Law and Legal

Has the IRS mailed your stimulus check yet? Track its progress with a free post office tool

CNET- This USPS will help you follow your stimulus check right to your mailbox, so you don’t accidentally throw it away. “The IRS is nearing the Jan. 15 deadline to send out second stimulus checks through direct deposit, despite some setbacks. And it is still mailing payments up to this Friday cutoff as paper checks or EIP debit cards. If you’re eligible for a second payment of up to $600 per person, but you didn’t see the money it in your bank account yet, you may want to start watching your mailbox, where your check could arrive after the Jan. 15 deadline. There are two free and easy ways to track your stimulus check. The first is by using the IRS’ stimulus check tracker tool, which can give you information about your payment schedule, how it’s arriving, your second stimulus check total and if there’s been an error processing your check. Then, if you learn your payment is coming in the mail, you can sign up for a free USPS service that shows you when your letters have been scanned, are in transit and have been delivered to your home. That includes your second stimulus check…”

Categories: Law and Legal

How to Hold Social Media Accountable for Undermining Democracy

Harvard Business Review: “The problem with social media isn’t just what users post — it’s what the platforms decide to do with that content. Far from being neutral, social media companies are constantly making decisions about which content to amplify, elevate, and suggest to other users. Given their business model, which promotes scale above all, they’ve often actively amplified extreme, divisive content — including dangerous conspiracy theories and misinformation. It’s time for regulators to step in. A good place to start would be clarifying who should benefit from Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which has been vastly over-interpreted to provide blanket immunity to all internet companies — or “internet intermediaries” — for any third-party content they host. Specifically, it’s time to redefine what an “internet intermediary” means and create a more accurate category to reflect what these companies truly are, such as “digital curators” whose algorithms decide what content to boost, what to amplify, how to curate our content…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Switching to Signal? Turn on these settings now for greater privacy and security

ZDNet – “Many people are making the switch from WhatsApp to Signal. Many are switching because of the increased privacy and security that Signal offers. But with a few simple tweaks, did you know that you can make Signal even more secure? There are a few settings I suggest you enable. There are some cosmetic differences between the iOS and Android versions of Signal, but these tips apply to both platforms. The first place you should head over to is the Settings screen. To get there, tap on your initials in the top-left corner of the screen (on Android you can also tap the three dots on the top-left and then Settings). There are three settings on iOS and four on Android I recommend turning on, and a few others worth taking a look at…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Record ocean heat in 2020 supercharged extreme weather

The Guardian: “The world’s oceans reached their hottest level in recorded history in 2020, supercharging the extreme weather impacts of the climate emergency, scientists have reported. More than 90% of the heat trapped by carbon emissions is absorbed by the oceans, making their warmth an undeniable signal of the accelerating crisis. The researchers found the five hottest years in the oceans had occurred since 2015, and that the rate of heating since 1986 was eight times higher than that from 1960-85. Reliable instrumental measurements stretch back to 1940 but it is likely the oceans are now at their hottest for 1,000 years and heating faster than any time in the last 2,000 years. Warmer seas provide more energy to storms, making them more severe, and there were a record 29 tropical storms in the Atlantic in 2020…”

See also Outsideonline – How Biden Can Start Protecting the Environment. “The end of the Trump administration can’t come soon enough for our climate and public lands. Thankfully, there are a series of actions our new president can immediately take to begin undoing the damage…”

Categories: Law and Legal

ABA Legal Fact Check updates prior posts on impeachment, perils of frivolous lawsuits

“The American Bar Association has updated ABA Legal Fact Checks on impeachment and the perils of filing frivolous lawsuits to assist reporters and editors working on these timely stories. With the U.S. House of Representatives voting to impeach President Donald J. Trump today for the second time in 13 months, the update on impeachment explores its law and history as well as what is meant by the Constitution’s term “high crimes and misdemeanors” and rules applicable to the trial the Senate must conduct once the House files articles of impeachment. The factcheck on frivolous lawsuits notes that because lawyers are officers of the court, they must follow certain court rules when they file lawsuits and outlines how these suits could eventually lead to disciplinary action against lawyers for violating applicable rules of professional conduct. ABA Legal Fact Check seeks to help the media and public find dependable answers and explanations to sometimes confusing legal questions and issues.”

