Research

Apple Explores Using An iPhone, iPad To Power a Laptop

Slashdot: Your Rights Online - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 20:45
According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple has filed a patent for an "Electronic accessory device." It describes a "thin" accessory that contains traditional laptop hardware like a large display, physical keyboard, GPU, ports and more -- all of which is powered by an iPhone or iPad. The device powering the hardware would fit into a slot built into the accessory. AppleInsider reports: While the accessory can take many forms, the document for the most part remains limited in scope to housings that mimic laptop form factors. In some embodiments, for example, the accessory includes a port shaped to accommodate a host iPhone or iPad. Located in the base portion, this slot might also incorporate a communications interface and a means of power transfer, perhaps Lightning or a Smart Connector. Alternatively, a host device might transfer data and commands to the accessory via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or other wireless protocol. Onboard memory modules would further extend an iOS device's capabilities. Though the document fails to delve into details, accessory memory would presumably allow an iPhone or iPad to write and read app data. In other cases, a secondary operating system or firmware might be installed to imitate a laptop environment or store laptop-ready versions of iOS apps. In addition to crunching numbers, a host device might also double as a touch input. For example, an iPhone positioned below the accessory's keyboard can serve as the unit's multitouch touchpad, complete with Force Touch input and haptic feedback. Coincidentally, the surface area of a 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus is very similar to that of the enlarged trackpad on Apple's new MacBook Pro models. Some embodiments also allow for the accessory to carry an internal GPU, helping a host device power the larger display or facilitate graphics rendering not possible on iPhone or iPad alone. Since the accessory is technically powered by iOS, its built-in display is touch-capable, an oft-requested feature for Mac. Alternatively, certain embodiments have an iPad serving as the accessory's screen, with keyboard, memory, GPU and other operating guts located in the attached base portion. This latter design resembles a beefed up version of Apple's Smart Case for iPad.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Research

Social Media Info Guide to Tumblr

beSpacific - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 19:04

The Social Media Information Blog Investigator’s Guide to Tumblr – “Founded in 2007,  Tumblr is a microblogging and social networking website. The platform, which was acquired by Yahoo in 2013, allows users to share text, images, quotes, links, video, audio, and chats. Tumblr’s appeal is that it allows users to be creative and build independent content on a personalized page with little effort. How does Tumblr work? A large part of Tumblr’s appeal to its users is the simplicity and ubiquity of the features it offers. In fact, they claim on their website that “Tumblr is so easy to use that it’s hard to explain.” Despite that statement, we will give it a try anyway. Registering for Tumblr requires only a valid email address. After creating a username & password, users are provided a URL for their blog which is associated with “.tumblr.com.” Depending on how the user wishes to utilize Tumblr, they are now able to follow other users and post original content to their tumblelog. Social interactions between users may vary widely. While there is certainly overlap, most Tumblr users fall into one of two categories:

  1. Social Networking – These users are primarily interested in using Tumblr to curate content. Their usage is concentrated on interacting with other users and the content they’ve shared – commenting and connecting.
  2. Self-Publishing – These users value Tumblr’s low barrier to entry for microblogging. Their activities typically focus on publishing content to their personal pages.

Both categories of user share potentially valuable information on Tumblr. Investigators should be aware of the differences and temper their expectations based on which grouping their subject aligns themselves…”

Categories: Research

Using data and design to compare corruption and transparency across 50 U.S. states

beSpacific - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 18:48

Storybench article: “With Senate confirmation hearings for President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet picks happening this week, questions of conflicts of interest and financial disclosure are top of mind. Northeastern University journalism professors John Wihbey and Mike Beaudet, along with Information Design and Visualization professor Pedro Cruz and graduate student Irene de la Torre Arenas, recently published an analysis and visualization comparing the extent of corruption and transparency at the state level. “The State Financial Disclosure Project,” which was referenced today in The Washington Post and last October in an op-ed in The New York Times, marries the complex investigation of accountability in state politics with the creative, representational side of information design. “What we did was try and show the relationship between transparency and corruption across the 50 U.S. states,” says Wihbey, who together with Cruz sat down with Storybench to discuss the project’s origins and development…”

