Law and Legal
CRS via LC – Presidential Removal of IGs Under the Inspector General Act May 22, 2020: “President Trump has recently removed or replaced a number of acting and permanent Inspectors General (IGs), including the Intelligence Community IG, the State Department IG, and acting IGs at the Department of Transportation and Department of Defense. These actions have stirred both immediate concern by some within Congress and a larger conversation on IG independence. While governing statutes provide that IGs are intended to be “independent and objective units” tasked with auditing and investigating agency programs, they are not entirely insulated from presidential influence. In most cases it is the President that both selects and removes IGs, subject to checks on that authority discussed below. With respect to his replacement of the acting IGs, President Trump appears to have taken action permitted by the Vacancies Act, which generally provides the President with discretion to fill temporarily vacancies in positions requiring Senate confirmation. That law does not appear expressly to restrict the President’s authority to replace acting officials. With respect to the permanent IGs, who had been confirmed to their position by the Senate, the governing statute is principally the Inspector General Act of 1978 (IG Act). That law requires the President to notify Congress of the reasons for the removal of an IG not later than 30days before taking action. In each recent instance where President Trump removed a permanent IG, he gave advanced notice to Congress, and in each case justified the action on the ground that he “no longer” had “confidence” in the official to be removed. Some Members of Congress expressed concern about the articulated reasons for these removals, including a bipartisan group of Senators who concluded that “an expression of lost confidence, without further explanation, is not sufficient to fulfill the requirements” of the IG Act.The House-passed Heroes Act includes several provisions that seek to provide IGs with further independence from presidential influence, and the bill would also amend the IG Act’s notification requirements to extend to situations where an IG is placed on administrative leave This Sidebar addresses the removal notification provision of the IG Act and the requirements it may impose upon the President…”
Google Blog: “Imagine making plans to go somewhere new, taking the journey to get there and arriving— only to be stuck outside, prevented from sitting with family or being unable to access the restroom. It’s a deeply frustrating experience I’ve had many times since becoming a wheelchair user in 2009. And it’s an experience all too familiar to the 130 million wheelchair users worldwide and the more than 30 million Americans who have difficulty using stairs. So imagine instead being able to “know before you go” whether a destination is wheelchair accessible, just as effortlessly as looking up the address. In recognition of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, we’re announcing a new Google Maps feature that does just that. People can now turn on an “Accessible Places” feature to have wheelchair accessibility information more prominently displayed in Google Maps. When Accessible Places is switched on, a wheelchair icon will indicate an accessible entrance and you’ll be able to see if a place has accessible seating, restrooms or parking. If it’s confirmed that a place does not have an accessible entrance, we’ll show that information on Maps as well. Today, Google Maps has wheelchair accessibility information for more than 15 million places around the world. That number has more than doubled since 2017 thanks to the dedication of more than 120 million Local Guides and others who’ve responded to our call to share accessibility information. In total, this community has contributed more than 500 million wheelchair accessibility updates to Google Maps. Store owners have also helped, using Google My Business to add accessibility information for their business profiles to help users needing stair-free access find them on Google Maps and Search…”
NYT Open – A team of technicians have scanned over a million photos into a New York Times database. It took a team of technologists to make those photos searchable. “A block away from the hustle and bustle of Times Square in New York City, buried three floors below street level, lies The New York Times archive. The archive is housed in a sprawling room that is packed with hundreds of steel filing cabinets and cardboard boxes, each containing news clippings, encyclopaedias, photographs and other archival material. Started in the late 1800s, the archive first served as a collection of news clippings about newsworthy events and people. In the late 1960s, it was merged with a photo library managed by The Times’s art department. The archive (which is sometimes referred to as “the morgue”) now contains tens of millions of news clippings and an estimated five million printed photographs. Many of these historical documents are available only in print form, however in 2018, The Times embarked on a project — as part of a technology and advertising collaboration with Google — to preserve the photographs in the collection and store them digitally. A team of technicians manually scan about 1,000 photographs per day into a server, and in July, 2019, they scanned their one millionth photograph. Many of these photographs have found a new life in stories produced by The Times’s archival storytelling project, Past Tense. With a digital photographic archive now at over a million scans, we needed to build an asset management system that allows Times journalists to search and browse through the photos in the archive from their laptops…”
Urban Observatory – Trends represent the day-to-day rate of new cases with a focus on the most recent 10 to 21 days. We use data collected by Johns Hopkins University CSSE that also appear in their US Cases by County dashboard. For more information about COVID-19 trends, see our country level trends story map and the full methodology. Use these links to zoom to see: Alaska, Hawaii, American Samoa (no cases), Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands.]
