Law and Legal
LC CRS Reports – Congressionally Mandated Reports: Overview and Considerations for Congress, May 14, 2020: “Congress frequently requires the President, departments, agencies, and other entities of the federal government to transmit reports, notifications, studies, and other information on a specified timeline. Reporting requirements may direct agency officials to notify Congress or its committees of forthcoming actions or decisions, describe actions taken on a particular matter, establish a plan to accomplish a specified goal, or study a certain problem or concern.
Reporting requirements may be designed to serve a range of purposes that facilitate congressional oversight of the executive branch and inform congressional decision making. Required reports may help legislators monitor executive activity, ensure compliance with legislative intent, focus agency attention on matters of importance to Congress, and assess the effectiveness of existing programs and policies.Certain reports on complex or emerging issues may also help originate or inform legislative proposals.
This report discusses the potential benefits and challenges of reporting requirements, and analyzes a number of statutory reporting requirements enacted during the 115th Congress. (Patterns gleaned from these data may not be generalizable to requirements enacted in other years.) This report analyzes features common to legislative language establishing reporting requirements…
Scientific American – “The coronavirus, as we all know, has brought our economy to its knees. As the search for vaccines and treatments accelerates, geneticists are now looking to our genes to understand why some recover quickly or show no symptoms, while others die. To do so, they are searching DNA databases and cross-referencing them with COVID-19 cases. This research holds great promise for addressing the pandemic. Yet if scientists do find answers in our genes, we need to consider the implications for genetic privacy. Armed with the ability to identify who is vulnerable and who is not, how will society proceed? On the one hand, health care providers could use genetic testing to help vulnerable patients stay safe. But there would also be a temptation to use genetic testing in the workplace. Companies could use genetic test results to manage the risks for all employees, for example by controlling the activities of those who are most vulnerable. Businesses will also see opportunities to use genetic test results in the marketplace, for example by tailoring insurance offerings according to genetic risk. Currently, there are some limited legal protections against genetic discrimination and health privacy intrusions, but the pandemic has already led the federal government to scale back some of those protections for the time being…”
lifehacker – “If you are new to wearing a face mask, and are one of the two-thirds of American adults who wear prescription glasses, you may have noticed a problem: foggy lenses. It sounds minor, but now that the CDC has recommended that everyone wear cloth face masks when we go outside, to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, what was once an issue for those in certain professions is now affecting the rest of the population. Before this pandemic started, I spent a year and a half wearing face masks for long periods of time while caring for my mother who was being treated for leukemia with chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant. We were told that she had the immune system of an infant without any vaccines and were advised to wear masks around her. As a glasses-wearer, this posed a challenge: It’s hard getting stuff done when your glasses are fogged up all the time… [So here are methods for preventing foggy glasses while wearing a face mask…]”
ars technica – Fed up with cryptojacking ads? Google developers have you covered. “Chrome browser users take heart: Google developers are rolling out a feature that neuters abusive ads that covertly leach your CPU resources, bandwidth, and electricity. The move comes in response to a swarm of sites and ads first noticed in 2017 that surreptitiously use visitors’ computers to mine bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. As the sites or ads display content, embedded code performs the resource-intensive calculations and deposits the mined currency in a developer-designated wallet. To conceal the scam, the code is often heavily obfuscated. The only signs something is amiss are whirring fans, drained batteries, and for those who pay close attention, increased consumption of network resources. In a post published on Thursday, Chrome Project Manager Marshall Vale said that while the percentage of abusive ads is extremely low—somewhere around 0.3 percent—they account for 28 percent of CPU usage and 27 percent of network data…
- Chrome users who want to turn the feature on sooner can enable the flag at chrome://flags/#enable-heavy-ad-intervention…”
MIT Technology Review – How researchers, archivists, and citizens are racing to preserve a record of how we lived and changed during this strange period of history: “…According to Brewster Kahle, the Internet Archive’s founder, his organization is already collecting about 1 billion URLs a day across the web. Archiving the pandemic means trying to identify and collect the pages their ordinary efforts might otherwise overlook, relying on a network of library professionals and members of the public: local and international public health pages, petitions, resources for medical professionals trying to fight covid-19, and accounts from those who have had the virus. It’s not easy. “The average life of a web page is only 100 days before it’s changed or deleted,” he says…”
