Giving sight to homeless LGBTQ youth

For the homeless it is a luxury to have glasses to see properly. Usually they are burdened with more immediate needs such as food, shelter, and personal hygiene. But not having glasses can mean not being able to see, which is a large problem, especially when you depend on shelters to survive. Just ask Clay Ferguson. The twenty-three year old recently got jumped in a New York City coffee shop. In addition to taking his identification, and cell phone, they also broke his glasses.

“I can’t see the street signs. I can’t barely see nothin,” Clay recounts.

But, there is a program that is trying to change that. ChildSight is a program of Helen Keller International that provides free glasses to underserved youth in need, like Clay. This initiative is not new. ChildSight has historically served children from low-income public schools. But last July it branched out to help another underserved community, the Ali Forney Center. The center is a Harlem-based LGBTQ youth homeless shelter that served 1,200 young people last year and directly housed 440 of them — including Clay Ferguson.

Homelessness is an epidemic within the LGBTQ youth community.  Estimations of homeless youth find as many as 40 percent identifying as part of the queer community. Compare that statistic to the 4 percent of the general population, which includes more than just youth, that identify as LGBTQ. One reason for the increased rate of homelessness is that about 40% of the young people the Ali Forney Center are kicked out of their home after coming out.

As a result, the majority of youth from the Ali Forney Center that are referred to ChildSight have had blurry vision for  years.

“We’re really interested in finding other populations that are vulnerable and have difficulties accessing health services,” Nick Kourgialis, VP of Eye Health at Helen Keller International. “Certainly this is a population that faces these challenges…When you are young, you see the world the way you see it and assume everyone else sees it the same way,” Kourgialis says. “But when someone puts lenses before their eyes, the look on these kids’ faces is like, ‘What the hell?’

ChildSight has been working with the Ali Forney Center for less than a year, through a grant from New York Community Trust. The group has examined 122 young people and their program has delivered 88 pairs of free eyeglasses to those who otherwise wouldn’t have access to improved sight.

Article via Mashable, 25 April 2016

Photo Glasses by Kate Brady [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


FBI hack to remain secret from Apple

The FBI has no plans to reveal how they hacked the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone, not even to Apple.

In March, the FBI announced that they would be dropping their case with Apple after having purchased a hacking tool from a third party to aid in breaking into the phone. Apple had cooperated with the FBI, but would not create new firmware to break their own encryption. The high profile nature of this case brought the debate about privacy and security to the national stage. Although there was a judge assigned to rule on the case, the FBI’s purchasing of a hacking tool put the need for a ruling to bed.

Since then, the FBI has been mum on how this hacking tool was able to be successful and how it works. Prior to purchasing the tool, the FBI insisted that it needed Apple to update the firmware in order for them to do a hack on the shooter’s iPhone. The security on iPhone only allows 10 consecutive attempts to break the passcode before all data is erased on the phone.

Apple has a vested interest in understanding the hack, because the tech company would want to patch any vulnerabilities that allowed the FBI to use this tool to access the iPhone.  Hacking into this iPhone will make all iPhones vulnerable to the same sort of attack, which ultimately puts many iPhones around the world at risk.

An Apple attorney has stated that the company has no plans to sue the government to reveal how the San Bernardino iPhone was unlocked.

The government already has policies in place, called theVulnerabilities Equities Process, which governs disclosure of security problems to companies. This policy is notoriously shrouded in secrecy, but the government is generally supportive of vulnerability disclosure in order to ensure that vulnerabilities are not exploited by malicious hackers.

The FBI has found success with this tool, but it doesn’t mean that they are in a place to support vulnerability disclosure. The agency has already made plans to argue that it does not know enough about the hacking tool that it purchased to substantively explain how it works. FBI director James Comey has revealed that his agency spent more than $1 million to obtain the tool.

Article via TechCrunch, 26 April 2016

Photo El FBI no necesita a Apple para desbloquear un iPhone by iphonedigital [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]

 


ODR2016: Our Mindfulness Moment at the Peace Palace

As the ODR industry prepares to gather for its fifteenth annual meeting of the minds in the Hague, Netherlands, we do so at a time when the future of technology-enabled dispute resolution appears very bright.  Governments are embracing (and in some cases mandating) ODR as an effective tool; ODR-specific business are emerging and growing faster than ever; and better and more powerful tools are becoming available for individuals, consumers, businesses, and the courts.  But during these halcyon days, it is more important not to forget where we have come from, and, perhaps more importantly, where it is we want to go.

As I recently wrote with several colleagues, “[t]he problem for the legal community is that these changes will happen whether we help shape them or not.  All users of the Internet acting together will begin to define organic norms for online interaction as they continue to communicate, trade and sign agreements.  The justice layer will form on its own.  If we want to do more than witness the process unfold, we must consciously and actively build the justice layer of the Internet.”  In other words, we need to be the change we envision.  And, in our time together at the Peace Palace as we embrace the potential for a peaceful world and a future embodied by relationships that foster a more mindful and empathetic civilization, we must rise to the challenge not only for ourselves, and our industry, but for the world as a whole.

