July 26, 2008
The Child Online Protection Act (COPA) Unconstitutional
The Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals [opinion] upheld a lower court ruling striking down the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) which required Web operators to restrict access to large amounts of constitutionally protected speech. In its ruling the court said COPA "cannot withstand a strict scrutiny, vagueness, or overbreadth analysis and thus is unconstitutional." Hat tip to Mark Giangrande (DePaul), Tech Law Prof Blog. [JH]
Does the Mainstream Media Ignore Ordinary People in Economic News Coverage?
New report, Journalists Give Workers the Business: How the Mainstream Media Ignores Ordinary People in Economic News Coverage, from the Center for American Progress:
The mainstream media has a profound impact on politics, helping everyday Americans determine what topics people think are important, shape how they feel about issues, and even how they vote.
Alternative media outlets such as blogs and social networking sites have proliferated in recent years, yet most people still receive their news from the mainstream media, which is especially true for economic news. This report focuses on how the mainstream media covers the economy, a subject where fundamental political questions arise about how income is generated and allocated among individual Americans and the businesses and companies they work for and sometimes invest in. Specifically, in its coverage of economic issues, does the media provide a balanced discussion of who gets what and why? Or instead is coverage biased toward a particular interest group?
Based on a unique, quantitative study, this report finds that media coverage of economic issues is biased and consistently fails to live up to expectations of balance and fairness. On a range of economic issues, the perspective of workers is largely missing from media coverage, while the views of business are frequently presented. The findings are based on analysis of coverage of four economic issues—employment, minimum wage, trade, and credit card debt—in the leading newspaper and television outlets in 2007." [RJ]
UNICEF 2007 Annual Report
From the press release: "The Annual Report 2007 details UNICEF’s work on behalf of children and their families in 155 countries and territories. The report outlines the challenges and accomplishments of UNICEF and its vast network of partners in their quest to fulfill the Millennium Development Goals. Highlights include the historic drop in deaths of children under five, dipping below 10 million in 2006, successful ‘Go to School’ campaigns in countries emerging from crises, innovative programmes to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV and on-the-ground responses to natural and human-made cataclysms." [RJ]
July 25, 2008
Time for Some Campaignin': Google's 2008 US Election Search Trends Site and Widget
Google has launched its 2008 US Election Search Trends site. You can track the most searched elections-related terms and find out which candidates are popular in different cities using Google's Search Queries Map plus add the Candidate Queries Map widget to your iGoogle start page.
And now for something completely different. JibJab's Time for Some Campaignin' election satire! [JH]
Ellen Callinan Isn't a Slacker
Ellen Callinan, Senior Consultant with Axelroth & Associates and an adjunct professor at Georgetown Law, reflects on how her traditional weekends off have disappeared from her work routine since consulting from home at Flexible Weekends. She's no slacker! Just yesterday, Ellen and I were IM-ing about our retirement plans. She will be working well into her 80s. Years and years and years of working weekends to come ... hope you have this weekend off Ellen. Update from Ellen: Nope, she's working! [JH]
Judge Richard Posner on Why He Isn't a Slacker: "Procrastination is very unhealthy. It causes problems for the people who are counting on you to complete things in a timely fashion and it makes your own life more difficult. … It helps to be a little compulsive. Then you feel uncomfortable if something is hanging over you—that’s the opposite of procrastination, a compulsion to complete things and get rid of the albatross hanging over you. … I have that compulsion." Quoted from Slate's Workers of the world, slack off! Check out the Slate article for responses to the publication's survey of procrastination rituals. See, for example, the response from a CIA agent (lost in information overload) and an NFL cheerleader ("One big thing we procrastinate on is tanning. We have to have color, because our uniforms are really light.")
Friday Fun: Evil Librarian Explains Consequences of Not Respecting Library Books to Children
Phil Hendrie is best known as the host of the nationally syndicated The Phil Hendrie Show, a comedy talk radio program. The show became renowned for its interviews with controversial guests who turned out to be fictional characters created and voiced by Hendrie himself. Because of his seamless conversations with himself in multiple voices, callers often had no idea whether the guest was a real person or Hendrie. Here's a classic: the evil librarian (mp3).
