Ethics in the News: ACLU on Border Wall ‘Emergency,’ Use of DNA to Track People, Rethinking Medical Ethics, AI Ethics, & More – February 22, 2019


Justice Department preparing for Mueller report in coming days
“Regulations call for Mueller to submit to the attorney general a confidential explanation as to why he decided to charge certain individuals, as well as who else he investigated and why he decided not to charge those people. The regulations then call for the attorney general to report to Congress about the investigation. An adviser to President Trump said there is palpable concern among the president’s inner circle that the report might contain information about Trump and his team that is politically damaging, but not criminal conduct.”

ACLU on border wall ’emergency’: We’ll see you in court, President Donald Trump
“Trump added that his reason for the declaration was that he wanted to build the wall “much faster.” But that’s not how our democratic system works. Congress considered his desire for $5.7 billion in wall funding — and rejected it, instead appropriating $1.375 billion for new border barriers. The president cannot now try to get his way by unilaterally taking money that Congress has already budgeted for other things.”

Trump’s Bizarre, Rambling Announcement of a National Emergency
“The move is sure to draw legal challenges, and might not take effect exactly as Trump described. But the fact remains that the president has declared a national emergency in order to save face with anti-immigration members of the conservative media and his base, having been roundly defeated in a joust with Congress over funding. In essence, the president has created a new crisis to get himself out of a previous crisis—which he also created. And the timing of Trump’s announcement, after months of equivocating and congressional debate, hardly supports the idea of an acute crisis.”

Trump (1)
Donald Trump declared a national emergency to secure funding for a wall at the U.S. – Mexico border. Sixteen states are suing over the use of emergency powers.

Arrested Coast Guard Officer Allegedly Planned Attack ‘On A Scale Rarely Seen’
“A 49-year-old Coast Guard lieutenant charged with stockpiling weapons and drugs is being described as a “domestic terrorist” who was planning “to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country,” according to court documents filed in U.S. District Court in Maryland on Tuesday. Federal prosecutors say Christopher Paul Hasson, a self-described white nationalist living in Silver Spring, Md., was amassing firearms since at least 2017, while cultivating plans to launch a widespread attack on prominent Democratic lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and several high-profile television anchors from MSNBC and CNN.”

Biomedical/Medical Ethics

China Uses DNA to Track Its People, With the Help of American Expertise
“China wants to make the country’s Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group, more subservient to the Communist Party. It has detained up to a million people in what China calls “re-education” camps, drawing condemnation from human rights groups and a threat of sanctions from the Trump administration. Collecting genetic material is a key part of China’s campaign, according to human rights groups and Uighur activists. They say a comprehensive DNA database could be used to chase down any Uighurs who resist conforming to the campaign.”

Rethinking Medical Ethics
“The AMA’s Principles of Medical Ethics advise physicians that responsibility to the patient is “paramount.” But where does responsibility lie when AI enters the equation? The answer is still being worked out by ethicists, researchers, and regulators. One problem is that AI multiplies the number of people who contribute to a patient’s care and brings in those, like data scientists, who aren’t traditionally bound by medical ethics. Also, as the black box problem shows, it isn’t always possible to know exactly how an AI system made a diagnosis or prescribed a treatment.”

ICE force-feeding detainees on hunger strike
“ICE confirmed Thursday there are 11 detainees in El Paso who are on hunger strikes — which means they have refused nine consecutive meals — and an additional four in the agency’s Miami, Phoenix, San Diego and San Francisco areas of responsibility, according to agency spokeswoman Leticia Zamarripa. In mid-January, two weeks after they stopped eating, a federal judge authorized force-feeding of some El Paso detainees, Zamarripa said. She did not address the detainees’ allegations of abuse but did say the El Paso Processing Center would closely monitor the food and water intake of detainees to protect their health and safety.”

The cost to reproduce: When finances affect medical and ethical choices
“As technology advances and more Americans turn to IVF to conceive, many argue that fertility treatments should be considered part of standard medical treatment, subject to insurance coverage like any other medical intervention. Without coverage, individuals are left to pay $12,000-$17,000 or more per cycle out of pocket, leading some to take bigger risks by transferring more than one embryo in the hopes that their chances of a live birth will be improved since they cannot afford to try this twice.”

Technology Ethics

AI researchers debate the ethics of sharing potentially harmful programs
“A recent decision by research lab OpenAI to limit the release of a new algorithm has caused controversy in the AI community. The nonprofit said it decided not to share the full version of the program, a text-generation algorithm named GPT-2, due to concerns over “malicious applications.” But many AI researchers have criticized the decision, accusing the lab of exaggerating the danger posed by the work and inadvertently stoking “mass hysteria” about AI in the process.”

The winter of AI discontent – thoughts on trends in tech ethics
“Technology platforms, including automated decision-making systems, can exacerbate these rifts, but technology does not create them in isolation. How can we build an ethics for AI when we are not even aligned on ethics in technology as a broader field or, indeed, in most other forms of human endeavor? The data science community is beginning to use conversations around the risks of automating systemic biases to push for better understanding of how existing biases show up. When we can measure the impact of systemic inequality on particular populations, we are better able to understand and measure the impact of AI interventions on those populations.”

