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  • Should Tanks Be More Like iPhones?

    September 5, 2014

    When Iraq’s American-equipped army fled their posts in Mosul last June, they left that American equipment in the hands Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the attacking violent insurgent group. Since then, the U.S. Air Force destroyed some of the captured vehicles. Jonathan Zittrain, director of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, wonders if there’s a better way to stop stolen equipment from working. He proposes “kill switches,” like those found in iPhones, as a means for keeping American arms, given to allies, from working in the hands of enemies...Through email, Popular Science spoke with Zittrain about how these proposed killswitches could work, and what they would mean for arming allies in the future.

  • Full D.C. appeals court expected to uphold ACA subsidies

    September 5, 2014

    The District of Columbia U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington on Thursday said the full 11-member court will rehear (PDF) the controversial case that ruled Americans could not receive subsidies to help pay for plans on federally run health insurance exchanges. Oral arguments will begin Dec. 17...Laurence Tribe, a liberal constitutional law scholar at Harvard Law School, agrees that the likelihood of the Supreme Court taking the case “would go down substantially” if the full D.C. Circuit sides with the Obama administration. “This is unlikely to be the kind of issue that the Supreme Court would be eager to take up in the absence of a circuit conflict,” Tribe said in an e-mail.

  • Court sense

    September 5, 2014

    ...In an entertaining talk in HLS’s Wasserstein Hall with Dean Martha Minow on Wednesday, [Elena] Kagan displayed her trademark wit and wisdom, honed during her years as a Harvard Law School (HLS) student, professor, and dean, her work with the Clinton administration, and her stint as solicitor general. She also pulled back the curtain a little on the nation’s highest court.

  • Are people who looked at McKayla Maroney’s underage photos guilty of looking at child pornography?

    September 4, 2014

    Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney, one of a number of female celebrities whose private nude photos were posted online without their consent, has now taken legal action against several of the websites that posted her images. Maroney says she was under 18 at the time the photos were taken, which has some wondering whether the images constitute child pornography....A naked picture of a child does not always constitute child pornography, according to Nancy Gertner, a retired federal judge and current faculty member at Harvard Law School. "It depends on the pose, whether it's lewd or lascivious," she said over the phone. If the pose is lewd or if it can be construed to be lewd, Gertner said, "then those who are downloading it are downloading child pornography.

  • The Mystery of ‘Living Will’ Rules for Banks

    September 4, 2014

    An op-ed by Hal Scott. Most college students now returning to campuses will never hear the words that the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. spoke in August to the managements of the country's 11 largest banks: You've failed. Each of these big banks flunked the course titled "living wills." The Fed and the FDIC required the banks to make contingency plans detailing how in a crisis they would be wound down without suspending critical financial services, and without public support. The two regulators announced jointly last month that no plan earned a passing grade.

  • Naked truth: US law doesn’t require websites to block revealing photos stolen from stars

    September 4, 2014

    Imagine what the Internet would be like if most major websites had imposed controls preventing the naked photos stolen from Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence and other celebrities from being posted online..."The platforms that host that content can't readily police all of it the way that a newspaper can carefully select what should go in as a letter to the editor," says Harvard University Law School professor Jonathan Zittrain, who is also co-founder of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

  • Could Trade Law Curb Chinese Hackers?

    September 3, 2014

    An op-ed by Noah Feldman. When a computer somewhere in China hacks into your company’s server, the Department of Justice says that’s a crime. But good luck hauling an anonymous junior officer in the People’s Liberation Army into court -- much less deterring future Chinese cyber-attacks through criminal prosecution. SolarWorld Americas, a major U.S. producer of solar panels, has another idea. It has asked the Department of Commerce to impose trade sanctions against China as retaliation for cyber-attacks it has suffered. The idea is legally creative, politically risky -- and the harbinger of things to come in the emerging cool war between China and the U.S.

  • The Case for Kill Switches in Military Weaponry

    September 3, 2014

    An op-ed by Jonathan Zittrain. This summer the insurgent group ISIS captured the Iraqi city of Mosul—and along with it, three army divisions’ worth of U.S.-supplied equipment from the Iraqi army, including Humvees, helicopters, antiaircraft cannons and M1 Abrams tanks. ISIS staged a parade with its new weapons and then deployed them to capture the strategic Mosul Dam from outgunned Kurdish defenders. The U.S. began conducting air strikes and rearming the Kurds to even the score against its own weaponry. As a result, even more weapons have been added to the conflict, and local arms bazaars have reportedly seen an influx of supply. It is past time that we consider whether we should build in a way to remotely disable such dangerous tools in an emergency.

