Tuesday, February 28, 2017

If You Have One Of These Toys In Your House, You May Want To Stop Using It; Huffington Post, February 27, 2017

Ryan Grenoble, Huffington Post; 

If You Have One Of These Toys In Your House, You May Want To Stop Using It

"With a little sleuthing, and some help from CloudPets users willing to serve as guinea pigs, Hunt tracked down some surprisingly personal information on the CloudPets servers. Kids’ names, birthdays (minus the year) and their relationship with authorized users (i.e., parents, grandparents, friends, etc.) were all accessible."

Oscars Mistake Casts Unwanted Spotlight on PwC; New York Times, February 27, 2017

David Gelles and Sapna Maheshwari, New York Times; 

Oscars Mistake Casts Unwanted Spotlight on PwC

"One video posted there, introducing Mr. Cullinan and Ms. Ruiz, began with the line, “The reason we were even first asked to take on this role was because of the reputation PwC has in the marketplace for being a firm of integrity, of accuracy and confidentiality.” It went on to note that the relationship was “symbolic of how we’re thought of beyond this role and how our clients think of us.”

But how clients think of PwC may change.

Mr. Gilman, the crisis communications specialist, said he was curious to see if PwC kept the Oscars contract. “They have branded themselves around this event saying, ‘We’re trusted’ — that’s the implication. Now I think that will take a hit.”"

Monday, February 27, 2017

Law Professors Address RCEP Negotiators on Copyright; Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF, February 24, 2017

Jeremy Malcolm, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF); 

Law Professors Address RCEP Negotiators on Copyright

"Next week the latest round of secret negotiations of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) kicks off in Kobe, Japan. Once the shy younger sibling of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the recent death of the TPP has thrust RCEP further into the spotlight, and raised the stakes both for its sixteen prospective parties, and for lobbyists with designs to stamp their own mark on the text's intellectual property and e-commerce chapters.
Our last analysis of RCEP pointed out some of the ways in which the then-current leaked text represented an improvement on the TPP, but how other parts of it—including those on copyright enforcement—repeated its mistakes and failed to seize opportunities for improvement. This week, over 60 copyright scholars released an open letter that sets out their views of what negotiators ought to do in order to address these problems...
The RCEP negotiators evidently haven't taken the failure of the TPP to heart, or they would be doing more to ensure that their negotiations are inclusive, transparent, and strike a fair balance between the interests of copyright owners and those of the public."

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Worse Than Tuskegee; Slate, February 26, 2017

Sushma Subramanian, Slate; 

Worse Than Tuskegee

"“Most people think we don’t conduct trials this way,” Annas said. “We always act shocked by research scandals and see them as historical anomalies that cannot be repeated. But so far, we’ve always been wrong.”

In 2011, the presidential commission for the same bioethics commission that completed the Guatemala syphilis report also published a report on international research. It recommended that the country develop a compensation system perhaps akin to the U.S. National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program—which covers people harmed by certain vaccines—for people who are injured as test subjects in research. The site hosting that report, bioethics.gov, is no longer in service: A note on the archived site says that it will stop being updated as of Jan. 15, 2017, likely in anticipation of the presidential transition.

In addition to providing compensation to victims, the advisers on the Archdiocese of Guatemala’s petition are also advocating for sharpening the teeth of laws that protect research subjects internationally. They suggest amendments to the Common Rule, the set of guidelines used by institutional review boards overseeing research involving human subjects in biomedical and behavioral research in the United States and internationally." 

Friday, February 24, 2017

Second Internet of Things National Institute; American Bar Association, Washington, DC, May 10-11, 2017

Second Internet of Things National Institute

"A game-changer has emerged for businesses, policymakers, and lawyers, and it's called the "Internet of Things" (IoT). It's one of the most transformative and fast-paced technology developments in recent years. Billions of vehicles, buildings, process control devices, wearables, medical devices, drones, consumer/business products, mobile phones, tablets, and other "smart" objects are wirelessly connecting to, and communicating with, each other - and raising unprecedented legal and liability issues.

