Friday, February 27, 2015

Pennsylvania legislation could shield some of the largest public university salaries from disclosure; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2/25/15

Bill Schackner, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Pennsylvania legislation could shield some of the largest public university salaries from disclosure:
"Senate legislation intended to require more public disclosure by Pennsylvania’s four state-related universities would, as currently written, enable those schools to shield from the public many of their largest employee salaries — figures they currently release.
Senate Bill 412, introduced this month by state Sen. John Blake, D-Lackawanna, is part of an ongoing effort to revamp Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law that has been working its way through the Legislature for two years.
Mr. Blake said his bill’s intent is to give the public greater insight into the workings of the University of Pittsburgh, Penn State University and Temple and Lincoln universities, which receive hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars each year but are largely exempt from Right-to-Know requirements.
Indeed, his bill (explore below) would create free accessible online databases with extensive budgetary information, non-personal employee and enrollment data, and would compel the four universities to list vendor contracts above $5,000 and maintain a 20-year archive of minutes from school trustee meetings.
But in one key area of disclosure — individual salaries — the bill’s language appears to be at least a partial retreat."

Lawsuits Keep Alive Scandals Surrounding Ex-Governor; Associated Press via New York Times, 2/27/15

Associated Press via New York Times; Lawsuits Keep Alive Scandals Surrounding Ex-Governor:
"Oregon's former first lady, Cylvia Hayes — at the center of an ethics scandal that forced the resignation of Gov. John Kitzhaber — has launched a legal fight to keep her private emails out of the public eye.
The lawsuit came to light Thursday, the same day that Oracle Inc., the tech giant that built Oregon's botched health insurance exchange, filed a lawsuit against several of Kitzhaber's former campaign advisers. The company accuses Kitzhaber's advisers of orchestrating the abandonment of the Cover Oregon website to help his re-election effort. Oracle also served notice that it may sue Kitzhaber and his former chief of staff...
Hayes, who is engaged to marry the former Democratic governor, filed a lawsuit Wednesday against The Oregonian asking a judge to rule that she is not required to turn over her emails to the newspaper.
She's resisting an order from the state Department of Justice that says emails from her private email accounts that concern state business must be provided to The Oregonian, which requested them under the state's public records law. The Oregonian, based in Portland, is the state's largest newspaper."

Privacy Group Files F.T.C. Complaint Against Samsung’s Voice-Operated TVs; New York Times, 2/25/15

Nick Wingfield, New York Times; Privacy Group Files F.T.C. Complaint Against Samsung’s Voice-Operated TVs:
"The Electronic Privacy Information Center has asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Samsung over what it says is the recording of private conversations in homes through the company’s television sets.
The privacy rights group filed a complaint with the commission on Tuesday accusing Samsung of violating federal laws with a technology that allows viewers to operate the company’s Internet-connected smart TVs with voice commands."

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Computer fiasco: CMU must make amends on its false acceptances; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2/19/15

Editorial Board, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Computer fiasco: CMU must make amends on its false acceptances:
"How does CMU recover from this? How does it ensure that it never happens again? An emailed acknowledgement of error just doesn’t do it.
If nothing else, the university should give the 800 applicants another round of scrutiny with an eye toward accepting some of them — presuming they would even enroll after this fiasco. Accepting 10 percent into the program — 80 — would at least make some amends.
Although other universities have made similar grievous errors — Fordham, Johns Hopkins, Vassar, Northwestern and Cambridge, to name a few — it does not excuse Carnegie Mellon’s screwup. Nothing less than the university’s integrity is on the line — the integrity of a computer science leader that committed a colossal computer error."