County Trend Summary as of 20 May, 2020
- 59 with Emergent trend and fewer than ten cases
- 967 with Spreading trend
- 877 with Epidemic trend
- 641 with Controlled trend
- 396 with End Stage trend
- 202 with Zero Confirmed Cases
ProPublica: “Update, May 21, 2020: After a story in The Atlantic reported that states may be inflating test numbers, we changed this map to display positive tests per capita rather than as a percentage of total tests. Many states are lifting stay-at-home orders and other restrictions on social and business activity that were put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19. Questions linger, however, about whether some states meet criteria set by public health experts and the federal government for doing so. Experts are keeping a close eye on whether states that have reopened are seeing an uptick in cases or a worsening in other key metrics. To give people context on state reopenings, and what happens afterward, we are tracking metrics derived from a set of guidelines published by the White House for states to achieve before loosening restrictions. Even if these criteria are met, without a vaccine, reopening may cause an increase in cases. What’s more, some states may meet all of the criteria and still have a high infection rate. We plan on updating this data daily. Read more about how we chose these metrics…”
The New York Times: “For many, the past few weeks have been tough, but at least we’ve had a respite from pollution: With Americans staying home, emptying the roads and highways of traffic, skies have cleared across the country. That, at least, feels good. But for neighborhoods with historically high levels of air pollution, a temporary clearing of the air won’t reverse years of damage wrought by the high levels of particulate pollution, ozone and other pollutants in the air they breathe. I featured three such neighborhoods in my recent look at the effects of coronavirus and air pollution. Research has shown that polluting industries are disproportionately located in or near low-income, predominantly black or Latino neighborhoods. And, while the exact relationship between air pollution and Covid-19 is still unclear, research has shown that exposure to air pollution can make people more vulnerable to similar respiratory illnesses. As Michigan State Representative Tyrone Carter, a Detroit native who tested positive for the virus in late March, told me: “Your environment and your ZIP code have a lot to do with your life expectancy…
The Trump administration has added to concerns of these local communities by drastically relaxing rules for polluters in response to the pandemic, and declining to tighten regulations on industrial emissions that came up for review ahead of the coronavirus outbreak. We track these reversals, and more, in our comprehensive rollback tracker.
See also the New York Times – The Trump Administration Is Reversing 100 Environmental Rules. Here’s the Full List.
- Via The Atlantic see – America’s Patchwork Pandemic Is Fraying Even Further – “The coronavirus is coursing through different parts of the U.S. in different ways, making the crisis harder to predict, control, or understand..This pattern exists because different states have experienced the coronavirus pandemic in very different ways. In the most severely pummeled places, like New York and New Jersey, COVID-19 is waning. In Texas and North Carolina, it is still taking off. In Oregon and South Carolina, it is holding steady. These trends average into a national plateau, but each state’s pattern is distinct. Currently, Hawaii’s looks like a child’s drawing of a mountain. Minnesota’s looks like the tip of a hockey stick. Maine’s looks like a (two-humped) camel. The U.S. is dealing with a patchwork pandemic. The patchwork is not static. Next month’s hot spots will not be the same as last month’s. The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus is already moving from the big coastal cities where it first made its mark into rural heartland areas that had previously gone unscathed. People who only heard about the disease secondhand through the news will start hearing about it firsthand from their family. “Nothing makes me think the suburbs will be spared—it’ll just get there more slowly,” says Ashish Jha, a public-health expert at Harvard…”
- and ‘How Could the CDC Make That Mistake?’ – The government’s disease-fighting agency is conflating viral and antibody tests, compromising a few crucial metrics that governors depend on to reopen their economies. Pennsylvania, Georgia, Texas, and other states are doing the same. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is conflating the results of two different types of coronavirus tests, distorting several important metrics and providing the country with an inaccurate picture of the state of the pandemic. We’ve learned that the CDC is making, at best, a debilitating mistake: combining test results that diagnose current coronavirus infections with test results that measure whether someone has ever had the virus. The upshot is that the government’s disease-fighting agency is overstating the country’s ability to test people who are sick with COVID-19. The agency confirmed to The Atlantic on Wednesday [May 20, 2020] that it is mixing the results of viral and antibody tests, even though the two tests reveal different information and are used for different reasons…”
“These recommendations for #OpenSafely were published in an op-ed in USA Today on May 20, 2020 by a group of bipartisan health policy experts and leaders from broad and diverse backgrounds including Andy Slavitt; Mark McClellan, MD, PhD; and others (the complete list is on the site). Americans want our country to open up safely.
