Law and Legal
CRS Report via LC – Staff Pay Levels for Selected Positions in House Member Offices, 2001-2018. June 11, 2019.
“Levels of pay for congressional staff are a source of recurring questions among Members of Congress, congressional staff, and the public.There may be interest in congressional pay data from multiple perspectives, including assessment of the costs of congressional operations, guidance in setting pay levels for staff in Member offices, or comparison of congressional staff pay levels with those of other federal government pay systems.This report provides pay data for 15 staff position titles that are typically used in House Members’ offices. The positions include the following: Caseworker, Chief of Staff, Communications Director, Constituent Services Representative, Counsel, District Director, Executive Assistant, Field Representative, Legislative Assistant, Legislative Correspondent, Legislative Director, Office Manager, Press Secretary, Scheduler, and Staff Assistant.The following table provides the change in median pay levelsfor these positionsin constant 2019dollars,between 2017 and 2018…”
“Levels of pay for congressional staff are a source of recurring questions among Members of Congress, congressional staff, and the public.There may be interest in congressional pay data from multiple perspectives, including assessment of the costs of congressional operations, guidance in setting pay levels for staff in Member offices, or comparison of congressional staff pay levels with those of other federal government pay systems.This report provides pay data for 16 staff position titles that are typically found in Senators’ offices. The positions include the following: Administrative Director, Casework Supervisor, Caseworker, Chief of Staff, Communications Director, Constituent Services Representative, Counsel, Executive Assistant, Field Representative, Legislative Assistant, Legislative Correspondent, Legislative Director, Press Secretary, Scheduler, Staff Assistant, and State Director.The following table provides the change in median pay levels for these positions, in constant 2019 dollars between FY2017 and FY2018…”
EFF Report – “While social media platforms are increasingly giving users the opportunity to appeal decisions to censor their posts, very few platforms comprehensively commit to notifying users that their content has been removed in the first place, raising questions about their accountability and transparency, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said today in a new report. How users are supposed to challenge content removals that they’ve never been told about is among the key issues illuminated by EFF in the second installment of its Who Has Your Back: Censorship Edition report. The paper comes amid a wave of new government regulations and actions around the world meant to rid platforms of extremist content. But in response to calls to remove objectionable content, social media companies and platforms have all too often censored valuable speech.
EFF examined the content moderation policies of 16 platforms and app stores, including Facebook, Twitter, the Apple App Store, and Instagram. Only four companies—Facebook, Reddit, Apple, and GitHub—commit to notifying users when any content is censored and specifying the legal request or community guideline violation that led to the removal. While Twitter notifies users when tweets are removed, it carves out an exception for tweets related to “terrorism,” a class of content that is difficult to accurately identify and can include counter-speech or documentation of war crimes. Notably, Facebook and GitHub were found to have more comprehensive notice policies than their peers.
Library of Congress Blog: “It’s in (almost) every book you read, but you’ve probably paid little attention to it. The Library’s Cataloging in Publication (CIP) information — that copy-block on the reverse side of the book’s title page spelling out the author, title, subject, its International Standard Book Number, and other information — is an essential beginning to a book’s publication. The Cataloging information provided by the Library allows publishers to get the book’s information relayed to libraries and booksellers months in advance of publication — ask any author how important that is — and keeps the publication process rolling. (It’s different from copyrights, although the Library does that, too.)
And now, for the first time in 16 years, the Library is rolling out an all-new CIP database. It’s called PrePub Book Link (PPBL), and it overhauls the sturdy-but-outdated 2003 system. Book buyers won’t notice any changes, but publishers and Library staff certainly will. The overhaul took more than one and a half years, involves more than 3,000 major scholarly and trade publishers and more than 50,000 books each year. The Library’s system for smaller publishing houses, the Preassigned Control Number Program, will be merged into PPBL, too…”
Google Blog: ““I hope I can entrust you with everything that I haven’t been able to share with anyone, and I hope you will be a great support to me.” These are the first words Anne Frank wrote in the diary she received on her thirteenth birthday. Three weeks later, the Frank family went into hiding. Since then, the story of Anne has moved people across the globe who want to learn more about her life.
