Friday, January 20, 2017

Trump White House takes down website pages about disabilities; Washington Post, 1/20/17

Emma Brown, Washington Post; Trump White House takes down website pages about disabilities

"From The Post’s Answer Sheet blog by Valerie Strauss:

During the Obama administration, there was a page on the White House website that had information about federal policy regarding people with disabilities. Its URL was Not under the Trump administration. The Trump-run White House website — which went live moments after Friday’s inauguration of President Trump — says: “You are not authorized to access this page.”...
Read the rest of the story here."

The Trump era begins on the web; New York Times, 1/20/17

Nick Corasaniti, Matthew Rosenberg, Jennifer Steinhauer, New York Times; The Trump era begins on the web

"It didn’t take long.

The Department of Labor’s report on lesbians, bisexuals, gays and transsexuals in the workplace? Gone.

The White House’s exposition on the threat of climate change and efforts to combat it? Gone.

In its place, An America First Energy Plan..."

Scientists Needn't Get A Patient's Consent To Study Blood Or DNA; NPR, 1/18/17

Rob Stein, NPR; 

Scientists Needn't Get A Patient's Consent To Study Blood Or DNA

"The Obama administration has dropped a controversial proposal that would have required all federally funded scientists to get permission from patients before using their cells, blood, tissue or DNA for research.

The proposal was eliminated from the final revision of the Common Rule, which was published in the Federal Register Wednesday. The rule is a complex set of regulations designed to make sure federally funded research on human subjects is conducted ethically. The revision to the regulations, set to go into effect in 2018, marks the first time the rule has been updated in 26 years.

The initial proposal that researchers be required to get permission before using a patient's tissue sample for research came out of the desire to avoid repeating what happened to Henrietta Lacks, an American who died of cervical cancer in 1951. Some of the cells from Lacks' cancer were kept alive for decades, used in research and for commercial purposes without her consent or her family's knowledge.

But scientists have argued that the mandate for consent in the initial Obama proposal was unnecessary and would hinder crucial research...

The final decision was welcomed by scientists and universities."

Thursday, January 19, 2017

How statistics lost their power – and why we should fear what comes next; Guardian, 1/19/17

William Davies, Guardian; How statistics lost their power – and why we should fear what comes next

"The question to be taken more seriously, now that numbers are being constantly generated behind our backs and beyond our knowledge, is where the crisis of statistics leaves representative democracy.

On the one hand, it is worth recognising the capacity of long-standing political institutions to fight back. Just as “sharing economy” platforms such as Uber and Airbnb have recently been thwarted by legal rulings (Uber being compelled to recognise drivers as employees, Airbnb being banned altogether by some municipal authorities), privacy and human rights law represents a potential obstacle to the extension of data analytics. What is less clear is how the benefits of digital analytics might ever be offered to the public, in the way that many statistical data sets are. Bodies such as the Open Data Institute, co-founded by Tim Berners-Lee, campaign to make data publicly available, but have little leverage over the corporations where so much of our data now accumulates. Statistics began life as a tool through which the state could view society, but gradually developed into something that academics, civic reformers and businesses had a stake in. But for many data analytics firms, secrecy surrounding methods and sources of data is a competitive advantage that they will not give up voluntarily.

A post-statistical society is a potentially frightening proposition, not because it would lack any forms of truth or expertise altogether, but because it would drastically privatise them. Statistics are one of many pillars of liberalism, indeed of Enlightenment. The experts who produce and use them have become painted as arrogant and oblivious to the emotional and local dimensions of politics. No doubt there are ways in which data collection could be adapted to reflect lived experiences better. But the battle that will need to be waged in the long term is not between an elite-led politics of facts versus a populist politics of feeling. It is between those still committed to public knowledge and public argument and those who profit from the ongoing disintegration of those things."

