Sunday 28 December 2008

Rating the Web?

The UK Telegraph reports that Andy Burnham, the British Culture Secretary, hopes to work with the new Obama administration to draw up international rules for English-language websites. He would like ISP's to offer child-friendly services to parents, and is also considering a rating system for websites similar to film rating systems. He is quoted as saying "“There is content that should just not be available to be viewed. That is my view. Absolutely categorical. This is not a campaign against free speech, far from it; it is simply there is a wider public interest at stake when it involves harm to other people. We have got to get better at defining where the public interest lies and being clear about it.”

Monday 22 December 2008

Customized news podcasts from NPR

The New York Times reports on a cool new feature from NPR that lets you custom-build podcasts of NPR content for your listening edification. You just pick the topics that interest you (keywords) and podcasts that you would find interesting are sent to your iPod.

Lobbying, government & law blogs, a leading provider of reference information on the government relations and lobbying industry, has put together a list of blogs that may be of interest to lobbyists - or anyone interested in lobbying, government and law. It includes blogs about lobbying, ethics, healthcare policy, educational policy, campaign finance, environment, and telecom/internet policy.

Electronic Frontier Foundation's accomplishments

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) was founded in 1990 to work for the public interest in critical legal issues involving new technologies - and continues to defend free speech, privacy, innovation, and consumer rights. For its holiday greeting this year, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) produced the Twelve Days of EFF, a music video highlighting some of its accomplishments during the past year, from helping to ensure the integrity of electronic voting to busting bad software patents. Hat tip: Law Librarian Blog and Legal Watch Blog.

Thursday 18 December 2008

Stress relief: flashmob library raves

New ideas for dealing with final exam week stress: flashmob raves at the library. Flashmobs are large groups that quickly assemble, do something, and disperse - they're a phenomenon of the cellphone/textmessaging/tweeting/socialnetworking/chatting culture. First there was a flashmob rave at the undergraduate library at UNC Chapel Hill, immediately available on YouTube of course; then University of VA students responded with their own YouTube video of THEIR flashmob rave at the library. Actually, it looks like fun and like a great stress-reliever. At the library! Where else!
Here's the UNC flashmob rave, then the UVA response:

Wednesday 17 December 2008

Print. Staple. Repeat.

Every semester during the last week of school there is a mad rush on the printers and staplers as all 750 students suddenly have to print up their 20 page papers and take-home exams. And every semester the law school schedule is a week+ longer than the University of Pittsburgh schedule. The result is that the campus computer labs - the ones where students have 900 free pages of printing per semester, and where they do 2-sided printing on superfast printers and have staffers carefully alphabetizing every print job - are either closed or open for a few hours in the middle of the day. Law students with frazzled nerves and time-stamped papers due flock to the law school computer labs to use the law school printers which aren't used to working very hard. Queues build up. Machines overheat. Paper jams. Toner cartridges run out. Paper runs out. Help! Once students manage to print up their papers it's a mad dash to the library staplers, which the circ staff keeps loaded and ready. Sometimes people just fall apart at the staplers. Which one to use? What if I don't staple it right and the staple is askew or raggedy, will the teacher mark me down? Which stapler has the red staples? Library staff offer to do the stapling so the staple will be straight and true. All our staplers have names because we know each one very well. We make signs for the staplers: PUSH DOWN HARD. Students are too rushed to read the signs and push down tentatively. The staples comes halfway out and gets stuck with one prong in the paper, one in the stapler. Oh no!

Stapling is a tiny little engineering feat. Every year at this time, when stapling is at its peak, I get obsessed with finding a really really good stapler, a sturdy and foolproof stapler that will staple even the longest, most footnote-ridden report. Not electric, those things are too scary especially for law students who have been up for 36 hours straight.

There are whole websites devoted to staplers. You can't believe how much a really good stapler can cost. Anyway, my current dream stapler for Barco is the Rapid DUAX® heavy-duty desktop stapler. The manufacturer calls it a Revolution in Stapling. It staples - no joke - from 2 to 170 sheets of 20-lb paper (though there are testimonials saying it has stapled 180 sheets with ease).
Here's what's really cool: "Only one size of DuaX® staple requiredAutomatically sizes staple to thickness of material stapled• Cuts the legs of the DUAX staple for an ultra-flat, clean staple". Wow. Wow. Wow. Apparently it cuts the little extra bits of staple off so that the staple fits the paper thickness perfectly. No more sharp ends sticking through the paper and drawing blood.
There's even a movie demo of the Duax on YouTube. I love it when he staples 170 pages, and he seems very pleased too. A little smug.

US News list a curse

I didn't say it - that's the title of a new article in the National Law Journal, subtitled "Law School Ranking generates more heat than light". The author, Peter Kalis, chairman and global managing partner of K&L Gates, goes on to express his concern that the US News law school rankings creates "mindless competition" that can have negative ramifications all through the legal community. He spells out two problems with the rankings: first, that "nondesigner" law schools - and he uses Pitt Law as his example - have dedicated teachers and researchers, fine student bodies and produce sterling lawyers - but these facts just don't come through in the rankings. Secondly, he feels that the rankings have a negative impact on minority enrollment in law schools, which means a smaller pool of candidates for law firms like K&L Gates to hire.
Mr. Kalis pays some wonderful and well-deserved compliments to Pitt Law and especially our talented faculty and students. And he puts US News in its place: "a magazine develops a ranking using a questionable approach, lets loose with this year's version and then starts reporting on its own pseudo-news as if it's something to which we should pay attention. For the most part, it's not." Hearing the truth about the rankings spoken so boldly is very refreshing. I hope others will be brave enough to stand up and say that the Emperor has no clothes.

Monday 15 December 2008

New: Magazines on Google

Google has announced a new initiative to bring more magazine archives and current magazines online, partnering with publishers to begin digitizing millions of articles. The blogpost mentions several publications by name: New York Magazine, Popular Mechanics, Popular Science, New York Magazine, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, and Ebony - but it doesn't provide a full list. These publications will be searched along with books when you perform a Google Book Search.

Faculty requests for the Commons Collection

The Barco Law Library recently sent out a request to the law school faculty for books that they would suggest we purchase for our Commons Collection. We ask them to suggest good books that they've enjoyed reading and would recommend to others. The replies are coming in, and we've been buying the books. I've created a new web page on the library's website that lists all the books we've added to the Commons Collection through this program. Keep an eye on it - there are more books to come!

Bankruptcies up 30% compared to last year

According to statistics released today by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts , bankruptcy filings were up more than 30% compared to last year. Bankruptcy cases filed in federal courts totaled 1,042,993 for the 12-month period ending September 30, 2008, compared to the 801,269 filings in Fiscal Year 2007. The US Courts website also has statistics for Business and Non-Business filings, and statistics for Chapter 7, Chapter 11, Chapter 12 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy filings.

Sunday 14 December 2008

2008 patents

Today's New York Times sunday magazine is the 8th annual "The Year in Ideas" issue. The Endpaper is "Some of this year's patents - along with how we imagine they might look. " They include an implantable pedometer, a combined watch and telephone, and a rodent euthanasia machine.

Friday 12 December 2008

End-run around PACER?

Wired has a story that "online rebel" Carl Malamud, who runs open-government group Public.Resource.Org, says that "the PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) system is the most broken part of our federal legal mechanism. They have a mainframe mentality." And he's doing something about it. He's asking lawyers to donate their PACER documents one by one, which he then classifies and bundles into ZIP files published for free at his organization's website. The one-year-old effort has garnered him 20 percent of all the files on PACER, including all decisions from federal appeals courts over the last 50 years. As many of us know, PACER will charge you 8 cents a page to read documents that are in the public domain — a fee that earned the federal judiciary $50 million in profits in 2006.

