Cambridge, USA: A church closes on Christmas


We walked up to the church on Christmas Eve and ran smack into the TV cameras and a news anchor out in front.  What the heck was this?  The church is located in an area of Western Massachusetts small and rural enough to still be called a “village,”  with a population of less than 2,000 people and nothing in it that I can remember, except an old hitching post, with the date of the village’s founding stamped on it. 

The day had already gotten off to a weird start.  Never in my life had I taken a bus into my mother’s home town on Christmas Eve, and she had already managed to “lose me” in a town so small she doesn’t even get mail delivered directly to her house.  Yet now there were bright lights and a TV camera trained on a tiny little box of a small town church.  What could possibly be going on? The church’s Christmas pageant was usually good, but not that good.

“Jessica, you do the talking,” my great aunt joked, nodding toward the camera and elbowing me.

“Why are they here?” I asked her.

“This is the last Mass of this church.  It’s closing.” I could have used a little advance warning.

“Last Mass?” I asked.  By this point we are already crossing ourselves as we enter and search out a pew. This is our Christmas Eve Church, because it puts on a hilarious Christmas pageant before the Mass, and because the priest that travels here just to do the Christmas Eve service does touching things like pass out candy to the children, who in turn do funny things like run around the church triumphantly eating candy.  If that sounds mundane, you’ve never been to a Catholic Mass. It’s not usually a barrel of laughs.

We take a seat at the front of the Church, immediately behind the pews reserved for the pageant participants.  The place is even more packed than usual, and, in contrast to previous years, the heat is on, for a change. I suppose they figure that, for their last night in existence, they could afford to blast the heat.  That, and the fact that keeping it cold hadn’t exactly proven to be a strategy effective enough to keep them open.

They’ve printed a special bulletin just for the occasion, with “St. Bartholomew’s Parish, 130 years” on the cover and a history of the church inside.  My great aunt starts pointing out family members that I didn’t know I had.  “And this guy was out relative, and this one,”  she says, tracing her finger down the list of priests and deacons.  No wonder my mom is so religious, I think to myself, as I see just how many fruits on the family tree managed to wind up taking religious orders.  I’m having that “How come no one ever tells me anything?” feeling again.

“And this nun was our cousin. My father used to pick her up, and she couldn’t leave the convent without another nun.  Isn’t that crazy? And they had to sit in the backseat of the car; neither of them could sit up front with my Dad.  Your mom was terrified of them.”
“That’s true,” my mom agreed.  “I don’t know what it was but I was terrorized when they’d come over.  I’d last about a minute before running and hiding.”

Habited nuns had walked the rooms of my grandparents’ house, the house I was staying in that night?  Their rules about traveling with at least two women, not being able to drive, and their giant habits make me think of Saudi Arabia.  It wasn’t so long ago that Catholic religious orders’ practices resembled the practices of Muslims.  I remembered that before Vatican II, all of the girls and women had to cover their heads in Church.

The pageant was starting, sort of.  The place was buzzing with chatter, packed as it was and with the show running late.  The pageant coordinators were flying around the place looking like Hollywood agents stressed about their starlets being late for the red carpet, whispering to each other but offering us no explanation.  Finally it came—the priest ascended to the pulpit and announced,

“Well, there’s been some mix-up. Father so-and so had the time wrong.  I just reached him on his cell phone.  He thought that Mass started 30 minutes later.  So why don’t we just begin?”

The pipe organ began piping, and the choir began singing.  The monotone teenage readers assumed their positions on stage, and someone began reciting the words that set the scene for the little town in Bethlehem.  On cue, the angels began bouncing down the aisle.  The littlest angel was giving new meaning to bounce: literally skipping around the church, twisting her head in all directions to get a better view. The toddler was making her halo flap and her sneakers flash red lights with the impact.

Soon, baby Jesus was there, and he was actually a real live baby, and also apparently the cutest baby in the entire world.  As Joseph and Mary made their way around the altar pretending to look for a room at the in, Joseph’s staff got caught in the Christmas tree, a hazard I’m sure the original couple endured with as much grace.  As they assumed their positions center stage and facing the congregation, the angels traipsed down the aisle once again.

But the world’s cutest toddler angel was, apparently, related to the world’s cutest baby Jesus.  “Mommy! Hiiii!!!” she whispered, and as the angels walked right toward the holy couple and the others took a sharp left turn, she gleefully continued straight on, running towards her mother Mary to give her a hug and offer a kiss to the tiny Son of God.  As Mary fumbled with both children, it became clear it was going to be hard to separate the newborn from his new guardian.

As Mass started, the joyfulness quickly wore off.  The mood was tense, almost heartbreakingly sad.  No one there wanted this to be the last Mass.  Already there had been so many church closings; each weekend that I had gone home to visit my family my grandmother would read me the announcements from the local paper of which Chuch was closing here, which over there.  I hadn’t thought too much about it.  I knew that, in the U.S., Catholicism was faltering; that the dioceses everywhere were running out of money; and that the priesthood was hurting for new recruits.  This Church had “borrowed” a priest from a village in Nigeria because there were no locals to draw upon.

As the Mass wore on, the whole parish began crying.  I didn’t know what do to with myself; I’m entirely unused to seeing giant grown men standing in front of an altar decorated with Christmas flowers and bawling their eyes out.  My own family was tearing up, and I got swept up in the moment.  I only came to this church one night a year, but I knew that other people formed a community here each week, and that they were losing both that and a sense of their history.  In an act of rebellion, one of the parish organizers announced that, “Tonight’s collection will not go to the Dioceses, because they haven’t taken care of us.  It will go to Father’s church in Nigeria.”  I’d never heard such defiance coming from the altar before. 

“I really hope they don’t tear the building down,” my great aunt whispered.

It took 15 minutes to walk the 30 yards to the exit of the church. The parishoners had blocked the aisles greeting and hugging each other, mourning.  My great aunt was off conversing with relatives no one bothers to tell me are my relatives.  Later on, she would try and sketch out the family tree.

Back in the car, everyone let out a sigh.

“Did you see the angel’s shoes?” my mom asked.

“They lit up!”  my aunt responded.  We drove home.

India buries dissent in Kashmir


Mass graves found in Kashmir in 2008. 2,600 fresh graves were discovered last year.

Nearly 2,600 bodies have been discovered in single, unmarked graves and in mass graves throughout mountainous Indian-controlled Kashmir. The International People’s Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice (IPTHJ), an Indian Kashmir-based human rights organization, claimed that they found the graves in 55 villages during a three-year survey that concluded in November. Out of the 2,600 graves discovered by IPTHJ, they claim that 177 graves held more than one body. This report is one of the most damning pieces of evidence of the ‘crime against humanity’ perpetrated by the Indian armed forces in their occupation of the disputed territory of Kashmir.

The Muslim-dominated region of Kashmir has been a disputed territory right from the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947 and has been the source of conflict for more than half a century. While both countries claim the region, it is the civilian population of Kashmir that has paid the price of the conflict. In contested claims, more than 68,000 people have lost their lives in Indian-occupied Kashmir in the past two decades alone and have witnessed three conventional wars.

The latest report, if accurate, only goes to prove the brutalities encountered by the Kashmiris at the hands of the Indian armed forces. The Indian occupation of Kashmir casts a dark shadow over India’s shining image as the largest democracy in the world. Indian democracy prides itself on freedom of speech and expression and the right of its people to dissent. But the manner in which the dissent of the Kashmiri population has been crushed illustrates that India still has a long way to go to be a real functional democracy. Over the past couple of decades, it has been alleged by various human rights groups that the Indian military has killed a large number of Kashmiri youth in “fake encounters”, dubbing them “Pakistani terrorists”. In April, 2008, Amnesty International appealed to the Indian government to investigate hundreds of unidentified graves — believed to contain victims of unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, torture and other abuses — to no avail.

The starkest feature of these recent findings is that there was no coverage of the report by the Indian media. Having stumbled upon this shocking report in the New York Times when sitting in the U.S., I sought the perspective of the Indian media. To my disbelief and horror, there was not even a single mention about this report in all the leading Indian dailies and news channels, while all of the major international media groups had covered the story.

So what does this tell about Indian democracy? The truth of brutalities in Kashmir have always been kept a secret to the nation. The Indian state has, for decades, been suppressing the largely non-violent dissent of Kashmiri people against the militarization of Kashmir. The Indian state has used the divisive propaganda of militancy and religion as tools to suppress any kind of dissent against its forced occupation of the region. The Indian state has tried to keep not only the international community in the dark about its hostilities toward Kashmiris but also the local Indian population, by controlling media reports of the real situation on the ground in Indian occupied Kashmir.

A democracy which suppresses dissent by means of violence is the most vulgar form of democracy, if at all it can be called ‘democracy’. The successful attempt by the Indian state to keep the Indian populace in the dark about such damning reports questions the validity of its claim to be the largest functional, pluralistic democracy.

Kashmir is not the only place where the Indian government has responded with violence in the wake of dissent. The rising tide of the left-wing Indian Maoists group (termed “Naxalites”), predominant in East India, have constantly faced violent retaliations for their dissent against the capitalist regime of the Indian state. The people of neglected regions of northeastern India have been the subject of torture by the Indian military forces for decades for their demand of more autonomy for the region.

