Saturday, July 29, 2017

A Boston firm labeled a ‘patent troll’ by some says it is actually performing a service; Boston Globe, July 29, 2017

Andy Rosen, Boston Globe; A Boston firm labeled a ‘patent troll’ by some says it is actually performing a service

"Whether known by the pejorative “patent troll” or the more plaintiff-friendly “patent assertion entity,” such repeat claimants generally keep a low profile.

Not Blackbird. Verlander and her staff display their pictures, bios, and links to social media on a company website that says Blackbird helps inventors who are outmatched by big companies with little incentive to respond to claims not backed by expensive lawyers.

Verlander sees herself as doing a service to combat rhetoric by what she calls the “infringer lobby,” which seeks to conflate all patent assertion work with the more dubious pursuits of unscrupulous trolls. There are bad actors, she said, on all sides.

“If in the end you can’t reward someone for their invention regardless of whether they make a product, then you’re discouraging people from inventing, and that’s bad,” Verlander said."

Former Ethics Director Says Trump Is Causing A 'Crisis;' Calls For Reforms; NPR, July 28, 2017

Mollie Simon, NPR; Former Ethics Director Says Trump Is Causing A 'Crisis;' Calls For Reforms

"Shaub also wants to amend the Ethics in Government Act to prohibit officials from receiving compensation for the use of their names and their family names while in office — a matter particularly relevant to the Trumps, who hold extensive trademarks and make money from placing their name on properties, such as hotels.

Shaub said the changes he proposes transcend partisan politics.

"Both major political parties have always been incredibly supportive of the government ethics program and neither can claim sole credit for having built it," Shaub said.

He has already found support for his efforts from Republicans, including Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina.

If OGE is not strengthened, Shaub said, Americans risk long-standing ethical norms changing, for the worse.

"Norms are the glue that hold society together," he said.""

The ‘No Guardrails’ Presidency; New York Times, July 28, 2017

Bret Stephens, New York Times; The ‘No Guardrails’ Presidency

"In the meantime, we have a “No Guardrails” [see here] presidency, in which Trump’s contempt for law, procedure and decorum are a license for the behavior of his minions and a model for future American demagogues and their apologists.

Scaramucci’s outburst — to a reporter, no less — is insignificant in itself. But it exactly represents what this administration is and will continue to be, with the blessing of an intellectual class that has done as much to betray honorable conservatism as the liberal intelligentsia of the ’60s did to betray honorable liberalism.

As Scaramucci said, paraphrasing a proverb, “The fish stinks from the head down.” Yes, it does, Mooch. And you’re merely the mouth."

Trump doesn’t really get the difference between rights and wrongs; Washington Post, July 27, 2017

Tom Toles, Washington Post; Trump doesn’t really get the difference between rights and wrongs

"I needed to throw somebody under the bus."

Friday, July 28, 2017

Sally Yates: Protect the Justice Department From President Trump; New York Times, July 28, 2017

Sally Q. Yates, New York Times; Sally Yates: Protect the Justice Department From President Trump

"The strict separation between the Justice Department and the White House applies to even the most mundane of criminal investigations, and nowhere does it matter more than when the investigation reaches into the White House itself. In short, no one at the White House should have anything to do with any decisions about whom or what to investigate or prosecute. Period.

We must do more than rubberneck as we drive past this car crash. We all have a responsibility to protect our Justice Department’s ability to do its job free from interference. The very foundation of our justice system — the rule of law — depends on it."

Justice Department briefing at White House fuels ethics worries; Politico, July 27, 2017

Josh Gerstein, Politico; Justice Department briefing at White House fuels ethics worries

"A briefing a top Justice Department official and top Homeland Security official delivered at the White House Thursday on anti-gang efforts is drawing renewed warnings of blurred ethical lines between the White House and law enforcement."

The worst is yet to come; Washington Post, July 27, 2017

Eugene Robinson, Washington Post; The worst is yet to come

"The Court of Mad King Donald is not a presidency. It is an affliction, one that saps the life out of our democratic institutions, and it must be fiercely resisted if the nation as we know it is to survive.

I wish that were hyperbole. The problem is not just that President Trump is selfish, insecure, egotistical, ignorant and unserious. It is that he neither fully grasps nor minimally respects the concept of honor, without which our governing system falls apart. He believes “honorable” means “obsequious in the service of Trump.” He believes everyone else’s motives are as base as his.