Categories: Research

The Compulsive Patent Hoarding Disorder

Slashdot: Your Rights Online - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 18:40
An anonymous reader shares an article: It takes money to make money. CSIR-Tech, the commercialisation arm of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), realised this the hard way when it had to shut down its operations for lack of funds. CSIR has filed more than 13,000 patents -- 4,500 in India and 8,800 abroad -- at a cost of $7.6 million over the last three years. Across years, that's a lot of taxpayers' money, which in turn means that the closing of CSIR-Tech is a tacit admission that its work has been an expensive mistake -- a mistake that we tax-paying citizens have paid for. Recently, CSIR's Director-General Girish Sahni claimed that most of CSIR's patents were "bio-data patents", filed solely to enhance the value of a scientist's resume and that the extensive expenditure of public funds spent in filing and maintaining patents was unviable. CSIR claims to have licensed a percentage of its patents, but has so far failed to show any revenue earned from the licences. This compulsive hoarding of patents has come at a huge cost. If CSIR-Tech was privately run, it would have been shut down long ago. Acquiring Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) comes out of our blind adherence to the idea of patenting as an index of innovation. The private sector commercializes patents through the licensing of technology and the sale of patented products to recover the money spent in R&D. But when the funds for R&D come from public sources, mimicking the private sector may not be the best option.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Research

Feds: We're Pulling Data From 100 Phones Seized During Trump Inauguration

Slashdot: Your Rights Online - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 17:20
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: In new filings, prosecutors told a court in Washington, DC that within the coming weeks, they expect to extract all data from the seized cellphones of more than 100 allegedly violent protesters arrested during the inauguration of President Donald Trump. Prosecutors also said that this search is validated by recently issued warrants. The court filing, which was first reported Wednesday by BuzzFeed News, states that approximately half of the protestors prosecuted with rioting or inciting a riot had their phones taken by authorities. Prosecutors hope to uncover any evidence relevant to the case. Under normal judicial procedures, the feds have vowed to share such data with defense attorneys and to delete all irrelevant data. "All of the Rioter Cell Phones were locked, which requires more time-sensitive efforts to try to obtain the data," Jennifer Kerkhoff, an assistant United States attorney, wrote. Such phone extraction is common by law enforcement nationwide using hardware and software created by Cellebrite and other similar firms. Pulling data off phones is likely more difficult under fully updated iPhones and Android devices.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Research

Senate Votes To Kill FCC's Broadband Privacy Rules

Slashdot: Your Rights Online - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 13:40
The Senate voted 50-48 along party lines Thursday to repeal an Obama-era law that requires internet service providers to obtain permission before tracking what customers look at online and selling that information to other companies. PCWorld adds: The Senate's 50-48 vote Thursday on a resolution of disapproval would roll back Federal Communications Commission rules requiring broadband providers to receive opt-in customer permission to share sensitive personal information, including web-browsing history, geolocation, and financial details with third parties. The FCC approved the regulations just five months ago. Thursday's vote was largely along party lines, with Republicans voting to kill the FCC's privacy rules and Democrats voting to keep them. The Senate's resolution, which now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration, would allow broadband providers to collect and sell a "gold mine of data" about customers, said Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat. Kate Tummarello, writing for EFF: [This] would be a crushing loss for online privacy. ISPs act as gatekeepers to the Internet, giving them incredible access to records of what you do online. They shouldn't be able to profit off of the information about what you search for, read about, purchase, and more without your consent. We can still kill this in the House: call your lawmakers today and tell them to protect your privacy from your ISP.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Research

Australia Shelves Copyright Safe Harbor For Google, Facebook

Slashdot: Your Rights Online - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 13:20
In a surprise setback for companies such as Google and Facebook that leverage user-generated content, Australia has dropped plans to extend its copyright safe harbor provisions. From a report: In a blow to Google, Facebook and others, the government dropped the amendments before they were due to be introduced to parliament yesterday. That came as a big surprise, particularly as Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had given the proposals his seal of approval just last week. "Provisions relating to safe harbor were removed from the bill before its introduction to enable the government to further consider feedback received on this proposal whilst not delaying the passage of other important reforms," Communications Minister Mitch Fifield said in a statement. There can be little doubt that intense lobbying from entertainment industry groups played their part, with a series of articles published in News Corp-owned The Australian piling on the pressure in favor of rightsholders.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Research

WikiLeaks' New Dump Shows How The CIA Allegedly Hacked Macs and iPhones Almost a Decade Ago