Unfortunately, the resort to violence against any kind of dissent is not a new phenomenon for the Indian state, either. The princely states of Junagadh and Hyderabad were annexed by the Indian state by use of force when these states declined to be part of the newly formed independent Indian state.

But India’s use of violence to vitiate dissent has long been kept under the wraps of propagandist theories of a functional pluralistic democracy. India has projected itself, not only to the international community, but also to its citizens, as being a soft, liberal state. But events, past and present, prove otherwise.

Anil Choudhary is an LL.M. student from India.

Nigerians condemn Northwest Flight 253 bomb plot


Like most Nigerians, I was shocked when I received the news of an attempt by a twenty-three year old Nigerian man, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, to blow up a transatlantic flight between Amsterdam and the U.S. city of Detroit. The incident, which could have cost hundreds of innocent lives, if not the courageous efforts of passengers onboard who subdued the attempted jet bomber, is a heinous and despicable act of terrorism. The passengers should be commended for their heroism.

The fact that the incident took place on such an important day of Christmas, a global ceremony that celebrates the life of Jesus Christ, someone that has preached peace and tolerance to mankind, makes it all the more unfortunate.

This is the first time that a Nigerian is involved in such a dastardly act. On behalf of my Muslim colleagues and other Nigerians here at Harvard, I strongly condemn this attempted act of terrorism as a heinous and callous crime which does not in any way represent the character of Islam or Nigerian values of peace and harmonious coexistence. I also strongly urge all peace-loving Nigerians and Muslims to join me in condemning this barbarous act.

The Islam we practice teaches and represents peace and tolerance across racial, ethnic and religious divides. It is very unfortunate that at a time when we are all joining hands in fighting extremism that such a shameful act has been attempted on U.S. soil. Terrorism is condemnable wherever it takes place. I call upon everyone, especially our friends and hosts here in the U.S., to see this act as an isolated event by an individual, brainwashed by some terrorist groups that are enemies to all of us. The conduct does not in any way represent a particular religion or nationality.

Opinion expressed across Nigeria and the steps taken by the parents of Farouk Abdulmutallab demonstrates the commitment of Nigerians to fighting terrorism and extremism, both within and beyond Nigeria. We are all involved in ensuring our collective safety and in resisting any attempt to commit violence against innocent citizens in the name of religion.

I hope and pray that this is the last time we will experience such an atrocious plot against innocent people. I would like to call on U.S. security officials not to use this opportunity as an excuse to harass innocent, law-abiding and peace-loving Nigerians, who, like many others, have nothing to do with this act.

I also call upon the Nigerian security to fully cooperate with their U.S. counterparts in the investigation and prosecution of anyone that is involved in this condemnable act. We should all cooperate and support the security in their fight against terrorist wherever they are hiding.

This attempt is a reminder and a wake-up on all nations that the war on terror is not over. It is a continuing struggle between, on the one hand, evil forces that seek to spread violence, and, on the other, peace-loving humanity. We must all work together to defeat anyone who wants to use violence under the guise of religion to pursue political ends.

Nigerian security failed to detect and arrest Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab when he entered Nigeria from Ghana on his way to the U.S., and U.S. security failed to prevent him from entering US despite the repeated warning by his father on his radicalization. These lapses open serious questions that call for a review of security measures in both countries.

Still, once again, the terrorists have been defeated. May they always be defeated.

Aminu Gamawa is an LL.M. student from Nigeria and secretary of the Harvard African Law Association.

Cambridge, USA: Punch-drunk hate at Harvard-Yale



The time had come in my HLS career to show some school spirit: I was going to Harvard-Yale.  I’m not normally a school spirit person, and even growing up in Texas had not made me interested in socializing around football.  But my year at Cambridge University had changed me into a person who enjoyed engaging in petty rivalries alongside hordes of affiliated University revelers.  So, I decided that there was no time like my last semester to engage in this supposedly quintessential Harvard experience.  And with that, we were off to New Haven, dressed in Crimson and ready to wave our white and red pompoms.  I didn’t even have to feign excitement; I was genuinely psyched to go.

We arrived late.  We had ambitiously promised a friend that we would drive down at dawn to catch the traditional 9am Harvard-Yale Law Review game of (flag) football.  We were obviously hallucinating when we said this.  We hit the road around ten, and began seeing signs for New Haven around kick-off time.  No problem, we said to ourselves.  We’ll still see plenty of action, if there was any action to be seen; after all, Harvard and Yale are not the country’s premier football schools.  But whatever happened, we were going to be there, screaming and chanting while juggling our funnel cake and beer.

There is something inherently hilarious about a football rivalry between Harvard and Yale.  The real rivalry between the schools is of course the question of who is smarter, more elite, more prestigious, more likely to take over the world.  There’s also the Cambridge-New Haven rivalry, in which we hate on each other’s cities.  But, fine, let’s pretend its about football for a minute.  However you want to classify it, we were looking forward to acting like pro-Harvard anti-Yale jerks for a few hours.

It was a stunningly sunny day—an auspicious beginning. We walked into the stadium grounds (the Bulldog’s den!) and were met by civilized teasing.  A golf cart of blue clad men trundled by, clutching Budweisers.  “Go back to Boston!” they yelled, laughing. Come on, that was all they had in them? “We will!” I yelled back. “In about five hours!”  As we left the tailgating area, a few couples attempted to come up with something witty and harsh and could only stutter, “Ew, is that Crimson?”  I turned around. Were we being referred to as a personified color? “Barf!” they giggled.   I waved my pompoms in their face and they broke out laughing.  On the way into the stadium, two Yale men asked me to pose for a picture with them in front of the giant inflatable Bulldog.  Just to show they meant business, they attempted to give me bunny ears. 

This was hardcore rivalry, alright. Across the stadium, a friend of mine doing a PhD at Yale was at the Forestry School’s barbeque. She gushed to me that they were roasting oysters sprinkled with cilantro. 

Arriving late was the accidentally smart thing to do.  We loaded up on fried food and piled into our seats at the end of the third quarter.  Depressingly, the score was Yale: 10, Harvard: 0, and the mood was pessimistic.  My friend turned to me in angst. “What do you think they’re going to do?” he said, gesturing at Harvard’s team.  I am not the right person to ask about these questions.  I follow the game by mimicking what the rest of the crowd is doing.  “I think they’re going to play football,” I said. “I mean what will they DO?”  I stared back at him, and then I offered up a distraction.  “Funnel cake?” He does love funnel cake.

We tried getting serious about footstomping, but the mood was not contagious.  A group of our LL.M. friends abandoned hope just before the start of the fourth quarter and left to tour Yale’s campus.  What they missed was a surprising and triumphant comeback. Harvard capitalized on poor playcalling by Yale to win the game 14-10. 

This was it! This was the reason we drove all the way down to New Haven on a Saturday morning! The crowd poured onto the field.  We filed out to the funnel cake stand, again.  No sense in getting in their way.

We shuffled back into town with the masses, high on the victory and sugar, and I was feeling particularly obnoxious. “Stinks to be you!” I laughed at a man in a Yale shirt.  “Do you want to get punched in the face right now?” he asked, glaring at me.  Uhm, NO.  “Do you want to learn to take a joke right now?” I asked.  This man was threatening to punch a girl in the face because she was lording a football victory over him?

He wasn’t backing down.  “I play on the team,” he growled. Well that explained things.  I sized him up.  Apparently, Yale had recruited some very small football players that like to punch girls in the face. But victory had been destined to be ours from the very beginning.  “Yeah, okay,” I responded.  “So you play on the team. Sorry.”  He kept glaring.  “Hey man—don’t worry!” one of my friends reassured him, in a cheery voice.  “You’ll come back next time!”

Traitor! Why was he even speaking to him? This little person had just threatened to hit me! He was psychotic! “Whatever,” the small angry football player spit out, stumbling into the forest on the side of the road.

“What the hell was that?!” we asked each other, before deciding to head for pizza, the one thing that New Haven may do better than Cambridge.  But the day was ours.  Victory was delicious, and not even hostile miniature football players could take that away from us.

The two party ballot suppresses third party change


In October 1958, Ralph Nader, then a recently-graduated, former editor of the Harvard Law Record, co-authored an article (reproduced below) decrying the monopolistic practices of the Democratic and Republican parties on state ballot laws and their ill effects on minor parties.  In defense of political dissent and the engagement of new proposals, Nader noted the “many times in our history” minor parties had “deeply stirred opinion.”  It was easier in the 19th century for regional or small start-up parties to get on the ballot and infuse elections with ideas such as the abolition of slavery, a woman’s right to vote, worker and farmer reforms—all of which we take for granted today, though the minor parties first advocating these rights did not win the presidency. 

Five decades later, Mr. Nader, now an internationally-renowned consumer advocate, has announced his candidacy for the U.S. presidency three times, twice as an Independent and once on the Green Party ticket.  His prescient words concerning the suppression of minor parties and dissenting agendas remain even more accurate today as they were fifty-one years ago.  

