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Daily Archives: October 1, 2020

Public records requests fall victim to the coronavirus pandemic

Washington Post – “With most government employees still working from home because of the coronavirus pandemic, the disclosure of public records by many federal agencies and local government offices nationwide has worsened or even ground to a halt. When the pandemic was declared in early March, many employees at local, state and federal agencies abandoned their offices and began working remotely. Employees tasked with answering open-records requests have been forced to rely on telework computer systems that are often incompatible with the software used to process records requests…The federal and state laws that require government agencies to disclose their records — generally referred to as FOIA, or Freedom of Information Act, laws — are powerful tools that have been used to expose the behind-the-scenes government machinations on matters of public interest…But the coronavirus pandemic has impeded access to government records at a time of great public interest in official responses to the health crisis, which has claimed more than 200,000 lives nationwide. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, which provides legal support for journalists, has catalogued more than 130 instances in which state and local officials in 39 states and the District of Columbia cited the pandemic as a reason to curtail access to public records.

At the beginning of the covid outbreak in the United States, the Reporters Committee realized very quickly that not only was transparency especially important for the public during this time, but also that there was a huge threat to this transparency posed by covid,” said Adam Marshall, the Knight litigation attorney for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Many state and local jurisdictions tried to do “the best they could under the circumstances,” according to Marshall, “but many took pretty extreme measures, some agencies essentially telling requesters: We’re not going to respond to your requests until covid is over.” This is troubling, Marshall said, because “public-records laws are, in many instances, the only legal mechanism for the public to pry information out from the government.”..

Unemployment Rates During the COVID-19 Pandemic: In Brief

CRS Brief via LC-  Unemployment Rates During the COVID-19 Pandemic: In Brief, September 30, 2020: “The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)pandemic has had a significant effect on unemployment in every state, industry, and major demographic groupin the United States. This report provides information on which groups have experienced the largest increases in unemployment rates since the… Continue Reading

The Special Place Where Ella Fitzgerald Comes Alive

The New York Times – “The singer’s concert recordings have always had a power that her studio outings could only imply. “Ella: The Lost Berlin Tapes,” a newly unearthed 1962 performance, magnifies her legacy…You could say that Fitzgerald was to singing what Yo-Yo Ma is to the cello: utter perfection, personified. Fitzgerald thinks of the… Continue Reading

What everyone should know about ventilation and preventing Covid-19 Empty classroom, air ventilation

Quartz: “There is growing consensus that one of the primary ways the novel coronavirus spreads is through the air. That makes it risky to put a lot of people in a poorly ventilated space. As schools, offices, and businesses reopen, facilities managers are looking at one particular metric to gauge whether there’s an elevated risk… Continue Reading

CDC Issues New Testing Guidance for Colleges

Inside Higher Education: “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its COVID-19 testing guidance for colleges Wednesday [October 1, 2020]. The new guidance includes fresh detailed information on how to prioritize testing for students, faculty members and staff members in the event of an outbreak. But it disappointed some experts who think the CDC’s… Continue Reading

The Origination Clause of the U.S. Constitution: Interpretation and Enforcement

CFR report via LC – The Origination Clause of the U.S. Constitution: Interpretation and Enforcement, October 1, 2020: “…Article I, Section 7, clause 1,of the U.S. Constitution is known as the Origination Clause because it provides that “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives.” The meaning and application of this… Continue Reading

We Learn Faster When We Aren’t Told What Choices to Make

Scientific American – “In a perfect world, we would learn from success and failure alike. Both hold instructive lessons and provide needed reality checks that may safeguard our decisions from bad information or biased advice. But, alas, our brain doesn’t work this way. Unlike an impartial outcome-weighing machine an engineer might design, it learns more… Continue Reading

Publishers Worry as Ebooks Fly off Libraries’ Virtual Shelves

Wired – “…After the pandemic closed many libraries’ physical branches this spring, checkouts of ebooks are up 52 percent from the same period last year, according to OverDrive, which partners with 50,000 libraries worldwide. Some public libraries, new to digital collections, delight in exposing their readers to a new kind of reading….But the surging popularity… Continue Reading

Trump official stalls polar bear study that could affect oil drilling in Alaska

Washington Post – “A top official at the Interior Department has delayed the release of a study that shows how oil and gas drilling in Alaska could encroach upon the territory of polar bears — which are already struggling for survival as a warming planet melts their habitat — according to documents obtained by The… Continue Reading