Law and Legal
Science & Tech Spotlight: Social Distancing During Pandemics – GAO-20-545SP: Published: May 13, 2020. Publicly Released: May 13, 2020. “How far is far enough for successful social distancing? We take a look at some of the still-developing science behind the practice. A CDC guideline based on historical studies of selected infections says that the area of highest risk is within 3 feet of an infected person. Some studies suggest a buffer of 6 feet may further reduce risk. Other studies examining droplet dispersion in sneezing and coughing found they can go more than 6 feet. Also, viral material may persist in the air within a room for up to 3 hours. But many factors, including the amount of viral material and duration of exposure needed to transmit the disease, are still unknown. The distance droplets carry infectious materials depends on droplet size, humidity, air currents, and other factors…” [h/t Pete Weiss]
AP – “Advice from the top U.S. disease control experts on how to safely reopen businesses and institutions during the coronavirus pandemic was more detailed and restrictive than the plan released by the White House last month. The guidance, which was shelved by Trump administration officials, also offered recommendations to help communities decide when to shut facilities down again during future flareups of COVID-19. The Associated Press obtained a 63-page document that is more detailed than other, previously reported segments of the shelved guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It shows how the thinking of the CDC infection control experts differs from those in the White House managing the pandemic response…”
Wired – At 22, he single-handedly put a stop to the worst cyberattack the world had ever seen. Then he was arrested by the FBI. This is his untold story. This is a long read and well worth the time.
Polygon – Bill Watterson didn’t predict the current world, but he prepared us for it: “When I think of Calvin, that glorious little menace, I first remember the depth of his imagination. His was an external life born explicitly of the internal: distant planets, bed monsters, mutant snowscapes, gravity-defying wagon rides, crass Transmogrifications, and of course, one tuna-loving tiger BFF. But the second thing I remember was exactly why the kid had such a big imagination to begin with: Calvin was looking for a way out. He was trying to escape. He didn’t like school, so he fled it as Spaceman Spiff. Bathtime, a nightmare for small children, saw Calvin turning into a tub shark or being attacked by a bubble-bath elemental. He escaped the corporeal form of a kid’s (arguably limited) body with the Transmogrifier, and most importantly of all, escaped loneliness by befriending a stuffed tiger who Calvin knew was actually real. A tiger who listened to him, who challenged him, and who ultimately loved him. Because that’s the thing, isn’t it? Calvin went to school, had a loving family, but even still, he felt alone. And his imagination gave him a way not to feel that anymore. In lockdown, we’re all Calvin…”
LC CRS Reports – Tracking Federal Awards in States and Congressional Districts Using USAspending.gov, May 11, 2020: “USAspending.gov, available to the public at https://www.USAspending.gov, is a government source for data on federal awards by state, congressional district (CD), zip code,city,and county.The awards data in USAspending.gov is provided by federal agencies and represents grants, contracts, loans, and other financial assistance.Grant awards include money the federal government commits for projects in states, local jurisdictions, regions, territories, and tribal reservations, as well as payments for eligible needs to help individuals and families. Contract awards refer to bids and agreements the federal government makes for specific goods and services. USAspending.gov does not include data on actual spending by recipients.USAspending.gov also provides tools for examining the broader picture of federal spending obligations within the categories of budget function, agency, and object class.Budget function refers to the major purpose that the spending serves, such as Social Security, Medicare, and national defense. Object class refers to the type of item or service purchased by the federal government, such as grants, contracts, and personnel compensation and benefits. The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred multiple pieces of legislation providing relief to individuals and families, state and local governments, businesses, and healthcare providers. According to an Office of Management and Budget memorandum from April 10, 2020, there are plans to identify COVID-19-related federal awards in USAspending.gov effective for the June 2020 reporting period.