Slashdot: Your Rights Online - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 12:00
WikiLeaks said on Thursday morning it will release new documents it claims are from the Central Intelligence Agency which show the CIA had the capability to bug iPhones and Macs even if their operating systems have been deleted and replaced. From a report on Motherboard: "These documents explain the techniques used by CIA to gain 'persistenc'' on Apple Mac devices, including Macs and iPhones and demonstrate their use of EFI/UEFI and firmware malware," WikiLeaks stated in a press release. EFI and UEFI is the core firmware for Macs, the Mac equivalent to the Bios for PCs. By targeting the UEFI, hackers can compromise Macs and the infection persists even after the operating system is re-installed. The documents are mostly from last decade, except a couple that are dated 2012 and 2013. While the documents are somewhat dated at this point, they show how the CIA was perhaps ahead of the curve in finding new ways to hacking and compromising Macs, according to Pedro Vilaca, a security researcher who's been studying Apple computers for years. Judging from the documents, Vilaca told Motherboard in an online chat, it "looks like CIA were very early adopters of attacks on EFI."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Research

Brookings – Mortality and morbidity in the 21st century

beSpacific - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 11:40

“The states with the highest mortality rates from drugs, alcohol and suicide, among white non-Hispanics aged 45-54, are geographically scattered. In 2000, the epidemic was centered in the southwest. By the mid-2000s it had spread to Appalachia, Florida, and the west coast. Today, it’s country-wide. The authors suggest that the increases in deaths of despair are accompanied by a measurable deterioration in economic and social wellbeing, which has become more pronounced for each successive birth cohort. Marriage rates and labor force participation rates fall between successive birth cohorts, while reports of physical pain, and poor health and mental health rise. Case and Deaton document an accumulation of pain, distress, and social dysfunction in the lives of working class whites that took hold as the blue-collar economic heyday of the early 1970s ended, and continued through the 2008 financial crisis and the subsequent slow recovery.”

Categories: Research

Live blog of confirmation hearing (Day Four)

SCOTUS Blog - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 09:19

We live-blogged the third day of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing on the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Join us.

The post Live blog of confirmation hearing (Day Four) appeared first on SCOTUSblog.

Categories: Research

Today in OpenGov: Anchorage’s new website, NOAA’s chief data officer, House transparency proposals, and more

Sunlight Foundation - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 08:44

In Today's edition, we check out Anchorage, Alaska's new website, learn about a bump in government information requests at Twitter, keep up on the latest from President Trump's Washington, spend some time with the House Oversight Committee, and more…

States and cities
 
  • The City of Anchorage, Alaska's new open data website is "changing the way city departments view data & its role in governance." The data portal is part of a larger effort by the city to embrace technology and innovation. The city has also hired a chief innovation officer, worked with Sunlight and the What Works Cities initiative on their open data policy, and secured help from Code for America. (Government Technology)
  • Will the Sunshine State revise its constitution in the Sunlight? A 37 member commission has been put together to propose changes to Florida's state constitution. It's draft rules are raising concerns among open government advocates. "Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation, is asking the the Constitution Revision Commission to amend its proposed rules to bring the commission into line with existing law regarding open meetings and public records." (Bradenton Herald via NFOIC)
Trumpland
 
  • The future is unclear for We The People petition site. "Want the White House to tell you whether or not it’s pardoning a whistleblower? Or take a position on modifying the technology you own? Or explain why America can’t build a Death Star? For the past six years, you could do all these things through We the People, an imperfect but valuable petition system that gave ordinary people a direct line to the president. But we’re over two months into the Trump administration, and it’s not clear whether the system is still active, or what its future holds." (The Verge)
  • Manafort may have made millions working on plan that would "greatly benefit the Putin government".  Documents revealed yesterday indicate that Paul Manafort, who served as President Trump's campaign manager last summer, "proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and former Soviet republics to benefit President Vladimir Putin's government…" and eventually signed a contract worth $10 million per year to work with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska from 2006 until at least 2009. The disclosures — the latest in a stream related to Manafort's dealings in Russia and Eastern Europe — "come as Trump campaign advisers are the subject of an FBI probe and two congressional investigations, and they appear to guarantee that Manafort will be sought as a key witness in upcoming hearings."  (Associated Press)
  • Mike Flynn didn't sign ethics pledge during brief White House Tenure. The pledge imposes a five year ban on federal appointees lobbying former colleagues and a lifetime ban on lobbying on behalf of foreign governments. This news "comes as the White House fields questions over mechanisms for enforcing the pledge, raising questions about the processes in place for ensuring compliance with the president’s own ethics rules." (Daily Beast)
  • NOAA's new chief data officer has a collaborative approach to open data. Despite potential budget cuts at the agency Ed Kearns is optimistic about NOAA's "very strong data culture" and has "plans to focus on working with other federal agencies and the private sector on making sure NOAA data is useful." (Nextgov)
Elsewhere in Washington
 
