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Harvard Law School & NVHR Launch Updated Data on Discriminatory Hepatitis C Treatment Restrictions in 52 Medicaid Programs and Send Letter to CMS Urging an End to State Violations of Federal Medicaid Law

Via CHLPI

The National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable (NVHR) and the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation of Harvard Law School (CHLPI) today launched an update to “Hepatitis C: State of Medicaid Access,” an interactive project grading all 50 state Medicaid programs, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, according to access to curative treatments for hepatitis C, the nation’s deadliest infectious disease. NVHR, CHLPI and other leading viral hepatitis advocates today also sent a letter to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) urging the agency to take action to end discriminatory state treatment restrictions, which, according to CMS guidance, violate federal Medicaid law. More than half of all state Medicaid programs still impose some form of illegal restriction.

“The hepatitis C virus is the deadliest infectious disease in the U.S., killing 20,000 Americans every year, and the opioid epidemic and an increase in unsafe injection drug use have caused acute cases of hepatitis C to more than triple since 2010. Eliminating treatment access restrictions is a necessary step toward ending HCV in the United States,” said NVHR Director Lauren Canary. “The collaborative advocacy of NVHR, CHLPI, and the entire viral hepatitis community have created real momentum and led to a significant reduction in treatment restrictions; however, there is still more work to do, as some states persist in imposing these discriminatory restrictions.”

Hepatitis C: State of Medicaid Access grades each Medicaid program according to its overall “state of access.” Each grade is determined by curative treatment restrictions related to three areas: 1) liver disease progression (fibrosis) restrictions, 2) sobriety/substance use requirements, and 3) prescriber limitations – all of which contradict not only CMS guidance but also recommendations from the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) and the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). The analysis provides suggestions for each state to reduce its treatment access requirements.

“At least 2.4 million Americans are currently infected with the hepatitis C virus and HCV is contributing to an increase in liver cancer, the fastest-growing cause of cancer mortality in the U.S. We have the tools to eliminate hepatitis C, but turning the promise of a cure into reality for all requires leadership, resources, and the removal of all discriminatory HCV treatment access restrictions,” said Robert Greenwald, Clinical Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and the director of CHLPI. “CHLPI and NVHR are dedicated to ensuring that all individuals living with HCV are able to access a cure for the disease, and we urge all states to stop illegally restricting access to treatment.”

Highlights of the Hepatitis C: State of Medicaid Access analysis, as well as notable advocacy successes since the 2017 launch of the report, include:

  • When CHLPI and NVHR launched the report in 2017, more than half of Medicaid programs (52 percent) received a “D” or an “F” for imposing discriminatory restrictions on hepatitis C cures. Currently, only 15 percent of programs (8 jurisdictions) receive those grades;
  • States that received a “D” or “F” grade due to access restrictions: Alabama, Arkansas, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Puerto Rico, South Dakota, and Texas;
  • States that received an “A” grade: Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington;
  • Washington (A) removed Medicaid restrictions after a federal court declared for the first time that widespread restrictions to hepatitis C treatments were illegal. The removal of restrictions paved the way for the state’s groundbreaking plan to eliminate the hepatitis C virus entirely;
  • In Rhode Island (A-), strong local advocacy and the threat of litigation led the state to remove liver disease restrictions and cover treatment for all beneficiaries living with HCV;
  • Illinois (B-), which once had the most severe liver disease restrictions, has since removed those restrictions. However, some managed care organizations in the state have not followed suit;

“Although the advent of highly effective curative therapies has helped avert thousands of premature deaths from hepatitis C, we are still seeing troubling trends related to the disease, including a three-fold spike in acute cases of hepatitis C since 2010; an increase in vertical transmissions of the disease from infected pregnant adults to infants – in 2017 alone, there were 18,927 newborns exposed to hepatitis C; and people from certain racial and ethnic minorities are dying at disproportionate and increased rates from hepatitis C infections,” added Canary. “The consequences of hepatitis C treatment restrictions are not academic for people living in places like Texas (Grade: D+), which has the highest liver cancer mortality rate in the country; or Montana (Grade: F), which has one of the highest rates of perinatal HCV exposure; or West Virginia (Grade: C), which has the highest rate of new HCV infections.”