Law360: “UPDATED May 12, 2020, 12:28 PM EDT | The spreading coronavirus pandemic has upended the legal industry, forcing firms to cut salaries, lay off attorneys and make changes to summer associate programs. Here is a roundup of how law firms are responding. Click firms below for more details. This list will be updated with new information as it becomes available…”
LC CRS Reports – COVID-19 and China: A Chronology of Events (December 2019-January 2020), May 12, 2020: I”n Congress, multiple bills and resolutions have been introduced related to China’s handling of a novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China,that expanded to become the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) global pandemic. This report provides a timeline of key developments in the early weeks of the pandemic, based on available public reporting. It also considers issues raised by the timeline, including the timeliness of China’s information sharing with the World Health Organization (WHO), gaps in early information China shared with the world, and episodes in which Chinese authorities sought to discipline those who publicly shared information about aspects of the epidemic. Prior to January 20, 2020—the day Chinese authorities acknowledged person-to-person transmission of the novel coronavirus—the public record provides little indication that China’s top leaders saw containment of the epidemic as a high priority.Thereafter, however, Chinese authorities appear to have taken aggressive measures to contain the virus…”
The New York Times – For Bookstore Owners, Reopening Holds Promise and Peril – “Across the country, booksellers are wrestling with how to safely open their stores. Some are racing ahead. Others feel it’s too risky. Among retail businesses, bookstores, especially smaller independent stores, face particular challenges as they navigate reopening. Many indies occupy cramped spaces with warrens of bookshelves, and serve as community centers and cultural outposts as much as retail operations. Book lovers often come in to linger, browse and chat with the staff about what to read next, all behaviors that in a pandemic are potentially life-threatening…The pandemic and the subsequent economic crisis struck at a moment when booksellers across the country were thriving. After many smaller retailers were crushed by the rise of Amazon, a shift among consumers toward local shopping helped to drive a resurgence among independent booksellers. The number of independent bookstores across the country rose to 2,524 store locations in 2019, up from 1,651 in 2009, according to the American Booksellers Association’s membership figures. The coronavirus outbreak threatens to wipe out those gains. When stay-at-home orders went into effect, most U.S. bookstores closed…”
The Atlantic – “Entrants in this year’s contest were invited to submit images showcasing the Earth’s biodiversity and showing some of the mounting threats to the natural world. These images originally appeared on bioGraphic, an online magazine about science and sustainability and the official media sponsor for the California Academy of Sciences’ BigPicture Natural World Photography Competition. The organizers were kind enough to share some of the winners and finalists here. The captions were written by the bioGraphic editorial staff and lightly edited for style.”
Op-Ed: Coronavirus tracing apps are coming. Here’s how they could reshape surveillance as we know it
…Finally, this technology, once deployed, will not be “rolled back.” We are repeatedly told that contact tracing apps and COVID-19-related surveillance are temporary measures for use until the pandemic passes. That’s likely to be a fantasy…”
LC CRS Reports – Removal of Inspectors General: Rules, Practice, and Considerations for Congress, May 12, 2020: “Introduction: In 1978, Congress passed the Inspector General Act (IG Act;P.L. 95-452) with the intent to improve oversight within certain executive branch agencies.During the floor debate on the legislation, Senator Thomas Eagleton described independence as the “most important” characteristic of the inspectors general (Congressional Record, vol. 124, part 29,October 22, 1978, p. 30952). While this independence has been considered essential, itis also weighed against the fact that inspectors general are situated within the agencies and that their dual mission is to report to both their home agencies and Congress, which calls for consideration of the balance between independence from and general supervision by agencies. The removal procedures for inspectors general, which fall between removal without limitations and removal only for cause, have been considered an integral element of that independence since 1978. Nonetheless, there have been some instances in which Presidents have removed inspectors general, and those actions have raised concerns in Congress. In addition, Congress has considered and enacted additional removal requirements since 1978. This InFocus provides an overview of the current removal procedure for inspectors general, identifies some notable removals, and discusses potential issues for Congress…”
NFL star wants to close legal ‘loopholes’ after Ahmaud Arbery’s death. He’s calling on AG Barr to help.
