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Media Mentions

  • Constitutional law scholar Laurence Tribe takes on Cape Wind

    September 9, 2014

    After losing in U.S. district court in May, opponents of the Cape Wind energy project in Nantucket have taken their case to the U.S. District Court of Appeal and added a new voice to their legal team. Laurence Tribe, professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School, who also works with Washington D.C. law firm Massey & Gail LLP, is representing the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound...In his appellate court brief, Tribe argues that the judge’s ruling was “gravely flawed.” In an email exchange with reporter >Mary Moore, Tribe explains why.

  • Americans’ Costly Failure to Refinance

    September 9, 2014

    An op-ed by Cass R. Sunstein. Suppose you learned that during the recent recession the national government adopted a policy that cost American homeowners $5.4 billion. Or that the nation’s banks adopted a policy that had exactly the same effect. You’d probably be outraged. Fortunately, that didn’t quite happen, but something similar did. Whether or not it’s outrageous, we should do something about it. For many people, buying a home is the most important financial decision they ever make. Interest rates rise and fall, and when they fall, many homeowners have an opportunity to refinance and to save a lot of money. From 2010 to 2012, rates dropped significantly. In late 2012, they reached an all-time low, falling well below 4 percent. Someone whose original loan came with a rate of 6.5 percent could, by refinancing, save more than $100,000 over the life of the loan. The standard economic assumption is that homeowners consider such benefits and make rational decisions about whether and when to refinance. But behavioral economists suspect this isn't what really happens -- that lots of people fail to refinance even when they stand to save many thousands of dollars.

  • Scott Brown Threatens Lawsuit Over Being Called a ‘Washington Lobbyist’

    September 9, 2014

    The campaign for New Hampshire Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown threatened to sue Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig Sunday over a mailer calling Brown a “former Washington lobbyist.” Lessig’s Super PAC to end Super PACs, Mayday PAC, wrote the mailer in support of one of Brown’s Republican rivals, former state Sen. Jim Rubens, and to decry special interests’ influence in Washington...Lessig responded to the letter quoting the words of Clint Eastwood’s character “Dirty Harry” Callahan — “Go ahead; Make my day” — and offered to openly debate whether Brown was a “lobbyist.” Lessig also asked Brown if it was better to call Brown a former Massachusetts senator “who sold his influence to a DC lobbying firm.”

  • Treasury’s Lew Says Anti-Inversion Decision Will Come Soon, But Offers No Hints About What Or When

    September 8, 2014

    In a speech today at the Tax Policy Center, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said the agency will decide “in the very very near future” how it will respond to the recent wave of tax-motivated corporate inversions...After his presentation, a panel of tax and regulatory experts debated whether Treasury has the authority to act administratively against inversions and, if so, whether it should take such a step. Not surprisingly, the panelists disagreed...Even Steve Shay, who has been an outspoken advocate of Treasury action, acknowledged that regulations could only limit—but not stop—inversions. “Some deals would still go forward,” he said, “to the extent they are good business deals.”

  • One million Americans want corporations to reveal political spending

    September 8, 2014

    A coalition of academics, good-government advocacy groups and shareholder activists announced last week that one million Americans have written the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) asking for a rule to make corporations reveal how they spend money for political purposes...In a blog post, Jackson and fellow petitioner Lucian Bebchuk noted that the issue had attracted far more comments than any other the SEC had ever considered. Asked why, Bebchuk, a widely cited professor of law, economics and finance at Harvard, said, “The case for transparency in this area is clear and compelling to a broad spectrum of people, including individuals who would otherwise not consider expressing a view on SEC matters. The current freedom of public companies to spend money on politics without telling their investors is clearly unacceptable to a large number of people who care enough about it to write to the SEC.”

  • Want to Reform the NSA? Give Edward Snowden Immunity

    September 8, 2014

    An op-ed by Yochai Benkler. But national security is different. There are limited protections for internal whistleblowers, and none at all for those who go to the press. Defenders of that approach argue that the critical nature of national security justifies complete secrecy. But that very critical nature also means that mistakes can have devastating effects, while the secrecy that national-security organizations demand makes them more likely to get stuck in erroneous patterns. Secrecy disables many of the mechanisms that other systems use to correct failure dynamics.

  • The Alitomayor Effect

    September 8, 2014

    An article by Laurence Tribe. At the Supreme Court, the spotlight often jumps from justice to justice...Yet the coverage often passes over two of the court’s more junior members, Justices Samuel Alito and Sonia Sotomayor. Too often we hear only that both justices are predictable partisans, neither idiosyncratic nor unique, representing the new extremes of right and left on the court. But while they do frequently disagree on hot-button issues, neither is so easily reduced to caricature. Closer analysis reveals distinct perspectives that strongly differentiate them from their fellow justices and unexpected commonalities that unite them—and can bend the whole gravitational field of the court in their direction. So ignore them no more: Understanding Alito and Sotomayor, both where they divide and where they converge, is essential to understanding the future of the Supreme Court.

  • Gay Marriage? ‘Go Figure’

    September 8, 2014

    An op-ed by Cass R. Sunstein. The movement for marriage equality yesterday received its greatest legal victory. Judge Richard Posner, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, wrote a powerful opinion ordering Indiana and Wisconsin to recognize same-sex marriages. In the process, he eviscerated the states’ efforts to defend their discriminatory laws. The author matters in this case. Posner was appointed by Ronald Reagan, and he isn't known for favoring an active judicial role or for thinking that courts should promote social change. He is also widely admired, and probably counts as the most influential lower court judge of the past 50 years. When he speaks, people listen.

  • The high price of freedom

    September 8, 2014

    It was the luckiest of breaks, in a life long overdue for one. Manuel Ordonez-Quino sat in a detention center in El Paso, awaiting deportation to Guatemala. Swept up in the massive raid on a New Bedford factory in 2007, immigration officials said he had agreed to leave the country. But some of his fellow detainees told lawyers that was impossible. Ordonez-Quino was deaf, they said. An indigenous Maya, he spoke only Quiché, not English or Spanish. He could not have understood what was happening to him, let alone agreed to it. So John Willshire-Carrera and Nancy Kelly of Greater Boston Legal Services and the Harvard [Immigration and Refugee [Clinical] Program took on his case. That one stroke of good fortune will change not only Ordonez-Quino’s life, but many others.

  • Another reason to expand medicaid in NC: Rising cost of treating diabetes

    September 8, 2014

    Diabetes is a costly epidemic in North Carolina, and it is rapidly expanding. That’s a disturbing finding headlining a report by Harvard University researchers released earlier this year. While North Carolina is fortunate to be the focus of a diabetes study by the Center for Health Law and Policy at Harvard Law School, the reason for the attention is ominous: North Carolina has a huge problem.

  • 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.