Today’s orders

SCOTUS Blog - Mon, 04/24/2017 - 12:47

For the second week in a row, the Supreme Court did not add any new cases to its merits docket for next term. The dearth of new grants is likely attributable to the fact that Justice Neil Gorsuch – who did not participate at all in last week’s conference – only participated in a handful of the orders issued today.

Even if the court did not grant certiorari in any cases, however, today’s order list was nonetheless full of news. First, the justices did not act on one of the most closely watched cases on their current cert docket: Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the challenge by a Colorado “cake artist” with religious objections to creating a cake for a same-sex wedding. At this point, there is no way to know why the case has been relisted several times without any action from the justices, although two of the more likely possibilities are that one or more justices could be dissenting from the denial of review or that the justices are waiting for Gorsuch to weigh in.

The justices turned aside, without comment, renewed requests by death row inmates in Alabama and Arkansas to review their cases. In February, the justices had denied review in the cases of Thomas Arthur and Stacey Johnson, whose challenges arose from the lethal injection protocols in their respective states. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justice Stephen Breyer, dissented from the February denials, but today the court denied the two inmates’ petitions for rehearing without comment.

Breyer did file a statement respecting the denial of review in the case of an Arizona death row inmate, Joe Clarence Smith, who was sentenced to death 40 years ago and has been incarcerated, mostly in solitary confinement, ever since. “What legitimate purpose,” Breyer asked, “does it serve to hold any human being in solitary confinement for 40 years awaiting execution?” “The facts and circumstances of Smith’s case,” Breyer continued, reinforce his “conclusion that this Court should hear oral argument as to whether capital punishment as currently practiced is consistent with the Constitution’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment.”

Justices Samuel Alito and Sonia Sotomayor both filed opinions regarding the court’s announcement that it would not review Salazar-Limon v. City of Houston, an excessive-force claim by a man who was shot and seriously injured by a police officer during a traffic stop. The police officer contended that he shot at Salazar-Limon only after Salazar-Limon turned and reached for his waistband, which the officer interpreted as an effort to pull out a gun. Based on the police officer’s testimony, a federal district court granted him qualified immunity, and the court of appeals affirmed.

Joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sotomayor dissented from the denial of certiorari. Because Salazar-Limon’s case “turns in large part on what Salazar-Limon did just before he was shot,” Sotomayor explained, “it should be obvious that the parties’ competing accounts of the event preclude” the lower court from entering a judgment for the police officer based solely on the record, without a trial. What’s more, Sotomayor complained, the court has not treated the victims of police misconduct as well as it has treated the officers: “We have not hesitated to summarily reverse courts for wrongly denying the protection of qualified immunity in cases involving the use of force,” she observed, but “we rarely intervene where courts wrongly afford officers the benefit of qualified immunity in these same cases.”

Justice Clarence Thomas joined Alito’s opinion concurring in the denial of review. Alito agreed that Salazaro-Limon’s case was “undeniably … tragic,” and that “we have no way of determining what actually happened in Houston on the night Salazar-Limon was shot.” But, he emphasized, “regardless of whether the petitioner is an officer or an alleged victim of police misconduct, we rarely grant review where the thrust of the claim is that a lower court simply erred in applying a settled rule of law to the facts of a particular case.”

The justices’ next conference is scheduled for Friday, April 28. The orders from that conference are expected to follow on Monday, May 1, at 9:30 a.m.

The post Today’s orders appeared first on SCOTUSblog.

Categories: Research

How small cities can do big things with open data

Sunlight Foundation - Mon, 04/24/2017 - 12:22

I recently wrote about the Hometown Summit, an event bringing together leaders in government, academia, private and nonprofit organizations from small cities across the country, to discuss the strategies they’re using to target community challenges. The conversations I had at the conference inspired me to take a step back and think through tactics that cities with fewer resources and residents can use to build an open data program.

As the What Works Cities (WWC) initiative broadens its reach with the new Certification Program, which is available to cities with populations as low as 30,000, I’m looking forward to seeing more small cities gain recognition for their efforts to expand the use of data in their communities. Below is a list of strategies that smaller cities can use to get started.

Leverage community resources

No capacity to provide training to data users? Need help building a data visualization to illustrate an issue you identified using open data? Want to communicate to residents that your city is building an open data program?

Working with those outside government is always key to carrying out a successful open data program. In cities with fewer internal resources, it becomes increasingly important to leverage the power of your community, borrowing tools and volunteers from local businesses, nonprofits, the media, and schools to achieve your open data goals. There is great value for smaller cities in cultivating partnerships outside of government. The small city of Johns Creek, GA, for example, kicked off its open data program by partnering with Waze, a community based traffic and navigation app, to help drivers navigate around road closures and find the best routes for avoiding traffic.

If you’re looking for ideas, the GovLab shared some tips for reaching out to these similar data collaboratives.