I have an intimate knowledge of these ballot access burdens because I managed the Nader’s 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns and had to navigate through these laws and oversee or instigate nearly four dozen lawsuits to defend against or seek reform of their ill effects.  Indeed, in 2004—motivated by the 537-vote difference between Al Gore, Jr. and George W. Bush in Florida in 2000—the Democrats and their allies launched two dozen complaints in 12 weeks against Nader’s candidacy, consuming the time, energy and resources of the 2004 campaign, which was, in addition to blocking ballot access, the expressed goal of these major party political bigots and their brethren.  The litigious onslaught targeted Nader’s candidacy simply because he, like all eight minor party candidates on the ballot, received more than 537 votes:  but he received the most and was positioned to appeal to voters again with a progressive agenda.

Today, as in 1958, ballot access for minor parties and Independents remains convoluted and discriminatory.  Though certain state ballot access statutes are better, and a few Supreme Court decisions (Williams v. Rhodes, 393 U.S. 23 (1968), Anderson v. Celebrezze, 460 U.S. 780 (1983)) have been generally favorable, on the whole, the process—and the cumulative burden it places on these federal candidates—may be best described as antagonistic.  The jurisprudence of the Court remains hostile to minor party and Independent candidates, and this antipathy can be seen in at least a half dozen cases decided since Nader’s article, including Jenness v. Fortson, 403 U.S. 431 (1971), American Party of Tex. v. White, 415 U.S. 767 (1974), Munro v. Socialist Workers Party, 479 U.S. 189 (1986), Burdick v. Takushi, 504 U.S. 428 (1992), and Arkansas Ed. Television Comm’n v. Forbes, 523 U.S. 666 (1998).  

Justice Rehnquist, for example, writing for a 6-3 divided Court in Timmons v. Twin Cities Area New Party, 520 U.S. 351 (1997), spells out the Court’s bias for the “two-party system,” even though the word “party” is nowhere to be found in the Constitution.  He wrote that “The Constitution permits the Minnesota Legislature to decide that political stability is best served through a healthy two-party system. And while an interest in securing the perceived benefits of a stable two-party system will not justify unreasonably exclusionary restrictions, States need not remove all the many hurdles third parties face in the American political arena today.”  520 U.S. 351, 366-67.  

This license, in effect, to discriminate against third parties and Independents—as well as the Court’s general reluctance to require much substantiation of “state interests” when states proffer that rationale to defend discriminatory laws—have not made it easy to be an Independent or the candidate of a Green, Libertarian, Socialist or Constitution Party, not to mention all the others.  Moreover, the Court has left unreviewed outright miscarriages of justice, as Nader knows from his half dozen unheard petitions to the Court springing from his 2004 campaign. 

The burdens faced by minor party and Independent candidates are systemic.   First, there are 51 different sets of Byzantine rules, written the by the partisan members of the legislatures of the fifty states and the District of Columbia.  As the major parties are usually automatically on the ballot, the partisan legislators show little concern for leveling the ballot access playing field for challengers to their incumbency or parties.  

Second, many of these ballot access laws are blatantly unconstitutional—as in they have already been held by the courts to be so, but the administrators of the elections cannot get their own state’s legislatures to bring the election codes into compliance with judicial rulings.  (We found this to be the case in multiple states, including Alaska, Arkansas, California, New York, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.)  

Third, election officials in the thousands of state and local jurisdictions administering these state laws controlling federal elections often don’t know what their own ballot access laws contain or mean or are reluctant to tell candidates their meaning for fear of being sued.  

Fourth, compliance with the laws may be overseen by partisan civil servants, commissions, or courts, and we encountered all of the above in the adjudication of our cases, including egregious examples of partisanship—such as the use of the denial of ballot access as a partisan fundraising promotion by the then-Secretary of State of Oregon.  

Finally, the aggregate of these ballot access laws, either cumulatively by state, or even within a state, as alluded to by Justice O’Connor in her concurrence in Clingman v. Beaver, 544 U.S. 581 (2005), may be overwhelmingly burdensome.

Of course, ballot access is just one of the burdens faced by third party and Independent candidates.  Others include the federal regulatory system, the lack of public financing, the often dismissive if not derisive media, the Democrat and Republican cartel otherwise known as the Commission on Presidential Debates, which acts as a debate and media gatekeeper to millions.  Also, the hodgepodge of irregular and inconsistent laws can devalue the rights of a voter or candidate (from what counts as a vote to who is entitled to seek an audit) depending on the particular state jurisdiction in charge of administering the peculiar state laws applying to federal elections.  

Ten years ago, The Appleseed Center for Electoral Reform and the Harvard Legislative Research Bureau published in the Harvard Journal on Legislation “A Model Act for the Democratization of Ballot Access”, 36 Harv. J. on Legis. 451 (1999).  A decade later, not a single state has, and the problems remain.  

In my recent book, Grand Illusion, the Myth of Voter Choice in a Two-Party Tyranny, I contend that a better response would be to federalize federal ballot access laws by creating one federal statute applicable to all federal elections.  (State laws written to control the processes for candidates for Congress are often as bad, indeed worse than presidential ballot access laws, with some voters never having the chance to vote for Independent candidates for Congress because of their harsh state ballot access laws.)  

Since 1985, a few members of Congress—John Conyers, D-MI (e.g. HR 2320, HR 1582), Ron Paul, R-TX (e.g. HR 3600), and Tim Penny, DFL-MN (e.g. HR 1755)—have attempted over nine sessions to introduce federal legislation to ease these burdens for either or both congressional and presidential candidates.&nb
sp; Congress has shown that it can exercise control over federal elections where necessary by passing federal legislation to regulate a variety of aspects including registration (the “Motor Voter” Act), provisional ballots and state registration databases (the Help America Vote Act), and most recently absentee ballots for those abroad (the MOVE Act (Military and Overseas Voting Empowerment)).  

The prospect of passing a federal law (which has been introduced in some incarnation and voted out of committee and received a floor vote at least once in the House in the last two decades) is dim, but greater than the nonexistent movement for passage of a state model ballot access law, which has seen no success in the last decade.  
The question we should be asking is why we continue to permit this injustice when no other western country puts its third party and Independent candidates through the kind of hazing process ours does?  The congressional incumbency rate (routinely in the 90th percentile) reflects the often uncontested or merely predictable-by-landslide-proportions state of our congressional elections.  

These uncompetitive elections can be impregnable for many reasons, not the least of which are gerrymandered districts, a winner-take-all or first-past-the-post electoral system, and the lack of a choice-maximizing vote counting system, such as instant runoff or ranked choice voting.  

The lack of candidate and programmatic choice are also to blame, and for that we can look at the still onerous ballot access laws Nader warned of in 1958 and the ignominious role those laws have played in narrowing voters’ options by dictating the flipside of those choices—candidates’ rights to run on a level playing field.   Improved third party and Independent candidate rights— by invigorating and diversifying voter choices—will give citizens more meaningful elections. 

Theresa Amato is a public interest lawyer and was national campaign manager and in-house counsel for Ralph Nader in 2000 and 2004. She, is a graduate of Harvard College and NYU Law, a former Wasserstein Fellow at HLS and an Institute of Politics Fellow at the Kennedy School.  Her book, Grand Illusion: the Myth of Voter Choice in a Two-Party Tyranny, based on her experiences with the Nader campaign, was published this year by The New Press.


Do Third Parties Have a Chance? Ballot Access and Minority Parties (1958)

The following is an excerpt from an article by Ralph Nader ’58 and Theodore Jacobs ’58, published in the Harvard Law?Record on Oct. 9, 1958. Mr. Jacobs passed away on Aug. 7, 1998, of a neuromuscular degenerative ailment.

Most people will agree, as a general proposition, that our democratic faith is reflected in our treatment of minorities.  But, as so often happens with national professions, it is in the translation of these declarations into actual practice […]

In state after state there is a practical monopoly of the ballot by the Democratic and Republican parties.  The perpetuation of this monopoly is insured by laws which subject the entry of new or minority party slates to the ballot to almost impossible burdens, and by judicial interpretation of these laws which ignore their prejudicial effect on small parties. […]

What requirements must a small party or independent group meet in order to place its candidates on the ballot?  There are 48 different answers to this question.  Each state has its distinctive statutes, ranging from liberal to harsh, […]

Without taking into account all the minor variations in the several states, three main aspects of the independent nominating petition may be treated: (1) The number of signatures required; (2) Apportionment of these signatures throughout the state; (3) Stipulations concerning authentication of signatures and restrictions on persons who sign petitions.

In its Model Election Law, the American Civil Liberties Union urged that minor parties be required to accumulate signatures equivalent to only one-tenth of one percent of the total vote cast […] Compare this standard with the requirements of 2 percent in Missouri (36,000 votes), 3 percent in Massachusetts (71,643 votes), 5 percent in California (259,000 votes) and 7 percent in Ohio (259,000 votes). 