For more about this mad genius, including links to character clips, radio clips, and vcasts, check out Phil Hendrie's website. I couldn't find the evil librarian clip there because the site doesn't have a search engine so I hope Hendrie doesn't mind. The site's Copyright Notice page is blank, intentional? In exchange for the clip's use, I will be happy to provide Hendrie with SE code if he is upset. Hat tip to Mark Giangrande (DePaul). [JH]
Arthur Miller: Law Schools Are Not Doing Their Customers a Service in Terms of Legal Research
A video interview featuring Arthur Miller on legal research and writing at law schools was shown as part of the West town hall meeting on legal research skills in Portland (Podcast preview of the meeting]. You can view the YouTube versions here. [JH]
Has the change in "how we research" changed legal education?
What should the "starting point" be?
New and Updated GlobaLex Research Guides
From the July 2008 GlobaLex release:
New research guides and articles:
- A Brief Overview of the Saudi Arabian Legal System By Dr. Abdullah F. Ansary
- Defining International Terrorism in Light of Liberation Movements By Innocent Maja
- A New Guide to Legal Research in Mali By Servaas Feiertag
Updated research guides and articles:
- International Sports Law by Amy Burchfield
- Doing Legal Research in Brazil by Edilenice Passo
- A Guide to the Singapore Legal System and Legal Research by Tzi Yong Sam Sim
Avishai's The Hebrew Republic
"Avishai’s book is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand not only the genuine complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but also the real prospects for a sane and peaceful outcome." -- Dov Frohman, Founding CEO, Intel-Israel
List Price: $26.00
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Harcourt; 1 edition (April 2008)
Description: Political economist Bernard Avishai has been writing and thinking about Israel since moving there to volunteer during the 1967 War. now he synthesizes his years of study and searching into a short, urgent polemic that posits that the country must become a more complete democracy if it has any chance for a peaceful future. He explores the connection between Israel’s democratic crisis and the problems besetting the nation—the expansion of settlements, the alienation of Israeli Arabs, and the exploding ultraorthodox population. He also makes an intriguing case for Israel’s new global enterprises to change the country’s future for the better.
With every year, peace in Israel seems to recede further into the distance, while Israeli arts and businesses advance. This contradiction cannot endure much longer. But in cutting through the inflammatory arguments of partisans on all sides, Avishai offers something even more enticing than pragmatic solutions—he offers hope.
About the Author: Bernard Avishai is consulting editor at the Harvard Business Review. Formerly a professor of business at Duke University and the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, The author's blog.
Ways to Quickly Create Excellent Presentations Online
Great article from ReadWriteWeb: "It's no secret that not everyone can afford to buy Microsoft Office to create brilliant PowerPoint presentations for any event. While affordability plays a role, so does OS compatibility. Well, worry no more. ReadWriteWeb has a list of great services you can use to create presentations on the fly without downloading a thing. All you will need is an internet connection and a bit of creativity."
Hat tip: Ellyssa on Web 2.0, iLibrarian [RJ]
July 24, 2008
Do Senior Librarians Have a Moral Obligation to Retire?
The issue was presented on Brian Leiter's (Chicago) Philosophy Blog at Do Senior Faculty Have an Obligation to Retire at Some Point?, "Beneficial Retirement" of Senior Philosophers and The Brewing Economic Meltdown and the Philosophy Profession where Leiter writes
Students and especially job seekers, I fear, need to be prepared for weak job markets this year and next, if not longer... Not only will state universities likely be doing less hiring, but the catastrophic June in the stock markets means that a lot of faculty who might have been thinking about retirement in the coming year are going to postpone given the huge losses most will have suffered.
My crystal ball says job opportunities for young librarians wouldn't be all that great in either the public or private sector, so should senior librarians eligible for retirement make room for younger ones during a weak job market? Check out Leiter's review of arguments at Inside Higher Ed and take our LLB poll which is based on them.
