Saturday, March 31, 2012

Panel Says Flu Research Is Safe to Publish; New York Times, 3/30/12

Denise Grady, New York Times; Panel Says Flu Research Is Safe to Publish:

"After a public furor over experiments that made a dangerous flu virus more contagious, a panel of scientific advisers reversed itself on Friday and recommended that full details of the research be published in scientific journals.

Dr. Paul Keim, acting chairman of the panel, said the new manuscripts made it clear that the experiments were not as dangerous as they originally appeared to be and that the benefits of the research were greater. The benefits come from information that can be used to help predict which flu viruses circulating in the environment may be developing pandemic potential."

[Op-Ed] When Stealing Isn’t Stealing; New York Times, 3/28/12

[Op-Ed] Stuart P. Green, New York Times; When Stealing Isn’t Stealing:

"The problem is that most people simply don’t buy the claim that illegally downloading a song or video from the Internet really is like stealing a car. According to a range of empirical studies, including one conducted by me and my social psychologist collaborator, Matthew Kugler, lay observers draw a sharp moral distinction between file sharing and genuine theft, even when the value of the property is the same."

Tracking Twitter, Raising Red Flags; New York Times, 3/30/12

Pete Thamel, New York Times; Tracking Twitter, Raising Red Flags:

"“Every school, we work to customize their keyword list,” said Sam Carnahan, the chief executive of Varsity Monitor, which has offices in Seattle and New York and also provides educational programs to universities. “We look for things that could damage the school’s brand and anything related to their eligibility.”

Yet what may look to some like a business opportunity, and to universities and their athletic departments like due diligence, appears to others to be an invasion of privacy.

“I think it’s violating the Constitution to have someone give up their password or user name,” said Ronald N. Young, a Maryland state senator who has sponsored a bill that would make it harder for universities to monitor their athletes online. “It’s like reading their mail or listening to their phone calls.”"

David Vitter Undermined Public Trust, Senate Ethics Panel Rules;, 3/30/12

Larry Margasak,; David Vitter Undermined Public Trust, Senate Ethics Panel Rules:

"Sen. David Vitter undermined public trust when he blocked a raise for Interior Secretary Ken Salazar unless he issued more deep-water exploratory drilling permits in the Gulf of Mexico after the BP oil spill, the Senate ethics committee said in a letter released Friday.

The committee called the Louisiana Republican's actions unprecedented but spared him charges of rules violations because no guidance had been issued on such a tactic."

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Amazon Web Services’ Big Free Genetic Database; New York Times, 3/29/12

Quentin Hardy, New York Times; Amazon Web Services’ Big Free Genetic Database:

"Amazon’s cloud computing unit, Amazon Web Services, will store for public use the entire contents of the National Institutes of Health’s 1000 Genomes Project, a survey of genetic information from 1,700 individuals that is some 200 terabytes in size. Anyone can access the information for free, and there is no requirement to share any research results.

Amazon is incurring significant costs here, and providing a useful service: While the government data would commonly be accessible by anyone, downloading and storing this sequenced DNA information is a long and expensive process."

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Nelson Mandela archive launches digital treasure trove; Guardian, 3/27/12

David Smith, Guardian; Nelson Mandela archive launches digital treasure trove:

"Ndileka [mandela] rejected suggestions that the publication of the 93-year-old's papers to a global audience could be an invasion of his privacy. "Madiba has always been portrayed as a political figure. It's time people knew him as a man with aunts and uncles and other family members. Not only he suffered, but his family suffered too."...

The head of its memory programme, Verne Harris, said: "We avoid bothering Madiba these days, but we discussed with him over several years the issues of public access to these materials.""

'Social-Media Blasphemy'; Chronicle of Higher Education, 3/25/12

Jeffrey R. Young, Chronicle of Higher Education; 'Social-Media Blasphemy' :

"...Mr. Terry has decided to take action, protesting the ethos of Facebook by literally rewiring the service. Or at least, adding the ability to declare "enemies."

"It's social-media blasphemy, in that we're suggesting that you share differences you have with people and share things that you don't like instead of what you do like," he told me last week. "I think social media needs some disruption. It needs its shot of Johnny Rotten."

Here's what he's done. Last month he and a student released a Facebook plug-in called EnemyGraph, which users can install free and name their enemies, which then show up in their profiles. "We're using 'enemy' in the same loose way that Facebook uses 'friends,'" Mr. Terry explained. "It really just means something you have an issue with."

Justices Send Back Gene Case; New York Times, 3/26/12

Andrew Pollack, New York Times; Justices Send Back Gene Case:

"The Supreme Court on Monday ordered an appeals court to reconsider its decision to uphold patents held by Myriad Genetics on two genes associated with a high risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

The appeals court was told to take another look at the case in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling last week that a certain diagnostic test was not eligible for patents because it was a simple application of a law of nature.

The case, Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, No. 11-725, is being closely watched because it involves the ethically charged but commercially important question of whether genes can be patented."

