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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Large earthquake strikes Bali

THE police headquarters in Denpasar where a 14-year-old Australian boy is being detained has been evacuated following a large earthquake in Bali.
The 6.1-magnitude earthquake struck off the popular tourist island at 11.16am, according to the US Geological Survey.
Tourist Andrea Eyden, who is staying in Seminyak, told PerthNow residents raced into the street after the earthquake hit.
"We have just had a big earth tremor, whole house rocked, residents raced into the streets," she said.

"(Semynak) villa has lots of new cracks but we haven't seen anywhere else ... it sure shook us up."
Channel 7 reporter Geof Parry, in Bali covering the arrest of the 14-year-old boy, told ABC radio the tremor lasted up to a minute and was widespread.
"A big tremor was felt all over Bali," he said.
"A colleague of mine in Kuta was evacuated from their hotel.
"It lasted 45 seconds to a minute and just increased and increased."
Another twitter user, @sshearmaines, described the tremor.
"Just experienced my first ever earthquake tremor or volcanic eruption! The whole villa was shaking!"
USGS reported the magnitutde 6.1 quake struck 109km southwest of Kuta at a depth of 69km.

It was not clear if the boy had been evacuated from the building, where he has been held since being arrested for allegedly buying a small amount of cannabis last Tuesday.
No tsunami warnings have been issued.


163,978 died in sparsely populated Aceh - how many would die on Bali?

It is an unfortunate fact that the very same fault line which caused the December 26th 2004 tsunami, where the Eurasia plate pushes over the Australia plate, runs just south of Bali. It is also a chilling thought that Bali's main tourist areas are just 20 minutes away from a similar tsunami should a similar earthquake occur in the wrong place. But what makes this even more worrying is that some experts in Europe have indicated such a quake may be long overdue and perhaps hastened by the extra tension created between the plates just off south Sumatra, Java and Bali by the December 2004 disaster. You see, after the December 26th quake that caused the killer tsunami across the Indian Ocean, virtually all of the aftershocks happened to the north of the main quake's epicenter. Aftershocks are where smaller quakes occur elsewhere along the main and neighboring fault lines to give off the extra tension caused there by the main quake. So it is probable that extra tension, unrelieved by aftershocks, has built up along the Sunda Trench (fault line) to the south.

Bali and potential visitors to the island have been lulled into a false sense of security by the fact the island was untouched by the December 2004 tsunami, by token of the fact it was shielded by Java and Sumatra (the large X marks the epicenter, so you can see this), and by the unsubstantiated optimism of both the Indonesian Government and tour operators / travel agents that it could never happen to Bali. There has even been talk of implementing the tsunami warning system used elsewhere in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. But this would not help Bali during a local event, as it is just 20 short minutes by tidal wave away from the fault line. This warning would only help other countries, further away get advanced warning.
Anyway, there would be no siren alarm needed if a major quake happened along the Sunda Trench just south of Bali. Anyone and everyone on Bali would feel such a quake and how. The damage to buildings erected without any strict building codes would likely be considerable. The irony being, those that were flexible enough to survive the quake would almost certainly not have the constructed strength, by default, to withstand an incoming tsunami if they are near the beach. Anyway, even if we assume there was not utter devastation from the quake, getting away from any resulting tidal wave would be a major problem for people in the low lying tourist areas close to the ocean. You see, the largest wave that hit Aceh (nearest to the quake) on December 26th 2005, was some 30 meters (100 feet) high. Tidal waves as high as 60 meters have been known. To put this in proportion, a London double decker bus is 4.2 meters high. For many buildings, 30 meters equates to 7 storys / floors. It is perhaps ironic, due to Bali's regulations for building heights, that no building can be higher than a coconut palm tree. The maximum height of a coconut palm tree is 30 meters, although most are much smaller of course.
Experts in Europe have predicted further quakes in the area, and were confirmed as accurate by further quakes along this fault line on the 28th March (8.7 on the Richter scale) and 8th June (6.3 on the Richter scale). Optimists will point out that it takes a large and very specific kind of quake under the sea to generate a tsunami. A quake above 9 on the Richter scale where the sea bed is raised by 15 meters or more. Unfortunately, the Sunda trench is a fault line that causes mostly vertical movements in the earth's crust, as one plate rises above another. Other fault lines, as you can see on the above image, such as the Sumatra fault (which runs parallel to the Sunda Trench fault) are lateral faults. That is they move in opposite direction and grate against each, not move above / beneath each other. So whatever magnitude of quake happens along the Sunda trench will almost certainly result in the sea bed being raised. And the fact is, the Sunda trench is a major fault line and well capable of producing 9+ Richter scale quakes.
Some may well say this page is not fair on the Balinese / Indonesians, as it is not something they are guilty of or can easily solve. But we believe the Indonesian Authorities should produce Earthquake, Volcano (Bali has 2 active ones) and Tsunami education information sheets for tourists. More stringent building codes would certainly help too. So in lieu of this, how can you avoid and / or protect yourself and earthquakes while on Bali?
First, find a strong structure such as a heavy table or doorway to protect yourself under. Do not run out into the street unless you have no choice, as you are more likely to be injured from falling glass and debris. Once the quake is over, immediately move to a safe area if you can to avoid the risk of gas leaks, further quakes, etc. Avoid beach areas or areas with weak soil, as strong quakes may turn these into quicksand. If you suspect the quake was out to sea and significant enough, try to make your way to higher land / inland to avoid any resultant tsunamis.
Tsunamis / Tidal Waves
To lessen your chances of being affected by a tsunami, stay at a hotel at least 50 meters (160 feet) above sea level or 3.2 kilometers (2 miles) inland from the beach. Or stay in a beach area sheltered by land mass from the potential wave source. Although these sheltered beach areas are likely to experience some flooding if the land mass is not that great; as what happened on Koh Phi Phi and Koh Phuket in Thailand, the sheltered side of the islands experienced some rising water). The main tourist areas in Bali most at risk are Jimbaran Bay, Kuta, Legian, Seminyak, Tanjung Benoa, Nusa Dua, Sanur and Candi Dasa. As they have low lying beach areas which directly face the Sunda trench.
If you believe a tsunami is imminent, chose whichever is the most available option;
a) Move as quickly as possible inland and / or to higher ground.
b) Get to the top of the tallest building you are able or climb the nearest tree.
Please do not become a victim or part of the problem. Read:
Bali Tourism (Should I go, where, and how do I avoid adding to the problem / putting myself / my family at risk in Bali?).


Large Earthquake Strikes off Indonesia’s Bali

An earthquake of 6.2 magnitude struck off the Indonesian resort island of Bali on Thursday, the US geological survey said.

The epicenter of the quake was about 160 kilometers southwest of the island’s main town of Denpasar. There were no immediate reports of damage or casualties.         

There are reports of moderate to strong shaking in southern Bali, including the capital Denpasar.

The quake was felt as far away as Surabaya, the capital of East Java.

Indonesia's Metrology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BKMG) said the earthquake had a 6.8 magnitude and was 10 kilometers deep and 143 kilometers southwest of Nusa Dua.

The BKMG said there was no risk of a tsunami.

Reuters, JG


Indonesia's Bali rattled by large quake

BALI, Indonesia (AP) - A powerful earthquake hit waters off Indonesia's resort island of Bali, sending people fleeing homes and hotels in panic. No tsunami alert was issued.
The U.S. Geological Survey put the preliminary magnitude of Thursday's quake at 6.0 and said it was centered 60 miles (100 kilometers) southwest of the island.
It struck 36 miles (60 kilometers) beneath the ocean floor.
Indonesia's geological agency put the quake's magnitude at 6.8.
The reason for the discrepancy was not immediately clear.


Indonesia's Bali rattled by large quake

BALI, Indonesia (AP) — A powerful earthquake struck off Indonesia's popular resort island of Bali on Thursday, sending people fleeing from their homes and hotels in panic. No tsunami alert was issued, and there were no immediate reports of injuries.
Some roofs collapsed, and witnesses told local radio and television stations they saw cracks in the walls of buildings.
The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake had a preliminary magnitude of 6.0 was centered 60 miles (100 kilometers) southwest of the island. It struck 36 miles (60 kilometers) beneath the ocean floor.
"It knocked me off my motorcycle," said one resident, Miftahul Chusna.
Indonesia straddles a series of fault lines that makes the vast island nation prone to volcanic and seismic activity.
A giant quake off the country on Dec. 26, 2004, triggered a tsunami in the Indian Ocean that killed 230,000 people, half of them in Indonesia's westernmost province of Aceh.