Support from city leadership is key

In smaller cities with fewer resources, support from city councils, mayors, city managers, and other internal leadership can be key to establishing and sustaining a successful open data program. Take Hartford, CT, for example. The city was constrained in some ways by a small population and a limited budget, but a strong executive order issued by the mayor cleared the way for the city’s participation in the open data movement. With clear mandates for timelines, implementation steps, and monitoring, the order allowed the team working on the open data program to build it up from scratch in just months.

If you’re not sure where to get started with a policy, Sunlight’s Public Policy for Public Data website will walk you through the entire process.

Meet people where they are

When it comes to engaging residents in any city, it’s important to meet residents where they are. This is especially true when it comes to open data.

Not everyone has the tech skills to work with data, especially in smaller cities, nor is everyone going to know what you mean when you say “open data.” Just as important, tech-savvy residents won’t have all the insights and expertise needed to take on every issue – or even most issues. Work toward equity in your open data program by involving non-technical members of your community in other ways. Understand the issues they care about to inform your metrics and data collection. Open data is a two-way street.

The Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center‘s (WPRDC) transportation data user group meeting. These meetings, which are open to any member of the public, allow residents to explore the data WPRDC collects, meet others working with the data, and learn about new opportunities for using data.

Find the right vehicles to reach people, whether through a phone call, a paper survey, a website, text message, a billboard, an email, or a community event. Get creative. As one Hometown Summit attendee from New Orleans put it, “People won’t tell you much online, but they sure will come around and talk if you offer them free food.”

In cities of any size, it’s critical that insights are gathered from all residents to inform your open data program.  Plus, you’re much more likely to build trust and gain participation if you can show residents you took the time to incorporate their feedback.

Use peer networks

Learn from the successes and setbacks of other small cities. Take advantage of opportunities to network with open data leaders from other cities at conferences such as the Hometown Summit. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when something is already working.

Sunlight has worked with several smaller cities who have found alternatives to procuring a fancy, top-of-the-line open data portal by taking advantage of in-house expertise to build their own using existing web-based open source data management systems, such as CKAN. And through the What Works Cities Certification program, you’ll be able to follow the great work of cities of all sizes.

Steal a page out of our Tactical Data Engagement Guide

Sunlight’s new Tactical Data Engagement Guide features many different problem framing and action tactics for engaging residents in your open data program. The best part? These strategies are completely flexible so you can adapt them to work for a city of any size.

Don’t be afraid to fail

If the first strategy you use to engage your community around your new open data program doesn’t work, try again! As is key to the guide I mentioned above, you should continue iterating on your engagement processes to ultimately figure out what works. Don’t be afraid to take risks.

Do you know of a small city doing big things with open data? Let us know by emailing! We encourage them to participate in the WWC Certification program. We’re excited to be able to better track and celebrate the open data progress in smaller U.S. cities.


Categories: Research

Argument preview: Jurisdiction, precedent and the Federal Employers’ Liability Act

SCOTUS Blog - Mon, 04/24/2017 - 10:23

Three years ago, in Daimler AG v. Bauman, the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution’s due process clause barred a lawsuit in California against the German car company for the actions of its Argentinian subsidiary, which allegedly worked with security forces in Argentina during the country’s “Dirty War” to kidnap, torture and kill some of the subsidiary’s workers. Tomorrow, the justices will hear oral argument on how broadly that 2014 ruling sweeps – and, in particular, whether it prohibits lawsuits by two U.S. railroad workers in Montana for injuries that happened in other states.

The plaintiffs in the two cases are Robert Nelson of North Dakota, who alleges that he suffered a serious knee injury while working for BNSF Railway Co. in Washington state as a fuel truck driver, and Kelli Tyrrell of South Dakota, who contends that her husband, Brent, contracted cancer and died as the result of his exposure to chemicals while working for BNSF in South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa. Nelson and Tyrrell filed lawsuits in state court in Montana under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, a federal law that allows railroad workers to sue their employers when they are injured. The Montana courts had jurisdiction over BNSF, they argued, because of the company’s extensive operations in the state: BNSF operates nearly 3,000 miles of railroad tracks and employs over 2,000 people there.

BNSF argued that both cases should be dismissed. One of the state courts agreed. It concluded that BNSF, which is incorporated in Delaware and has its principal place of business in Texas, was not – as the Supreme Court’s precedents require — “at home” in Montana. But the other court allowed the case to go forward, based on what it described as BNSF’s “substantial, continuous and systematic activities within Montana.” The Montana Supreme Court agreed with the latter court, explaining that Montana courts had jurisdiction over BNSF because FELA gives state courts jurisdiction over a defendant wherever the company does business – which, it ruled, BNSF does in Montana. In January of this year, the justices agreed to weigh in.

