Obama Takes On the Cuba Lobby

An op-ed by Noah Feldman. With his announcement that the U.S. will open negotiations and try to normalize relations with Cuba, President Barack Obama is trying to break the hold of the Cuba lobby once and for all. In historical terms, that’s a remarkable undertaking. For decades, U.S. policy toward Cuba has been guided by the smart, effective lobbying of a relatively small group of interested Cuban-Americans, mostly in Miami. The Cuba lobby’s success has reflected a deep truth of American politics: where there’s a concentrated interest on one side of an issue, and only a diffuse interest on the other, the concentrated interest wins. Will it work? If so, why now? And what are the implications for other concentrated lobbying groups, such as the National Rifle Association and the pro-Israel lobby, which have themselves succeeded by following a version of the approach that the Cuba lobby pioneered?

Rights Groups Call on President to Drop Charges Against Slain Schoolgirl’s Father

Six preeminent international human rights organizations have sent an open letter to President Thein Sein calling for an end to the prosecution of Shayam Brang Shawng and an independent investigation into the death of his daughter in Kachin State’s Sut Ngai Yang Village….“The case against Brang Shawng is a gross perversion of justice,” said Matthew Bugher, Global Justice Fellow at Harvard Law School. “The military has retaliated against Brang Shawng for speaking out about the death of his daughter, rather than ensuring that those responsible are held to account.”

North Korea linked to Sony hacking

Federal investigators have now connected the hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. to North Korea, a U.S. official said Wednesday, though it remained unclear how the federal government would respond to a break-in that exposed sensitive documents and ultimately led to terrorist threats against moviegoers….Jonathan Zittrain, a professor of law and computer science at Harvard University, said Sony was unquestionably facing anger over the breach and the resulting disclosure of thousands of sensitive documents. But the movie studio may be able to mitigate that reaction and potential legal exposure if it’s established that North Korea was behind the attack.” If Sony can characterize this as direct interference by or at the behest of a nation-state, might that somehow earn them the kind of immunity from liability that you might see other companies getting when there’s physical terrorism involved, sponsored by a state?” Zittrain said.

Big-Data Scientists Face Ethical Challenges After Facebook Study

Though it may not feel like it when you see the latest identity-affirming listicle shared by a friend on Facebook, we are a society moving toward evidence. Our world is ever more quantified, and with such data, flawed or not, the tools of science are more widely applied to our decisions…It’s also quaint to think that users would click through the multiple dialogue boxes necessary to mimic informed consent, said Jonathan L. Zittrain, director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. Would you? Instead, he said, there ought to be independent proxies who represent the users and can perform that checking function. “I worry about leaning too hard on choice,” he said, “when the real thing is just treat your users with dignity.”

Is Hacking Sony Free Speech?

An op-ed by Noah Feldman. Was 2014 the year of the hack? Or 2013? Or maybe 2011? The answer, of course, is that they all were, and that there are going to be lots more coming. But events in 2014 have helped frame a profound question that we’re going to have to answer about the right balance among property, privacy and free speech – and a glance through the year’s prominent hacks sheds some light on how we should answer it.

More than ‘enough is enough’

An op-ed by Charles J. Ogletree Jr. and David J. Harris. Last week thousands of demonstrators in Greater Boston and throughout the nation voiced their outrage at the decision of two grand juries not to indict white police officers in the deaths of unarmed black men, as well as the corruption and bias embedded in our law enforcement system. As veterans of civil rights struggles spanning nearly a half century, we felt heartened by the reemergence of young people as a force for change. Indeed, we experienced the collective refrain of “Enough is enough” as sweet music. But even as we nodded in agreement, we found ourselves asking a few follow-up questions: When is enough not enough? When are rage and protest necessary, but not sufficient? How do we transform “enough is enough” into “we demand more?”

Sudbury clergy hope to foster civil tongues

Perturbed by the incivility that has permeated political discourse in town the past couple years, a local clergy association has enlisted the help of outside mediators to solve the problem. Through the collaboration, the Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program and Sudbury Clergy Association will hold listening sessions and focus groups with townspeople this coming spring with the aim of figuring out what’s wrong in Sudbury…“HNMCP is deeply honored to have been invited by the Sudbury Clergy Association to provide counsel and advice based on our experience in negotiation and conflict management,” professor Robert Bordone, the program’s director, said in a statement.

The Movie Awards You’ve Been Waiting For

An op-ed by Cass Sunstein. The Becons, in just their third year of existence, are already the most coveted of the year-end movie awards. (For those who have been on Mars, the Becons are the Behavioral Economics Oscars.) This year has been a spectacular one for movies with behavioral economics themes, and it has been unusually difficult to pick the winners. But without further ado:

When the Law Gives Everybody But You a Break

An op-ed by Noah Feldman…I thought of my client on Friday when the Supreme Court agreed to take up the question of retroactivity in connection with its holding that juvenile offenders may not constitutionally be sentenced to life without parole. The doctrine the Supreme Court applies when it ordinarily declines to make its decisions retroactive to convicted defendants is one of the strangest and most horrifying doctrines in the entire body of constitutional law. It’s almost impossible to justify from the standpoint of the Supreme Court’s job to interpret the Constitution. Its rationale is based entirely on practicality. Unfortunately, that practicality enables our system to keep people jailed even when the courts admit that their incarceration violates the Constitution.

For Police, Ignorance Excuses

An op-ed by Noah Feldman. Well, you heard it here first: Ignorance of the law is an excuse, so long as you’re the police. Or so the U.S. Supreme Court has said in a 8-1 decision that symbolically strengthened the hand of the police to make stops even on the basis of nonexistent laws. The court split hairs, explaining that police ignorance is excusable only when the crime for which the defendant was convicted is different from the nonexistent crime for which he was stopped and searched. If that sounds iffy, it is. Here’s why.