Report of Special Committee on Foreign Law Schools

Seeking Approval under ABA Standards

This Special Committee was appointed on June 10, 2010 and asked to
report to the Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the
Bar at its August 2010 meeting on the policy questions surrounding the
question whether law schools located outside the United States or its
territories, which have modeled their educational programs on the American
model, should be allowed to seek accreditation under the governing Section
Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools. Notably, this
inquiry follows the thorough July 15, 2009 Report of the Special Committee
on International Issues, chaired by Justice Elizabeth Lacy. That report
examined the impact of international issues on legal education and
admissions to the bar, as well as the question of the various ways in which
the Section should respond to those pressures, including the accreditation of
non-U.S. law schools.1

After a brief introduction, this report falls into three parts. The first
discusses the policy implications and justifications for expanding the
accreditation role of the ABA Section to encompass law schools located
outside the United States or its territories. The second considers what
special rules or concerns might need to be addressed should the Council
determine to proceed to consider applications coming from such law schools.
Because of the limited time frame in which this report was composed, no
attempt is made to provide a detailed assessment of exactly how to address
the possible concerns raised or to set out any special procedural Rules or
Standards that should be adopted in response to such concerns. Instead,
this latter section is designed to inform the Council of the kinds of matters

a result of the 2009 report the Council agreed to
the appointment of a standing International Issues Committee,
which currently is being chaired by Professor Dennis Lynch. That
committee is examining issues related to the use of an LL.M.
degree as a qualifying credential for foreign trained lawyers to
be able to sit for a state bar examination in the United States
and whether special bar-admissions consideration also is merited
for graduates in common law countries that follow a graduate law
school model similar to that used in the United States. Thus,
this report omits examination of those issues.


that need further decisions or adjustments should it be determined to move
forward on the question of accrediting non-U.S. territorially based law
schools. Finally, the report concludes with a series of recommendations.


There appears to be nothing in the current ABA Standards and Rules
of Procedure that specifically addresses whether a law school seeking
provisional or full approval must be located in the United States.
Nonetheless, the Preface to the Standards notes that "The Council grants
provisional and full ABA approval to law schools located in the United States,
its territories, and possessions." (p. vi) And the Bylaws of the Section
state: "The purposes of this Section as stated in its Mission Statement
are ... to provide a fair, effective, and efficient accrediting system for
American law schools." This quoted language certainly accurately describes
the historic role of the Section's accreditation function. The question is
whether it should remain so limited in the future.

The 2009 Report details how the increasing globalization of law
practice has placed greater pressures on the state supreme courts and bar
admissions administrators, as well as clients and foreign lawyers, to develop
better information for making determinations as to the admission of foreign
lawyers to the practice of law in this country. It notes that overwhelmingly
the accreditation function of the Section informs the state supreme courts
and bar administrators about the quality of the educational experience of an
applicant so that expanding that function to include foreign educational
experiences could be an important way to provide the type of information
needed. Thus, it concludes:

Probably the most compelling justification for why the scope of
the Section's current accreditation efforts should be expanded is
that in doing so the Section would be able to provide state
supreme courts with a basis for deciding whether a person
holding one of the degrees under these programs should be
permitted to sit for their bar examinations and perhaps other
conditions. (p. 25)

It also notes that
U.S. and for Americans
cooperation so that the
educational fitness of

the increased pressures for foreign practice in the
to practice abroad will continue regardless of U.S.
Section should help to ensure the intellectual and
bar applicants to the extent their educational


backgrounds justify ABA accreditation. Finally, it concludes on this issue that
any expansion of the ABA accreditation function to accommodate these
globalization pressures should be limited to foreign law schools modeling
their programs under and meeting fully the prevailing ABA standards and
that no specialized, separate accreditation system should be established for
foreign law schools generally. Rather, in exercising its existing accreditation
function, "the Section should abandon any notion of territorial restrictions in
accreditation." (p. 28)

This committee's charge, therefore, is to examine more carefully that
conclusion, including what its implications may be.

I. Policy Considerations

A. Reasons supporting expansion of ABA accreditation to schools
located outside the United States and its territories

(1) As described in the 2009 Report, such an expansion would provide
additional guidance for state supreme courts when lawyers trained outside
the United States seek to be allowed to sit for a U.S. bar examination. Since
that is a key function of the accreditation process generally, the expansion
would be consistent with the historic role of the Section in aiding the state
supreme courts in the bar admissions area.

(2) If the Section does nothing to expand accreditation to schools
located outside the U.S., pressures to find other routes to U.S. licensure will
continue to increase and two negative things will occur. First, states will be
forced to make decisions about what education is good enough to allow
foreign-trained individuals to sit for the bar exam and some states
undoubtedly will authorize lawyers to enter the U.S. legal profession with
weaker and less reliable training than is provided in ABA approved law
schools. Second, because these decisions will be made from state to state,
there will not be just one standard for evaluating educational credentials,
but many of them, and that will result in a lack of clarity and consistency.
These effects are harmful to the profession and the public. They also will put
more pressure on bar examiners to raise bar-passage requirements since
the bar exam will be the primary means to ensure minimal quality and this
will have adverse consequences for the graduates of many U.S. law schools
as well. Thus, if the ABA Section is irrelevant in decision-making concerning
the realities of the globalization of the legal profession, it will undermine its


historic role as a leader on these matters. Yet inaction will have no impact
on whether more schools located abroad will open, as they will simply find
other routes for their graduates to enter the profession.

(3) Statistics produced by the National Conference of Bar Examiners
show that every year between 4,000 and 5,000 foreign-trained law
graduates take a bar exam in the United States, mostly in New York and
California. Although some of these foreign applicants complete a J.D. degree
as an avenue of admission, most do not. Some of the non-J.D. graduates
have additional education in the U.S. (typically a 20-hour LL.M. program),
but some do not even have that educational exposure. Thus, most of these
foreign applicants for bar admission do not have the benefit of a J.D.
program meeting ABA Standards, and it can be argued that a J.D. degree
from a foreign law school that teaches a U.S. law curriculum and meets ABA
Standards is preferable to the current situation.

(4) If we believe that the American legal education model is the "gold
standard" for legal education world-wide and that well-trained lawyers are
critical to the global economy, then a willingness to expand accreditation to
schools embracing the American model is an appropriate way to improve the
training of lawyers globally and contribute to the modern economy and the
international legal profession.

(5) We are in a period in which different legal systems are converging
as part of the expanding global economy. Expanding accreditation to schools
outside U.S. borders that focus on U.S. law will allow these schools to be in
a position potentially to develop cutting-edge curricula to address these
trends and the Section thus will be in a position to be an active player in the
dialogue about how to develop high quality legal training for the global

(6) Expanding accreditation would clarify that ABA approved U.S. law
schools can open branch campuses to further the various international
programs that they now conduct and therefore would provide another
opportunity for U.S. law schools to compete internationally in the legal
market place. Failing to make such a clarification raises questions about the
status of such branches.

B. Reasons against expansion of ABA accreditation to schools located
outside the United States and its territories


(1) This development could result in enlarging practice opportunities
for foreign lawyers in the United States because graduates of foreign ABA
approved schools then would be eligible to sit for a bar exam without any
reciprocity or parallel opportunities provided by other countries for U.S.

(2) If the foreign school is government-sponsored, political difficulties
could arise if the Council failed to approve an application for accreditation
and, depending on the issues presented, this could create problems or
pressures both within the larger ABA and potentially with the Department of

(3) Foreign students who never spend any time studying in the United
States will not have the benefit of the acculturation process that naturally
occurs when study is accomplished here and that provides context for
understanding the development of U.S. law and professional ethics.

II. Concerns and the Need for Special Rules

As indicated earlier, if the accreditation function is to be expanded it is
recommended that it only be done for the limited purpose of approving law
schools that meet all the ABA accreditation Standards. However, because
the current Standards were premised on an understanding that the law
schools being accredited were within the United States several matters that
most would see as inherent in a law school program operating here may
need to be made explicit, rather than implicit, to avoid any confusion when
the Standards are applied outside the U.S. The following discussion
highlights what we have identified as basic assumptions about programs
currently approved under the standards, and the need to clarify that these
assumptions are correct. It also raises other practical concerns that need to
be considered.

(1) The Standards do not expressly note that U.S. law must be the
dominant focus of the curriculum, although that clearly is the case currently
in ABA approved schools. For a school outside the country, we need to
clarify this assumption that U.S. law must be the primary core of the
educational program to satisfy the obligation to prepare students who are
able to practice in the U.S.. Standard 302(a)(1), which requires substantial
instruction in "the substantive law generally regarded as necessary to


effective and responsible participation in the legal profession" should be
read to mean "U.S. substantive law" and in the "U.S. legal profession".
Similarly, Standard 302(a)(5), which requires substantial instruction in "the
history, goals, structure, values, rules and responsibilities of the legal
profession and its members" should be read to mean the "U.S. legal
profession and its members".

