Traveling Overseas for Medical Care (audio)

All-inclusive vacations might feature a stay in a luxury hotel, gourmet meals, and in some cases, a hip replacement. Companies that specialize in medical tourism help patients in the U.S. find health care opportunities abroad, often at greatly reduced costs. This hour, we’ll talk about why a million Americans each year travel overseas for medical care and the legal and ethical gray areas of this growing trend. Guests: Glenn Cohen, professor of law and bioethics at Harvard, author of “Patients with Passports: Medical Tourism, Law and Ethics”.

When Unhappy Donors Want Their Money Back

For most people, giving money to charity feels great. Asking for the money back is a whole different story. Yet philanthropy experts say donors increasingly are doing just that: requesting “refunds” on gifts they feel have been misused, ignored, or spent in a way that strays from their original reason for giving…“About 30 states have the Uniform Trust Code, which authorizes donor standing to enforce a charitable trust,” says Robert Sitkoff, a professor at Harvard Law School who studies wills, trusts and estates. But “a New York court has gone further, recognizing donor standing to enforce other kinds of charitable gifts, too.”

RIP: Obama the Campaign-Finance Reformer

President Barack Obama in 2008 pledged to blunt the power of big money interests in politics. Instead, he’s overseeing the return of a gilded age with billionaires running their own parties out of high-rise offices and candidates spending more of their time mingling with them behind closed doors. …”He did literally nothing in the whole of his administration to address either the way congressional elections are funded or how presidential elections are funded,” said Larry Lessig, a Harvard Law professor whose super-PAC spent $10 million this year trying to elect candidates who support limiting the influence of money in campaigns. “He hasn’t even floated an idea.”

Affiliates Raise Hands, Snarl Traffic in Largest Harvard Protest Yet Following Non-Indictments

Hundreds of Harvard affiliates from across the University’s schools brought traffic in and around Harvard and Central squares to a standstill Friday evening as they marched through Cambridge streets in protest of racial prejudice in the criminal justice system…Before concluding the hour-long string of speeches, poetry, and songs, Victoria I. White-Mason [`15], a Law School student who organized the demonstration, told fellow protesters to remain peaceful as their demonstration proceeded into the Square. White-Mason also invited representatives from other Harvard schools to a stage organizers had set up, asking them to read “oaths” that vowed commitment to fighting racial inequality in their respective disciplines and professions.

Why Free Marketeers Don’t Buy Climate Science

An op-ed by Cass R. Sunstein. It is often said that people who don’t want to solve the problem of climate change reject the underlying science, and hence don’t think there’s any problem to solve. But consider a different possibility: Because they reject the proposed solution, they dismiss the science. If this is right, our whole picture of the politics of climate change is off. Here’s an analogy. Say your doctor tells you that you must undergo a year of grueling treatment for a serious illness. You might question the diagnosis and insist on getting a second opinion. But if the doctor says you can cure the same problem simply by taking a pill, you might just take the pill without asking further questions.

Marketplace Tech for Friday, December 12, 2014

First up, Jonathan Zittrain of Harvard Law School talks about the implications behind Google News shutting down operations in Spain. And Tony Gallippi, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of BitPay, explains why Bitcoin may become more mainstream … especially now that Microsoft has started accepting it. Plus, how well have you kept up with the week in tech news? It’s time for Silicon Tally. This week, host Ben Johnson takes on Paul Kedrosky, partner at SK Ventures.

Americans Involved in Torture Can Be Prosecuted Abroad, Analysts Say

The United States is obliged by international law to investigate its citizens suspected of engaging in torture, but even if it does not, Americans who ordered or carried out torture can be prosecuted abroad, by legal bodies including the International Criminal Court, legal experts say. …But for Ms. Bensouda, who has had enormous difficulty even gaining custody of some of her most high-profile defendants, let alone winning convictions, the prospect of going after Americans could prove especially tricky. The court is still new, and fragile, said one of her former colleagues, Alex Whiting, and picking a fight with the United States could be “damaging” to the court’s standing in the world. “On the other hand the legitimacy of the court depends on it reaching a point where it treats countries alike,” said Mr. Whiting, who was the prosecution coordinator in The Hague from 2010 until last year and now teaches law at Harvard University. “The court is in a very difficult position on this.”

Levine on Wall Street: Swaps Pushed Back In, Harvard Gets in Trouble

… Here is an utterly loony paper by Securities Exchange Commissioner Daniel Gallagher and former SEC commissioner Joseph Grundfest arguing that Harvard is violating the securities laws in its Shareholder Rights Project. That project, run by Harvard professor Lucian Bebchuk, submits shareholder proposals to public companies asking them to de-stagger their boards, so that all directors are elected every year instead of electing one-third of directors a year to three-year terms. Staggered boards make activism hard and hostile takeovers nearly impossible, and so are often viewed as shareholder-unfriendly. There is some empirical evidence that they are in fact bad for shareholders. There is other empirical evidence that they are good for shareholders. There is yet other empirical evidence that they are sometimes good and sometimes bad. (This is how empirical corporate governance research always works out, by the way.)

‘Senior status’ lets federal judges keep working — for free

Seasoned judges like Wolf and Ponsor, who oversaw the only two death penalty trials in the state in modern times, and veteran judges Rya W. Zobel and Joseph L. Tauro recently went on senior status, creating the vacancies that allowed for the appointments. Retired federal judge Nancy Gertner, who stepped down in 2011 and now teaches at Harvard, said she chose to leave the bench entirely so that she could speak more openly about judicial matters, something she wouldn’t be able to do as a judge. She recently wrote a Globe column criticizing the legal process used in the Ferguson, Mo., police shooting investigation. She has also has given media interviews, and said, “I feel freer now to be critical.” “Do I miss the bench? Yes, there’s something very special about being able to assess a just result, in your courtroom,” she said.

Inversions Are Last Step in Companies’ Tax-Avoidance Hopscotch

The surge in U.S. companies avoiding taxes by taking a foreign address has been condemned by President Barack Obama and stirred a policy debate in Congress. What’s often overlooked is that these “inversions” are typically a final step in a hopscotch of multinational tax dodging. … The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a group funded by governments around the world, is attempting to restrict profit shifting. Its initiatives could affect U.S. companies including Google Inc., Apple Inc., and Starbucks Corp. “Transfer pricing is the elephant in the room,” said Stephen E. Shay, former deputy assistant secretary for international tax affairs at the Obama Treasury Department, now a professor at Harvard Law School. “Transfer pricing is what makes inversions even more valuable.”