Americans insured through Medicaid have a 3-fold higher prevalence of hepatitis C compared to their privately insured counterparts. In 2015, CMS issued guidance that prior authorization requirements should not result in the denial of access to treatment. NVHR, CHLPI and other leading hepatitis advocates today sent a letter to CMS urging the agency to take action to end illegal access restrictions by states.

“Since the release of Hepatitis C: State of Medicaid Access and the increased transparency to egregious treatment restrictions in state Medicaid programs, many states have loosened or removed restrictions…Unfortunately, several state Medicaid programs are still standing in the way of the medical standard of care by imposing discriminatory prior authorization criteria to restrict access based on liver disease severity, provider specialty, and substance abuse,” said the advocates in the letter. “Despite clear [CMS] guidance…state Medicare programs still deny coverage to Medicaid enrollees with hepatitis C infection…We call upon CMS to take seriously this continue state-sanctioned discrimination impacting persons living with hepatitis C throughout the United States. Please do your part to prioritize this issue and to call upon state Medicaid programs to open access to curative hepatitis C therapy.”

To view the full “Hepatitis C: State of Medicaid Access” report, visit www.stateofhepc.org

Cyberlaw Clinic Files Amicus Brief Arguing Dr. Seuss/Star Trek Mash-Up Is Fair Use

Via Cyberlaw Clinic

The Cyberlaw Clinic filed an amicus curiae brief (.pdf) last week in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Dr. Seuss Enterprises v. ComicMix, on behalf of several individuals and non-profit organizations (including groups that advocate for freedom of expression and individual science fiction authors). The brief supports the creators of Oh, the Places You’ll Boldly Go! (“Boldly”), a Star Trek-inspired mash-up of several Dr. Seuss works, including Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, Horton Hears a Who!, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The case has implications for the scope of fair use protection for mash-ups and other works that incorporate original works.

The appeal arises from a copyright infringement action brought against the creators of Boldly by Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the current copyright holder of Dr. Seuss’s works. Last spring, a lower court granted ComicMix’s motion for summary judgment, finding that Boldly constituted fair use. In applying factors one and four of the fair use test, the court found that the purpose and character of Boldly’s use of Dr. Seuss works was transformative and that it was thus not presumed to infringe on the market for Dr. Seuss works.

Amici have an interest in advocating for the interests of creators and promoting freedom of expression. Based on decades of experience, Amici urged in the brief that the Court of Appeals affirm the lower court’s ruling in favor of defendants. The brief explains that, for purposes of a fair use analysis, Boldly is a transformative work that comments on both Star Trek and the works of Dr. Seuss. More generally, works like Boldly (i.e., works that fall in the category of mash-ups) have significant transformative value as they can add commentary, humor, or insight to the underlying works and can imbue those works with new meaning. Fair use should protect the creation of these kinds of culturally-valauble works, the creation of which might be chilled under a system that requires licensing.

Amici on the brief include:

  • the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a member-supported, non-profit civil liberties organization that works to protect free speech and privacy in the digital world;
  • the Organization for Transformative Works, a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and preserving non-commercial fan works based on existing works, including popular television shows, books, and movies;
  • Public Knowledge, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the openness of the Internet, promoting creativity through balanced intellectual property rights, and protecting the rights of consumers to use innovative technology lawfully;
  • Francesca Coppa, a Professor of English and Director of Women’s and Gender Studies at Muhlenberg College;
  • David Mack, a New York Times bestselling author who has written episodes for Star Trek: Deep Space and several Star Trek novels; and
  • Magdalene Visaggio, the writer and creator of the Eisner-nominated comic series Kim & Kim and Eternity Girl.

EFF has its own writeup of the case and the amicus brief here.

Fall 2019 Cyberlaw Clinic students Katie Lin and Tyler Bowen contributed to the writing of the brief, along with former Clinic interns Shenelle Salcido and Michelle Rodriguez, former EFF intern Carmen Sobczak, Professor Francesca Coppa, and Chris Bavitz and Mason Kortz from the Clinic.