(2) The Standards dealing with faculty speak in terms of the need to
have a well-qualified faculty. While many U.S. based law schools today have
faculty members who are not primarily trained in U.S. law (as part of the
internationalization of their curricula), or are not even trained in law itself,
but in some other discipline, the core curriculum generally relies on faculty
who have J.D. degrees. We need to make clear that the faculty at schools
located abroad must be predominantly U.S. trained law faculty holding J.D.
degrees from ABA-approved law schools to ensure that they are in the best
position to offer quality instruction in U.S. law.

(3) In order to ensure that the training abroad is comparable to that in
the U.S. and that graduates of such programs are able to practice in the
U.S., English language facility, both spoken and written, is critical. Thus, it is
important to have the curriculum taught predominantly in English. We
recognize that the ABA already accredits law schools in Puerto Rico that
teach solely in Spanish. While we do not know the history surrounding that
allowance, we would note that Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory and the basis of
the law in the federal courts there is U.S. common and statutory law.
Further, the capacity of the Section to accredit schools regardless of
language is minimal, if not nonexistent, and we would treat the Puerto Rico
schools as an historic anomaly--one that should not be repeated as we look
to the future of training lawyers in U.S. law for a globalized practice.

(4) In countries that have a very different social and governmental
system, there is a concern about how we can ensure that the students
studying at the foreign law school have been introduced to the social and
political context in which U.S. law evolves since it is unlikely their
undergraduate training would have exposed them to our system. Although
many foreign students now coming to the U.S., both for J.D. programs and
for LL.M. programs, have the same lack of background, their study in the
U.S. should help to eliminate that gap. But there may be a need to require
some basic education in the American governmental system for foreign
students that we simply assume most U.S. students obtain prior to entering
law school.


(5) If the accreditation function is expanded to schools outside U.S.
borders, a suggestion has been raised that there should be a clear policy
providing that the Section can refuse to review an application, as well as on
what grounds. We see the issues that might invoke the possible exercise of
such discretion as falling into two types. First, and easiest, would be when a
school is located in a country that is on a U.S. "Banned List" (today, North
Korea, Cuba, and Iran) so that travel to its location is not possible.
Necessarily, those schools should be rejected out of hand (not that they are
likely to apply). However, there are various standards that cover "softer
issues" that reflect the U.S. cultural and legal values that may be
inconsistent with at least the traditional values in some other countries.
These include, for example, the standards on academic freedom, on faculty
governance by the full-time faculty, and on nondiscrimination and diversity.
It should be determined whether the Section should have the right to reject
an applicant school when it has factually-based concerns that those values
will not be honored. Additionally, the factors or procedures that should
govern the exercise of that discretion need to be clarified.

(6) A concern was raised as to whether the expansion of the
accreditation function outside U.S. borders might have any implications for
the Council's recognition by the U.S. Department of Education as the
national accrediting body for U.S. law schools. Preliminary indications from
our outside Counsel indicate the answer is no.

(7) A concern was raised that if the issue of increased opportunities
for entry of foreign trained lawyers into the U.S. legal profession is one on
which different sections and individuals in the larger ABA are deeply divided,
then proceeding with this expansion could create additional contentious
issues for the Section within the ABA. In fact, however, leadership of the
ABA in the last several years has been very globally-minded.

(8) There is some question whether the expansion of the accreditation
function outside U.S. borders will create a potentially undue burden on the
Section's staff and volunteers to meet the additional workload. To the extent
that greater efforts are required for these types of inspections and reviews,
we believe that all those costs should be passed on to the applicant schools
and inspection and accreditation fees adjusted accordingly. Along similar
lines, if it is agreed to go forward with this expansion of accreditation, it is
naturally difficult to decide all the issues that may emerge until one has
some experience. Thus, it may be appropriate, at least in the early years,


for some special pre-screening of applicant schools before a site-inspection
team is assembled and sent in order to avoid misunderstandings and the
expense of time and money if the applicant school is far from being in

III. Recommendations

Based on the preceding discussion, the Committee makes four

(1) The Council should authorize the Accreditation Project to go
forward with considering the accreditation of law schools outside the United
States borders that meet all of the prevailing Section Accreditation
Standards and Rules of Procedure for the policy reasons discussed in Part I.

(2) The Council should request the Standards Review Committee in its
ongoing comprehensive review to look at all the Standards to ensure that
none of them unintentionally sets up barriers to this geographic expansion
and to remove any such barriers that do not implicate the substantive
standards ensuring a quality legal education.

(3) The Council should consider drafting a policy statement to clarify
the matters highlighted in Part II that deal with the underlying assumptions
in the current standards, such as that the curriculum is primarily focused on
U.S. law, the instruction is primarily in English, and the faculty are primarily
J.D. graduates of ABA approved law schools.

(4) If the Council agrees with the preceding recommendations,
recognizing that it is very difficult to consider in a vacuum all the issues that
may arise when the Section has not before entered this arena, the Council
should consider whether it might be advisable to allow a site visit on a trial
basis of a foreign applicant school that wants to see whether it can meet all
the standards.

Respectfully submitted,

Mary Kay Kane, Chair

Elizabeth Lacy

Dennis Lynch






The first annual International Junior Faculty Forum was held at Stanford Law School on
October 17 and 18th, 2008. Organized by Professors William P. Alford and Lawrence M. Friedman,
it was sponsored jointly by the Harvard and Stanford Law Schools. Ten papers were selected for
presentation, out of a large number of applicants. A panel of twenty distinguished senior scholars from
the United States and several other nations was involved in the final selection process. At the Forum
itself, each of the selected papers had two commentators, drawn from the panel of international senior
scholars. The papers represented a wide range of subjects and disciplines, and, together with the senior
scholars, represented more than a dozen different countries.

The stated purpose of the Forum was to stimulate the international exchange of ideas and
research among members of the legal academy, to encourage and further the work of younger scholars
in the international community, and to surmount barriers between scholars of different traditions and
cultures, in the interest of the development of legal scholarship on a transnational basis. In this regard,
the consensus of the participants was that the Forum was successful, that it made an excellent start.

The sponsoring schools, Harvard and Stanford law schools, now announce plans for the second
International Junior Faculty Forum. Harvard will be the host school in 2009. The dates fixed for the
Forum are November 6-8, 2009, at the Harvard Law School, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Junior scholars whose home institution is outside the United States and who have held an
academic position for less than seven years, as of 2009, or whose last degree was earned less than ten
years earlier than 2009 and are not U.S. citizens, are invited to apply for the 2009 session. Students
currently enrolled in a degree program in a U.S. law school are ineligible. The first step in applying
is to submit an abstract of no more than five pages that lays out the major argument of the paper
that he/she would submit, states what method the scholar will pursue to advance that argument, and
indicates the paper’s potential contribution to scholarship. The abstract must be in English and must
be submitted by January 15, 2009 electronically to both Juliet Bowler (
and Mary Tye ( with a subject line of International Junior Faculty Forum.
Additionally, the abstract must contain the author’s name, home institution and paper title.

On the basis of these abstracts, the sponsoring schools will invite the electronic submission
of full papers by May 25, 2009. The paper may be on any legally relevant subject, and may utilize
any legally relevant approach, quantitative or qualitative, sociological, anthropological, historical, or
economic, on the role and function of law and legal systems in the modern world, or in the past. The
papers will be reviewed by an international committee of senior legal scholars, representing many
different countries and many different styles and approaches. Approximately ten of the papers will be
selected for presentation at the conference. As before, each paper will have two commentators, drawn
from the international committee of scholars.

The sponsoring schools will cover expenses of travel, including airfare, lodging, and food, for
each participant. Questions should be directed to Juliet Bowler (


The Constitutional Status of Customary International Law

Section on Constitutional Law
Panel on the U.S. Constitution in Global Perspective
San Francisco, CA, January 6, 2011

The Constitutional Status of Customary International Law

Michael D. Ramsey
Professor of Law, University of San Diego Law School

In my remarks, I will explore from a constitutional perspective the aphorism,
most prominently associated with the case of The Paquete Habana, that “international
law is part of our law.

Unlike treaties, customary international law receives little mention in the
Constitution – the only direct reference to it is in Article I, Section 8, giving Congress the
power to define and punish it. This relative silence has led one group of academic
commentators to argue that (despite Paquete Habana) customary international law is not
part of our law until Congress (or state law) makes it so. Another group of academic
commentators sharply disagrees, and instead sees customary international law
permeating the entire constitutional system: as part of “our law” – that is, U.S. federal
law – it should trump state law, provide federal jurisdiction, provide a federal cause of
action, and perhaps constrain federal executive and even congressional power.