  • Legal/Regulatory | Standard Deduction Court Challenge to New Inversion Rules Would Face Long Odds

    September 3, 2014

    The Treasury Department is considering new regulations that would make corporate inversions less profitable. Hedge fund managers, investment bankers and others are handicapping the timing and scope of any new rules and to whom they would apply. Possibilities include reclassifying certain debt held by United States subsidiaries of foreign corporations as equity, further limiting earnings stripping or restricting the repatriation of untaxed offshore cash from corporations that have gone through an inversion. Another question is whether any new regulations will hold up in court. Even Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew questioned whether his department had the legal authority to act unilaterally. But after Stephen Shay, a law professor at Harvard University, published an article urging Treasury to act, the department’s lawyers began developing some options. Mr. Shay suggested that by looking beyond Section 7874, the specific code section that addresses inversions, the Treasury might find other ways to curb some of the economic tax benefits of an inversion. In my view, Mr. Shay’s suggestions are indeed within the lawful authority of the Treasury Department.

  • Appetite grows for older groceries

    September 3, 2014

    ... According to a study last fall by the National Resources Defense Council and the Harvard Food Law & Policy Clinic, up to 40 percent of food produced in the United States goes to waste, largely caused by confusion over expiration labels and fear that food inside could be unsafe. "There is so much confusion; people think they are getting unsafe food and they are really outraged about it," said Emily Leib, a Harvard Law School professor and deputy director of the university's Center for Health Law & Policy Innovation, which co-sponsored the study titled "The Dating Game: How Confusing Food Date Labels Lead to Food Waste in America."

  • How Amazon Plans to Storm Cable’s Castle

    September 3, 2014

    An op-ed by Susan Crawford: Amazon.com Inc.'s announcement last week that it would pay $970 million in cash to buy Twitch Interactive Inc., a hugely popular game-streaming service that is just over three years old, marks a key moment for telecommunications policy in the U.S. But the reason might be unexpected. E-games substituting for "real" sports is not news: There is nothing more human than the desire to be close to the lives of gladiators and other celebrities, and online interaction will fulfill that need at an enormous scale. What is crucial is that the destiny of Twitch, Netflix Inc. and any other future high-capacity streaming service -- think telemedicine, education and civic engagement -- is utterly dependent on the goodwill of just four companies: Comcast Corp., Time Warner Cable Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc.

  • China Slaps Hong Kong, Taiwan Reels

    September 2, 2014

    An op-ed by Noah Feldman: The message China’s leaders sent when they announced that they would have to approve any future elected leaders of Hong Kong should be heard loud and clear -- not as much in Hong Kong as in Taiwan, where it really matters, and throughout the region. Hong Kong isn’t just a unique entity within China, governed in theory by the principle of "one country, two systems." It's also a model of what Taiwan could expect if Chinese hegemony over the island it claims as its own were to become greater. China’s message to Hong Kong puts Taiwanese democrats in a difficult strategic bind in their attempt to assure their future. It also has consequences for American efforts to engage Asian allies who are growing economically closer to China each passing day.

  • Hamas’s ‘Victory’ Is All Arabs’ Loss

    September 2, 2014

    An op-ed by Noah Feldman. On the surface, this summer’s Gaza war seemed like a repetition of what happened in 2012. The rockets from Gaza into Israel, the bombing of Gaza by Israel, the mutual recriminations about who started it -- even the proportions of civilian and military casualties seem eerily similar. Small wonder that to many who care about Palestinians, Israelis or (yes, it’s possible) both, this summer’s events felt like an eternal return as imagined by Nietzsche: repetitive, circular and pointless. In fact, though, this round of Gaza violence was different -- and its meaning for setting policy is correspondingly different as well. Hamas is in a very different strategic place than it was in 2012. That war came because it seemed the Arab Spring might herald a new era of popular, even democratic Islamism.

  • Burger King maneuveres to cut US tax bill

    September 2, 2014

    Burger King may have taken a lot of flack in the past week for a deal that should curb its US tax bill but in many ways it is consistent with the burger chain's aggressive tax-reduction strategies in recent years…“I would be surprised if in five years' time, their tax rate does not come down reasonably dramatically,” said Professor Stephen Shay, from Harvard Law School, who has testified to Congress on corporate taxation.