  • House Oversight Committee tackles transparency bills. This morning the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will hold a hearing entitled "Legislative Proposals for Fostering Transparency." (House Oversight) Hudson Hollister of the Data Coalition will be on hand to discuss the OPEN Government Data Act, legislation that Sunlight strongly supports.
  • Lawmakers express bipartisan concern about FBI's facial recognition programs. "The FBI has expanded its access to photo databases and facial recognition technology to support its investigations. Lawmakers, however, have voiced a deep mistrust in the bureau's ability to protect those images of millions of American citizens and properly follow regulations relating to transparency."  (Federal Computer Week)
  • More agencies than expected may fail to meet email records management goals. "Early self-reporting suggests the National Archives and Records Administration overestimated how many agencies would hit a governmentwide 2016 email management goal." (Federal Computer Week)
Around the World
 
  • Governments requesting more information than ever from Twitter, but growth rate slows. "Twitter saw a 7 percent global increase in government information requests during the last half of 2016, a new company transparency report revealed on Tuesday." A new category revealed that governments target journalists 88 times during the covered period. (The Hill)
  • Open Government Partnership must focus on delivering real public service benefits to citizens. "One of the central themes of the Paris Summit was the need for OGP and open government to deliver real benefits to the lives of citizens.  Over the next five years, OGP’s success will not be measured by the number of new countries or commitments, but by the benefits it brings to people and communities." (Open Government Partnership)

 

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Categories: Research

Thursday round-up

SCOTUS Blog - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 07:36

Yesterday the court heard oral argument in two cases. The first was County of Los Angeles v. Mendez, a Fourth Amendment case stemming from a police search that resulted in a shooting. Ryan Lockman discusses the case in an interview on WNYC’s The Takeaway. Yesterday’s second argument was in Water Splash v. Menon, which involves service of process under the Hague Service Convention.

The court also issued three opinions yesterday. In Czyzewski v. Jevic Holding Corporation, the court held 6-2 that structured bankruptcy dismissals must follow priority rules unless creditors consent. Daniel Bussel analyzes the opinion for this blog. At his eponymous blog, Ross Runkel writes that in “sweeping terms, the Court rejected the notion that there could be ‘rare cases’ in which courts could find ‘sufficient reasons’ to disregard priorities,” and warns that all “bankruptcy lawyers will need to pay close attention to this case.” In Star Athletica, LLC v. Varsity Brands, Inc., a 6-2 court held that a feature of a useful article is copyrightable if it can be perceived as a separately protectable work. Ronald Mann has this blog’s opinion analysis. In The National Law Journal (subscription or registration required), Tony Mauro reports that the opinion “included four pages of colored drawings and photographs—three of them inserted by dissenting Justice Stephen Breyer—as well as 10 pages of reproduced copyright registration forms,” noting that the court “rarely illustrates its decisions,” but that “when it does, the images can draw criticism as shiny distractions that distort or confuse the facts of the case.”

In Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, a unanimous court ruled that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires a school to offer an “individualized education program” reasonably calculated to allow the student to progress in the child’s circumstances. Coverage of the decision comes from Emma Brown and Ann Marimow in The Washington Post, who report that the court “raised the bar for the educational benefits owed to millions of children with disabilities in one of the most significant special-education cases to reach the high court in decades.” In The Wall Street Journal, Jess Bravin reports that although “the specific decision overruled was decided in 2015, the phrase the justices rejected derives from a 2008 ruling by Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, who had been defending that very decision at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing when word of Chief Justice Roberts’s opinion reached the Hart Senate Office Building.” At Education Week, Mark Walsh covers the decision, and its ripple effect at the Gorsuch hearing, here and here. At Syracuse Law, Arlene Kantor discusses the decision, concluding that because the court has put “school districts (and lower courts)” “on notice that it is not simply pre-Endrew business as usual,” the decision is “a step forward – not a huge step, but one that moves us forward, nonetheless.” Jim Gerl takes a close look at the decision at the Special Education Law Blog.