This debate in modern practice focuses in particular on the viability of claims
brought under the federal Alien Tort Statute, which gives federal courts jurisdiction over
claims brought by aliens for torts committed in violation of international law, but does
not provide a cause of action for such claims, or otherwise identify the sorts of claims
that may be brought. The Supreme Court wrestled inconclusively with this statute in
Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain in 2004, and it seems likely to return to the Court sometime
soon (although the Court denied two high-profile cert. petitions last year in the Talisman
and Pfizer cases).

To engage in some shameless self-promotion, I have a co-edited book (with
David Sloss of Santa Clara Law School and William Dodge of Hastings Law School)
coming out later this year that examines the Supreme Court’s historical use of
international law in its decisions. What emerges from this study regarding this issue is
that courts historically pursued a middle ground in which customary international law
formed a background source of law when domestic sources run out.

First, courts historically applied customary international law as a rule of decision
where enacted state and federal law did not apply; this occurred principally in overseas


cases, like Paquete Habana itself, which involved the seizure of fishing boats in a
blockade of Cuba. Although Paquete Habana was decided in 1900, it followed a
practice dating to the Court’s early decisions in Glass v. The Sloop Betsey and Talbot v.
Jansen in the 1790s. Second, courts interpreting ambiguous statutes used what came to
be called the Charming Betsy canon – named after an 1804 case – to construe such
statutes not to violate customary international law (while acknowledging that a clear
statute would take precedence).

Thus courts historically rejected the view that customary international law must
be enacted to have force in domestic law. But courts gave customary international law
only a modest role. We found no cases of customary international law overriding
enacted state or federal law, conveying federal jurisdiction, or otherwise operating as
supreme federal law. Thus courts historically followed neither of the contending modern
academic views.

Despite the Constitution’s silence on customary international law, this modest
approach has a constitutional basis, although courts have not made it explicit. Eighteenth-
century English courts used the law of nations, as unwritten international law was then
called, as a rule of decision in common law. And they construed ambiguous statutes not
to deviate from common law or to operate unreasonably (which Alexander Hamilton
successfully argued in the 1784 case Rutgers v. Waddington included that statutes not
conflict with the law of nations). The U.S. Constitution, written against the background
of English judicial practice, gave U.S. courts “the judicial Power” in Article III, Section 1
– a power that in eighteenth-century terms thus encompassed the modest judicial use of
customary international law familiar from English law.

As a result, neither the Glass/Talbot line of cases directly applying unenacted
customary international law, nor the Charming Betsy interpretive rule is constitutionally
mandated: they are in a sense sub-constitutional law. But they are constitutionally
permitted, as part of U.S. courts’ textual “judicial Power” and as a matter of longstanding
judicial practice dating to the early post-ratification period.

In conclusion, returning to modern debates, the basic challenge of the Alien Tort
Statute seems less formidable. The Supreme Court tied itself in knots over the question
to what extent U.S. courts can entertain suits based solely on the unenacted law of
nations, ultimately finding – for unclear reasons – that courts could do so in narrow
circumstances; despite, or perhaps because of, the Court’s treatment in Sosa, that
controversy continues unabated. The textual/historical approach suggests it is not so hard
a question as the Court made it appear. Where enacted law does not apply, there should
be no constitutional barrier to courts applying customary international law (if they
otherwise have jurisdiction to hear the case). The power does not need to come from
Congress, because it comes from Article III. But courts are not obligated to do so, so the
caution the Sosa Court expressed is also constitutionally justified.

At the same time, the textual/historical approach suggests that broader assertions
of the constitutional status of customary international law are – like the very narrow ones


– more difficult to sustain. Making customary international law supreme over state (or
federal) law requires reading it into the Supremacy Clause (or giving it supreme status
despite its absence from that clause) and according it a status that judicial decisions
historically did not give it. Making customary international law part of federal law for
jurisdictional purposes requires reading it into the “laws of the United States” in Article
III, Section 2 in a way that nineteenth-century cases seemed not to accept. Even making
it binding on the executive branch, perhaps a claim more firmly grounded in text and
history, requires an extrapolation from the take-care clause and rests only on dicta rather
than actual holdings in early cases. At minimum, these positions remain contested – but
their contested status should not undermine the more modest judicial use of customary
international law that does have firm textual and historical grounding.


Note: In the question/comment section, the following important points were raised –

First, one question pressed on the claim that courts’ application of customary
international law is permitted but not required. My answer is that Article III, Section
1 – like Article I, Section 1 and Article II, Section 1 – is a grant of power not an
obligation. Except perhaps in a few unusual and narrow circumstances, Congress has no
constitutional obligation to use its Article I, Section 1 power to regulate; the President’s
obligation to enforce the law arises from the take care clause, not from the grant of
executive power in Article II, Section 1. Similarly courts have no Article III, Section 1
obligation to exercise their power. Courts do have (like other U.S. actors) an obligation
to uphold the Constitution and, by extension, laws and treaties made pursuant to the
Constitution’s grants of power. But customary international law, in contrast, is not a
constitutional obligation.

A second question asked about the relevance of the Court’s 1938 decision in Erie RR.
Co. v Tompkins, which declared that all law applied in federal courts must be state law,
enacted federal law or constitutional law. This decision raises difficult questions for
customary international law, because it purported to abolish the category of general
common law, previously applied by the Supreme Court under the 1842 decision Swift
v. Tyson. Because nineteenth century courts understood their application of customary
international law as part their application of general common law, Erie’s abolition of
that category appeared to leave customary international law’s status much in doubt. My
answer here – while endorsing fully this account of Erie – is to urge us not to read too
much into that decision. (This was a mistake the Supreme Court made in Sosa, and it
rendered that decision more difficult than it needed to be). Erie was not a case about
customary international law at all (it involved a railway accident in Pennsylvania, with no
international parties). Moreover, Erie was about the federal courts’ ability (or inability)
to depart from applicable state law, whether enacted law or common law; it concluded
federal courts generally lacked that ability. But the modest application of customary
international law, as reflected in Glass, Talbot, Paquete Habana and today in most Alien
Tort suits, does not involve displacement of state law, because these cases arise where


state law does not apply. Thus it seems a mistake to try to coax out of Erie a definitive
holding with respect to a legal and factual situation remote from anything the Erie Court

Finally, a comment suggested that customary international law could be called
a “resource” to which U.S. courts could turn to resolve cases when other more directly
binding sources of domestic law were inconclusive; I agreed that this phrase aptly
captured the way courts historically had viewed it.



International Law in the U.S. Supreme Court: Continuity and Change (David L.
Sloss, Michael D. Ramsey and William S. Dodge, eds., Cambridge Univ. Press 2011)
(forthcoming), Chapters 1, 3, 7 and 11.

Curtis A. Bradley & Jack L. Goldsmith, Foreign Relations Law: Cases and Materials (3rd
ed. Aspen 2008), Chapter 7.

Michael D. Ramsey, The Constitution’s Text in Foreign Affairs (Harvard Univ. Press
2007), Chapters 17-18.

Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain, 542 U.S. 692 (2004)
Erie RR. Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64 (1938)
The Paquete Habana, 175 U.S. 677, 700 (1900)
Swift v. Tyson, 41 U.S. 1 (1842)
Talbot v. Jansen, 3 U.S. 133 (1795)
Glass v. The Sloop Betsey, 3 U.S. 6 (1794)
Murray v. The Schooner Charming Betsy, 6 U.S. 64 (1804)

Rutgers v. Waddington (New York Mayor’s Court, 1784), reprinted in Julius Goebel, Jr.,
The Law Practice of Alexander Hamilton: Documents and Commentary, vol. 1, pp. 282-
419 (1964).

William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, vol. 4, pp. 66-73 (1769).


