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River plastic emissions to the world’s oceans, Laurent C. M. Lebreton, Joost van der Zwet, Jan-Willem Damsteeg, Boyan Slat, Anthony Andrady & Julia Reisser. Nature Communications 8, Article number: 15611 (2017). doi:10.1038/ncomms15611. Received: 27 October 2016. Accepted: 11 April 2017. Published online: 07 June 2017.
“Plastics in the marine environment have become a major concern because of their persistence at sea, and adverse consequences to marine life and potentially human health. Implementing mitigation strategies requires an understanding and quantification of marine plastic sources, taking spatial and temporal variability into account. Here we present a global model of plastic inputs from rivers into oceans based on waste management, population density and hydrological information. Our model is calibrated against measurements available in the literature. We estimate that between 1.15 and 2.41 million tonnes of plastic waste currently enters the ocean every year from rivers, with over 74% of emissions occurring between May and October. The top 20 polluting rivers, mostly located in Asia, account for 67% of the global total. The findings of this study provide baseline data for ocean plastic mass balance exercises, and assist in prioritizing future plastic debris monitoring and mitigation strategies.”
American Lung Association – State of the Air 2017 – “For 18 years, the American Lung Association has analyzed data from official air quality monitors to compile the “State of the Air” report. The more you learn about the air you breathe, the more you can protect your health and take steps to make our air cleaner and healthier.” [Washington DC received an F this year for Ozone Level – along with the statement – “If you live in Washington, DC, the air you breathe may put your health at risk.”
- “Trooly delivers Instant Trust™ services that verify, screen and predict trustworthy relationships and interactions. We work with the world’s largest financial institutions, peer-to-peer marketplaces, marketers and employers. Our Instant Trust rating service is designed to fill a “trust gap” caused by the speed of modern commerce and community, which requires instant evaluation of potential reward and risk – without the trust-building interaction history and feedback loops that people use to evaluate relationships offline. Our machine learning technology synthesizes digital footprints in real time to provide rich insight — well beyond old-school background checks, credit scores and risk management tools…”
Gizmodo: “Political data gathered on more than 198 million US citizens was exposed this month after a marketing firm contracted by the Republican National Committee stored internal documents on a publicly accessible Amazon server. The data leak contains a wealth of personal information on roughly 61 percent of the US population. Along with home addresses, birthdates, and phone numbers, the records include advanced sentiment analyses used by political groups to predict where individual voters fall on hot-button issues such as gun ownership, stem cell research, and the right to abortion, as well as suspected religious affiliation and ethnicity. The data was amassed from a variety of sources—from the banned subreddit r/fatpeoplehate to American Crossroads, the super PAC co-founded by former White House strategist Karl Rove. Deep Root Analytics, a conservative data firm that identifies audiences for political ads, confirmed ownership of the data to Gizmodo on Friday…”
Newsweek: “…Though we constantly see examples in the news, child gun injuries and deaths may be even more prevalent in the United States than we realized. A study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics showed that an average of 5,790 children in the United States receive emergency room treatment for gun-related injuries each year, and around 21 percent of those injuries are unintentional. The study also found that an average of 1,297 children die annually from gun-related injuries, making guns the third-leading cause of death for children in America (behind illnesses and unintentional injuries like drownings or car crashes). The number is based on data taken from 2012–2014 for children up to the age of 17…”
“NASA content – images, audio, video, and computer files used in the rendition of 3-dimensional models, such as texture maps and polygon data in any format – generally are not copyrighted. You may use this material for educational or informational purposes, including photo collections, textbooks, public exhibits, computer graphical simulations and Internet Web pages. This general permission extends to personal Web pages. News outlets, schools, and text-book authors may use NASA content without needing explicit permission. NASA content used in a factual manner that does not imply endorsement may be used without needing explicit permission. NASA should be acknowledged as the source of the material. NASA occasionally uses copyrighted material by permission on its website. Those images will be marked copyright with the name of the copyright holder. NASA’s use does not convey any rights to others to use the same material. Those wishing to use copyrighted material must contact the copyright holder directly. NASA has extensive image and video galleries online, including historic images, current missions, astronomy pictures, and ways to search for NASA images. Generally, each mission and program has a video and image collection on the topic page. For example, space station videos can be found at https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/videos/index.html. Content can also be found on our extensive social media channels.”
