Ethics Conflict at NLRB Pushes Agency Into ‘Uncharted Territory’

An internal report released this week said a National Labor Relations Board member’s vote in a case tied to his former law firm reveals a “serious and flagrant” ethics problem at the agency and calls into question the validity of a prominent business-friendly decision the Republican majority pushed through last year…Sharon Block, former NLRB member and now executive director of Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program, said the inspector general report makes it clear that the Hy-Brand decision must be invalidated. Block said the board could ask for input from the parties in the case to show why it should or should not validate the decision…“This issue undermines the credibility of the board, which is already subject to a lot of political attack,” Block said. “It’s really unfortunate that they have done something that at least feeds that perception.”

America’s Voting Systems Are Highly Vulnerable to Hackers

After Robert Mueller’s indictment of 13 Russians last week, there can be no doubt that the Kremlin meddled with the 2016 election by spreading lies through social media that twisted voters’ judgments. But what about more direct forms of interference: Did Russia shift the election’s outcome by hacking registration rolls or voting machines? The fact is that it’s impossible to say. In September, the Department of Homeland Security informed officials in 21 states that Russians had hacked into their registration systems in the run-up to the election. Whether the hackers manipulated the rolls—removed names or switched their precincts—no one has investigated; perhaps no one could investigate, as so many months had passed before the hack was revealed…In the realm of computer hacking, these sorts of attacks are far from the most sophisticated—and the methods for blocking the attacks aren’t so sophisticated either. “We know what to do,” Bruce Schneier, a noted cybersecurity specialist, said in a phone interview. “It’s not a matter of figuring out the tech. The problem is our political system.”

Financial shortcuts to avoid and use when saving and investing for retirement

Investors often use rules of thumb or cognitive shortcuts that simplify decisions. In the world of behavioral economics, these rules or shortcuts are known as heuristics. But investors are sometimes blind to the mistakes they might be making when they use rules of thumb and shortcuts. So, what are some heuristics that investors should use and which ones should they avoid?…For his part, Cass Sunstein, a professor at Harvard Law School, calls selling low myopic loss aversion, which is something you want to avoid. “Investors often react intensely to short-term losses,” says Sunstein. “Fear is not a good adviser.”

Kushner Has Trump’s Trust. He Needs Clearance Too.

An op-ed by Noah Feldman. The reported struggle over security clearance between White House chief of staff John Kelly and presidential adviser (and son-in-law) Jared Kushner is a fascinating example of palace intrigue. But as engrossing as it may be to speculate about whether Kelly is trying to marginalize Kushner by denying him access to the presidential daily brief, we shouldn’t neglect one basic truth. It’s ultimately up to President Donald Trump to decide who he wants to advise him — and we should all want those counselors to be able to provide the best advice possible.

Lesbian couple sues feds for thwarting their chance to foster refugee children

Three years ago, as they wore long gowns and exchanged vows surrounded by people who love them, Fatma Marouf and Bryn Esplin imagined a growing family. But like so many couples who dream of having children, they keep hitting roadblocks…So early last year, they turned their attention to the idea of fostering refugee children. They were sure they had found their answer. They didn’t get far, though, before they were proved wrong…All those feelings have now fueled a lawsuit against the federal government. The complaint was filed this week in Washington’s U.S. District Court by Lambda Legal, which defends the rights of the LGBTQ community…Outside legal experts hinted in emails to CNN that Marouf and Esplin probably won’t prevail in this case. “If there were a statute that was being violated that would make it an easy win,” said Noah Feldman, a professor at Harvard Law School who specializes in constitutional studies and the relationship between law and religion. “But they are relying on the Constitution. And, in general, the Constitution has not been held to require government grantees not to discriminate when they are private actors.”

Fox News pundit: Justice Department officials should be prosecuted for fraud

Fox News legal analyst Gregg Jarrett argued on Wednesday that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, former FBI Director James Comey, and other former top Department of Justice officials should be prosecuted for fraud and other crimes for their role in spying on a former Trump campaign official…Legal experts say Jarrett’s claims are pure political theater. “There is no evidence whatsoever that crimes were committed in connection with the use of the Steele dossier, and no serious commentator has even come close to making such a suggestion,” Alex Whiting, a Harvard Law School professor specializing in criminal prosecution issues, told me. “I can only conclude that Jarrett is deliberately seeking to misinform his viewers for political reasons.”

U.S. Says Troops Can Stay in Syria Without New Authorization

The Trump administration has decided that it needs no new legal authority from Congress to indefinitely keep American military forces deployed in Syria and Iraq, even in territory that has been cleared of Islamic State fighters, according to Pentagon and State Department officials. In a pair of letters, the officials illuminated the Trump administration’s planning for an open-ended mission of forces in Syria beyond the Islamic State fight…The executive branch’s claim that the 2001 and 2002 laws provide authority for the United States to indefinitely keep combat forces in Syria amounts to “a tenuous legal justification atop of another tenuous legal justification,” said Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard Law School professor and former Justice Department lawyer in the Bush administration.

A Welcome Move by the Justice Department

An op-ed by Cass Sunstein. Amid all the current political clamor, the Justice Department recently did something that is both technical and important — and that simultaneously promotes freedom and the rule of law. It deserves bipartisan approval for its announcement that it will no longer rely on “guidance documents” to try to bind the private sector. Under the Administrative Procedure Act, enacted in 1946, federal agencies are allowed to issue “interpretative rules” and “general policy statements,” some of which qualify as guidance documents. Many of these advise members of the public — companies, hospitals, labor unions, charities, immigrants — about what the government considers to be their legal responsibilities.

In the gig economy, a cybersecurity divide

…The initial findings of new research presented at the Enigma conference in January indicate that contractor-employees of “gig” services like Uber, Lyft, TaskRabbit, Handy, Fiverr, and Foodora are generally less safe online than full-time employees of other companies. Why? Because the companies they contract with aren’t communicating or enforcing best security practices as intensely. Kendra Albert, a clinical fellow at Harvard Law School and one of the researchers behind the as-yet unpublished study, says traditional companies commonly install security or device management software on employees’ phones and laptops; gig services, on the other hand, rarely do this for their contractors. Gig worker app platform requirements such as uploads of identity or insurance documentation give the companies reason to trust their contractors, but the companies do little with their platforms to reciprocate that trust, Albert says. “The mistrust that these platforms put in their workers have security consequences,” Albert says.

This startup brews beer with surplus bread. Here’s why.

If you’re passionate about craft brews and green living, how about raising a glass of beer made from leftover bread? Toast Ale launched in the U.K. in 2015 in part to help bakeries recycle bread that otherwise would have been wasted — and to help raise public awareness about wasted food…But can a small company like Toast Ale really make a difference? Emily Broad Leib, director of the Food Law and Policy Clinic at Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, certainly thinks so. “Grain products such as bread are some of the most commonly wasted food products in both the U.S. and the U.K.,” Broad Leib told NBC News MACH in an email.