New TLPI Video: A School’s Journey to Trauma Sensitivity

Questions the Democratic Presidential Candidates Haven’t Been Asked

By: Alexis Farmer

Democratic Presidential Debate in Detroit, MI. July 30, 2019. Credit: Alexis Farmer

Affordable housing has yet to be addressed in a presidential debate, even though a national public opinion poll revealed that 85% of Americans believe ensuring everyone has an affordable place to live should be a “top national priority.” Housing is an issue that rarely surfaces in a presidential election, but there is growing national concern about the shortage of affordable housing. Nearly half of all renters spend a third of their income on housing, leaving little room to pay for other necessities such as food, healthcare, childcare, and transportation. Some argue that those data points understate the housing problem, particularly for low-income individuals living in high cost cities.  A national plan on housing affordability is critical to addressing growing inequality.

In June, President Trump signed an executive order establishing the White House Council on Eliminating Barriers to Affordable Housing Development. The council, chaired by Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Ben Carson, seeks to reduce the regulatory barriers at all levels of government that hinder the development of affordable housing. Housing advocates are concerned that the council won’t make significant progress to address the problem and may in fact exacerbate it. The administration has already suggested cutting HUD’s 2020 budget and denying federal housing aid to families with mixed-citizenship status.

A number of 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls have announced plans addressing the policy challenges involved in preserving and expanding affordable housing, but have yet to discuss them in a debate. Some of the proposals call for reforming the Section 8 housing subsidy program and providing tax credits to people who spend a large fraction of their income on rent. At Harvard Law School, four clinics and students practice organizations – Tenant Advocacy Project (TAP), Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB), Housing Law Clinic, and Project No One Leaves (PNOL) – that work with low-income households to retain and secure housing want to hear the candidates expand upon their ideas in the next debate. Here’s what students from TAP and HLAB have to say about the new housing plans.

Anna Carlsson, JD/MUP 21 and Sam Gilman, JD/MPP 22

The Tenant Advocacy Project (TAP) serves public and subsidized housing tenants and applicants in administrative matters involving housing authorities throughout the Greater Boston Area. TAP represents clients in a range of case types, including evictions and subsidy terminations, application and transfer denials, and reasonable accommodation requests. Because TAP’s work deals largely with HUD-funded, HUD-regulated housing authorities, federal housing policy deeply affects our clients’ ability to access and retain quality housing.

In our casework, we frequently see housing authorities violate federally mandated due process requirements, suggesting that reform could start with more robust enforcement of existing rules and regulations at the local level. Many of TAP’s clients who receive Section 8 or Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP) vouchers also face the threat of voucher termination because they are unable to “lease up” (find housing on the private market) in time, due to well-documented landlord discrimination against subsidized tenants–a threat that could be alleviated by Section 8 regulatory reform and/or expansion of FHA protections to include source of income discrimination.

In the next debate, we’d like to see the presidential candidates answer the following:

  • Since the early 1990s, few new public housing developments have been created, and many have been demolished, with federal policy favoring vouchers over public housing. What is your position on public housing and its role in the landscape of affordable housing? What is your plan to fund it?

 

  • We are currently seeing a wave of expiring rental affordability restrictions, resulting in loss of affordable units. With continuing Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) conversion of public housing to project-based assistance, and the continuing use of temporary affordability restrictions for publicly assisted private housing developments, won’t this problem recur indefinitely? How can we invest more sustainably and effectively in long-term affordability?

 

  •  How does your housing plan recognize and attempt to remedy the disproportionate effect of rising housing costs and displacement on communities of color, particularly low-income communities of color?

 

  •  We’ve witnessed TAP clients being taken advantage of by public housing authorities that ignore existing policy, and deny their tenants and voucher recipients due process as required by state and federal law (e.g., violation of reasonable lookback periods, warranty of habitability standards, notice and hearing requirements, etc.). This results in arbitrary and unjust terminations, evictions, and application denials. How do you plan to ensure that existing protections for public and subsidized housing tenants are more robustly enforced?