For BNSF, the Supreme Court’s decision in Daimler makes this case an easy one. In Daimler, it maintains, the court held that, when a plaintiff’s cause of action does not “arise” in the state where the lawsuit is filed, the 14th Amendment’s due process clause allows a state court to assert personal jurisdiction over the defendant only if the defendant is “at home” in that state. Here, BNSF emphasizes, Tyrrell’s and Nelson’s cases do not “arise” in Montana: The employees did not live in Montana, they “never worked a day in Montana, were not injured in Montana, and do not allege that BNSF was negligent in Montana.” Tyrrell and Nelson cannot meet the second part of the Daimler test either, the company stresses, because – as a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Texas – BNSF is not “at home” in Montana. BNSF suggests that the only reason why Nelson and Tyrrell are suing BNSF in Montana is because they believe it will be a friendlier forum.

Tyrrell and Nelson respond that, under the court’s ruling in Daimler, the states where a corporation is incorporated and has its principal place of business are not necessarily the only places where a corporation can be “at home.” Instead, they contend, a corporation can also be “at home” where its operations are “so substantial and of such a nature as to render the corporation at home” there as well. BNSF has precisely those kinds of connections to Montana, they reason, because the company “has earned more than $1.7 billion in a single year from its ability to do business in Montana.” Given the scope of BNSF’s operations in Montana, they conclude, it would not violate “traditional notions of substantial justice and fair play to expect BNSF to answer to claims there.” Whatever Daimler may say about a state court’s jurisdiction generally, Tyrrell and Nelson continue, here Montana state courts have jurisdiction over BNSF based on FELA, which allows railroad workers to “bring a FELA claim in any jurisdiction where the railroad is ‘doing business’ at the time of the suit.”

BNSF counters that Congress passed FELA to govern venue – that is, where the lawsuits may be heard – in suits filed by railroad workers; it does not give state courts jurisdiction over lawsuits like these. This is clear, BNSF argues, from both the text of the statute – whose reference to cases being brought “in a district court of the United States” applies only to federal courts – and the law’s history, which “confirms that Congress intended to provide an expansive choice of venue, because the general federal venue statute at that time limited venue in cases against corporations to the defendant’s place of incorporation.”

BNSF stresses that Congress did not need to “create special rules of personal jurisdiction so that injured workers would not be forced to travel to a railroad’s state of incorporation” – here, Delaware – to file their lawsuits. The plaintiffs in these cases, BNSF suggests, have several options: In addition to Delaware, they can also bring their lawsuits in the states where they were injured or in Texas.

Tyrrell and Nelson complain that BNSF’s reading of FELA would not actually provide much of a choice for a plaintiff who lives, for example, in North Dakota. Nor, they contend, can the railroad’s reading be squared with the text of FELA, which was intended to allow railroad workers to sue where “it is actually carrying on business.” By contrast, they stress, their reading is consistent with Congress’ intent to “load the dice a little in favor of workers” by enacting FELA; if BNSF doesn’t like the result that the law dictates, they conclude, it can take the issue up with Congress.

During his confirmation hearing, now-Justice Neil Gorsuch repeatedly stressed the need for courts to adhere to the plain text of a statute, and he reiterated that principle several times during his first week on the bench. Will the justices, including Gorsuch, focus on the text of FELA tomorrow, or instead on what the court meant by its unanimous ruling in Daimler three years ago – in which all of the current justices but Gorsuch participated? We’ll know more after the argument.

[Disclosure: Goldstein & Russell, P.C., whose attorneys contribute to this blog in various capacities, was among the counsel to the respondents in Daimler AG. I was affiliated with the firm at that time, but I am no longer affiliated with the firm, and the firm was not involved in this case.]

The post Argument preview: Jurisdiction, precedent and the Federal Employers’ Liability Act appeared first on SCOTUSblog.

Categories: Research

Today in OpenGov: Open data for smaller cities, a Census tech to-do list, and more…

Sunlight Foundation - Mon, 04/24/2017 - 07:53

In today’s edition, we help small cities join the open data movement, tackle the Census Bureau’s tech to-do list, ask about aid transparency under Trump, and more…