US Immigration Lawyers

US Immigration Lawyers
If you have any immigration needs, Margaret Wong & Associates Co., LPA can help. Margaret Wong, our founder and managing attorney, is a nationally recognized leader in immigration law. Under her guidance, we have grown very quickly into one of the premier immigration law firms in the nation, while never sacrificing the welcoming, warm atmosphere of our law offices.  Margaret Wong and Associates Co., LPA is a national practice and we represent clients throughout the United States.
Tens of Thousands of Past CasesOur US immigration lawyers combine for more than 60 years of experience. We have advised and counseled tens of thousands of immigrants on green cards (permanent residency), deportation, citizenship, derivative citizenship, family visas, “aging out,” and much more.
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For evidence of our experience, read about our successes in areas like asylum, federal court appeals, J-1 waivers, marriage to a U.S. citizen, and much more.
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Insurance Lawyer Offers Advice on Redemptions Offers for Future Insurance Benefits From Insurance Companies

Photo of Steven M. Gursten
Here’s my short answer on what to do when insurance companies start offering money to settle your No-Fault insurance rights into the future — especially if you have suffered a traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, or a disc injury such as a herniated disc that may require future back surgery or neck surgery — DON’T DO IT!
Now, here’s a longer answer: Michigan No Fault auto insurance allows lifetime medical care and treatment for personal injury caused by auto accidents (note this may change later this year with pending legislation).  Auto insurers in Michigan, and in most states, don’t like to keep insurance claims open.  Because of the desire to close files, often an insurance company claims adjusters will often offer you a future “lump sum” settlement amount to redeem, or buy out, your right to future no fault benefits so they can close your insurance claim.
I have many claims adjusters tell me they receive a year-end bonus based upon how many claims they can close - i.e. how many cases they can buy-out and redeem people’s future claims.
This financial incentive for the insurance companies to close claims and for adjusters to make supervisors happy leads many  insurance companies and adjusters to cross the line. Some adjusters have implied to my clients that they will  “cut-off” their future insurance benefits, so why not settle the claim now? There are some insurance companies today that are very aggressive about settling out and redeeming people’s future rights.
Understand that insurance company scare tactics, such as “speculating openly” on the phone with you that it is probably time to send you to an insurance medical exam (IME), are meant to intimidate people and lead people to redeem their No-Fault insurance futures.
To redeem or not to redeem, that is the question…
As long as proper compensation is being paid for what looks like a well-resolved injury where there is little need for future medical treatment, there is nothing wrong with settling out your futures.  Our own insurance lawyers have been able to redeem tens of thousands in extra dollars for our own clients in these limited and very fact-specific circumstances.
What a No-Fault lawyer shouldn’t do is to settle out futures on certain types of personal injury cases - such as traumatic brain injuries from car accidents, or serious spinal cord injuries. The risk is too great. Our own insurance lawyers always advise strongly against redemption of No-Fault in these types of injury cases.  With TBI, your risk of a catastrophic future skyrockets relative to the normal population, as people develop dementia, early-onset Alzheimers, Parkinson’s and serious clinical depression.  With any type of herniated disk or spinal cord injury, the risk is that an already injured disk could further rupture, causing the need for extremely expensive spinal surgery that far outweighs the extra money that can be made by redeeming No Fault benefits.
I like to say to my own clients when the subject comes up: broken arm, OK.  Broken brain, not OK.

So when the subject of redeeming future No-Fault insurance benefits comes up,  it’s best to discuss your future prognosis and medical care and treatment needs with your doctors, and evaluate the insurance company’s settlement offer with an experienced Michigan No Fault insurance lawyer to see if the redemption offer is fair or unfair.
And never be intimidated by insurance company adjuster threats - either overt or implied.
Why auto accident injury victims should not settle or redeem No-Fault insurance claims on brain injury cases
Remember, any offer to settle futures will often be at a healthy discount to what they might have to pay in the future.  Without an experienced No-Fault insurance lawyer, I’ve seen some insurance companies literally offer mere pennies on the dollar in very serious injury claims.
And since Michigan has no bad faith insurance laws or punitive damages, these insurance companies can get away with doing this. Some of the things that I have heard claims adjusters say to settle out futures on No-Fault are shocking. But although these remarks would be completely illegal in most states, they are not here.
If the amount of  money the insurance company is offering is extremely small, and the risk of you having future medical issues that require care is likely, I would strongly suggest that on a risk/reward basis, it is almost never worth giving up your right under Michigan’s No Fault insurance laws of being able to receive lifetime future medical care and treatment, and No-Fault attendant care for a serious medical injury.
Remember, it isn’t how you are right now that should be the sole factor in making your decision to settle or redeem future No-Fault benefits. It is what the future holds or may hold that should be the guiding factor behind your decision. Using my example above on brain injury, since it is so common in truck accidents and car accidents,  even though a traumatic brain injury may be well-managed at present, it is the long-term consequences and the need for lifetime medical care and attendant care that is critical. I recently wrote a blog about the connection between TBI and dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Spinal injuries, such as herniated discs are another great example.  A herniated disk can be medically stable at present, but many will require expensive treatment and back surgery or neck surgery at some point in the future.
Remember, you always have the option of hiring an injury lawyer and filing a No-Fault PIP lawsuit against your auto insurance company, so do not be intimidated by veiled threats from your adjuster that your benefits may be cut-off if you don’t take the offer.
When you should consider settling a case for futures on No-Fault
Every case is fact-specific, so it is always best to consult with an insurance attorney before you settle a No-Fault insurance case for futures. I should note that I have served as an expert witness on several legal malpractice cases now, mostly with lawyers who seemed solely motivated by making a few extra dollars than the welfare of their clients. That being said, here are a few examples of when you might want to consider settling and redeeming your future No-Fault claim:
  • If you have, and know you will have excellent health insurance in the future that can cover future medical bills and treatment (make sure there is no exclusion for past auto accidents).
  • If your injury has fully resolved.
A well-healed fracture is a good example. Usually the risk of future serious problems is very low.  But be careful, because even in this example, if you lose your job and your health coverage with it, you could one day need your No-Fault PIP benefits to pay for medical care if you suffer serious post-traumatic arthritis, develop Reflexive Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) or other problems - even from that seemingly simple and innocuous bone fracture.
If you think you have specific facts that justify it, discuss your injury with your doctors and the amount being offered with an  experienced injury attorney who is very familiar with No-Fault beforehand.
Remember, in the majority of injury and accident cases, it just isn’t worth it to redeem futures, especially when the insurance companies are offering literally pennies on the dollar.
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Check out my Michigan Auto Lawyers Blog for related information including:
Michigan Personal Injury Attorney Steven Gursten is recognized as one of the nation’s top insurance lawyers handling serious auto accident lawsuits. He frequently writes about Michigan No-Fault, and is available for comment.
The Michigan No Fault Auto Lawyers of Michigan Auto Law exclusively handle car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Sterling Heights. Call (800) 777-0028 for a free consultation with one of our Michigan insurance lawyers.


What to Do Following a San Jose Car Accident


Newt Gingrich

U.S. Representative

Born: 17 June 1943
Birthplace: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Best known as: Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, 1995-1999
Name at birth: Newton Leroy McPherson
Newt Gingrich was the Speaker of the House of Representatives and one of the key leaders of the so-called Republican Revolution of the 1990s. A former professor of history at West Georgia College, Newt Gingrich was elected in 1979 to the U.S. House of Representatives. Ambitious, conservative and outspoken, he rose through the ranks until he became the de facto leader of the Republican Party and then Speaker of the House in 1995. He was widely considered responsible for gaining a Republican majority in the House of Representatives in the election of 1994. Always in the news but never exactly beloved by the public at large, Gingrich saw his image further damaged in 1997 when he was fined $300,000 for ethics violations. After a disappointing Republican showing in the 1998 election, Gingrich resigned the Speakership and his seat in Congress. He was succeeded as Speaker by Illinois representative Dennis Hastert. Out of office, Newt Gingrich turned consultant, author and political pundit, and has been expert at keeping his name in the headlines despite not holding an elected position. He announced in May of 2011 that he would seek the Republican nomination for president in 2012.
Extra credit: Newt Gingrich graduated from Emory University with a B.A. in 1965, then got an M.A. (1968) and a PhD (1971) from Tulane University... Newt Gingrich has been married three times. He married the former Jackie Battley in 1962; they met while he was a high school student and she was his geometry teacher. They had two daughters, Kathy and Jackie. The couple were divorced in 1980, the same year that Battley had surgery for a uterine tumor. Newt Gingrich married Marianne Ginther in 1981, six months after his divorce from Battley; they, too, were divorced in 1999. Gingrich then married Callista Bisek, a Congressional aide, in 2000; Gingrich later admitted that he carried on an affair with Bisek for several years in the 1990s while he was married to Ginther... Newt Gingrich was bitten on the chin by a baby cougar during a 1995 appearance with TV host and zoologist Jack Hanna.


Expert Witness Says Murray is Responsible for Jackson's Death

A cardiologist testifying at the trial of Michael Jackson's doctor blasted Dr. Conrad Murray's treatment of Michael Jackson, calling it "unethical," citing multiple "deviations" from accepted standards of care, which he felt made Murray responsible for the singer's death.