Kiah Duggins, JD 21 at the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB)

I am a Black American student in HLAB. My opinions about the 2020 presidential candidates’ housing policies center around one thing: my unshakeable belief that housing policies must expressly provide reparations for all of the ways that the United States has systemically and intentionally prevented marginalized communities from obtaining housing and – consequently – generational wealth. I have ranked each presidential candidate’s housing policies with my reparations framework in mind.

  1. Elizabeth Warren – Warren directly addresses the historical housing inequalities that marginalized people have faced, and her plan directly implements reparations through her down-payment assistance program. She specifically intends to close the White-Black racial wealth gap by providing qualifying Black families with a grant that they can use for a down-payment towards a home. She also plans to strengthen the Fair Housing Act and remove barriers to affordable housing.
  2. Cory Booker – Booker’s housing plan directly implements reparations through his “Baby Bonds” initiative, which literally gives money to low income children. Booker indirectly implements reparations through his promises to fully fund the Housing Trust Fund and invest in affordable housing for Native communities. His promises to combat housing discrimination, expand right to counsel for tenants facing eviction and reform restrictive zoning laws will also help marginalized communities obtain housing.
  3. Bernie Sanders – Sanders directly addresses how discrimination and the 2008 financial crisis disproportionately affected Black people, and attempts to right historical wrongs through ending redlining, investing in housing funds and strengthening the Fair Housing Act.
  4. Kamala Harris – Harris’ housing plan attempts to right historical wrongs with policies that include investing billions of dollars in down-payment and closing-cost assistance to people living in red-lined communities and strengthening anti-discrimination lending laws. However, citizens who apply to receive the increased funding have to meet several convoluted and strict criteria. These criteria may create a barrier to entry that restricts her plan from having wide-spread effects.
  5. Pete Buttigieg – Buttigieg’s housing plan, entitled the 21st Century Homestead Act, explicitly focuses on reparations for Black Americans. However, the mechanism through which these reparations are distributed is convoluted and partial. Cities would have to apply for funding, and then residents in the pre-selected cities would have to apply for land ownership after meeting several strict criteria. Although this plan drastically improves the lives of residents who make it through the process and receive absolute ownership of land, it is unlikely that this plan would have the wide-spread effects that reparations requires.
  6. Julian Castro – Castro has several detailed plans that would help marginalized communities by increasing rental and homeownership affordability, ending homelessness, implementing the Fair Housing Rule and combatting gentrification. Although some of these programs may have similar effects as reparations programs would, Castro does not mention an obligation to right historical wrongs in his proposal.
  7. Joe Biden – Biden plans to expand rural Americans’ access to housing. This plan does not go far enough. There are people outside of rural areas who also need increased access to housing

Hopefully the moderators will ask the candidates to address these issues tonight as they take the stage at Otterbein University. The debate, hosted by CNN and the New York Times begins at 8pm.

A living witness to nuclear dystopia

Via Harvard Law Today

By Juan Siliezar

Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

First came a flash. Thirteen-year-old Setsuko Nakamura felt as if she were drifting skyward. And then darkness.

Seventy-four years later Setsuko still remembers the moment of detonation after the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, the first of two exploded over the island nation, a deployment that proved so horrendous the weapons have never been used since.

“That very morning I was at the military headquarters, not at the school,” she told a rapt audience at Harvard Law School on Tuesday as part of the University’s Worldwide Week. Instead of being in class on Aug. 6, 1945, Setsuko was reporting for her first day of work, as one of the thousands of students the government mobilized to provide cheap labor during the wartime shortage.

Setsuko, who now uses her married last name Thurlow, and about 30 other girls were assigned to help the army decode top-secret messages. They were about a mile from ground zero and on the building’s second floor.

“Sharp at 8 o’clock the assembly started,” she said. “Maj. Yanai was giving a pep talk: ‘This is the day you prove your patriotism to the emperor. Do your best,’ and so on. We said, ‘Yes, sir! We’ll do our best.’ Then at that second I saw the blinding blueish-white flash in the window, and I had a sensation of floating up in the air.” Then she lost consciousness.

As a living witness to the devastation and human suffering the use of nuclear weapons brings, Thurlow has been telling this story for decades now. Often she brings her listeners to tears, as she did this day.