states and cities
  • How can smaller cities participate in the open data movement? Sunlight’s Alyssa Doom “had the opportunity to showcase Sunlight’s latest research on community engagement around open data at the Hometown Summit in Charlottesville, Virginia…[where] Talking through the barriers to community engagement faced by small cities — especially those who wish to engage residents in using public data — provided us with some meaningful insights into tactics for implementing open data programs in communities with smaller populations and fewer resources.” Read all of Alyssa’s insights on the Sunlight Foundation blog.
  • Cities are turning to the Internet of Things to map air pollution and quality. “In response to a growing concern about the effects of air pollution, many cities have improved their efforts to measure pollution using the Internet of Things (IoT)—networks of connected sensors that gather and send data. Using this data, cities can map areas of high pollution, track changes over time, identify polluters, and analyze potential interventions.” (Data-Smart City Solutions)
  • New Orleans aims to bridge digital divide through outreach and awareness building. New Orleans, Louisiana has a number of programs targeted connecting underrepresented groups to technology, but officials where struggling to achieve adoption. Now, City leaders are trying a more specific approach, reaching “out to under-represented populations and spread awareness that they, too, deserve a place in tech.” (Government Technology)
washington watch
  • Man in charge of overseeing White House conflict of interest rules has some conflicts of his own. Earlier this year president Trump “signed an executive order to limit conflicts of interest. It required all his appointees not to deal with matters relating to people they had worked with up to two years before their appointment…it turns out that one of the main people charged with overseeing it, and other White House ethics issues, is in violation of it.” Stefan Passantino is the White House’s designated agency ethics official. His financial disclosure documents also show that, in the past two years, he has done paid work for current HUD Secretary Ben Carson, current HHS Secretary Tom Price, and unpaid Trump advisor Carl Icahn. (Quartz)
  • Trump promised to “drain the swamp”, but his actions in office tell a different, more opaque story. “Last week, the White House said it would not go public with its visitor logs. Obama released those records every three months. Seeing the names of people who come and go can help the public understand who has the ear of the administration on important policy matters. Trump’s tendency toward concealment should not be a surprise: Breaking from precedent, Trump refused to release his tax forms throughout his campaign and even now — while Democrats threaten to hold up his tax reduction plans over the issue.” (Associated Press)
  • Changes in law, technology should boost government transparency. Austin Ever, Executive Director of the watchdog group American Oversight, argued that recent updates to the FOIA and recordkeeping rules, combined with continued advances in technology should result in unprecedented levels of transparency, assuming the Trump Administration enforces the law. “When members of the news media or general public ask for government records, it is no longer acceptable for them to reply that no information could be found, or that a thorough search would take too long. They have the technology, the law is clear, and the courts are unlikely to believe the same old excuses. 2017 will mark a new era of transparency, whether the government likes it or not.” (The Hill)
  • Census Bureau tackles big tech to-do list amid budget uncertainty. “The bureau still faces risks as it plans to award three IT contracts, scale up its systems and nail down its partnership with the U.S. Postal Service and with state and local governments to shore up its address records — all in time for its decennial census dress rehearsal to begin taking shape in August.” (Federal Computer Week)
  • Chaffetz, Cummings get together to ask for information on Trump’s plan to donate foreign profits. “A key House Republican is calling on the Trump Organization to give more details about its system for identifying and donating profits to the Treasury Department that come from foreign government officials who make payments to any of President Donald Trump’s businesses.” (POLITICO)
think global
  • Results of referendum boosting Turkish presidential powers under scrutiny. Just after voting ended in a referendum on presidential powers Turkish election officials “were told to count every ballot, even the ones without an official stamp to verify their authenticity. It was a clear departure from election rules. And it means that the allegations of fraud that have echoed around the country since the April 16 vote, one of the most momentous in Turkey’s history, can probably never be set to rest.” (Bloomberg)
  • Early signs for international aid transparency under Trump aren’t encouraging. President Trump’s approach to transparency and openness over his first months in office doesn’t paint an encouraging picture for those fighting for transparency in international aid programs. This article lays out several ways that less openness could negatively effect international aid and implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. (Devex)
save the dates
  • #TCampAZ is coming up on May 22 in Phoenix. Learn more on Facebook and get your tickets hereThis one-day unconference will bring together the government representatives, developers and journalists to solve problems relating to civic data access. TCamp participants design the agenda, present their ideas and dive into the challenges, success stories and new possibilities during morning and afternoon breakout sessions. It is being hosted by the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting with key partners including Sunlight, Galvanize, and the Institute for Digital Progress.
  • April 26th, 6:00 PM: “Participatory Organizing: From Co-Op to Network to Mass Movement” in Washington, DC. The OpenGov Hub is hosting a co-created workshop on collaborative culture and non-hierarchical organizing. We combine storytelling and participation to learn together about democratic, bottom-up organizing at different scales: from co-ops, to networks, cities and nations. We’ll offer some practices and tools that have helped us, and discover the intelligence in the room too. Learn more and register here.
  • April 27th, 7:45 AM, DATA Act Breakfast “Spending Data Unleashed”, in Washington, DC. “The Data Coalition and Booz Allen Hamilton invite you to a breakfast panel discussion for a front-row seat on the first fruits of the DATA Act. Join us on Thursday, April 27th, at the Booz Allen Hamilton Innovation Center.” Learn more and get your tickets here.
  • April 28th, 11:00 AM: Digital Inclusion Asset Mapping, Connect Chicago Meetup in Chicago, Illinois. “At the next Connect Chicago Meetup we will break into working groups to co-build a better shared inventory of public digital inclusion resources and assets.” Learn more here.
  • May 17th and 18th: Reboot Congress 2017 and the Kemp Forum in Washington, DC. “Held in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, Reboot Congress 2017, is an invite-only conversation that will bring together a dynamic mix of problem solvers – civic tech innovators, engineers and designers, elected officials, senior staffers, policy experts, and other stakeholders working to modernize Congress.” Learn more here.
  • May 17th: The 2017 Door Stop Awards in Washington, DC. “Lincoln Network and The OpenGov Foundation are joining forces to present the 2017 Door Stop Awards for Congressional Innovation and Transparency. Awards will be presented on May 17, 2017 in Washington, D.C. at an evening party as part of Reboot Congress.” Do you know a member of Congress or staffer who deserves to be recognized? You can submit a nomination here!
  • May 19th and 20th: Global Legislative Openness Conference in Kyiv, Ukraine. “This 2-day event is hosted by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, organized by the Legislative Openness Working Group of the Open Government Partnership and Open Parliament Initiative in Ukraine. The event will convene leading legislators, government officials, and civil society representatives to consider how legislative openness can strengthen public trust in representative institutions and build a responsive, 21st century legislature. In addition, the conference will explore how parliaments can best leverage the Open Government Partnership’s new legislative engagement policy to develop and implement legislative openness plans and commitments.” Learn more here.
  • June 8th and 9th: Personal Democracy Forum 2017 in New York City. “The annual flagship conference brings together close to 1,000 top technologists, campaigners, hackers, opinion-makers, government officials, journalists, and academics for two days of game-changing talks, workshops, and networking opportunities to celebrate the power and potential of tech to make real change happen.” Learn more about #PDF17 and get your tickets here.
Are you hosting an event that you’d like to see highlighted in this newsletter? Please let us know by sending a quick email to with a brief description and a link to the event page.