- We have been at this for a number of difficult weeks since the global pandemic began and it has taken a toll.
- It has been a time of unprecedented challenge. To our health. To our jobs. To our social connections. To our health care communities.
- We have sacrificed with a great unity to #StayHome in order to reduce the infection rate and save lives.
- We want a sense of normalcy back— to go to work, to go to restaurants, to see sports again, to send our kids to school, to hug our families— but not at the expense of the lives of our friends, families and neighbors.
- We want a good economy and public safety, but we are afraid if we open too quickly, or don’t have plans to adjust if spread recurs, we will have neither.
- We don’t believe we need to wait until everything is completely perfect or there is zero risk before we open again. The reality is that many states are already taking the first steps towards opening and this must happen in the safest way possible.
- Americans should still #StayHome whenever possible and continue social distancing. Now we need to get on a path to #OpenSafely that gets it right…”
GAO Watch Blog – “Recent COVID-19 related deaths at nursing homes have raised concerns about the health and safety of the nation’s 1.4 million residents living in these facilities. In today’s WatchBlog, we look at the federal role in protecting nursing home residents and our recent report that identified ongoing gaps in this effort that pre-date the coronavirus pandemic. Nursing home infection control – There are about 15,500 nursing homes in the United States. Federal standards require that these facilities establish and maintain infection prevention and control programs. While the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is responsible for ensuring that these facilities have programs and safety measures in place, it relies on state agencies to conduct surveys and investigations of facilities to ensure nursing homes comply with federal standards. Deficiencies in meeting these standards can include situations where, for example, nursing home staff did not regularly use proper hand hygiene or failed to implement preventive measures during an infectious disease outbreak like isolating sick residents. Many of these practices can be critical to preventing the spread of infectious disease, including COVID-19…” [h/t Pete Weiss]
NBC News – “Over the nine months Andy Hunter courted investors for his online bookselling business, Bookshop.org, he was repeatedly told it was doomed to be crushed by Amazon. Three months since its launch with less than $1 million in funding, Hunter said the business has already far exceeded levels he’d hoped to achieve by Christmas. By early May, Bookshop has been selling more than 10,000 books a day to 175,000 customers before spending a dollar on advertising, according to Hunter. Bookshop’s timing was uncanny. The site, which provides an easy way for independent booksellers to set up online storefronts for delivery orders, launched in beta on Jan. 28. After a steady first five weeks, Hunter said, the business began to take off as stay-at-home orders proliferated across the U.S.
