Category Archives: Miscellaneous

New Yorker on Civil Forfeiture

In a recent issue of the New Yorker, Sarah Stillman discusses how local governments use civil forfeiture to raise revenue and how often citizens who have not been convicted of a crime lose their property.  Stillman sat down with Patrick Radden Keefe and Nicohlas Thompson to discuss her piece on the New Yorker: Out Loud podcast. 

Here is a description of the podcast: 

This week in the magazine, Sarah Stillman reports on how local governments around the country are invoking the powers of civil forfeiture to take money and property from people who haven’t been convicted of any crime. Here, Nicholas Thompson talks with Stillman and Patrick Radden Keefe about these abuses and what they mean for the citizens targeted and the law-enforcement agencies using it to fund their budgets.

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August 20, 2013 · 2:49 pm

“Should a Chimpanzee Have Human Rights?”

That was the topic being discussed on the Lawyer2Lawyer podcast. Here is a description of the (somewhat strange) show:

If it’s not legally a human, it’s a thing. But animal rights advocates argue these alternatives fail to recognize that there are many cognitively complex species who deserve to be treated as people. The Nonhuman Rights Project is planning to file a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of a chimp to grant her the right to bodily liberty. This will release her from the cage she is currently living in, and the project will have her admitted into a cageless sanctuary. Steven M. Wise, president of The Nonhuman Rights Project, has been researching and planning this case for 20 years.

Steven M. Wise has been practicing animal protection law nationwide for for the past 30 years. He was the first professor to teach animal law at Harvard University and is still teaching animal law courses all over the world. He has published four books on the matter, including Rattling the Cage – Toward Legal Rights for Animals.

On this edition of Lawyer2Lawyer, hosts Bob Ambrogi and J. Craig Williams will talk with Wise about the case to grant a chimp the right to bodily liberty and The Nonhuman Rights Project’s long-term plans for animal rights

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August 1, 2013 · 8:20 pm

Malcolm Gladwell: College Football Should Be Banned

Sunday on Fareed Zakaria GPS, Fareed interviewed author Malcolm Gladwell about his campaign to ban college football.

Here is an excerpt from the interview:

You compare football to dog fighting. Why?
Yes, I did a piece for The New Yorker a couple of years ago where I said it. This was at the time when, remember, Michael Vick, was convicted of dog fighting. And to me, that was such a kind of, and the whole world got up in arms about this. How could he use dogs in a violent manner, in a way that compromised their health and integrity?
And I was just struck at the time by the unbelievable hypocrisy of people in football, for goodness sake, getting up in arms about someone who chose to fight dogs, to pit one dog against each other.
In what way is dog fighting any different from football on a certain level, right? I mean you take a young, vulnerable dog who was made vulnerable because of his allegiance to the owner and you ask him to engage in serious sustained physical combat with another dog under the control of another owner, right?
Well, what’s football? We take young boys, essentially, and we have them repeatedly, over the course of the season, smash each other in the head, with known neurological consequences.
And why do they do that? Out of an allegiance to their owners and their coaches and a feeling they’re participating in some grand American spectacle.
They’re the same thing. And the idea that as a culture we would be absolutely quick and sure about coming to the moral boiling point over the notion that you would do this to dogs and yet completely blind to the notion you would do this to young men is, to my mind, astonishing.
I mean there’s a certain point where I just said, you know, we have to say enough is enough.

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July 23, 2013 · 11:34 pm

The Virtue of Government Transparency

In the wake of the NSA-Eric Snowden leak, the BBC’s Moral Maze programme debated the virtue of government transparency and its limits.  

Here is a description of the debate: 

The 16th century philosopher Francis Bacon is widely credited with coining the phrase “knowledge is power”. If he was alive today he would surely have appreciated the irony of the government this week launching its consultation on transparency and open data while the news is full of stories about spying and under cover surveillance. The goal of “transparency” has become something of mantra across a wide section of our society. It is held up as a moral virtue; an unambiguously Good Thing that should be pursued at all costs. Vascular surgeons are the latest to have the “spotlight” of transparency shone upon them. The NHS is publishing league tables of their results and doctors who refuse to co-operate will be named and shamed. Transparency has become not just a descriptive term, but an ideology – something that should be actively strived for and is a fundamental human right that underpins democracy. But by investing so much moral capital in transparency have we done the opposite of what those who champion it wanted? Instead of a more trusting society, do we now automatically assume that what goes on behind closed doors is not to be trusted and always capable of being corrupted? Is the CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden a hero who’s exposed the scale of state surveillance on its citizens, or a traitor who has undermined our capacity to fight terrorism? In an age when digital data about every aspect of our life is so easy to generate, how much of a right do “they” have to know about us and how much of a right do we have to know about “them?” Combative, provocative and engaging debate chaired by Michael Buerk with Claire Fox, Melanie Phillips, Anne McElvoy and Kenan Malik. Witnesses: David Leigh – The Guardian’s investigations editor until 2013, and professor of journalism at City University, London UK, Dame Pauline Neville-Jones – Former Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, Professor Gwythian Prins – Visiting professor of War Studies Buckingham University and member of the Chief of the Defence Staff’s Strategic Advisory Panel, Shami Chakrabarti – Director of Liberty.

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July 10, 2013 · 4:46 pm

Fareed Zakaria on Snowden, Civil Disobedience, and Big Data

On Sunday, Fareed Zakaria GPS began with “Fareed’s Take” on NSA leaker Edward Snowden, Civil Disobedience, and the civil liberties implications of Big Data.

Here is a description of the commentary:

“One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly and with a willingness to accept the penalty.”

That was Martin Luther King Jr.’s definition of civil disobedience. It does not appear to be Edward Snowden’s.

He has tried by every method possible to escape any judgment or punishment for his actions. Snowden has been compared to Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times. But Ellsberg did not hop on a plane to Hong Kong or Moscow once he had unloaded his cache of documents. He stood trial and faced the possibility of more than 100 years in prison before the court dismissed the case against him because of the prosecution’s mistakes and abuses of justice.

For more on this read Fareed’s TIME column

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July 3, 2013 · 10:18 am

Robotic Breakthrough

Last weekend, 60 Minutes re-ran a story about a robotic breakthrough that may revolutionize prosthetics.

Here is an introduction to the story: 

In a decade of war, more than 1,300 Americans have lost limbs on the battlefield. And that fact led the Department of Defense to start a crash program to help veterans and civilians by creating an artificial arm and hand that are amazingly human. But that’s not the breakthrough. We don’t use that word very often because it’s overused. But when you see how they have connected this robotic limb to a human brain, you’ll understand why we made an exception.


As we reported last December, to take this ultimate step they had to find a person willing to have brain surgery to explore new frontiers of what it is to be human. That person would have to be an explorer with desperate need, remarkable courage and maybe most of all, a mind that is game.


The person they chose is Jan Scheuermann, a Pittsburgh mother of two and writer, with a mind nimble enough to match wits on “The Wheel of Fortune” in 1995.

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June 9, 2013 · 11:16 pm

The Ivory Tower Half Hour: PRISM, Federal Judges, and Economic Development

Hosted by Barbara Fought, Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, this powerhouse panel of Lisa Dolak (Syracuse University College of Law), Tim Byrnes (Colgate University), Bob Greene (Cazenovia College), Tara Ross (Onondaga County Community College), and  Kristi Andersen (Syracuse University) discuss the recent revelation of the PRISM program, the selection of federal judges, and boosing economic development. 

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June 8, 2013 · 8:35 pm