Recognized as a top new law practice area, and with global spending projected to hit $1.7 trillion by 2020, IoT will require businesses, policymakers, and lawyers (M&A, IP, competition, litigation, health law, IT/outsourcing, and privacy/cybersecurity) to identify and address the escalating legal risks of doing business in a connected world. Join us in Washington, D.C., on May 10 - 11, 2017, for our second IoT National Institute, which will feature:
Overviews and demos of the powerful technology driving the legal and liability issues
Practical guidance and the latest insights on the product liability, mass tort, big data, privacy, data security, intellectual property, cloud, and regulatory issues raised by IoT
Dynamic new additions: a mock trial, a tabletop exercise, a corporate counsel roundtable, and niche issue mini-updates.
Two full days of CLE credit (including ethics credit), plus two breakfasts, two lunches (with keynote speakers), and a cocktail reception.
Our distinguished faculty includes prominent legal and technical experts and thought-leaders from companies, government entities, universities, think-tanks, advocacy organizations, and private practice. Organized by the American Bar Association's Section of Science & Technology Law, the IoT National Institute offers an unparalleled learning and networking opportunity. With billions of devices and trillions of dollars in spending, IoT is a rapidly growing market that everyone wants to get in on."

Today in History; Associated Press via Washington Post, February 24, 2017

Associated Press via Washington Post; Today in History

"Thought for Today: “Be kind to unkind people — they need it the most.” — Ashleigh Brilliant, English-born American writer."

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Story Behind Trump’s Chinese Trademark; The Atlantic, February 22, 2017

Jeremy Venook, The Atlantic; 

The Story Behind Trump’s Chinese Trademark

"None of this definitively proves that Trump and China did not execute a straight-up swap, with Trump receiving a trademark and China receiving renewed adherence to the One China Policy. Nor does the mere coincidence of Trump receiving his trademark so shortly after speaking with Chinese President Xi Jinping represent the smoking gun his critics desire. Instead, what the story demonstrates is just how much the president’s financial dealings complicate any understanding of the motivations behind his policy decisions: Whether on purpose or by mere coincidence, the outcome of a decade-long legal dispute is now inextricably linked, in the public imagination if not in fact, to a high-profile question of international diplomacy. And it highlights the way accusations of corruption often exist not in obvious acts of self-dealing or one-to-one trades but in shades of gray, with cross-cutting motives and well-timed coincidences that almost never definitively prove payoffs but that nevertheless continually suggest malfeasance."

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Data disappeared from Obama administration site promoting transparency; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, February 22, 2017

Tracie Mauriello, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; 

Data disappeared from Obama administration site promoting transparency

"If you wanted to know who visited the White House, how much the president’s secretary is paid, or which state has the most federally funded teaching positions, the information was just a few clicks away. With a bit more technical knowledge, you could explore public data sets to analyze the president’s budget, or look for trends in government spending.

No more.
Dozens of data sets disappeared last week from Open.WhiteHouse.gov, a website the Obama administration created to promote government transparency.
Visitors to the website now and find a message saying “check back for new data.” But it isn’t clear when any new data will be posted, and government watchdogs aren’t confident that it will ever happen.
“We are working to open up the new sites,” White House press aide Helen Ferre emailed in response to questions. She did not respond to follow-up questions about the content of the “new sites,” whether they will include visitor logs, why data sets were removed, and when aides will post new information...
The data the Obama administration provided hasn’t been deleted. Rather it’s been preserved by the National Archives in accordance with a law that prohibits federal data from being destroyed. Find it at https://open.obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/...
The data is no longer in a user-friendly format. Users have to have the technical knowledge to unpack zipfiles and must have software that can handle large files with millions of rows of data."

From Trump the Nationalist, a Trail of Global Trademarks; New York Times, February 21, 2017

Danny Hakim and Sui-Lee Wee, New York Times; 

From Trump the Nationalist, a Trail of Global Trademarks

"The trademarks are the natural outgrowth of a global-spanning strategy. Like any businessman, Mr. Trump has long sought to protect his brand and products legally with trademarks, whether by registering a board game he once tried to sell, slogans like “Make America Great Again” or simply the name “Trump.”

But the trail of trademarks offers further clues to his international business ties, which leave the president vulnerable to potential conflicts of interest, or at least perception challenges. The Chinese government’s trademark announcement last week came just days after Mr. Trump retreated from challenging China’s policy on Taiwan in a call with China’s president, Xi Jinping.