The flow of people, trade and capital will be slowed, May 14 2020 edition. “Editor’s note: The Economist is making some of its most important coverage of the covid-19 pandemic freely available to readers of The Economist Today, our daily newsletter. To receive it, register here. For our coronavirus tracker and more coverage, see our hub
Even before the pandemic, globalisation was in trouble. The open system of trade that had dominated the world economy for decades had been damaged by the financial crash and the Sino-American trade war. Now it is reeling from its third body-blow in a dozen years as lockdowns have sealed borders and disrupted commerce (see Briefing). The number of passengers at Heathrow has dropped by 97% year-on-year; Mexican car exports fell by 90% in April; 21% of transpacific container-sailings in May have been cancelled. As economies reopen, activity will recover, but don’t expect a quick return to a carefree world of unfettered movement and free trade. The pandemic will politicise travel and migration and entrench a bias towards self-reliance…”
The New York Times – “In Georgia, barbers are giving haircuts armed with face masks and latex gloves. In Texas, movie theaters are filling with customers, who crunch on popcorn several seats away from the nearest stranger. People are sweating at gyms again in Tennessee. America’s reopening has begun in force, just weeks after the coronavirus put most of the country on lockdown. More than half the states have started to reopen their economies in some meaningful way or have plans to do so soon, raising concerns among public health experts about a possible surge in new infections and deaths. Many states that are reopening failed to meet criteria recommended by the Trump administration before loosening restrictions on businesses and social activities. The New York Times is tracking when orders to stay at home are lifted in each state, as well as when broad reopenings are allowed in public spaces, such as restaurants, retail stores, salons, gyms and houses of worship. In some cases, stay-at-home orders are lifting separately from restrictions on businesses. This page will be updated regularly…”
MEDIAMANA – “[This article is a part of an online symposium on the value of Internet Openness at the time of COVID19. The symposium is a joint outcome of the Internet Governance Forum coalition on Net Neutrality and Community Connectivity. Read all the articles in the symposium here.] The novel SARS-COV-2 virus that leads to COVID-19 disease is teaching us a great many lessons about infrastructure writ large. We are discovering weaknesses in socio-economic safety nets, in our healthcare systems, public transportation system, our education systems and many others. Societies around the world are organized around a presumption that people can work, play and interact with each other in close proximity. Our dependence on this assumption has been upended by a virus that propagates through proximity and through the air and on commonly touched surfaces. Among the responses, social distancing has become a strong recommendation around the globe. But our physical infrastructure is operationally dependent on people being able to work together in proximity. That includes traveling together. One has only to look at the airline industry to see how quickly that mode of travel has evaporated. Schools have been closed in favor of remote education and “work from home” has become a guideline for those whose jobs permit it. For many, of course, work requires proximity, from haircuts to grocery stores, people need to be present. If that isn’t safe, many people cannot work and the economic impact is catastrophic. To the degree that working and living can be done in some remote way, the Internet has become an important component of COVID-19 response. It permits remote interaction with customers and even patients. It allows people to order goods and services online for delivery to doorsteps. It provides researchers with access to global sources of information and to computing power in unprecedented quantities. The openness, interoperability and distributed nature of the Internet has contributed to its utility. Its scalability in many dimensions has allowed it to expand to accommodate new demands. Remarkably, the capacity to support streaming video is now also supporting real-time videoconferencing as a substitute for in-person meetings…”
“The goal of Life in Quarantine: Witnessing Global Pandemic is to produce a public historical archive documenting how the extreme new conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are changing the routines, expectations, and dreams of people from all walks of life, all nationalities, communities, genders, and aged groups across the globe. Although the spread of COVID-19 is global in its impact, people everywhere are not experiencing it uniformly. This project is an attempt to collect, document, and demonstrate the virus’ varied effects on peoples’ lives through personal accounts. In this surreal historical moment our hope is that through an archive of lived experiences we can promote cultural and personal interconnectedness and solidarity. This archive is designed to function as a public resource and historical record to inform individuals, governments, organizations, and businesses about peoples’ paramount fears, hopes, priorities, needs, and concerns during this and other potential global crises. We aim to provide a comprehensive picture of the varied ways in which people are experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic across the globe, and therefore we invite you to submit a written account in which you reflect on your lived experiences under these new circumstances…”