Mindfulness, or the practice of being aware of the present moment, has been all the rage in Silicon Valley for a few years now, with many of the largest tech companies integrating its practices into their workplace cultures.  As I approach ODR 2016, here are a few of the mindfulness moments on my mind:

1We are not alone in this journey – but know the intentions of your partner.  The ODR community has grown significantly, and although many of the same faces from the first conferences will be in attendance at the Hague, there are many who have never attended, but nevertheless are doing work which directly correlates with our own.

One of the most obvious connections is with the artificial intelligence field, with an example being Facebook’s recent implementation of chatbots onto its Messenger platform.  Although chatbots are not a new phenomenon, the technology is quite significant for the ODR field, and its application to a platform as ubiquitous as Facebook has vast implications.  The technology, which takes your personal information as well as all of the knowledge of the internet and applies natural language processing, AI, and human assistance as necessary, has the potential to be, as Facebook hopes, a personal shopper or customer service representative for one of its many advertisers.  For many of us, however, ceding the territory of personal choice as to what we see and experience to corporate developers, is something that should be a choice, not a given. Will we continue to use new technologies without thinking about anything more than the convenience their use brings to our lives?

At  the last year’s  ODR 2015 at Pace University Law School, I had the chance to meet Doc and Joyce Searls, and start a conversation about shifting the balance of power from corporations who presently have the power to shape and decide what technologies we use, to all of us.  I teach a course in Global Cyberlaw, and, the first lesson of my class is that the “Terms of Service” that corporations ask us to “click” and “accept” shift our power of choice from all of us to them.  We do this intentionally, because it is convenient, and we want to use their technology.  But it certainly isn’t a “mindful” choice.  Because we are the same population who complain about the invasions of privacy and surveillance that accompany “mindless” clicks and accepts that result in the aggregation of huge data mine stores about us attract hackers from all corners of the earth.

For the ODR field, we could work to shape this new technology.  It could be our opportunity to make the new technologies such as “chatbots” our personal advocates.  Chatbots, and related technologies could provide every citizen with information relevant to their dispute, advising  them of  their rights, and suggesting potential opportunities for compromise.  The developers of these sorts of tools may not know about the work of ODR2016, but they should, and we should strive to work with them in the future.

2. We must learn from the failings of the old.  Replicating systems of yonder years into the digital world is not changing the system.  It is saving trees.  One example that is mind boggling is the almost 20 years it has taken for e-filing to make its way to the courts.   And yet, e-filing is still a relatively new phenomenon in many US state courts.  Far from transformational, e-filing is just connecting a fast electronic pipe to the brick and mortar courthouse.  Though the filing has been digitized, access to the courthouse itself has not changed.   In the US, the World Justice Project rankings have dropped the US down to 21st in world rankings for access to justice.  And, this ranking only reflects access to formal justice systems such as courts and other government institutions.  Most people don’t think of ‘justice’ in this way.  In fact, the American Bar Foundation points out in a recent research study that 75% of Americans with justiciable concerns don’t even reach out to lawyers, courts, and government as the first stop to address their concerns.

This is our opportunity to think creatively to solve the problems that have plagued our courts for years and have deprived those most in need of assistance in finding what is fair.  This is also an opportunity to change the culture and outside perceptions of lawyers, judges, and the courts.  For too long, the law has been perceived, both rightly and wrongly, as a tool of the haves, and a means of subjugation of the have nots.

To change this perception will require very difficult choices, most notably with regards to sourcing resources for further research and development.  If ODR systems are developed (or paid for) by the very entities which have a stake in the outcomes, how will the public perceive these systems?  Or in a worst case scenario, will we be merely creating modern contracts of adhesion or rigged binding arbitration clauses with digital procedures added for good measure?  But if the resources of interested parties are not used, will these systems ever be built to scale?  I suspect that a middle ground will be necessary, one which emphasizes the importance of established best practices and standards, independent neutrals and regulators, and transparency in design and outcomes.

3. Technology alone is not the answer.  Rule of Law is not an algorithm.  The efficiencies and economies of scale of technology are undeniable, but the human touch is irreplaceable.  For all the bots and lines of code, there is no comparison to an empathetic ear, the patience of reassuring counsel, or the tone of a reproaching or sympathetic judge.  I am not so naive to think that if large-scale dispute resolution systems are to be implemented, less direct human interaction will be required, but to the degree that we do not accept this as a given, and that we constantly strive to deliver tools and resources that cater to our humanity and uniqueness, the better off, and more successful, this industry will be.

InternetBar.org Institute, Inc.  19 April 2016
Photo: World Wide Web  by Ai.Comput’In [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


ESPN fires Schilling over transgender comments

ESPN fired Curt Schilling, a major league baseball analyst, over expressing offensive comments regarding transgender people.

“ESPN is an inclusive company,” the network said in a statement emailed to The Washington Post. “Curt Schilling has been advised that his conduct was unacceptable and his employment with ESPN has been terminated.”