The Times review of nine databases identified nearly 400 foreign trademarks registered to Trump companies since 2000 in 28 countries, among them New Zealand, Egypt and Russia, as well as the European Union. There are most likely many more trademarks, because there is no central repository of all trademarks from every country. The Trump Organization has been filing trademarks for decades, and has said that it has taken out trademarks in more than 80 countries."

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


Sarah Larson, New Yorker; 


"The new Librarian of Congress, Dr. Carla Hayden, is highly motivated to make this library, and all libraries, a favorite object of the people. Hayden is the first person of color, and the first woman, to lead the Library of Congress; she is also the first actual librarian to lead it since 1974. Her predecessor, Dr. James Billington, a distinguished Russia scholar appointed by Ronald Reagan, was beloved for his intellect but criticized for mismanagement; he neglected, for many years, to appoint a chief information officer, which was required by law, and he also didn’t use e-mail. Hayden, a former head of the American Library Association, revitalized and modernized Baltimore’s twenty-two-branch Enoch Pratt Free Library system. President Obama nominated her, in 2010, to be a member of the National Museum and Library Services Board, and, last year, to become Librarian of Congress...

Like many librarians, Hayden is a big believer in the rights of all people to educate themselves, and in the importance of open access to information online. (This inclusive spirit has become more urgent nationally in recent weeks: see “Libraries Are for Everyone,” a multilingual meme and poster campaign, created by a Nebraska librarian, Rebecca McCorkindale, to counter the forces of fake news and fearmongering.) In September, Hayden gave a swearing-in speech in which she described how black Americans “were once punished with lashes and worse for learning to read.” She said that, “as a descendent of people who were denied the right to read, to now have the opportunity to serve and lead the institution that is our national symbol of knowledge is a historic moment.”...

I thought of the drafts of Lincoln’s first Inaugural Address that a curator in the Inaugurations exhibit had shown me. Lincoln had originally ended his speech with a challenge to the South: “Shall it be peace or sword?” William Henry Seward had suggested an edit that pushed Lincoln toward a more conciliatory tone, and the phrase “guardian angel of the nation.” Lincoln turned that into the sublime “better angels of our nature,” an appeal to our common humanity. Our greatest President was also, possibly, our greatest reviser—a cutter and paster who questioned his imperfect ideas, accepted input, made them better, and kept all of his drafts, so that history could learn not just from his speeches but from the workings of his mind. The contents of the library, like Hayden herself, often directed my attention to the systems by which progress is made and recorded."

‘All of our federal data assets are currently at risk’ — here’s how people are trying to protect them; FedScoop, February 19, 2017

Samantha Ehlinger, FedScoop; 

‘All of our federal data assets are currently at risk’ — here’s how people are trying to protect them

"A group of coders, librarians, scientists, storytellers and others passionate about data came together at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., this weekend to preserve federal data that some worry could disappear under different Trump administration priorities. The goal of the DataRescueDC event: store federal climate and environmental data that is “vulnerable under an administration that denies the fact of ongoing climate change.”

But while fear of losing federal scientific data during the Trump administration has galvanized work across the country to preserve reputable copies of key data, during Saturday’s events experts involved in the project said that it also highlights the need for creating an official infrastructure for safeguarding federal data.

“We talk a lot in this country about our failing infrastructure, and it’s really obvious when drinking water supplies are dangerous to the people who drink them. And it’s really obvious when a bridge collapses over the Mississippi river. But what was not really obvious, I think, until this juncture that we are now at is how incredible vulnerable our infrastructure for federal data is. Like, there isn’t one really. It’s totally just absent in many — in very powerful ways,” said Bethany Wiggin, founding director of the University of Pennsylvania Program in Environmental Humanities, which is facilitating Data Refuge."

What Facebook Owes to Journalism; New York Times, February 21, 2017

Steven Waldman, New York Times; 

What Facebook Owes to Journalism

"The 19th century robber baron Andrew Carnegie gave away most of his wealth later in life. “Surplus wealth is a sacred trust which its possessor is bound to administer in his lifetime for the good of the community,” he said. Carnegie built almost 3,000 libraries. All Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, Sergei Brin and Laurene Powell (widow of Steve Jobs) have to do is fund 3,000 journalists.