Google Arts & Culture has worked with the Anne Frank House to shed a light on Anne’s life at Merwedeplein 37-2 in Amsterdam, where her family lived before they went into hiding. In honor of what would have been her 90th birthday, you can explore an online exhibit and indoor Street View imagery of Anne’s childhood home. For the first time it will be possible to view all rooms of the flat to get a unique insight into Anne Frank’s home that has been restored to its original 1930s style, including the bedroom that she shared with her sister Margot. The accompanying online exhibit features precious insights and documents such as the only video of Anne known to exist—taken by pure coincidence at a wedding—as well as the only picture of her an her parents and sister…”
Live Science: “Have you ever constructed a mental image of a person you’ve never seen, based solely on their voice? Artificial intelligence (AI) can now do that, generating a digital image of a person’s face using only a brief audio clip for reference. Named Speech2Face, the neural network — a computer that “thinks” in a manner similar to the human brain — was trained by scientists on millions of educational videos from the internet that showed over 100,000 different people talking. From this dataset, Speech2Face learned associations between vocal cues and certain physical features in a human face, researchers wrote in a new study. The AI then used an audio clip to model a photorealistic face matching the voice.
The findings were published online May 23 in the preprint jounral arXiv and have not been peer-reviewed. Thankfully, AI doesn’t (yet) know exactly what a specific individual looks like based on their voice alone. The neural network recognized certain markers in speech that pointed to gender, age and ethnicity, features that are shared by many people, the study authors reported. “As such, the model will only produce average-looking faces,” the scientists wrote. “It will not produce images of specific individuals.” AI has already shown that it can produce uncannily accurate human faces, though its interpretations of cats are frankly a little terrifying…”
omgubuntu.com: “CERN is best known for pushing the boundaries of science and understanding, but the famed research outfit’s next major experiment will be with open-source software. The cost of various commercial software licenses has increased 10x. The European Organisation for Nuclear Research, better known as CERN, and also known as home of the Large Hadron Collider, has announced plans to migrate away from Microsoft products and on to open-source solutions where possible. Why? Increases in Microsoft license fees. Microsoft recently revoked the organisations status as an academic institution, instead pricing access to its services on users. This bumps the cost of various software licenses 10x, which is just too much for CERN’s budget…”
Chicago Tribune – “In a major defeat for opponents, a federal judge ruled Tuesday that the city of Chicago was within its authority when it approved the Obama Foundation’s plan to build the Obama Presidential Center on publicly owned property in Jackson Park. The center “surely provides a multitude of benefits to the public. It will offer a range of cultural, artistic, and recreational opportunities … as well as provide increased access to other areas of Jackson Park and the Museum of Science and Industry,” U.S. District Judge John Robert Blakey said in a written ruling hours after hearing arguments on both sides in a Chicago courtroom Tuesday. The foundation still has to finish a federal review process before it can break ground on the $500 million, sprawling development. And the environmental group that sued to stop the project has vowed to appeal Blakey’s ruling. But Tuesday’s decision removes one major hurdle…”
Poynter – Strong growth in Asia and Latin America helps fuel global increase – “The number of fact-checking outlets around the world has grown to 188 in more than 60 countries amid global concerns about the spread of misinformation, according to the latest tally by the Duke Reporters’ Lab. Since the last annual fact-checking census in February 2018, we’ve added 39 more outlets that actively assess claims from politicians and social media, a 26% increase. The new total is also more than four times the 44 fact-checkers we counted when we launched our global database and map in 2014.
Globally, the largest growth came in Asia, which went from 22 to 35 outlets in the past year. Nine of the 27 fact-checking outlets that launched since the start of 2018 were in Asia, including six in India. Latin American fact-checking also saw a growth spurt in that same period, with two new outlets in Costa Rica, and others in Mexico, Panama and Venezuela. The actual worldwide total is likely much higher than our current tally. That’s because more than a half-dozen of the fact-checkers we’ve added to the database since the start of 2018 began as election-related partnerships that involved the collaboration of multiple organizations. And some those election partners are discussing ways to continue or reactivate that work— either together or on their own…”
Climate Change: Opportunities to Reduce Federal Fiscal Exposure. GAO-19-625T: Published: Jun 11, 2019. Publicly Released: Jun 11, 2019. “There were 14 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disaster events in the U.S. in 2018—with a total cost of at least $91 billion. These costs will likely rise as the climate changes, researchers say. The federal government’s fiscal exposure from climate change is on our High Risk List. We testified about potential budget impacts from climate change and how the government can reduce fiscal exposure, among other things. Climate change could damage federal property and increase the cost of disaster aid and some property and crop insurance. One way to reduce fiscal exposure is to establish federal strategic climate change priorities….”