Signs of Possible Negligence Could Add Up

Dr. Alon Steinberg, a noted doctor and expert witness, pointed to several deviations from standards of care that he considered examples of "gross negligence" on Murray's part, including:
  • The use of the anesthetic Propofol to put Jackson to sleep
  • The lack of proper equipment or staffing in Jackson's home
  • The lack of preparation for an emergency, following improper protocols after Jackson went into cardiac and respiratory arrest
  • The delay in calling 911, and
  • Murray's failure to maintain medical records for Jackson.
"You put all of those together," Steinberg testified, "yes, he's responsible." Steinberg, one of the final witnesses prosecutors plan to call in their case, repeatedly insisted that Jackson could have been saved if Murray had sought help within minutes of finding Jackson in arrest.
michael jacksonOn cross examination, defense attorney Michael Flanagan pressed Steinberg about his assumption that Murray was only out of the room for two minutes when Jackson became unresponsive, as Murray claimed in his police interview.
Prosecutors have presented evidence suggesting that Murray may have been on the phone with a girlfriend for about five minutes before the moment they believe he noticed Jackson was in arrest.
Defense attorneys notified the judge and prosecutors that they'll no longer be presenting the theory that Jackson took the Propofol that killed him orally. Instead, they'll suggest that Jackson injected the drug through his leg when Murray was out of the room. Changing a strategy in the middle of a trial can be risky, but can help as well.
After Steinberg, prosecutors are expected to call an anesthesiologist and a sleep expert before they rest their case, which could happen before the end of this week.
Anne Gallagher co-authors the blog.


Barack Obama: Campaign Issues


  • Will focus on continuing to stimulate the economy by creating new jobs and investing in health care, education, energy, and infrastructure
  • Increase alternative energy production, modernize and weatherize buildings and homes, expand broadband technology, and computerize the health care system. Obama has said these measures will create some 3.5 million jobs
  • Supports the Making Home Affordable Modification program to prevent foreclosures and the Making Home Affordable Refinancing programto restructure loans to keep people in their homes
  • Has demanded accountability and transparency from banks and other financial institutions
  • Plans to create a financial regulatory system that makes executives in the financial market accountable for their actions and prevents fraud
  • Will work to make the tax system more fair to working families and the middle class and eliminate loopholes that benefit the wealthy
  • Has promised to simplify the tax code


  • Supports additional personnel, infrastructure, and technology on the border and at our ports of entry
  • Believes it is impractical to deport the 12 million immigrants living in the U.S. and supports the Dream Act, which would allow children of immigrants who are in good standing with the law access to higher education
  • Increase the number of legal immigrants to keep families together and meet the demand for jobs that employers cannot fill
  • Crack down on employers who hire undocumented immigrants
  • Supports a system that allows undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, learn English, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens


  • Decrease the country's reliance on fossil fuels and increase use of renewable sources of energy. Obama says he will invest $150 billion over the next 10 years to develop new technology for the production of biofuels and renewable energy
  • Would like to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050
  • Says he would pursue clean coal technology to reduce the reliance on imported oil

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

  • Called for a two-state solution that should start with Israel's 1967 borders, with mutually agreed upon land swaps, as a guide to the formation of a Palestinian state
  • Supports a two-state solution

Same-sex Marriage

  • Supported the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell"


Barack Hussein Obama, Jr.

Winner of the 2008 U.S. presidential election

by Liz Olson and Jennie Wood
Barack Obama
After a historic and bruising 22-monthlong campaign, Sen. Barack Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States on Nov. 4, 2008. He prevailed over Sen. John McCain in what was probably the most pivotal U.S. election since World War II. He took the oath of office on Jan. 20, 2009, and became the first black U.S. president.
Two days into his presidency, Obama reversed some of the most controversial policies of the Bush administration. He signed executive orders that ended the Central Intelligence Agency's secret interrogation program, began the process to close the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, and established a cabinet-level panel that will formulate a plan to detain and question terrorism suspects in the future. Obama's orders said that the C.I.A. can only use the 19 interrogation methods mentioned in the Army Field Manual. The move ended Bush's policy of allowing the CIA to use methods that were not permitted by the military.
"We believe we can abide by a rule that says we don't torture, but we can effectively obtain the intelligence we need," Obama said.

Campaign battle

By taking advantage of the Internet and the power of text messaging on mobile phones, Obama ran an innovative campaign that appealed to young voters. Shunning public financing for his election, Obama raised an unprecedented amount of money, much of it from small donors. Until the financial crisis struck in mid-September, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan dominated the campaign. Obama presented himself as the candidate for change and stressed that a McCain presidency would mirror the policies of the Bush administration.
As a political newcomer, Obama faced an uphill battle in convincing voters that he would be ready to lead the nation. Indeed, throughout the long and often bitter campaign for the Democratic nomination, he and Sen. Hillary Clinton ran neck-and-neck in the primaries and caucuses. Obama and Clinton competed fiercely for the support of working-class voters, and each candidate tried to paint the other as elitist. Obama met sharp criticism for his association with his former pastor, the combative and controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Obama denounced Wright after several of his divisive sermons popped up in the media. Wright's charged statements prompted Obama to address the race issue, and he earned wide praise for his speech on race relations, "A More Perfect Union."
Running as the candidate of change, Obama made hope the center of his campaign. His platform focused on advocating for working families and poor communities, education, caring for the environment, and ethics reform.

Formative Years

Obama was born in Hawaii to a Kenyan father and American mother. His father was raised in a small village in Kenya where he herded goats until he earned a scholarship to study in America. After his parents divorced, Obama's Harvard-educated father then returned to Kenya, where he worked in the economics ministry. Obama was raised by his mother in both Hawaii and Jakarta, Indonesia. He later moved to New York City to attend Columbia University, where he earned his undergraduate degree.
Obama moved to Chicago after college and worked extensively in the inner city to improve living conditions and reduce the unemployment rate in high-crime neighborhoods. He then attended Harvard Law School, graduated magna cum laude, and served as the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. After receiving his degree from Harvard Law School, he returned to Chicago and practiced as a civil rights lawyer.

Personal Life

Obama is married to Michelle Obama, a Chicago native who also graduated from Harvard Law School. Barack and Michelle met in Chicago, where they both worked for the law firm Sidley and Austin. Michelle worked in corporate law for three years before pursuing a career in public service. She has worked for the city of Chicago, and she co-founded Public Allies, which helps young adults acquire skills to work in the public sector. In 2005 she was appointed vice president of community and external affairs at the University of Chicago Medical Center. Barack and Michelle have two daughters, Malia Ann and Sasha.

Political Career

His advocacy work on the local level in Chicago led to a run for the Illinois State Senate. Obama served for four years as a state senator and used his position to create programs such as the state Earned Income Tax Credit that provided more than $100 million in tax cuts to families over three years. He also generated an expansion in early childhood education and worked to pass legislation that requires all interrogations and confessions in capital cases to be videotaped.
Obama's eloquent keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention earned him wide praise him and cemented his reputation as one of the party's freshest and most inspirational new faces. In 2004, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, winning with 70% of the vote against the conservative black Republican, Alan Keyes. Obama became the only African-American serving in the U.S. Senate (and the fifth in U.S. history). Obama's idealism, commitment to civil rights, and telegenic good looks generated enormous media attention for his Senate campaign. He worked with Republicans on issues such as weapons control and ethics reform, yet voted with other Democrats against President Bush's surge of 20,000 troops to Iraq and in favor of a resolution that required combat troops to be fully withdrawn by March 2008.
He served on the Senate's Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee; the Foreign Relations Committee; the Veteran's Affairs Committee; and the Environment and Public Works Committee.

2008 Presidential Democratic Candidate Acceptance Speech

Obama accepted the Democratic presidential nomination before some 83,000 people at Invesco Field rather than the convention hall in Denver. His acceptance coincided with the 45th anniversary of the March on Washington, during which Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his pivotal "I Have a Dream" speech. In his speech, Obama attacked John McCain on several fronts, including national security and his support for many of the policies of the Bush administration, and outlined his plans for the economy, the environment, and health care. Calling McCain out of touch with the economic woes of working-class America, Obama said, "It's not because John McCain doesn't care. It's because John McCain doesn't get it."

Obama's Presidency

Obama took office in the midst of a severe recession for the U.S. economy. His first major piece of legislative was the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a $787 billion spending bill, or "stimulus package," designed to create jobs and reignite the economy. He also acted quickly to bring about the change from the policies of the Bush administration that he had promised during the campaign. Two days after his inauguration he signed an executive order to close the controversial detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba within the year. Soon to follow were executive orders that reversed Bush's policies on stem cell research and interrogation techniques for enemy detainees.
In 2009, Obama pushed Congress to pass legislation on health care reform in the United States. Health care reform was a chief legislative goal and a major campaign promise. After months of debate, on March 21, 2010, the health care bill, which was passed by the Senate in December 2009, was passed by the House. The vote in the House was 219 to 212. On March 23, 2010, Obama signed the bill into law. In the November 2010 election, the Democrats lost 63 seats, therefore, losing control of the House of Representatives. In a speech about the election outcome, Obama called the loss "humbling" and blamed it on the slow economic recovery. The following summer, Congress became gridlocked in a battle over whether to raise the debt ceiling, causing the government to almost default. Because of the gridlock, Standard & Poor's downgraded the nation's credit rating for the first time in history. In August 2011, there were signs that the recovery from the 2008 recession had stalled with job growth continuing to come up short, the unemployment rate hovering at just over 9 %, and the stock market experiencing wild ups and downs. All of this giving fuel to the Republican presidential candidates as they headed out on the campaign trail to fight for the chance to run against Obama in 2012.