Elizabeth Warren: Trump’s nominees are putting us all at risk by ignoring ethics laws; Washington Post, 1/19/17

Elizabeth Warren, Washington Post; Elizabeth Warren: Trump’s nominees are putting us all at risk by ignoring ethics laws

"Congress must take these ethical requirements seriously. No Cabinet member should receive a hearing before his or her background checks, financial disclosures and ethics agreements are finished and senators have had time to review them. Nominees should be forthcoming and transparent. If those hearings have occurred, nominees who have not completed their ethics reviews should return for another round of questions after that information is made available. Senators should be thorough in their assessment and questioning of nominees. And financial conflicts with official duties must be eliminated.

I recently introduced legislation that would protect the president and vice president from financial conflicts and constitutional violations by requiring them to fully disclose and divest themselves of all personal financial interests. No such law is necessary for Cabinet officials because the laws on the books are perfectly clear.
If Congress ignores these basic ethics requirements today, the American people and the nominees themselves likely will pay the price tomorrow."

At Trump Hotel in Washington, Champagne Toasts in an Ethical ‘Minefield’; New York Times; 1/19/17

Eric Lipton and Susanne Craig, New York Times; 

At Trump Hotel in Washington, Champagne Toasts in an Ethical ‘Minefield’

"The lease between the General Services Administration and the Trump company includes a clause — “no member or delegate to Congress, or elected official of the government of the United States or the government of the District of Columbia, shall be admitted to any share or part of this lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom” — that federal contract experts say makes clear that Mr. Trump will be in violation of the deal as soon as he is sworn in.

“The basic integrity and credibility of the president of the United States of the federal procurement and contracting regime is at risk,” said Steven L. Schooner, a professor specializing in government procurement law at George Washington University. “We are about to have a legitimate scandal on our hands.”"

Trump Talks Up His Luxury Hotel; Ethics Expert Pounces; NPR, 1/19/17

Jackie Northam, NPR; 

Trump Talks Up His Luxury Hotel; Ethics Expert Pounces

"Incoming White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters Thursday Trump's use of the hotel for a reception shouldn't come as a "shocker" to anyone, and he even gave his boss's hotel a plug.

"It's an absolutely stunning hotel; I encourage you to go there if you haven't been by," he told the press briefing.

Norm Eisen, former special counsel to President Obama for ethics and government reform, quickly tweeted that Spicer's statement would be considered an ethics violation once Trump is in the White House."

Why We Shouldn’t Mourn The Obamas’ Departure From The White House; Huffington Post, 1/19/17

Zeba Blay, Huffington Post; 

Why We Shouldn’t Mourn The Obamas’ Departure From The White House

"The Obamas meant many things to many people. To some they meant the fruition of the American Dream. To others they meant the destruction of it. There are millions of Americans who are emphatically glad to see Obama go, who are blissfully excited about a Trump presidency and its vague promise to “make America great again.” 

And there are millions of Americans who feel as if a loved one has just died. But no one has died. If we should take anything away from the legacy of these last eight years, it’s that there is no president who can save us from our collective demons. Only we can do that.

For those whose hearts are breaking, it may seem pithy and banal to use the quote: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

But really. Don’t cry. Because the Obamas get to be citizens again, for one thing. They get to move out of the line of fire of an almost constant, condensed stream of racial hate. But also ― we got to witness this. For better or worse. We witnessed a black president. And for centuries to come, children of all races and backgrounds will see his face looking up at them from their history textbooks, and they will take for granted the profundity of it.  

There’s actually a streak of that intangible thing called “hope” to be found in the Obama’s departure. For many of us, the prospect of the next four years seems bleak. But if Barack Obama could get through eight years as a black president in America with his sanity and his dignity intact, and even effect a little change, perhaps there is room for some cautious optimism. At the very least, we can try."

Will open data survive Trump?; InfoWorld, 1/16/17

Eric Knorr, InfoWorld; 

Will open data survive Trump?

"The incredible quantity of data collected across the federal government is a national treasure. Few other countries on earth apply the same energy, funding, and rigor to assembling such extensive stores. Even if ordinary citizens don't go to for entertainment, both policymakers and business leaders need objective data to make sound decisions.