“I speak because I feel it is my responsibility as someone who has intimate knowledge of what these horrific things can do to human beings,” Thurlow said. “I consider it my moral responsibility.”

The 87-year-old is best known for her advocacy work with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, a global coalition working to make the arms illegal. As a leading figure and spokeswoman for ICAN, Thurlow was on hand to accept the Nobel Peace Prize with the group in 2017 when it was recognized for its role in the United Nations’ adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which would completely ban all nuclear arms if implemented.

To date, 32 countries have ratified the accord; 50 are needed for it to become law. None of the nine nuclear-armed nations, including the U.S., have signed on, and in fact, they actively oppose it, viewing the weapons as a way to maintain peace and assure security under the threat of mutually assured destruction.

A Survivor’s Story: From the Atomic Bomb to the Nobel Peace Prize” was organized by the Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative and co-sponsored by the Human Rights Program, HLS Advocates for Human Rights, and Hibakusha Stories/Youth Arts New York. The event came at a time of heightened tensions among nuclear powers and followed years in which Iran and North Korea have aggressively pushed to develop their own weapons.

“The eyewitness accounts of Setsuko and other survivors provide a vivid reminder of the human consequences of nuclear weapons,” said Bonnie Docherty, associate director of Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection and lecturer on law at the Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic. During negotiations for the U.N. treaty, the clinic provided legal advice and advocacy support to ICAN.

The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and three days later on Nagasaki killed more than 200,000 people and practically destroyed both cities. In Hiroshima, the devastation was near-total, wiping out about 90 percent of the city while instantly killing more than 80,000 people.

Thurlow recalled the aftermath in harrowing detail. After regaining consciousness, “I found myself pinned under the collapsed building in total silence, total darkness,” she said. “I tried to move my body, but I couldn’t, so I knew I was faced with death … Then I started hearing faint voices of my classmates: ‘Mother, help me.’ ‘God, help me.’ ” She knew she was not alone. “Then all of a sudden someone started shaking my left shoulder from behind — a strong male voice: ‘Don’t give up! Don’t give up! Keep moving! Keep kicking! Keep pushing!’” He told her to crawl toward the light.

Once out, she found a hellscape. Smoke and dust filled the air. Buildings crushed into piles of debris. Fires everywhere, including in the rubble she’d escaped. A procession of severely burned and disfigured people slowly emerged, “shuffling from the center of the city to the outskirts.” She and three girls who’d also escaped the collapsed headquarters walked with them. “We learned how to step over the dead bodies,” she said.

They came to an army training ground the size of two football fields “packed with dead bodies and dying people.” She stayed there the rest of the day, bringing people water from a nearby stream. “When the darkness fell we sat on the hill and all night we watched the entire city burn, feeling numbed from massive death and human suffering we had witnessed all day,” she recalled.

Her mother and father were spared, but Thurlow lost eight members of her family as result of the bombing, including her 4-year-old nephew who died four days after the explosion.”

That was only the beginning. Days, weeks, and years followed with a steady stream of deaths from injuries and illnesses from the radiation; thousands coping with homelessness; American occupation; rebuilding and memorialization efforts; and the discrimination that survivors often from fears of the long-term effects of radiation exposure.

Thurlow said these experiences formed the basis of her anti-nuclear advocacy, which began in 1954 when she spoke out during an interview about her thoughts on the news of tests of an even more powerful bomb by the U.S. in the Marshall Islands. Since then, she has testified widely, including before world leaders such as Pope Francis and hundreds of diplomats during ICAN’s campaign for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Thurlow said she was thrilled that the U.N. adopted the treaty, but admitted that it will be an uphill battle to totally eliminate nuclear weapons. And she called on listeners, especially students, to take up the cause.

“You are getting the best education,” Thurlow said. “You have a lot to return to your society, to humanity — not just to the United States, to the entire world. I am really asking you to take this issue seriously. It’s really a matter of life and death.”

The message struck a chord with many listeners, including law student Ragad Alfaraidy, who was among many who lingered after the lecture to meet Thurlow and see the Nobel medal, which she had on hand. Events like this, Alfaraidy said, inspire fresh thoughts for students wrestling with decisions about how to do something meaningful with their educations.