U.S. can learn from EU telecom reforms


This winter, the global telecommunications sector is active as never before. On November 24, Europe voted on its new Telecoms Package, a set of Directives that will serve as Europe’s future network policy. The U.S. is revising its own broadband policy at the same time, commissioning Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society to compile a study on the current global broadband trends. This fortunate conjuncture of regulatory overhauls both provides a clear vista of where we are heading to in terms of telecommunications, and highlights important differences between the U.S. and Europe, offering lessons, examples and alternatives to both sides of the Atlantic.

The EU’s approach is clearly consumer driven, and reasonably so. European countries strove hard to instill competition in the telecommunications sector over the past 20 years, and, having succeeded, they can now shift their attention to enhancing the consumer experience. This did not stop the EU from taking further action to increase competition, facilitating functional separation of national telecoms, requiring more independent national authorities, overseeing national regulatory remedies proposed by national regulators and reallocating spectrum. To achieve uniform application of these rules, the EU?will establish a new oversight authority, the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications?(BEREC).

But the new directives will also gravely change the lives of millions of network users directly. The EU will officially embrace a form of network neutrality: national telecom authorities will set a minimum quality level for all services, while network management allows more demanding types of applications to take up the necessary bandwidth. Customers will also receive  transparency in the form of better information on what services they subscribe to and what they can or cannot do with those communications services. A requirement that obliges all website operators to ask permission before installing almost any kind of cookie on the user’s computer is another step towards consumer protection, but this privacy provision is so strict that has attracted negative criticism. Finally, European consumers will also be able to change their fixed or mobile phone operator in one working day while keeping their old phone number (it currently takes, on average, nine).

Most importantly, though, the EU has declared that Internet access is a fundamental right and no disconnection from the internet can take place absent a prior fair and impartial procedure, including the right to be heard, and the right to an effective and timely judicial review. The provision came as a response to the opposition against France’s infamous three strikes law. EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding said that “the new internet freedom provision represents a great victory for the rights and freedoms of European citizens…. ‘Three-strikes-laws’ could cut off Internet access without a prior fair and impartial procedure or without effective and timely judicial review, will certainly not become part of European law.” The UK is  considering a similar law, but both countries recognize that their version of the three-strike law is not inconsistent with the new EU requirements.

Some of the issues the EU’s Telecoms Package aims to tackle are common to the U.S. The FCC National Broadband Plan taskforce has also identified a “consumer information gap” and a “data privacy gap,” while the management of the frequency spectrum is also a priority there, especially given the tremendous growth in the smart phone and netbook market. But because American telecommuications companies lack an obligation to share infrastructure, entry barriers for new competitors remain very high, and lack of coordination between firms when laying infrastructure dramatically increases costs. The problems of low rural penetration and digital divide are more acute in the U.S. than in Europe, and the FCC’s efforts are more likely to focus thereon. In that direction a reorganization of the Federal Universal Service Fund, to subsidize the broadband sector more effectively, is under examination.

The following months are critical. The FCC must deliver its plan to Congress by February 17, 2010, BEREC is expected to be formed by mid 2010 and the rest of the European directives must be transposed into national law by 2011. The synchronized mobility in the telecoms sector comes in a time where both the US and Europe need to catch up with more technologically advanced countries, like Japan and South Korea, which show the way towards the future: a fast, ubiquitous, integrated network to cover people’s information needs.

Konstantinos Stylianou is an LL.M. student from Greece.

Release of Rwanda’s mastermind of death promotes genocide denial


The recent encouraging news of the arrest in Germany of two of Rwanda’s suspected criminals, Ignace Murwanashyaka and Straton Musoni, overshadowed the latest development in the appeal chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).  On November 16, the tribunal reversed a 20 year prison sentence and ordered the immediate release of Protais Zigiranyirazo (“Mr. Z”). Based on a finding of ‘serious errors’ in the first chamber’s handling of the defendant’s alibi, the decision immediately sparked a wave of protest and consternation in Rwanda and the Rwandan diaspora.

The release of a suspected war criminal will not create much disturbance in a country where convicted killers live side by side with their victims’ relatives. The community-based gacaca, a local justice mechanism, have tried hundreds of thousands cases. They have also allowed the release of thousands of perpetrators under a plea-bargaining scheme.

But Mr. Z is not your usual genocide suspect. He is largely considered one of its masterminds.  Many feared him too much to pronounce his full name, for Mr. Z is the brother of Agathe Kanziga, wife of the former Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana. 

Zigiranyirazo’s reputation as a radical extremist went beyond Rwanda’s borders. In 1993, he was expelled from the Université de Québec à Montréal – and then from Canada altogether – after being convicted of uttering death threats against Tutsi refugees in Montreal. He moved back to Rwanda, where he was already known as the head of the ‘Akazu’, an informal but powerful organization revolving around the former president’s wife, who controlled the ominous ‘Zero Network’ death squads.

The existence and sinister agenda of the ‘Zero Network’ death squads were revealed as early as 1992 in the Rwandan press and confirmed in various local and international fora throughout the years that led to the genocide. General Roméo Dallaire, the UN peacekeeping commander, sent a now-famous report to New York in January 1994 based on the very detailed information and warnings provided by Jean Pierre, one of several defectors of the ‘Zero Network’. Everything Dallaire’s informant told him became reality three months later, and close to a million human beings were slaughtered. Like all other defectors, Jean Pierre had mentioned ‘Mr. Z’ as one of the key actors in the preparations.

Today, Mr ‘Z’ is a free man. The Trial Chamber, because of serious procedural errors, had led to a finding that he is not guilty. The memories of thousands of Rwandans of the vicious anti-Tutsi roadblocks he had established in direct proximity of all his residences in Kigali and Gisenyi weigh little or nothing to the court. 

It is useful to remember that the ICTR was established by the UN Security Council Resolution 955 with the dual objectives of accountability and deterrence on the one hand and reconciliation and peace on the other hand. In the words of Richard Goldstone, the Tribunal’s first prosecutor, the ICTR trial process is “an important means of promoting peace and reconciliation in Rwanda, providing catharsis to survivors.”

By clearing Protais Zigiranyirazo of any culpability, the appeal chamber arguably followed international standards of justice. The consequence of that decision, however, is not a simple mistrial. It is the acquittal of a man whose acts, though not properly documented by a prosecutor, are not easily forgotten in a country where genocide was committed in broad daylight.

How much consideration was given to the assessment of the impact on peace and reconciliation that the Tribunal is meant to serve? How locally relevant are the decisions of a transitional judicial body that applies rules and processes developed to address fundamentally different realities than that of a genocide? Most importantly, what are the implications of Mr. Z’s release for the very concept of Genocide Planning?

No planning = No genocide?

‘Mr. Z’ was reportedly still stunned by the appeal chamber’s decision when a news release co-signed by his lead defense attorney, Jean Philpot, celebrated the rejection, for the second time, of the charge againt him of genocide planning. The press release also calls for “the ICTR trials to be halted, ICTR convictions to be reviewed by an independent UN Commission, and the conditional release of detainees”.

Interestingly enough, Jean Philpot is the brother of no other than Robin Philpot, the Canadian politician who, in 2007, attracted intense media attention for repeatedly denying the 1994 genocide of the Tutsis. 

For Jean Philpot, Peter Erlinder and others, the concept is quite simple: no planning = no intent = no genocide.

But the genocide deniers’ campaign goes beyond the ICTR trials. A small but very active group of academics, often with ties of some kind to the ICTR defense lawyers, does not miss an opportunity to propagate their revisionist views. In the words of Professor Gerald Caplan: “the deniers’ reach and influence has been spreading, metastasizing like a malignant cancer, thanks to the anarchy of the blogosphere and to the embrace of the deniers’ arguments by a small but influential number of left-wing, anti-American journals and websites. Google Rwanda and you will quite likely get a deniers’ rant featuring the tiny band of usual suspects.…”

Similarly, Oxford University’s Phil Clarck worries about the increasing influence of deniers in the form of “scholars pursuing the latest academic fads that revel in ‘alternative narratives’, no matter how spurious or morally questionable; ‘génocidaires’ seeking to deflect attention from their crimes; and critics of the current Rwandan government who try to connect alleged RPF crimes to unrelated concerns with its current policies.”

Despite the lack of evidence for their assertions and the extensive works of reputable scholars and organizations that amply documented the planning of the 1994 genocide, this group persists. Could we be witnessing their increasing influence over the ICTR? An increasing number of genocide survivors apparently think so.

International justice for the international community

“Arusha’s justice is not ours. It is yours. That Tribunal was created to cleanse your conscience”.
– Yolande Mukagasana, survivor of the genocide, November 18, 2009

Yolande lost her three children as well as her husband, brothers and sisters. She has devoted her life to supporting genocide survivors in Rwanda. She has seen and heard enough. Her cynicism can therefore be forgiven when she suggests that the ICTR should imprison the orphans and widows instead of the killers. “At least they will have three meals a day. At least they will have a shelter. At least they will get medical care,” Mukagasana writes.

International standards of justice certainly have their own merits. There is, however, room for much more thinking on their societal impact in a post-conflict context.

For several years, Rwandan genocide survivors have been accusing the ICTR of repeatedly neglecting and watering down their testimonies. Today, they are once again in dismay. They feel ignored and abandoned, blocked from appaearing before the ICTR’s bench in Arusha, Tanzania, to tell the terrible truth. Arusha’s justice is not theirs if it considers Mr. Z an innocent man.