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Categories: Research

Monday round-up

SCOTUS Blog - Mon, 04/24/2017 - 07:03

Today the court hears oral argument in two cases. The first is McWilliams v. Dunn, which asks whether an Alabama defendant in a capital case whose mental health was at issue was entitled to assistance from a psychiatrist independent of the prosecution. Amy Howe previewed the case for this blog. Emily Rector and Kimberly Petrick provide a preview for Cornell University Law School’s Legal Information Institute. At NPR, Nina Totenberg and Lauren Russell report on the case, noting that the argument comes at “a time of high drama over executions in Arkansas.” The second argument today is in Davila v. Davis, another capital case, in which the justices will decide whether ineffective assistance of counsel in a state habeas proceeding excuses a defendant’s failure to raise an underlying claim of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel. Steve Vladeck had this blog’s preview. Liza Carens and Scott Cohen preview the case for Cornell.

In The Washington Post, Robert Barnes reports that “Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch cast his first consequential vote Thursday night, siding with the court’s other four conservatives in denying a stay request from Arkansas death row inmates facing execution.” In USA Today, Richard Wolf reports that Arkansas’ “macabre timetable,” in which the state attempted to “execute eight convicted murderers in 11 days,” has “greeted the newest justice … with a dose of reality: The nation’s high court, deeply divided over the death penalty, isn’t likely to escape the controversial issue anytime soon.” German Lopez remarks on Gorsuch’s “first major decision” at Vox, as does Ian Millhiser at ThinkProgress. At Crime and Consequences, Kent Scheidegger takes issue with the dissents from the decision to deny the stay by Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor here and here, respectively.

Constitution Daily’s We the People podcast features a discussion of Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer, a constitutional challenge to Missouri’s exclusion of a church-run preschool from a state program that provides grants to nonprofits to resurface playgrounds. In a column for Bloomberg View, Noah Feldman weighs in on the case, arguing that “there’s no burden on the religious exercise of the church when it can’t get a direct government grant for its playground.” In an op-ed in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, James Gottry argues that “Trinity Lutheran and other nonprofits seek parity, not preference.” In The Atlantic, Garrett Epps points out that although a recent policy change by the Missouri governor may not have rendered the case moot, the court could “dismiss the writ of certiorari as ‘improvidently granted,’” a course Epps deems advisable because the “unspoken claim that Missouri is a bastion of anti-religious bigotry” may be “an imaginary dragon, conjured for the purposes of litigation,” and “[p]rudent justices might choose not to slay it.”

In The Wall Street Journal, Jess Bravin reports that Justice Samuel Alito suggested last week in remarks at a judicial conference that “[m]ore sweeping decisions and less compromise with liberals may be in store for the Supreme Court’s restored conservative majority.” In another Wall Street Journal report on Alito’s remarks at the conference, Bravin notes that the justice also “put the kibosh on the notion of televising Supreme Court arguments,” “citing an advertisement the Republican National Committee produced using courtroom audio as ‘Exhibit A’ for the way he said political groups and broadcast media would twist snippets misleadingly.”