The Trump administration is, indeed, like the court of some accidental monarch who is tragically unsuited for the duties of his throne. However long it persists, we must never allow ourselves to think of the Trump White House as anything but aberrant. We must fight for the norms of American governance lest we forget them in their absence...

Do not become numb to the mad king’s outrages. The worst is yet to come."

WHO WAS SHE? A DNA TEST ONLY OPENED NEW MYSTERIES. How Alice Collins Plebuch's foray into “recreational genomics” upended a family tree.; Washington Post, July 27, 2017

Libby Copeland, Washington Post; WHO WAS SHE? A DNA TEST ONLY OPENED NEW MYSTERIES. How Alice Collins Plebuch's foray into “recreational genomics” upended a family tree

"The dystopian novelist Margaret Atwood is fond of saying that all new technologies have a good side, a bad side, and a “stupid side you hadn’t considered.” Doing DNA testing for fun can carry consequences few of us might anticipate. It requires little investment at the outset, but it has the potential to utterly change our lives."

McCain Got the Credit, But Don't Forget: Collins and Murkowski Killed This Bill; Slate, July 28, 2017

Jeremy Stahl, Slate; McCain Got the Credit, But Don't Forget: Collins and Murkowski Killed This Bill

"Ultimately, McCain swooped in to save the day in dramatic fashion. He deserves the praise he is getting for it. But it was Murkowski and Collins more than anybody that ensured the defeat of Trumpcare, and maybe the survival of Obamacare."

John McCain Defends Health Care Vote As ‘The Right Thing To Do’; Huff Post, July 28, 2017

Alana Horowitz Satlin, Huff Post; John McCain Defends Health Care Vote As ‘The Right Thing To Do’

"McCain told reporters that he thought voting no “was the right thing to do.”"

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Kellyanne Conway: Being Ethical Discourages Serving In Government; Huff Post, July 27, 2017

Marina Fang, Huff Post; Kellyanne Conway: Being Ethical Discourages Serving In Government

"White House counselor Kellyanne Conway on Thursday suggested that filling out financial disclosure forms and having them released to the public discourages qualified people from serving in government ― despite the fact that the procedure is a basic measure of transparency in government...

“There are so many qualified men and women who wanted to serve this president, this administration and their country who have been completely demoralized and completely, I think, disinclined to do so, based on the paperwork that we have to put forward, divesting assets, the different hoops you have to run through,” Conway said. “This White House is transparent and accountable, and we’ve all complied with those rules, but it has disincentivized good men and women. I hope it doesn’t disincentivize Anthony.”"

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

On ethics, Trump is leading America in the wrong direction; CNN, July 26, 2017

Jeffrey D. Sachs, CNN; On ethics, Trump is leading America in the wrong direction
"In a recent speech in Poland, President Donald Trump asked whether the West "has the will to survive." It's a good question, but aimed in the wrong direction. While Trump spoke about foreign aggression, the real threat to the West is the collapse of ethical norms, led by Trump and others like him. America is engulfed in a tsunami of unethical activity, and there is no assurance it has the will to save itself."

The Cruelty and Cynicism of Trump’s Transgender Ban; New Yorker, July 26, 2017

David Remnick, New Yorker; The Cruelty and Cynicism of Trump’s Transgender Ban: The President’s tweets are a naked attempt to divert attention from his scandals.

"Let’s begin with the retrograde cruelty. There are thousands of transgender people already serving among the 1.3 million active-duty members of the military. These are people who have volunteered their service and have potentially put their lives on the line, and yet their President, who managed to come up with a flimsy doctor’s note back in the day, denies them their dignity, their equality. He will not “accept or allow” them in the military. Imagine the scale of this insult...

It is implausible that Trump paid much attention to his highest-ranking generals, or to experts, generally; Secretary of Defense James Mattis has supported transgender individuals joining the military. And the hardly radical Rand Corporation has published an in-depth study refuting the idea that transgender soldiers are somehow expensive, or that they undermine the morale and cohesion of the military over all. Trump’s decision to bar transgender people from the military is pure politics, cheap and cruel politics, a naked attempt to divert attention from his woes, to hold on to support from his base—a base that he believes will cheer his latest attempt to do battle with the secular-humanist coastal élites who are so obsessed with identity politics. (One Administration official told Axios’s Jonathan Swan that the move was intended to force Democrats from Rust Belt states to take “complete ownership of this issue.”) In other words, it is a decision straight out of the Steve Bannon playbook. Cue the organs of the alt-right press.

