Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Close Call. German Lawmakers Approve Financial Rescue Package

Nicholas Kulish of the New York Times at German Lawmakers Approve Rescue Package writes:
"It was an uncomfortably close call for [German Chancellor] Mrs. Merkel. The [German rescue] bill passed by a margin of just seven votes, with half a dozen members of her conservative coalition voting against it."
The opponents in Germany seem not to understand that this measure was necessary to counter money speculators who are trying to cash in on the present financial situation in Europe, where the problems at their core are not as severe as they are made out in the news reports.

1. Nebraska (1995) | The 10 Greatest College Football Teams of All Time | Bleacher Report

1. Nebraska (1995) | The 10 Greatest College Football Teams of All Time | Bleacher Report

Foods, Drugs and Public Health : New Safety Reporting Portal : Mandatory and Voluntary Reports

Safety Reporting Portal Launched Online:
"On May 24, 2010, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) launched a new Web site for industry to report food safety problems or adverse events involving FDA-regulated foods (except for dietary supplements and infant formula), animal feeds, and animal drugs. Consumers can also use the site to report problems with pet foods and pet treats. The new site, called the Safety Reporting Portal (SRP), provides greater and easier access to online reporting."

The Safety Reporting Portal informs as follows:
"The Safety Reporting Portal (SRP) streamlines the process of reporting product safety issues to the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Whatever your role, (manufacturer, health care professional, researcher, public health official, or concerned citizen), when you submit a safety report through this Portal, you make a vital contribution to the safety of America's food supply, medicines, and other products that touch us all....

Who Should Submit a Safety Report?

Organizations and people in certain professional roles, such as the following, may be required by law to submit safety reports under some circumstances.
  • Food Manufacturers, Processors, Packers, and Holders
  • Researchers
  • Drug Manufacturers
Others, including concerned citizens, health professionals, and public
health officials, may voluntarily submit reports if they encounter
safety issues with a product and/or unanticipated harmful
effects that they believe are related to a product.
Learn more about mandatory and voluntary reporting. "
Hat tip to beSpacific

Elena Kagan and her Law School Grades : What Could Be More Irrelevant?

At the New York Times in Kagan Struggled in First Term at Harvard Law Charlie Savage and Lisa Faye Petak discuss Kagan's law school grades. How irrelevant is that?

I recall well Professor Jack Harlan Friedenthal telling us the anecdote in my law school days that " 'A' students become professors, 'B' students go into government, and 'C' students make all the money." There are variants of this anecdote that can be found everywhere in academia, but the core idea is that grades are only one indicator of understanding, comprehension and ability. There is a good argument to be made that someone who gets only A's is overly conforming and easily subjected by compulsion. "Success" in the real world has many more components than just "graded" intelligence.

I myself got my worst grade in college in a course in which I got among the highest grades on the mid-term and final exams, based on a comparison of exam grades with my fellow students, but the professor, who I hated for his boring and outdated lectures, gave me the lower grade for lack of class participation because I refused to attend his lectures as the semester wore on -- after all, I was the one paying my tuition -- and I told him so. That is not a lack of "EQ", but I am simply someone who will not knowingly waste time, especially if I paid for something - else. The "grade" I received had nothing to do with my understanding of the subject matter.

That same principle applies to many college and law school learning situations. Grades are not always an accurate indicator of what a student is understanding as concerns the subject matter of any given course of study. Often, a grade reflects expectations -- and views on a given topic -- of the grading authority. I know someone here in Germany who submitted his Ph.D. thesis in Economics and got an 'A' from one referee and an 'F' from another referee so that a third referee had to be called in to settle the matter. From that, one knows that the topic of that Ph.D. thesis was controversial, but the grades hardly reflected subject matter "competence".

Many Nobel Prize Laureates, e.g. hated the compulsion of school and learned only what they wanted to learn, not all of what they were told to learn. Some did outstandingly well only in fields that interested them.

Albert Einstein wrote:
"In [physics], however, I soon learned to scent out that which was able to lead to fundamentals and to turn aside from everything else, from the multitude of things which clutter up the mind and divert it from the essential. The hitch in this was, of course, the fact that one had to cram all this stuff into one's mind for the examinations, whether one liked it or not. This coercion had such a deterring effect [upon me] that, after I had passed the final examination, I found the consideration of any scientific problems distasteful to me for an entire year. In justice I must add, moreover, that in Switzerland we had to suffer far less under such coercion, which smothers every truly scientific impulse, than is the case in many another locality....