Before joining the Sunlight Foundation, Howard worked at O’Reilly Media, starting there a few years after Tim O’Reilly convened a group of open government advocates to develop the eight principles of open government data in 2007. Howard says the idea of open data really goes back to the Constitution, which stipulates an "Enumeration" (aka, census) be held to apportion Congressional seats -- an indication that "open data is in the DNA of the USA." Even further, open data harkens to the original Enlightenment idea that reason based on fact should govern human action.

We'll see how that quaint notion survives the postfact era. Meanwhile, consider contributing to the Sunlight Foundation and the Electronic Frontier Foundation."

Why Patent Protection In The Drug Industry Is Out Of Control; Forbes, 1/19/17

Robert Pearl, M.D., Forbes; 

Why Patent Protection In The Drug Industry Is Out Of Control

"Patents originated in ancient Greece. This legal protection assumed greater importance in 15th-century Venice as a means to protect the nation-state's glass-blowing industry. The first patent granted in the United States was in 1790.

Across history, governments created patents for two important purposes. The first was to stimulate interest in research and find solutions to problems that vexed the nation and the world. The second was to promote the broader good of the country. The duration of time designated for exclusive use of the new technology or approach was intended to be relatively short, with the public gaining the resulting benefits in perpetuity. As such, the granting of a patent was designed to advance not only the interests of its creator, but also, equally, the economy and well-being of the nation.

The intent of the patent process and the balance between the dual objectives have been warped over the past decade. "

Russia’s radical new strategy for information warfare; Washington Post, 1/18/17

David Ignatius, Washington Post; Russia’s radical new strategy for information warfare

"Krutskikh’s comments may have been a precursor of a new doctrine for information operations announced publicly by the Kremlin in December. The senior administration official described the Russian strategy: “They think of information space as a domain of warfare. In the U.S, we tend to have a binary view of conflict — we’re at peace or at war. The Russian doctrine is more of a continuum. You can be at different levels of conflict, along a sliding scale.”...

In Russia’s view, America is pushing just as aggressively in the information space, but denies it. “Things we perceive as free speech, they perceive as aggressive behavior from the West,” noted the senior U.S. official."

Aide to Md. lawmaker fabricated article on fraudulent votes for Clinton; Washington Post, 1/18/17

Ovetta Wiggins, Washington Post; Aide to Md. lawmaker fabricated article on fraudulent votes for Clinton

"Harris told the Times that he created fake news to earn money. After investing $5 for the domain name, he earned about $22,000 in online advertising revenue.

In an interview with the Times, Harris expressed guilt for spreading lies but also a sense of pride in doing it so well.

“At first it kind of shocked me — the response I was getting,” he said. “How easily people would believe. It was almost like a sociological experiment.”"

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Justin Trudeau’s Family Vacation on Aga Khan’s Island Leads to Ethics Inquiry; New York Times, 1/16/17

Ian Austen, New York Times; 

Justin Trudeau’s Family Vacation on Aga Khan’s Island Leads to Ethics Inquiry

"Canada’s federal conflict-of-interest and ethics office confirmed on Monday that it is investigating the propriety of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family’s spending part of the Christmas holidays as guests of the Aga Khan, the billionaire philanthropist and spiritual leader of Ismaili Muslims, on a private island in the Bahamas."

On ethics: Obama went high, Trump goes low; Chicago Tribune, 1/18/17

Steve Chapman, Chicago Tribune; On ethics: Obama went high, Trump goes low

"That fall, McCain tried to use the charge against his opponent, but the air had gone out of it. After the March session, the Tribune, which had criticized Obama's handling of the matter, editorialized that he had reaffirmed its confidence in his "professional judgment and personal decency" and set "a standard for candor by which other presidential candidates facing serious inquiries now can be judged."

Trump, on the other hand, has set a standard lower than that of any president in modern times. His business ties will serve as a constant temptation to him and those who want something from him or the U.S. government. And that's fine with him.