If the leaders of these companies put the equivalent of just 1 percent of their profits, for five years, to the cause, local American journalism would be transformed for the next century.

That would be $4.4 billion — enough to establish a permanent endowment to fund local journalism."

The Russification of America; New York Times, February 21, 2017

Roger Cohen, New York Times; 

The Russification of America

"I’m skeptical of Trump ever running a disciplined administration. His feelings about Europe are already clear and won’t change. The European Union needs to step into the moral void by standing unequivocally for the values that must define the West: truth, facts, reason, science, tolerance, freedom, democracy and the rule of law. For now it’s unclear if the Trump administration is friend or foe in that fight."

An Elegy for the Library; New York Times, February 17, 2017

Mahesh, Rao, New York Times; 

An Elegy for the Library

"“Do you think the library is in danger of closing down?” I asked.

“No chance.”

The library has 28 branches around the city, in addition to a few reading rooms at community organizations. Ms. Poornima tells me each branch regularly orders books at readers’ request from the state’s central library system.

Computers are much too costly for many families. Even books remain out of reach. The library’s website lists “uninterrupted lighting” as one of its services — a real draw in a city that suffers from frequent power cutoffs. This is a place of refuge. It offers a respite from the heat, from office life, from noisy households, from all the irritations that crowd in.

It also offers the intangible entanglements of a common space. One of my favorite descriptions of the public library comes from the journalist and academic Sophie Mayer, who has called it “the ideal model of society, the best possible shared space,” because there “each person is pursuing their own aim (education, entertainment, affect, rest) with respect to others, through the best possible medium of the transmission of ideas, feelings and knowledge — the book.”"

Monday, February 20, 2017

Museums and libraries fight ‘alternative facts’ with a #DayofFacts; Washington Post, February 17, 2017

Sarah Kaplan, Washington Post; Museums and libraries fight ‘alternative facts’ with a #DayofFacts

"First the National Parks went rogue, sharing climate change data on Twitter. Now museums and libraries have taken up arms — or at least typing fingers — to fight on behalf of facts.

Using the hashtag #DayofFacts, more than 280 scientific and cultural institutions are devoting Friday to dropping 140-character truths on Twitter. Many of the facts seem pointedly political — like the National Museum of American Jewish History's tweet about a George Washington letter affirming religious freedom in the country, or a placard held up in a video by Chicago's Field Museum that stated “Climate change is accelerating the extinction of plants and animals.”"

Information Access and the 800-Pound Gorilla; Inside Higher Ed, February 20, 2017

Bryn Geffert, Inside Higher Ed; 

Information Access and the 800-Pound Gorilla

"The first copyright statute, enacted in 1790, allowed authors to retain copyright in their work for 14 years. And they could, if they desired, renew that copyright for an additional 14 years. Congress believed that a maximum period of 28 years offered the “limited” protections authorized by the U.S. Constitution to “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.”

Under the original statute, the Library of Congress, my library and any library in the world could digitize and disseminate without charge Miller’s, Flexner’s and Furtwangler’s studies of Hamilton to the homeschooled fifth-grader, to my 15-year old son, to the high school student in rural Arkansas, to the college student at a state university and to the scholar in Niger.

We have now, today, the technology to achieve the vision endorsed by our new (and possibly best) librarian of Congress -- a vision ostensibly shared by her admiring senatorial colleagues who, though they agree on little else, appear to agree on this.

What we lack and what we need is an old law -- an old law to serve new technology.

But first we need our new chief librarian to point at the gorilla, yell for Congress’s attention and beg the legislators who confirmed her to act in accord with the ideals they articulated last spring."

The big moral dilemma facing self-driving cars; Washington Post, February 20, 2017

Steven Overly, Washington Post; The big moral dilemma facing self-driving cars

"Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have dubbed this “algorithm aversion.” In a 2014 study, participants were asked to observe a computer and a human make predictions about the future, such as how a student would perform based on past test scores. Researchers found that “people more quickly lose confidence in algorithmic than human forecasters after seeing them make the same mistake.”"