Categories: Law and Legal

How Should Pharmacies Handle Extra Doses of COVID-19 Vaccine?

Slate: “…Since the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine rollout began in December, there have been reports across the country of providers ending up with vaccine doses they need to use up right away. In some cases, this results from vials containing “extra” doses—for instance, each Pfizer vaccine vial is designed to hold five doses, but many contain six, and Moderna vials are designed to hold 10 but many contain 11. In other cases, like what appears to have happened at Safeway the night Ruskin received her vaccine, providers must thaw a certain number of vaccine vials for daily appointments, but people who make those appointments may not show. Whether doses are “extra” or “leftover,” these situations require providers to make quick decisions about what to do with them; unthawed doses are only good for a few hours at room temperature. Amid an already chaotic vaccine rollout, it appears there’s little official guidance on what providers should do with these doses. In some cases, policies—or confusion over how to comply with them—have led to doses thrown away. After Stat reported in early December that one in six doses of the Pfizer vaccine were discarded because it was unclear whether “extra” doses in vials were usable, the Food and Drug Administration issued official guidance clarifying that those doses could indeed be used. And in some areas of the U.S., local and state public health guidance requires providers to use extra doses on groups eligible for vaccination, leading some providers to throw away doses if they can’t find people from those eligible groups. In a particularly dispiriting account published in the New York Times, a nurse called a nursing home, an urgent care center, and a women’s shelter and even ventured out on foot to administer vaccines at those locations, but ultimately, doses still went to waste…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Why Aren’t We Wearing Better Masks?

The Atlantic – Cloth masks are better than nothing, but they were supposed to be a stopgap measure. “If you’re like most Americans, there’s a good chance you’re going to wear a cloth mask today. Doing so makes sense. It remains the official recommendation in the United States, and it is something we’ve both advocated since the beginning of the pandemic. Both of us wrote articles as far back as March urging people to wear homemade cloth masks. We’re also the authors (along with 17 other experts) of a paper titled “An Evidence Review of Face Masks Against COVID,” which was just published in peer-reviewed form in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. But it’s past time for better solutions to be available to the public. We first released the paper as a preprint back in April, and it took nine months to go through peer review. We’re happy that it’s published but, to be honest, we’re also deeply disappointed that it’s still relevant. We’d hoped that by 2021 supply chains would have ramped up enough to ensure that everyone had better masks. Cloth masks, especially homemade ones, were supposed to be a stopgap measure. Why are so many of us still wearing them? Don’t get us wrong; everything we said about the efficacy of cloth masks stands the test of time. Wearing them is much better than wearing nothing. They definitely help reduce transmission of the coronavirus from the wearer and likely protect the wearer to some degree as well. But we know that not all masks are equal, and early on in the pandemic, there was a dire shortage of higher-grade masks for medical workers. During those emergency conditions, something was much better than nothing. There are better possibilities now, but they require action and guidance by the authorities. Even all cloth masks are not equal. Construction, materials, and fit matter, and these can’t be tracked or certified with homemade masks. Unlike cloth masks, medical-grade masks (also called respirators) that adhere to standards such as N95 (in the U.S.), FFP2 (in the European Union), and KN95 (in China) do a much better job of protecting the wearer and dampening transmission. Ideally, they should also come with instructions on how to wear them and ensure that they fit properly…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Domestic Terrorism and the Attack on the U.S. Capitol