Yesterday the Senate Judiciary Committee conducted the third day of its hearing on the Gorsuch nomination. Andrew Hamm collected early coverage of and commentary on the proceedings for this blog. Additional coverage comes from Nina Totenberg at NPR, Richard Wolf of USA Today here and here, Adam Liptak, Charlie Savage, Matt Flegenheimer and Carl Hulse in The New York Times, Jess Bravin in The Wall Street Journal, Henry Gass in The Christian Science Monitor, Ken Jost at Jost on Justice, Tony Mauro in The National Law Journal (subscription or registration required), and Andrew Rafferty at NBC News. Commentary comes from the editorial board of The Washington Post, E.J. Dionne at The Washington Post, Michelangelo Signorile at The Huffington Post, Paul Collins and Lori Ringhand at Slate, Seth Davis at PrawfsBlawg, Rick Hasen at the Election Law Blog, and Carolyn Shapiro at the ACS Blog.

Briefly:

  • At the Cato Institute’s Cato at Liberty blog, Thomas Berry discusses Tuesday’s decision in National Labor Relations Board v. SW General, Inc., in which the court held that someone nominated for a Senate-confirmed position may not serve in that position in an acting capacity, calling the ruling “a double victory, both for the separation of powers between the president and Senate and for textualism.”

Remember, we rely exclusively on our readers to send us links for our round-up.  If you have or know of a recent (published in the last two or three days) article, post, or op-ed relating to the Court that you’d like us to consider for inclusion in the round-up, please send it to roundup [at] scotusblog.com.

The post Thursday round-up appeared first on SCOTUSblog.

Categories: Research

Opinion analysis: Bankruptcy priority rules may not be evaded in Chapter 11 structured dismissals

SCOTUS Blog - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 06:38

Czyzewski v. Jevic Holding Corp. is the latest battleground in a 150-year struggle over whether senior creditors whose liens exhaust a bankruptcy estate, and junior creditors or equity holders with control over the bankruptcy proceeding, can combine to use bankruptcy processes to implement a division of value that skips over otherwise out-of-the-money intervening creditors over their objection. In the landmark  case of Northern Pacific Railway Company v. Boyd, the court created the “absolute priority rule” to prevent just that eventuality in federal equity receiverships over 100 years ago, before any federal statutory reorganization procedure existed. Ever since and all along, bankruptcy practitioners struggling to make deals and solve practical problems have creatively fought, evaded, and sought to limit the scope of that prohibition. The most fashionable current step in this never-ending bankruptcy dance has been the “structured dismissal.” The court’s opinion in Jevic puts the brakes on this device by making clear that priority deviations implemented through non-consensual structured dismissals are not permitted.

The bankruptcy code provides three ways to end a Chapter 11 case: confirmation of a plan, conversion to a Chapter 7 liquidation, or dismissal. The code contemplates that dismissal will return the parties to their prebankruptcy positions, except to the extent the bankruptcy court orders otherwise. In a structured dismissal, however, the bankruptcy court’s dismissal order alters the rights and liabilities of the parties in ways that differ from the three options outlined in the code. Unlike a Chapter 11 plan, a structured dismissal does not require disclosure, voting by affected constituents and bankruptcy-court findings that the plan meets substantive and procedural legal standards, including compliance with the code’s priority rules. Unlike conversion to Chapter 7, a structured dismissal does not lead to a statutorily regulated liquidation consistent with established bankruptcy priorities. And unlike a straight dismissal, a structured dismissal does not simply return the parties to their prebankruptcy positions.

Jevic is a trucking company that filed under Chapter 11. During the bankruptcy proceeding, fraudulent-transfer claims against Jevic’s senior secured lenders were resolved by a $3.7-million settlement subject to a structured dismissal in which certain priority claims, based on employment-law violations under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, of truck drivers who worked for Jevic were skipped over. Had there been a settlement but no dismissal, and had the settlement proceeds been distributed under a plan or in a Chapter 7 liquidation, the workers’ priority claims would have entitled them to $1.7 million. Had there been no settlement but rather a straight dismissal or conversion, the fraudulent-transfer claims against the senior creditors would have revested in the workers or become an asset of the Chapter 7 bankruptcy estate, respectively. In the structured dismissal approved by the bankruptcy court over the workers’ objection, however, the workers received no proceeds, even as junior creditors received a distribution out of the settlement funds, and the fraudulent-transfer claims were extinguished.