NBC News: “More than 60 current and former NFL players and coaches signed their names to a letter last week asking Attorney General William Barr to use the full force of federal law to investigate the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who was followed and fatally shot by white men in his Georgia community in February. That letter from the Players Coalition, a social justice group formed in 2017 in the wake of player protests during the national anthem, said the Justice Department and the FBI are needed to ensure that Arbery’s case wasn’t mishandled by local authorities and that the men charged with murder are held accountable. NFL star Malcolm Jenkins, who co-founded the coalition with retired wide receiver Anquan Boldin, told NBC News that the request for federal intervention also carries a greater purpose.
“The sad truth is that Ahmaud’s case isn’t unique at all,” Jenkins said. “He is a representation of the ongoing level of distrust that a large part of our communities have in law enforcement and elected officials and the importance of placing reform like-minded people in office who will uphold the highest standards of the law for everyone, regardless of color.”…
KC Fed Economic Bulletin – Rajdeep Sengupta, Economist and Fei Xue, Research Associate, May 11, 2020 | “In March, the global coronavirus pandemic led to a period of financial stress in which credit conditions tightened at an unprecedented pace. Elements of this stress period can be explained as a classic run on “shadow banks”—nonbank financial institutions that fund long-term assets with short-term debt. Although timely Federal Reserve interventions restored some calm to markets, shadow banks remain vulnerable to future runs because they lack the safeguards available to regulated depository institutions.””
Rolling Stone – The White House’s inability to track the disease as it spread across the nation crippled the government’s response and led to the worst disaster this country has faced in nearly a century – “Despite months of alarms that the coronavirus was lurking at our doorstep, the Trump administration failed to mount an urgent response until the nation was engulfed and overwhelmed by the pandemic. “We had ample notice to get our country ready,” says Ron Klain, who served as President Obama’s Ebola czar, and lists the rolling out of testing, securing protective equipment, and building up hospital capacity as necessary preventative steps. “We spent all of January and February doing none of those things, and as a result, when this disease really exploded in March, we weren’t prepared.”
The government leaders who failed to safeguard the nation are CDC Director Redfield; FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn; Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar; and of course, President Trump. Together, these men had the power to change the direction of this pandemic, to lessen its impact on the economy, and constrain the death toll from COVID-19. Each failed, in a series of errors and mismanagement that grew into a singular catastrophe… Defeating an invisible enemy like the coronavirus requires working diagnostics. But when the CDC’s original test kit failed, there was no Plan B. The nation’s private-sector biomedical establishment is world-class, but the administration kept these resources cordoned behind red tape as the CDC foundered. Precious weeks slipped by — amid infighting, ass covering, and wasted effort — and the virus slipped through the nation’s crippled surveillance apparatus, taking root in hot spots across the country, and in particular, New York City…”
See also MIT Technology Review – The US has no idea how to manage all the testing data it’s collecting – “In the US, each state decides how it reports findings from covid-19 tests. The result is a chaotic system that’s hurting our response to the pandemic…”
“The American Jewish community experienced the highest level of antisemitic incidents last year since tracking began in 1979, with more than 2,100 acts of assault, vandalism and harassment reported across the United States, according to new data from ADL (the Anti-Defamation League). The record number of incidents came as the Jewish community grappled with vicious and lethal antisemitic attacks against communities in Poway, Jersey City and Monsey, and a spree of violent assaults in Brooklyn. The 2019 ADL Audit of Antisemitic Incidents, issued today, found that the total number of antisemitic incidents in 2019 increased 12 percent over the previous year, with a disturbing 56 percent increase in assaults. The audit found there were, on average, as many as six antisemitic incidents in the U.S. for each day in the calendar year – the highest level of antisemitic activity ever recorded by ADL. The year included five fatalities directly linked to antisemitic violence and another 91 individuals targeted in physical assaults. Incidents were reported in every one of the 48 contiguous United States and Washington, D.C. More than half of the assaults nationwide took place in the five boroughs of New York City, including 25 in Brooklyn alone…”
