Man of the World

A book review by Annette Gordon-Reed. Few if any men were ever better qualified, at least on paper, to serve as president of the United States than John Quincy Adams. A diplomat several times over, lawyer, senator, and secretary of state, he had grown up in a household with parents who had been center stage at the creation of the American union. By example and exhortation, John and Abigail Adams instilled in their precocious and talented son a deep faith in, and enthusiasm for, the American experiment.

Help a City, Write Its Budget

An op-ed by Susan Crawford. More than half of humanity now lives in cities; that number will rise to two-thirds by 2050, up from just 30 percent in 1950. Given the grave challenges facing the world’s booming urban areas — including global warming, economic dislocation, and crumbling basic infrastructure, among other torments — tomorrow’s mayors will need to take bold steps to ensure their constituents live in dignity and safety. One of the greatest obstacles to those steps is public distrust of government. For the past 20 years, Brazilian city governments have been experimenting with a way to counter that distrust: participatory budgeting, in which citizens have a hand in allocating resources.

Federal judge rules California death penalty unconstitutional

In an indictment of California’s death penalty, a federal judge ruled Wednesday that decades-long delays and uncertainty about whether condemned inmates will ever be executed violate the constitution’s ban on cruel or unusual punishment…Carol Steiker, a criminal law professor at Harvard Law School and an expert on the death penalty, described Carney’s decision as “stunning” and “path-breaking.” “That’s a ruling of tremendous breadth,” she said. “We haven’t seen very many rulings from the federal courts declaring a whole state’s system unconstitutional. That’s quite stunning.”

Smart Money Buys Brand X

An op-ed by Cass R. Sunstein. At CVS, a 100-tablet package of store-brand aspirin costs you $1.99. Bayer aspirin is three times that much. Nonetheless, millions of people end up buying Bayer. When it comes to headache remedies, salt, sugar and hundreds of other important products, many people choose national brands even when a cheaper store brand is at hand. Why? For the first time, we have solid answers, thanks to a study by Dutch economist Bart Bronnenberg of Tilburg University and three colleagues from the University of Chicago. They found a simple correlation: The more informed you are, the more likely you are to choose store brands.

Will anyone be prosecuted for the Malaysia Airlines shootdown?

Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said Friday that whoever shot down Malaysia Airlines flight 17 over the Ukraine “must be brought to justice.” But how likely is it that anyone will be compelled to appear in a courtroom and answer for the death of 298 passengers and crew?…Alex Whiting, a professor of international law at Harvard Law School, told NBC News he felt it would be hard to bring a criminal case in the ICC against Russian officials, because prosecutors would need to establish that the shooters knew they were firing at a passenger plane.

JAMA opinion piece calls for ending lifetime ban on blood donation by gay men

Gay marriage laws and court rulings against sexual-orientation discrimination are all signs that it’s time for the federal government to change its blood-donor policy for gay and bisexual men, authors said in a commentary released Saturday. The lifetime ban for blood donation by men who have sex with men (MSM) “may be perpetuating outdated homophobic perceptions,” wrote Dr. Eli Y. Adashi of Brown University and scholars I. Glenn Cohen and Jeremy Feigenbaum, both of Harvard Law School, in the July 23/30 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Mass. would house hundreds of migrant children

Governor Deval Patrick provided new details Thursday about a federal request to house some of the migrant children crossing the US border, saying he has asked officials to find a location for several hundred Central American children for about four months…John Willshire Carrera and Nancy Kelly, immigration lawyers in Boston, said they will ask federal officials to provide the children with access to lawyers. “As a bar, we are very ready to take on representation of these children. We are definitely welcoming of these kids and we’re going to fight for them,” said Willshire Carrera, a lawyer with the Harvard Law School Immigration and Refugee Clinic at Greater Boston Legal Services.

Abortion Clinic Protections Proposed in Massachusetts

Massachusetts lawmakers expressed support for a bill filed on Monday that they say would address safety concerns that arose when the United States Supreme Court last month struck down 35-foot buffer zones for demonstrators standing near entrances to abortion clinics…Laurence H. Tribe, a professor of constitutional law at Harvard, said the new measure appeared to clear both of those lines of criticism. “It is a much more narrowly focused bill in terms of the conduct that it prohibits,” Mr. Tribe said. “It prohibits obstruction of access, which is not an expression of free speech.”

After Abortion Ruling, Mass. Pushes To Replace Buffer Zone Law

Just three weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a Massachusetts law that created a 35-foot buffer zone around clinics that perform abortions, lawmakers there are rushing through a replacement. The new bill, which they hope to pass before the legislative session ends in two weeks, would give police more power to disperse unruly protesters…Harvard Law professor Richard Fallon says that in spirit, at least, Massachusetts has done what the court directed. “What’s innovative about this is that it’s a buffer zone triggered by bad conduct, and it’s a narrower buffer zone,” he says. “But then the questions will be whether this is narrow enough.”