In this episode of Third Degree, Elie Honig is joined by Harvard Law student and former Trump administration speechwriter Eli Nachmany ‘22 to discuss the Manhattan District Attorney’s growing investigation into former President Trump’s financial records, and how history will remember former Attorney General Bill Barr.
When news broke late last year that a massive, years-long Russian cyberespionage had penetrated large parts of the U.S. federal government and its information technology systems, policymakers were quick to describe the breach as “an act of war” and that the United States must strike back. But the breach that leveraged weaknesses in software developed by the company SolarWinds was not an act of war. It was an act of espionage. The United States has experienced cycles of outrage over Russian espionage before and mislabeling espionage as an act of war risks leading the United States toward the wrong response. To understand why the SolarWinds breach was an act of espionage, and not an act of war, it is worth considering the technical details of the breach…Today, a number of different policy proposals have been floated in response to the SolarWinds breach. One former supply chain security official at the Department of Homeland Security has argued in favor of greater oversight of software suppliers. Others have proposed greater incentives for software firms to build secure products. The computer security expert Bruce Schneier recently noted that the economic incentives for companies to fix their own cybersecurity problems before they impact customers are misaligned. Companies can transfer the risk of a data breach or cybersecurity incident to their customers or to taxpayers with little or no financial impact.
Food bank operators and lawmakers are pushing President Joe Biden’s administration for systematic changes to the federal food box program to help feed hungry Americans during the coronavirus pandemic. Nonprofit leaders also foresee a future need for continued government assistance, even when the nation finally recovers from Covid-19. “The nationwide network of food banks really are dependent upon government food right now,” said Pamela Irvine, president and CEO of Feeding Southwest Virginia. Her nonprofit has received about 1 million pounds of food through the Farmers to Families Food Box program—an Agriculture Department initiative that buys and distributes boxes of produce, meat, and dairy to food banks in an effort to help families put food on the table and give agriculture producers an economic boost…Overall, the initiative helped mitigate distributor job loss, involved small-to-mid-sized farms initially, reduced food waste to an extent, and made improvements in its first four rounds, according to a February report by Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. The program should make adjustments to step up support for minority- and women-owned farms, compensate small and specialty farms adequately, and restore non-combination boxes—those consisting solely of either produce, meat, or dairy—among other provisions, the groups recommended. “With changes, this Program also could serve as the model for a long-term food system solution,” said professor Emily Broad Leib, the faculty director for the Food Law and Policy Clinic.
An op-ed by Cass Sunstein: Why do people credit falsehoods? Why don’t they dismiss them? Here is a large part of the answer: Most of the time, we tend to believe other people. When they tell us things, we assume that they are telling the truth.To be sure, we consider some people untrustworthy, perhaps because they have so proved themselves; perhaps because they belong to a group that we think we should distrust. But on average, we trust people even when we should not. We pay too little attention to clear evidence that what is being said is false. We fail to discount for the circumstances. For instance, what if I said: In recent months, scientists have found that climate change is unlikely to be a serious problem. On balance, most people will be unaffected by it. People in the United States and Europe are unlikely to be affected at all. To be sure, there will be some harmful effects elsewhere, including Rwanda and South Africa, but even there, those effects will be small. Remarkably, most of the world’s population will be better off, because the world will be warmer. Actually that is false; I made it up. But if you’re like most people, that false statement might well linger in your memory, making you think, at least for a little while and in some part of your mind, that climate change isn’t a serious problem. (Sorry.)
An op-ed by Noah Feldman: Yesterday’s Supreme Court arguments in a major voting rights case portend what appears to be the future of election law: The continuing withdrawal of the court from the role of policing elections for racial fairness. Call this the Roberts Doctrine. The chief justice has been pushing the agenda of judicial disengagement from voting rights issues since 2012, when he wrote a landmark decision in the case Shelby County v. Holder, striking down section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The new case, out of Arizona, addresses Section 2 of the same act. The court may well be poised to weaken that part of the law to make it harder to challenge a state’s voting practices as racially discriminatory. If it does, this will continue the judicial pullback from a role the courts have played since 1964, when the Supreme Court established the principle of one person, one vote. The Roberts Doctrine reflects the chief justice’s particular jurisprudence, one profoundly influenced by the thinking of the late Justice Felix Frankfurter, who retired from the court in 1962 and died in 1965. Frankfurter was the father of the modern doctrine of judicial restraint. When Roberts follows Frankfurter in declining to strike down legislation, as he partly did in the Affordable Care Act case, liberals like it. When he follows Frankfurter in restraint around election law challenges, as he did in rejecting former president Donald Trump’s judicial challenges to the 2020 election results in Pennsylvania, liberals applaud that, too.