“My goal was to capture 1 percent of Amazon’s book market and we’re there now; we’re over 1 percent of their sales,” he said in a phone interview in late April. “I thought it was going to take three years to get there and instead it took 11 weeks.” While the pandemic threatens to cripple small businesses like book stores and restaurants that tend to rely on foot traffic, it’s also creating opportunities for some online businesses to expand. Bookshop’s early success shows that Amazon may not be the only e-commerce business to come out of the pandemic stronger than before. As the retail giant has been forced to loosen its speedy delivery times in the face of unprecedented demand and inventory shortages, smaller e-commerce services have also seen a boom as consumers scramble to find goods online…”
Oxford University Press Blog: “The virus lurks on car door handles, on doorknobs and the floor, on the breath of others or in a friend’s hug, on onions in the supermarket, and on the hands of the valet who parks your car. If you venture outside, everything and everyone is a threat. So, it is better to stay home, safely locked away with your previously disinfected computer which connects you to a world that is innocuous because it’s virtual and therefore harmless. What makes you sick lurks outside your door. The fear of what we know to be real, but which only materializes in suspicion, is enough to keep us locked away. This individual sensation of anguish in the face of a threat leads to voluntary confinement and that is the success of social control. Fear is used as a disciplinary device. The strategies used to make bodies docile for the purpose of social control is what the philosopher and historian Michel Foucault called discipline. In the context of COVID-19, there are those who do not initially choose self-discipline since there is an even higher level of discipline: mass deaths in foreign climes. But those who have yet to discipline themselves will do so once these deaths increase or occur closer to home. China and Korea didn’t wait for the second stage and went directly to surveillance through apps. In the end we have the shocking images of deserted New York and Venice which show that discipline has been successful: Nobody goes out anymore. We initially resist discipline – as Foucault pointed out in the case of schools and the army – but in the end we confine ourselves to the home as an institution of isolation for biopolitical purposes…”
Washington Post Daily 202: “Columbia University epidemiologists estimate in a new study that enacting social distancing measures a week earlier, on March 8 instead of March 15, could have saved up to 36,000 lives in the United States. That’s about 40 percent of the current reported fatalities from the novel coronavirus. The study found that imposing the social distancing measures on March 1 that would ultimately go into effect two weeks later could have saved about 54,000 American lives. At least 92,317 deaths from the virus have been reported in the United States since Feb. 29. The White House responded to Columbia’s research with a statement that attacked the Chinese government and the World Health Organization for not being more transparent while praising President Trump for showing “bold leadership.” The Columbia study is one of several fresh data points that illustrate the cascading fallout from the contagion and the continuing challenges for the response at home and abroad…”
LC CRS Reports – Considering the Source: Varieties of COVID-19 Information, May 19, 2020: “In common parlance, the terms propaganda, misinformation, and disinformation are often used interchangeably, often with connotations of deliberate untruths of nefarious origin.In a national security context, however, these terms refer to categories of information that are created and disseminated with different intent and serve different strategic purposes.This primer examines these categories to create a framework for understanding the national security implications of information related to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic…”
Deloitte: “Five fundamental qualities of resilient leadership distinguish successful CEOs as they guide their enterprises through the COVID-19 crisis. Learn specific steps that can help blunt the crisis’s impact—and enable your organization to emerge stronger.
The rapid global spread of COVID-19 has quickly eclipsed other recent epidemics in both size and scope. In addition to the deadly human toll and the disruption to millions of people’s lives, the economic damage is already significant and far-reaching. In the face of certain challenges and a still-uncertain set of risks, business leaders are rightly concerned about how their companies will be affected and what they have to do next. In the heat of the moment, there are a number of lessons from history that can be applied now. We have pooled the insights of Deloitte leaders in affected areas around the world to provide practical insights for chief executives and their leadership teams in taking appropriate action. We recognize that companies are in different phases of dealing with the outbreak, and therefore the impacts vary by geography and sector. But regardless of the extent of the virus’s impact on an organization, we believe there are five fundamental qualities of resilient leadership that distinguish successful CEOs as they guide their enterprises through the COVID-19 crisis..”
The New York Times: “When you finally return to work after the lockdown, coronavirus might not be the only illness you need to worry about contracting at the office. Office buildings once filled with employees emptied out in many cities and states as shelter-in-place orders were issued. These structures, normally in constant use, have been closed off and shut down, and health risks might be accumulating in unseen ways. “The buildings aren’t designed to be left alone for months,” said Andrew Whelton, an associate professor of civil, environmental and ecological engineering at Purdue University. Dr. Whelton, other researchers and public health authorities have issued warnings about the plumbing in these buildings, where water may have gone stagnant in the pipes or even in individual taps and toilets. As lockdowns are lifted, bacteria that build up internally may cause health problems for returning workers if the problem is not properly addressed by facilities managers. Employees and guests at hotels, gyms and other kinds of buildings may also be at risk.