The ICTR has spent more than 1 billion dollars and completed less than 50 cases. With its profound detachment from Rwanda’s social realities, the tribunal could not be further from its claimed objective of contributing to national reconciliation.

Patrick Karuretwa is a Rwandan lawyer studying at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy as its first ever LL.M./M.A.L.D. joint degree candidate.


Harvard’s patent policy limits access to drugs by world’s poor



About a third of the world’s population, or roughly two billion people, lacks even the most basic access to essential medicines. Each year an estimated 25 million individuals, 10 million of them children, die of treatable and preventable diseases. A large share of those deaths could be averted by low-cost access to pharmaceuticals developed and patented by U.S. universities. University patents are found in a quarter of HIV/AIDS drugs and a fifth of high-impact drugs approved between 1988 and 2005.  The number of university patents has been on the rise since the 1980 passage of the Bayh-Dole Act, which gave universities title to patents arising from federal funding.  Once a university obtains a patent, it will typically license the patent to pharmaceutical companies for further development and commercialization. However, unlike pharmaceutical companies, which are tied to profit margins, universities are non-profit actors whose work is largely financed by public funding. Therefore, universities have a special obligation to ensure access to their research. 

In 2001, a group of Yale students learned that d4T (stavudine), an HIV antiretroviral drug patented by Yale and licensed to Bristol-Myers Squibb, was being sold at outrageous prices overseas, blocking off access for HIV patients living in South Africa and other developing countries. Troubled that Yale-developed drugs were being priced out of reach for HIV patients, the students joined in a publicity campaign that eventually pressured the university and pharmaceutical company into reducing the price of the drug and making it available for generic production in South Africa. Today, the organization those students founded, Universities Allied for Essential Medicines (UAEM), continues to advocate making university-developed drugs available to poor countries at low cost. 

On November 9th, the campaign for increased access scored a significant victory when Harvard and five other research universities signed a statement of principles pledging to “promote the availability of health-related technologies in developing countries for essential medical care.” The policy represents an important step forward for Harvard, which is both a research powerhouse for diseases such as AIDS and malaria, as well as a leader in the global technology access movement. However, the policy does not go far enough in several important ways. 

First, it is not clear the new policy represents an improvement over current licensing practices. Harvard has included global access provisions in only 5 of the 62 licenses concluded over the past two years. However, these licensing agreements are secret, so the nature of the access provisions, the number of medical licenses, and even the identity of the drugs covered, remain opaque. The new policy promises that Harvard’s intellectual property will not pose a barrier to essential medicine access in the developing world. It also commits to applying “meaningful metrics” to evaluate the success of its efforts.  This commitment is extremely vague. It does not address what the metrics are or how they will be applied in the context of individual agreements. How meaningful will the composite, retrospective metrics be, especially when so few agreements are concluded each year? 

Second, while the policy also sets out a menu of licensing options, it does not assemble these options into a coherent plan that would facilitate access to Harvard licensed drugs.  University licenses can impose global access conditions on pharmaceutical licensees in a variety of ways. Some of the most discussed options include: (1) Requirements that NGOs receive the rights to distribute discounted or donated drugs for humanitarian purposes (though NGOs rarely have the capacity to meet the needs of all patients in poor countries). (2) Tiered pricing for low-income and high-income patients in countries with a significant income gap, such as China or India (a difficult policy to administer and enforce). (3) “March-in rights” which allow the patent holder to revoke the licencee’s rights and license the patent to another company, if, for example, a global access condition is breached. (4) Financial incentives, such as forgiveness of university royalties, for licensees in exchange for providing low-cost drugs in the developing world. (5) Mandatory sub-licenses to specific generic manufacturers in developing countries. (6) Non-patenting policies, where the university simply does not patent in poor countries, allowing any manufacturer to make generic versions of the drug without a license.

The new policy requires universities to select among these options with the goal of “align[ing] incentives among all stakeholders.” This is a vague standard. Future policies should instead guarantee that a minimum level of access is negotiated into all relevant licenses; alternately, universities should commit to making access a primary consideration in negotiating global access provisions. A mandatory policy would reduce the need for transparency and oversight and might also give universities greater leverage and credibility in negotiating agreements with pharmaceutical licensees. As it stands, however, the policy does not articulate a clear, access-based strategy.

Third, under the new policy, Harvard will continue the practice of asserting patents in the so-called “BRIC” countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China), in addition to patenting in developed regions such as Europe and North America. The BRIC countries produce over 40 percent of the active ingredients in the world’s generic and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, and remain the only source of generic drugs outside the developed world. The effect of patenting in BRIC countries would be to close the “pharmacy to the developing world,” shutting down all sources of generic production bound for developing countries. Generic manufacturing represents the most sustainable option for delivering drugs to the poor, compared to the relatively stopgap measures of sublicensing and royalty forgiveness.

Finally, Harvard has stated that the policy will not apply to drugs for non-communicable diseases, even though these diseases are major killers in the developing world. The developing world now accounts for 80% of the world’s deaths from non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. While HIV/AIDS and malaria are often the first things to come to mind when thinking about global health, the problem of access extends beyond those two high-profile causes. 

The policy for non-communicable disease drugs might be explained by a deference to three pharmaceutical company concerns. The first concern is “parallel importation” – the idea that discounted or generic drugs meant for distribution in the developing world will be smuggled back to the developed world and sold through black markets. Unlike malaria or tuberculosis drugs, non-communicable disease drugs have significant markets in both the developed and developing worlds. There is scant evidence that parallel importation of donated or discounted drugs exists or poses a threat to industry profits. HHS estimates that about 10 million shipments of unapproved prescription drugs entered the U.S. in 2003; however most of these originated in Canada or Mexico.  It is not clear what percentage, if any, of these imports represented discounted or donated drugs that were destined for poor countries. A fair portion of these parallel imports consist of counterfeit or illegal drugs, rather than legitimate generic or brand-name drugs, according to HHS. The European Union allows parallel importation among its member states, but even the EU has experienced very few instances of parallel importation of drugs destined for the developing world. After incidents like the one in 2002 when GlaxoSmithKline discovered a trader had diverted 44,000 packs of HIV/AIDS medications from five African countries, governments have cracked down on these types of shipments. Manufacturers have also  adopted techniques like color-coding and special pa
ckaging to counter smuggling. As long as drugs are sold at a lower price in the developing world than the developed world, there will be an incentive for parallel importation. However, the solution is not to sell drugs to the developing world at the same price as the developed world, but rather to combat the smuggling. 

The second concern is that pharmaceutical companies, and by extension universities, will lose profits by forgoing potential pharmaceutical sales in the developing world. Pharmaceutical companies have publicly stated that they will seek to recoup any profits lost as a result of healthcare reform by raising prices in poorer nations (see, for example, “Drug Firms See Poorer Nations as Sales Cure,” Wall Street Journal, July 7, 2009).  Medications for chronic, long-term diseases like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, are lucrative pharmaceutical sellers, and thus represent the best way for pharmaceutical companies to maintain their double-digit profit margins.  However the developing world represents a miniscule portion of pharmaceutical profits. PhRMA, the industry lobby, concedes that Africa comprised only 0.5% of sales in 2007, with China and India at 0.6% and 0.2% respectively. By comparison, the U.S. represented 67.7% of 2007 world sales. With the developing world accounting for such a small percentage of overall sales, pharmaceutical companies cannot claim that global access provisions would drastically alter their R&D incentives or lower their profit margins. Moreover, universities rarely make money off of their licenses. In 2007, Harvard University had about $1.88B in total research expenditures, but only $12M in license income.  Universities will occasionally hit the jackpot with isolated blockbuster drugs – New York University and Columbia had the highest licensing revenues in 2007 with $791.1M and $135.6M respectively, each from single deals. These amounts are almost never high enough to offset universities’ research expenditures.

The third concern is that global access provisions will serve as a “poison pill,” discouraging pharmaceutical companies from licensing with universities that require such provisions. This risk is probably overstated. Pharmaceutical companies will still compete to license promising drugs. Furthermore, licenses are primarily made with small companies (49.9% of deals) or start-ups (16.5%), many of them formed by the researcher who originally discovered the technology. These companies take the drug a bit further down the development pipeline before licensing to a big pharmaceutical company. Global access provisions are unlikely to change the first licensee’s decision to license, especially if the licensee has discovered the drug. For the second licensee, often a large pharmaceutical company, global access provisions are unlikely to discourage licensing for a drug with demonstrated value.

Since these concerns remain unproven, they should not serve as a basis for unnecessary concessions to pharmaceutical companies. If Harvard continues to enforce its patents in a way that prevents generic manufacturing of essential medicines, it will create a real barrier between these drugs and the people in developing countries who need them the most.

Maria van Wagenberg is a 2L.

Switzerland’s minaret ban about more than xenophobia


The controversial poster displayed around Switzerland in support of a ban on new minarets.
A Turkish mosque in Wangen bei Olten, Switzerland sports one of the country?s four minarets.