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Prison Architecture and the Question of Ethics; New York Times, 2/16/15

Michael Kimmelman, New York Times; Prison Architecture and the Question of Ethics:
"Faced with lawsuits and a growing mountain of damning research, New York City officials decided last month to ban solitary confinement for prison inmates 21 and younger. Just a few weeks earlier, the American Institute of Architects rejected a petition to censure members who design solitary-confinement cells and death chambers.
“It’s just not something we want to determine as a collective,” Helene Combs Dreiling, the institute’s former president, told me. She said she put together a special panel that reviewed the plea. “Members with deeply embedded beliefs will avoid designing those building types and leave it to their colleagues,” Ms. Dreiling elaborated. “Architects self-select, depending on where they feel they can contribute best.”
What are the ethical boundaries for architecture? Architecture is one of the learned professions, like medicine or law. It requires a license, giving architects a monopoly over their practices, in return for a minimal promise that buildings won’t fall down."

Debating the Rules and Ethics of Digital Photojournalism; New York Times, 2/17/15

New York Times; Debating the Rules and Ethics of Digital Photojournalism:
"Significant questions have arisen after a large number of images were disqualified from this year’s World Press Photo competition because of excessive — and sometimes blatant — post-processing. After independent experts examined the images being considered for prizes in the final rounds, and presented their findings to the jury, 20 percent of the photos were disqualified by the judges. This was often because of significant addition or subtraction to the image content.
These disqualifications — almost three times more than in last year’s competition — have generated discussion about the standards in photojournalism for post processing and the alteration of images. Understandably, there is concern over the degree of manipulation in widely published images."

The Long Good Fight: Libraries at the heart of intellectual freedoms | Editorial; Library Journal, 2/17/15

Rebecca T. Miller, Library Journal; The Long Good Fight: Libraries at the heart of intellectual freedoms | Editorial:
"Librarians and libraries are essential to discourse about intellectual freedoms. Now we have more work to do in light of violent efforts to curtail such rights, perhaps most notably the January 7 attack on the offices of Paris’s weekly Charlie Hebdo. For me, these events brought our work to date into high relief but also intensified a sense of urgency about what librarians can do to defend a richer understanding of the value of freedom of inquiry and expression.
American Library Association (ALA) president Courtney Young’s statement on the attacks framed the library ethos: “Such attacks are counter to the values of access to information with diversity of views—and to the values of civic engagement, which encourages people to read and discuss these views without fear.”
Libraries, in an important sense, exist to help remove fear from our culture: fear of the other, fear of the unknown, and fear of the differences of opinion that make us human. They do not exist to remove those differences. Our libraries hold and foster access to countervailing opinions, information about worlds beyond our own, and insight into cultures we have never experienced, as well as awareness of people living right next door. They are full of words answered by words—sometimes divisive ones—that together shape our evolving way of life.
Librarians are often out front in this freedom fight, perhaps most noticeably when it comes to book challenges. I think of acts of censorship as existing on a continuum of sorts. Acts of terror sit at one extreme but are still related to nonviolent attempts to use leverage of some kind to force a limitation on what others can say or read. Libraries have a mandate to exercise the muscles that counter the censor’s impulse early and often."

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Gunman Kills 1 in Attack on Free Speech Event in Denmark; Associated Press via New York Times, 2/14/15

Associated Press via New York Times; Gunman Kills 1 in Attack on Free Speech Event in Denmark:
"A gunman opened fire Saturday on a Copenhagen cultural center, killing one man in what authorities called a terror attack against a free speech event featuring an artist who had caricatured the Prophet Muhammad.
The shooting, which also wounded three police officers, came a month after extremists killed 12 people at a satirical newspaper in Paris that had sparked Muslim outrage with its depictions of Muhammad...
Lars Vilks, a Swedish artist who has faced numerous death threats for caricaturing the Prophet Muhammad, was one of the main speakers at Saturday's panel discussion, titled "Art, blasphemy and freedom of expression.""

Friday, February 13, 2015

Can We Strengthen our Fragile Public Domain?; Library Journal, 2/12/15

Kevin L. Smith, Library Journal; Can We Strengthen our Fragile Public Domain? :
"In fact, even in the United States there has been some recognition that the Sonny Bono extension has done more harm than good. In a 2013 paper called, apparently without irony, “The Next Great Copyright Act,” Registrar of Copyrights Maria Pallante acknowledges that the copyright term is very long and that its length “has consequences” and needs to be made “more functional” (see pages 336-7). Although she stops short of asking Congress to repeal the 20-year extension, she does suggest “offsets” to mitigate the harm that has been done. Pallante is a far cry from being a “copyleft” radical; like previous Registrars, she tends to favor the interests of big content industries. So her suggestion that the term of copyright be readjusted because it is too long is a remarkable acknowledgement of the problem we have created.
Public Domain Day is one more reminder that our copyright laws in the U.S. have tipped the balance of protection too far away from its public interest roots."