The Evolution of Open Access; Quora via Huffington Post, February 13, 2017

Quora via Huffington Post; 

The Evolution of Open Access

"What has been the evolution of open access, and where do you think we are heading? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world..
Answer by Richard Price, Founder of Academia.edu, on Quora"

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Why the CRISPR patent verdict isn’t the end of the story; Nature, February 17, 2017

Heidi Ledford, Nature; 

Why the CRISPR patent verdict isn’t the end of the story

"The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issued a key verdict this week in the battle over the intellectual property rights to the potentially lucrative gene-editing technique CRISPR–Cas9.

It ruled that the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT in Cambridge could keep its patents on using CRISPR–Cas9 in eukaryotic cells. That was a blow to the University of California in Berkeley, which had filed its own patents and had hoped to have the Broad’s thrown out."

NPR Launches New Tool To Monitor President Trump's Ethical Promises; NPR, February 18, 2017

Marilyn Geewax and Michel Martin, NPR; NPR Launches New Tool To Monitor President Trump's Ethical Promises

"Senior Business Editor Marilyn Geewax talks about NPR's newly-launched Trump Ethics Monitor, a tool that helps track conflicts of interest between President Trump's businesses and the White House."

Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein: Trump’s attacks on the press are more dangerous than Nixon’s; Washington Post, February 19, 2017

Avi Selk and Kristine Guerra; Washington Post; Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein: Trump’s attacks on the press are more dangerous than Nixon’s

"Trump was speaking to his 25 million Twitter followers when, after weeks of news reports on scandals and chaos in his White House, he called most of the major news organizations in the United States “enemies of the American People!"

“We're not enemies of the American people," Bernstein said on CNN. “In fact, we're the last resort of the American people to a dictatorial and authoritarian-inclined president.""

Graham: A free press and judiciary 'worth fighting and dying for'; Politico, February 19, 2017

Hanna Trudo, Politico; 

Graham: A free press and judiciary 'worth fighting and dying for'

"Sen. Lindsey Graham, responding Sunday to President Donald Trump’s harsh criticism of the media, called a free press and an independent judiciary “the backbone of democracy.”

“They’re worth fighting and dying for,” the Republican from South Carolina said on CBS' “Face the Nation.”

Feinstein: Trump trademark in China may violate Constitution; Politico, February 17, 2017

Kyle Cheney, Politico; 

Feinstein: Trump trademark in China may violate Constitution

"A decision by the Chinese government to grant President Donald Trump a trademark for his brand could be a breach of the U.S. Constitution, a senior Democratic senator warned Friday.

“China’s decision to award President Trump with a new trademark allowing him to profit from the use of his name is a clear conflict of interest and deeply troubling,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) in a statement. “If this isn’t a violation of the Emoluments Clause, I don’t know what is.”

The Emoluments Clause of the Constitution prohibits federal officials — including the president — from accepting payments from foreign governments. Trump’s critics have argued that Trump’s opaque and byzantine business network could run afoul of this principle.

“The fact that this decision comes just days after a conversation between President Trump and President Xi Jinping where President Trump reaffirmed the U.S. policy of ‘One China’ is even more disturbing as it gives the obvious impression of a quid pro quo,” said Feinstein, ranking member of the Judiciary Committee."

Friday, February 17, 2017

When Machines Create Intellectual Property, Who Owns What?; Intellectual Property Watch, February 16, 2017

Bruce Gain, Intellectual Property Watch; 

When Machines Create Intellectual Property, Who Owns What?

"The concept of machines that can think and create in ways that are indistinguishable from humans has been the stuff of science fiction for decades. Now, following major advances in artificial intelligence (AI), intellectual property created by machines without human input is fast becoming a reality. The development thus begs the question among legal scholars, legislative bodies, and judiciary branches of governments worldwide of who owns the intellectual property that humans did not create."

Trump Ethics Monitor: Has The President Kept His Promises?; NPR, February 17, 2017

Alina Selyukh, NPR; 

Trump Ethics Monitor: Has The President Kept His Promises?

"Although Donald Trump sits in the Oval Office now, he continues to own stakes in hundreds of businesses, both in this country and abroad.

Ethics experts say this vast international web of personal financial ties could influence Trump's thinking on public-policy decisions. Trump has dismissed such concerns; he notes presidents are exempt from the conflict-of-interest rules that apply to Cabinet members and other government employees.

Past presidents have complied voluntarily with the ethics rules.