Trump likes to declare what a “disaster” the military is, how deeply it has fallen into disrepair, and how he will be its salvation. When you begin to consider the meanness of what Trump has done, it is worth remembering him saying that he was “smarter” than the generals on military matters, and that he mocked John McCain’s service in Vietnam because “I like people who weren’t captured.” When you begin to think about the scale of this offense, it is worth remembering Khizr Khan, the Gold Star father who lost a son in Iraq, addressing Trump directly from the lectern of the Democratic National Convention: “You have sacrificed nothing and no one.”"

The Gifted: X-Men TV Series is “About Bigotry” in 2017; Den Of Geek, July 25, 2017

David Crow, Den Of Geek; The Gifted: X-Men TV Series is “About Bigotry” in 2017

"Of all the many, many creations in Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s extensive oeuvre, few have ever proven as potent for allegory and transmutative topicality as the mutants themselves. In other words, no superhero creation has been as fertile for political commentary as the X-Men. This is something that The Gifted, a new Fox network series set in the X-Men universe, is going to expand on in new and challenging ways for 2017. And it’s something the cast is very proud about.

“Yeah, I’m going to say straight-up you guys, our show’s about bigotry,” actress Emma Dumont tells me during an interview for The Gifted after the series’ San Diego Comic-Con panel. “I’m sorry, but we see it in the first scene when Blink’s running for her life and a cop could easily kill her dead with zero consequences, because of prejudice, because of prejudging her for something people are uncomfortable with, that they don’t understand, because people are born with this thing, and that is literally where we live.”"

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Case For Nations To Act On Medicines Access; Intellectual Property Watch, July 23, 2017

William New, Intellectual Property Watch; The Case For Nations To Act On Medicines Access

"A range of speakers, including top health officials from both a developed and developing country, last week laid out the case for why the world’s leaders must now launch a shift in the way medicines all populations need are developed and priced. The need for global collaboration is clear, speakers said, but who will lead?

The 17 July event was titled, “UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Access to Medicines: Advancing Health-Related SDGs through Policy Coherence.” The panel came in the context of the UN High Political Forum on Sustainable Development taking place during the week at the UN headquarters in New York...

Voice of Contention

Speakers ran over time so there was not time for questions. A US delegate in the audience told Intellectual Property Watch afterward that the critical statement by the US on the High-Level Panel from 16 September 2016 “still stands,” arguing that the panel report is “flawed” and is overly narrow."

Trump wants to defang ethics oversight, former ethics chief Walter Shaub says; USA Today, July 25, 2017

Susan Page, USA Today; Trump wants to defang ethics oversight, former ethics chief Walter Shaub says

"[Walter M. Shaub Jr.] told USA TODAY's video newsmaker series that the White House deliberately had leapfrogged over the agency's second-ranking official, chief of staff Shelley Finlayson, in favor of appointing general counsel David Apol as acting director.

"He may fulfill a lifelong ambition of loosening up the ethics program," Shaub said of Apol, saying the two men had disagreed on a series of conflict-of-interest and other questions. He said White House officials had described their relationship with Apol as "cordial."

"You don't want a cordial watchdog," he said. "You want a vigorous watchdog.""

Judge denies demand for privacy assessment on Trump voter fraud data request; Politico, July 24, 2017

Josh Gerstein, Politico; Judge denies demand for privacy assessment on Trump voter fraud data request

"A federal judge has turned down a watchdog group's demand that President Donald Trump's controversial voter fraud commission be forced to conduct a privacy assessment before gathering data on millions of American voters.

In a 35-page opinion Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly denied a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction the Electronic Privacy Information Center sought against the panel formally known as the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity."

Report: Roomba Could Sell Maps of Your Home to Tech Giants; Daily Beast, July 24, 2017

Daily Beast; Report: Roomba Could Sell Maps of Your Home to Tech Giants

"Roomba, a popular brand of robotic vacuum, can make maps of homes it cleans, Reuters reports. And Roomba’s parent company, iRobot, is reportedly considering a sale to tech giants like Amazon, Apple, or Alphabet, which could buy maps of Roomba-owning homes. The data would be used in smart home technology but could also raise privacy concerns for Roomba owners who do not want their data sold. iRobot’s CEO told Reuters that it would not sell customers’ data without their consent."