CRS Insight via LC – Domestic Terrorism and the Attack on the U.S. Capitol, January 13, 2021: “On January 6, 2021, a large group of individuals breached the U.S. Capitol security while Congress was in session. Members were voting on whether or not to certify President-Elect Joe Biden’s election victory, and many participants in the attack allegedly intended to thwart this effort. According to media coverage, violent participants injured scores of District of Columbia Metropolitan Police and U.S. Capitol Police officers and killed one, while four civilians have died as well. In light of this incident and the violent threat to the operation of the U.S. Congress, policymakers may be interested in whether this incident may be treated as domestic terrorism and if the participants are domestic terrorists, among other issues. This Insight discusses whether or not participants and their actions may be categorized as domestic terrorists and domestic terrorism,respectively, and issues around designating domestic fringe groups, such as the Boogaloo Bois and Proud Boys who were allegedly involved in the attack,as terrorist organizations. It concludes with possible next steps for Congress..”

Categories: Law and Legal

These D.C. museum websites provide online collections of inaugural pomp and pageantry

Washington Post: “Tourists usually pack into Washington’s museums in the days leading up to inauguration, cooing over the first ladies’ gowns at the National Museum of American History or lining up to see the new president’s portrait at the National Portrait Gallery. While most museums remain closed for the foreseeable future, virtual exhibitions allow viewers to enjoy the experience — and maybe learn something while they’re at it…”

Categories: Law and Legal

The Empty Crypt Beneath the US Capitol Rotunda

Mental Floss – “The U.S. Capitol Crypt is home to 40 Doric columns, a dozen statues, and no human remains. It’s also a lot less far off the beaten track than your regular run-of-the-mill underground vault—visitor tours of the Capitol building pass through it on a daily basis. In fact, the Capitol Crypt wasn’t exactly intended as a crypt. According to Architect of the Capitol, the building’s first architect, Dr. William Thornton, called it a “Grand Vestibule” on a blueprint from 1797. Nine years later, his successor dubbed it the “General Vestibule to all the Offices.” But while the room was mainly meant to function as a thoroughfare, it was also supposed to be the final resting place of George Washington and his wife, Martha…Though Washington’s tomb remains vacant, the Capitol Crypt itself does not: It currently houses a statue of a notable figure from each of the 13 original colonies. (Except, for the moment, Virginia—the Robert E. Lee sculpture was removed in December 2020 and will soon be replaced with one commemorating civil rights activist Barbara Johns.)”

Categories: Law and Legal

Impeachable Speech

Katherine Shaw, Impeachable Speech, 70 Emory L. J.1 (2020). Available at: https://scholarlycommons.law.emory.edu/elj/vol70/iss1

“Rhetoric is both an important source of presidential power and a key tool of presidential governance. For at least a century, the bully pulpit has amplified presidential power and authority, with significant consequences for the separation of powers and the constitutional order more broadly. Although the power of presidential rhetoric is a familiar feature of the contemporary legal and political landscape, far less understood are the constraints upon presidential rhetoric that exist within our system. Impeachment, of course, is one of the most important constitutional constraints on the president. And so, in the wake of the fourth major presidential impeachment effort in our history, it is worth pausing to examine the relationship between presidential rhetoric and Congress’s power of impeachment. Although presidential rhetoric was largely sidelined in the 2019–2020 impeachment of President Donald Trump, presidential speech actually played a significant role in every other major presidential impeachment effort in our history. Prior to President Trump, three presidents had faced serious impeachment threats: Andrew Johnson, in 1868; Richard Nixon, in 1974; and Bill Clinton, in 1998 and early 1999. In each of these episodes, the debate around impeachment encompassed, among other things, public presidential rhetoric—lies and misrepresentations; statements that took aim at Congress or undermined the rule of law. In the case of Andrew Johnson, presidential rhetoric formed the basis of one of the articles of impeachment approved by the House of Representatives. In the case of Richard Nixon, the first article of impeachment approved by the House Judiciary Committee—though never considered by the full House—made extensive reference to the president’s public statements. And one of the possible offenses identified in Independent Counsel Ken Starr’s impeachment referral focused on Bill Clinton’s lies to the American people; an impeachment article tracking that recommendation was initially debated by the House Judiciary Committee, but the language regarding public speech was removed before the committee vote. These aspects of impeachment history have largely escaped scholarly notice, and they may prove instructive as both Congress and the public debate impeachment, as well as other possible constraints on presidential rhetoric and presidential power, in 2020 and beyond.”