What Trump and his team have done is commit to certain steps that do touch on some of the ethics and conflicts-of-interest concerns. The Trump Ethics Monitor below focuses on those promises and tracks their status."

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Henrietta Lacks’s family wants compensation for her cells; Washington Post, February 14, 2017

Andrea K. McDaniels, Washington Post; Henrietta Lacks’s family wants compensation for her cells

"Francis Lanasa, the attorney who will represent the family, said that he would use a “continuing tort” argument, alleging that Hopkins had continued to violate the “personal rights, privacy and body parts” of Henrietta Lacks over time.

“They are literally the foundation of modern medical science,” Lanasa said of the cells."

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Open Science: Beyond Open Access webinar; Library Journal, February 21, 2017

Library Journal; Open Science: Beyond Open Access webinar

"Open Science: Beyond Open Access

Presented by: Dove Press & Library Journal
Event Date & Time: Tuesday, February 21st, 2017, 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM ET / 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM PT
Collaboration can be a major driver for success. When data is shared among researchers, analysts and stakeholders, the opportunities for innovation and development increase exponentially, particularly in the medical and science fields. To be most effective, the Open Science framework demands more than simply sharing data–it requires dedication, transparency and responsible publishing.
Join this webcast to learn from our panel of experts as they discuss the challenges and benefits of Open Science in the context of global health and medical concerns. They will explain how the disruptive concept of Open Data can reshape and improve the nature of research and results.


  • Dr. Eric Little, VP of Data Science, OSTHUS
  • Dr. Robin Bloor, Chief Analyst, The Bloor Group
  • Andrew Johnson, Research Data Librarian/Assistant Professor, University of Colorado Boulder


  • Rebecca Jozwiak, Editorial & Research Director, The Bloor Group"

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Devalued MLIS: ALA’s Leader Must Be a Librarian; Library Journal, February 9, 2017

John N. Berry III, Library Journal;

The Devalued MLIS: ALA’s Leader Must Be a Librarian 

"Dozens of library educators have declared to me that we “educate a lot more than librarians!” I am sure there are many positions for which LIS programs offer appropriate preparation. But I am a librarian. I remember my struggle to convince my relatives, friends, and others that librarians are members of a learned, authorized profession. The effort to achieve this status began with Melvil Dewey himself.

Now a growing chorus of “experts” from outside the field tell us that libraries and the professionals who administer them are obsolete. In truth, the profusion of information sources coupled with the erosion of the quality of the information they provide has added urgency to the fundamental work of the librarian. We collect and disseminate the facts of humankind after careful evaluation of sources as to their currency, accuracy, depth, breadth, biases, and prejudices. No other profession has that mission.

The MLIS credential is one signal that the holder has at least studied and considered these issues and understands the need for an institution and a professional cadre to serve and protect the rights of all people to accurate information. ALA’s leaders, and indeed all librarians, must be holders of that important degree. We must not abandon it now."

Ignorance Is Strength; New York Times, February 13, 2017

Paul Krugman, New York Times; 

Ignorance Is Strength

"Competent lawyers might tell you that your Muslim ban is unconstitutional; competent scientists that climate change is real; competent economists that tax cuts don’t pay for themselves; competent voting experts that there weren’t millions of illegal ballots; competent diplomats that the Iran deal makes sense, and Putin is not your friend. So competence must be excluded.

At this point, someone is bound to say, “If they’re so dumb, how come they won?” Part of the answer is that disdain for experts — sorry, “so-called” experts — resonates with an important part of the electorate. Bigotry wasn’t the only dark force at work in the election; so was anti-intellectualism, hostility toward “elites” who claim that opinions should be based on careful study and thought."

Why the rise of authoritarianism is a global catastrophe; Washington Post, February 13, 2017

Garry Kasparov and Thor Halvorssen, Washington Post; Why the rise of authoritarianism is a global catastrophe

Kip Currier: A must-read ethical-call-to-action by two people who have directly suffered under authoritarianism and are expending their energies and voices toward raising awareness and taking civil liberties-based action on behalf of humanity, against abject moral bankruptcy and appalling abuses of power by authoritarian regimes.]