  • In The New York Times, Michael Wines reports that a partisan-gerrymandering case that the state of Wisconsin has appealed to the Supreme Court “could transform political maps from City Hall to Congress — often to Democrats’ benefit.”
  • At Free-cology, Jonathan Wood urges the court to review “a challenge to California’s suction dredge mining ban,” maintaining that although “the case challenges the state ban as preempted by federal law, it will protect the states’ proper role in environmental federalism in the long run.”
  • At The Hill, Lydia Wheeler reports that “[t]alk is already heating up that President Trump could have a chance to appoint a second person to the Supreme Court”; she surveys possible candidates for a nomination.

 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]

The post Monday round-up appeared first on SCOTUSblog.

Categories: Research

Wall Street IT Engineer Hacks Employer To See If He'll Be Fired

Slashdot: Your Rights Online - Mon, 04/24/2017 - 00:52
An anonymous reader writes: A Wall Street engineer was arrested for planting credentials-logging malware on his company's servers. According to an FBI affidavit, the engineer used these credentials to log into fellow employees' accounts. The engineer claims he did so only because he heard rumors of an acquisition and wanted to make sure he wouldn't be let go. In reality, the employee did look at archived email inboxes, but he also stole encryption keys needed to access the protected source code of his employer's trading platform and trading algorithms. Using his access to the company's Unix network (which he gained after a promotion last year), the employee then rerouted traffic through backup servers in order to avoid the company's traffic monitoring solution and steal the company's source code. The employee was caught after he kept intruding and disconnecting another employee's RDP session. The employee understood someone hacked his account and logged the attacker's unique identifier. Showing his total lack of understanding for how technology, logging and legal investigations work, the employee admitted via email to a fellow employee that he installed malware on the servers and hacked other employees.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Research

Pew – Not everyone in advanced economies is using social media

beSpacific - Sun, 04/23/2017 - 19:58

Pew: Despite the seeming ubiquity of social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, many in Europe, the U.S., Canada, Australia and Japan do not report regularly visiting social media sites. But majorities in all of the 14 countries surveyed say they at least use the internet. Social media use is relatively common among people in Sweden, the Netherlands, Australia and the U.S. Around seven-in-ten report using social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, but that still leaves a significant minority of the population in those countries (around 30%) who are non-users. At the other end of the spectrum, in France, only 48% say they use social networking sites. That figure is even lower in Greece (46%), Japan (43%) and Germany (37%). In Germany, this means that more than half of internet users say they do not use social media.  The differences in reported social media use across the 14 countries are due in part to whether people use the internet, since low rates of internet access limit the potential social media audience. While fewer than one-in-ten Dutch (5%), Swedes (7%) and Australians (7%) don’t access the internet or own a smartphone, that figure is 40% in Greece, 33% in Hungary and 29% in Italy…”

Categories: Research

NYT – How Google Cashes In on the Space Right Under the Search Bar

beSpacific - Sun, 04/23/2017 - 19:47

The New York Times tracks Google’s transition From Search to Sales: “In the 17 years since Google introduced text-based advertising above search results, the company has allocated more space to ads and created new forms of them. The ad creep on Google has pushed “organic” (unpaid) search results farther down the screen, an effect even more pronounced on the smaller displays of smartphones. The changes are profound for retailers and brands that rely on leads from Google searches to drive online sales. With limited space available near the top of search results, not advertising on search terms associated with your brand or displaying images of your products is tantamount to telling potential customers to spend their money elsewhere…Retailers are snapping up product ads. They accounted for 52 percent of all Google search ad spending by retailers in the first quarter of 2017, versus 8 percent in 2011, according to the digital marketing agency Merkle…”

Categories: Research

Axios – New Executive orders in the pipeline impact energy, environment, VA

beSpacific - Sun, 04/23/2017 - 18:46

Axios Sneak Peak: Here are the executive orders coming this week, per a White House source with direct knowledge:

  1. Executive Order Improving Accountability and Whistleblower Protections at the Department of Veterans Affairs”: “This Executive Order will establish, in the Department of Veterans Affairs, an Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection. The Office will help the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to discipline or terminate VA managers or employees who fail to carry out their duties in helping our veterans. The Office will also identify barriers to the Secretary’s authority to put the well-being of our veterans first.”
  2. “Executive Order for a Review of Designations under the Antiquities Act”: “The Antiquities Act of 1906 authorizes the president to declare federal lands of historic or scientific value to be ‘National Monuments’ and thereby restrict the types of uses to which those lands can be put…The Antiquities Act Executive Order directs the Department of the Interior to review prior monument designations and suggest legislative changes or modifications to the monument proclamations.”
  3. “Executive Order Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy”: “Past administrations have been overly restrictive of off-shore energy exploration. The America First Energy Executive Order directs a review of the locations available for off-shore oil and gas exploration and of certain regulations governing off-shore oil and gas exploration.”
  4. “Executive Order Promoting Agriculture and Rural Prosperity in America”: “The Agriculture and Rural Task Force Executive Order creates an interagency task force to examine the concerns of rural America and suggest legislative and regulatory changes to address them.”
Categories: Research