Hat tip: Nate "the Great" Traurig

Thursday 11 December 2008

All the legal news all the time?

Alltop is a calls itself an “online magazine rack” of popular topics. You pick a topic by searching, news category, or name, and they will gather all the news on that topic deliver it to you 24 x 7 (they update hourly). The law topic has a good selection of legal news sites.

The weirdest cases of 2008

Gary Slapper who is law professor in England and writes a "Weird Cases" column in the Times of London, has compiled his list of the year's 10 weirdest legal cases.

Wednesday 10 December 2008

Google Zeitgeist 2008

Google has released its 2008 Zeitgeist list of the most popular search terms for the year. You can view them by country, by topic, and various other iterations. They also list the most popular search terms used in Google Images, Google Books, Google News, and Google Translate. And the top products searched in their Product Search, should you need inspiration for holiday gifts.
The top five terms translated in Google Translate are:
  1. you
  2. what
  3. thank you
  4. please
  5. love.

Genocide Prevention Task Force report released

The Genocide Prevention Task Force of the United States Institute of Peace has released a report entitled "Preventing Genocide: A Blueprint for U.S. Policymakers". The report asserts that genocide is preventable, and that making progress toward doing so begins with leadership and political will. The report provides 34 recommendations, starting with the need for high-level attention, standing institutional mechanisms, and strong international partnerships to respond to potential genocidal situations when they arise; it lays out a comprehensive approach, recommending improved early warning mechanisms, early action to prevent crises, timely diplomatic responses to emerging crises, greater preparedness to employ military options, and action to strengthen global norms and institutions.

Tuesday 9 December 2008

Draft of the auto industry bailout bill

Here's the draft bill - Auto Industry Financing and Restructuring Act, December 8, 2008: "The purposes of this Act are
1) to immediately provide authority and facilitate ties to restore liquidity and stability to the domestic automobile industry in the United States; and
2) to ensure that such authority and such facilities are used in a manner that -
(A) stimulates manufacturing and sales of automobiles produced by automobile manufacturers in the United States;
(B) enhances the ability and the capacity of the domestic automobile industry to pursue the timely and aggressive production of energy efficient advanced technology vehicles;
(C) preserves and promotes the jobs of 355,000 workers in the United States directly employed by the automobile industry and an additional 4,500,000 workers in the United States employed in related industries;
(D) safeguards the ability of the domestic automobile industry to provide retirement and health care benefits for 1,000,000 retirees and their dependents; and
(E) results in a viable and competitive domestic automobile industry that minimizes adverse effects on the environment.

hat tip: beSpacific

Monday 8 December 2008

Harvard Business Review content on EBSCO

There's been an interesting discussion on the digital copyright listserv. It started when a librarian from Samford University posted a question: one of her faculty wanted to make permanent links for his course website to a number of articles, some of which were in the Harvard Business Review. The library has a ($$$) subscription to EBSCO's Business Source Premier, which includes the HBR in its content. However, there's a note on the HBR content that limits the ability to link to it; it says that the content can be used by individuals for research, but if you want to use the content for "course reserves" you have to contact them for pricing. The librarian says "This is my first encounter with a restriction on linking. Does this licensing agreement just side-step copyright law and guidelines? Canpublishers really stop educational fair use in this way?" The listserv responses go back and forth, from "contract law trumps" to "You've stumbled upon the famous Harvard Business Review exception to everything." to Harvard's explanation to "The courts are all over the board on this issue. It comes down to the interpretation of Section 301 of the Copyright Act."

Tweeting on Twitter, pro and con

A couple of interesting blogposts about Twitter, the currently hot social networking tool. Municipalist (a blog abouut government blogging)has an entertaining post about the potential of Twitter as a presidential platform. He says that Twitter is the next logical step for a president-elect who has already embraced video, and Twitter would let the public get to know Barack Obama in a way that his videos will never allow. “Could Obama do this? Is it even possible? Certainly it is. We have to make it possible. What kind of democracy is this if the president is literally afraid to…tweet?”
On the negative side, the Technometria blog (authored by Phil Windley, former chief information officer of Utah) points out one of the inherent shortcomings of Twitter as a news source: its lack of context. Because tweets are limited to 140 characters, writers cannot do much more than convey facts or reactions. That was a problem during the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India, he says. Reading a stream of comments is “like being in the middle of a crowd that you can't see over and you know something’s happening on the edge, but you can't tell what and you’re trying to figure it out from what people around you are saying. In many cases, they can’t see either — it's mostly hearsay.”
Hat tip: Federal Computer Week

Obama team teaches lesson on Government 2.0 etiquette

After receiving thousands of comments through the Web site, Obama's transition team has provided users with tips on participating in the online forums. The tips are intended "to help make our discussions clearer and more valuable," according to the blog entry .
The tips encourage users to read the comment policy, set up an account, stay on topic and to rate other comments. However, in explaining each tip, the Obama team clearly is trying to impress upon readers some rudimentary net etiquette and letting people know that social networking can be an effective governance tool -- but only if the participants are willing to play a constructive part. If not, and devolves into a free-for-all, the potential will be lost.

Law firm billing survey results

The National Law Journal reports on their annual survey of large law firm billing in an article entitled "Law firm fees defy gravity". Interesting factoids: The average of this year's average firmwide billing rates, which include partner and associate rates, climbed by 4.3% to $363 per hour. Partner billing rates broke record highs this year, with one firm exceeding the $1,200 mark and another rising above $1,100 per hour. Pittsburgh-based Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney was one of a few firms to break into 4-figure partner billing, at $1,020 per hour.

Congressional secrecy

The Dec. 1 edition of CQ Weekly (Pitt subscription) has several excellent articles about secrecy in Congress. The cover story is "A Dome Under Lock and Key" which details how much information about Congress is unavailable: "...the secret side of Capitol Hill is not at all limited to military or intelligence policy. For all its apparent openness, its televised debates and public hearings, Congress is more secretive than its reputation suggests. Closed or restricted access to legislative meetings and records may not be the rule, but such behavior is hardly viewed as an exception."
"Sunshine's Irregular Presence at the Capitol" presents a timeline of important dates in attempts to open - and close - Congressional information. "Obama on Openness" reports several steps that the President-elect has promised to take. Finally, "Congress' Tools of Last Resort" discusses ways in which members of Congress can force secret documents to go public.

Sunday 7 December 2008

Amazon public data sets

Earthtimes reports that Amazon just launched its Public Data Sets service (home). The project encourages developers, researchers, universities, and businesses to upload large (non-confidential) data sets to Amazon — things like census data, genomes, etc. — and then let others integrate that data into their own Amazon Web Services (AWS) applications. AWS is hosting the public data sets at no charge for the community, and like all of AWS services, users pay only for the compute and storage they consume with their own applications. Data sets already available include various US Census databases, Labor Statistics, and an annotated form of the Human Genome from Ensembl. Sounds like it could grow into something very useful.

National Security Reform report

The Project on National Security Reform and the Center for the Study of the Presidency has announced the release of their review of the national security interagency system. The report, "Forging a New Shield" (830 page pdf) is the result of Section 1049 of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2008 (PL 110-181) which required a study of the national security interagency system by an independent, non-profit, non-partisan organization. A 33-page Executive Summary (pdf) is also available. The members of the committee are unanimous in their sense that the national security of the US is fundamentally at risk, and the report analyzes the problems, causes, and consequences and proposes a set of reforms.
Among the PNSR’s key recommendations are:
  • Establishing a President’s Security Council to replace the National Security Council and Homeland Security.
  • Creating an empowered Director for National Security in the Executive Office of the
  • Initiating the process of shifting highly collaborative, mission-focused interagency teams for priority issues.
  • Mandating annual National Security Planning Guidance and an integrated national security budget.
  • Building an interagency personnel system, including a National Security Professional Corps.
  • Establishing a Chief Knowledge Officer in the PSC Executive Secretariat to ensure that the national security system as a whole can develop, store,retrieve and share knowledge.
  • Forming Select Committees on National Security in the Senate and House of Representatives.