We Lose Privacy If We Believe This Fiction; Forbes, July 25, 2017

Frank Miniter, Forbes; We Lose Privacy If We Believe This Fiction

"In this speeding blur of an age we are losing our private lives to a narrative telling us to give up privacy for perceived security. All around are foreshadows of the world Ray Bradbury described in Fahrenheit 451 and that George Orwell warned us of in 1984, but too many of us are having a hard time seeing beyond a false narrative that many in the Washington establishment, from much of the political class to the intelligence agencies, are peddling to empower themselves."

Her dilemma: Do I let my employer microchip me?; Washington Post, July 25, 2017

Danielle Paquette, Washington Post; Her dilemma: Do I let my employer microchip me?

"Melissa Timmins has a week to decide: Does she keep her hand to herself, or does she let her employer microchip it?

The implant is the size of a grain of rice. It would slip under the skin between her forefinger and thumb. It would sting for only a second. Then she could unlock doors or log onto her computer with a wave. Her flesh could hold her credit card, her medical records, her passport . . .

“At first, I thought it was a joke,” she said.

Timmins, 46, works in sales at Three Square Market, a Wisconsin company that makes vending-machine software. The offer came after her boss returned from a business trip in Stockholm, where he encountered Biohax Sweden, a start-up that aims to endow body parts with technological power.

On Aug. 1, Three Square Market will throw a “chip party,” where employees can insert the $300 microchips, provided free from management. About 50 of 85 employees are expected to accept the company’s present. (Chips and salsa will be served.)

The Radio Frequency ID chips, as they’re called, could also function beyond the office."

Former DOJ Compliance Counsel Hui Chen To Keynote Convercent's Converge17: "Ethics at the Center"; Press Release, MarketWired, July 25, 2017

Press Release, MarketWired; Former DOJ Compliance Counsel Hui Chen To Keynote Convercent's Converge17: "Ethics at the Center"
Annual event brings together ethics and compliance industry leaders, analysts, and customers including Kimberly-Clark, Airbnb, and Under Armour

"Convercent, the leading cloud platform for ethics and compliance, today announced former Department of Justice compliance counsel Hui Chen will keynote its annual industry event, Converge17, taking place October 3-5 in Denver. Chen made headlines when she attributed her June DOJ resignation to the ethical and compliance misconduct of the current Presidential administration, stating she could no longer hold companies to standards the White House was "not living up to." Now an ethics and compliance activist, Chen will speak at Converge17 about the critical importance of driving ethics to the center of business.

"I believe there is nothing more important than protecting and promoting the ethical values of our society, but that's not possible unless corporations and business leaders instill ethical values at their core," said Chen. "There's still much work to be done when it comes to taking corporate ethics and compliance to the next level. I'm looking forward to participating in Converge17 because this community is focused on the same mission: cultivating ethics and values at the center of their companies."

Convercent's second annual industry conference brings together business leaders, ethics professionals, and compliance experts from across industries. The three days of keynotes, interactive breakout sessions, expert panels and networking all tie back to Converge17's theme: "Ethics at the Center." Attendees will not only discuss strategies and opportunities for building strong corporate ethics, values, and compliance, but also how to tie those efforts directly to their business goals and see the impact on the bottom line.

"Companies are increasingly realizing that ethics are crucial for sustainable business. It's never been more apparent that the brands prioritizing ethics and values today will be the ones who succeed in the long run," said Convercent CEO and Co-founder Patrick Quinlan. "By bringing together a community of values-driven experts and business leaders at Converge17, we will help organizations successfully navigate this global shift towards ethics and inspire even more to get on board."

Speakers include Former DOJ Compliance Counsel Hui Chen, Convercent CEO and Co-Founder Patrick Quinlan, Kimberly-Clark Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer Kurt Drake, Convercent Chief Product Officer and Co-Founder Philip Winterburn. Sessions include:

  • Bringing Your Values to Life
  • Supporting Ethics in Disruptive Industries (featuring Airbnb and Under Armour)
  • The ROI of Ethics
  • The Ethical Supply Chain
  • Developing a Culture of Trust
To register or find more information on the event, visit"

Cady Noland Sues Three Galleries for Copyright Infringement Over Disavowed Log Cabin Sculpture; artnetnews, July 21, 2017

Julia Halperin & Eileen Kinsella, artnetnews; Cady Noland Sues Three Galleries for Copyright Infringement Over Disavowed Log Cabin Sculpture

"How much can you conserve an artwork before it becomes something entirely different?