“We’re always torn between going to the private sector or going to the public sector,” she said, “and I believe talks like this draw important emphasis on things that we tend to forget sometimes.”

Harvard Group Recommends Increased Nutrition Education For Doctors

Via Forbes
By Tommy Tobin

Many chronic conditions, such as obesity and diabetes, are related to diet and nutrition. Although many diet-related diseases are highly correlated with poor health outcomes, U.S.-trained doctors receive little or no training in nutrition. A new report published last week by the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (“FLPC”) aims to address this knowledge gap by recommending increased nutrition education in undergraduate, graduate, and continuing medical training.

With its report, Doctoring Our Diet: Policy Tools to Include Nutrition in U.S. Medical Training, Harvard’s FLPC focused on integrating “nutrition as an essential component of U.S. medical education” and allowing doctors “to support better outcomes for individual patients and to address the most common and costly health risks facing our country.”

Unfortunately, there is a lack of attention to nutrition education in medical training. As one recent headline put it, “[y]our doctor may not be the best source of nutrition advice.” Other researchers writing in a medical journal were less reserved: “It cannot be a realistic expectation for physicians to effectively address obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, hospital malnutrition, and many other conditions as long as they are not taught during medical school and residency training how to recognize and treat the nutritional root causes.”

The authors of the Harvard FLPC report identified several medical education stages in which to increase nutrition training and recommended policy mechanisms to address the lack of nutrition training:

  •  For undergraduate medical education, amending accreditation standards to require nutrition training and offering additional grant funding to create nutrition education programming.
  •  For graduate medical education and board certifications, requiring nutrition education in medical schools and incorporating nutrition-related questions in required examinations.
  • After formal medical education, states should integrate nutrition education into continuing education and require—or strongly encourage—physicians to take nutrition education courses as part of maintaining their license.

The report’s authors note that “increased nutrition education for doctors at every stage of their career can ultimately improve outcomes for individual patients, advance population health, and change the healthcare landscape for the better.”

The FLPC report’s publication comes during a dust-up within nutrition science concerning a recent article in the Annals of Internal Medicine on guideline recommendations for meat in consumer diets. According to the New York Times, the article and its associated guidelines “raise uncomfortable questions about dietary advice and nutritional research, and what sort of standards these studies should be held to,” and has faced substantial criticism from public health advocates. It is possible that the increased funding and training in nutrition recommended in the FLPC report could encourage further medical research into nutrition and its role in disease prevention and mitigation.

Given the important association between diet and nutrition and many chronic health conditions, the FLPC report makes considerable sense. Time will tell how palatable the authors’ recommendations are for the relevant decision-makers.

A Cuban Escape: A Daughter’s Admiration

Via Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program

I wanted to intern at the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program (HIRC) so much that it was the only internship I applied for as a law student during my last year of law school. I know it was a risky move, but thankfully, I got lucky. My time at HIRC has been illuminating. I have actively participated in the asylum process for multiple clients, drafted motions, conducted client interviews, and have visited multiple immigration court hearings. However, nothing has made me happier than being able to for the first time witness an asylum trial and listen to the judge say “I am granting your stay of asylum.” Hearing the judge utter those words, and seeing the client’s tears of joy, keeps assuring me that I am on the right field, and reminded me of my father – who escaped from Cuba and spent nine days in the ocean to seek asylum in the United States.

My father is my light, my rock, my hero. He and his story have influenced my life in so many powerful ways – so much, I decided in middle school that I would attend law school to become an immigration lawyer. I am happy that the day has come where I have the opportunity to put on paper all my thoughts and feelings with respect to his migration, in addition to some of the many details about his journey from Cuba to the United States.

June 3, 1970, is a date that will forever have a place in my heart. On that day, my father embarked on his journey through the Gulf of Mexico in a raft. My father wanted to leave the country, but there was no possible way that he could do it legally. For that reason, he decided to leave his loved ones behind, and take on a decision that could have meant his life.