The courts below approved this structured dismissal on the basis that no good alternative existed. No Chapter 11 plan could be confirmed given the estate’s inability to satisfy outstanding administrative and priority claims (i.e., the estate was “administratively insolvent”), and, in a Chapter 7 liquidation, no one other than the senior secured creditors would receive anything, because the fraudulent-transfer action would have to be abandoned for lack of resources to prosecute. In short, the lower courts concluded, the workers were no worse off in the structured dismissal, and other constituents were all measurably better off.

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for the six-member majority (Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, as well as Breyer himself). Jevic had raised a threshold objection, asserting that the truck drivers did not have standing to bring their claims. Breyer made short work of this argument, noting that it depended on two dubious propositions: that no bankruptcy settlement that included the workers was feasible, and that absent settlement the fraudulent transfer claims could not be prosecuted. The fact that the settling defendant asserted that it would not agree to a settlement that included workers who were separately suing it on WARN Act claims could well have been a bluff; in any event, the court noted, the settling defendant’s independent WARN Act liability had been subsequently resolved, removing that obstacle. Similarly, the bankruptcy court’s prediction that fraudulent-transfer claims with an apparent settlement value of $3.7 million were otherwise worthless was speculative. In short, the workers had standing to object to the structured settlement because a successful objection might result in value for them.

Passing to the merits, the court explained that the bankruptcy priority rules were “a basic underpinning of business bankruptcy law” that had long been considered “fundamental.” Given that statutory context, the absence of any express statutory authorization for structured or conditional dismissals involving non-consensual modifications of distributional priorities was fatal. The court acknowledged that the dismissal statute did expressly authorize a bankruptcy court to alter the status quo ante effect of a dismissal order for “cause.” But, the court reasoned, conditioning dismissal on a priority-deviating final distribution of estate assets was too much weight for “cause” to bear. The for-cause exception allowed the bankruptcy judge, upon dismissal, to protect reliance by third parties on intervening bankruptcy court orders or other intervening events; it was not to be employed as an end run around the code’s priority scheme. Finally, the court rejected the attempt of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit to identify “rare” circumstances justifying structured dismissal, expressing skepticism that any such exception could be appropriately defined and contained, and in any event finding no statutory warrant for it.

For bankruptcy insiders, the result in Jevic was not a surprise, particularly in light of the December 7 argument. Anticipated with more trepidation, however, were the scope of the decision and its implications for other sorts of bankruptcy court-approved priority deviations that had become common Chapter 11 practice.

Jevic places into serious doubt the continued viability of the already controversial practice of “gifting” — that is, implementing priority deviations out of collateral proceeds through Chapter 11 plans without intervening class consent, or, in Chapter 7 liquidations, by characterizing the distribution as  a ”gift” of the secured creditor’s collateral rather than a distribution of estate assets. Although the court’s opinion never refers to the practice of “gifting,” or to the lower court cases adopting or limiting gifting theories, Jevic’s reasoning, especially the primacy it places on the code’s distributional provisions, is in serious tension with that practice. On the other hand, the court’s embrace of the opinion of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in In re Iridium Operating LLC, which approved an interim priority-deviating settlement on a gifting theory, may give gifting proponents heart.

More importantly, however, the court went out of its way to draw a sharp line between interim orders entered by the bankruptcy court in connection with its administration of an ongoing bankruptcy case and the structured dismissal at issue in Jevic. The common Chapter 11 practices of first-day wage orders, critical-vendor orders, roll-ups and interim settlements were all expressly distinguished from the objectionable structured dismissal in Jevic, which, the court expressly noted, involved a final distribution inconsistent with the code’s priority scheme as part of the case’s final disposition. The court’s implicit ratification of these established practices to the extent they serve other reorganization objectives undoubtedly will be embraced by the bankruptcy community.

The most interesting nuance in the court opinion is its brief discussion of Section 363 sales, which are a kind of in-between disposition. These sale orders are “interim,” and do not typically order final distributions except perhaps to secured parties, but they generally are case-dispositive and preordain the shape of the final distribution. The court cited with apparent approval the Braniff and Lionel cases, two 35-year old authorities that overturned Section 363 sale orders as evasions of Chapter 11’s procedural requirements, and threw in a “cf.” cite to the more recent Chrysler case, which controversially approved such a sale in an order that the Supreme Court subsequently vacated as moot. Moreover, the court prominently cited (on the structured dismissal issue) the wide-ranging and much-debated “2014 Report of the American Bankruptcy Institute Chapter 11 Study Commission,” which also proposed substantial reforms of existing Section 363 practices. It is possible that Jevic may signal discomfort with at least some aspects of existing case-dispositive Section 363 practice, as well as the comfort with interim critical-vendor orders, roll-ups and the like to the extent they serve a good faith reorganization purpose expressly noted above.