Categories: Law and Legal

Compiling the Criminal Charges Following the Capitol Riot

LawFare: “On Jan. 6, a violent mob entered the United States Capitol Building during the congressional certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, forcing lawmakers and congressional staff to flee to safe locations. The rioters arrived at the Capitol Building following a rally on the National Mall where speakers and demonstrated urged Congress to not certify Biden’s win in the presidential race due to baseless claims of voter fraud and irregularities. After law enforcement cleared the mob out of the Capitol, Congress certified President-elect Biden’s victory. Arrests related to the breach of the Capitol are ongoing.  Here, we are compiling links to charging documents related to the Jan. 6 riot on Capitol Hill. Our list includes cases in both the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. As of Jan. 12, this document also contains charges relating to the inauguration in a separate section. This article will be continually updated…”

Categories: Law and Legal

The Tyranny of the Pandemic Office

The New Republic: “I read Anderson’s book Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives (and Why We Don’t Talk About It) at the beginning of the pandemic. Over the last few months, I kept returning to it as the physical workplace, the book’s primary topic of interest, mutated and then, for many white-collar workers, effectively disappeared. (By the first week of April, an estimated 31 percent of office workers had switched to working from home.) Private Government, which is adapted from two lectures Anderson gave in 2015, discusses the ways in which modern American workplaces resemble little autocratic dictatorships. Authority in these workplaces “is sweeping, arbitrary, and unaccountable—not subject to notice, process, or appeal.” These workplaces, she explains, basically function as private governments. The people who are ruled don’t have a say in how they are ruled; they are simply required to follow orders, which are devised unilaterally and handed down from the top. This is, in part, what separates corporations from public, democratic governments. Voters have a voice—however small and highly contingent that voice may be—whereas most workers have absolutely no voice at all. In essence, Anderson’s book makes the argument that workplaces are sites of complete control. “The lowest-ranked may have their bodily movements and speech regulated for most of the day,” she writes. “Everyone lives under surveillance, to ensure that they are complying with orders.” Workers have little power to fight back against demands that can be oppressive or arbitrary. Is it any wonder, then, that as the pandemic stretches on, many bosses are hoping to get workers back in the office as soon as possible? “When you’re trying to create a new project, you want people around that water cooler. You want that sense of urgency,” Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen told CNBC in August. “I feel like productivity is impacted a little bit in that.” In a note to employees, senior executives at the Jefferies Financial Group wrote: “We all miss each other,” and “at the end of the day, we all know we are more effective in person than on Zoom.” Both of these reflections begin with a chummy softener before pivoting, hard and fast, to business concerns. Reading them is like feeling a hand go from patting you on the shoulder to pushing you down into a desk chair. Camaraderie is reduced to a professional function, a fuel for productivity and effectiveness. By couching their desire for a return to in-person work in the language of social benefit for workers, executives sugarcoat their fundamental motivators: unease about output, loss, and the bottom line.

