Monthly Archives: November 2013

The Fair Housing Act: Then and Now

Last weekend, This American Life ran a fascinating episode on housing discrimination and the history of the Fair Housing Act. 

The “Prologue” talks about the impact where children lives on their education. Here is a description: 

Ira talks to 15 year old Jada who, when she was in third grade, moved from Akron Public Schools in Ohio, to the nearby Copley-Fairlawn schools in the suburbs. After two years, Jada was kicked out by administrators who discovered that her mother was using Jada’s grandfather’s address in Copley, instead of her own in Akron. Jada says that while the schools are only a few miles apart, the difference in education was astounding.
For more information about Jada and her mother, Kelley Williams Bolar, who spent 10 days in jail because she falsified documents so she could enroll Jada and her sister in the Copley-Fairlawn schools, you can go here. (5 minutes)

Both Acts One and Two discuss the history of the Fair Housing Act and housing discrimination in New York City today. 

Act One, “Rental Gymnastics” is described as follows: 

Reporter Nancy Updike talks to a group of New York City residents about their frustrating attempts to rent an apartment. With hidden microphones, we hear landlords and supers tell the apartment hunters that there’s nothing available. But that’s not necessarily true. Forty-five years after the passage of the Fair Housing Act in 1968, ProPublica reporter Nikole Hannah-Jonestalks to Nancy about the history of racial housing discrimination in the United States and what has been done — and hasn’t been done — to rectify it. (31 minutes)

Here is a description of Act II, “The Missionary“:

Once the Fair Housing Act became law in 1968, there was some question about how to implement it and enforce it. George Romney, the former Republican Governor of Michigan and newly-appointed Secretary of HUD, was a true believer in the need to make the Fair Housing Law a powerful one — a robust attempt to change the course of the nation’s racial segregation. Only problem was: President Richard Nixon didn’t necessarily see it that way. With Nikole Hannah-Jones, Nancy Updike continues the story. (16 minutes)

Nikole Hannah-Jones’s investigative series on the history and enforcement of the Fair Housing laws — with more stories, research and interviews —is here.


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November 29, 2013 · 12:45 pm

Colorado Community Pushes Back Against Fracking

A short segment (4 min.) on NPR’s All Things Considered discussed the ballot initiatives in few Colorado communities that would put limits on fracking, or hydraulic fracturing.

Here is how the story began:

The 2013 election marked a victory for foes of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in Colorado. Voters in three Front Range communities decided to put limits on the practice.

Next week, the north Denver suburb of Broomfield will launch a closely watched vote recount on a proposed moratorium there.

Oil and gas companies say the measures create an uncertain business environment.

During its original vote count, Broomfield felt more like Miami-Dade County circa 2000 than a sleepy Denver suburb. About two dozen lawyers and other observers invested in the outcome of the proposed five-year fracking moratorium crowded into a windowless room.

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November 27, 2013 · 8:27 pm

Do Violent Video Games Lead to Less Violent Crime?

That was one of the questions asked on the Freakonomics Radio podcast.  

Here is a description of the episode: 

Our latest podcast is called “Who Runs the Internet?” (You can subscribe to the podcast at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript; it includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)

It begins with Stephen Dubner and Steve Levitt talking about whether virtual mayhem — from online ranting to videogame violence — may help reduce mayhem in the real world. There is no solid data on this, Levitt says, but he hypothesizes: 

LEVITT: Maybe the biggest effect of all of having these violent video games is that they’re super fun for people to play, especially adolescent boys, maybe even adolescent boys who are prone to real violence. And so if you can make video games fun enough, then kids will stop doing everything else. They’ll stop watching TV, they’ll stop doing homework, and they’ll stop going out and creating mayhem on the street. 

This episode then moves on to a bigger question about the Internet itself: who runs it? As Dubner asks: “Who’s in charge of the gazillions of conversations and transactions and character assassinations that happen online every day?”