Friday 5 December 2008

Reading Period, Exam, and Holiday hours

The Reading & Exam hours for the Barco Law Library start today. Faculty and students, please note that we are open for 10+ extra hours during the next couple of weeks, with the same number of staffers; be kind to Katie, Nate, Sarah and Brian as they stretch to cover the library desk for the extra time. The library is fortunate to have such excellent, dedicated workers.
Also note that the library is CLOSED from Weds. Dec. 24, 2008 through Thurs. Jan. 1, 2009.
Reading & Exam Period Friday, Dec. 5 - Monday, Dec. 22
Monday - Friday 7:30 A.M. - 11:45 P.M.
Saturday 10:00 A.M. - 10:00 P.M.
Sunday 10:00 A.M. - 11:45 P.M.
Monday December 22 7:30 A.M. - 5:00 P.M.
Winter Holiday Hours Weds. 12/24/08 - Sun. 1/11/09
Tues. Dec. 23 8:00 A.M. - 5:00 P.M.
Weds. Dec. 24, 2008 - Thurs. Jan. 1, 2009 CLOSED
Friday, Jan. 2, 2009 8:00 A.M. - 5:00 P.M.
Saturday, Jan. 3 10:00 A.M. - 5:00 P.M.
Sunday, January 4 12:00 noon - 5:00 P.M.
Mon. Jan.5-Fri. Jan. 9 8:00 A.M. - 5:00 P.M.
Saturday, Jan. 10 10:00 A.M. -5:00 P.M.
Sunday, Jan. 11 12:00 noon -5:00 P.M.

Technology and the Obama administration

Technology Review has an article that discusses how the Obama transition team is already testing new Web-centric communications strategies.

Top Ten things not to say in an e-mail

The Death by Email blog lists ten phrases that you should never use in an email - because they will catch the attention of legal searchers and e-discovery practitioners. Of course there are plenty of other things you should never say in an email. According to Ron Sylvester, blogging from Wichita at What The Judge Ate For Breakfast, you should never put anything in a work e-mail that you don’t want to be shown to 12 strangers on a big movie screen. An excellent tip. His wife practices employment law, including sexual harassment lawsuits, and she said you wouldn’t believe what people put in e-mails that end up being shown to juries in public courtrooms.

Hat tip: the ABA Journal

Thursday 4 December 2008

Emoticons on trial

The Wall Street Journal law blog picked up a story from Nebraska, where the Nebraska Supreme Court is mulling whether emoticons can amount to illegal entrapment. The full story is in the Lincoln, NE Journal Star. The case is an appeal from a James Pischel, a 31-year-old man sent to prison for using his computer to entice a 15-year-old girl who turned out to be a police investigator. Pischel's attorney says the state investigator entrapped Pischel by using emoticons to play with his emotions after he had said no thanks — she was too young — two months earlier. When Pischel said he wouldn’t meet, the investigator sent an angry face >:( emoticon. When Pischel tried to end the chat without contacting the “girl” again, the investigator blew him a “kiss” :-{} . Chief Justice Michael Heavican asked how specifically someone can “blow a kiss” online and got a lesson in emoticons when he was told it was done by typing certain keys that create a picture, similar to a smiley face made by a colon and a parenthesis. Pischel's lawyer argues that this adds up to government inducement.

Monday 1 December 2008

Law firm blawgs

Also in blawg news, "Three Geeks and a Law Blog" have compiled a list of "officially sanctioned" blogs at large law firms. Out of the National Law Journal top 250 law firms, they found 136 blogs from 53 firms. From a cursory glance, some of these blogs are being maintained by several lawyers at different office locations.

Jurist's Paper Chase highlighted as a top blawg by ABA Journal

The ABA Journal has a story about the top 100 legal blogs, or blawgs, on the internet - and once again, Jurist's Paper Chase is on the list. There is also a special related story highlighting the Paper Chase blog, and praising Prof. Bernard Hibbitts and his staff.
You can also vote for your favorite law blog on the ABA journal website. - votes must be in by Jan. 2.

Sunday 30 November 2008

Censoring the internet

The magazine section of the Sunday New York Times today had an interesting article entitled "Google's Gatekeepers: Censooooooor?" that looks at how Google deals with censorship on the internet. The article discusses how Google - or specifically, a few people at Google - exercises extraordinary power over global speech online. A number of specific incidents both in foreign countries and the US, where Google (which also owns YouTube) decided to remove content, are presented.

Withdrawal Agreement Between US and Iraq

The New York Times has posted a copy (18 page pdf) of the "Agreement Between the United States of America and the Republic of Iraq On the Withdrawal of United States Forces from Iraq" on its website.

Wednesday 26 November 2008

Billing Wexis expenses recently published astory that a federal judge has awarded more than $31.5 million to class-action lawyers who spent eight years battling The Coca-Cola Co. over whether it artificially inflated revenue figures to boost stock prices. However, note that in his order, Judge Willis B. Hunt Jr. reduced and disallowed a number of charges submitted by the class action lawyers. One of the expenses he disallows is the $93,960.67 in "Lexis,Westlaw, Online Library Research" charges submitted. He says "This Court is of the opinion that charging separately for use of a research service is akin to charging for the useof a caselaw reporter. That is,the research service is a tool, much like a computer or a pen, and this Court considers the use of such a service part of a firm's overhead... computer-aided research, like any other form of legal research, is a component of attorneys' fees and cannot be independently taxed as an item of cost in addition to theattorneys' fee award... Moreover, this Court is aware that many firms pay a flat rate to Lexis and Westlaw regardless of their usage, and class counsel cannot claim such flat rate payments as an out-of-pocket expense." He cites Leftwich v. Harris-Stowe State College, 702F.2d 686,695 (8thCir. 1983). In that case, the opinion states "(an) exception is the court's award of $145.89 for Lexis research. We believe that computer-aided research, like any other form of legal research, is a component of attorneys' fees and cannot be independently taxed as an item of cost in addition to the attorneys' fee award the district court granted Leftwich. Accordingly, we vacate that portion of the district court's cost award relating to Lexis research."
The case, from the US District Court for the northern district of Georgia, is Carpenters Health & Welfare Fund, et al vs. The Coca Cola Company etal. FILE NO.: 1:00-CV-2838-WBH.

ULS website will be unavailable

ULS has announced that their website will be unavailable on Tues. Dec. 16 and Weds. Dec. 17. They suggest we use PITTCat Classic ( ) during this time to access databases, ejournals, and other electronic resources.

Friday 21 November 2008

Friday fun: lame blogs

PC World has announced the top 11 lamest blogs (Barco 2.0 did NOT make the list, hurray), including the lamest corporate blog (Jack in the Box) and the lamest celebrity blog (Kim Kardashian) and the Lamest Exclusion of Relevant Information in a Blog (Ted Stevens for Senate).

Thursday 20 November 2008

LIFE archive added to Google images

Google has announced the LIFE photo archive, a collection of images photographed by LIFE Magazine photographers and newly digitized by Google. The collection which has been added to Google’s Image Search consists of approximately 10 million photos dating back to the 1850’s, of which about 20% has been digitized so far with the rest expected to be added over the next few months. The archive includes many iconic images from throughout the 20th century taken by famous photographers like Gordon Parks, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Margaret Bourke-White, and Dorothea Lange.

