Are International Treaties Worth The Paper They’re Written On?

by J.R. It has been a rocky month for the international legal order.  In early March, Russian president Vladimir Putin decided that the 1994 Budapest Memorandum didn’t suit his fancy anymore and invaded the Ukrainian region of Crimea. In the memorandum Russia agreed not to violate the sovereignty of Ukraine in exchange for Ukraine relinquishing control of, what was at the time, the worlds third largest nuclear arsenal. Fast-forward twenty years and it sure looks like Ukraine got the short end of the diplomatic stick and, seemingly, there is nothing they can do about it. After the horror of the Second World War, a new wave of NGOs and international governing bodies came into existence, the hope being that international law, international norms, and stable borders were at the cornerstone of this new world.  If we examine the years that have passed since the creation of the United Nation, the


Pussy Riot and Vladimir Putin’s Russia

by G.M. The 2013 documentary Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer (Maxim Pozdorovkin & Mike Lerner) is an expertly crafted primer into the world of the Russian, feminist, punk rock, balaclava-donning, protest group which formed initially in reaction to the controversial election of Vladimir Putin in 2011. Since then, Pussy Riot has achieved both international support and criticism for their riotous performances and demonstrations. The documentary focuses primarily on Pussy Riot’s several protests, including their performance in Moscow’s most sacred cathedral, Cathedral of Christ the Savior. That performance, halted by security officers, led to the arrest of Nadya Tolokno, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich for “hooliganism” and the start of a much-publicized “show trial” which attracted the attention of the entire global community and further scrutinized the increasingly unsettling politics of Putin’s Russia. The documentary itself follows the trial fully from arrest to sentencing (Samutsevich was later released on appeal


Tracking Your Tips: Restaurants Skimming Off The Top

by A.E. I’m a little bit ashamed to admit that I rely on delivery for very large portion of my meals; but let’s be honest, delivery in the city is great. I can go any one of a variety of websites like Seamless or Grubhub, browse through what feels like an unlimited amount of food options and then just point, click, and order whatever I want with no extra delivery charge. I only have to add my tip to the deliveryman on the site and then I have no need to keep cash around for them. Twenty minutes later, the buzzer rings and my vegetable samosas and lamb biryani are here. Perfect, right? That’s how I felt about it until recently this winter during one of our many (many) snowstorms in New York. On that cold and snowy night I didn’t want to brave the harrowing two blocks to my


Alice Herzog-Sommer and “The Lady in Number 6″

by R.K. On February 23, 2014, Alice Herzog-Sommer, the world’s oldest Holocaust survivor, passed away. One week later, a documentary of her life won the Academy Award for best short documentary. Malcolm Clarke, the film’s director, noted in his acceptance speech Herz-Sommer’s “extraordinary capacity for joy” and “amazing capacity for forgiveness.” It is telling that the filmmakers ditched the original title they considered for the documentary, “Dancing Under the Gallows,” for “The Lady in Number 6.” Despite the horrors she lived through, Herz-Sommer’s story is not one of malice or despair; it is one of beauty and hope. Herz-Sommer was born in 1903 into an upper-class Jewish family in Prague, and trained as a pianist from childhood. However, Hitler’s anti-Semitism spread throughout Europe, and in 1943 Herz-Sommer and her family were sent to concentration camps. She devoted herself to making the horror bearable for her 6-year-old son, and giving him


The Media-Fueled Bourbon Craze

by E.L. Promoted by the media (e.g., Mad Men, GQ), popularized by the coveted Pappy Van Winkle line, and driven by the ubiquity of longtime brands (Evan Williams, Four Roses, Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Wild Turkey, and Woodford Reserve) at restaurants, bars, liquor stores, and homes, the bourbon whiskey industry has been booming both domestically and internationally.  In 2013, the spirit generated $2.4 billion in revenue in the United States (10.2 percent increase) and exceeded $1 billion in revenue internationally (5 percent increase) for the first time ever.  Further, bourbon producers have ramped up production by nearly 7 percent to 18 million cases to meet the increasing domestic and worldwide demand. Japan is one of the top international markets for bourbon and its popularity and economic importance was evidenced in January when Beam Inc., the parent company of major bourbon brands Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark, announced that it was