"If authoritarianism and dictatorship are to be properly challenged — and if so many resulting crises, including military conflict, poverty and extremism, are to be addressed at their root cause — such dissidents need funding, strategic advice, technical training, attention and solidarity. To turn the tide against repression, people across all industries need to join the movement. Artists, entrepreneurs, technologists, investors, diplomats, students — no matter who you are, you can reach out to a civil society organization at risk and ask how you can help by using your knowledge, resources or skills.

Today, authoritarians rule an increasingly large part of the globe, but the leaders of the free world lack the motivation and gumption to create a new U.N.-style League of Democracies. In the meantime, as individuals living in a free society, we believe it is our moral obligation to take action to expose human rights violations and to use our freedom to help others achieve theirs."

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Raucous Town Hall In Utah Blasts GOP Rep. Chaffetz Over Trump; Huffington Post, February 10, 2017

Mary Papenfuss, Huffington Post; 

Raucous Town Hall In Utah Blasts GOP Rep. Chaffetz Over Trump

[Kip Currier: Even if the U.S. President is exempt from conflict of interest laws, as Rep. Jason Chaffetz asserts below, he ignores a fundamental underpinning of democracy, the rule of law, and good governance: the need for the public's belief in the integrity of such systems. 

To avoid an "air of impropriety" (i.e. perception that a particular action doesn't look "right" or fair)--to promote the U.S. electorate's faith in the integrity of elected officials to not unduly profit from public service--a U.S. President should voluntarily abide by conflict of interest laws and strive for the highest level of ethical conduct.

A related aside about the Judicial Branch, on the "air of impropriety" rationale for voluntary ethical compliance, transparency, and accountability: conflict of interest arguments have been made about the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, who have continually avoided being bound by a formal ethics code and the Code of Conduct for federal judges that applies to every other federal judge. As Lincoln Caplan's 2015 New Yorker article "DOES THE SUPREME COURT NEED A CODE OF CONDUCT?" persuasively posits:

Impartiality is an essential requirement for a judge. But, as Charles Geyh, the legal scholar who directed the A.B.A. study, wrote, “It is not enough that judges be impartial; the public must perceive them to be so.” Whether a judge is on the highest court in the land or on one of the many others, we are much more likely, in a case where his impartiality has been questioned, to view him as impartial if another judge concludes so after conducting an independent appraisal. That’s crucial to the effectiveness of this country’s courts, which makes it crucial to the soundness of American democracy.]

"“Where do you draw a line in the sand?” asked one woman in the audience regarding Trump’s potential conflicts of interest.

“Everyone has to comply with the law,” Chaffetz responded. “You’re really not going to like this part,” again to boos. “The president, under the law, is exempt from the conflict-of-interest laws.”"

Did Kellyanne Conway's plug for Ivanka Trump violate ethics rules? Lawmakers seek ethics probe; ABA Journal, February 9, 2017

Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal; 

Did Kellyanne Conway's plug for Ivanka Trump violate ethics rules? Lawmakers seek ethics probe

"Don Fox, a former general counsel and acting director for the ethics office, called Conway’s statement “jaw-dropping.”

“Conway’s encouragement to buy Ivanka’s stuff would seem to be a clear violation of rules prohibiting misuse of public office for anyone’s private gain,” he told the Washington Post.
Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe agreed with that assessment. “You couldn’t think of a clearer example of violating the ban of using your government position as kind of a walking billboard for products or services offered by a private individual,” he told the New York Times."

Kellyanne Conway's ethics scandal is blatant. Can't Jason Chaffetz see that?; Guardian, February 10, 2017

Lucia Graves, Guardian; 

Kellyanne Conway's ethics scandal is blatant. Can't Jason Chaffetz see that?

 "In making noise but doing nothing, Schweizer and Chaffetz and even the president’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, who said Conway had been “counseled” but refused elaborate at all on what that entailed, are all doing the same thing. They’re doing the minimal amount in hopes the public will forget, as quickly as possible, about what has every appearance of being a gross abuse of the power of political office."

What Would Michelle Obama Do?; Politico, February 11, 2017

Sarah Hurwitz, Politico; What Would Michelle Obama Do?