Russian children playing the "butterfly game."
Location: Moscow, Russia
Date taken: 1941
Photographer: Margaret Bourke-White

Federal Housing Administration wiki

The FHA has launched a wiki - which it calls both a "wiki" and a "wikipedia" - for people and organizations who have a desire or need to understand and use FHA's products. It contains lots of useful information for homeowners and homebuyers, though it is disarmingly amateurish-looking. And you have to have a username and password to actually edit the wiki.

Start-up hopes to improve patent quality

A new company called Article One Partners offers an online community to test the validity of approved patents. Article One, which launched this week, hopes to use the Internet to create a global community of experts to review patents issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The idea is to tap the wisdom of the online masses to unearth "prior art" — evidence that an invention is not novel and therefore doesn't deserve a patent — that the Patent Office may not have known about when it approved the application. They will pay contributors up to $50,000 if they provide evidence that invalidates a patent.
Here is an interview with patent attorney Cheryl Milone, the founder and CEO of Article One Partners.

Tuesday 18 November 2008

Can you delete your digital past?

Computerworld had a very interesting article "Deleting your digital past - for good" about how you might go about taking down online information that you don't want to be available. As you might expect, it's not easy. The article offers three scenarios of people who don't want certain information to remain on the internet -and only one can definitely be fixed.
A whole industry known as "online reputation management" has grown up around helping individual clients and corporate clients suppress negative information online by creating more positive and search-engine-friendly postings.

Ellen Barshevsky

If you follow the ABA news blawg you know that when Ellen Barshevsky comments on a post she ummm excites a lot of people. Yesterday the ABA blawg formally banned Ellen Barshevsky from posting any more comments: "Specifically, we have tolerated for some time, often to the delight, but increasingly more often to the dismay of our regular readers, what we can only assume is the fictional “Ellen Barshevsky” and her various personas. As of this morning, “Ellen” has formally been banned from commenting on the site." So this morning it was good to read the blawg post "Ellen has her own blawg". Yes "she" does, and she sounds just the same.

New website for disaster victims

A new website, Disaster Legal Services, has been launched by four national legal organizations to provide information for victims of disasters to help in recovery from hurricanes, fires, floods or other disasters. The site is sponsored by the American Bar Association, Legal Services Corporation, National Legal Aid & Defender Association and Pro Bono Net. The site has information for people who need help as well as lawyers who want to volunteer to help them.
Hat tip: beSpacific

Online education

Inside Higher Ed has an interesting article that discusses some of the challenges faced by higher education administrators and faculty as the popularity of online courses grows. According to the article, one in five college students took an online course last year and "that demand is beginning to be felt at institutions with growing online enrollments, whether or not their faculty are willing to go along for the ride. “[E]ither they have enough of a subset of their faculty who do believe in it, or they’re moving outside their institutions” to staff online courses".

President-Elect Obama on EPA libraries

President-Elect Barack Obama has written a letter (pdf) to John Gage, President of the AFGE, expressing his support of the EPA. He says "I strongly oppose attempts by the Bush Administration to thwart publication of EPA researchers' scientific findings, as well as the attempt to eliminate the agency's library system."

New website for service members and veterans

The U.S. Department of Defense has launched a new website called the National Resource Directory with information about services and resources for wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans, their families and families of the fallen, and those who support them from recovery and rehabilitation to community reintegration. It is well-organized and has a wealth of information including links to the services and resources of federal, state and local governmental agencies; veterans service and benefit organizations; non-profit community-based and faith-based organizations; and academic institutions, professional associations and philanthropic organizations.

Monday 17 November 2008

Wiki government

There are two new websites that invite people to make policy proposals for President-Elect Obama and then vote on them. The basic premise is that if Wikipedia basically works, why not use distributed Web contributors to decide how to run the free world, too? The first of these, The Whitehouse 2 was launched a few days ago by Jim Gilliam. The idea is that if enough people get involved in supporting causes Washington can't ignore it.
The second, Obama CTO, tees off on one of the planks in Obama's technology platform: creating the position of a national Chief Technology Officer. The new site, from the founders of FrontSeat, a platform for civic participation, invites people to suggest top priorities for the job.
President-Elect Obama has also announced that he will record his weekly address as a YouTube video to be posted at

Friday 14 November 2008

What does the Google book deal mean for libraries?

The Association of Research Libraries has posted a 23-page analysis “A Guide for the Perplexed,” designed to help libraries figure out what the deal Google recently reached with publishers and authors over its Book Search program means for them. Prepared by Jonathan Band, a copyright expert who advises the library association on intellectual-property issues, the guide lays out the basic framework of the settlement in ways that non-librarians may also find useful.

Tuesday 11 November 2008

New Federal Digitization Guidelines Working Groups

The November LOC newsletter has details about a new government collaboration to develop a common set of digitization practices and guidelines. Two working groups have been formed to deal with different types of formats: a still-image working group will establish appropriate guidelines for the scanning of text, maps, photographic prints and negatives; and an audiovisual working group will set standards for digitizing audiovisual materials—sound recordings, videos and film. The website also has a glossary of digitization terms.

New Berkeley Law Library expected to rate LEED Gold certification

Marketwatch reports that UC Berkeley law school has broken ground on a major expansion of its law library and programmatic space but has managed to keep the expansion within a modest footprint by placing two of the three building levels below ground. The new addition will house highly efficient library stack space and a combination of reading rooms, seminar spaces, computer labs, library staff offices, and collection services in two light-filled underground levels. The architects will integrate sustainable features into many aspects of the design to help meet a goal of LEED Gold certification for the new structure.

Monday 10 November 2008

50 best inventions of 2008

A story in Computer World points to Time Magazine's recently released list of the top 50 inventions of 2008. Topping the list is the $400 genetic test from "23 and me" (which we've blogged about). Other inventions on the list: Samsung's Touch Sight camera for the blind; the invisibility cloak (drat, not for sale yet); smog-eating cement; Hulu; the Time Eater clock (depicting time as a wave) unveiled by Stephen Hawking; Google's Floating Data Center (see the patent application); and sound-enhanced food.

President-elect Obama's transition website

President-elect Barack Obama's transition team has launched, a website that includes a presidential blog and links to explanations of Obama's policy initiatives, alphabetically organized, and a prominent link to his acceptance speech in Chicago. The site projects an aura of openness: it includes a section called "Open Government" that, for now, invites visitors to click away and send thoughts and personal election-day stories. When you visit, you must submit your e-mail address, allowing Obama's team to continue bolstering the already vast e-mail database, described as the largest ever marshaled in U.S. political history. The new site was built by Blue State Digital, the startup that created candidate Obama's highly effective online social-networking presence.

Digital scholarship study from the ARL

Today's Chronicle of Higher Education has a story about a new report on the current status of digital scholarship, "Current Models of Digital Scholarly Communication," from the Association of Research Libraries. The final report identifies eight principal types of digital scholarly resources:
  1. E-only journals Reviews
  2. Preprints and working papers
  3. Encyclopedias, dictionaries, and annotated content
  4. Data
  5. Blogs
  6. Discussion forums (listservs, message boards)
  7. Professional and scholarly hubs

The report profiles each of these eight types of resources and discusses how and why faculty reported using the resources for their work, how content is selected for the site, and what sustainability strategies the resources are employing. The Appendices provide links to examples of digital scholarship.
The report discusses several ways that librarians can play a central role in sharing information about these digital resources with the campus community, and in guiding new projects toward success. The report also concludes that "field team" methodology used in the study was highly successful at gathering good information and is something ARL will continue to develop.