This question is at the heart of a lawsuit filed in New York earlier this week by the artist Cady Noland. She claims that a collector and a group of dealers infringed her copyright by hiring a conservator to repair her sculpture Log Cabin (1990) without consulting her. The repair, Noland says, went way beyond the bounds of normal conservation."

Monday, July 24, 2017

After Supreme Court Decision, People Race To Trademark Racially Offensive Words; NPR, July 21, 2017

Ailsa Chang, NPR; After Supreme Court Decision, People Race To Trademark Racially Offensive Words

"CHANG: I wondered about the intent, too, so I set off to find this other guy. And he turned out to be a patent lawyer in Alexandria, Va., Steve Maynard.

Why swastikas?

STEVE MAYNARD: Because the term has an incendiary meaning behind it.

CHANG: Yeah.

MAYNARD: And it's currently used as a symbol of hate. And if we can own the brand, we will be able to control the sale of the brand and the use of the brand as well.

CHANG: Oh, so you're trying to basically grab the swastika so real, actual racists and haters can't grab the swastika as a...

MAYNARD: Correct.

CHANG: ...Registered trademark.

MAYNARD: Correct.

CHANG: But there's a catch. Maynard can't just get the trademark, put it in a drawer and make sure nobody else uses it. To keep a trademark, he actually needs to sell a swastika product. So he will - blankets, shirts, flags. But he plans to make these products so expensive he's hoping no one will ever buy them."

Trump Fills Top Job at Government Ethics Office With a Temporary Appointment; New York Times, July 21, 2017

Eric Lipton, New York Times; 

Trump Fills Top Job at Government Ethics Office With a Temporary Appointment

"President Trump picked a new leader for the Office of Government Ethics on Friday, naming the agency’s general counsel, David J. Apol, as the acting director.

By making the appointment temporary and avoiding Senate confirmation hearings, Mr. Trump is able, at least for now, to avoid an extended public debate before lawmakers about the role of the ethics office during the Trump administration."

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Whistleblower at the CIA (2017) by Melvin A. Goodman

Kip Currier: While at Politics & Prose Bookstore in Chevy Chase, Maryland this afternoon, I was able to catch the tail-end of Melvin A. Goodman's very engaging talk and Q & A with the audience about his 2017 book, Whistleblower at the CIA: An Insider's Account of the Politics of Intelligence (review by Publishers Weekly here). Goodman (in the portion of his talk that I heard) made some interesting historical points about secrecy, national security, transparency, and accountability, spanning the George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump administrations.

On a related note, the Washington Post's Elizabeth Svoboda's  (July 13, 2017) What makes whistleblowers speak out while others stay silent about wrongdoing explores a number of high profile, high stakes whistleblowers within the worlds of amateur sports, government agencies, and corporations.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Should Open Access And Open Data Come With Open Ethics?; Forbes, July 20, 2017

Kalev Leetaru, Forbes; Should Open Access And Open Data Come With Open Ethics?

"In the end, the academic community must decide if “openness” and “transparency” apply only to the final outputs of our scholarly institutions, with individual researchers, many from fields without histories of ethical prereview, are exclusively empowered to decide what constitutes ethical and moral conduct and just how much privacy should be permitted in our digital society, or if we should add “open ethics” to our focus on open access and open data and open universities up to public discourse on just what the future of “big data” research should look like."

Thursday, July 20, 2017

No, President Trump, Sessions’s recusal is not ‘very unfair’ to you. This is Ethics 101.; Washington Post, July 20, 2017

Ruth Marcus, Washington Post; No, President Trump, Sessions’s recusal is not ‘very unfair’ to you. This is Ethics 101.

"So Sessions’s situation and the question of whether he could oversee the Russia investigation doesn’t present a close call. As Sessions told the Senate Intelligence Committee last month, “That regulation states, in effect, that department employees should not participate in investigations of a campaign if they have served as a campaign advisor.” In other words, it’s a no-brainer, at least if you understand basic concepts of conflict of interest. What Trump perceives as betrayal is Ethics 101."

How the Cleveland Clinic grows healthier while its neighbors stay sick; Politico, July 17, 2017

Dan Diamond, Politico; How the Cleveland Clinic grows healthier while its neighbors stay sick

"There’s an uneasy relationship between the Clinic — the second-biggest employer in Ohio and one of the greatest hospitals in the world — and the community around it. Yes, the hospital is the pride of Cleveland, and its leaders readily tout reports that the Clinic delivers billions of dollars in value to the state. It’s even “attracting companies that will come and grow up around us,” said Toby Cosgrove, the longtime CEO, pointing to IBM’s decision to lease a building on the edge of campus. “That will be great [for] jobs and economic infusion in this area.”