On his way to the White House, Obama understood his obligation not only to behave ethically but to be open with the voters. Trump has insisted on doing whatever he pleases while refusing to provide useful information about his activities.

Obama's view was that he should be careful to avoid scandal. Trump's view is that for him, there is no such thing."

Emoluments: Trump's Coming Ethics Trouble; The Atlantic, 1/18/17

Emoluments: Trump's Coming Ethics Trouble

"The underlying concern here is that it is precisely Trump’s beneficial government services that foreign powers may hope to purchase for their money whenever they patronize or advantage his businesses. That is, foreign powers (and their agents) may pay Trump, in his capacity as owner of valuable business assets around the world, so that Trump, in his capacity as president, will play in their interest and push U.S. policies in their direction. It may be impossible to prove this on a case-by-case level, given the complex and often hidden motives guiding presidential conduct, but the whole theory of the foreign emoluments clause is to guard against the very possibility of transactions raising this creeping danger.

Trump’s lawyer, Sheri Dillon, has said that “Trump wants there to be no doubt in the minds of the American public that he is completely isolating himself from his business interests.” But if that were actually true, Trump would have done more—much more—to separate himself from his global business empire. Instead, he adopted the mere shell of a plan, utterly inadequate to the demands of the Constitution.

Trump will thus place himself in clear violation of America’s basic charter from the very first instant of his presidency."

Chaffetz to get meeting he demanded with ethics official who criticized Trump; Politico, 1/18/17

Darren Samuelsohn, Politico; 

Chaffetz to get meeting he demanded with ethics official who criticized Trump

"“Allowing the public to attend our meeting — or, at the very least, to view it through live broadcast or the attendance of the news media — would ensure transparency and educate the public about how OGE guards the executive branch against conflicts of interest,” he added, though noting he would agree to a private meeting if Chaffetz again refused to speak in front of an audience.

But on Thursday, Chaffetz office said he and Shaub would meet privately on Monday, Jan. 23.

The request for a public meeting is the latest turn in an escalating feud pitting Shaub against Chaffetz and the Trump administration.

It’s also part of a broader struggle over Shaub’s new order of operation under the Office of Government Ethics. The agency has typically operated in relative obscurity under past directors, but, dealing with a president elect who heads a vast business empire, the director has made a controversial break with precedent by adopting an increasingly public profile."

Critical, But Overlooked: Ethics Is a Tough Sell to Funders. Is That About to Change?; Inside Philanthropy, 1/17/17

Mike Scutari, Inside Philanthropy; 

Critical, But Overlooked: Ethics Is a Tough Sell to Funders. Is That About to Change?

"Strong ethics may be all important to the healthy functioning of American society, but this is an area that's historically fallen through the cracks of foundation grantmaking programs. Fundraisers for ethics work routinely have to shoehorn their proposals to fit into the issue areas that foundations do care about, like public health or campaign finance reform. Individual donors play a critical role in supporting ethics research, but contributors interested in this area are hardly plentiful. If you search "ethics" in the Lilly School donor base of gifts of a million dollars and up, you'll get a mere five results...

AI is much in the news right now, and ethics giving often follows headlines. A few years back, after the financial crisis, business schools received a string of gifts aimed at teaching ethics to tomorrow's executives and financiers. But as memory of the financial crisis faded, so did this stream of money...

Indeed, if reporting persists out of Trump's Washington regarding conflicts of interest, it seems likely that the ethics field writ large will get a Trump bump when it comes to fundraising."

Free Speech Advocates, Publishers Wrestle With Questions Of Censorship; NPR, 1/12/17

Lynn Neary, NPR; 

Free Speech Advocates, Publishers Wrestle With Questions Of Censorship

"Both the NCAC and PEN America say the best response to hate speech is not more censorship.