  • British Labor Activist’s Trial in Thailand Puts Free Speech in the Spotlight

    September 2, 2014

    A British labor activist began his fight against defamation charges in a Bangkok court Tuesday, after a report he co-authored made serious allegations regarding abuses in Thailand’s food production industry. Andy Hall, 33, faces both civil and criminal lawsuits after he alleged that practices including forced labor, the exploitation of children, the paying of unfair wages and up to 10 hours forced overtime daily were rife at factories belonging to Thai fruit firm Natural Fruit…Should Hall be convicted, Benjamin Zawacki, a human rights visiting fellow at Harvard Law School, fears a “chilling effect” for similarly outspoken activists who take on big business. Criminal defamation, he says, “is a ready-made tool for use against critical, unpopular, oppositional speech — the very thing human rights defenders are known for and states are known not to welcome.”

  • Extremism Loves Company

    September 2, 2014

    An op-ed by Cass R. Sunstein. Why do people become violent extremists? You might speculate that the answer is poverty. George W. Bush thought so: "We fight against poverty because hope is an answer to terror." Or you might think a lack of education explains it. Laura Bush thought so: “A lasting victory in the war against terror depends on educating the world’s children.” Neither of these answers is correct, however. Most extremists, including those who commit violence, are not poor and do not lack education.

  • Amish Beard-Cutters Were Criminals, Not Haters

    September 2, 2014

    An op-ed by Noah Feldman.When Amish breakaway leader Samuel Mullet and eight followers were charged with the “hate crime” of cutting co-religionists’ beards, it seemed to me that the otherwise conscientious U.S. attorney, moved by the Nazi-esque spectacle, had gone too far. Now the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has struck down the conviction for relying on too broad a reading of the federal hate-crimes law. The decision is right on the law -- and the U.S. attorney should not refile.

  • Asking Congress to Back ISIS Strikes in Syria Is Tricky for Obama

    September 2, 2014

    When President Obama summoned his closest advisers to the Oval Office a year ago this week to tell them he was holding off on a missile strike against Syria, one of his arguments was that if he acted without Congress, he might not get congressional backing for military intervention the next time he needed it…Such an authorization, said Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard law professor who served in the Bush administration and has written extensively about this debate, could be a political victory for Mr. Obama, giving him much-needed backing for a long, potentially arduous military campaign. “It doesn’t guarantee him a political blank check,” Mr. Goldsmith said in an interview, “but it gives him so much more political legitimacy and cover in case things go wrong.”

  • In First for Court, Woman Is Ruled Eligible for Asylum in U.S. on Basis of Domestic Abuse

    September 2, 2014

    The nation’s highest immigration court has found for the first time that women who are victims of severe domestic violence in their home countries can be eligible for asylum in the United States. The decision on Tuesday by the Board of Immigration Appeals in the case of a battered wife from Guatemala resolved nearly two decades of hard-fought legal battles over whether such women could be considered victims of persecution…But Deborah Anker, a Harvard law professor who directs the university’s Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program, said the decision would be seized by many women whose cases are already in court, including from other countries where domestic violence is rampant, and by women who crossed the Southwest border recently. Border authorities have been pressing for quick deportations of recent migrants, but now Central American women will have a broader basis to seek a full hearing of their asylum claims.

  • Treaty-ish

    August 29, 2014

    .By contrast, Harvard professor Jack Goldsmith points out that the president cannot enter a treaty on his own. He can make agreements with foreign leaders until he is blue in the face, but those agreements can’t force a reduction in U.S. emissions unless Congress passes a law saying so. Goldsmith sees the president’s action as symbolic, a way to stake out a legacy and inspire his base. So which is it, gauzy PR or yet another step toward dictatorship?

  • Hedge Funds Hunting Clues in Treasury Tax-Inversion Limit

    August 29, 2014

    Treasury officials will be especially careful about what information they share with anyone who calls or asks questions, a former agency official said. “To the extent that you work on something that might be market-moving, you hunker down,” said Stephen Shay, who was the top Treasury Department international tax official earlier in Obama’s presidency. “Particularly when you don’t know what the decision’s going to be.” Shay, now a Harvard Law School professor, wrote a Tax Notes article in July urging the administration to think more broadly about its regulatory authority.