Imagine leaving absolutely everything you have – your hometown, your family, your roots, your country – and taking only with you the memories of your childhood, six glass bottles of water, one bottle of rum mixed with coffee, and a knife for protection. Those are the exact things my father took with him when he embarked on his oceanic journey. It takes a great deal of inner and mental strength to take this step. Nevertheless, this explains my father today; he is the strongest and most optimistic person I know. I can say this with so much certainty: I have never heard my father complain, never. He finds light in every situation.

My father’s journey started with a plan between him and a group of his friends. After the plan went awry, he decided to build a raft from the inner tube of a truck and to flee Cuba by ocean. Not all of his friends accompanied him. Only one did – one brave soul who is in heaven. His friend, Alfredo, embarked on the journey with him. My father does not know much about Alfredo. He knows that Alfredo needed to leave Cuba because of the political situation at the time. He served two years in a Cuban concentration camp and his father was a pilot for Cubana de Aviacion, which is a national airline based in Cuba since 1929. Alfredo, however, did not make it to land. He died on the seventh day of their journey– only two days before my father was rescued. When he died, my father kept Alfredo’s body next to him.

They say people could survive without water for about three to four days. My father survived nine days adrift. On the third day in the middle of the Gulf, my father and his friend lost their most precious belonging – the only glass bottles of potable water that they had taken with them. At this point, my father’s desperation only grew, but so did his faith. He told himself that he was not going to let that loss keep him from going forward, and so he kept rowing. My father had and still has a strength unlike any other, a strength that had its roots and was built on hope. The power of such hope was key to his survival.

With no tools to fish, no potable water, and for obvious reasons no readily accessible means to any sort of aliment, my father had to look for any possible means and take any possible action to survive. This is the one part of his journey that if I had to describe verbally, it would be very painful for me to verbalize. I am simply of the belief that no one should be able to endure such experience. It breaks my heart that my father did. He had to use a bird as sustenance. I do not think I would have the gut, or even the mental ability to do something similar, even while being in that situation. But perhaps I would, I am my father’s daughter, and I like to think that I would be as strong as he was. Alfredo, my father’s friend, caught the bird and they both ate parts of it. My father ate the bird’s heart. To this day, my father still holds his tears when he describes this part of his journey, and there have been times when my father feels the taste of the bird’s heart in his mouth.

On June 11, 1970, his ninth day adrift, was the day my father thought to himself, “Today, I die.” However, it became the day my father was rescued in the Gulf of Mexico. An American merchant ship saved him. On the day of his rescue, my father who was 19 at the time, was skin and bones, on the verge of death. He was so severely dehydrated that the ship’s personnel could not merely give him large amounts of water. His body could not handle that. Instead, they had to immerse cotton in water and place it softly on his lips. Eventually, the merchant ship transferred him to a U.S. Coast Guard ship, which docked on June 12, 1970, at 12:01 a.m. – my father remembers that day and time clearly. June 12 was the day he was “born again,” as my father enthusiastically describes it.

My father still lives with the memories of his past. Those memories have become a part of him, a part of his foundation. I remember my father taking me to the beach when I was a little girl, and I would see him throw a dozen red roses to the ocean. I always questioned why he did this, but I did not ask questions. When I became old enough, he explained. He has done that every June 12 for the past forty-nine years, to honor the memory of Alfredo, his friend who died before the rescue. My father’s rescue was a miracle. My father was surrounded by sharks on that day. The raft was also already sinking. The U.S merchant ship saw him at exactly the right time and at exactly the right place.

This story likely resonates with those who flee their country looking for sanctuary in the United States. Today, my father is a successful business owner, and has also dedicated a lot of his life helping minority classes. I will be forever grateful to HIRC for trusting me and allowing me to actively participate in the asylum process of its clients, and, most importantly, for allowing me to be a part of bringing light in the lives of those who have been in the position of my father – those who have had no choice but to flee their country, leaving behind their family, their roots…and their lives.

This post was written by Giselle M. Rodriguez, a former HIRC summer intern. She is a law student at the Massachusetts School of Law. 