"Trying to suppress hateful speech doesn't make it go away," says Bertin. "I mean, I think the whole idea of free speech requires us to be active participants, and when we hear ideas that we think are bad and harmful, it requires us to say 'why,' not just say 'shut up.'"

But publisher Dennis Johnson says another equally important right is at stake here: The right to protest.

"This is not about censoring right wing voices," he says. "This is about combating hate speech and its entry into the mainstream.""

U.S. Supreme Court justices fret over offensive trademarks; Reuters, 1/18/17

Andrew Chung, Reuters; 

U.S. Supreme Court justices fret over offensive trademarks

"The justices during the arguments seemed to agree with the band that the government was favoring some trademarks while disapproving others, a kind of discrimination based on viewpoint traditionally forbidden by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees free speech.

But the justices appeared to struggle over whether banning offensive slurs is reasonable in the trademark system, which is used to promote commerce.

Conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy asked the band's attorney, John Connell, whether a group of non-Asians using the name The Slants to mock Asians could be denied a trademark. Connell said they could not.

Kennedy questioned whether the trademark system should be considered like a public park "where you can say anything you want.

In rejecting The Slants' trademark, government officials relied on a provision of the 1946 Lanham Act that prevents the registration of marks that may disparage certain people."

In Battle Over Band Name, Supreme Court Considers Free Speech And Trademarks; NPR, 1/18/17

Nina Totenberg, NPR; 

In Battle Over Band Name, Supreme Court Considers Free Speech And Trademarks

""Vagueness means that a law doesn't give enough instruction to citizens on how to follow the law," Shapiro says. "What is disparaging? It depends on the particular trademark examiner you get, or the particular judge."

Tushnet replies that in a program with 500,000 applications for trademark registration each year, there will inevitably be some inconsistencies, just as there are in the judgments made under the other parts of the law. In each case, she observes, if you get turned down for a trademark registration, you can appeal within the agency. If you lose there, you can go to court.

But she adds that the trademark registration system has served the nation well.

"It's a complex system, and if you pull out a chunk of it without extreme care, you're going to upset the rest of the system."

And that, she says, could put the whole trademark system in jeopardy."

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

SCOTUS To Hear From Band The Slants For Right To Trademark Name; Here & Now, WBUR, 1/17/17

Here & Now, WBUR; 

SCOTUS To Hear From Band The Slants For Right To Trademark Name

"The Asian-American band The Slants will appear before the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday to argue for full trademark rights to their name, which is a pejorative.

The Portland band has won its case in the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, in which the court ruled that the Patent and Trademark Office and the Department of Justice is infringing on the group's rights to freedom of speech.

Here & Now's Robin Young speaks with Rebecca Tushnet (@rtushnet), professor of law at Georgetown Law School, about the conflict for rights to the name."

It's Copyright Week: Join Us in the Fight for a Better Copyright Law; Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), 1/16/17

Kerry Sheehan, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF); 

It's Copyright Week: Join Us in the Fight for a Better Copyright Law

"We're taking part in Copyright Week, a series of actions and discussions supporting key principles that should guide copyright policy. Every day this week, various groups are taking on different elements of the law, and addressing what's at stake, and what we need to do to make sure that copyright promotes creativity and innovation...

Here are this year’s Copyright Week principles:
  • Monday: Building and Defending the Public Domain. The public domain is our cultural commons and a crucial resource for innovation and access to knowledge. Copyright policy should strive to promote, and not diminish, a robust, accessible public domain.
  • Tuesday: You Bought It, You Own It, You Fix It. Copyright law shouldn't interfere with your freedom to truly own your stuff: to repair it, tinker with it, recycle it, use it on any device, lend it, and then give it away (or re-sell it) when you're done.
  • Wednesday: Transparency and Representation. Copyright policy must be set through a participatory, democratic, and transparent process. It should not be decided through back room deals, secret international agreements, or unilateral attempts to apply national laws extraterritorially.
  • Thursday: 21st Century Creators. Copyright law should account for the interests of all creators, not just those backed by traditional copyright industries. YouTube creators, remixers, fan artists and independent musicians (among others) are all part of the community of creators that encourage cultural progress and innovation.
  • Friday: Copyright and Free Speech. Freedom of expression is fundamental to our democratic system. Copyright law should promote, not restrict or suppress free speech.
Every day this week, we’ll be sharing links to blog posts and actions on these topics at and at #CopyrightWeek.
If you’ve followed Copyright Week in past years, you may note that this year, we didn’t designate a specific day to focus on fair use. Fair use—the legal doctrine that permits many important uses of copyrighted works without permission or payment—is critical to the law’s ability to promote creativity, innovation, and freedom of expression. Fair use is a part of each of this year’s principles."