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“Free Legal Answers is a virtual legal advice clinic. Qualifying users post their civil legal question to their state’s website. Users will then be emailed when their question receives a response. Attorney volunteers, who must be authorized to provide pro bono assistance in their state, log in to the website, select questions to answer, and provide legal information and advice. Volunteer attorneys will not answer criminal law questions. Participating states have their own page where qualifying residents will post their question. Look at your state’s page for more information. Free Legal Answers is a project of the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service. If you would like more information about the Free Legal Answers site, contact the National Site Administrator here. Please be advised, the National Site Administrator will not respond to email requests for legal assistance.” Also, please consider law librarians’ who are located at public organizations.
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The 2016 election was one of the most eventful in U.S. history. We will be debating its consequences for a long time. For those of us who pay attention to the security and reliability of elections, the 2016 election teaches some important lessons. I’ll review some of them in this post.
First, though, let’s review what has not changed. The level of election security varies considerably from place to place in the United States, depending on management, procedures, and of course technology choices. Places that rely on paperless voting systems, such as touchscreen voting machines that record votes directly in computer memories (so-called DREs), are at higher risk, because of the malleability of computer memory and the lack of an auditable record of the vote that was seen directly by the voter. Much better are systems such as precinct-count optical scan, in which the voter marks a paper ballot and feeds the ballot through an electronic scanner, and the ballot is collected in a ballot box as a record of the vote. The advantage of such a system is that a post-election audit that compares a random sample of paper ballots to the corresponding electronic records can verify with high confidence that the election results are consistent with what voters saw. Of course, you have to make the audit a routine post-election procedure.
Now, on to the lessons of 2016.
The first lesson is that nation-state adversaries may be more aggressive than we had thought. Russia took aggressive action in advance of the 2016 U.S. election, and showed signs of preparing for an attack that would disrupt or steal the election. Fortunately they did not carry out such an attack–although they did take other actions to influence the election. In the future, we will have to assume the presence of aggressive, highly capable nation-state adversaries, which we knew to be possible in principle before, but now seem more likely.
The second lesson is that we should be paying more attention to attacks that aim to undermine the legitimacy of an election rather than changing the election’s result. Election-stealing attacks have gotten most of the attention up to now–and we are still vulnerable to them in some places–but it appears that external threat actors may be more interested in attacking legitimacy.
Attacks on legitimacy could take several forms. An attacker could disrupt the operation of the election, for example, by corrupting voter registration databases so there is uncertainty about whether the correct people were allowed to vote. They could interfere with post-election tallying processes, so that incorrect results were reported–an attack that might have the intended effect even if the results were eventually corrected. Or the attacker might fabricate evidence of an attack, and release the false evidence after the election.
Legitimacy attacks could be easier to carry out than election-stealing attacks, as well. For one thing, a legitimacy attacker will typically want the attack to be discovered, although they might want to avoid having the culprit identified. By contrast, an election-stealing attack must avoid detection in order to succeed. (If detected, it might function as a legitimacy attack.)
The good news is that steps like adopting auditable paper ballots and conducting routine post-election audits are useful against both election-stealing and legitimacy attacks. If we have strong evidence of voter intent, this will make election-stealing harder, and it will make falsified evidence of election-stealing less plausible. But attacks that aim to disrupt the election process may require different types of defenses.
One thing is certain: election workers have a very difficult job, and they need all of the help they can get, from the best technology to the best procedures, if we are going to reach the level of security we need.
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On Friday, the Office of Government Ethics released President Trump's most recent financial disclosure documents. While not a substitute for the President's tax returns, this disclosure sheds some light on how winning the presidency has touched his assets and should help inform the public about his various business dealings.
Read on for more on Trump's financial disclosure and all the latest open government news from around the U.S. and across the globe.Disclosed
- Numerous outlets are digging into the President's financial disclosure documents. Among other interesting details: Despite selling most of his stocks and stepping away from day-to-day management of his business, he is still benefiting from assets worth at least $1.4 billion; The properties he has visited most during his Presidency appear to be enjoying a boost in revenue; however, overall revenues from his businesses were down about 3 percent over the period covered in his previous filings.