Now users can download search results from

beSpacific - Sun, 04/23/2017 - 18:06

“The legislative database now has the ability to download search results. Anytime you do a search, anywhere in, you will see a “Download Results” link next to “Save this Search” link in the upper left corner. This will produce a .scv file that can be opened by a spreadsheet application.”  For more information see the FAQ: [via Jennifer Manning]

Andrew Weber – The big new item in this release is the ability to download your search results to a CSV (comma separated values) file.  You can then open and manipulate the data in a spreadsheet.  Soon, I will write a post to demonstrate this feature in more detail. There have been a few changes on the homepage.  One nice addition is highlighting Search Tips. Above that, in the News from the Law Library section, there will now be a contextual photo from the blog post. Several improvements and features have been added to the Advanced Search, Query Builder, and Quick Search forms.  One nice addition to many of the Quick Search forms is a related Browse link next to the About link.  It gives you a fast, direct way to switch from searching to browsing. Also, when using the Quick Search “Words and Phrases” box, it now defaults to a presumed AND between the words rather than OR.  This change is a direct result of user testing.  What does it mean? If you typed Library of Congress, the search previously would have been looking for Library OR of OR Congress.  With the current updates, it is looking for Library AND of AND Congress.  This will generate fewer items in your search results.  For now, this feature is only available in Quick Search. The Enhancements page provides a complete list of these and the enhancements from prior releases..”

Categories: Research

Bike Commuting Is Preventative Medicine, According to Science

beSpacific - Sun, 04/23/2017 - 18:02

Via Bicycling: “Massive study finds cyclists and other active commuters experience dramatically lower risk of dying—from any cause—than those who drive or take public transit. Just in time for National Bike to Work Week (May 15 to 19 this year), a team of researchers from Glasgow University in Scotland found that people who bike to work slash their risk of dying from any cause by a whopping 41 percent, relative to those who drive or take public transit. The five-year study of more than 260,000 commuters in the UK found that among the commuters—half men, half women, with an average age of 53—those who rode their bike to work also lowered their risk of heart disease by 46 percent and their risk of cancer by 45 percent…”

Categories: Research

Fighting EU hate speech by blocking ad revenues

beSpacific - Sun, 04/23/2017 - 17:05

Sleeping Giants is an organisation that calls on business to stop advertising with hate sites, in a bid to freeze their ad revenues.” [EUobserver]

Categories: Research

Putting a value on injuries to natural assets: The BP oil spill

beSpacific - Sun, 04/23/2017 - 17:00

Putting a value on injuries to natural assets: The BP oil spill. Science  21 Apr 2017: Vol. 356, Issue 6335, pp. 253-254. DOI: 10.1126/science.aam8124

“When large-scale accidents cause catastrophic damage to natural or cultural resources, government and industry are faced with the challenge of assessing the extent of damages and the magnitude of restoration that is warranted. Although market transactions for privately owned assets provide information about how valuable they are to the people involved, the public services of natural assets are not exchanged on markets; thus, efforts to learn about people’s values involve either untestable assumptions about how other things people do relate to these services or empirical estimates based on responses to stated-preference surveys. Valuation based on such surveys has been criticized because the respondents are not engaged in real transactions. Our research in the aftermath of the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill addresses these criticisms using the first, nationally representative, stated-preference survey that tests whether responses are consistent with rational economic choices that are expected with real transactions. Our results confirm that the survey findings are consistent with economic decisions and would support investing at least $17.2 billion to prevent such injuries in the future to the Gulf of Mexico’s natural resources.”

Categories: Research

Report Provides Blueprint Of How Memory Can Be Improved When It’s Lagging

beSpacific - Sun, 04/23/2017 - 16:54

Kaiser Health News: “A new study looks at the effects of electrical stimulation on the brain, and how those pulses can improve and impair memory.”

  • The New York Times: ‘Pacemaker’ For The Brain Can Help Memory, Study Finds  – Well-timed pulses from electrodes implanted in the brain can enhance memory in some people, scientists reported on Thursday, in the most rigorous demonstration to date of how a pacemaker-like approach might help reduce symptoms of dementia, head injuries and other conditions.
  • NPR: Clues To Failing Memory Found In Brain Stimulation Study  – “When memory was predicted to be poor,” he explains, “brain stimulation enhanced memory, and when it was predicted to be good, brain stimulation impaired memory. “In other words, on a bad memory day, stimulation helped. On a good day, it hurt. When stimulation was delivered to the right place at the right time, the researchers found, it could improve memory performance among the patients by as much as 50 percent.”
Categories: Research

GAO deleted operations manual – rescued gov doc

beSpacific - Sun, 04/23/2017 - 16:31

Russ Kick via MemoryHole2 – The Government Accountability Office recently deleted its operations manual. Here it is:

