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  • Zephyr Teachout Gets Big Boost In Challenge To Andrew Cuomo

    August 18, 2014

    Harvard law professor and leading campaign finance reform advocate Lawrence Lessig called on supporters of his anti-corruption super PAC to help fund the campaign of Zephyr Teachout, the Democratic primary challenger to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. "I’m writing today to ask you to support someone who I believe is the most important anti-corruption candidate in any race in America today -- Zephyr Teachout, running for Governor in New York," Lessig wrote in an email blast to supporters of his Mayday PAC.

  • Ronald Reagan Steals the Show

    August 18, 2014

    An op-ed by Cass R. Sunstein. “The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels and God, and at liberty when of Devils and Hell, is because he was a true Poet and of the Devil's party without knowing it.” So said the poet William Blake, referring to the way, in John Milton’s "Paradise Lost," Satan steals the show. Ron Perlstein, author of "The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan," is not a poet, but he is an excellent nonfiction writer. And while he knows that Ronald Reagan is nothing like the devil, he is not exactly in Reagan’s political camp. Yet when discussing Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, Perlstein writes in fetters. As soon as Reagan appears, the author is at liberty, and his prose soars.

  • Top Tax Lawyers Mum on Inversion Debate (registration required)

    August 18, 2014

    More than a decade ago, when corporate inversions first came under scrutiny, a group of leading New York tax lawyers took a principled stand and called for urgent action to stop these deals….The deafening silence on the policy of inversions comes at a time when tax partners at corporate firms face mounting pressure to boost their revenues. “Because of the highly competitive legal environment, tax lawyers at major firms increasingly feel less free to speak their mind on tax policy issues than they did in the past,” says Stephen Shay, a professor at Harvard Law School who was a tax partner at Ropes & Gray for 22 years…Shay points out that the inversion discussion today is more complex than in 2002, when the deals under attack were more aggressive. Back then, companies could do a “naked inversion” by simply creating a foreign shell in a tax haven like the Cayman Islands.

  • Maine Town Flips Switch on Municipally-Owned Ultra-Fast Internet Service

    August 18, 2014

    Few states in the nation are worse than Maine when it comes to Internet connectivity and reliability. But today, a town on the mid-coast flipped the switch on its own ultra-fast Web hook-up. The municipally-owned, fiber optic network, serving parts of Rockport, immediately makes Maine an unlikely leader in the push for greater access to high speed Internet service. Fewer than 25 percent of all U.S. consumers have access to the highest speed Internet service, which runs on fiber optic networks. "There is no infrastructure question more important to the future of the United States," says Dr. Susan Crawford, Harvard Law School professor and co-director of the university's Berkman Center for the Internet & Society.

  • How Maine Saved the Internet

    August 18, 2014

    An op-ed by Susan Crawford. Rockport, Maine, population 3,321, is trying to solve the existential dilemma of small-town America: How do you get people like Meg Weston's students to stick around?…The town's Internet access connection didn't have enough room to handle the school's demands, and private companies would charge too much to be a realistic option. That is, until this week, when Rockport opened its own gigabit-scale municipal fiber optic network -- meaning it can transmit a thousand megabits of data a second.

  • Gay teen’s organ donation rejected

    August 18, 2014

    …Alexander “AJ” Betts Jr. attempted suicide in July 2013, the Des Moines Register reported at the time. He died shortly thereafter. Betts’s mother said he had been outed as gay about a year and half before his death.…Before he died, Betts had a request: Donate my organs. A 14-year-old boy received Betts’s heart, according to a letter Moore received, but she said his eyes were rejected…In the Journal of the American Medical Association, Glenn Cohen, a bioethics law professor at the Harvard Law School, wrote that the United States should repeal the rules about blood. “We think it’s time for the FDA to take a serious look at this policy, because it’s out of step with peer countries, it’s out of step with modern medicine, it’s out of step with public opinion, and we feel it may be legally problematic,” he told CBS. Cohen notes some contradictions in the FDA blood ban: Men who have sex with HIV-positive women or sex workers are banned for only a year.

  • Harvard’s Tribe Joins Campaign Against Teacher Tenure (registration required)

    August 18, 2014

    Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe on Thursday signed on as an adviser to Students Matter, the group that won a lawsuit in June striking down California’s teacher tenure law. Adding the liberal Tribe to its roster continues the momentum of the group that has sought to redefine teacher tenure as harmful to poor and disadvantaged young people.