- Financial Disclosures don't paint the full picture. "The financial disclosure reports list Trump’s various assets, liabilities and some income, but it is difficult to determine a person’s wealth based on their financial disclosure forms because the values are listed in vast ranges." (The Hill) This is why we will continue to push for the President to release his full tax returns.
The Center for American Progress
- An interactive map of the Trump family's global conflicts of interest. "And there are equally telling signs that foreign leaders have deduced that giving Trump’s businesses special treatment is the quickest way to achieve gains for their country’s agenda at the White House." (Center for American Progress) Don't forget that Sunlight is also tracking Trump's conflicts of interest on a rolling basis.
- Meanwhile, in Middle East feud, Trump's agenda mirrors business ties. "Now a feud has broken out among these three crucial American allies, and Mr. Trump has thrown his weight firmly behind the two countries where he has business ties, raising new concerns about the appearance of a conflict between his public role and his financial incentives." (New York Times)
- Vice President Pence picks outside counsel for Russia investigation. "Pence has hired Richard Cullen, the chairman of McGuireWoods in Richmond and a former US attorney with extensive experience handling government investigations, according to a spokesman for Pence." (BuzzFeed)
- President and his lawyer seem to disagree about whether or not Trump is under investigation. "President Donald Trump is not under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, a member of his legal team said repeatedly Sunday morning." This despite a report in the Washington Post indicating that a probe had been widened "to also investigate whether Trump obstructed justice…" and a tweet from Trump himself that appeared to confirm the investigation. (POLITICO)
- Will the new House Oversight Chairman use his investigative powers to probe president? "But there are signs that Gowdy, a former state and federal prosecutor who led the rancorous House probe into the 2012 Benghazi attacks, may defer those inquiries to other congressional investigations and to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III." (Washington Post)
Georgia's 6th Congressional District
- Inside the most expensive House race ever. "The contest [to fill a vacant House seat in the Atlanta Suburbs] now ranks as the most expensive U.S. House race in history. Including the money raised and spent leading up to April’s primary election, in which no candidate garnered a majority of the vote, roughly $60 million has been pumped into the race, according to an Issue One analysis of filings with the Federal Election Commission." (Issue One)
- Center for Public Integrity sues FEC for email correspondence with Trump team. "The lawsuit, filed Wednesday with the U.S District Court for the District of Columbia, stems from the FEC’s refusal to make public emails between agency officials and the Office of Management and Budget during the initial days of President Donald Trump’s administration." (Center for Public Integrity)
- Senators on both sides of aisle concerned about opaque healthcare bill. "Both Republican and Democratic senators are expressing concerns over the lack of open process in the Senate's work on a revised ObamaCare repeal-and-replace bill even as Republican leadership looks to move the bill to a vote as soon as possible." (The Hill)
- Agencies insistence on "unnamed sources" restricts accountability. "Here’s what’s lost when people hide behind generic titles. Real accountability for people on the public payroll." (Star Tribune) Our take? Overuse of anonymous sources and "senior officials" whose agencies insist that they speak "on background" falls short of democracy at its best. When public servants don't go on the record to explain their policies and actions, transparency and accountability suffer.
- Palestinian Authority moves to censor critics online. "The Palestinian Authority's (PA) Attorney General issued a Directive for the dozen Palestinian ISPs operating in the West Bank to block 11 websites affiliated with political rivals and critics of President Mahmoud Abbas." (Global Voices)
- Shedding light on the growing violence against journalists in Mexico. "When gunmen shot and killed Mexican columnist, investigative reporter, and author Javier Valdez Cárdenas in Culiacán, Sinaloa on May 15, a chill went through newsrooms everywhere. Not only was he the sixth member of the press in Mexico to be assassinated in less than three months, some reporters had just assumed that someone of Valdez’s international fame and stature would be protected." (The National Security Archive)
- June 27th: Legislative Data and Transparency Conference in Washington, DC. "The Legislative Data and Transparency Conference 2017 (#LDTC17), hosted by the Committee on House Administration, will take place on Tuesday, June 27, 2017in the Capitol Visitor Center Congressional Auditorium. The #LDTC17 brings individuals from Legislative Branch agencies together with data users and transparency advocates to foster a conversation about the use of legislative data – addressing how agencies use technology well and how they can use it better in the future." Learn more here.
