It’s Not Obama, It’s Just the Sixth Year

An op-ed by Kenneth W. Mack. If you want to know who to blame for any number of global and domestic crises, there is one simple answer, according to many critics: Barack Obama. The tide turned against many Democratic Congressional candidates in this year’s mid-term elections largely, some claim, because of President Obama’s relatively low approval ratings. Critics have charged Obama with indecision in the face of crises ranging from ISIS to Ebola. The seeming drift began soon after his second inaugural address – delivered only last year – when his ambitious call to collective action was quickly overtaken by a series of controversies ranging from the NSA surveillance leaks to the botched rollout of healthcare.gov. Yet a quick look back at history complicates the notion that these challenges are rooted in President Obama’s individual leadership deficiencies. It also illuminates a factor that does, indeed, make this president’s situation unique: the often-ignored fact that he is America’s first black president.

Republican Senate Will Grill the White House

An op-ed by Cass R. Sunstein. Of the many changes that will result from the midterm elections, here’s a big one that has received scant attention: Expect hearings and investigations. Lots of them. When the president’s party controls the Senate, the chairs of its various committees tend to be relatively friendly. Yes, they hold hearings and engage in investigations, but as a general rule, the process is cordial not adversarial.

Senior Myanmar officials guilty of war crimes, Harvard report says

An independent investigation by the Harvard Law School has found that troops commanded by Myanmar’s powerful interior minister and two other senior officials tortured and killed civilians over six years ago while fighting an ethnic rebellion. Researchers spent four years collecting information about Home Affairs Minister Major General Ko Ko, Brigadier General Khin Zaw Oo and Brigadier General Mang Maung Aye, said the report released on Thursday. They commanded troops during an offensive against rebels in eastern Karen state between 2005 and 2008, when soldiers fired mortars at villages and executed civilians, among other crimes, it said…“We’ve established that they had command and control over the forces that were committing these crimes,” said Matthew Bugher, one of the authors of the report by the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School who handed over the report’s findings to the government on Wednesday.

Searching for his past

Their parents had abandoned them, but the three small children clung together, a family without grown-ups. Roman took care of his younger brother and sister, begging for food and stealing potatoes from a field in Rudnoye, their Russian village…Roman lives in Watertown today, 6,000 miles from his hometown in the Russian far east. He was so small when he got to the United States five years ago that his height and weight — 4 feet, 4 inches and 57 pounds — placed him below zero percent on the international growth chart for children…Elizabeth Bartholet, a professor at Harvard Law School and faculty director of the Child Advocacy Program, says that adoptive parents hold the same legal rights as biological parents to make decisions for their children. “There is not much in the law that honors the right of siblings to contact each other just because they are blood siblings,” said Bartholet, who is not involved in the Davis case.

Legal champion of gay rights

The legalization of same-sex marriage in many states was a titanic step forward for the LGBT community, but the community still faces a number of challenges in gaining full equality, according to Mary Bonauto, a leading lawyer in the field…Bonauto spoke Tuesday at a brown-bag luncheon at Harvard Law School (HLS), during which she was interviewed by Dean Martha Minow and fielded questions from students in the audience.

Report Cites Evidence of War Crimes in Myanmar

A report by Harvard researchers due to be released on Friday says there is sufficient evidence to prosecute high-ranking officers in Myanmar’s military for crimes against humanity and war crimes committed against an ethnic minority. The report, published by the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School, is based on a three-year study of villages near the Thai border, where the military conducted a large-scale offensive against ethnic Karen fighters from 2005 until 2008. The authors say that “widespread and systematic” attacks directed against civilians during the offensive justify war-crime prosecutions.

Leaked Docs Expose More Than 340 Companies’ Tax Schemes In Luxembourg

Pepsi, IKEA, FedEx and 340 other international companies have secured secret deals from Luxembourg, allowing many of them to slash their global tax bills while maintaining little presence in the tiny Central European duchy, leaked documents show…“A Luxembourg structure is a way of stripping income from whatever country it comes from,’’ said Stephen E. Shay, a professor of international taxation at Harvard Law School and a former tax official in the U.S. Treasury Department. The Grand Duchy, he said, “combines enormous flexibility to set up tax reduction schemes, along with binding tax rulings that are unique. It’s like a magical fairyland.”

Fish, Shotguns and Judicial Activism

An op-ed by Noah Feldman. Is a fish a tangible object? Does a sawed-off shotgun pose serious risk of injury? Laugh if you must, but the U.S. Supreme Court is taking up these questions in a pair of cases that will form another chapter in the saga of our vastly expanding federal criminal law. Funny as the cases may seem — both funny strange and funny ha-ha — they illustrate how policy and law constantly interact for a court deeply divided about the nature of statutory interpretation.

Microsoft Exec Discusses Data Surveillance

Technology companies and the federal government are locked in an escalating legal battle over data surveillance and consumer rights, said Microsoft’s General Counsel Brad Smith at a Law School forum Tuesday…Conversing with Law School Professor Jonathan L. Zittrain, who moderated the forum, Smith argued that the U.S. government must respect both domestic and international privacy laws, instead of unilaterally and opaquely obtaining data.

Former Kirkland Tutor To Become State Senator

On Tuesday, former Kirkland House tutor Eric P. Lesser ’07 [HLS `16] secured the Massachusetts State Senate seat for the First Hampden and Hampshire District, which consists of eastern Springfield and surrounding towns. Lesser was expected to do well after receiving high-profile Democratic endorsements on his behalf, most notably Senator Elizabeth Warren. He received 51 percent of the vote, according to the Associated Press, with 90 percent of precincts reporting. A third year student at the Law School who resided in Kirkland during his time in the College, Lesser left in January to secure the Democratic nomination.