Attempt: An Overview of Federal Criminal Law, Updated May 13, 2020: “Attempt is the incomplete form of some other underlying offense. Unlike state law, federal law does not feature a general attempt statute. Instead, federal law outlaws the attempt to commit a number of federal underlying offenses on an individual basis. Occasionally, federal law treats attempt-like conduct as an underlying offense; outlawing possession of drugs with intent to traffic, for instance. One way or another, it is a federal crime to attempt to commit nearly all of the most frequently occurring federal offenses. Attempt consists of two elements. One is the intent to commit the underlying offense. The other is taking some substantial step, beyond mere preparation, collaborative of the intent to commit the underlying offense. The line between mere preparation and a substantial step can be hard to identify. Some suggest that the more egregious the underlying offense, the sooner preparation will become a substantial step. Defenses are few and rarely recognized. Impossibility to complete an attempted offense offers no real obstacle to conviction. Abandonment of the effort once the substantial-step line has been crossed is no defense. Entrapment may be a valid defense when the government has induced commission of the crime and the defendant lacks predisposition to engage in the criminal conduct. The penalties for attempt and for the underlying offense are almost always the same. The United States Sentencing Guidelines may operate to mitigate the sentences imposed for attempts to commit the most severely punished underlying offenses. Attempt to commit a particular crime overlaps with several other grounds for criminal liability. The offense of conspiracy, for example, is the agreement of two or more to commit an underlying offense at some time in the future. Attempt does not require commission of the underlying offense; nor does conspiracy. Attempt requires a substantial step; conspiracy may, but does not always, require an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy. A defendant may be convicted of both an underlying offense and conspiracy to commit that offense. A defendant may be convicted of either an attempt to commit an underlying offense or the underlying offense, but not both. A defendant may be convicted of both attempt and conspiracy to commit the same underlying crime. Aiding and abetting is not a separate crime. Aiders and abettors (accomplices before the fact) are treated as if they committed the underlying offense themselves. Aiding and abetting requires a completed underlying offense; attempt does not. The punishment for aiding and abetting is the same as for hands-on commission of the offense; the punishment for attempt is often the same as for the underlying offense. A defendant may convicted of attempting to aid and abet or of aiding and abetting an attempted offense.Attempt and its underlying offense are distinct crimes. A defendant may not be convicted of both attempt and its underlying offense. Completion of the underlying offense is no defense to a charge of attempt.”
How Social Security Benefits Are Computed: In Brief Updated May 13, 2020 – “Social Security,the largest program in the federal budget (in terms of outlays), provides monthly cash benefits to retired or disabled workers and their family members as well as to the family members of deceased workers. In 2019, benefit outlays were approximately $1,048 billion, with roughly 64 million beneficiaries and 178 million workers in Social Security-covered employment. Under current law, Social Security’s revenues are projected to be insufficient to pay full scheduled benefits after 2035. Monthly benefit amounts are determined by federal law. Social Security is of ongoing interest both because of its role in supporting a large portion of the population and because of its long-term financial imbalance, and policymakers have considered numerous proposals to change its benefit computation rules.The Social Security benefits that are paid to worker beneficiaries and to workers’ dependents and survivors are based on workers’ past earnings. The computation process involves three main steps First, a summarized measure of lifetime earnings is computed. That measure is called the average indexed monthly earnings (AIME). Second, a benefit formula is applied to the AIME to compute the primary insurance amount(PIA). The benefit formula is progressive. As a result, workers with higher AIMEs receive higher Social Security benefits, but the benefits received by people with lower earnings replace a larger share of past earnings. Third, an adjustment may be made based on the age at which a beneficiary chooses to begin receiving payments. For retired workers who claim benefits at the full retirement age (FRA) and for disabled workers, the monthly benefit equals the PIA. Retired workers who claim earlier receive lower monthly benefits, and those who claim later receive higher benefits.Retired worker benefits can be affected by other adjustments…”
“Emtrain’s Workplace Culture Report 2020 identifies the root causes of workplace culture failures. The Workplace Culture Diagnostic employs millions of data points to establish a threshold for unhealthy workplace norms. Companies can benchmark their own organizational health against other companies across the country…Giving companies the Confidence to Act – This report provides brand new insights on workplace culture problems. Emtrain’s diagnostic approach enables workplace culture experts, senior leadership, and employees to identify issues, change behaviors and solve problems. Emtrain launched a new type of online training that embeds dialogue-based research tools within the learner experience with the clear goal: help the learner and their organization with behavior change, informed by real data on the situational dynamics that lead to culture problems.