Federal Reserve site has Dynamic maps of Bank Card and Mortgage Delinquencies in the US

The Federal Reserve System is revamping their site with new information because of the current financial crisis. The Foreclosure Resource Center has lots of information for communities, policymakers and other organizations involved in assisting distressed homeowners. One interesting page is the Dynamic maps of Bank Card and Mortgage Delinquencies in the United States which lets you quickly see data on delinquent credit card payments and delinquent mortgages in any county in the US. Another dynamic map shows conditions and density of owner-occupied subprime mortgage loans for the states, counties and zip codes in the United States.
There is also a notice that the Statistical Supplement to the Federal Reserve Bulletin will cease both online and print versions with the Dec. 2008 publication.

Friday 7 November 2008

Faust 2.0: the Devil and the End User License Agreement

From xkcd, a Creative Commons comic. 

GAO's 13 urgent issues for the new administration

The General Accountability Office (GAO) has launched a new transition website intended to help make the transition an informed and smooth one.  The 13 urgent issues they identified are as follows and are (in alphabetic order, not priority order): 
* Caring for Service Members 
* Defense Readiness 
* Defense Spending 
* Food Safety 
* Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan 
* Oversight of Financial Institutions and Markets 
* Preparing for Large-Scale Health Emergencies 
* Protecting the Homeland 
* Public Diplomacy and International Broadcasting 
* Retirement of the Space Shuttle 
* Surface Transportation 
* The 2010 Census 
* Transition to Digital TV 

Wednesday 5 November 2008

Firefox extension hyperlinks legal citations in webpages

If you use Firefox as your browser, Jureeka! is a new Firefox extention that claims to transform legal citations in web pages into hyperlinks that point to online source material. Another law librarian recommended it so I've added it to my browser and I'll try it out. According to the blurb, "Its handy toolbar also allows you to search for source material by legal citation and to find HTML versions of PDF pages. Jureeka! is great for quickly locating statutes, case law, regulations, federal court rules, international law sources, and more. It weaves together a host of law sources into a giant mesh."

Westlaw: I didn't know this

I've been using Westlaw Watch to build links into Westlaw, but now there's a feature on the new customizable Westlaw That makes it super easy to build a links to documents, search results, KeyCite results, databases or Brief It documents. It also lets you build searchboxes (for your blog or website) to find a document by citation (see example to the right), KeyCite a citation, search a database, find a database, or run Brief It on a citation. Very nice.

Headlines around the world

On this historic day, check out the newspaper front pages from around the world at the Newseum.
hat tip: Elizabeth Farrell at FSU Law.

Tuesday 4 November 2008

International Law Video Library

The International Law Video Library is an interactive library of material for those interested in seeing video clips of well-known persons in the field of international law as well as visiting sites of importance to the study of international law. It also contains the Human Rights Video Library which has video holdings of interviews with leading commentators and practitioners in the field of international human rights and video clips of visits to various sites which provide insights into the manner in which international human rights law functions.

Senate hearings, published or not

Librarian Jack McGeachy maintains the U.S. Congressional Bibliographies website at NC State where he compiles extensive information about Congressional hearings and their publication status. He has just released the "Statistical Report Card" that identifies Senate unprinted hearings from 2003 (108th Congress, 1st session). There is a list of specific titles of 2003 Senate hearings that remain unprinted, and unavailable to researchers and the general public. The report contains summary statistical data for each Senate committee on the number of Hearings held, and the numbers of Hearings printed and unprinted by the Government Printing Office. Each committee is then given a numerical grade that represents how well each committee informs the nation of its activities by publishing transcripts of its Hearings.

Tuesday 28 October 2008

ABA Report on E-Rulemaking

An ABA task force has released a report on E-Rulemaking that finds significant flaws in the federal government's effort to place all agency rulemaking dockets online and calls for a"fundamentally new approach" to the six-year, multimillion dollar project. The task force report examines all aspects of the E-Rulemaking initiative and concludes that the project has failed to achieve its groundbreaking potential because of a series of interrelated problems involving funding, system design, and governance. U.S. Law Week has the full story (subscription required; accessible within the Barco Law Building).

Authors Guild and Google reach settlement

On October 28, 2008 the Authors Guild, the Association of American Publishers and Google announced the landmark settlement of Authors Guild v. Google. The Authors Guild has created a webpage with documents and links including the Settlement Agreement, the official Settlement Website and Roy Blount's Message to Authors Guild Members (he is Presidient of the Authors Guild).
Google will pay $125 million to settle lawsuits that challenged its plan to digitize, search and show snippets of in-copyright books without the explicit consent of the copyright owner. If approved, the agreement will expand online access to millions of in-copyright books from the collections of libraries participating in Google's project. Google's payment will be partially used to establish a program under which holders of U.S. copyrights can register their works and receive compensation from institutional subscriptions, book sales and ad revenues.

Interagency website for economic crisis

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez has announced a new interagency Web site led by the Commerce Department. The new site,, is a resource for the latest information from government agencies on America’s economic recovery for people to keep their homes, find jobs and protect their savings. Included on the site are a Guide to Avoiding Foreclosure, Consumer Protection Guide, Information about Unemployment Insurance in Your State, Help for People with Disabilities, and more.

FBI hate crime stats for 2007

The FBI has announced the release of hate crime statistics for 2007. Overall, 7,624 hate crime incidents involving 9,006 offenses were reported —incidents that involved bias towards a particular race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity/national origin, or disability. The report includes information about the types of offenses committed, some traits of the victims and the offenders, and aggregate hate crime offense counts by state and agency type.
Hat tip: beSpacific

Monday 27 October 2008

Rare recordings of famous authors to be available

The BBC News reports that the British Library has released new CD's of previously unpublished recordings of British and American authors. The recordings include:
  • the sole surviving recording of Virginia Woolf
  • the sole audio recording of Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes
  • P G Wodehouse talking about Jeeves and Wooster
  • J R R Tolkien discussing whether he will be remembered for The Lord of the Rings or his academic career
  • Raymond Chandler interviewed by Ian Fleming
  • Ralph Ellison and James Baldwin discussing the position of African-American writers in the United States.
You can buy the CDs from the British Library.

State Election offices

The New Voters Project provides a list of links to all state election office websites. These websites let you see the ballot that you will be voting on, including any referendums - so you can decide if you need to do some additional research before you cast your vote next Tuesday. There are also links to other election-related resources which vary depending on the state. For example, on the Pennsylvania site you can see who's in the Pennsylvania Voter Hall of Fame, and you can even apply to be an inductee (providing you have voted in every General Election you were eligible to vote in for at least fifty years).

Friday 24 October 2008

Law School gives first class free tuition

The ABA Journal reports that the brand-new U.C. Irvine Law School is offering full-tuition scholarships to all students in its first class. Yes, for all three years, that's a free JD. They hope the offer will attract really high-quality students. No doubt.

Happy Birthday MS Word

PC Magazine has an article complete with historic screenshots that looks back at the history and development of Microsoft Word, which is now 25 years old. It includes links to Clippy's personal Web site and a a video on YouTube of Clippy (the moronic paper clip) being shut down by Office XP.

Thursday 23 October 2008

What is the worst key on the keyboard?

Sorry to say I completely missed the annual INTERNATIONAL CAPS LOCK DAY yesterday, where people who really hate the caps lock key can vent all day. I'm not crazy about caps lock, but I do actually use it occasionally (once a month? Less? ) and I don't accidentally hit it all that often (couple of times a week?). Anyway, the key I really really hate is the Insert key, the one that makes everything you type disappear. So in honor of the DAY AFTER CAPS LOCK DAY, for anyone who also hates the Insert key, here's how I permanently disabled mine, with thanks to Steve Bass at PC World who calls the Insert key "as useless as the human appendix":
Open up Microsoft Word. Click Tools, Customize, and in the dialog, choose Keyboard. In Categories, scroll to and click All Commands, and in the Command panel, select "Overtype." Highlight "Insert" in the Current keys box, click Remove, and click Close until all the dialog windows close.
So easy, yet so satisfying.