And many bosses are acting on those concerns. By April 2020, 26 percent of newly remote businesses surveyed by the law firm Blank Rome had fully developed a return-to-work strategy, and 56 percent had started to develop one. In August (months before a vaccine was approved), more than two-thirds of offices had either reopened or had never closed in the first place. The majority imperative has always been to get workers back into the workplace at the earliest opportunity. Profit over people, these businesses signal. Productivity over people. This doesn’t mean there aren’t genuinely good justifications for favoring a return to the office, Anderson reminded me when we spoke on a cold December morning. Collaboration and spontaneity, which may naturally breed from physical interaction, can feel stilted over Zoom. Mentoring young employees and acclimating them to life at the company—so they can, as Anderson put it, pick up on “the quality of relationships and what kinds of jokes are acceptable”—is much easier done in person. For some, the office can be a place of sociability, a happy medium between those closest to us and the short-lived interactions we have with strangers. “There’s a kind of synergy you get with face-to-face communication that you don’t get if you’re all on Zoom,” she said…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Can Anything Be Done to Rein In the President’s Speech?

The AtlanticTrump’s words are dangerous, and society must find ways big and small to push back. August 2, 2020 Kate Shaw Professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. “This president doesn’t speak like other presidents, that much is clear. Since taking office in January 2017, President Donald Trump has used the bully pulpit in ways that break, often dramatically, from the rhetorical norms that preceded him. The president seemed to cross a new red line this week, as he took to Twitter to suggest—without legal foundation—postponing the November election. This latest rhetorical escalation has increased the urgency of a long-simmering question: Can anything be done to rein in the speech of a president unmoored from reality and unmoved by decency? The answer is yes, and it hinges on understanding both the nature of presidential speech, and that speech’s dependence on a variety of mechanisms for actually reaching the public. Of course, how a president speaks isn’t fixed; for more than a century, presidents have used evolving channels and styles of communication to speak to the nation, to shape public opinion, and to rally support for their positions. And however they choose to reach the public, presidents do not go it alone; they rely on intermediaries, who are crucial to the amplification of presidential messages…”

See also Washington Post – Impeachment may not work. Here’s the next best way to dump Trump. “But there is a way of dispensing some justice, even just the first dose: The long-forgotten Section Three of the 14th Amendment bars from occupying public office anyone who takes an oath to uphold the Constitution and subsequently participates in or gives “aid or comfort” to rebellion or insurrection. The amendment gives Congress the power of enforcement. (The House impeachment article contains an allusion to this provision.) Congress can use this authority to prohibit anyone who on Jan. 6 violated an oath in this way, up to and including the president, from ever again serving in a government post, local, state, or national…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Questions to Guide an Investigation of the Capitol Attack

Just Security: “The invasion of the United States Capitol was an entirely predictable event, which makes the wholesale security collapse all the more unconscionable. Threats on social media grew more frequent and specific after President Donald Trump called on his supporters to gather in Washington, D.C., and push Congress to overturn the election results. Somehow though, several security leaders said they could not have imagined the violence that happened on January 6. Congress should establish a commission to investigate the failure and make recommendations to prevent it from happening again, including by taking on its underlying causes. These are the questions that should guide the effort…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Blob Opera

Google Arts and Culture – play for voices with the help of machine learning:”Blob Opera is a machine learning experiment by David Li in collaboration with Google Arts and Culture. This experiment pays tribute to and explores the original musical instrument: the voice. Play four opera voices in real time. No singing skills required! We developed a machine learning model trained on the voices of four opera singers in order to create an engaging experiment for everyone, regardless of musical skills. Tenor, Christian Joel, bass Frederick Tong, mezzo‑soprano Joanna Gamble and soprano Olivia Doutney recorded 16 hours of singing. In the experiment you don’t hear their voices, but the machine learning model’s understanding of what opera singing sounds like, based on what it learnt from them. How it works: Drag the blobs up and down to change pitch. Or forwards and backwards for different vowel sounds. Another machine learning model lets the blobs respond to and harmonise your input in real time….”