RECAP: Trials & Error: Hustler Magazine and Larry Flynt v. Jerry Falwell

by K.Z. Professor Rosenbaum opened the panel by asking Larry Flynt whether he considered himself in the pornography business or the First Amendment business.  Mr. Flynt responded that it was not until some years ago, when he was standing before a judge, being sentenced to 25 years imprisonment, that he realized that “freedom of expression could no longer be taken for granted” and how little people knew about the First Amendment.  “People tend to forget; free speech has been free for so long; it’s lost its value,” Mr. Flynt stated.  Mr. Flynt noted that our country condones violence, yet condemns sex; a picture depicting a decaying corpse could be published on the front page of a newspaper, but the same newspaper could not print a picture of a couple engaging in sexual intercourse. Hustler Magazine v. Falwell, a Supreme Court case in which the Court held, in a unanimous 8-0


Settlement Injustice

by J.K. One simple status update to Facebook has cost one family not just potentially $80,000, but any opportunity to have their story heard and validated.  In a peculiar twist of events, a settlement agreement reached by an individual and their former employer has been ruled null and void, pending appeal, by an alleged breach of confidentiality by the claimant’s daughter.  Attorneys for Gulliver Prepatory School in Miami allege that a daughter’s Facebook status update, which purported that her parents had won their case against the school violated the confidentiality agreement per terms of the settlement, breaching exactly that which confidentiality was designed to protect. Are there reasons for confidentiality?  Absolutely. It protects the credibility of this institution and their unblemished public appearance in return for hush money, especially in cases of frivolous lawsuits.  As a private school receiving their monies from voluntary enrollment tuition, public image is extremely important


Preying On Aspiration

by A.M. A sector of colleges are now marketing the American dream – the opportunity for prosperity, financial security, and professional success – despite their unproven ability to deliver. They are making profits off of predominantly minority students seeking the benefits of a college education. And yet, upon graduation, many of the students find themselves without work and burdened with enormous student debt. The colleges make a profit, and often the students leave arguably worse off than they were upon enrollment. These colleges have, of course, already faced regulation to prevent some of the abuse, but have recently captured headlines again as the target of further investigation by authorities. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-29/for-profit-colleges-face-new-wave-of-coordinated-state-probes.html. The federal government has accused these colleges of fraud, filing a lawsuit with the potential to put one of the leading for-profit college chains, Premier, out of business. Marc Jerome, the executive vice-president at Monroe College – a for-profit institution-


The Blade Runner On Trial: How South Africa Will Determine The Fate Of A Beloved Star

by A.L. Last week, a South African high court began the trial of Oscar Pistorius, who is charged with premeditated murder of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp. After inspiring the world as a double amputee who sprinted in the 2012 Summer Olympics, the “Blade Runner” saw his life change forever when his girlfriend died on Valentine’s Day 2013. Pistorius does not contest the fact that he killed Steenkamp. Instead, he argues that he mistook her for a burglar and shot her in a terrible accident. Conversely, the prosecution contends that Pistorius knew what he was doing and murdered his girlfriend in cold blood. CNN recently posted an interactive diagram that lays out the arguments of each party and shows how they relate to layout of Pistorius’ apartment. Essentially, one of the key issues in the case is whether Pistorius had put on his prosthetic legs before or after shooting. The prosecution


Ninth Circuit Opinion Demonstrates Proper Limits of Free Speech

by R.K. On May 5th, 2010, the principal of Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill California asked a group of students wearing t-shirts depicting an American flag to turn their shirts inside out or take them off.  The principal and other school officials feared racially fueled violence, wanting to keep the students safe in racially tense environment on Cinco de Mayo.   During the previous Cinco de Mayo, a group of students carrying a Mexican flag fought with students who hung an American flag on a tree and chanted “USA.”  The students at Live Oak High refused to take off or turn their shirts inside out and brought a civil rights suit against the school.  The students argued that, among other things, that their right to freedom of expression had been violated.  On February 27th, 2014, the Ninth Circuit held that the school did not violate the students’ constitutional rights