Finally, an academic point: The court naturally and properly relied on the history of senior-junior collusion in bankruptcy to bolster its holding prohibiting non-consensual skips, but it also claimed that settlements will be facilitated by enforcing priority regimes strictly, citing well-known law and economics work. Whatever law and economics theory might otherwise maintain, however, the history of bankruptcy law suggests that the 3rd Circuit was not wrong in thinking that some degree of flexibility, ambiguity and uncertainty, rather than pristine enforcement of crisply defined legal priorities, is what best facilitates pragmatic resolution of complex Chapter 11 cases.

Justice Clarence Thomas, in a dissent joined by Justice Samuel Alito, argued that the court had been the victim of bait-and-switch, because the employees had reframed the question presented in their merits briefing and because, as reframed, the question presented did not warrant the court’s review. Thomas suggested that the court should dismiss the case as improvidently granted. He noted that Jevic, relying on Rule 24.1(a), had declined to address the reframed question in its merits briefing, a tactical decision that may now be second-guessed.

The post Opinion analysis: Bankruptcy priority rules may not be evaded in Chapter 11 structured dismissals appeared first on SCOTUSblog.

Categories: Research

SpaceX Disappointed In Lack of NASA Mars Funding; Starts Looking For Landing Sites For Its Own Mars Missions

Slashdot: Your Rights Online - Thu, 03/23/2017 - 06:00
frank249 writes: Elon Musk says that the new NASA authorization legislation "changes almost nothing about what NASA is doing. Existing programs stay in place and there is no added funding for Mars." From a report via Ars Technica: "Musk is absolutely correct on two counts. First, an 'authorization' bill does not provide funding. That comes from appropriations committees. Secondly, while Congress has been interested in building rockets and spacecraft, it is far less interested in investing in the kinds of technology and research that would actually enable a full-fledged Mars exploration program." In other news, SpaceNews reports that "SpaceX has been working with NASA to identify potential landing sites on Mars for both its Red Dragon spacecraft (starting in 2020) and future human missions." From the report: "Paul Wooster of SpaceX said the company, working with scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and elsewhere, had identified several potential landing sites, including one that looks particularly promising -- Arcadia Planitia. Those landing sites are of particular interest, he said, for SpaceX's long-term vision of establishing a human settlement on Mars, but he said the company wouldn't rule out sending Red Dragon spacecraft elsewhere on the planet to serve other customers. 'We're quite open to making use of this platform to take various payloads to other locations as well,' he said. 'We're really looking to turn this into a steady cadence, where we're sending Dragons to Mars on basically every opportunity.' The Red Dragon spacecraft, he said, could carry about one ton of useful payload to Mars, with options for those payloads to remain in the capsule after landing or be deployed on the surface. 'SpaceX is a transportation company,' he said. 'We transport cargo to the space station, we deliver payloads to orbit, so we're very happy to deliver payloads to Mars.'" Fans of the book/movie "The Martian" would be happy if SpaceX does select Arcadia Planitia for their first landing site as that was the landing site of the Ares 3.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Research

A Lithuanian Phisher Tricked Two Big US Tech Companies Into Wiring Him $100 Million

Slashdot: Your Rights Online - Wed, 03/22/2017 - 23:30
According to a recent indictment from the U.S. Department of Justice, a 48-year-old Lithuanian scammer named Evaldas Rimasauskas managed to trick two American technology companies into wiring him $100 million. He was able to perform this feat "by masquerading as a prominent Asian hardware manufacturer," reports The Verge, citing court documents, "and tricking employees into depositing tens of millions of dollars into bank accounts in Latvia, Cyprus, and numerous other countries." From the report: What makes this remarkable is not Rimasauskas' particular phishing scam, which sounds rather standard in the grand scheme of wire fraud and cybersecurity exploits. Rather, it's the amount of money he managed to score and the industry from which he stole it. The indictment specifically describes the companies in vague terms. The first company is "multinational technology company, specializing in internet-related services and products, with headquarters in the United States," the documents read. The second company is a "multinational corporation providing online social media and networking services." Both apparently worked with the same "Asia-based manufacturer of computer hardware," a supplier that the documents indicate was founded some time in the late '80s. What's more important is that representatives at both companies with the power to wire vast sums of money were still tricked by fraudulent email accounts. Rimasauskas even went so far as to create fake contracts on forged company letterhead, fake bank invoices, and various other official-looking documents to convince employees of the two companies to send him money. Rimasauskas has been charged with one count of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, and aggravated identity theft. In other words, he faces serious prison time of convicted -- each charge of wire fraud and laundering carries a max sentence of 20 years. The court documents don't reveal the names of the two companies. Though, one could surely think of a few candidates that would fit the descriptions provided in the court documents.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Research