Switzerland’s vote to ban the construction of minarets, the prayer towers of mosques, was greeted with a mixture of astonishment and disbelief around the world. The impact of this decision was certainly magnified by the fact that – coincidentally – it occurred on the last day of the “Festival of Sacrifice” (Eid al-Adha), a holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide. Some commentators have already suggested that the vote will spark a backlash similar to the one triggered in 2005 by the publication in a Danish newspaper of cartoons representing the Prophet Muhammad. This makes it critical to shed light on the legal and political process that led to this vote.

Switzerland takes pride in a century-old political system which allows its citizens to have the last word on almost any important issue regarding their country. The Swiss Constitution grants each citizen the right of initiative, i.e. the right to propose a constitutional amendment which, if signed by at least 100,000 citizens, is then submitted to a popular vote.

In July 2008, a minor conservative political party announced that it had collected the required number of signatures to force a vote on the prohibition of the construction of minarets in Switzerland. This proposal was immediately opposed by three of the four main political parties that share power within the Swiss government. The fourth main political force endorsed the initiative, but only half-heartedly. At the outset of the political campaign, a number of Swiss cities, citing concerns under Swiss anti-racism laws, announced their intent to ban from their streets the posters the proponents of the initiative  printed, showing missile-shaped minarets piercing a Swiss flag. This proved to be a costly strategic mistake by the initiative’s adversaries. From then on, the public debate focused essentially on the limits of freedom of expression and touched only very superficially on the significance of this initiative for the interfaith relationship in Swiss society. All the polls published in the weeks preceding the vote suggested that the initiative would be solidly rejected. Sunday’s result therefore came as a colossal surprise for the country and for the entire world.

Against this background, it is worth noting that the initiative does not ban the construction of mosques or the exercise of the Muslim religion as such, but only the construction of minarets on mosques. The four minarets that currently exist in Switzerland are not affected by the vote, nor are the approximately 400,000 Muslims living in Switzerland restricted in any way from practicing their faith in their places of worship. That being said, this formalistic approach to the scope of the initiative fails to reflect the symbolic power of the message sent by a majority of Swiss voters this Sunday.

Some commentators have argued that this initiative might be contrary to the liberty of religion, as guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Switzerland has been a party since 1974. But the practical consequences deriving from the conflict between Switzerland’s duties under an international treaty and a constitutional amendment ratified by an overwhelming majority of Swiss voters are unclear, and are currently the subject of a heated debate among Swiss law professors and politicians. 

More importantly, this vote cannot and should not be seen as the ultimate proof of a predominantly anti-Muslim sentiment within the Swiss population, despite the fact that this decision casts a shadow on Switzerland’s image as an open and tolerant country. This vote rather reflects a sentiment of fear and uncertainty that recently grasped this country. In the past months, some of the fundamental pillars that defined the Swiss society over the past century were shaken to the core, particularly following the disclosure of the dire financial situation of its flagship banks and the relentless attacks on the Swiss banking secrecy. Furthermore, an on-going diplomatic row with Libya following an incident involving the Libyan leader’s son in Geneva may also have been on voters’ minds when they cast their ballots.

But it is also worth pointing out that , until recently, the Swiss Constitution contained a provision whereby the creation of a new Catholic diocese was subject to the approval of the federal government. Given the Protestant alignment of the Swiss government at the time this provision was introduced in 1874, the requirement for a prior approval was tantamount to an outright ban. In 2001, Swiss voters decided, again in a popular vote, to remove this discriminatory legal provision. Sadly, the blank line left in the text of the Constitution by the 2001 vote will now be filled with the new provision banning the construction of minarets.

Sunday’s vote will probably be seen around the world as a step backwards on the road towards the peaceful cohabitation of religions. This notwithstanding, this decision – which was taken democratically in a sovereign country and therefore ought to be respected – must be considered as a unique opportunity to initiate a profound dialogue with the Muslim communities, both in Switzerland and elsewhere in the Western world, in order to define the necessary preconditions of a peaceful and harmonious coexistence.
Philipp Fischer LL.M. ’09 is a Swiss national who currently works in New York.


Copenhagen climate summit will fail due to poor U.S. commitment


A tugboat on London’s Thames River pulls an ice floe with a polar bear stuck on it to illustrate the effects of climate change.

From December 7 to 18, the representatives of 192 nations will gather in Copenhagen, Denmark, to decide the fate of the human race. Will we continue to live in a world with a stable climate, or will we condemn ours and future generations to a world with steadily decreasing amounts of food and water as the population is set to dramatically increase? 

Among the attendees will be President Barack Obama ’91 and the heads of state of close to 100 nations, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, and the UK.

The original goals of the summit was to try to reach an agreement to keep temperature increases to less than two degrees Celsius; thereby forestalling what scientists said would be the worst consequences of global warming.  This two degree goal was based on a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Nobel-winning body charged with summarizing all of the available scientific literature on global climatic disruption.

This body was not empowered to make recommendations, but their analysis revealed that to have a 50% chance of avoiding two degrees, we would need to stabilize emissions at 450 parts per million (ppm) of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere.

In order to earn that 50% chance, developed nations like the US would need to reduce their emissions between 25-40% below 1990 levels of emissions by the year 2020, and by 80-95% by 2050.  Since most heads of state will not be in office in 2050, the 2020 goals are much more telling of the current state of affairs:

The European Union has pledged to reduce emissions across the block by 20% below 1990 levels by 2020, and increase that pledge to 30% if other nations similarly follow suit.  Some European nations have pledged even more:  Norway has pledged to reduce its emissions a full 40% by 2020 (what most developing nations are now calling for); and our strong ally the UK has pledged to reduce its emissions 34% below 1990 levels by 2020.  Japan, too has stepped up, with a 25% below 1990 levels pledge by 2020.

So how is Obama ‘reclaiming’ American leadership and returning us to good-standing in the international community?  He is going with a pledge of 17% below 2005 levels by 2020.  While this sounds fairly close to what other nations are doing, it is indeed a national embarrassment.  In 1990 levels, when most of our rich peers are in the 20-40% range, Obama is going to Copenhagen with a pledge to reduce emissions by only 3% below 1990 levels by 2020.

Canada and Australia are using U.S. intransigence as an excuse to refuse to be less aggressive, but they would quickly fall into line if we stepped up to the plate.  But more frustrating and damning is that developing nations can also use our failure to lead as an excuse.

All observers recognize that China, India, and other major developing nations will have to agree to binding emissions reductions if we to avert catastrophe.  Yet with Obama coming to the table with such a measly pledge, it is hard for those nations to go back to their people having made any substantial commitments themselves.  So, despite the courageous leadership of developing nations like the Maldives, Brazil, Mexico, Ghana, and others, which are willing to make significant emissions reduction pledges, China and India are looking to only pledge to reduce the rate of growth of their emissions.

To make things even worse, leading scientists now believe that the 450 target that countries are failing to even have a 50% chance of hitting is outdated and overly conservative.  NASA’s leading climate scientist, Dr. James Hansen, Director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, has determined that the highest safe level of CO2 in the atmosphere is 350 parts per million (ppm).  We are now at 390ppm and climbing quickly, on pace to hit over 900 by the end of the century.  The world has not had CO2 levels stabilize at 400ppm for some 13 million years, long before human beings walked the planet, much less rode on it in carts or cars.  This goal has even been endorsed by the chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

So, basically, the world is screwed.  Almost every major environmental organizations in the United States is so excited to have President Obama actually doing something, after decades of inaction in the hands of Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and another Bush, that they forget that science actually does care about the numbers.  We are not negotiating with Republicans, we are negotiating with Physics and Chemistry, and they do not handle negotiations well.  We get no credit for recessions, for filibusters, or for good intentions.

Copenhagen will fail to reach a deal that will safeguard your future.  If you are planning to have children, you might want to reconsider.  Some scientists estimate that we may have enough food and water left on the planet for less than one billion people by 2100.  A recent report funded by the United States Army, the World Bank, and UNESCO stated that, without dramatic action “billions of people will be condemned to poverty, and much of civilization will collapse.”  Scientists estimate that as early as 2035, melting glaciers in the Himalayas would see the water supply of over 400 million people (more than the entire populations of American and Canada combined) completely dry up, leaving the nuclear-armed nations of China, India, and Pakistan scrambling to find, buy, or steal enough water to quench a thirst the size of North America.

Here in Massachusetts, the Leadership Campaign is leaning on the state government to embrace the goal of 350 parts per million by committing to repower Massachusetts with 100% Clean Electricity in ten Years.  The campaign is led by students at over twenty schools across the state, but is conducted in partnership with the Massachusetts Council of Churches, the Massachusetts Climate Action Network, and the Sustainable Business Network.  Twenty-five legislators (representing 1/8 of the entire state legislature) have already pledged their support. 