Center for American Progress Study, America Adrift, May 5, 2019 – “These days, foreign policy and national security publications are filled with stark warnings about the demise of the U.S.-led rules-based international order—the system of global alliances and institutions that helped advance peace and prosperity for America and its allies in the aftermath of World War II. The Brexit vote in the United Kingdom; the election of President Donald Trump in the United States; new protest movements against global capitalism; the increasing strength of right-wing, anti-immigrant parties in Europe; and the rising power of nondemocratic regimes in China, Russia, and elsewhere are all seen as clear evidence that the old system of international relations is collapsing and may be permanently broken. With the post-war order under assault from both the nationalist right and the anti-imperialist left, observers fear that it is devolving into a fractured system of uncooperative nations led by populist or anti-democratic forces pursuing parochial interests while stoking hostility toward outsiders and fostering distrust of collective global action. But are voters in Western societies experiencing a genuine attitudinal break with the old democratic order, or rather, are they going through a corrective period based on years of pent-up frustrations about economic and social conditions that have yet to improve?…”
Mary Meeker, general partner at venture capital firm Bond Capital, delivered her annual Internet Trends slideshow – for 2019 it is 333 pages.
“Recode has pulled out some of the significant and most interesting trends in Meeker’s report: Some 51 percent of the world — 3.8 billion people — were internet users last year, up from 49 percent (3.6 billion) in 2017. Growth slowed to about 6 percent in 2018 because so many people have come online that new users are harder to come by. Sales of smartphones — which are the primary internet access point for many people across the globe — are declining as much of the world that is going to be online already is. As of last week, seven out of 10 of the world’s most valuable companies by market cap are tech companies, with only Berkshire Hathaway, Visa, and Johnson & Johnson making the Top 10 as non-tech companies: Microsoft; Amazon; Apple; Alphabet; Berkshire Hathaway; Facebook; Alibaba; Tencent; Visa; Johnson & Johnson…”
Hybrid Pedagogy – Maura A. Smale – Undergraduate Access to Course Reading – “Faculty and staff don’t often know how hard it is for students to get their course materials. I’m a library director and professor at New York City College of Technology (City Tech), and I worry about student access to required course readings. Our college is part of the City University of New York (CUNY) system, and most of the CUNY students I’ve spoken with did not begrudge the need to purchase textbooks and other materials in college. For some students the requirement to pay for course books came as a surprise because in high school, all books are provided for them. However, student budgets were limited, even if they anticipated textbook costs. Students made choices about whether and how to acquire their course reading in part based on their perceived utility of the reading for that course. They evaluated multiple factors, including how — and even whether — the reading was likely to be used by themselves and their instructors in their courses, as well as their own interest in the course. Many students did not buy their required course readings at the beginning of the semester, and instead waited to attend the first few class sessions to see whether they truly needed to buy the book. One second-semester City Tech student was very concise when describing their strategy for accessing the required reading for one course, telling me “I’ll get it when we use it.” Others pointed out that many instructors shared their lecture slides with students, uploading the slides to the learning management system or providing other digital access, and that the lecture slides essentially replicated the content of their textbooks. For these students the choice was clear: purchasing the textbook would not give them any advantages in their work for the course, so they did not feel compelled to spend money on the textbook…”
Vice: “The well-known and respected data breach notification website “Have I Been Pwned” is up for sale. Troy Hunt, its founder and sole operator, announced the sale on Tuesday in a blog post where he explained why the time has come for Have I Been Pwned to become part of something bigger and more organized.
“To date, every line of code, every configuration and every breached record has been handled by me alone. There is no ‘HIBP team’, there’s one guy keeping the whole thing afloat,” Hunt wrote. “it’s time for HIBP to grow up. It’s time to go from that one guy doing what he can in his available time to a better-resourced and better-funded structure that’s able to do way more than what I ever could on my own.”..