Just when you thought the Trump ethics disaster couldn’t get worse, it did; Washington Post, 1/16/17

Richard Painter and Norman Eisen, Washington Post; Just when you thought the Trump ethics disaster couldn’t get worse, it did

"Richard Painter, a professor of law at the University of Minnesota, was the chief White House ethics lawyer from 2005 to 2007 and is vice chair of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Norman Eisen, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, was the chief White House ethics lawyer from 2009 to 2011 and is the chair of CREW...

Priebus also attacked Shaub’s competence, and so his livelihood, questioning “what this person at Government Ethics, what sort of standing he has any more in giving these opinions.” In fact, the director is a dedicated and talented ethicist who has served Democratic and Republican presidents alike with distinction and without controversy for many years. He has already approved 54 percent of the Trump nominees who have submitted their paperwork to OGE, compared with just 29 percent at this point in the Obama transition eight years ago. If the White House chief of staff had made these kinds of threats against the head of OGE when we were serving in the White House, we would have resigned immediately.

We think apologies are due Shaub. In addition, we recommend that Republicans back off of their threats. How about Chaffetz instead publicly affirm the need for the agency and invite Shaub to have a public conversation about that and about Trump’s conflicts with both the majority and minority members of the committee? We are sure that Shaub would accept such an offer and explain to the committee and the public why his concerns about the president-elect’s plan are well founded."

The Daily 202: Monica Crowley losing White House job shows that the rules of politics still apply for Donald Trump; Washington Post, 1/17/17

James Hohmann, Washington Post; 

The Daily 202: Monica Crowley losing White House job shows that the rules of politics still apply for Donald Trump

"A steady stream of stories since the weekend before last has revealed pretty egregious examples of apparent plagiarism over a period of several years, from a 2012 book to her PhD dissertation and op-eds.

I have little doubt that Barack Obama and George W. Bush would have immediately terminated someone who did what Crowley appears to have done if that person was up for a similar posting (with a role in speechwriting and drafting statements in the name of the president).

There are many precedents: Plagiarism doomed Joe Biden’s 1988 presidential campaign, and just three years ago Montana Sen. John Walsh (D) ended his campaign for a full term after it came out that he’d plagiarized a paper for the Army War College...

Trump continued to stand by her even as publisher HarperCollins announced that it would no longer sell Crowley’s book and more stories detailed fresh examples.

Finally, because a handful of reporters doggedly pursued the story, the pressure became too much. Yesterday afternoon, Crowley sent a statement to the Washington Times to say that “after much reflection” she’s decided to stay in New York. She made no mention of plagiarism."

Saturday, January 14, 2017

After Trump tweet, ethics office to U.S. employees: do not endorse products; Reuters, 1/13/17

Emily Stephenson, Reuters; 

After Trump tweet, ethics office to U.S. employees: do not endorse products

"A day after President-elect Donald Trump encouraged supporters to "Buy L.L. Bean," a U.S. ethics watchdog on Friday warned federal employees they must not endorse products or companies.

The U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) said on its official Twitter account: "All executive branch employees must refrain from misuse of position, including endorsements."

No mention of Trump was made in the tweet, and many rules for federal employees do not apply to the president. The ethics office has tweeted other reminders to employees this week, including one that federal gift restrictions remain in place during the upcoming inauguration.