Craig Altemose is a 3L pursuing a joint degree with the Kennedy School. He is also a statewide coordinator of the Leadership Campaign, a Massachusetts-based organization dedicated to “protecting humanity from the unprecedented threat of global destablization as a result of rapid climate disruption,” which is online at Anyone with a desire to assist their efforts can contact Craig directly at


Mumbai attacks: One year later, questioning a poorly handled aftermath


A vigil marks the anniversairy of the November 26, 2008 Mumbai attacks

I remember November 26, 2008. I remember, vividly, the smell of terror surrounding Mumbai when 10 young jihadis with guns in their hand and hate in their eyes took over my city and declared war on my country. The dastardly events took place in two well-known luxury hotels, a 20-year-old railway terminus traversed by thousands every day, a popular cafe filled with foreign tourists and locals, an unknown place of refuge, and a common maternity hospital. Terrorists opened fire and cut down men, women and children of every social stratum of the city and from every corner of the globe.

The attacks raised a lot of questions in the minds of all Indians. Are we living in callous times? Are we being run by a bunch of corrupt and inept politicians who can’t even have in place a basic game plan to manage a crisis of this magnitude? Do we need to change our mechanism of intelligence gathering?

Now that the first anniversary of the attacks is here, it might be a good time to revisit the same questions to know how much has really changed since, Mumbai and India were held ransom by ten terrorists.

Sadly, not much has changed. A year down the line no individual has been held accountable or punished for such a heinous act. It was only yesterday that the Pakistan Anti-Terrorism Court formally charged seven suspects, including Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, with planning and helping execute the Mumbai attacks. It is better late than never, but one only hopes that this indictment will be taken to its logical conclusion without any further delay.

In India itself, the trial of Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone jihadi captured alive, has been turned into a prolonged circus that is serving no one. Kasab initially pleaded not guilty, but later, on July 20th, admitted his guilt. The court accepted his plea and placed the confessional statement on record, but dubbed the admission of guilt as a partial admission and let the trial proceed.

By all reckoning, Kasab’s is an open and shut case. So why not get on with it and reach the inevitable end? I am not suggesting kangaroo courts and summary trials, but delays like this don’t translate into justice. It is especially distressing to see such problems continue to emerge after the discomforting maze of the Indian judicial system was so badly exposed to the whole world when the Trial Court took thirteen years to bring down curtains to the 1993 Bombay Bomb Blast case.

In the immediate wake of the attacks, there was a change in guard at the Ministry of Home Affairs, with the appointment of P. Chidambaram, a lawyer and a Harvard Business School graduate, as Home Minister. Regional hubs of the country’s elite anti-terrorist force, the National Security Guard (NSG), were also established. A National Investigation Agency was set up by him to probe and pre-empt any terrorist attempt. But, the fact is that Mr. Chidambaram needs to recognize is that India has never lacked agencies–in fact, it is the multitude of intelligence agencies, and their lack of cooperation, that has been the reason for the failure to prevent terrorist attacks like those of November 26, 2008. The lack of co-ordination between the Intelligence Agencies, the Naval Agencies, the Coast Guard Agencies and the local police was what enabled the terrorists to slip through and land on Bombay’s beaches that day.

It is the Indian local police that are entrusted with the duty to implement strategies to prevent terrorist attacks at the ground level. The Maharashtra state government’s support for their capabilities, however, has been shoddy, to say the least. Even today, the local police are grossly unprepared to deal with terror attacks, because of an acute shortage of weapons and ammunition. Official records show that for a force of well over 180,000, the home department procured a meagre 2,221 weapons, 577 for Mumbai and 1,644 for the rest of Maharashtra, in the last six years. In the absence of a firing range and ammunition for practice, local policemen have not opened fire in the last 10 years. The newly-created Indian Marine Police (IMP) has set up some of the planned seven dozen coastal police stations but, they have only received about four dozen of the total of 20 dozen small five-tonne and 12-tonne-high speed boats. The IMP needs more than 500 small high-speed boats and about 12 dozen coastal police stations for more effective patrolling.

Substandard bullet-proof jackets are supposed to be one of the many reasons that caused the death of many brave policemen during the terror strikes. A year after the attacks, the Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan said last Sunday that he would investigate reports that policemen remain easily exposed to bullet wounds. But these reports have been circulating for almost a year, and the question could well be asked: what exactly Maharashtra’s Chief Minister and Home Minister have been doing for the last 12 months?

Why is the Maharashtra Government so insensitive and apathetic? And when will its so-called policy makers stop hiding behind the veil of anonymity? After the last bullet was fired in Mumbai, there was an outpouring of anger and much dismay at the “political system”: the whole country ranted, raved, and took to the streets to protest against a political leadership that had wholly mismanaged internal security.

A year later, the same political leadership has returned to power, and the section of the population that had taken to the streets one year earlier were nowhere to be seen on voting day. The voter turnout in Bombay was an abysmal 46% in the State Assembly elections and an even more dismal 43% in the Parliamentary elections. The truth is that the fault lies not only in our politicians and leaders, but also in us. The low voter turnout proves that we Indians have started to believe that the intangible “political system” is demonic and that there is nothing that we as common men and women can do to change it. What we need to realize is that it is only the citizens that can cause real change. The current electoral system in India offers no hope and the need of the hour is urgent changes that will invite engagement, loyalty and pride from all of us.

But the biggest tragedy is that we don’t know how to respect our heroes. We don’t know how to respect, cherish and immortalize their sacrifices. November 26th should mean something for us all. It should mean recognition of the sacrifices that have been made, and that are still being made, by policemen, soldiers, their families and their children. It should mean appreciation for what thousands of brave policemen and soldiers have done for India – not just on that fateful night but in all other wars that my country has fought and is still fighting to preserve our freedoms. I pray that heroes like Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, Anti-Terrorist Squad Chief Hemant Karkare, Additional Commissioner Ashok Kamte, Senior Police Inspector Vijay Salaskar, Constable Ombale and several others shall not have lived and fought and died in vain.

Karan Singh Tyagi is an LL.M. student from India.


“Mumbai” is terrorized by linguistic chauvanism. Bring back “Bombay”!


On November 9th, Indian democracy plunged to its nadir. Elected legislators of the Maharashtra Nav Nirman Sena Party (MNS) rushed to the floor of Maharashtra state’s Legislative Assembly to stop the elected member of the Samajwadi Party, Abu Asim Azmi, from taking oath in Hindi, the country’s official and most widely-spoken language. They demanded that he take the oath in Marathi, the language of the Marathi people of Maharashtra, whose cause the MNS seeks to espouse. This was followed by MNS legislator Ravi Kadam slapping Azmi in full view of the public gathering – and it follows a similar incident that took place just a few weeks ago, when the same party threatened noted film producer Karan Johar for using the word “Bombay” instead of the Marathi “Mumbai” in his new movie, Wake up Sid.

This linguistic and regional chauvinism is not a new phenomenon. The MNS and its chief, Raj Thackeray, have been making inflammatory and divisive comments since the party’s formation. Last year, members of the MNS resorted to arson and violence in different parts of Maharashtra in protest against outsiders entering and working in the state.

But in assaulting an elected member of the House in the Assembly, the MNS has sunk to its lowest depths. Apart from taking immediate action against the members of the MNS involved in this ruckus, the fact that there is no place for ethnic and linguistic chauvinism in a city like “Bombay” should be driven home once and for all.

At the outset, I would like to point out that the Indian Constitution that allows legislators the freedom to take oath in any official language was written by Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, a low-caste native Maharashtrian himself. Further, as was rightly pointed out by Abhinav Chandrachud LL.M. ’09 in the Indian Express, the oath prescribed for members of state legislative assemblies was amended by the Constitution Act of 1963 to include a promise to “uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India”. By stopping Azmi from taking the oath in Hindi, the members of the MNS have not only subverted the Indian Constitution but have also flouted all forms of parliamentary functioning.

The MNS fails to realize that “Bombay” has always had a multicultural character. It was built by the contribution of Parsi and Gujarati entrepreneurs, Konkan mill laborers, Telugu and Tamil industrialists, Koli and Marathi fishermen, and the North Indian-dominated film industry. “Bombay” is the financial capital of India because of the contribution of people from different parts of the country. The city epitomizes the “unity in diversity” characteristic of India. Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the founder of the Maratha empire and the hero of the people of Maharashtra, was known for favoring inclusivity and tolerance of other religions. Thus, the attack on Azmi is not only an attack on Bombay’s famed pluralism, but also on the virtues and teachings of the Marathi hero, Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj.

The Maharshtra government has always turned a blind eye to the threats issued by the MNS and the violence perpetrated by its members. The government has brazenly succumbed to the threats of the MNS, doling out the excuse that stricter action would lead to bigger “law and order” problems. The fact that this time the Maharashtra Assembly has suspended the members of the MNS involved in the incident for four years is a heartening sign. But the authorities fear a backlash by the MNS political activists, one that would lead to widespread violence and destruction in “Bombay” and other parts of Maharashtra. They need to display the courage exhibited by U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower during the “Little Rock Nine” incident of 1957.

At a time when “Bombay” and the state of Maharashtra are overrun with such problems as terrorism, malnutrition, poverty, and rising prices, it is shocking that some members of the Legislative Assembly would engage in a dangerous linguistic war. On some level, these elected representatives are a reflection of society itself. They are in the Assembly because the people have voted for them. For me, this fact is more dangerous than any threat and any violence that can ever be perpetrated by Raj Thackeray and his goons. As a citizen of “Bombay”, it makes me hang my head in shame. The citizens of Bombay cannot afford to let the city be governed by people who propagate fascism. The time has now come public opinion to turn strongly against it.