Petition of the day

SCOTUS Blog - Wed, 03/22/2017 - 23:23

The petition of the day is:

Peruta v. California 16-894

Issue: Whether the Second Amendment entitles ordinary, law-abiding citizens to carry handguns outside the home for self-defense in some manner, including concealed carry when open carry is forbidden by state law.

The post Petition of the day appeared first on SCOTUSblog.

Categories: Research

Organization & Structure of Open Source Software Development Initiatives

beSpacific - Wed, 03/22/2017 - 22:51

Berkman Klein Center – Development Initiatives – Challenges & Opportunities Concerning Corporate Formation, Nonprofit Status, & Governance for Open Source Projects. March 22, 2017

“Freely available and open to anyone to contribute to or use, open source software is regularly at the heart of exciting and impactful innovation. Much of this innovation is a result of the ethos of the open source community and its dispersed structure. At the same time, some of the attributes that give open source projects their flexibility and spark passion in open source development communities can hinder a project’s success in the long term. To help open source projects navigate these foundational questions, this report addresses a number of key considerations that those managing open source software development initiatives should take into account when thinking about structure, organization, and governance. The guide elucidates reasons why institutional structure and internal governance processes are important and walks the reader through several models of each, explaining how they might benefit or impact the open source development initiative, and is also replete with case studies and diagrams to illustrate these ideas in practice. More than prescribing one solution to answer open source projects’ questions or treating the “open source community” as a monolithic whole, the authors seek to offer a range of possibilities and encourage those who manage and participate in open source development initiatives to actively think about available models and consciously adopt approaches that the work support they work they aim to do and the communities they hope to create.”

Categories: Research

Brief – Who Gains and Who Loses under the American Health Care Act

beSpacific - Wed, 03/22/2017 - 22:46

Brief – Who Gains and Who Loses under the American Health Care Act, Linda J. Blumberg, Matthew Buettgens, John Holahan, Gordon B. Mermin, Frank Sammartino. March 22, 2017.
“Congress is currently considering passage of the American Health Care Act (AHCA). This bill would repeal large portions of the Affordable Care Act, including most of its sources of revenue, and would introduce significant changes to the Medicaid program and the private nongroup insurance market. We use the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center Microsimulation Model and The Urban Institute Health Policy Center’s Health Insurance Policy Simulation Model (HIPSM) to allocate changes in taxes and federal health benefits across families grouped by income. We find that the AHCA’s changes to federal taxes and health care benefits would be very regressive: that is, taking both tax reductions and benefit reductions into account, the average high-income family would be significantly better off and the average low-income family would be significantly worse off under the AHCA.

Categories: Research

Share your trips and real-time location from Google Maps

beSpacific - Wed, 03/22/2017 - 22:41

Google Blog: ““Where are you now?” and “What’s your ETA?” Whether you’re heading to a party or meeting up for dinner, you probably hear questions like this pretty often from family and friends. Soon Google Maps users worldwide will be able to answer those questions in just a few taps, without ever leaving the app. On both Android and iOS, you’ll be able to share your real-time location with anyone. And the people you share with will be able to see your location on Android, iPhone, mobile web, and even desktop…”

Categories: Research

Politico – Federal staffers panicked by conservative media attacks

beSpacific - Wed, 03/22/2017 - 22:08

Politico – A spate of stories in Breitbart and other outlets have singled out individual career employees, questioning their loyalty to Trump – “Conservative news outlets, including one with links to a top White House official, are singling out individual career government employees for criticism, suggesting in articles that certain staffers will not be sufficiently loyal to President Donald Trump by virtue of their work under former President Barack Obama. The articles — which have appeared in Breitbart News, the Conservative Review and other outlets — have alarmed veteran officials in both parties as well as current executive branch staffers. They say the stories are adding to tensions between career staffers and political appointees as they begin to implement Trump’s agenda, and they worry that the stories could inspire Trump to try purging federal agencies of perceived enemies…”

Categories: Research

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