Michele Bachmann

Born: 6 April 1956
Birthplace: Waterloo, Iowa
Best known as: Minnesota congresswoman and 2012 presidential candidate
Michele Bachmann is a Republican congresswoman from Minnesota who came to national attention during the presidential election of 2008, after a television appearance in which she encouraged the media to "take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America or anti-America?" She was running for re-election in Minnesota's 6th district that year, and the remarks sent more than a million dollars in donations to her opponent in the race, but Bachmann won anyway. A former lawyer for the U.S. Treasury Department, Bachmann began her political career in the 1990s as an advocate for charter schools and a critic of taxes. She was elected to Minnesota's state senate in 2000 and for six years made her name in local politics as an opponent of taxes, gay marriage and the teaching of evolution in public schools. Although a newcomer to national politics, Bachmann's congressional campaign in 2006 was strongly supported by the Republican National Committee, and she had help in her campaign from such luminaries as Karl Rove and then-president George W. Bush. Her re-election in 2008 looked like a done deal until her remarks about anti-American representatives in congress on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews. In the same program she said candidate Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama concerned her because of their "anti-American" views. Howling critics have called her the reincarnation of Senator Joe McCarthy (and worse), but Bachmann has a fan base of conservative "tea party" Republicans who don't mind her factual blunders and intemperate remarks. She announced in June of 2011 that she was running for the United States presidency.
Extra credit: Some of Bachmann's best-known moments include: on the floor of the House of Representatives she said President Franklin D. Roosevelt caused the Great Depression by signing into law the "Hoot-Smalley Act" (she meant the Smoot-Hawley Act, signed into law by President Herbert Hoover); she predicted "re-education camps for young people" under Obama, Cold War terminology that raised the specter of communism; she has dismissed global warming by saying carbon dioxide is harmless because it's "natural"; and she publicly used a coarse sexual metaphor to describe Obama's domestic spending agenda ("We have seen an orgy... the government spent its wad....").


Robert Todd Lincoln (1843-1926)

First Kids

The American public has always been fascinated by first families. We know much about the lives of the presidents and first ladies, but what about the children in the White House? Follow this gallery for images and information about some notable first kids.
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Robert Todd Lincoln (1843-1926)

Robert was the son of Mary and Abraham Lincoln, and was the only one of their children to reach adulthood. Robert witnessed the assassinations of three presidents--Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley. Following McKinley's shooting, Robert later refused to attend any functions involving U.S. presidents out of concern that he brought bad luck to them.
Fun Fact: Robert attended the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. in 1922.


1800–1899 (A.D.) World History

Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven
Richard Wagner
Archive Photos
Edgar Allen Poe
Edgar Allan Poe
The Library of Congress Picture Collection
Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass
National Archives and Records Admin.
Harriet Tubman
Harriet Tubman
(c. 1820–1913)
The Library of Congress Picture Collection
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Harriet Beecher Stowe
National Archives and Records Admin.
Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman
The Library of Congress Picture Collection
Dred Scott
The Library of Congress Picture Collection
Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln
National Archives and Records Admin.
Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin
Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee
National Archives and Records Admin.
William Tecumseh Sherman
National Archives and Records Admin.
Chief Joseph
Chief Joseph
(c. 1840–1904)
National Archives and Records Admin.
Statue of Liberty
Statue of Liberty
Tasha Vincent
Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain)
The Library of Congress Picture Collection
The Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower
Tasha Vincent
Marie Curie
Marie Curie
AIP Niels Bohr Library