If you select yes/no for a reason not listed as an option, feel free to explain in a comment to this post.[JH]
Google's Wikipedia Rival, Knol, Now Online
Fans and detractors of Wikipedia take note. Google's Knol, a Wikipedia-like online encyclopedia of authoritative articles (called "knols" by Google to refer to "units of knowledge") is now online. Last December, Udi Manber, VP Engineering, explained the project in his Encouraging people to contribute knowledge post on Google Blog:
The key idea behind the knol project is to highlight authors. Books have authors' names right on the cover, news articles have bylines, scientific articles always have authors -- but somehow the web evolved without a strong standard to keep authors names highlighted. We believe that knowing who wrote what will significantly help users make better use of web content. At the heart, a knol is just a web page; we use the word "knol" as the name of the project and as an instance of an article interchangeably. It is well-organized, nicely presented, and has a distinct look and feel, but it is still just a web page. Google will provide easy-to-use tools for writing, editing, and so on, and it will provide free hosting of the content. Writers only need to write; we'll do the rest.
A knol on a particular topic is meant to be the first thing someone who searches for this topic for the first time will want to read. The goal is for knols to cover all topics, from scientific concepts, to medical information, from geographical and historical, to entertainment, from product information, to how-to-fix-it instructions. Google will not serve as an editor in any way, and will not bless any content. All editorial responsibilities and control will rest with the authors. We hope that knols will include the opinions and points of view of the authors who will put their reputation on the line. Anyone will be free to write. For many topics, there will likely be competing knols on the same subject. Competition of ideas is a good thing.
Manber's statement that "A knol on a particular topic is meant to be the first thing someone who searches for this topic for the first time will want to read" has generated debate about whether Google search results can remain neutral because of a possible conflict of interest. See the Wikipedia article on Knol.
As of earlier today, there wasn't a Wikipedia article on Knol so an enterprising librarian can add writing one to his or her To Do list. Another great topic would be a research guide for using public domain legal research databases.
Librarians, Seize the Day. Being new, Knol isn't a great resource yet. See, for example, knols on Chicago-style hot dogs and buttermilk pancakes. OK, I was hungry when I surfed through Knol. There are plenty of substantive articles on more serious topics. [List of Featured Knols] but librarians can seize the moment by contributing now. (I'm thinking about writing one on Chicago-style Italian Beef sandwiches because I'm still hungry.)
There's plenty of articles and blog comments on Knol. See, for example, Google Throws Open Rival for Wikipedia — Anon Authors Discouraged by Wired's Steven Levy. [JH]
Legal Research v. E-Discovery
I am always struck by the similarities between how law librarians discuss online legal research and how judges and commentators discuss e-discovery.
Do lawyers have so insightful a grasp of the words and semantic relationships behind our relevance and privilege decisions that we can distill the "je ne sais quoi" of our well-honed legal minds into quotidian keyword spotting? We'd like to think we do, despite studies showing we possess little ability to frame effective keyword searches. We're shocked when our magic words catch barely 20 percent of responsive documents. We shouldn't be.
Language is deceptively complex, and meaning is an elusive, protean quarry. We depend upon context for meaning, but keyword search ignores context entirely. Boolean search is only marginally better at gleaning context.
Interesting parallels, which continue to make me wonder how librarians, expert researchers that we are, might successfully partner within a firm's e-discovery/litigation department. Quote from Law Tech News. [JJ]
On the Vendor-Law Library Relationship
Check out Alvin Podboy's (Director of Library Services at Baker Hostetler) recent article, Legal Information Needs a Little Kedging. [JH]
Professional Reading: Visual Comparison of Search Results: A Censorship Case Study
Visual Comparison of Search Results: A Censorship Case Study by Mark Meiss and Filippo Menczer has been published in First Monday (July 7, 2008). Here's the abstract:
Understanding the qualitative differences between the sets of results from different search engines can be a difficult task. How many links must you follow from each list before you can reach a conclusion? We describe a user interface that allows users to quickly identify the most significant differences in content between two lists of Web pages. We have implemented this interface in CenSEARCHip, a system for comparing the effects of censorship policies on search engines.