U.S. Agency Seeks Tougher Consumer Privacy Rules; New York Times, 3/26/12

Tanzina Vega and Edward Wyatt, New York Times; U.S. Agency Seeks Tougher Consumer Privacy Rules:

"[T]he Federal Trade Commission, called on Congress to enact legislation regulating so-called data brokers, which compile and trade a wide range of personal and financial data about millions of consumers from online and offline sources. The legislation would give consumers access to information collected about them and allow them to correct and update such data.

The agency also sent a cautionary signal to technology and advertising companies regarding a “Do Not Track” mechanism that allows consumers to opt out of having their online behavior monitored and shared. It warned that if companies did not voluntarily provide a satisfactory Do Not Track option, it would support additional laws that mandate it.

School District Told to Replace Web Filter Blocking Pro-Gay Sites; New York Times, 3/26/12

Michael Winerip, New York Times; School District Told to Replace Web Filter Blocking Pro-Gay Sites:

"The way it worked: the URLBlacklist filter classified gay organizations in the “sexuality” category. The sexuality filter also screened out pornography. As a result, when URLBlacklist filtered pornography, it also filtered Web sites supportive of gay causes.

On the other hand, antigay Web sites were typically classified under “religion” or not categorized at all and so were allowed through the filter."

After Cheating Scandal, SAT and ACT Will Tighten Testing Security; New York Times, 3/27/12

James Barron, New York Times; After Cheating Scandal, SAT and ACT Will Tighten Testing Security:

"Stung by a cheating scandal involving dozens of Long Island high school students, the SAT and ACT college entrance exams will now require students to upload photos when they sign up for the exams, and officials will check that image against the photo identification the students present when they arrive to take the test, the Nassau County district attorney said Tuesday...

The new rules apply nationwide, and the Nassau County district attorney, Kathleen M. Rice, said in a statement that they would take effect in the fall."

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Story of a Suicide; New Yorker, 2/6/12

Ian Parker, New Yorker; The Story of a Suicide:

"On September 28th, the Middlesex County prosecutor’s office charged Ravi and Wei with invasion of privacy for the momentary viewing on September 19th. Ravi alone was charged for an attempted viewing on September 21st. Even if one doubts that these charges would have been brought if Clementi had not died, or questions that men are revealing “sexual parts” by removing their shirts, the charges made some legal sense: Ravi and Wei had admitted seeing the video images. But to some an “invasion of privacy” charge seemed insufficient; Equality Forum, a national gay-rights organization, released a statement that called the actions of Ravi and Wei “shocking, malicious, and heinous,” and urged “the prosecutor to file murder by reckless manslaughter charges.” Paula Dow, then New Jersey’s Attorney General, said, “Sometimes the laws don’t always adequately address the situation. That may come to pass here.” Bruce J. Kaplan, the Middlesex County prosecutor, announced, “We will be making every effort to assess whether bias played a role in the incident.”

In April, 2011, a grand jury indicted Ravi on fifteen counts, including two charges of second-degree bias intimidation. Two weeks later, Wei made a deal with prosecutors: the charges against her would be dropped if she agreed to attend counselling, serve three hundred hours of community service, and testify against Ravi, if called. Before the end of May, Ravi was offered a plea bargain for a three-to-five-year sentence; he rejected it. A second offer was made in December: no jail time, an effort to protect him against deportation, and six hundred hours of community service. This, too, was rejected. “You want to know why?” Steven Altman, Ravi’s lawyer, said to reporters, outside the courthouse, on December 9th. “Simple answer, simple principle of law, simple principle of life: he’s innocent.” Ravi’s trial, starting a week before his twentieth birthday, is expected to last a month."

Rutgers Verdict Repudiates Notion of Youth as Defense; New York Times, 3/17/12

William Glaberson, New York Times; Rutgers Verdict Repudiates Notion of Youth as Defense:

"[T]he jerky-kid defense failed miserably on Friday with the conviction of Mr. Ravi in a New Jersey court on bias intimidation, invasion of privacy and other charges. Lawyers said the conviction gave new potential to hate-crimes prosecutions for cyberbullying and digital spying largely because it seemed to repudiate the notion that youth was a defense.

“The debate in this case was, Was this a stupid college prank or criminal intimidation? And the jury gave a clear answer,” said Suzanne B. Goldberg, a gender law expert at Columbia Law School.

Lawyers said the verdict would encourage other hate-crime prosecutions involving young defendants...

Ms. Goldberg, the Columbia law professor, said the prosecution had posed an important challenge to the sense in many schools and colleges that youthfulness provided a kind of immunity for activities and speech in the online world. She said many students seemed to believe the ideas put forth by Mr. Ravi’s defense, that being a kid meant there were few limits to how offensive they might be when using digital devices.

“This reinforces that social media can cause great harm and that its misuse can be criminal,” Ms. Goldberg said. She said she expected that the lessons of the courtroom conviction would probably be studied broadly, including in discussions at college orientations across the country in the fall."