Republicans say they’ll protect you if you have a pre-existing condition. Don’t believe it.; Washington Post, 1/13/17

Paul Waldman, Washington Post; Republicans say they’ll protect you if you have a pre-existing condition. Don’t believe it.

"Here’s a list of some things that will return once they repeal the ACA:
  • The application process for insurance will become much more cumbersome and onerous.
  • Insurers will be able to charge people with pre-existing conditions higher premiums.
  • Insurers will be able to impose yearly and lifetime limits on benefits, which affects people who have serious illnesses or accidents. This could apply to those with good employer-provided coverage as well as those who buy on the individual market.
  • “Job lock,” in which people are afraid to leave their job and do something like start a new business for fear of losing the insurance they have, will return.
  • Insurers will be able to charge women higher premiums than men, because they consider being a woman to be a pre-existing condition.
  • Insurers will be able to rescind coverage when you get sick.
All of that was eliminated by the ACA. It’s possible that in their replacement plan Republicans might take steps to retain some of what the ACA did in these areas, but right now we just don’t know.
So let’s look at what we do know."

Cancer survivor who once opposed federal health law challenges Ryan on its repeal; Washington Post, 1/14/17

Amy Goldstein, Washington Post; Cancer survivor who once opposed federal health law challenges Ryan on its repeal

"“Just like you, I was a Republican,” Jeff Jeans began. Standing on the stage, the Wisconsin congressman broke into a grin as Jeans said he had volunteered in two GOP presidential campaigns and opposed the Affordable Care Act so much that he'd told his wife he would close their business before complying with the health-care law.

But that, he said, was before he was diagnosed with a “very curable cancer” and told that, if left untreated, he had perhaps six weeks to live. Only because of an early Affordable Care Act program that offered coverage to people with preexisting medical problems, Jeans said, “I am standing here today alive.”

The speaker's smile vanished. His brow furrowed.
“Being both a small-business person and someone with preexisting conditions, I rely on the Affordable Care Act to be able to purchase my own insurance,” Jeans said. “Why would you repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement?”
Ryan went for the human touch. “First, I am glad you are standing here,” he replied. “I mean really. Seriously. Hey. No really.”
But Jeans interrupted him: “I want to thank President Obama from the bottom of my heart, because I would be dead if it weren't for him.”"

California lawmakers propose bills to teach students to identify 'fake news'; Guardian, 1/12/17

Alan Yuhas, Guardian; 

California lawmakers propose bills to teach students to identify 'fake news'

" In northern California, state senator Bill Dodd proposed a measure that would ask the state education board to create a “media literacy” curriculum. His proposal would incorporate training in social science courses from first through 12th grade and try to teach students critical thinking, independent research and “digital citizenship”.

“The rise of fake and misleading news is deeply concerning,” Dodd said in a statement. “Even more concerning is the lack of education provided to ensure people can distinguish what is fact and what’s not.”

“By giving students the proper tools to analyze the media they consume, we can empower them to make informed decisions,” he added.

Jason Chaffetz Doesn’t Care About Ethics; Slate, 1/13/17

Dahlia Lithwick, Slate; Jason Chaffetz Doesn’t Care About Ethics

"In a letter to [Jason] Chaffetz, [Elijah] Cummings called for a public hearing with Shaub as the main witness, as opposed to the closed-door meeting Chaffetz is seeking.

But of course, there is no shaming Chaffetz, the guy who announced that he could never again look his daughter in the eye if he endorsed Trump in October, subsequently promised to vote for Trump, and now feels the need to carry Trump’s top secret manila folders around...

Whether it meant attempting to dismantle the congressional watchdog or gunning for the independent ethics chief, it’s now clear that working in a nonpartisan fashion to try to uphold ethical norms is now prohibited in Republican-controlled Washington. You can be sure that so long as it’s ethically bankrupt individuals like Chaffetz in charge of enforcing these norms and laws, then our system will be as rife with corruption as our incoming president wants it to be."