Karan Tyagi is an LL.M. student from India.

Cambridge, USA: The boy who doesn’t sleep



After spending a relaxing year in the U.K., JESSICA CORSI thought she had re-acclimatized herself to Harvard Law School’s culture of crazed workaholism – until she came upon a 1L who likes to trade the refreshment of sleep for more reading. Is insomnia, she wonders, the secret to securing the Sears Prize?

HE EXISTS. I have met him. There is at least one 1L at HLS who has attempted to give up sleep.  And it shows.  The night we met, at a bar review at Grafton Street, he seemed to be fading in and out of conversation.  His eyes were closing slightly, his eyelids heavy even at his most alert and attentive.  He looked…sleepy. Perhaps he didn’t want to talk to me—I should be kind and give him an easy out.  “You’re either really tired or I’m boring you,” I said. 

“No, I’m not bored; I am actually really tired,” he explained.  “You see, I’ve given up sleeping.”  Genius! Insane! Insane genius? Typical 1L? All of the above? I had to learn more.

“No, come on. You haven’t given up sleeping,” I pressed.

“No, really,” he went on, his head nodding towards his chest.  “I have.”

“WHY?” I demanded.

 “Because I had to,” he replied.  “I didn’t do any reading the first part of the semester. So in order to catch up and not fail I need to stay up all night.”

I wasn’t following.  “But—wait—but—but we’re having this conversation in a bar. At 11:30pm. Why can’t you just—I don’t know, not go to bars instead?”  It seemed like a fair question. 

“That’s the thing,” he replied. “I just seem to waste time during the day.  So I need to stay up all night.”

I began to revise my notion that he was an insane genius, replacing it with the notion that he was just a person with poor time management who doesn’t understand the impact of sleep deprivation on information retention. “Well, okay,” I said. “So, could you try and do things during the day?”

“But I don’t.”

“Okay. So—really? You’re actually not sleeping at all?”

“I tried the no sleep thing two weeks ago.  I stayed up for about three days. And then as I was sitting there studying, I spontaneously fell asleep. I slept for 14 hours. And then I figured out that I couldn’t stay up indefinitely.”

Progress—he has discovered that it is impossible to stay up indefinitely and that insomnia is not an actual study strategy.  “Oh,” I nod, “So you’re actually sleeping now.”

“Yes. I’m on an every other day schedule.” 


“I’m on an every other day schedule. I sleep one night, stay up another night, sleep the next night…”

“And what is tonight?” I wonder. I hope it’s a sleep night; he’s already half there. 

“Tonight is a stay up night.” Wrong again; this does not bode well. 

“No, come on.”  “No, really.” “No.” “Yes!” 

“But—have you been drinking tonight?” I wondered, incredulous.

“Yeah, but I stopped a while ago because I knew I needed to stay up.” Oh. Right.  Of course.

“So how do you do it—how do you stay up all night?”  He was warming to the question. He looked almost awake as he was answering.  He had obviously put thought and planning into his scheme, and he seemed happy that someone had finally uncovered his secret.  “A lot of Red Bull! A lot of energy drinks. I stock up on those. And I eat. I’m going to eat right after we leave this bar.” “Like— what?” I ask. “Chicken wings?”  I’m a vegetarian.

“Yeah, chicken wings would be good.” Ew.

“So what else do you do to stay up?”

“I take smoke breaks—I’m a smoker.” He nods as he says this, like “Only smokers take smoke breaks.” I nod in response, of course. “So that helps; the smoke breaks help. And I have to go to my common room. I have to change locations and move around.  If I sit on my bed I’ll sleep.”


“Yeah—exactly. So I move around.  Yeah. I move around and take smoke breaks outside in the cold. It wakes you up.”

“And you actually think you’re learning things? I mean, you know that you learn best when you’re well-rested, right?” 

“Yeah, yeah,” comes the reply.  I don’t know which part he’s agreeing to.

I have finished my drink. We both want to go home, me to sleep, he to…not.  We walk back to our apartments, which are coincidentally  across the street from each other.   “I’m over there,”?I tell him. “I’m going home.” 

“I’m going to my motorcycle,” he replies.  “I’m driving to Porter Square to get a sandwich.”  Of course he is.  I walked up the steps of my apartment  and shook my head in confusion and amusement as he peeled away down Mass Ave. The things we do to outline Torts.  God bless 1L Fall.

Cross-registration woes: does Harvard “University” even exist?


Another registration season has passed at Harvard Law School, complete with all the trials, tribulations, and technical glitches of the MyPlan system, the arbitrary course caps that will have to be manually adjusted by the Registrar next spring, and the frustration of students who have had to deal with clinical, elective, and “multi-section” course registration periods situated weeks apart. Pity the poor law student who wishes to sign up for all three types of class, for whom registration takes up more time than outlining, and whose Google Calendar is littered with the detritus of unfulfilled classroom hopes and dreams.

HLS’ vast menu of courses is one of the school’s main attractions, a standout reason why many choose this buzzing hive of over 2,000 students, faculty, and affiliates over more intimate law schools – in sunnier climes. As Dean Elena Kagan ’86 never grew tired of pointing out, the options also extend to other schools of Harvard University, offering students the ability to work outside the law school with renowned members of the Harvard faculty as a whole. But sadly, the challenges of registering into law school courses pale in comparison to the daunting feat of cross-registration between Harvard schools.

Consider: to supplement one’s legal education with a Graduate School of Arts and Sciences course, a student must first wait practically until the new semester begins, when GSAS finally releases its course schedules. Then, and only then, can a law student begin to plan when to take such a class, well after he or she will have had to already register for law school courses.

Students must then bring their signed cross-registration form to the GSAS Registrar’s Office. (One might expect it to be an affair similar to the modest office suite that holds the law school’s registrar staff. In reality, it is a palatial, three story building complete with columns and an expansive lobby.) After finally locating the relevant line, and a requisite wait, students are sent away to fill out a bubble sheet similar to those used to fill in answers on standardized tests. Then they must get back in line to submit the completed materials.

A rare example of administrative efficiency ensures students will not have to traipse back to the law school’s registrar to gain approval from that office as well. But such fixes beg the question: if the university was able, recently, to coordinate its exam schedule to facilitate cross-registration, why can’t it coordinate the release of a course schedule? And why can’t the whole process – professors’ approvals included – be moved online?

At least part of the problem seems to be that Harvard’s various schools operate less like organs of a single body than as independent organisms that hardly acknowledge one another’s existence. The schools’ individual approaches to professorial discretion on registration are a case in point. At HLS, professors complain that the system makes it difficult to shepherd in students who they think should be able to take their courses. But at the Kennedy School, professorial discretion reigns supreme.

A shocking example emerged earlier this fall in a Kennedy School class taught by Rory Stewart. Stewart has achieved some fame for trekking across Afghanistan during the opening chapters of the war against the Taliban, and for later serving as governor of a province in Iraq. It was understandable, then, that the relatively small classroom the school had allotted him for his course on interventionism couldn’t accommodate the number of interested students, many of whom had also come from schools with which Harvard has cross registration agreements, such as Tufts’ Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

Stewart’s solution was not to ask the Kennedy School for a larger classroom, but to make aspiring cross-registrants apply for slots as auditors. Of these, he would select only eight (out of the dozens who were hoping to register) who would not only have to give up any seats to interested Kennedy School students, but would not be allowed to participate in class discussion at all.

The plan provoked outrage among the Tufts students, who petitioned their administration. One even emailed Stewart – and the rest of the class – directly, with a strongly-worded message asserting that Tufts would never treat a Harvard cross-registrant as he had treated the visitors from Tufts.

Whether the Stewart case was an illustration of Harvard’s strained relations with other universities, a demonstration that these schools could stand up for their rights better than students from other Harvard schools, or an indication that other universities’ cross-registrants might be taking up class seats that ought to have gone to Harvard students, it is clear that Harvard University as a whole needs to reevaluate its cross-registration system – not only because interdisciplinary studies are the future of many fields, but because without the easy ability for students and faculties to interact across institutional lines, Harvard is no more than a sum of its many parts – and the idea of the “University” as an institution is rendered both hollow and meaningless.

Letter: Obama’s Nobel is the pride of Africa


When Barack Obama ’91 campaigned for and won the U.S. presidential election, he was supported not only by Americans, but by millions of people across the globe who believe in his message of “hope”. For us in Africa, Obama symbolizes the renewal of hope for global peace and security. We see this honor as an encouragement and acknowledgement of his good vision and excellent leadership in making the world a safe and better place, for us and the generations yet unborn. The election of President Obama marks a new era in international relations.

Many young people across the world see Obama as a role model. Undoubtedly, the award which identifies him as an Ambassador of Peace will not only encourage him, as an individual, but also others that look up to him. His ability to reach out to other countries across political, ethnic, religious and cultural divides, within his short period in office, surely made him a hero that merits this award.

Congratulations President Obama. More grease to your elbows. We are proud of you!

Aminu Gamawa is an LL.M. student from Nigeria.