Fixing Tech’s Ethics Problem Starts in the Classroom
“Casey Fiesler, a faculty member in the Department of Information Science at the University of Colorado Boulder, said that a common model in engineering programs is a stand-alone ethics class, often taught towards the end of a program. But there’s increasingly a consensus among those teaching tech ethics that a better model is to discuss ethical issues alongside technical work.”

Pope meets head of Microsoft to discuss ethics in technology, AI
“The president of Microsoft, Brad Smith, told Pope Francis that a “human voice” was needed to speak up in the world of technology today…Smith and a delegation from the U.S.-based technology company met with the pope Feb. 13 to discuss the centrality of the human person and the need for ethics in artificial intelligence.”

Business Ethics

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez invented a ‘Corruption Game’ to slam lax government ethics laws during a viral Oversight Committee hearing
“Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Wednesday used her new seat on the House Oversight Committee to deliver an impassioned argument for campaign-finance reform and stronger government ethics laws. The New York Democrat posed a creative series of questions to ethics experts to expose how a corrupt, self-interested lawmaker could avoid accountability in Congress.”

The Urgency of Now: Corporate Ethics and the #MeToo Movement
“If there was ever a compelling argument for ethics and compliance professionals to reiterate the importance of a culture of ethics, now is the time.  Companies have to recognize that promoting and managing their cultures is one of several important measures to prevent and detect improper sexual harassment and assault incidents from occurring.”

Vast Majority of Employees Say There’s an Urgent Need for Moral Leadership in Business Today – But It’s All Too Rare, New Report Says
“The vast majority of U.S. employees – 87% – say business today urgently needs moral leadership. That’s according to a new report “The State of Moral Leadership in Business 2019” released today by LRN Corporation. LRN, a leading ethics and compliance company, surveyed 1,100 employees, managers and top executives at companies with at least 1,000 people across 17 industries. Across industries, roles, gender, and tenures, respondents were equally emphatic about their desire for managers and executives to lead with the company’s deeper purpose, inspire and elevate people, uphold moral values, and actively engage in questions of right and wrong.”

Religious Ethics

Pope Francis Opens Summit on Sexual Abuse: ‘Hear the Cry of the Little Ones’
“With his moral authority in question and his papal legacy in the balance, Pope Francis opened a historic summit meeting at the Vatican on Thursday devoted to clerical child sexual abuse, an issue that has for decades devastated some corners of his vast church while being utterly ignored and denied in others.”

As Pope Holds Sex Abuse Summit, U.S. Catholics Not Hopeful For ‘Bold Moves’
“In the weeks that followed the Pope’s announcement, however, U.S. Catholics in particular have become disappointed over his characterization of the summit as a gathering that will merely feature “prayer and discernment,” hardly an ambitious vision for what could have been a momentous event.”

Confidence in Pope Francis Down Sharply in U.S.
“As allegations and investigations of sex abuse in the Catholic Church become more widespread, a new Pew Research Center survey finds that confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the crisis has plummeted among U.S. Catholics. Just three-in-ten Catholic adults say Francis is doing an “excellent” or a “good” job addressing the issue, which is down 24 points since 2015 and 14 points from when Pew Research Center last asked the question in January of this year.”

Racial Justice

Growing Marijuana Industry Struggles To Attract Employees Of Color
“As marijuana becomes legal around the country, blacks and Latinos are often left out of new business opportunities. Advocates say people of color are often reluctant to join the growing legal marijuana economy because they were targeted far more often than whites during the war on drugs. Studies show members of such communities were arrested and jailed for illegal marijuana use far more often than whites.”

The Racial Divide Is the Political Divide
“As racial identity and partisan identity more closely align, and as turnout becomes a more and more important metric for assessing political fortunes, the PRRI poll also finds that people of color are markedly more likely to report having faced notable barriers in electoral and civic participation than white respondents.”

Is Trump ‘Racist’? Democratic Foes Give Varying Answers
“Some white candidates in the Democratic contest, such as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, take on the issue explicitly by calling the president a “racist.” But black and Latino contenders like Senator Kamala Harris, Senator Cory Booker and former Housing Secretary Julián Castro are more circumspect, mirroring the rhetorical prudence of former President Barack Obama on race.”

Path to Racial Equity in VA Includes Environmental Justice
“Now, focusing on the error of his ways regarding the blackface revelations, Northam has professed a desire to further racial equity in Virginia, and is traveling throughout the state on a reconciliation “listening tour.” Racial equity, however, requires meaningful action in the form of racially equitable results, and racial equity in Virginia must include environmental justice. This includes clean energy — not polluting gas infrastructure in a historic African American community. Clean energy resources, such as solar and wind energy, would provide more jobs than the largely temporary ones the pipeline would bring, and without the public health and safety risks, environmental damage, and climate disruption that polluting pipeline infrastructure will yield.”

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