Law and Legal

COVID-19: Remote Voting Trends and the Election Infrastructure Subsector

CRS report via LC – COVID-19: Remote Voting Trends and the Election Infrastructure Subsector, June 10, 2020: “…Public health concerns about the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic have accelerated consideration of remote voting options as many voters have sought to avoid the possible health risks of crowded polling places. Elections authorities have invested in new physical and cyber infrastructures to reduce in-person interactions throughout all phases of the election cycle, including but not limited to the casting of ballots on Election Day. These efforts have focused on universal mail voting—the only form of remote voting in wide use. (Some states provide for electronic marking and return of ballots in certain limited cases.) The rapid pursuit of expanded mail voting and development of accompanying infrastructures during the pandemic has presented near-term technical, logistical, administrative, and security challenges to the election infrastructure subsector (EIS). State and local preparedness to transition to mail voting varies widely. Several states already use universal mail voting for elections. However, most states still rely primarily upon in-person voting, with varying eligibility standards for absentee ballot access. Elections experts have cautioned that introduction of universal mail voting is typically a multi-year process even in the most favorable circumstances, as it involves elements with long lead times, such as legislative changes, contracting, manufacturing, property acquisitions, interagency coordination, and systems testing…”

Categories: Law and Legal

What If Working From Home Goes on … Forever?

The New York Times – Miserable as it can often be, remote work is surprisingly productive — leading many employers to wonder if they’ll ever go back to the office. “…In a May working paper, Erik Brynjolfsson, a professor in management science at M.I.T., and a group of academics reported survey results indicating that half of those who were employed before the pandemic were now working remotely. That’s a significant increase — pre-Covid-19, the paper estimates, the figure was about 15 percent. (In 2018, a U.S. Census Bureau survey found that just 5.3 percent of Americans worked from home full time.) It’s a situation deeply skewed toward the privileged: Many employees who work in health care, public transportation or the service sector, for instance, have never been given the option to work remotely, during the crisis or before. At companies where remote work is possible, though, many now expect it to continue for quite some time….

Output often rises when people work remotely. In 2012, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, headquartered in Northern Virginia, began a program allowing patent examiners to live anywhere. For those who chose to work remotely, productivity rose by 4.4 percent, according to a study last fall by Prithwiraj Choudhury, a professor at Harvard Business School, and two colleagues. A 2015 case study by Nicholas Bloom, a professor of economics at Stanford University, and others found that when one Chinese travel agency assigned a random group of employees to work remotely for nine months, their productivity went up by 13 percent, generating an increase of roughly $2,000 in annual profits per employee. (It later rose even higher, to 20 percent.) The company’s chief executive had actually expected productivity to decrease; he figured the shift would yield savings that made up for the lost output…”

Categories: Law and Legal

NYT Vaccine Tracker

Coronavirus VaccineTracker: “Researchers around the world are developing more than 135 vaccines against the coronavirus. Vaccines typically require years of research and testing before reaching the clinic, but scientists are racing to produce a safe and effective vaccine by next year. Work began in January with the deciphering of the SARS-CoV-2 genome. The first vaccine safety trials in humans started in March, but the road ahead remains uncertain. Some trials will fail, and others may end without a clear result. But a few may succeed in stimulating the immune system to produce effective antibodies against the virus. Here is the status of all the vaccines that have reached trials in humans, along with a selection of promising vaccines still being tested in cells or animals…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Congress Civilian Control of the Military and Nonpartisanship

CRS report via LC: Congress,Civilian Control of the Military, and Nonpartisanship, June 10, 2020: “The possible use of federal armed forces as part of the U.S. executive branch’s response to incidents of violence during racial justice protests has raised questions about how the military is controlled by domestic political institutions and the U.S.military’s relationship with American society. Article I of the U.S.Constitution grants specific powers to Congress, making the legislative branch a key actor in governing, overseeing,and funding the U.S. military. What Is Civilian Control of the Military? How to advance the nation’s security while at the same time ensuring that instruments of force do not undermine the practice of American democracy has been a central question since the founding of the United States, if not before. The designers of the Constitution were deeply skeptical of a standing army, as such a military instrument could also overthrow the government it professed to serve, much like Oliver Cromwell demonstrated in 1653 when he used his army to disband the English Parliament. Consternation regarding British deployment of its military to the American colonies without the consent of local governing officials was among the key grievances listed in the Declaration of Independence.