Schilling’s conduct has been called into question before by ESPN for offensive or political statements that the analyst has made. But, it was his social media post on Tuesday that was the last straw for the network. Schilling posted a meme that depicted a man wearing a wig and ripped clothing. His comments accompanying the post read, “A man is a man no matter what they call themselves,” referring to the recent bathroom laws that have been passed in several states. “I don’t care what they are, who they sleep with, men’s room was designed for the penis, women’s not so much. Now you need laws telling us differently? Pathetic.”

After receiving backlash from readers, Schilling went on to say, “You frauds out there ranting and screaming about my ‘opinions’ (even if it isn’t) and comments are screaming for ‘tolerance’ and ‘acceptance’ while you refuse to do and be either.”

Schilling is known for his outspoken comments, so this isn’t the first time that he has garnered controversy over social media. Just last month Schilling was in hot water after telling a radio station that Hillary Clinton“should be buried under a jail somewhere,” violating ESPN policy about sharing political opinions on the election.  He was suspended by ESPN in August, for making comments that compared Muslims to Nazis. This suspension was eventually extended for the rest of the baseball season.

It appears that Schilling expected that his days were numbered with ESPN. Shortly after his suspension during the baseball season, a filing with the Federal Election Commission showed that Schilling, while donating $250 to Ben Carson’s presidential campaign, had listed his employer as “ESPN (Not Sure How Much Longer)” and, under “Occupation,” he wrote, “Analyst (For Now Anyway).”

Article via The Washington Post, 20 April 2016

Photo 150730-D-FW736-016 by DoD News Features [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Tech boom coming to an end?

For the last few years Silicon Valley has been the darling of venture capitalists looking for the next big thing. The result has been huge investments and valuations for companies that often come with whimsical names (Think Twilio and Sprinklr). The rise of mobile has contributed to the belief that there should be and “app for that”, and paved the way for companies less than 10 years old to become part of the billion dollar startup club. But that seems to be coming to an end.

At least, that is what the data shows anyway. Since the end of 2015, venture capital has been pulling back on investing in Silicon Valley unicorns. Unicorns are Silicon Valley companies with valuations of a billion dollars or more. Funding fell 8 percent to $25.5 billion, extending a steep decline that began the quarter before, according to a report released Wednesday by KPMG, an accountancy, and CB Insights, a venture researcher.

“There’s a lot of cautiousness out there,” says Kerry Wu, an analyst at CB Insights. “It’s reflected in the data.”

What that data shows is the rate of new unicorn companies is slowing. In Q3 of 2015 there was a new unicorn showing up in the valley every four days. But by the end of 2015 that had tricked down to just 1 new unicorn that quarter. The report by KPMG points to a few key reasons for the slow down in venture capital funding.

  • Too many unicorns A unicorn is a unicorn because its rare, but there have been so many lately that it may have driven the value down. When the value goes down, the money starts to slow because investors don’t see the next app as the best way to make money fast.
  • Startups are still growing The unicorns that have received funding are continuing to get more, such as Uber. This is helping them to grow larger quickly. And spreading the money thinner for the new comers on the block.
  • American funding is cooling off  The total number of venture deals flatlined in the first quarter after plunging 15 percent a quarter earlier. The stagnation suggest that venture capitalist aren’t the excited to invest in this market.
  • California startups aren’t as exciting Funding has fallen by 1.5 percent. It’s down almost half from the $12.2 billion raised in the September quarter. Although these numbers don’t indicate trouble, it does confirm the latest data that suggest that the tech economy is slowing down.

Article via CNET, 13 April 2016

Photo Startup by Dennis Skley [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


The bar exam results for Florida are in and they are not good

The February bar exam scores usually possess the lowest scores. Most February test takers are usually second-timers and probably failed for a reason the first time around. However, the results from these Florida law schools were from first-time test takers meaning it does not factor in people who have failed before.

The results are as follows:

Florida Coastal School of Law (Jacksonville, FL): 32.7% pass

Barry University School of Law (Orlando, FL): 35.9% pass

St. Thomas University (Miami Gardens, FL): 42.3% pass

Stetson University School of Law (Gulfport, FL): 53.3% pass

University of Florida (Gainesville, FL): 56.3% pass

University of Miami (Coral Gables, FL): 53.1% pass

Ave Maria School of Law (Naples, FL): 52.9% pass

Nova Southeastern University (Fort Lauderdale, FL): 75% pass

Florida State University (Tallahassee, FL): 71.4% pass

Florida International University (Miami, FL): 84.6% pass

Both Florida Coastal and Barry University boasted in the fact that they had the most students sitting for the bar exam, which usually is not a good sign. Florida Coastal is notorious for its unreasonable investment and low employment score (29%).

Even though the University of Florida and the University of Miami had the least number of test-takers, the results are still very surprising. Only about half managed to pass. UF has an employment score of 68% and a US News Rank of 47. UM has an employment score of 67% with a US News Rank of 63.

Nova Southeastern and Florida State University continue to well with about 3/4 of their test takers have passing marks. FSU has an employment score of about 68% and has a US News Rank of 45. Florida International University did the best, with a 84.6% pass rate.

Article via Above the Law, April 11, 2016

Photo: Last Undergraduate Class via Stephen Grebinski [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]