'Code for America' fellows aim to make Pittsburgh more transparent; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2/13/15

Robert Zullo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; 'Code for America' fellows aim to make Pittsburgh more transparent:
"Contracts and campaign contributions often are the fuel that powers political machines, but Mr. Peduto said he wants the three Code for America fellows who will spend a year in Pittsburgh to help open up city purchasing to small businesses and others who have been historically shut out of the process and strip away “that whole machine.”
“For the taxpayers, they’re basically left in the dark they look at government with suspicion because they don’t really see how their money’s being spent,” Mr. Peduto said at the Thursday news conference. “What if we shed light on it so everyone could see how that money has an influence and then take away the influence by allowing more people to bid on contracts.”
Pittsburgh was one of eight government entities selected to receive 2015 fellows from the national nonprofit, which allows young technology professionals to spend a year working to make government services “simple, effective and easy to use,” a news release said.
“We’re going to create the model for cities all around this country and all around the world to follow,” Mr. Peduto said."

Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Failed Trial in Africa Raises Questions About How to Test H.I.V. Drugs; New York Times, 2/4/15

Donald G. McNeil Jr., New York Times; A Failed Trial in Africa Raises Questions About How to Test H.I.V. Drugs:
"The surprising failure of a large clinical trial of H.I.V.-prevention methods in Africa — and the elaborate deceptions employed by the women in it — have opened an ethical debate about how to run such studies in poor countries and have already changed the design of some that are now underway."

Frauds: 17 Medical Journals Publish This Scientist’s Fake Medical Research; Higher Perspective, 1/15

Higher Perspective; Frauds: 17 Medical Journals Publish This Scientist’s Fake Medical Research:
"Mark Shrime, a Harvard scientist pursuing a PhD in health policy wanted to see just how easy it is to get medical research published in various medical journals. Every day he says he receives at least one request from an open-access medical journal asking to publish his research.
The catch? They only need $500 to publish it.
So Shrime decided to see how easy it would be to public a bogus article. So he made one up using He titled the article “Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs?” and wrote that the authors were Pinkerton A. LeBrain and Orson Welles. The articles subtitle was “The surgical and neoplastic role of cacao extract in breakfast cereals.”
Shrime submitted his bogus article to some 37 journals, and two weeks later, 17 journals had accepted it. Note: They haven’t published them yet, but say they’re ready to just as soon as Mr. Shrime sends them that $500."

Monday, February 2, 2015

A Discredited Vaccine Study’s Continuing Impact on Public Health; New York Times, 2/1/15

Clyde Haberman, New York Times; A Discredited Vaccine Study’s Continuing Impact on Public Health:
"To explore how matters reached this pass, Retro Report, a series of video documentaries studying major news stories of the past and their consequences, offers this special episode. It turns on a seminal moment in anti-vaccination resistance. This was an announcement in 1998 by a British doctor who said he had found a relationship between the M.M.R. vaccine — measles, mumps, rubella — and the onset of autism.
Typically, the M.M.R. shot is given to infants at about 12 months and again at age 5 or 6. This doctor, Andrew Wakefield, wrote that his study of 12 children showed that the three vaccines taken together could alter immune systems, causing intestinal woes that then reach, and damage, the brain. In fairly short order, his findings were widely rejected as — not to put too fine a point on it — bunk. Dozens of epidemiological studies found no merit to his work, which was based on a tiny sample. The British Medical Journal went so far as to call his research “fraudulent.” The British journal Lancet, which originally published Dr. Wakefield’s paper, retracted it. The British medical authorities stripped him of his license.
Nonetheless, despite his being held in disgrace, the vaccine-autism link has continued to be accepted on faith by some."