In the context of a new, experimental, and democratic Republic, the Founding Fathers believed that subordination of the military to the authority of civil masters was critically important to prevent the emergence of a new form of tyranny or dictatorship. The principle of civilian control of the military places ultimate authority over U.S. armed services in the hands of civilian leadership, with civilian responsibility and control of the military balanced between the executive and legislative branches of the government. In some ways, the relationship between the military and the civil society it serves is a paradox: the military, by its very nature, has coercive power that could threaten civil society. Yet without a sufficiently strong and capable military, civil society becomes vulnerable to attack, and the former might not be able to defend the latter…”

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Academic libraries will change in significant ways

Inside Higher Education – Christopher Cox predicts the significant ways academic libraries will shift in terms of collections, services, spaces and operations as a result of the pandemic – “In early March 2020, COVID-19 blindsided academic libraries. With little time to plan, we closed our library facilities at Clemson University to protect the safety of our patrons and employees and moved to online services only and work from home. Thankfully, years of curating digital content, providing multiple opportunities for research interaction and developing robust search interfaces and web presences served us well during this transition. With discussions now occurring about reopening campuses, academic libraries face a paradigm shift. Instead of returning to normal, librarians will be returning to a “new normal” — one where in-person classes and service interactions may be impossible or no longer preferred, where collections in physical format may be a barrier to access, and where collaborative study is shunned in favor of social distancing in buildings that can only safely house half the people they used to. How can we leverage this crisis to create new and innovative collections and services to improve our campus communities? Below are some of my predictions, based on trend analysis, of how the landscape of academic libraries may change in terms of collections, services, spaces and operations, in hopes they inspire new thinking and continued dialogue….”

Categories: Law and Legal

New report identifies why enterprise security tools are failing

FedScoop: “…The latest FireEye Mandiant Security Effectiveness Report which assesses the effectiveness of security controls used at participating organizations around the world, by executing thousands of mock attacks on more than 120 market-leading security technologies deployed by those organizations. It probably won’t come as a surprise that these large-scale organizations manage between 30 to 50 different security tools. What is surprising: In spite of the investment in all of these tools — or, perhaps because there are so many — these organizations only succeeded in detecting 26% of Mandiant’s various attacks, on average, and preventing just 33% of them…”

Categories: Law and Legal

CIO Council report recommends improvements to federal IT hiring

FedScoop – “…More than 80% of the federal IT workforce is older than 40, per federal data cited in the report. Of the remaining population, just over 3% is younger than 30, and agencies continue to struggle to attract and hire younger IT talent to fill in this gap. The “Future of the Federal IT Workforce Update” report has several recommendations for how federal IT hiring can be improved to attract the next generation of tech talent. Namely, it points to “creating common competency-based position descriptions; recruiting through commercial platforms, job fairs, and hackathons; using a [subject matter expert]-based assessment process; and leveraging direct hiring authorities.”

Categories: Law and Legal

A Single Session of Exercise Alters 9,815 Molecules in Our Blood

The New York Times – “When we exercise, the levels of thousands of substances in our bloodstream rise and drop, according to an eye-opening new study of the immediate, interior impacts of working out. The study is the most comprehensive cataloging to date of the molecular changes that occur during and after exercise and underscores how consequential activity — and inactivity — may be for our bodies and health….But for the new study, which was published in May in Cell, scientists at Stanford University and other institutions decided to try to complete a full census of almost every molecule that changes when we work out….They wound up measuring the levels of 17,662 different molecules. Of these, 9,815 — or more than half — changed after exercise, compared to their levels before the workout. Some increased. Others declined. Some gushed immediately after the exercise, then fell away, while others lingered in heightened or lowered amounts for an hour after the workout. The types of molecules also ranged widely, with some involved in fueling and metabolism, others in immune response, tissue repair or appetite. And within those categories, molecular levels coursed and changed during the hour. Molecules likely to increase inflammation surged early, then dropped, for instance, replaced by others likely to help reduce inflammation.