But it’s also a tax-exempt organization that, like many hospitals, fought to preserve its not-for-profit status in the years leading up to the Affordable Care Act. As a result, it doesn’t have to pay tens of millions of dollars in taxes, but it is supposed to fulfill a loosely defined commitment to reinvest in its community.

That community is poor, unhealthy and — in the words of one national neighborhood-ranking website — “barely livable.”"

'We are all mutants now': the trouble with genetic testing; Guardian, July 18, 2017

Carrie Arnold, Guardian; 'We are all mutants now': the trouble with genetic testing

"To get a better handle on all the variation in humans, scientists are going to need to sequence tens of millions of people. And the only way to ever get these kinds of large numbers is by sharing data. But regardless of how good the databases get, and how many people have their genomes sequenced, uncertainty will never completely go away."

Israeli student admits stealing items from Auschwitz for art project; Guardian, July 19, 2017

Peter Beaumont, Guardian; Israeli student admits stealing items from Auschwitz for art project

"“I felt it was something I had to do. Millions of people were murdered based on the moral laws of a certain country, under a certain regime. And if these are the laws, I can go there and act according to my own laws. The statement I’m making here is that laws are determined by humans, and that morality is something that changes from time to time and from culture to culture.

“These are the things I want to deal with. I am a third generation to the Holocaust, but I’m not saying I’m allowed to do it because my grandfather was in Auschwitz. I’m simply asking the questions. I’m concerned that after all the survivors are gone, the Holocaust will turn into a myth, something that cannot be perceived.”

Her academic supervisor, Israel prize-winning artist Michal Na’aman, appeared to go some way towards justifying Bides’s action in the same publication."

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

How to make sure we all benefit when nonprofits patent technologies like CRISPR; The Conversation via The Associated Press via WTOP, July 19, 2017

The Conversation via The Associated Press via WTOP; How to make sure we all benefit when nonprofits patent technologies like CRISPR

"(The Conversation is an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts.)
Shobita Parthasarathy, University of Michigan
(THE CONVERSATION) Universities and other nonprofit research institutions are under increasing fire about their commitments to the public interest. In return for tax-exempt status, their work is supposed to benefit society.
But are they really operating in the public interest when they wield their patent rights in ways that constrict research? Or when potentially lifesaving inventions are priced so high that access is limited? The public partially underwrites nonprofit discoveries via tax breaks and isn’t seeing a lot of benefit in return.
Questions like these arose recently in the case of CRISPR, the promising new gene-editing technology. After patenting it, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard sold the exclusive right to develop CRISPR-based therapies to its sister company Editas Medicine. Critics worry that this monopoly could limit important research and result in exorbitant prices on emerging treatments."

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Walter Shaub: How to Restore Government Ethics in the Trump Era; New York Times, July 18, 2017

Walter M. Shaub Jr., New York Times; Walter Shaub: How to Restore Government Ethics in the Trump Era

"The Office of Government Ethics needs greater authority to obtain information from the executive branch, including the White House. The White House and agencies lacking inspectors general need investigative oversight, which should be coordinated with O.G.E. The ethics office needs more independence, including authority to communicate directly with Congress on budgetary and legislative matters. Because we can no longer rely on presidents to comply voluntarily with ethical norms, we need new laws to address their conflicts of interest, their receipt of compensation for the use of their names while in office, nepotism and the release of tax forms. Transparency should be increased through laws mandating creation and release of documents related to divestitures, recusals, waivers and training. Disclosure requirements can be refined and the revolving door tightened. These changes would give O.G.E. the tools it needs to address the current challenges and, perhaps more importantly, reinforce for presidents the importance of setting a strong ethical tone from the top."

California Vote on Internet Privacy Could Have Big Impact on Other States; Consumer Reports, July 17, 2017

Allen St. John, Consumer Reports; California Vote on Internet Privacy Could Have Big Impact on Other States

"What’s at stake for consumers? The bedrock question of whether the company you pay for internet service can boost revenues by selling or otherwise sharing information on what you do online.

This privacy battle is likely to affect consumers across the country, regardless of whether they live in California or one of the 20 or so other states considering expanded data privacy protections."

