more than 170,000 photos along with thousands of Plant nurseries, public and private gardens, Plant societies, authors, breeders, hybridizers and publications from all over the world. Explore, enjoy, and help us grow by contributing your experiences, expertise and photos to the site. Rose, clematis, peony and gardening related companies, organizations and individuals are welcome to join HelpMeFind – use the “New Listing” option found on the appropriate listing tab. Non-commercial and simple commercial listing are FREE but we do ask that you keep them current…”
- One facet of the search strategies included: Search for Plants by name, alphabetical list, class or advanced search including name, class, color, breeder, year bred, bloom cycle, bloom form, fragrance or zone. [searching by fragrance is simply a wonderful activity]
Considerations for Institutes of Higher Education: “As some institutes of higher education (IHE) open in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers the following considerations for ways in which IHEs can help protect students and employees (e.g., faculty, staff, and administrators) and slow the spread of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). IHEs vary considerably in geographic location, size, and structure. As such, IHE officials can determine, in collaboration with state and local health officials, whether and how to implement these considerations while adjusting to meet the unique needs and circumstances of the IHE and local community. Implementation should be guided by what is feasible, practical, acceptable, and tailored to the needs of each community. Health facilities managed by the IHE may refer to CDC’s Guidance for U.S. Healthcare Facilities and may find it helpful to reference the Ten Ways Healthcare Systems Can Operate Effectively During the COVID-19 Pandemic. These considerations are meant to supplement—not replace—any state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations with which IHEs must comply…”