The biggest worry is Legionella pneumophila. The bacteria can cause Legionnaires’ disease, a respiratory condition. It leads to death in about one in 10 cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine estimates that over 52,000 Americans suffer from the disease each year…”
DEMCO Ideas & Inspiration: “With all the uncertainties surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s no wonder you have questions about how to reopen your library and expand your services safely. To help you plan, we asked pediatrician and librarian Dr. Dipesh Navsaria to address your biggest concerns, including how to quarantine books, what protective measures are effective, how to serve vulnerable populations, and more. Read his responses to your questions below to learn what you need to think about to keep staff, students, and patrons safe, and watch his full presentation on-demand at “COVID-19: Safety Tips for Reopening Your Library.”…
“The COVID-19 Impact Analysis Platform provides data and insight on COVID-19’s impact on mobility, health, economy, and society for all states and counties with daily data updates. The platform was originally developed by Dr. Lei Zhang’s group at the Maryland Transportation Institute (MTI) in partnership with the Center for Advanced Transportation Technology Laboratory (CATT Lab). A multidisciplinary team of researchers are now making their COVID-19 data and research findings available to inform the general public and support decision making through this platform. Metrics are produced based on validated computational algorithms and privacy-protected data from mobile devices, government agencies, healthcare system, and other sources. The platform will evolve and expand over time as new metrics are computed and additional visualizations and decision support tools are developed…”
“#TestAndTrace is an organization working to popularize the concept with the public and help implement Test and Trace in the United States. Our team previously helped power and scale the #Masks4All movement which has popularized the use of homemade masks in public and has reached ~1+ billion people (via social media, news outlets, and governments) in the first three weeks of April…We compile data and resources to inform the public, health leaders, and government leaders on why Test & Trace is important and how they can implement it…Our volunteer team of 20+ people is sharing information to help States & Countries implement Test & Trace…”
Rolling Stone: “A few weeks before President Trump was impeached last December for attempting to blackmail Ukraine into investigating Joe Biden, Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan warned the House Judiciary Committee of a future in which the president used similar tactics on his own country: “Imagine living in a part of Louisiana or Texas that’s prone to devastating hurricanes and flooding. What would you think if you lived there and your governor asked for a meeting with the president to discuss getting disaster aid that Congress has provided for? What would you think if that president said, ‘I would like you to do us a favor? I’ll meet with you, and send the disaster relief, once you brand my opponent a criminal.’ Wouldn’t you know in your gut that such a president has abused his office? That he’d betrayed the national interest, and that he was trying to corrupt the electoral process? I believe the evidentiary record shows wrongful acts on those scale here.” It didn’t take long for Karlan’s hypothetical to sidle up next to reality. Trump has repeatedly criticized Democratic governors throughout the coronavirus crisis, the implication being that there could be repercussions if they fail to cooperate with the administration or show their gratitude to the president. In late March, Trump came pretty close to laying out a quid pro quo during an interview with Fox News. “It’s a two-way street,” the president said while discussing states in need of federal assistance. “They have to treat us well, also.”
On Wednesday, Trump’s demands grew more specific. As part of his morning Twitter movement, he posted that he will withhold funding from Michigan and Nevada, two key swing states, if they expand voter access ahead of the 2020 election…”
“Law enforcement agencies across the country have been referring fewer criminal cases to federal prosecutors since the coronavirus pandemic began. While weekly referrals for federal prosecution during February and the first half of March averaged around 4,500 per week, referrals fell to only 1,800 during the last week of March. Each weekday, U.S. Attorney offices from around the country typically receive hundreds of referrals. Most of these came from federal investigative agencies. Some originate from local and state law enforcement. Each referral is typically assigned to an assistant U.S. attorney who determines whether or not to charge the suspect with committing one or more federal crimes. According to comparisons of case-by-case Department of Justice records obtained by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University after litigation under the Freedom of Information Act, five federal law enforcement agencies were the source of over four out of every five referrals (81%) to federal prosecutors thus far in FY 2020. These agencies, in descending order of referrals were: Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Some differences were found in how specific law enforcement agencies adjusted their activities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. FBI, CBP, ICE and DEA referrals to federal prosecutors all showed a drop off in March. ATF was the lone exception where little change was evident. In addition, the number of referrals from CBP and ICE declined more sharply than did others. In fact, actual declines in ICE’s referrals appear to have begun earlier – in early rather than mid-March…”