"We cannot know for sure what is going through the minds of those who have been silent or have responded meekly to such appalling words and actions from the president who is now the standard-bearer for their party. Some might agree with him, but for those who don’t, we can guess it may be something like this: A number of my constituents like Trump, so I better keep my mouth shut. I don’t want to anger the president because he could make my life difficult. Hardly anyone else in the party is sticking their neck out about any of this, so that must mean it’s OK to stay quiet. This is just the price we have to pay to move our agenda forward.

Such words are cyanide for moral courage. They are the enemy of integrity, compassion and common sense. When we say “never again” this is precisely what we mean—that we must never again talk over or talk away the truths we need to speak to, and about, those who misuse power.

During her time as first lady, whether reacting to videotaped boasts about sexual assault—“It is cruel. It’s frightening. And the truth is, it hurts”—or urging us to go high when they go low, Michelle Obama showed us what it means to speak such truths. She verbalized her moral impulses—period."

State-sponsored hackers targeting prominent journalists, Google warns; Politico, February 10, 2017

Daniel Lippman, Politico; 

State-sponsored hackers targeting prominent journalists, Google warns

"Google has warned a number of prominent journalists that state-sponsored hackers are attempting to steal their passwords and break into their inboxes, the journalists tell POLITICO...

Some journalists getting the warnings say they suspect the hackers could be Russians looking to find incriminating emails they could leak to embarrass journalists, either by revealing alleged liberal bias or to expose the sausage-making of D.C. journalism."

Am I Imagining This?; New York Times, February 10, 2017

Roger Cohen, New York Times; 

Am I Imagining This?

"Simon Schama, the British historian, recently tweeted: “Indifference about the distinction between truth and lies is the precondition of fascism. When truth perishes so does freedom.”...

Facts matter. The federal judiciary is pushing back. The administration is leaking. Journalism (no qualifier needed) has never been more important. Truth has not yet perished, but to deny that it is under siege would be to invite disaster."

Shutting down fake news could move us closer to a modern-day ‘1984’; Washington Post, February 10, 2017

Fleming Rose and Jacob Mchangama, Washington Post; Shutting down fake news could move us closer to a modern-day ‘1984’

"It is understandable that liberal democracies are deeply worried about disinformation, which tears at the fabric of pluralistic democratic societies. John Stuart Mill famously argued that free speech would help exchange “error for truth” and create “the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.” Yet this justification weakens considerably if lies and disinformation become indistinguishable from truth. In such an environment, “Democracy will not survive a lack of belief in the possibility of impartial institutions,” political scientist Francis Fukuyama recently wrote.

“Instead, partisan political combat will come to pervade every aspect of life.”
That is indeed a nightmare scenario to be avoided. But using legal measures to counter disinformation is likely to be a cure worse than the disease. One does not need to go back to the Cold War to worry about what happens when governments become the arbiters of truth."

Fake news is 'killing people's minds', says Apple boss Tim Cook; Guardian, February 10, 2017

Kevin Rawlinson, Guardian; 

Fake news is 'killing people's minds', says Apple boss Tim Cook

"Fake news is “killing people’s minds”, Tim Cook, the head of Apple, has said. The technology boss said firms such as his own needed to create tools that would help stem the spread of falsehoods, without impinging on freedom of speech.

Cook also called for governments to lead information campaigns to crack down on fake news in an interview with a British national newspaper. The scourge of falsehoods in mainstream political discourse came to the fore during recent campaigns, during which supporters of each side were accused of promoting misinformation for political gain.

“We are going through this period of time right here where unfortunately some of the people that are winning are the people that spend their time trying to get the most clicks, not tell the most truth,” Cook told the Daily Telegraph. “It’s killing people’s minds, in a way.”

He said: “All of us technology companies need to create some tools that help diminish the volume of fake news. We must try to squeeze this without stepping on freedom of speech and of the press, but we must also help the reader. Too many of us are just in the ‘complain’ category right now and haven’t figured out what to do.”"

Oracle refuses to accept pro-Google “fair use” verdict in API battle; Ars Technica, 2/11/17

David Kravets, Ars Technica; 

Oracle refuses to accept pro-Google “fair use” verdict in API battle

"Google successfully made its case to a jury last year that its use of Java APIs in Android was "fair use." A San Francisco federal jury rejected Oracle's claim that the mobile system infringed Oracle's copyrights.
But Oracle isn't backing down. Late Friday, the company appealed the high-profile verdict to a federal appeals court."