Napoleon conquers Italy, firmly establishes himself as First Consul in France. In the U.S., federal government moves to Washington, D.C. Robert Owen's social reforms in England. William Herschel discovers infrared rays. Alessandro Volta produces electricity.
Austria makes temporary peace with France. United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland established with one monarch and one parliament; Catholics excluded from voting.
U.S. negotiates Louisiana Purchase from France: for $15 million, U.S. doubles its domain, increasing its territory by 827,000 sq mi (2,144,500 sq km), from Mississippi River to Rockies and from Gulf of Mexico to British North America.
Haiti declares independence from France; first black nation to gain freedom from European colonial rule. Napoleon transforms the Consulate of France into an empire, proclaims himself emperor of France, systematizes French law under Code Napoleon. In the U.S., Alexander Hamilton is mortally wounded in duel with Aaron Burr. Lewis and Clark expedition begins exploration of what is now northwest U.S.
Lord Nelson defeats the French-Spanish fleets in the Battle of Trafalgar. Napoleon victorious over Austrian and Russian forces at the Battle of Austerlitz.
Robert Fulton makes first successful steamboat trip on Clermont between New York City and Albany.
French armies occupy Rome and Spain, extending Napoleon's empire. Britain begins aiding Spanish guerrillas against Napoleon in Peninsular War. In the U.S., Congress bars importation of slaves. Beethoven's Fifth and Sixth Symphonies performed.
Napoleon's Grand Army invades Russia in June. Forced to retreat in winter, most of Napoleon's 600,000 men are lost. In the U.S., war with Britain declared over freedom of the seas for U.S. vessels (War of 1812). USS Constitution (For detailed chronology, see War of 1812.) sinks British frigate.
French defeated by allies (Britain, Austria, Russia, Prussia, Sweden, and Portugal) in War of Liberation. Napoleon exiled to Elba, off Italian coast. Bourbon king Louis XVIII takes French throne. George Stephenson builds first practical steam locomotive.
Napoleon returns: “Hundred Days” begin. Napoleon defeated by Wellington at Waterloo, banished again to St. Helena in South Atlantic. Congress of Vienna: victorious allies change the map of Europe. War of 1812 ends with Treaty of Ghent.
Simón Bolívar liberates New Granada (now Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador) as Spain loses hold on South American countries; named president of Colombia.
Missouri Compromise > Missouri admitted as slave state but slavery barred in rest of Louisiana Purchase north of 36°30' N.
Guatemala, Panama, and Santo Domingo proclaim independence from Spain.
Greeks proclaim a republic and independence from Turkey. Turks invade Greece. Russia declares war on Turkey (1828). Greece also aided by France and Britain. War ends and Turks recognize Greek independence (1829). Brazil becomes independent of Portugal. Schubert's Eighth Symphony (“The Unfinished”).
U.S. Monroe Doctrine warns European nations not to interfere in Western Hemisphere.
Mexico becomes a republic, three years after declaring independence from Spain. Bolívar liberates Peru, becomes its president. Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.
First passenger-carrying railroad in England.
Joseph-Nicéphore Niepce takes the world's first photograph.
French invade Algeria. Louis Philippe becomes “Citizen King” as revolution forces Charles X to abdicate. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints formed in U.S. by Joseph Smith.
Polish revolt against Russia fails. Belgium separates from the Netherlands. In U.S., Nat Turner leads unsuccessful slave rebellion.
Slavery abolished in British Empire.
Charles Babbage invents “analytical engine,” precursor of computer. McCormick patents reaper.
Boer farmers start “Great Trek”—Natal, Transvaal, and Orange Free State founded in South Africa. Mexican army besieges Texans in Alamo. Entire garrison, including Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie, wiped out. Texans gain independence from Mexico after winning Battle of San Jacinto. Dickens's Pickwick Papers.
Victoria becomes queen of Great Britain. Mob kills Elijah P. Lovejoy, Illinois abolitionist publisher.
First Opium War (to 1842) between Britain and China, over importation of drug into China.
Lower and Upper Canada united.
U.S. President Harrison dies (April 4) one month after inauguration; John Tyler becomes first vice president to succeed to presidency.
Crawford Long uses first anesthetic (ether).
Wagner's opera The Flying Dutchman.
Democratic convention calls for annexation of Texas and acquisition of Oregon (“Fifty-four-forty-or-fight”). Five Chinese ports opened to U.S. ships. Samuel F. B. Morse patents telegraph.
Congress adopts joint resolution for annexation of Texas. Edgar Allan Poe publishes The Raven and Other Poems.
U.S. declares war on Mexico. California and New Mexico annexed by U.S. Brigham Young leads Mormons to Great Salt Lake. W. T. Morton uses ether as anesthetic. Sewing machine patented by Elias Howe. Frederick Douglass launches abolitionist newspaper The North Star. Failure of potato crop causes famine in Ireland.
Revolt in Paris: Louis Philippe abdicates; Louis Napoleon elected president of French Republic. Revolutions in Vienna, Venice, Berlin, Milan, Rome, and Warsaw. Put down by royal troops in 1848–1849. U.S.-Mexico War ends; Mexico cedes claims to Texas, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada. U.S. treaty with Britain sets Oregon Territory boundary at 49th parallel. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels's Communist Manifesto. Harriet Tubman escapes from slavery and joins the Underground Railroad. Women's Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y.
California gold rush begins.
Henry Clay opens great debate on slavery, warns South against secession.
Herman Melville's Moby-Dick.
South African Republic established. Louis Napoleon proclaims himself Napoleon III (“Second Empire”). Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin.
Crimean War begins as Turkey declares war on Russia. Commodore Perry reaches Tokyo.
Britain and France join Turkey in war on Russia. In U.S., Kansas-Nebraska Act permits local option on slavery; rioting and bloodshed. Japanese allow American trade. Antislavery men in Michigan form Republican Party. Tennyson's Charge of the Light Brigade. Thoreau's Walden.
Armed clashes in Kansas between pro- and anti-slavery forces. Florence Nightingale nurses wounded in Crimea. Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass.
Flaubert's Madame Bovary.
Supreme Court, in Dred Scott decision, rules that a slave is not a citizen. Financial crisis in Europe and U.S. Great Mutiny (Sepoy Rebellion) begins in India. India placed under crown rule as a result.
Pro-slavery constitution rejected in Kansas. Abraham Lincoln makes strong antislavery speech in Springfield, Ill.: “This Government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free.” Lincoln-Douglas debates. First trans-Atlantic telegraph cable completed by Cyrus W. Field.
John Brown raids Harpers Ferry; is captured and hanged. Work begins on Suez Canal. Unification of Italy starts under leadership of Count Cavour, Sardinian premier. Joined by France in war against Austria. Jean-Joseph-Étienne Lenoir builds first practical internal-combustion engine. Edward Fitzgerald's translation of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Charles Darwin's Origin of Species. J. S. Mill's On Liberty.
South Carolina secedes from the Union.
U.S. Civil War begins as attempts at compromise fail. Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas secede; with South Carolina, they form the Confederate States of America, with Jefferson Davis as president. Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina secede and join Confederacy. First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas).(For detailed chronology, see The Civil War.) Congress creates Colorado, Dakota, and Nevada territories; adopts income tax; Lincoln inaugurated. Serfs emancipated in Russia. Pasteur's theory of germs. Independent Kingdom of Italy proclaimed under Sardinian king Victor Emmanuel II.
Several major Civil War battles: Battle of Shiloh, Second Battle of Bull Run (Manassas), Battle of Antietam. Salon des Refusés introduces impressionism.
French capture Mexico City; proclaim Archduke Maximilian of Austria emperor. Battle of Gettysburg.
Gen. Sherman's Atlanta campaign and “march to the sea.”
Gen. Lee surrenders to Grant at Appomattox; the Civil War is over. Lincoln fatally shot at Ford's Theater by John Wilkes Booth. Vice President Johnson sworn as successor. Booth caught and dies of gunshot wounds; four conspirators are hanged. Joseph Lister begins antiseptic surgery. Gregor Mendel's Law of Heredity. Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
Alfred Nobel invents dynamite (patented in Britain, 1867). Seven Weeks' War: Austria defeated by Prussia and Italy.
Austria-Hungary Dual Monarchy established. French leave Mexico; Maximilian executed. Dominion of Canada established. U.S. buys Alaska from Russia for $7,200,000. South African diamond field discovered. Japan ends 675–year shogun rule. Volume I of Marx's Das Kapital. Strauss's Blue Danube.
Revolution in Spain; Queen Isabella deposed, flees to France. In U.S., Fourteenth Amendment giving civil rights to blacks is ratified. Georgia under military government after legislature expels blacks.
First U.S. transcontinental rail route completed. James Fisk and Jay Gould's attempt to control gold market causes Black Friday panic. Suez Canal opens. Mendeleev's periodic table of elements.
Franco-Prussian War (to 1871): Napoleon III capitulates at Sedan. Revolt in Paris; Third Republic proclaimed.
France surrenders Alsace-Lorraine to Germany; war ends. German Empire proclaimed with Prussian King as Kaiser Wilhelm I. Fighting with Apaches begins in American West. Boss Tweed corruption exposed in New York. The Chicago Fire, with 250 deaths and $196-million damage. Stanley meets Livingstone in Africa.
Congress gives amnesty to most Confederates. Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days.
Economic crisis in Europe. U.S. establishes gold standard.
First Kentucky Derby.
Sioux kill Gen. George A. Custer and 264 troopers at Little Big Horn River. Alexander Graham Bell patents the telephone.
After presidential election of 1876, electoral commission gives disputed electoral college votes to Rutherford B. Hayes despite Tilden's popular majority. Russo-Turkish war (ends in 1878 with power of Turkey in Europe broken). Reconstruction ends in the American South. Thomas Edison patents phonograph. The Nez Perce leader Chief Joseph is forced to surrender. Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake.
Congress of Berlin revises Treaty of San Stefano, ending Russo-Turkish War; makes extensive redivision of southeast Europe. First commercial telephone exchange opened in New Haven, Conn.
Thomas A. Edison invents practical electric light.
U.S.-China treaty allows U.S. to restrict immigration of Chinese labor.
President Garfield fatally shot by assassin; Vice President Arthur succeeds him. Charles J. Guiteau convicted and executed (1882).
Terrorism in Ireland after land evictions. Britain invades and conquers Egypt. Germany, Austria, and Italy form Triple Alliance. In U.S., Congress adopts Chinese Exclusion Act. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Trust is first industrial monopoly. In Berlin, Robert Koch announces discovery of tuberculosis germ.
Congress creates Civil Service Commission. Brooklyn Bridge and Metropolitan Opera House completed.
Berlin West Africa Conference held in Berlin (lasting until Feb. 1885), at which the major European nations discuss expansion in Africa.
British general Charles G. “Chinese” Gordon killed at Khartoum in Egyptian Sudan. World's first skyscraper built in Chicago.
Bombing at Haymarket Square, Chicago, kills seven policemen and injures many others. Eight alleged anarchists accused—three imprisoned, one commits suicide, four hanged. (In 1893, Illinois governor Altgeld, critical of trial, pardons three survivors.) Statue of Liberty dedicated. Geronimo, Apache Indian chief, surrenders.
Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's first Sherlock Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet.
Historic March blizzard in northeast U.S.—many perish, property damage exceeds $25 million. George Eastman's box camera (the Kodak). J. B. Dunlop invents pneumatic tire. Jack the Ripper murders in London.
Second (Socialist) International founded in Paris. Indian Territory in Oklahoma opened to settlement. Thousands die in Johnstown, Pa. flood. Eiffel Tower built for the Paris exposition. Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.
Congress votes to pass Sherman Antitrust Act. Sioux chief Sitting Bull arrested and killed by police on Pine Ridge reservation; two weeks later, U.S. troops kill over 200 Sioux at Battle of Wounded Knee.
Battle between steel strikers and Pinkerton guards at Homestead, Pa.; union defeated after militia intervenes. Silver mine strikers in Idaho fight non-union workers; U.S. troops dispatched. Diesel engine patented.
New Zealand becomes first country in the world to grant women the vote.
Sino-Japanese War begins (ends in 1895 with China's defeat). In France, Capt. Alfred Dreyfus convicted on false treason charge (pardoned in 1906). In U.S., Jacob S. Coxey of Ohio leads “Coxey's Army” of unemployed on Washington. Eugene V. Debs calls general strike of rail workers to support Pullman Company strikers; strike broken, Debs jailed for six months. Edison's kinetoscope given first public showing in New York City.
X-rays discovered by German physicist Wilhelm Roentgen. Auguste and Louis Lumière premiere motion pictures at a café in Paris.
Supreme Court's Plessy v. Ferguson decision—“separate but equal” doctrine. Alfred Nobel's will establishes prizes for peace, science, and literature. Marconi receives first wireless patent in Britain. William Jennings Bryan delivers “Cross of Gold” speech at Democratic Convention in Chicago. First modern Olympic games held in Athens, Greece.
Theodor Herzl launches Zionist movement.
Chinese “Boxers,” anti-foreign organization, established. They stage uprisings against Europeans in 1900; U.S. and other Western troops relieve Peking legations. U.S. Battleship Maine is sunk in Havana Harbor. Spanish-American War begins. U.S. destroys Spanish fleet near Santiago, Cuba. (For detailed chronology, see Spanish-American War.) Pierre and Marie Curie discover radium and polonium.
Boer War (or South African War): conflict between British and Boers (descendants of Dutch settlers of South Africa). Causes rooted in longstanding territorial disputes and in friction over political rights for English and other “uitlanders” following 1886 discovery of vast gold deposits in Transvaal. (British victorious as war ends in 1902.) Casualties: 5,774 British dead, about 4,000 Boers. Union of South Africa established in 1908 as confederation of colonies; becomes British dominion in 1910.