“It was like a symphony,” says Michael Snyder, the chair of the genetics department at Stanford University and senior author of the study. “First you have the brass section coming in, then the strings, then all the sections joining in….”

Categories: Law and Legal

More than 1,250 former Justice Dept. workers call for Barr probe

Washington Post – “…In a letter to Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, the group said it was “deeply concerned about the Department’s actions, and those of Attorney General William Barr himself, in response to the nationwide lawful gatherings to protest the systemic racism that has plagued this country throughout its history.” “In particular, we are disturbed by Attorney General Barr’s possible role in ordering law enforcement personnel to suppress a peaceful domestic protest in Lafayette Square on June 1, 2020, for the purpose of enabling President Trump to walk across the street from the White House and stage a photo op at St. John’s Church, a politically motivated event in which Attorney General Barr participated,” the group wrote….

Categories: Law and Legal

Voting in Jails

The Sentencing Project – Voting in JailsNicole D. Porter – “While the COVID-19 pandemic presents challenges for voters during the 2020 election cycle, voting access for the 700,000 people held in local jails around the country has long been critically compromised. This report highlights jurisdictions around the country that actively support ballot access for people detained in jails…”

Felony disenfranchisement laws bar millions of Americans from voting due to their felony conviction. Among those excluded are persons in prison, those serving felony probation or parole, and, in 11 states, some or all persons who have completed their sentence. While these disenfranchisement laws have been closely documented for years by advocacy organizations, academics, and lawmakers, the de facto disenfranchisement of people legally eligible to vote in jails has received less attention…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Legal Issues in COVID-19 Vaccine Development

CRS report via LC – Legal Issues in COVID-19 Vaccine Development, June 8, 2020: “Private companies, universities, and governmental entities are working to develop a vaccine for corona virus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Vaccines are biological products regulated under the Public Health Service Act (PHSA) and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act). New vaccines must generally be licensed by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) before they can be marketed and used in the United States. To obtain licensure, the vaccine must be tested in human subjects through clinical trials. The clinical trials inform the dosing schedule and labeling that will be used for the approved vaccine. Sponsors use the data from clinical trials, along with other information, to prepare a biologics license application (BLA) to submit to FDA. FDA approves the BLA if it determines that the vaccine is safe, potent, and pure. Because the development and review process can be lengthy, the FD&C Act provides several avenues to accelerate this process for pharmaceutical products intended to treat or prevent serious diseases or conditions. FDA may grant fast track product and breakthrough-therapy designation at the sponsor’s request for products that are intended to fill an unmet need or improve on existing therapies. Both designations entitle the sponsor to increased communication with FDA regarding the clinical trial design and data collected, as well as rolling review of the BLA. Products may also qualify for accelerated approval based on intermediate or surrogate endpoints likely to predict a clinical benefit. In addition, FDA may designate products for priority review…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Get around safely with these new Google Maps features

Google Blog: “Getting from A to B can be more complicated these days. Because of COVID-19, it’s increasingly important to know how crowded a train station might be at a particular time or whether the bus is running on a limited schedule. Having this information before and during your trip is critical for both essential workers who need to safely navigate to work and will become more important for everyone as countries around the world begin to reopen.  In our latest release of Google Maps on Android and iOS, we’re introducing features to help you easily find important information if you need to venture out, whether it’s by car or public transportation.  Get alerts about important information – When you look up public transit directions for a trip that is likely to be affected by COVID-19 restrictions, we’ll show relevant alerts from local transit agencies. These alerts can help you prepare accordingly if government mandates impact transit services or require you to wear a mask on public transportation. Transit alerts are rolling out in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, France, India, Mexico, Netherlands, Spain, Thailand, United Kingdom and the U.S. where we have information from local transit agencies, with more coming soon.  We’re also introducing driving alerts to notify you about COVID-19 checkpoints and restrictions along your route, like when crossing national borders (starting first in Canada, Mexico and the U.S.). You’ll see an alert on the directions screen and after starting navigation if your route is impacted by these restrictions.  When navigating to medical facilities or COVID-19 testing centers, we’ll display an alert reminding you to verify eligibility and facility guidelines to avoid being turned away or causing additional strain on the local healthcare system. Starting this week, alerts for medical facilities will be available in Indonesia, Israel, the Philippines, South Korea, and the U.S., and testing center alerts will be available in the U.S…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Best VPN services: Reviews and buying advice

