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The Indiana Law Library Blog

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Tracking nuclear inspections

On Wednesday, May 23, diplomats from the United States and five other global powers met their Iranian counterparts in Baghdad to continue negotiations aimed at clearing the way for the international community gradually to lift economic sanctions in return for Iran’s agreement to permit independent verification of the non-military nature of its nuclear power program. Any such independent verification would be carried out by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an independent agency within the United Nations family.

For those seeking detailed information about the IAEA and its verification practices, the agency’s web site provides a wealth of information about its history, organization, and legal framework. The agency was founded in 1957 as the world’s “Atoms for Peace” organization. The secretariat is headquartered in Vienna, with research centers at various other locations around the world, and is run by a staff of 2300. As an independent international agency, the IAEA’s relationship to the United Nations is regulated by its statute and special agreement with the parent body. Its policy-making bodies include the General Conference of Member States (currently 154) and a Board of Governors, composed of 35 states chosen by the General Conference.
Nuclear inspections are carried out by the Department of Safeguards. According to the Department’s web page, the safeguards system “comprises an extensive set of technical measures by which the IAEA Secretariat independently verifies the correctness and the completeness of the declarations made by States about their nuclear material and activities.” These safeguards include procedures undertaken at sites declared by states to contain nuclear material, as well as “strengthened” procedures designed to permit the IAEA to draw conclusions “about the non-diversion of declared nuclear material and the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in that State.” Interestingly, the “strengthened” measures are carried out on the basis of a model Additional Protocol to existing safeguards agreements, which not all member states (including Iran) have ratified. Hence authority for any such strengthened procedures in the current situation will have to be the product of negotiation.
Applicable legal texts, a Safeguards Factsheet, and links to a web page dedicated to the IAEA’s relationship with Iran are available at the Department of Safeguards web site.

Hot Topic: Student Loan Interest Rate Reduction

Direct Stafford Loans, from the U.S. Department of Education’s William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program, provide loans to undergraduates to help pay for their education. The College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 has resulted in the interest rates on these loans to being lowered steadily over the last four years from 6.0% to 3.4%. On July 1, however, these interest rates are set to spike, doubling to 6.8%.

According to the White House website, this change will affect over seven million students, who will have to pay an extra $1,000 a year if no action is taken in Congress to prevent the rise before July. Preventing this change, however, comes at a cost. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that it will cost $6 billion to extend the current interest rates for one year. While Democrats and Republicans both agree it is important to keep student loan interests rates low, they are currently at odds with each other on how to pay for it. On May 8, Senate voted against the first attempt to freeze rates. It was a Democratic proposal that suggested an offset could be achieved ending the tax break for the wealthy. Republicans are countering this idea with their own proposition of attaining the money by eliminating a public health fund created by President Obama’s national health care law (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Pub.L. 111-148, 124 Stat. 119, codified as amended at scattered sections of the Internal Revenue Code and in 42 U.S.C.)

If you are interested in tracking the progress of this issue, I suggest you follow the development of both the House and Senate bills (H.R. 4628, S. 2343). You can do this through the following legislative databases:

Having the history of a bill will also inform you of any members of Congress who have given testimony or a floor statement on the issue, which you can then find in the Congressional Record, which is available through ProQuest Congressional, CQ.com, and Thomas.

By Jen Kulka (Library Intern & Guest Blogger)

Documents in the Charles Taylor Trial Available on the Web

On April 26th, Charles Taylor, former President of Liberia, was convicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone on all counts of an 11-count indictment for aiding and abetting rebels in committing war crimes and crimes against humanity during Sierra Leone’s long civil war. The trial was historically significant as the first in which a head of state was convicted by an international tribunal.

The Special Court for Sierra Leone was established in 2002 through an agreement between the United Nations and the government of Sierra Leone. Its purpose is to try those responsible for serious violations of humanitarian law and the law of Sierra Leone committed in the territory of Sierra Leone since the end of 1996. Charles Taylor is the most widely known defendant, but 13 individuals were in fact indicted in 2003, with eight trials now complete through the appellate phase. Two of the original indictments were withdrawn due to the deaths of the accused, and Taylor’s trial is now in the appellate phase at the Hague. Thus, the Special Court is nearing completion of its mandate.

For those interested in the activities of the Special Court, a great deal of documentation is available at the Court’s web site, including a transcript of the trial judgment in the Taylor case. Trial and Appeals Chamber decisions are also available for the eight cases now completed. In addition, there is a complete collection of important court documents, such as rules of procedure and evidence, the Special Court Agreement, and rules of detention, as well as annual reports of the Court and various practice directives and directions issued in the course of the Court’s proceedings.