Via Axios: “The July/August issue of Foreign Affairs offers what editor Gideon Rose calls “an autopsy of the last decades of American global leadership — the years when U.S. elites squandered the inheritance and good name bequeathed to them.” Fareed Zakaria on “The Self-Destruction of American Power”:Sometime in the last two years, American hegemony died. The age of U.S. dominance was a brief, heady era, about three decades marked by two moments, each a breakdown of sorts. It was born amid the collapse of the Berlin Wall, in 1989. The end, or really the beginning of the end, was another collapse, that of Iraq in 2003, and the slow unraveling since…”
Automated temperature settings aren’t always accurate, but Consumer Reports’ tests are: “For the food in your refrigerator to stay fresh for as long as possible—no ice crystals on the lettuce or bacteria breeding in warm spots—the refrigerator temperature should hover right around 37° F. In the freezer, a temperature of 0° F will keep foods thoroughly frozen. Armed with this information, you’d set your refrigerator to those temperatures, right? But the temperature controls on many refrigerators only allow you to choose from a series of numbers—say, from 1 to 5, with 1 being the coldest and 5 the warmest. To further complicate matters, even when refrigerators have digital controls that allow you to set a specific refrigerator temperature, our tests have found that the settings aren’t always accurate. But the temperature-measuring equipment Consumer Reports uses in its lab tests is extremely precise, down to a fraction of a degree. As a result, we can tell you exactly where to set your refrigerator temperature to achieve optimal freshness…” [h/t Pete Weiss]
ars technica – Bucking a major trend, company speaks out against the age-old practice. ” Microsoft is finally catching on to a maxim that security experts have almost universally accepted for years: periodic password changes are likely to do more harm than good. In a largely overlooked post published late last month, Microsoft said it was removing periodic password changes from the security baseline settings it recommends for customers and auditors. After decades of Microsoft recommending passwords be changed regularly, Microsoft employee Aaron Margosis said the requirement is an “ancient and obsolete mitigation of very low value.”
The change of heart is largely the result of research that shows passwords are most prone to cracking when they’re easy for end users to remember, such as when they use a name or phrase from a favorite movie or book. Over the past decade, hackers have mined real-world password breaches to assemble dictionaries of millions of words. Combined with super-fast graphics cards, the hackers can make huge numbers of guesses in off-line attacks, which occur when they steal the cryptographically scrambled hashes that represent the plaintext user passwords…”
Slate – A new paper used YouTubers’ voices to guess what they looked like. We’re going to see more of this. “There’s a lot you might guess about a person based on their voice: their gender, their age, perhaps even their race. That’s your brain making an educated guess about the identity of a speaker based on what you’ve experienced, but sometimes, those guesses are wrong. (People I talk to on the phone who don’t know my name often assume I’m white because I speak English without an accent. They frequently express surprise to learn I’m Asian.) In a recent paper, a group of MIT researchers set out to investigate what a computer can guess about a person’s appearance from their voice…”
The Chronicle of Higher Education interview with the president of the Association of University Presses (AUPresses), Jennifer Crewe: “…Our biggest challenge remains the low sales of scholarly monographs, such as revised dissertations or scholarly books with a narrow focus in a small field. Libraries share copies, and individuals don’t purchase the new books in their fields as they did 20 years ago. We want to publish these books. They are the building blocks of our own reputation and they are often groundbreaking, field-changing works. We’re looking for publishing grants to support them, and we try each season to publish enough profitable books to cover the losses on monographs. But today’s model isn’t sustainable. There are a number of experiments under way to figure out how to publish specialized monographs in a freely available open-access format. But open access doesn’t mean “free,” except to the end user. Someone still has to pay the upfront costs of curation, peer review, editing, design, discoverability, publicity — plus promotion, to make sure people notice the book when its published. Those costs are actually much higher than the paper, printing, and binding costs that you save when you publish in digital format only. Publishers need grants up front to cover those costs, and right now there is no established system for that. I should also point out that tenure committees, reviewers, and authors still prefer print books for the most part, so I don’t see the system changing right away…”
Washington Post – A new algorithm developed by Stanford University engineers is putting the spotlight on advances in video editing that could make it more difficult to separate fact from fiction online. “A team of researchers has developed new technology allowing editors to alter the words of anyone who appears on video in an image from the shoulders up, making doing so as easy as typing changes into a word processing program. In practice, this could be a talking head, a politician, a news anchor or any other person who influences political discourse. The researchers say this technology could be used to adapt instructional videos or quickly make edits to movies — but experts warn it could have more sinister effects if applied to politics. It raises serious ethical concerns because it could make it far easier for bad actors to manipulate videos from typically trusted sources.
Here’s how the new technology works: Editors can simply delete or add words to a transcript, and the application will assemble the right word or speech motions from another point in the video and use machine learning to edit the video version of the transcript in a way that appears seamless to the natural eye. Jack Clark, policy director at San Francisco artificial intelligence research center OpenAI, warned that if the technology were widely released, it could make it far cheaper to spread propaganda…”