  • Getting a handle on inversion

    August 18, 2014

    In recent years, a number of U.S.-based corporations with significant international holdings have shifted their headquarters overseas in an attempt to lower their tax bills. The process, known as corporate or tax “inversion,” is designed to avoid America’s high corporate tax burden. At 35 percent, the U.S. nominal corporate tax rate is highest among member nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)…[Harvard Law School Professor Mihir] Desai spoke with the Gazette via email about the factors driving the practice of tax inversion, and also provided links to research around the topic.

  • Couple accused of abusing adopted children arrested in Oregon

    August 18, 2014

    Marshals arrested the only woman on their 15 Most Wanted list Wednesday, bringing to an end a five-year search for Janet Barreto and her husband, Ramon Barreto – both accused of severe abuse of children they had adopted abroad, including a two-year-old girl who died as a result…But in general, “abuse and neglect is far more likely to occur in families where the children are the biological children than it is to occur in adoptive families,” says Elizabeth Bartholet, a Harvard law professor who studies child abuse.

  • BPR: Laurence Tribe, Temple Grandin, Roz Chast,The Amazon Factor, From Books to Blockbusters (audio)

    August 18, 2014

    Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe talks about his new book, Uncertain Justice: The Roberts Court and the Constitution, which is a forensic look at the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts and the dynamics among the nine "supremes."

  • The Brink of Revolution

    August 18, 2014

    How to make sense of the U.S. Supreme Court? “Judicial opinions…can defy easy comprehension,” write Loeb University Professor Laurence Tribe, who often argues cases there, and Joshua Matz, J.D. ’12, in Uncertain Justice: The Roberts Court and the Constitution (Henry Holt, $32). “It doesn’t help that in controversial cases, the Court frequently erupts in a confusing cacophony of competing writings. Nor do its opinions always offer a comprehensive and transparent view of the Court; sometimes they are downright misleading.” They attempt to deal with the uncertainties. From the prologue: H. L. Mencken reputedly said, “For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, neat, and wrong.” Understanding the Supreme Court undoubtedly qualifies as a “complex problem.”

  • Obama Explores Tax-Code Weapons in Inversion-Merger Fight

    August 11, 2014

    The Obama administration is exploring a range of possible weapons in the tax code to try to deter companies from relocating overseas for tax purposes through so-called inversion mergers…But the White House's position was upended in part by Harvard Law School Professor Stephen Shay, a former administration official who wrote an article on July 29, 2014, for Tax Notes, an influential publication in tax circles. In it, he outlined how the administration could change the tax code to "take the tax juice out of corporation expatriations." "I just started asking the question, 'What could be done with regulation rather than legislation,'" said Mr. Shay. His thoughts quickly reverberated at the top M&A firms and among officials in Washington. To clamp down on the benefits of inverting, he suggested, the Treasury could take aim at multiple parts of the tax code.

  • Meet the Law Professor Who’s Crashing the Inversion Party

    August 11, 2014

    Harvard Law School professor Stephen Shay may have single-handedly crashed the corporate inversion party. The U.S. Treasury Department has in recent days begun weighing how it could use its power to write regulations that would eliminate some of the key economic benefits U.S. corporations get when they acquire a non-U.S. company. Mr. Shay, who served for seven years in the Treasury during two different administrations and spent 22 years as a tax partner at Ropes & Gray LLP, appeared to be the first person to make the government aware of its powers to crack down on the advantageous tax treatment of inversions in an article published on July 29, 2014 in Tax Notes, a publication closely followed by tax professionals. “I just started asking the question, ‘What could be done with regulation rather than legislation’,” Mr. Shay said in an interview.

  • When Justices Disagree, Public May Not Care

    August 11, 2014

    The Supreme Court issued a remarkable number of unanimous decisions last term, and in their public remarks the justices seemed unanimous in saying that unanimity was a good thing. But is it? A new study from Cass R. Sunstein, a law professor at Harvard, concluded that all of the usual reasons for seeking common ground were open to question. “The arguments in favor of higher levels of consensus,” he wrote, “rest on fragile empirical foundations.”

  • Same-sex marriage foes hope to turn tide at mega-hearing in Cincinnati

    August 11, 2014

    …The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled on Wednesday to hear six cases from four states — Michigan, Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio — where federal judges have ruled in recent months in favor of gay couples seeking marriage rights. Prior to the persistent string of pro-gay decisions, many legal experts agreed that Campbell’s view might draw some anti-gay rulings. Harvard Law professor Michael Klarman, a same-sex-marriage proponent, saw Kennedy’s opinion in Windsor as unclear and noted that it’s still likely more-conservative federal judges will rule differently, perhaps even at the 6th Circuit, where two of Wednesday’s three panelists were appointed by President George W. Bush. “I would guess that when the cases from the Deep South get decided, the chances will increase that some of the rulings will go against gay marriage,” Klarman said.