Head of Ethics Office Speaks Out. Some Republicans Ask, Was It Ethical?; New York Times, 1/13/17

Jennifer Steinhauer and Steve Eder, New York Times; Head of Ethics Office Speaks Out. Some Republicans Ask, Was It Ethical?

"Mr. Shaub, a longtime government lawyer who has led the Office of Government Ethics since 2013, has been accused by Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, of playing politics and letting “public relations” seep into the office’s ethical guidance. Mr. Chaffetz requested that Mr. Shaub be interviewed by committee staff members by the end of the month.

“I’m concerned that the person in charge of our office of ethics is not the most ethical person,” Mr. Chaffetz said in an interview on Friday, a day after he sent a stinging letter to Mr. Shaub raising the possibility of a congressional investigation. Mr. Chaffetz noted that Mr. Shaub had made critical public comments, including in a recent speech at a left-leaning think tank, about Mr. Trump’s efforts to separate himself from his business interests."

Thursday, January 12, 2017

'Could You Patent The Sun?'; New York Times, January 2017

Video, New York Times; 'Could You Patent The Sun?'

"Decades after Dr. Jonas Salk opposed patenting the polio vaccine, the pharmaceutical industry has changed. What does that mean for the development of innovative drugs and for people whose lives depend on them?"

Trolls decided I was taking pictures of Rex Tillerson’s notes. I wasn’t even there.; Washington Post, 1/12/17

Doris Truong, Washington Post; Trolls decided I was taking pictures of Rex Tillerson’s notes. I wasn’t even there.

"Why are people so quick to look for someone to condemn? And during the confusion about the woman’s identity, why is it presumed that she is a journalist? Or that taking pictures of notes in an open hearing is illegal? Or, for that matter, that she was even taking pictures of Tillerson’s notes?

The bright spot is that a few people have acknowledged that they erred. One person left this note on my Facebook timeline: “I was shocked to find that you are in fact not the fox in the henhouse. For that I do apologize. As penance I have gone to several sites that have posted the untrue information about you and corrected them. I doubt it will do a bit of good. I am terribly sorry and wanted you to know that not all Trump supporters are mindless and that the real truth does matter. Hope this mess gets cleared up real soon. God bless.”

The whole episode is not going to drive me off social media, which provides a way for me to connect with people across the miles, including strangers, and to be exposed to a diversity of opinions — including ones I disagree with. But I hope the ridiculousness of what happened to me in less than 12 hours makes others think critically before sharing something that can be easily disproved." 

More New Ways to Explore Patent Data; Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee, Director's Forum Blog, 1/12/17

Michelle K. Lee, Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee, Director's Forum Blog; More New Ways to Explore Patent Data

"Making patent data accessible to the public has been a cornerstone of this agency’s policy since its inception. I’m pleased to announce yet another step we’ve taken at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to make such data even easier for the public to understand and use, namely the addition of new features to our patent data visualization and analysis tool, PatentsView. First launched in 2014, PatentsView provides the public a variety of ways to interactively engage, through a web-based platform, the highest-quality patent data available. The underlying database connects 40 years’ worth of information about inventors, their organizations, and their locations in unprecedented ways. PatentsView is a key component of our open data efforts to improve the accessibility, usability, and transparency of U.S. patent data...

You could argue that the innovations documented in our records may very well, collectively, constitute the world’s largest repository of scientific and technological knowledge. But the larger a data set, the more challenging it is to find useful information or trends or, put another way, to separate the signal from the noise. This collaborative tool, developed by the USPTO’s Office of the Chief Economist in conjunction with the American Institutes for Research, New York University, the University of California at Berkeley, Twin Arch Technologies, and Periscopic, aims to make that sorting and separation possible. The shared public and private effort in creating and improving the platform is symbolized in the “.org” domain of

By providing new tools and data to the public, PatentsView demonstrates this agency’s continuing commitment to open data, open government, and evidence-based policymaking."