Internet scholar Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, tells us that 60 percent of adults around the world are now connected to the same communications grid. (South Korea, he says, is the “most wired” country.) And this global connectivity is interesting, he says, because it’s not like there is an international body governing what’s online:

SHIRKY: Well, I mean, famously, the regulatory overhead on the Internet is permissive and minimal. In fact, the thing that freaked everyone out about it in the 90s when it was spreading on the wings of the web was that no one was in charge. … There are famous stories of bosses fretting that because all of their employees were suddenly sending international emails that they were suddenly going to be hit by the bill by the people who ran the Internet. 

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November 26, 2013 · 1:41 pm

Cuts in Food Stamps Hurt Rural Areas

Heading into the Thanksgiving holiday, All Things Considered a rather depressing story about how reductions in food stamp spending is expected to have a particularly deleterious effect on rural families.  

Here is how the story (4 minutes)  began: 

One recent evening, some shoppers at the Countryside Market in Belvidere, Ill., were loading up on staples, like milk and eggs. Others, like Meghan Collins, were trying to plan Thanksgiving on a newly tightened budget.

“My work has been cut,” says Collins. “I’m working half the hours I used to work. So yeah, I’m making half of what I made last year.”

That could be bad news for stores like Countryside, which are already bracing for the ripple effect from the recent $5 billion reduction in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps. It’s the first Thanksgiving since a temporary increase in those benefits expired on Nov. 1, affecting some 47 million Americans.

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November 25, 2013 · 10:16 pm

Sunday Funday: Homeboy Bakery

This edition of Sunday Funday is more heartwarming than humorous.  It is about a bakery in Los Angeles, the Homeboy Bakery, which turns gang members into productive members of society by giving them jobs and teaching them marketable (legal) skills.  

Here is a description of the story from The CBS Sunday Morning Show

Twenty-five years ago Father Greg Boyle started working with gang members in the poorest parish of Los Angeles. Today, his program, Homeboy Industries – a bakery and cafe employing former gang members – has grown to become one of the largest and most successful gang intervention efforts in the nation. Carter Evans reports.


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November 24, 2013 · 4:57 pm

Shields and Brooks on Filibuster Reform

Last night’s episode the PBS News Hour featured Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks who discussed Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid’s filibuster reforms, the so-called “nuclear option.”

Here is a description of the segment: 

Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss their takes on Senate Democrats’ move to invoke the “nuclear option” and how that rule change will affect partisanship. They also look back at how President John F. Kennedy shaped public service in America.

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November 23, 2013 · 3:38 pm

Stop-and-Frisk, Judge Scheindlin, and the First Amendment

On the most recent edition of the Lawyer2Lawyer podcast, host J. Craig Williams discusses the Second Circuit Court of Appeals panel that not only stayed Judge Shira Scheindlin’s order in the NYPD stop-and-frisk case but also removed her from the case.  Williams spoke with University of Pennsylvania Law Professor Kermit Roosevelt about the potential First Amendment implications of the Second Circuit’s decision to remove Judge Scheindlin due to her speech that preceded her decision.  

Here is a description of the podcast: 

“It’s impossible to figure out exactly what the judge did wrong,” University of Pennsylvania Law Professor Kermit Roosevelt says, discussing Federal District Court Judge Shira Scheindlin’s removal from Floyd, et al. v. The City of New York, known as the “stop-and-frisk” case. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the Judge “ran afoul” of the Code of Conduct for United States Judges given her participation in media interviews and by making public statements about the “stop and frisk” case. The 2nd Circuit’s ruling did not provide further detail or examples. In this edition of Lawyer2Lawyer, your host J. Craig Williams invites Roosevelt to discuss Scheindlin’s removal, whether this action is a question of judge’s first amendment rights, and the possible outcomes of her appeal.

Roosevelt is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Working in a diverse range of fields, he focuses in constitutional law and conflict law. Professor Roosevelt was recently a part of a New York Times Room for Debate, discussing Scheindlin’s removal and what restrictions should be placed on judges. He has also served as a law clerk to Supreme Court Associate Justice David H. Souter and D.C. Circuit Court Judge Stephen F. Williams.


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November 22, 2013 · 9:07 pm