Categories: Law and Legal

Federal Criminal Law: January 6, 2021, Unrest at the Capitol

CRS Legal Sidebar via LC: Federal Criminal Law: January 6, 2021, Unrest at the Capitol: “On January 6, 2021,a crowd gathered on the U.S. Capitol grounds, breached police barriers, entered the Capitol building, occupied portions of the building for an extended period of time, and clashed with law enforcement, resulting in at least five deaths,dozens of injuries, and damage to federal property. Multiple participants in the unrest allegedly carried firearms and used flag poles and other objects as weapons,and explosive devices were discovered on or near the Capitol complex. Members of Congress and the Vice President, who were in the process of fulfilling their constitutional duty of counting the 2020 presidential election electoral votes,were forced to evacuate in response to the unrest. In its wake, observers have speculated about the nature and scope of criminal charges that might be brought against a number of the individuals involved. Indeed, the first charges have already been filed in federal and D.C. Superior Court. That said, investigations are ongoing and additional charges are expected. An array of federal,District,and state criminal statutes could have been violated during the unrest, although identifying every potentially applicable statute would be difficult given the breadth and diversity of the activity and the resultant complexity of the investigations…”

Categories: Law and Legal

The Day Democracy Was Attacked

Marc Elias – “Washington, D.C. is no stranger to protests. The Lincoln Memorial, just across the Mall from the U.S. Capitol, is the most famous backdrop for speeches about how we make our country “more perfect.” It is where Martin Luther King Jr. told the nation about his dream. When crowds are drawn to the Capitol, it is because they believe in the power of democracy and want to make their voices heard by elected officials, in the hopes of influencing their decisions. But it was all different this time. On January 6, insurrectionists descended on the Capitol to violently attack it. They did not assemble outside of the Capitol to strengthen democracy by making their voices heard; they sought to destroy democracy by storming the building to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power. While some who breached the Capitol were dressed in bizarre costumes, most appeared unremarkable. They did not look like revolutionaries, but rather like tourists. Some took selfies. We now know that they were indeed quite ordinary—a businessman, a former member of the military, a small business owner, the son of a judge, even a state legislator. I was reminded of Hannah Arendt describing the trial of Adolf Eichmann. “The trouble,” she wrote, “was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal.”…

Categories: Law and Legal

House Judiciary Committee Report on the Impeachment of Donald J. Trump

The House Judiciary Democrats released their report on[January 12, 2021 supporting impeachment. House Judiciary Committee Report on the Impeachment of Donald J. Trump to accompany H. Res. 755 [658 pages] December 13, 2019.

“Mr. NADLER, from the Committee on the Judiciary, submitted the following REPORT together with DISSENTING VIEWS [To accompany H. Res. 755]. The Committee on the Judiciary, to whom was referred the resolution (H. Res. 755) impeaching Donald John Trump, President of the United States, for high crimes and misdemeanors, having considered the same, reports favorably thereon pursuant to H. Res. 660 with an amendment and recommends that the resolution as amended be agreed to. The amendment is as follows: Strike all that follows after the resolving clause and insert the following: That Donald John Trump, President of the United States, is impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors and that the following articles of impeachment be exhibited to the United States Senate: Articles of impeachment exhibited by the House of Representatives of the United States of America in the name of itself and of the people of the United States of America, against Donald John Trump, President of the United States of America, in maintenance and support of its impeachment against him for high crimes and misdemeanors…”

Categories: Law and Legal

The U.S. Capitol Police: Brief Background

CRS Insight via LC – The U.S. Capitol Police: Brief Background, January 12, 2021: “U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) is a department within the legislative branch with security, protection, and administrative responsibilities. The USCP is responsible for law enforcement and security within the Capitol Complex, including the U.S. Capitol building, the Capitol Visitor Center, Capitol grounds, the House and Senate office buildings, the U.S. Botanic Garden, Capitol Police buildings, Library of Congress buildings, and adjacent grounds.  The USCP performs these roles in coordination with the House and Senate Sergeant sat Arms. The House and Senate Sergeants at Arms are charged with maintaining order in their chambers, and they each perform a number of law enforcement, security-related,decorum, and protocol duties. The House and Senate have each had an elected Sergeant at Arms since 1789…”

Categories: Law and Legal

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