Emtrain’s Workplace Culture Report 2020 will:
- Shine a spotlight on the situational dynamics at the root of culture-failures
- Illuminate six key indicators and how they manifest themselves in organizations today
- Provide a diagnostic framework to understand what influences healthy workplace culture
- Quantify company performance across a Workplace Culture Diagnostic Benchmark…”
Self – “As anxiety around coronavirus increases, more scammers are taking advantage. While scams can happen any time, many companies are now preying on people’s fear about contracting COVID-19 and the financial uncertainty due to job and income loss caused by the virus, among others. Here’s what you need to know to help protect yourself from scams related to the Coronavirus. In this article:
Gizmodo – “A bipartisan amendment that would have prohibited law enforcement agencies, such as the FBI, from obtaining the web browsing and internet search histories of Americans without a warrant failed to pass in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday by a single vote. Twenty-seven Republicans and 10 Democrats voted against the amendment to H.R. 6172, which will reauthorize lapsed surveillance powers under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The amendment offered up by Sen. Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, and Sen. Steve Daines, Republican of Montana, would have forced the government to get a warrant before obtaining the internet search history of Americans. Under Section 215 of the Act, the government can compel phone companies and internet service providers to turn over such data, if it is deemed vaguely “relevant” to a terrorism or counterespionage case. In a speech on the Senate floor ahead of the vote, Sen. Wyden questioned whether law-abiding Americans should have to “worry about their government looking over their shoulders” at all times of the day.
“The typical American may think to themselves, I’ve got nothing to worry about. I’ve done nothing wrong. The government has no reason to suspect me of anything. Why should I worry?” Wyden said. “Unfortunately, the question is not whether you did anything wrong. The question is whether a government agent believes they have the right to look at your web searches. In other words, it’s open season on anyone’s most personal information.” “The warrantless collection of Americans’ web browsing history offers endless opportunities for abuse,” he said…”
“The Rijksmuseum is today publishing the largest and most detailed ever photograph of The Night Watch on its website, making it possible to zoom in on individual brushstrokes and even particles of pigment in the painting. Work on Operation Night Watch will resume on Wednesday 13 May in the glass chamber in the museum. See the photograph
Taco Dibbits, director of the Rijksmuseum: The Operation Night Watch research team use the very latest technologies and continually push the boundaries of what was thought possible. The photograph is a crucial source of information for the researchers, and online visitors can use it to admire Rembrandt’s masterpiece in minute detail. The Rijksmuseum’s imaging team led by datascientist Robert Erdmann made this photograph of The Night Watch from a total of 528 exposures. The 24 rows of 22 pictures were stitched together digitally with the aid of neural networks. The final image is made up of 44.8 gigapixels (44,804,687,500 pixels), and the distance between each pixel is 20 micrometres (0.02 mm). This enables the scientists to study the painting in detail remotely. The image will also be used to accurately track any future ageing processes taking place in the painting…”
Internet Archive Blogs: “Library directors and staff are facing incredible challenges in meeting their community’s needs during this unprecedented time of library closure. As a recent article by NISO Director of Content, Jill O’Neill, points out “[o]ne take-away from this global pandemic might be the humble recognition that there are existing needs in the marketplace that are not satisfactorily served by current access models.” In the meantime, with the majority of the nation’s libraries closed, librarians are turning to a variety of currently available digital content resources to meet patron needs while their physical collections are unavailable for use.