Mike Daisey Admits To 'Shortcuts' With 'Apple Factory' Story Pulled From This American Life;, 3/17/12; Mike Daisey Admits To 'Shortcuts' With 'Apple Factory' Story Pulled From This American Life:

"The firestorm started after Ira Glass, the host of the popular public radio show "This American Life," aired an interview in which Daisey acknowledged some claims in his one-man show "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs" weren't true, and Glass said he couldn't vouch for the truth of a Jan. 6 broadcast based on the show.

The New York Times, The Associated Press and dozens of other media and entertainment outlets, from MSNBC to Bill Maher's show on HBO, also were misled.

The revelations are unlikely to halt scrutiny of Chinese factories that make Apple products since news outlets including the Times have reported dangerous working conditions there, including explosions inside iPad plants where four people were killed and 77 were injured."

Friday, March 16, 2012

[Editorial] Books Without Borders; New York Times, 3/15/12

[Editorial]; New York Times; Books Without Borders:

"Mr. Diaz is the impresario behind an inspiring act of indignation and cultural pride. His bus-and-car caravan is “smuggling” books by Latino authors into Arizona. It’s a response to an educational mugging by right-wing politicians, who enacted a state law in 2010 outlawing curriculums that “advocate ethnic solidarity,” among other imagined evils. That led to the banning of Mexican-American studies in Tucson’s public schools last year."

Defendant in Rutgers Spying Case Guilty of Hate Crimes; New York Times, 3/16/12

New York Times; Defendant in Rutgers Spying Case Guilty of Hate Crimes:

"A former Rutgers University student was convicted on Friday on all 15 charges he had faced for using a webcam to spy on his roommate having sex with another man, a verdict poised to broaden the definition of hate crimes in an era when laws have not kept up with evolving technology.

“It’s a watershed moment, because it says youth is not immunity,” said Marcellus A. McRae, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice."

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Worker Who Hid Lottery Win Must Share $38.5 Million Prize; New York Times, 3/14/12

James Barron and Tim Stelloh, New York Times; Worker Who Hid Lottery Win Must Share $38.5 Million Prize:

"The verdict did not surprise people at the convenience store in Union, N.J., where Mr. Lopes bought the ticket. One customer at the store, a BuyRite in 2009 that is now the Magie Mart Food Store and Deli, said it had reinforced his approach:

“I play by myself because I don’t trust people,” said the man, who would give his name only as Sean, explaining that he regularly played Mega Millions and other games. “Am I shocked he tried to keep the money for himself? No. It’s human nature.”"

Public Exit From Goldman Raises Doubt Over a New Ethic; New York Times, 3/14/12

Nelson Schwartz, New York Times; Public Exit From Goldman Raises Doubt Over a New Ethic:

"Behind closed doors, it is a conversation that has been taking place with increasing urgency on Wall Street in recent years: making money is good, but is making more money always better, even if it comes at the expense of clients?

That question is now out in the open, exposed anew by an Op-Ed article in The New York Times on Wednesday by Greg Smith of Goldman Sachs. It could re-ignite public suspicion that the culture of Wall Street has swung so sharply to the short-term side of the ledger that clients have not been coming in first, or even second, but dead last."

[Op-Ed] Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs; New York Times, 3/14/12

[Op-Ed] Greg Smith, New York Times; Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs:

"I hope this can be a wake-up call to the board of directors. Make the client the focal point of your business again. Without clients you will not make money. In fact, you will not exist. Weed out the morally bankrupt people, no matter how much money they make for the firm. And get the culture right again, so people want to work here for the right reasons. People who care only about making money will not sustain this firm — or the trust of its clients — for very much longer."

Lawyers Give Final Presentations in Dorm Spying Case; New York Times, 3/13/12

Kate Zernike, New York Times; Lawyers Give Final Presentations in Dorm Spying Case:

"Mr. Altman and the prosecution were making their final presentations to a jury before it considers the charges against Mr. Ravi, which include invasion of privacy, bias intimidation, and trying to cover up his actions by tampering with evidence and a witness. He is not charged in the death of Mr. Clementi, who was 18 when he jumped from the George Washington Bridge in 2010.

Neither the prosecution nor the defense mentioned his suicide, three days after Mr. Ravi viewed him on a webcam, in its summation. But it has in many ways defined the case, which has attracted international attention as a symbol of the struggles facing gay, lesbian and bisexual teenagers."

Monday, March 12, 2012

[Editorial] A Way Forward on Judicial Ethics; New York Times, 3/11/12

[Editorial] New York Times; A Way Forward on Judicial Ethics:

"Last Tuesday, an alliance of government watchdog groups delivered 100,000 signatures to the Supreme Court along with a letter from hundreds of law professors calling on the justices to voluntarily adopt the code of conduct that applies to all other federal judges and to reform how they handle requests for recusals."