  • Gay marriage arguments flooding federal courts Federal

    August 11, 2014

    Federal appeals courts soon will hear arguments in gay marriage fights from nine states, part of a slew of cases putting pressure on the U.S. Supreme Court to issue a final verdict…"This is the kind of thing where you could see the conservative with a libertarian bent coming out in favor of gay marriage, but who knows?" said Mark Tushnet, a constitutional law professor at Harvard. "Having done Obamacare and maybe screwed his own chances for the Supreme Court, Sutton may feel liberated to do what he thinks is the right thing and go for marriage equality, or he may try to rehabilitate himself and go against it."

  • White House Weighs Actions to Deter Overseas Tax Flight

    August 11, 2014

    The Obama administration is weighing plans to circumvent Congress and act on its own to curtail tax benefits for United States companies that relocate overseas to lower their tax bills, seeking to stanch a recent wave of so-called corporate inversions, Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said on Tuesday…Just days after the president’s speech, Stephen E. Shay, a former Obama administration Treasury Department official who now teaches at Harvard Law School, suggested in an article in the trade journal Tax Notes that it was within Mr. Obama’s power to act alone. “I’m really concerned that we are losing a significant portion of our corporate tax base that you’re not going to get back,” Mr. Shay said.

  • Impeaching Nixon, by the Book

    August 11, 2014

    An op-ed by Cass R. Sunstein. When Richard Nixon announced his resignation, 40 years ago today, it was for one reason: Members of Congress had informed him the night before that he would be impeached by the House of Representatives, convicted by the Senate and removed from office. In retrospect, one of the most striking features of the Watergate controversy is the continuity between a pivotal decision of the founding generation and the judgment of congressional leaders more than 180 years later. In 1974, the nation’s representatives focused on precisely the kinds of wrongdoing that prompted the founders to authorize impeachment in the first place.

  • The promise World War I couldn’t keep

    August 11, 2014

    An op-ed by Samuel Moyn. The guns of August 1914 unleashed a debate that is still with us: Can the laws of war actually impose limits on how war is carried out? Germany invaded Belgium, violating that nation's neutrality -- which was guaranteed by treaties stretching back to the 19th century. This act horrified the world -- as would the civilian occupation policies that marked German rule in Belgium, Northern France, and elsewhere during the long years of trench warfare. The question of how much international law should be respected during wartime has resurfaced repeatedly through the 20th century -- in America, it has come up frequently since 9/11, especially surrounding the "torture debate."

  • Transparency about fracking chemicals remains elusive

    August 11, 2014

    The website FracFocus.org was built to give the public answers to a burning question about the shale boom: what exactly were companies pumping down tens of thousands of wells to release oil and gas? “Like it or not, FracFocus is now one of the most comprehensive, if not the most comprehensive source of information about the chemicals being used in unconventional oil and gas development,” says Kate Konschnik, director of the Environmental Policy Initiative at Harvard Law School. In a 2013 report, Konschnik gave FracFocus a failing grade as a disclosure tool. She found that the data were often inaccurate or incomplete, and that companies were making “trade secret” claims for chemicals at one well site while fully disclosing the same chemicals at another. “Not maybe as robust a tool as one would hope if something is regulated or required by state law,” she says.

  • Arrogance Is Good: In Defense of Silicon Valley

    August 11, 2014

    …Arrogant or not, Silicon Valley continues to lead the economy. Old-school American optimism is still the rule in the Bay Area, where immigrants are welcome, hard work is rewarded, and everyone believes their children will have a better life…Lawrence Lessig, an author and Harvard Law professor who founded the Center for Internet and Society, has argued that West Coast code (programming) is in conflict with East Coast code (laws). Earlier this year he started a super PAC that’s spending $12 million on ads for candidates that want to get rid of super PACs. Lessig says the inchoate libertarian tendencies of technology leaders in the first decade of this century have been replaced by the practical frustration of dealing with government. “This one Yahoo engineer, a real genius, was talking to me about his research on auction theory,” he says. “I said to him, ‘Do you ever think your talents would be better deployed on health care or Social Security?’ He said, ‘I went to the Department of Health and Human Services that was dealing with drug pricing because I had an idea, and they wouldn’t let me in.’ ” The U.S. has such a backward way of resourcing government, he says, that it can’t make use of novel ideas.