Friday 17 October 2008

The Library of your dreams

Words won't work. Check it out in Wired Magazine.

Legal Aspects of the Russia/Georgia conflict

The Law Library of Congress has recently released a report entitled Russian Federation: Legal Aspect of War in Georgia (also available as a 14 page [PDF]). The report gives a historic background of the conflict and then
discusses the legal aspects of Russia's invasion into Georgia in August 2008 and Russia's recognition of Georgia's separatist enclaves' independence. The report includes an analysis of relevant aspects of international law and Russian domestic law, as well as an evaluation of Russia's legal justification for its actions.

Thursday 16 October 2008

Government report shows high rate of fraud in H-1B visas

Business Week has an article highlighting a new study called H-1B Benefit Fraud & Compliance Assessment (15 page pdf) conducted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on fraud in the H-1B visa program. These are visas that allow U.S. employers to employ foreign guest workers in “specialty occupations” - requiring theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge including architecture, engineering, mathematics, physical sciences, social sciences, medicine and health, education, law, accounting, business specialities, theology, and the arts, and requiring the attainment of a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent as a minimum. This visa program is widely used by high-tech companies like Microsoft. Based on a sample size of 246 H-1B petitions (out of 96,827 ), 13.4 percent showed fraud and 7.3 percent showed technical violations, for an overall violation rate of 20.7 percent. In other words, about 20,000 petitions may have some type of fraud or technical violations. There was also evidence of payment below the prevailing wage, offers of non-existent jobs, and fraudulent documentation. "'The report makes it clear that the H-1B program is rife with abuse and misuse,' says Ron Hira, assistant professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

TRAC: Justice Dept. is tracking criminal mortgage fraud cases

TRAC, the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse U., reports that the DOJ has recently created a category to track current federal efforts to criminally prosecute cases of mortgage fraud. The federal government reports filing 151 criminal mortgage fraud prosecutions in the first ten months of FY 2008. Because of natural court delays, however, the government said that only 37 cases of this type were completed in the same ten-month period. In the months to come, TRAC will be providing regular updates on every referral acted upon by each U.S. Attorney's Office and what the ultimate outcomes are.
Hat tip: beSpacific

Google has always been a verb

Derek Law writes in FreePint (the UK-based publication for information professionals) about how "digital natives" (people who have grown up with computers and internet) use information. In it he pulls factoids from the past 3 Beloit College Mindset lists that help to understand the information environment they have grown up in. For example: They have always had a PIN number. They don't remember when ‘cut and paste' involved scissors. "CTRL" "ALT" "DEL" is as basic as ABC. And today's average college grads have spent less than 5,000 hours of their lives reading, but over 10,000 hours playing video games and 20,000 hours watching TV. Law offers insights into how digital natives do research : "Such users expect research to be easy and feel they can be independent in the process. They don't seek help from librarians and only occasionally from teachers or peers. As a result, when they can't find what they need, they give up and assume that the information cannot be found."

Free speech and school clothing

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting article this morning that looks at how schools are establishing a "zero-tolerance" policy towards "controversial clothing" that school administrators feel "incites violence". The article discusses how these policies are being supported by the courts and how "Some think educators may be inadvertently teaching children that suppressing speech is the ready solution to ideological conflict." Examples of court-backed bans include a ban on any depiction of the Confederate flag in a Tennessee school district and the Pennsylvania case that sided with a school district in its decision to bar a student from wearing a T-shirt imprinted with images of guns and phrases such as "Volunteer Homeland Security" and "Terrorist Hunting Permit...No Bag Limit." The teen and his parents said the T-shirt, a gift from an uncle serving in Iraq, was worn in support of the troops.

Wednesday 15 October 2008

Fastforwarding through lectures

The Chronicle's Wired Campus Blog has an article describing how students are able to fast forward through videocasts of their professors' lectures so it takes half the time to absorb them. Hmmm.

Blog Action Day: Poverty

Today is Blog Action Day. What's that? Blog Action Day is an annual nonprofit event that aims to unite the world’s bloggers, podcasters and videocasters, to post about the same issue on the same day- to raise awareness and trigger a global discussion. The topic this year is Poverty.
Here are some poverty law resources:

Firefox extension does Bluebook citations

LLRX has a new review of CiteGenie , a new extension for the Firefox web browser that "automagically" creates Bluebook formatted pinpoint citations when copying from Westlaw. If you use Firefox, try it out! It's free. The article offers detailed descriptions of how it handles a variety of citations. The bottom line? "Citegenie is very good. It is not quite perfect, but it does a better job than a lot of lawyers do on their own. And even if it is not better than you, it is undoubtedly faster."

Monday 13 October 2008

NRC report questions terrorist-spotting measures

The National Research Council recently published a 376 page report entitled "Protecting Individual Privacy in the Struggle Against Terrorists: A Framework for Program Assessment" . The report, written by the Committee on Technical and Privacy Dimensions of Information for Terrorism Prevention and Other National Goals of the National Research Council looks at the science behind data-mining and behavior-detection techniques used by government agencies to spot terrorists. They find these techniques to be questionable, and warn that they could violate privacy of law-abiding Americans. They conclude that all U.S. agencies with counterterrorism programs that collect or "mine" personal data -- such as phone records or Web sites visited -- should be required to evaluate the programs' effectiveness, lawfulness, and impacts on privacy.
BTW, you can read the report for free online and if you go to the Table of Contents there's a nifty little feature that lets you "skim" the various sections of the report.

Laptops in the classroom redux

Jana McCreary from Florida Coastal law school has posted a paper entitled "The Laptop-Free Zone" to SSRN. The article reports and analyzes the data collected through a survey of almost 450 law school students at three different law schools regarding the students' views of laptops and reported distractions caused by laptops. Results? Apparently laptops in the classroom are more of a distraction to people who don't have laptops than to the ones who are using the laptops. The author notes one surprising finding: many students stopped using laptops in class after they had attended a class without one; once they had experienced NOT using a laptop in a law school classroom, they often changed their note-taking methods and reported improved learning & classroom experiences. This leads the author to suggest that instead of completely banning laptops, law professors should ban laptops for a week or two during the first semester so students can make an informed choice about how to take notes in class.

Chinese surveillance

There has been some creepy news about China's massive surveillance of the Chinese Skype VOIP network TOM-Skype. A researcher in Toronto (he calls himself an internet censorship explorer) published a report uncovering the surveillance practices of the Chinese government, which apparently required Skype's partner TOM to participate.
Key findings:
• The full text chat messages of TOM-Skype users, along with Skype users who have communicated with TOM-Skype users, are regularly scanned for sensitive keywords, and if present, the resulting data are uploaded and stored on servers in China.
• These text messages, along with millions of records containing personal information, are stored on insecure publicly-accessible web servers together with the encryption key required to decrypt the data.
• The captured messages contain specific keywords relating to sensitive political topics such as Taiwan independence, the Falun Gong, and political opposition to the Communist Party of China.
• The analysis suggests that the surveillance is not solely keyword-driven. Many of thec aptured messages contain words that are too common for extensive logging, suggesting that there may be criteria, such as specific usernames, that determine whether messages are captured by the system.

More on the e-casebooks meeting

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an article this morning about the meeting that took place a couple of weeks ago in Seattle, where the possibilities of e-casebooks and other options were discussed. The article contains these factoids: "in their first year at law school alone, students typically spend more than $1,000 just for casebooks, and the books are up to 1,000 pages long, weigh in at a combined 28 pounds, and run to a combined length of more than 8,700 pages, a sizable portion of which professors never assign and students never read." The law professors at the meeting discussed the possibilities of having e-content available that they would be able to pick and choose from, so that they could custom-build e-books for their courses.