It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wreck and ruin without fail. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty. To the contrary, I believe it would be possible to rob even a healthy beast of prey of its voraciousness, if it were possible, with the aid of a whip, to force the beast to devour continuously, even when not hungry, especially if the food, handed out under such coercion, were to be selected accordingly."
- "Autobiographical Notes," Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist, Paul Schilpp, ed. (1951), pp. 17-19 © 1951 by the Library of Living Philosophers, Inc
That Kagan got a 'B-' in Torts can be understood. Torts is a mess as a matter of law and many of its rules and precedents are contrary to logic and reason. The only way to get an 'A' in Torts is to learn and apply by rote learning a mass of confused law-making and contradictory court posturing to hypothetical cases governed by laws and opinions that one regards to be in error anyway. I refer here to one of my postings on punitive damages for a discussion of one aspect of torts that is -- in my opinion -- in need of a great deal of reform:

US Supreme Court Vacates Absurd Punitive Damages Award in Oregon Tobacco Case : What American Law Should Learn from European Law

U.S. Supreme Court Justices Scalia and Breyer at Capitol Hill on Twitter and Elena Kagan (AP, Huffington Post, plus Video)

Supreme Court's Scalia, Breyer Talk Twitter, Friendship With Elena Kagan During Capitol Appearance (VIDEO below)



New Lexis and Bloomberg Law as Competition for WestLawNext : Legal Research Search (LRS) Enters a New Era

Jill Schachner Chanen at the ABA Journal in Exclusive: Inside the New Westlaw, Lexis & Bloomberg Platforms already announced in January of this year the coming war in the battle for legal research dollars, as "legal research" metamorphizes into full-blown "legal research search".

3 Geeks and a Law Blog now report that "New Lexis" is in the offing as competition for the already introduced new WestLawNext, not to mention BloombergLaw.

Gabe Acevedo wrote in February at Above the Law in Did Lexis Nexis Just ‘Bing’ Westlaw? that the "New Lexis" will -- most likely -- be partnering with Microsoft by being integrated into Microsoft Office and using the Bing search engine, while market leader WestLawNext searches across its own ca. 40,000 law-related databases and Bloomberg Law offers "a legal, regulatory, and compliance research platform".

Many speak of "competition" but the practical effect will be that many law firms and larger law offices will have all three.

I remember well during my early days as an associate at Paul, Weiss et al. when there was a billing period in which I alone billed more than 50% of the firm's total time online at the firm's first online legal research service (so I was told -- I cannot verify that in documents). Online research was not yet the thing to do -- and I even got some raised eyebrows about that billed time -- then.

Always just a step ahead.
No wonder that I later taught inter alia legal research at the University of Trier Law School FFA program.

How things have changed.

Patent Wars : Unknown Companies Sue Apple, Sony, Amazon, Netflix, Wal-Mart, etc. for Patent Infringement

At ars technica Chris Foresman in Apple faces patent suits over iTunes Store, Safari, Mac OS X points to a number of recent suits that have been filed in "patent law suit friendly" Texas federal districts by unknown companies claiming patent infringement of their obscure patents by big mainstream corporations (who are sued because that's where the money is).

Up to now, the U.S. Supreme Court and the Congress have done nothing to stop the virtually criminal forum-shopping which "patent-friendly" federal District Courts have invited by turning patent venue into a ridiculous and abhorrent "venue business" which has little to do with legal justice and a lot to do with reducing this writer's respect for the court system.

That the U.S. Supreme Court in its supervisory capacity of the federal courts does not step in and prohibit these kinds of venue practices is a mystery to this writer.

Are Twitter Tweets Subject to Copyright Protection?

At Lexology, Lisa M. Martens and Alexander J.A. Garcia of Fish & Richardson PC in
Can I infringe on your tweet? examine whether tweets might be considered subject to copyright.

They suggest that exceptional truly "original" creative tweets might be copyrightable, but that 99% of the ca. 55 million tweets that go out every day deal mostly with "facts" and are thus probably not protectable by copyright, especially since their length of maximally 140 characters limits creativity greatly. As Martens and Garcia write:
"The "de minimis doctrine" discourages copyright protection if the claimed materials fail to embody a minimal level of creative authorship."

Betting on Bilski: The Supreme Court and Biotechnology Patents

Betting on Bilski: The Supreme Court and Biotechnology Patents

Bilski Rumors Suggest Delay is Caused by a Search for Court Unanimity

Is the delay in Bilski caused by the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to get as much unanimity on the decision as possible before issuing a majority opinion? See Visae Patentes: Further Bilski Rumors

Or is the decision already of longer standing and merely awaiting issuance as Justice Stevens' last opinion before retirement? That is the version we prefer as an explanation, though it is pure speculation.

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