PC World: “Choosing the right virtual private network (VPN) service is no simple task. A VPN should keep your internet usage private and secure, but not every service handles your data in the same way. Just look at the critiques of notable computer security experts and online pundits to understand the challenge. Even supposed experts in the field can turn out to be frauds. Rest assured, we’ve done the legwork to determine if a VPN service has a history of good or bad behavior. In order to win our seal of approval, the service has to protect online privacy; allow you to keep anonymity; offer a good variety of locations from which to direct your traffic; offer fast, reliable performance; and provide an easy-to-use interface. Scroll to the bottom of this article to learn more about VPNs and what to look for one choosing one…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Social distanced justice? Courts restart trials, struggle to adapt to COVID-19 precautions

ABC News: “As courts across the country begin to cautiously resume in-person hearings through the COVID-19 pandemic, judges are confronting a vexing challenge: how to safely convene jury trials at a time when health officials continue to caution against public gatherings. With no real federal guidance or uniform system governing the nation’s vast judiciary, current and former judges from the local to federal level described to ABC News a puzzling process that will go into mapping out different methods to implement social distancing practices — with each community and facility presenting its own unique set of challenges. While all agreed there is no catch-all solution to protect every citizen who enters a courtroom, the judges say they are seeking to avoid what has been described as a “nightmare scenario” in which a single confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis of a participant or juror would likely throw a case into a state of paralysis…”

Categories: Law and Legal

You Have a First Amendment Right to Record the Police

EFF: “Like the rest of the world, we are horrified by the videos of George Floyd’s murder. Once again, police brutality was documented by brave bystanders exercising their First Amendment rights. Their videos forcefully tell a painful truth that has further fueled a movement to demand an end to racism and abuse of power by police officers. Recordings of police officers, whether by witnesses to an incident with officers, individuals who are themselves interacting with officers, or by members of the press, are an invaluable tool in the fight for police accountability. Often, it’s the video alone that leads to disciplinary action, firing, or prosecution of an officer. This blog post provides some practical tips to record the police legally and safely, and explains some of the legal nuances of recording the police…”

Categories: Law and Legal

Congress and Police Reform: Current Law and Recent Proposals

CRS report via LC – Congress and Police Reform: Current Law and Recent Proposals, Updated June 9, 2020: “In May and June 2020, protests erupted nationwide after the publication of video footage of a Minneapolis police officer pressing his knee into the neck of George Floyd, leading to his death. That incident and its aftermath have sparked heightened interest in Congress’s ability to implement reforms of state and local law enforcement. As a companion to this Sidebar outlines in greater detail, congressional power to regulate state and local law enforcement is not without limits. The Constitution grants the federal government only certain enumerated authorities, with the Tenth Amendment reserving all other powers for the states. The regulation of state and municipal law enforcement is an area that the Constitution generally entrusts to the states. However,Congress possesses some authority to legislate on that subject, primarily through statutes designed to enforce the protections of the Fourteenth Amendment and legislation requiring states to take specified action in exchange for federal funds disbursed under the Spending Clause. This Sidebar provides an overview of existing federal statutes intended to prevent and redress constitutional violations by state and local public safety officials. It then presents some recent proposals that would change federal regulation of state and local law enforcement…”

Categories: Law and Legal

‘Morally Impossible’: Some Advertisers Take a Timeout From Facebook

The New York Times – “Ever since Mark Zuckerberg defended the platform’s hands-off policy toward posts by President Trump that contained misinformation or promoted violence, some companies are staying away…Unlike Twitter and Snap, which have toughened their stances against Mr. Trump’s online statements that contain misinformation or promote violence, Facebook has held firm on its decision to leave his posts alone. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, has defended the policy, despite the resignations of some staff members and public criticism from current and former employees. In recent days, many companies have cautiously returned to advertising, after having pulled back during the height of the pandemic in the United States. But some have decided not to advertise on Facebook, now that it has become clear that Mr. Zuckerberg will give the president a wide berth…”

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