Saturday 11 October 2008

Pittsburgh and hard times

Time Magazine has an article about how Pittsburgh is faring better at weathering the economic storm than the rest of the country. "Pittsburgh is certainly not going to escape a national recession. But it can provide lessons for how to survive it: invest in knowledge, compete globally, rewrite the old rules of business."

Friday 10 October 2008

"Political Streams" from Microsoft Live Labs

CNET reports that Microsoft Live Labs has released an application called Political Streams that tracks political news and talk from all over the web. According to the Live Labs announcement, "It mines information from all the blogs and Web sites out there, and all on one screen, lets you see the relative popularity of any given story, whether it's trending up or down, and tracks the number of mentions of the people and places mentioned in the story."

Thursday 9 October 2008

Cyberlaw prof blames computer programs for economic crisis

An interesting article by Prof. Erik Gerding of UNM Law School looks at one of the problems leading to the financial crisis: the proprietary software that financial institutions rely on to make decisions. He looks at how the crash of these computer-based "codes," particularly risk models, triggered the subprime mortgage crisis and on ways to mitigate risks posed by these codes. His study reveals a critical flaw in financial regulation: regulators outsourced vast regulatory authority to the proprietary codes of financial institutions, without examining defects in those codes. One proposal to help solve this problem : open source code.

IRS Releases Audit Data to TRAC - at last

TRAC (the Transactiona Records Access Clearinghouse, a non-partisan research organization associated with Syracuse University) reports that the Internal Revenue Service has finally turned over thousands of pages of agency statistics on audits of all types - including individual, corporate, partnership and S corporation audits - to TRAC, after flouting a series of court orders for over two years. TRAC uses the IRS's statistical data to examine how this powerful agency has been enforcing the nation's tax laws.

Wednesday 8 October 2008

Law School rankings: best career prospects

The Princeton Review has a podcast about law schools offering the best career prospects, and how they do it.

You can read more about the Princeton Review law school rankings that just came out on their website

Tuesday 7 October 2008

e-Textbooks in Texas

Inside Higher Ed. reports that the University of Texas is conducting a pilot project in partnership with with the publisher John Wiley & Sons to shift certain classes entirely to e-textbooks.  The Austin American Statesman says that shifting to e-textbooks will cut the cost of textbooks.  
It should also help ease student back strain!

Monday 6 October 2008

Federal agencies digitization guidelines initiative

The Web site for the Federal Agencies Digitization Guidelines Initiative recently became publicly accessible . The initiative is intended to establish a common set of guidelines for digitizing historical materials. The initiative has 2 working groups: the Still Image Working Group will focus its efforts on books, manuscripts, maps, and photographic prints and negatives and the Audio-Visual Working Group will address standards and practices for sound, video, and motion picture film. Participants include the Library of Congress, the National Archives, the National Gallery of Art, the National Technical Information Service, the Smithsonian, the U.S.G.S. the GPO, Voice of America and others. A press release providing additional information is available.

Google Blog Search gets an update

Pandia Search Engine News reports that Google Blog Search has been relaunched with a new homepage and new look. The new homepage is more similar to Google News - it puts up popular news topics in the center column. Pandia speculates that Google may be moving towards integrating the news search with the blog search.

Friday 3 October 2008

Presidential Candidates of 1908

Science News has a feature on the first use of sound recording in a presidential campaign. In 1908, for the first time, presidential candidates recorded their voices on wax cylinders. Their voices could be brought into the home for 35 cents, equivalent to about $8 now. In that pre-radio era, this was the only way, short of hearing a speech at a whistle stop, that you could hear the candidates. The story includes audio recordings from the 1908 candidates, William Jennings Bryan and William Howard Taft. There are images from the campaign too.

Wednesday 1 October 2008

Microsoft LiveSearch offers prizes

Microsoft wants YOU to use Live Search - and is offering prizes if you do. A new MS rewards program, called SearchPerks, lets you earn points for using MS Live Search; the points can then be redeemed for prizes ranging from music downloads to an XBox controller. To participate in the program you need to sign up before December 31 deadline and agree to download a small program tracking your usage. Once this is installed users will get one “ticket” for every Live Search query (but Microsoft is capping the total number per day to 25); when the program ends in April users can trade the tickets in for prizes or donate the rewards to charity.
Oh, and note: you must use Internet Explorer as your browser for the searches. No points if you use Firefox, Chrome, Safari etc.

More on the e-lawbook meeting...

The Law School Innovation blog, part of the Law Professor Blogs Network, has extensive coverage of the conference, including audio. John Palfrey, of the Berkman Center at Harvard Law School, was there and blogged about it.

Tuesday 30 September 2008

E-Lawbooks meeting

The Seattle PI has a report about the meeting held last Saturday at Seattle University law school about the future of e-lawbook publishing. Among the 40 attendees were Ed Rubin, dean of Vanderbilt University Law School; John Mayer, director of CALI; Peggy Davis from New York University School of Law; John Palfrey from Harvard Law School; Seattle University law professor David Skover (who helped organize the meeting) and representatives from West Academic Publishing, Adobe, Sony and Microsoft. The meeting went all day, and discussion was wide-ranging.

EPA libraries re-open today after 2 years

The EPA libraries are scheduled to re-open today as noted in the Federal Register. The group PEER, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, issued their own press release about the library reopenings. According to them, most of the re-opened new libraries will be housed in less space and the one in Chicago (formerly the largest regional library) will re-open without “permanent furniture and shelving.” PEER notes that during the past two years, EPA further diminished its own informational infrastructure by –
- Breaking up collections and disbursing them in a fashion that they may never be reassembled. - Most of the re-opened libraries will only provide “core” reference materials;
- Banning any technical holdings (called “mini-libraries”) for scientists and specialists that are not subject to centralized control; and
- Placing all library acquisition and management decisions under a political appointee.
In response to public and congressional criticism, the EPA has undertaken a "National Dialogue on Access to Environmental Information" that invites participation from anyone interested in access to environmental information. The Dialogue will be used to develop a new EPA Library Strategic Plan in December 2008.

Collegiate forensics

There's an interesting article about the current state of college debating in the Chronicle this morning. It follows a famous incident last March in which William Shanahan, a debate coach at Fort Hays University, and Ms. Shanara Rose Reid-Brinkley, an assistant professor of communication at the University of Pittsburgh and debate judge, got into a shouting match in which Mr. Shanahan briefly "mooned" Ms. Redi-Brinkley. Ms. Reid-Brinkley will not participate in debate tournaments this year, and Pitt has decided to withdraw its debate teams altogether from this year's tournaments.
The article includes a video that shows college debate teams in action. (warning: the brief mooning incident is included.)

UN Treaties website revamped

The United Nations Treaties Collection website has been overhauled and has a more usable interface. The new interface lets you search for treaties by popular name, participant and title, and offers an advanced search feature. It also provides links to photographs of treaty signings.

PACER pilot suspended?

Apparently the 2-year PACER pilot program begun in 2007 has been suspended. A notice went out that "GPO and the Administrative Office of the United States Courts undertook a pilot to provide free public access to Federal court records at 17 Federal depository libraries through (PACER) ....The pilot has been suspended, pending an evaluation. Once the evaluation is complete, the judiciary and the GPO will determine what steps need to be taken in order to move forward.The pilot is part of GPO's efforts to increase public access to government information as well as the judiciary's continuing effort to expand public access to court records."

Monday 29 September 2008

Vote stats

The House website is having problems, but the Washington Post has a breakdown of the stats on the vote.

Bailout plan agreed upon BUT...

Defeated in the House, 228-205. 2:19 pm Monday.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Congressional leaders and the White House have agreed on a bailout bill after negotiating all weekend over the measure. The "Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008" is available in draft form from the Wall Street Journal ; the Chicago Sun-Times has a good summary of the draft bill (from last night). But...see above.