One of the librarians leading the charge is Michael Blackwell, Director of St. Mary’s County Library, in coastal Maryland. Michael is active in a variety of eBook working groups at the state and national level, and champions the role of digital content in meeting the needs of the residents of his rural Maryland county. Another voice in this conversation is Lisa Radha Weaver, Director of Collections and Program Development at Hamilton Public Library, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. With a circulation of more than 7 million items each year, Hamilton Public Library serves its community of more than 750,000 residents through a variety of programs that are all currently suspended due to COVID-19. Similarly, Kelvin Watson, Director of Broward County Libraries, in southern Florida, is leading his staff and community through this remarkable moment in library history. Serving a population of nearly 2 million people, the Broward County Library system circulates more than 10 million items each year through its 38 branches, all of which are currently closed…”
Trump Death Clock
50,645 [All data in this resource is dynamic]
Estimated U.S. COVID-19 Deaths Due To POTUS Inaction
“In January 2020, the Trump administration was advised that immediate action was required to stop the spread of COVID-19. According to NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, “there was a lot of pushback” to this advice. President Trump declined to act until March 16. Epidemiologists now estimate that, had mitigation measures been implemented one week earlier, 60% of American COVID-19 deaths would have been avoided.”
Total Estimated U.S. COVID-19 Cases: 1,388,110
Total Estimated U.S. COVID-19 Deaths: 84,408
Estimated Deaths Due to POTUS Inaction: “60% of Total Estimated U.S. COVID-19 Deaths” – 50,645
* Source: https://covidtracking.com/data/us-daily
Victor J. Dzau et al., Preventing a Parallel Pandemic — A National Strategy to Protect Clinicians’ Well-Being, New England J. Med. (May 13, 2020), DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp2011027. “The Covid-19 pandemic, which had killed more than 60,000 Americans by May 1, has been compared with Pearl Harbor and September 11 — cataclysmic events that left indelible imprints on the U.S. national psyche. Like the volunteers who flooded into Manhattan after the World Trade Center attacks, the health care providers working on the front lines of the Covid-19 pandemic will be remembered by history as heroes. These courageous people are risking their lives, threatened not only by exposure to the virus but also by pervasive and deleterious effects on their mental health. Tragically, we are already seeing reports of clinicians dying by suicide amid the pandemic, including the highly publicized death of a prominent emergency medicine physician in Manhattan, the epicenter of the U.S. Covid-19 outbreak.1 Before the virus struck, the U.S. clinical workforce was already experiencing a crisis of burnout. We are now facing a surge of physical and emotional harm that amounts to a parallel pandemic. Just as the country rallied to care for September 11 first responders who suffered long-term health effects, we must take responsibility for the well-being of clinician first responders to Covid-19 — now and in the long run. We are calling for several immediate actions to lay the groundwork for a clear and accountable national strategy to safeguard the health and well-being of our clinician workforce (see box)…” [thanks to Mary Whisner]
“BuzzFeed Books recently asked Goodreads about the historical fiction books that its users have been loving lately. [Here] are 17 titles that have been getting high ratings and ample attention from the site’s many lovers of history…”
KUNM – “Depending on the estimate, the U.S. needs between 100,000 and 300,000 contact tracers to help fight COVID-19. Some say these new jobs could be an opportunity for some of the millions of Americans who’ve been laid off or furloughed. Tair Kiphibane manages the contact tracing operation for Salt Lake County, Utah. She started working as a contact tracer almost 15 years ago, and she says there’s an art to cold-calling people about scary diseases. “Everybody does it a little bit differently. I just like to get to know them first, but not to spend too much time because I may lose their time and attention,” says Kiphibane, who’s in charge of the county’s contact tracing team. In the past, she’s called people to tell them they may have been exposed to diseases like HIV, measles, Ebola. She’s a pro at diving quickly into personal territory…For COVID-19, what she and her colleagues primarily need is a person’s memory. “Sometimes we ask them to pull out a calendar, credit card history, bank statements, things like that to help jog the memory,” she says. For someone who was diagnosed with COVID-19, they need to know when the person started having symptoms. Then, starting with two days before symptom onset, they talk through what happened each day, says Kiphibane, “from the minute you get up to the minute you go to bed.” Where have they been, who have they seen?
California has been getting attention for its efforts to build its contact tracing workforce. According to a survey by NPR, it’s one of just nine states – none of them in the Mountain West – that are on track to hire enough contact tracers, and it’s getting there in interesting ways. For example, this month San Francisco’s contact tracers welcomed about 20 of the city’s librarians to the team. Jessica Jaramillo, who currently manages libraries in San Francisco’s South West District, is one of them. “I kind of jumped at the opportunity to do this because it’s hard for me to think of a better use of my skills in this moment,” she says. Those skills include interfacing with the public and asking questions to find out what information they need…”
See also The New York Times – How to Find Volunteers in a Pandemic