Count Down to Tax Day!

April 17 is this year’s deadline to file your 2011 federal tax return.

Here are some last-minute resources and useful information, courtesy of USA.gov:

You can check your refund status within 72 hours of e-filing or within 4 weeks of mailing a paper return.

If you can’t file your tax return by the deadline, you can request an extension. An extension does not give you additional time to pay if you owe taxes. You’ll need to estimate the amount you owe and submit a payment in order to avoid interest and penalty charges.

Where to find recent Congressional testimony

Georgetown University Law School student Sandra Fluke has made news headlines for her recent testimony on the subject of women’s health at a hearing held by the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee on February 23rd.

Congressional committees generally hold hearings for legislative, investigative, or oversight purposes.  At a legislative hearing, witnesses are invited to provide testimony on behalf of or against legislation and the bill’s sponsor is expected to appear to defend his or her proposed legislation.

Official printed hearings contain transcripts of the proceedings of Senate and House committee meetings, member statements, question and answer sessions, and prepared statements submitted by those testifying before the committee.  Official hearings are published by the Government Printing Office and can take anywhere from three months to three years to be published (if published at all!). It is entirely up to the discretion of the congressional committee (or subcommittee) to even publish a hearing. Full Story »

Lawyers Suing Lexis and Westlaw

Two attorneys recently brought an unusual suit.  They are suing Westlaw and Lexis for providing access to their briefs, claiming copyright infringement.  One of the two lawyers, Edward White, has obtained copyright registration for some of his briefs, and plans to be representative of others like with copyright.  The other plaintiff, Kenneth Elan, has not.  They argue that the briefs are their own work, and Lexis and Westlaw make money off them.  On the other hand, briefs become publicly available during the case.  What do you think?  Are Westlaw and Lexis infringing?  For more take a look at the complaint itself, the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, the ABA Journal, the Volokh Conspiracy, or Above the Law.

SOPA Protest Tomorrow

Tomorrow is a blackout day for some important websites, including Reddit and Wikipedia.  The blackout comes as a protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act.  Google will also add an anti-SOPA link to its page tomorrow, however it will not actually go down.  The White House has said that it will not support the act.  For more on the blackout take a look at this article.  For a simplified look at SOPA, try this Washington Post Blog entry.

9/11 Remembered

Today is the ten year anniversary of a day that changed the United States forever.  Ten years later we still feel the tragedy as though it was yesterday.  All across the nation this day is being celebrated, remembered, mourned.  The local Bloomington Herald-Times ($) has information about local remembrances, nationwide ones, and recollections of Indiana Red Cross workers who were part of the aftermath.  News sources across the country have similar tributes. There is also a website for IU commemorative events.

Today is a day for remembering heroes and loved ones.  However you choose to spend this day, we hope that you have a good one.

Suing a Bad Mother

Yesterday the Chicago Tribune ran a story that has also shown up in a couple of legal blogs, like the Volokh Conspiracy.  The Daily Herald also has the story.  It’s about two adult children who, represented by their father, brought a lawsuit against their mother, Kimberly Garrity.  It is very hard to be sympathetic to most of the complaints.  They include things like sending a birthday card with no money in it, asking to have the car home at midnight, and not sending college care packages.  A look at the actual court case does hint at some more serious behavior, possibly Garrity played obvious favorites between her children, but there is still very little that the court finds to take seriously.

The court dismisses this case, and really, suing your mother because you found it embarrassing when she remarried and changed her last name is not much of a reason for a lawsuit.  But is there a situation in which it would be appropriate to sue your mother for emotional distress?  Traditionally being a bad parent could mean that your children are removed from your care, but could you also owe them monetary damages?  And where does “bad mothering” cross the line into being actionable?  The children’s father and attorney is quoted as saying that suing for bad mothering is no different from suing “for bad doctoring.”  Are they different?  And if so, how?

A Town Hall on Facebook

President Obama will be holding a town hall today—on Facebook.  At 4:45 Eastern Time there will be a streaming town hall.  All you have to do is like the White House Facebook page and then RSVP for the event.  You can submit questions, either via Facebook, or from www.whitehouse.gov/facebooktownhall.  President Obama has been active in using social media in the past, and for this event he will be broadcasting live form Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto.  More than 35,000 people have already RSVP’d.

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