Fact-checking for the election

New on LLRX, there's an article by Peggy Garvin about political fact-checking sites available online. She describes, analyzes and compares a number of these sites. Thanks, Peggy!

Westlaw whitepapers: skills law firms want from summer associates

In their Librarian Resource Center, West has several whitepapers about the research skills that law firms expect law students to acquire in law school in order to be successful summer associates and new associates. The whitepapers are the result of surveys that West conducted with large and small law firms.
Among the findings are the skills showing the largest gap between expected and actual proficiency include:
– Effective and efficient use of printed legal research materials
– Effective and efficient use of online legal research materials
– Identifying the legal issue in a research problem
– General workplace skills, including time management, punctuality, meeting deadlines, professional attire
– Clear, concise use of research findings in writing memoranda
– Effective and efficient use of primary authority, including statutes and cases
– Preparation of briefs and motions using legal research effectively and complying with requirements of the court
– Tracking the history of a change in a statute

Sunday 28 September 2008

Thomson-Reuters sues over Zotero

According to the Courthouse News Service, Thomson-Reuters is suing George Mason University over Zotero, the free Mozilla plug-in (developed at GMU) that lets you manage your research papers and particularly citations. They are demanding $10 million and an injunction to stop George Mason University from distributing Zotero because it allows users to convert Reuters' EndNote Software. The suit claims that GMU reverse engineered Reuters' EndNote software to create Zotero
Zotero is also one of the few apps you can use to format legal citations in Bluebook style.

Saturday 27 September 2008

"Codes should be free" show

Public Resource dot Org has a slideshow on Flickr that explains why codes should be freely available to everyone. It stars cute little Lego people.

CRS summaries on subprime crisis

The Thurgood Marshall Law Library has added two Congressional Research Service (CRS) research summaries to its excellent collection of digitized CRS documents. The Cost of Government Financial Interventions, Past and Present addresses questions about the recent financial interventions by the government in the business of private corporations including AIG, Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac, and BearStearns. The report discusses sources of funding and the costs to taxpayers and includes a table summarizing "Current and Historical Financial Interventions by the Federal Government".
The Proposal to Allow Treasury to Buy Mortgage-Related Assets to Address Financial Instability discusses a draft of Treasury Secretary Paulsen's proposal (dated 9/21/08) for legislative authorization to allow direct intervention in the economy, and analyzes frequently asked questions.
These CRS documents are excellent summaries with clearly presented information about the subprime mortgage debacle and the turmoil in U.S. financial markets.

Friday 26 September 2008

E-Government reauthorization bill hits snag

Washington Technology reports that the E-Government Reauthorization Act of 2007 (S-2321), which would extend eGovernment Act of 2002, create new requirements for accessibility of government information and mandate the development of best practices to enhance privacy impact assessments, has been held up. Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont added a controversial last-minute amendment that placed new requirements for protecting personal individual information and restrictions on data brokers. Since the Senate is due to adjourn, the bill will likely die, putting a number of government information technology initiatives on hold or in limbo (see the Congressional Research Service summary of the bill).

EPA libraries reopening

From the Federal Register: "The EPA is enhancing access to library services for the public and Agency staff. EPA will open previously closed libraries in its National Library Network, with walk-in access for the public and EPA staff." The libraries are reopening in Chicago, Kansas City, Dallas, and Washington D.C. According to PEER - Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility - the union representing federal workers in the libraries had to work hard to get the EPA to agree to provide adequate space, trained librarians and equipment to handle staff requirements and to accommodate usage by the general public.

U.S. - Muslim Engagement Project Report

The U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project, in affiliation with the Search for Common Ground (SFCG), recently released its report entitled "Changing Course: A New Direction for U.S. Relations with theMuslim World" (170 page pdf). The report "represents the consensus of an exceptionally diverse, senior, bipartisan and inter-faith group of 34 American leaders who have worked together" to study U.S. relations with Muslims around the world, the obstacles to improving relations, how those obstacles could be overcome, and how the Project could best contribute to progress. The report offers fundamental principles and core recommendations for improving U.S. relations with Muslim countries and communities and concludes that there is a convergence of values and interests among the vast majority of Muslims and Americans that provides a starting point for relationships based on mutual confidence and respect.

Texting while driving illegal in CA

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that it is now illegal to text while driving in California. Phewf!

Humanitarian Aid for the Mind

Inside Higher Education reports that over 5700 books will be shipped from TriLiteral, the warehouse that houses inventory for the Harvard University Press, the MIT Press, and the Yale University Press this week, to help replenish the Iraqi National Library. The donations are being organized and shipped by the Sabre Foundation of Cambridge, whose Book Donation Program has a long history of helping get educational materials to countries in need.

"Smile to Quick Bird"

Is this the latest fad in Russia? Apparently an entire town participated in posing for a Google Earth photo - they calculated when Quick Bird, the satellite that takes the photos, would be over their town, and they handed out yellow ponchos to everyone at a rock concert and formed a gigantic smiley face that they hope will show up on the next update of Google Earth.

eTextbooks for students

Barco 2.0 is back on its feet though still reeling from an unfortunate bout of upper respiratory infection aka a bad cold.
The Chronicle's Wired Campus blog reports that as soon as next month college students will be able to buy electronic textbooks and other media at college bookstores. The National Association of College Stores has announced that it has formed a company, NACS Media Solutions, to negotiate with publishers to support the on-demand service. Ultimately content will include digitized textbooks, trade books, coursepacks, and magazines; digital learning objects (course materials created specifically for computer-based usage); open-source and self-published content; audio books; music, movies, TV programs, and video and computer games; and campus-specific content such as class notes and study guides. Available platforms will eventually encompass the web, mobile devices, print-on-demand, e-readers, course-management systems, point-of-sale systems, and kiosks. The pilot program, which will offer movies-on-demand that can be burned to DVDs, will begin in seven college bookstores across the country next month.

Friday 19 September 2008

e-Casebooks meeting

The National Law Journal reports (subscription required) that law professors and publishing executives will meet in Seattle Sept. 27 to discuss how legal casebooks could be made available electronically on a widespread basis, possibly on handheld devices such as Amazon's Kindle and the Sony Reader. Ecasebooks would lighten students' backpacks and allow professors to customize course materials. Publishers have concerns about copyrights and the ability to protect electronic casebooks from piracy; and devices such as Kindle and Sony Reader, while useful for leisure reading, do not allow law students to highlight or write notes. The meeting is organized by Edward L. Rubin, dean of Vanderbilt University Law School; Ronald K.L. Collins, scholar in the Washington office of the First Amendment Center; and Dean Kellye Testy and Professor David Skover of Seattle University School of Law, where the event is taking place.

Online projects from the Dirksen Center

The Dirksen Center has created a new webpage that links to all of their digital projects.
The Civil Rights Documentation Project "As valuable as the emphasis on the civil rights movement has been, an equally vital chapter has been neglected -- the story of the legislative process itself."
Editorial Cartoon Collection
Facing the Post-War World: Everett M. Dirksen Abroad, 1945 Dirksen traveled on behalf of the House Committee on Appropriations to inspect American embassies, reconstruction agencies, intelligence services, and the armed forces.
The 1960s: A Multi-Media View from Capitol Hill contains the minutes and press conferences (both print and audio) of the Joint Senate-House Republican Leadership, 1961-69.
Understanding Congressional Decisions Through Vectors How do Members of Congress make decisions about the votes they cast? In this interactive exercise a professor of Political Science at the U.S. Naval Academy uses vectors to illustrate how competing influences, such as personal preference or constituency interests, affect decisions.
14 Units to Learn How a Bill Becomes a Law uses text, graphics and video to enliven understanding of the legislative process and to allow them to explore in-depth its various facets.