Advocates inundated the docket this week in a U.S. Supreme Court case concerning green cards for certain temporary protected status holders, with groups including Harvard University and the Service Employees International Union backing permanent residency for all TPS recipients…Representatives from the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program emphasized that the transient nature of the category placed a psychological burden on holders who were unable to transition to a different visa program, requiring some to pay hefty registration fees repeatedly and barring them from sponsoring family members still trapped in unstable countries.
Private equity firms are proving there’s still plenty of profit in the U.S. coal industry despite a decade of falling demand for the fossil fuel. They are spending billions of dollars buying coal-fired plants on the cheap – and getting paid even when they are not providing power. Since the end of 2014, at least five U.S. private equity firms have bought coal plants in markets where regulators pay them to be on standby to provide emergency power when demand surges with extreme hot or cold weather, according to a Reuters review of U.S. regulatory disclosures and credit-rating agency reports…FERC did not respond to requests for comment, and the White House declined to comment. “I’m confident, in the next couple of years, FERC will order changes,” said Ari Peskoe, director of the Electricity Law Initiative at Harvard Law School. Policy changes could make it harder for highly-leveraged private equity owners of coal plants, like Lightstone, to refinance their debts, according to Richard Donner, a credit analyst at Moody’s Investors Service. About $1.7 billion in the company’s debt comes due in 2024. Even so, Lightstone’s creditors are the ones with the greatest risk, according to Peskoe. “Somehow the private equity guys always make out OK,” Peskoe said. “It’s everyone else who doesn’t.”
An op-ed by Noah Feldman: In a stunning, generation-defining decision, Israel’s Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that people who became Jews through Conservative and Reform conversions must be considered as Jews for purposes of the country’s Law of Return, allowing them a fast-track to citizenship. Israel’s legislature, the Knesset, has the authority to reverse the decision and restrict the Law of Return to Orthodox converts. That may well happen — but if it does, it would represent a serious blow to relations between American Jews, most of whom are not Orthodox, and the state of Israel. The Law of Return is foundational to Israel’s self-concept as a Jewish democratic state. It establishes the principle that Jews may become citizens of Israel simply by showing up in the country and declaring their intention to become citizens. As written, the law defines a Jew as “one who was born to a Jewish mother or converted, while not being a member of another religion.” The case before the Supreme Court involved the vexed question of the meaning of the word “converted”: Which conversions count as qualifying a person for citizenship under the law? The answer has massive implications for the nature of Israeli identity.
A podcast by Noah Feldman: Dr. Carl Hart, neuroscientist and author of the provocative new book “Drug Use for Grown Ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear” questions the way we understand, regulate, and police drugs in America. Dr. Hart argues that most drugs are safer than we realize, and the negative effects of drugs are overstated and misunderstood. His research raises larger questions about policing, race, poverty, and mental health.
An op-ed by Isaac S. Kohane and Jonathan Zittrain: Medical schools teach students a four-part “virtuous cycle” in which one step positively reinforces the next: Assess the patient. Implement a therapeutic plan. Assess the patient’s response. Revise the therapeutic plan as needed. In an emergency department, this cycle can be completed in minutes. In the cancer clinic, it can take months. Mastering the virtuous cycle is understood to be a central measure of medical competence. Yet when the patient is not one person but an entire society, this cycle is fractured and ad hoc in ways that would make any patient demand a new doctor. We’ve all been witness to — and victims of — this failure in the pandemic. The superb accomplishments of therapeutic medicine cannot address the population-based issues that Covid-19 has raised. But we can use the virtuous cycle as a way to switch gears to employ approaches drawn from disciplines like public health. For the first step, assessment, doctors were unable to define the most basic clinical course of severe Covid-19, despite billions of dollars invested to achieve interoperable electronic health records over the past 30 years. It took clinicians and researchers months to identify the interplay of inflammation, coagulopathy, and cardiac dysfunction, and then only through a jury-rigged combination of conference calls and small studies shared through disparate nuggets of preprints.