Greater Greater Washington – Matthew Holden: “…Meli Harvey, an urban planner based in New York, published the site sidewalkwidths.nyc. This interactive map highlights which sidewalks pedestrians might have an easy time social distancing, and which sidewalks where this would be challenging, if not impossible. Helpfully, not only did Meli publish the site, but they shared their code on GitHub and encouraged others to adapt it for their cities. Based on Meli’s work, I was inspired to create Side Walk Widths DC. This interactive map highlights which sidewalks pedestrians might have an easy time social distancing, and which sidewalks where this would be challenging, if not impossible…”
PYMNTS.com: “…Despite pandemics and Amazon, independent bookshops are finding a way to get the job done. Thanks to two new eCommerce sites, this “nonessential” category is actually seeing new life in the age of COVID-19. Part of that life is in the rise of new partners competing with Amazon. The first is a startup called Bookshop, which launched in January of this year. Bookshop supports independents in two ways: 10 percent of its regular sales online sales are added to an earnings pool that is distributed to participating independent bookstores every six months, per its website. The company claims that $1 million has been doled out so far. Stores sell books online using Bookshop by sharing their designated link on social media, email newsletters or their websites. They earn 30 percent of the cover price on any sales they generate – that is the entire profit margin, which means all profits go to the store. Bookshop’s profits come from sales executed through its site without a bookstore redirect. All orders are fulfilled through Ingram Distribution…
- “A similar eCommerce site has found new popularity, this one covering audiobooks for independent booksellers. Libro.fm was born in 2014…: “Listen on Your Term – We believe you should listen to audiobooks in a way that works for you. That’s why we offer monthly memberships, à la carte listening, and extra benefits when you switch from another audiobook provider…”
Kohn, Nina A., Online Learning and the Future of Legal Education (April 7, 2020). Nina A. Kohn, Online Learning and the Future of Legal Education, 70 Syracuse L. Rev. 1 (2020).. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3570914
“This article explores the practical and theoretical challenges that online education poses for law schools and the legal profession. Drawing in part on contributions to the symposium that it introduces, the article makes the case that that a high-quality legal education can be delivered online, that a move toward online education can spark valuable innovation, and that allowing students to earn their law degrees online can increase access to justice. However, it warns that the fact that high-quality legal education can be delivered online does not mean that it will be, and explains that further research is needed to determine what combinations of online elements, or of online and residential elements, are best suited to delivering high-quality legal education. It suggests that it will be particularly important to compare live online instruction with asynchronous online instruction because the “radical” move in online legal education is not the move to teaching online, but rather the move to teaching asynchronously.”
ZDNet – “Microsoft rolled out this week a new feature to Office 365 customers to help their IT staff detect and stop “Reply-All email storms.” The term refers to situations when employees use the Reply-All option in mass-mailed emails, such as company-wide notifications. If the number of recipients in the email chain is large, and if multiple employees hit the Reply-All button, then the ensuing event generates massive amounts of traffic that usually slows down or crashes email servers. Such events happen almost all the time, and, at one point or another, a company is going to have email servers go down because of employees participating and amplifying Reply-All storms as a prank…”
Wired – As contact tracing plans firm up, the tech giants are sharing new details for their framework—and a potential app interface.”…The two companies [Google and Apple] have published sample user interface screenshots for the first time as well. As Google and Apple first outlined last month, their Covid-19 exposure notification system transmits unique, rotating codes from phones via their Bluetooth radios based on cryptographic keys that change daily. They not only keep a log of the last two weeks of your codes, but also listen for the codes broadcast by others. If two people running the app spend a certain amount of time in proximity—say, 10 minutes within six feet, or whatever health care agencies dictate—their phones will both record each others’ Bluetooth codes. If one of them later receives a positive Covid-19 diagnosis, they can choose to upload all of their keys from the last two weeks to the app’s server, which will then send those keys out to the phones of all the other users in their region. Those phones will then check if the codes they’ve recorded from other nearby users can be generated from those keys. If you get a match, the app will show a message that you’ve potentially been exposed to Covid-19 and caution you to self-quarantine or get tested…”