Federal judge releases DNA software source code that was used by New York City’s crime lab

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2017-10-20

A federal judge unsealed the source code for a software program that was used to compare DNA samples in New York City’s crime lab.

In July 2016, Judge Valerie Caproni of the Southern District of New York determined in U.S. v. Johnson that the source code of the Forensic Statistical Tool, a genotyping software, “is ‘relevant … [and] admissible’” at least during a Daubert hearing—a pretrial hearing where the admissibility of expert testimony is challenged. Caproni provided a protective order at that time.

This week, Caproni lifted that order after the investigative journalism organization ProPublica filed a motion arguing that there was a public interest in the code. ProPublica has since posted the code to the website GitHub.

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U.S. Senate panel puts self-driving cars in fast lane

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2017-10-13

A U.S. Senate panel on Wednesday unanimously gave the green light to a bill aimed at speeding the use of self-driving cars without human controls, a measure that also bars states from imposing regulatory road blocks.

The bill still must clear a Senate vote, but it appears on track to passage. This should rev up profits for automakers, technology companies and ride service providers, hastening the day when their robot cars can carry passengers on the same U.S. roads as cars driven by people.

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Zoning regulations are problematic for tiny-house buyers

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2017-10-10

Tiny-house buyers have to cope not only with the challenges of living in a smaller space. There are also zoning regulations that make it difficult to find a spot for the homes.

In densely populated areas and most other areas, zoning regulations typically don’t allow full-time living in temporary structures such as RVs or movable tiny houses, the New York Times reports. The zoning laws also may specify a minimum lot size that it too expensive for a tiny-house buyer.

Some municipalities—including Fresno, California, and Nantucket, Massachusetts—have changed their zoning laws to accommodate homes that share land with existing homes. In another nod to the tiny house movement, the International Code Council has adopted a model code for such structures.

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Supreme Court adds 11 cases to 2017 docket

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2017-10-02

The US Supreme Court [official website] granted certiorari in 11 cases [order list, PDF] on Thursday.

Dalmazzi v. United States [cert. petition, PDF] Cox v. United States [docket], and Ortiz v. United States[cert. petition, PDF] are three cases that will be consolidated and will be given one hour each for oral argument. These cases deal with whether active-duty military officers can serve on the Court of Military Commissions Review (CMCR). The petitioners were members of the Air Force who were convicted [SCOTUSblog report] of different crimes in a military court. They are appealing their convictions on the grounds that only members of the military can preside over a military court, and the judges in the petitioners’ cases were civilians because of their CMCR position.

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Iowa’s Supreme Court Hears Dispute Over $75 Speeding Ticket

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2017-09-22

A dispute over a $75 speeding ticket has climbed through the levels of Iowa’s court system, reaching the lofty heights of the Iowa Supreme Court for oral arguments.

Marla Leaf got a speeding ticket because a camera allegedly caught her driving 68 mph in a 55-mph zone on an interstate freeway through the city of Cedar Rapids in February 2015.

It’s not typical for the state’s top court to hear small-claims cases. But in her case against the city of Cedar Rapids, Leaf argues that her constitutional rights and state law were violated because the city delegated police powers to the private company that maintains the speed cameras.

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Federal judge overturns Massachusetts city law regulating drones

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2017-09-22

In the first federal court ruling (PDF) concerning attempts by city and state jurisdictions to regulate the use of drones, a judge denied a requirement by a city near Boston regarding local registration and significant bans on where and how low they can fly.

The law giving the Federal Aviation Administration responsibility for regulating the use of drones, while allowing some non-federal say over their use, preempts the city of Newton from requiring registration beyond the agency’s own such requirement; from banning flights below 400 feet; and from requiring an owners’ permission before flying over public or private property. Newton’s requirement that drones can’t fly below 400 feet clashes with FAA rules which say drones must be operated below an altitude of 400 feet from the ground or a structure.

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Copyright and Algorithms

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2017-09-22

While in 2011 the “case of the macaque[monkey] selfie” went viral on wordwide social networks, recent exchanges between the Luxembourg Federation of Authors and Composers (Fédération Luxembourgeoise des Auteurs et Compositeurs), the Association of Authors, Composers and Musical Publishers’ Successor Advisory Committee (Commission Consultative des Ayants Droits de la Société des Auteurs, Compositeurs et Editeurs Musicaux or SACEM’s CCAD) and the Culture Ministry in 2017 push us to ask ourselves about the possibility of an algorithm being a copyright holder for its creations, and thus becoming a member of an association for authors and composers.

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