Try CenSEARCHip for web and image searching. [JH]
YouTube Videos for Librarians
Laura Milligan has compiled a list of 100 YouTube videos covering tutorials for using library resources, literacy campaigns, outreach programs, plus several videos that poke fun at librarians and the library as a workplace. Check it out. [JH]
Special Criminal Contempt of Congress Act, H.R. 6508, Tossed Into the Bill Hopper
Remember when the House voted in February to hold White House counsel Harriet Mier and White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolton in Comtempt of Congress for failing to testify last July before the House Judiciary Committee about the U.S. Attorney firings, and Attorney General Michael Mukasey refused to take the next step of referring the contempt citations to a grand jury for investigation? Recently Representative Brad Miller (D-NC) introduced the Special Criminal Contempt of Congress Procedures Act, H.R. 6508 to provide an alternate procedure for the prosecution of certain criminal contempts referred for prosecution by the House of Representatives. The bill would allows the U.S. Court of Appeals to appoint an independent “Special Advocate” to prosecute the contempt charges when the Attorney General refuses to do so.
Hat tip to Donny Shaw, Congress Gossip Blog. [JH]
July 23, 2008
The Real "Bones" as Expert Witness
On the Fox series "Bones" forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan, a/k/a Bones, is brilliant at her profession, less so as an expert witness because she bores juries to death with her technical testimony. Kathy Reichs, the inspiration for Bones, ran into the opposite problem in a recent Ohio state court case, State v. Robinsion (Ohio App. 6 Dist. 2008). Check out Colin Miller's (John Marshall Law School (Chicago)) great post on EvidenceProf Blog for details: Cross Bones: Court Of Appeals Of Ohio Finds No Prosecutorial Misconduct Despite Scathing Comments Attacking Kathy Reichs a/k/a Bones In Nun Murder Cold Case. [JH]
FDA Watchdog Site Launched by Current and Former FDA Employees
This takes guts! The recently launched Thoreau-FDA website is operated by current and former US FDA staff who believe public health is being put at unnecessary risk. These concerned civil servants and ex-civil servants have either experienced or are aware of wrongful directives by US FDA upper management – directives that put public health at avoidable risk.
On the site you will find articles by the site's operators that describe their efforts to protect all of us and our pets from harmful drugs and other medical products. There are also reports of ordeals of other US FDA staff, who are not involved in setting up this web site.
These brave souls have also launched FDA-blog with an open invitation to all interested parties, especially consumers most affected by FDA actions or inactions, to post their views and comments.
"Thoreau-FDA," by the way, stands for Thorough – High – Objectivity – Review – Ends – Are – Us – FDA. Hope no one gets fired. Check out the site.
Hat tip to Bill Childs (Western New England School of Law), TortsProf Blog. [JH]
U.S. News Law School Rankings: Is Simson's "Enough" Enough?
Brian Leiter (Chicago) and others have demonstrated that the U.S. News methodology for ranking law schools is susceptible to manipulation by law schools and, in general, is a poor measure of a law school's quality of education and scholarly contributions. See generally, Brian Leiter's Law School Rankings. In response to Bob Morse's recent blog post that formula changes are being considered by U.S. News, Case Western Dean Gary J. Simson writes:
I propose that law school faculties and administrations treat the announcement as a wake-up call and recognize how much they have allowed themselves to be at the mercy of editors whose primary interest is selling magazines, rather than providing a means of ranking schools that actually might promote the things that make for genuine greatness in a law school. This announcement, and the wrench that it threatens to throw into structural changes that have been made to avoid being disadvantaged by a deeply flawed methodology, should cause law school faculties and administrations everywhere to finally say "enough" and that they are done participating in a ranking system that has done substantial harm and little, if any, good to legal education in the United States. Even the faculty and administration at the most highly ranked schools — those schools that today appear to be winning in the rankings game — should recognize that they have a major stake in abandoning a system that, at some magazine editors' whim, could be suddenly revamped in ways that could send those schools plummeting from their lofty perch
Read Dean Simson's entire National Law Journal statement: Say 'enough' to 'U.S. News'. On the formula changes under consideration, see our earlier post: Fiddling with the US News Law School Ranking Formula. [JH]