The moving target of ethics; Idaho State Journal, July 17, 2017

Jeff Hough, Idaho State Journal; The moving target of ethics

"An easy way to determine ethical behavior is to ask, “Who benefits?” If actions benefit an individual more than the whole, the behavior is unethical. It is unethical regardless of viewpoint because the behavior is selfish. Unselfish behavior is rarely unethical.

The essential part of ethics is to maintain your integrity and act accordingly as situations change. As a person grows and matures, perspectives can and should change. That is part of the growth process. Yet, in the end, the question of does this specific end justify this specific means holds true. That is what ethics is all about."

Major German Universities Cancel Elsevier Contracts; The Scientist, July 17, 2017

Diana Kwon, The Scientist; Major German Universities Cancel Elsevier Contracts

"In Germany, the fight for open access and favorable pricing for journals is getting heated. At the end of last month (June 30), four major academic institutions in Berlin announced that they would not renew their subscriptions with the Dutch publishing giant Elsevier once they end this December. Then on July 7, nine universities in Baden-Württemberg, another large German state, also declared their intention to cancel their contracts with the publisher at the end of 2017.
These institutions join around 60 others across the country that allowed their contracts to expire last year.
The decision to cancel subscriptions was made in order to put pressure on Elsevier during ongoing negotiations. “Nobody wants Elsevier to starve—they should be paid fairly for their good service,” says Ursula Flitner, the head of the medical library at Charité–Berlin University of Medicine. “The problem is, we no longer see what their good service is.”
Charité–Berlin University of Medicine is joined by Humboldt University of Berlin, Free University of Berlin, and Technical University of Berlin in letting its Elsevier subscriptions lapse.
“The general issue is that large parts of the research done is publicly funded, the type setting and quality control [peer review] is done by people who are paid by the public, [and] the purchase of the journals is also paid by the public,” says Christian Thomsen, the president of the Technical University of Berlin. “So it’s a bit too much payment.”
Project DEAL, an alliance of German institutions led by the Hochschulrektorenkonferenz (German Rectors’ Conference), has been working to establish a new nationwide licensing agreement with three major scientific publishers, Elsevier, Springer Nature, and Wiley, since 2016."

How Trump Broke the Office of Government Ethics; New Yorker, July 14, 2017

Ryan Lizza, New Yorker; How Trump Broke the Office of Government Ethics

"While many Administration officials took Shaub’s advice, Trump’s refusal to voluntarily adhere to traditional conflict-of-interest rules, and Shaub’s repeated fights with the White House over ethics agreements and transparency, convinced Shaub that Trump was trampling the norms that the last several Administrations voluntarily maintained. “With the White House appointees and other things the White House has been involved in, they stripped all the meat off those bones and it’s just the skeleton,” he said.

In Shaub’s experience, most of the time he could convince reluctant officials in the George W. Bush and Barack Obama Administrations to take actions that went beyond statutes by appealing to their sense of ethics, going to their superiors, or, in extreme circumstances, going to the press.

“It’s been a very nuanced art that is based more on persuasion than actual legal authority,” he said, “but there were so many times that I could call up the Bush or Obama White House and I could say, ‘This just isn’t working,’ or ‘These guys won’t do what I say,’ and they would intervene and break the logjam and usually come down on my side and push people to do things.”

With the Trump Administration, it has been different. “I don’t have that in this Administration. And I guess what is being exposed is the emperor has no clothes,” Shaub told me. “To have O.G.E. criticize you would have been a career-ender in the olden days—now it’s just lost in the noise.”

The depressing lesson Shaub learned is that in the Trump era, with a politically polarized electorate and media, the shaming effect of the government’s top ethics watchdog going public no longer had the same impact. Shaub used Twitter, a press conference, and an extremely transparent foia policy to shame the White House on several major issues, but he rarely convinced Trump and his top White House aides to do more than the bare minimum. And as the Administration has done on so many other occasions, it vehemently denied that it was doing anything wrong.

It didn’t break the ethics laws—it broke the ethical norms."

The Trumps and the Truth; Wall Street Journal, July 17, 2017

Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal; The Trumps and the Truth

"Even Donald Trump might agree that a major reason he won the 2016 election is because voters couldn’t abide Hillary Clinton’s legacy of scandal, deception and stonewalling. Yet on the story of Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, Mr. Trump and his family are repeating mistakes that doomed Mrs. Clinton."


July 17, 2017

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