- June 28th, 10am EST: How Can Demand Driven & Bottom Up Social Accountability Tools Improve Health Services? The Experience of Rural Mozambique, Webinar. "This webinar explores how Concern Universal has managed to find the intersections in incentives and goals between government and rural communities while helping overcome some crucial gaps in health service delivery. It focuses on lessons learned through application of collaborative government/citizen’s approach. More information here: http://bit.ly/2sUtR0C"
- June 29th: DATA Act Summit 2017 in Washington, DC. "The fourth annual DATA Act Summit, hosted by the Data Coalition and Booz Allen Hamilton, will bring together supporters of the open data transformation from across government and the private sector." Learn more and get your tickets here.
- July 5, 10am EST: ICT-mediated Citizen Engagement: Voice or Chatter? Webinar. "In this webinar, IT for Change will present the results of eight empirical case studies of citizen engagement through ICTs they undertook. This research, funded by Making All Voices Count, explored in each case how new forms of participation were shaped by IT, how IT affected power relations between government and citizens, and how the interactions between different actors continuously shape governance. More information here: http://bit.ly/2rb4TJ3"
- September 11th and 12th: TicTec@Taipei in Taipei. "TICTeC@Taipei is the first ever conference about the influence of civic tech to be held in Asia. We’ve invited members of academia, business, politics, NGOs, education to participate, and discuss their research. We hope through this event, we can build a global network of civic tech enthusiasts." The event is being held during #CivicTechFest 2017. Learn more, submit a session proposal, and register to attend here.
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“This website, The Historical Marker Database, is an illustrated searchable online catalog of historical information viewed through the filter of roadside and other permanent outdoor markers, monuments, and plaques. It contains photographs, inscription transcriptions, marker locations, maps, additional information and commentary, and links to more information. Anyone can add new markers to the database and update existing marker pages with new photographs, links, information and commentary.”
“Google has had thousands of bird sounds visualized using AI. Background. “Bird sounds vary widely. This experiment uses machine learning to organize thousands of bird sounds. The computer wasn’t given tags or the birds’ names – only the audio. Using a technique called t-SNE, the computer created this map, where similar sounds are placed closer together. http://g.co/aiexperiments – Built by Kyle McDonald, Manny Tan, Yotam Mann, and friends at Google Creative Lab. Thanks to Cornell Lab of Ornithology for their support. The sounds are available in the Macaulay Library’s Essential Set for North America. t-SNE animation featured in video by Gene Kogan.”
AXIOS via AP – “Meet Bob Mueller’s team tackling the Russia probe – Special Counsel Robert Mueller is leading the Russia investigation and, most recently, the investigation into whether President Trump obstructed justice. Suffice to say, he’s taking the matter seriously, as evidenced by the team of lawyers he has quietly hired over the past few weeks to help him. Between the lines: The people he’s hired don’t just look tough on paper — they’re legal experts with unique, complementary strengths who have fought and investigated crime all around the world. Their expertise suggests how Mueller views this investigation and the direction in which he is hoping to take it. The original team started as just three lawyers (plus Mueller) who all once worked at the law firm WilmerHale, where Mueller has worked since his 2013 departure from the FBI. Meet the full investigation dream team…”
- Vanity Fair – Robert Mueller’s Investigation into Donald Trump Gets Personal “Bob is not really a fun guy.”
- The Washington Post Graphic – A guide to the five major investigations of the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia
If you had to pick the most staid area of legal technology, you might choose legal research. After all, Westlaw and LexisNexis pretty much set the standard for online legal research long ago, and many of the smaller research services that have come along since are essentially less-comprehensive variations on the same theme. Yet within a few days of each other earlier this month, there were three major developments pertaining to legal research, each of which suggests interesting new directions for legal research. In fact, after I wrote about the three developments on my Lawsites blog, it prompted Ed Walters, the CEO of legal research service Fastcase, to tweet, “Might we be entering a golden age of legal research innovation? Sure feels like it.” Of course, innovation in legal research has been going on for a while now. Middle-tier services such as Fastcase and Casemaker are frequently refining their platforms and adding new features. Startups such as Casetext and Ravel Law have introduced innovations that even the big players have emulated. Startup ROSS is bringing IBM Watson’s artificial intelligence to legal research. Still, all three of these recent developments signal possible new directions in legal research. Let me review them briefly…”