Categories: Research

Junk News and Bots during the French Presidential Election

beSpacific - Sun, 04/23/2017 - 15:56

Junk News and Bots during the French Presidential Election: What Are French Voters Sharing Over Twitter? COMPROP DATA MEMO 2017.3 / 22 April 2017 Philip N. Howard
Computational propaganda distributes large amounts of misinformation about politics and public policy over social media platforms. The combination of automation and propaganda can significantly impact public opinion during important policy debates, elections, and political crises. We collected Twitter data on bot activity and junk news using a set of hashtags related to the French Presidential Elections for a week in March 2017. Content about Macron tended to dominate the traffic on Twitter, but highly automated accounts occasionally generated large amounts of traffic about Hamon. These automated accounts generate a small amount of content about French politics, though this amount is increasing over time. Social media users in France shared many links to high quality political news and information, roughly at ratio of 2 links to professionally produced news for every link to other kinds of sources. In comparison to our study of similar trends in the US and Germany, we find that French users are sharing better quality information than what many US users shared, and almost as much quality news and information as German users share.”

Categories: Research

This week at the court

SCOTUS Blog - Sun, 04/23/2017 - 12:08

We expect orders from the April 21 conference on Monday at 9:30 a.m. There is a possibility of opinions on Tuesday at 10 a.m. The court will also hear oral arguments on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The calendar for the April sitting is available on the court’s website. On Friday the justices will meet for their April 28 conference; our list of “petitions to watch” for that conference will be available soon.

The post This week at the court appeared first on SCOTUSblog.

Categories: Research

Pew – Libraries and Learning

beSpacific - Sun, 04/23/2017 - 10:25

“Majorities of Americans think local libraries serve the educational needs of their communities and families pretty well and library users often outpace others in learning activities. But many do not know about key education services libraries provide. Most Americans believe libraries do a decent job of serving the education and learning needs of their communities and their own families. A new survey by Pew Research Center shows that 76% of adults say libraries serve the learning and educational needs of their communities either “very well” (37%) or “pretty well” (39%). Further, 71% say libraries serve their own personal needs and the needs of their families “very well” or “pretty well.” As a rule, libraries’ performance in learning arenas gets better marks from women, blacks, Hispanics, those in lower-income households, and those ages 30 and older. Majorities of adults say their local libraries are serving the educational needs of their communities and their own families at least ‘pretty well’ At the same time, many do not know that libraries offer learning-related programs and materials such as e-books, career and job resources, and high school certification courses…A recent Pew Research report found that 73% of adults say the label “lifelong learner” applies “very well” to them. Additionally, 74% of adults have participated in personal learning experiences of various kinds in the previous 12 months – we call them personal learners. And 63% of full- and part-time workers have taken courses or done training on the job to improve their skills in the past year – we called them professional learners. Recent library users overwhelmingly embrace those ideas and activities. Fully 97% of those who used a library or bookmobile in the past 12 months say that the term “lifelong learner” applies “very well” or “pretty well” to them and a similar share of library website users (98%) also strongly identified with being lifelong learners…”

Categories: Research

CIA, FBI Launch Manhunt For WikiLeaks Source

Slashdot: Your Rights Online - Sun, 04/23/2017 - 10:19
An anonymous reader quotes CBS: CBS News has learned that a manhunt is underway for a traitor inside the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA and FBI are conducting a joint investigation into one of the worst security breaches in CIA history, which exposed thousands of top-secret documents that described CIA tools used to penetrate smartphones, smart televisions and computer systems. Sources familiar with the investigation say it is looking for an insider -- either a CIA employee or contractor -- who had physical access to the material... Much of the material was classified and stored in a highly secure section of the intelligence agency, but sources say hundreds of people would have had access to the material. Investigators are going through those names. Homeland security expert Michael Greenberger told one CBS station that "My best guest is that when this is all said and done we're going to find out that this was done by a contractor, not by an employee of the CIA."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Research

Can Parents Sue If Their Kid Is Born With the 'Wrong' DNA?

Slashdot: Your Rights Online - Sat, 04/22/2017 - 12:34
Long-time reader randomErr quotes Gizmodo: It's a nightmare scenario straight out of a primetime drama: a child-seeking couple visits a fertility clinic to try their luck with in-vitro fertilization, only to wind up accidentally impregnated by the wrong sperm. In a fascinating legal case out of Singapore, the country's Supreme Court ruled that this situation doesn't just constitute medical malpractice. The fertility clinic, the court recently ruled, must pay the parents 30% of upkeep costs for the child for a loss of 'genetic affinity.' In other words, the clinic must pay the parents' child support not only because they made a terrible medical mistake, but because the child didn't wind up with the right genes... "It's suggesting that the child itself has something wrong with it, genetically, and that it has monetary value attached to it," Todd Kuiken, a senior research scholar with the Genetic Engineering and Society Center at North Carolina State University, told Gizmodo. "They attached damages to the genetic makeup of the child, rather than the mistake. That's the part that makes it uncomfortable. This can take you in all sort of fucked up directions."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Research