In Q&A, Bonnie Docherty discusses humanitarian disarmament

Reducing the civilian impact of arms and armed conflict has been the focus of Bonnie Docherty’s career since she was a student at Harvard Law School.

Since 2005, Docherty ’01, an international expert on civilian protection in armed conflict, has served as a lecturer on law at the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School. She participated in the negotiations of the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions and has promoted strong implementation of the convention since its adoption. She recently played a key role in the negotiations of the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, successfully advocating for specific provisions and providing legal advice to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the civil society coalition that received the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize. In 2018, Docherty launched the Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative (ACCPI) at Harvard Law School, where she serves as associate director.

On Tuesday, Oct. 8, Docherty hosted an event with Hiroshima bombing survivor Setsuko Thurlow, who accepted the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of  ICAN. Accompanying the event, HLS also showcased a photo exhibit, “From the Atomic Bomb to the Nobel Peace Prize”, which illustrates the history of nuclear disarmament.

Over the course of her career, Docherty has mentored scores of clinical students, from field researchers in conflict zones to advocates inside the halls of the U.N. in Geneva. Daniel Moubayed ’20, a student in the International Human Rights Clinic who works closely with the Initiative, sat down with Docherty prior to the talk to discuss the exhibition, Thurlow’s presentation, and the ACCPI.

A Q&A with Bonnie Docherty

Daniel Moubayed: This month, you’ve arranged for Hiroshima atomic bombing survivor Setsuko Thurlow to give a presentation on campus alongside an ACCPI photo exhibition. Could you tell me a little bit about that exhibition?

Bonnie Docherty: The photos trace the journey from the original atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki through nuclear testing up to the present day where a humanitarian approach significantly advanced the disarmament field. We’re trying to highlight both the catastrophic harm that can be caused by nuclear weapons and the successful approach to disarmament that’s been applied lately and in which the Clinic has actively been involved. This is really important, especially now when international tensions are very high. To move forward, we need to look beyond national security to the human impact of these weapons.

DM: And what impact do you hope to achieve by bringing Setsuko Thurlow to HLS?

BD: It’s a real honor for her to visit. She’s a very powerful speaker, and I’m thrilled she’s able to make the trip. She is one of the decreasing number of survivors from the bombings at Hiroshima. It’s remarkable and significant to be able to hear first-hand testimony of this horrible event from over 70 years ago. As a survivor, she’s one of the strongest voices for disarmament. So I’m hoping that her talk will not only increase awareness of the humanitarian harm caused by nuclear weapons but also inspire the audience not to lose faith in the wake of recent events and trying times.

DM: You were also involved with ICAN at the time they won the Nobel Prize. Could you tell me more about that?

BD: Well, it was a team effort. I worked with ICAN, four HLS students, and my colleague, Anna Crowe [assistant director of the International Human Rights Clinic]. We acted as a legal adviser to ICAN in 2017, when they were negotiating the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was adopted in July 2017 by 122 countries. Only one voted against it. The U.N. General Assembly mandated the negotiations so they had widespread support. We were on hand if ICAN needed information about precedent for a certain provision, for instance, but we focused primarily on advocating for provisions requiring countries to assist victims of past use and testing and remediate the environment where countries used or tested. We wanted to address the harms that had already been caused, not just advocate to eliminate future harm. Students did a lot of research and wrote papers in advance of the negotiations, and we worked closely with states and other NGOs to successfully get these provisions added to the Treaty. It was a real accomplishment and very rewarding for all of us.

DM: Incredible work. Did you first meet Setsuko during these negotiations?

BD: Yes, and she was the concluding speaker at the adoption. Hearing how long she had waited for this day and how meaningful this treaty is — not just on a geopolitical level, but on a personal one — was very moving. That’s what made me want to invite her to campus, and I believe she has inspired others to want to continue work in this field.

DM: So you were there for both the adoption of the treaty and the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. Can you talk more about that?

BD: It was one of the highlights of both my professional and personal life. There’s nothing like seeing a treaty adopted — it’s a sign of hope for the work I do. Most of my projects focus on documenting the harm that’s caused, so it’s nice to see that things can change. At the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, Setsuko accepted alongside Beatrice Fihn, the executive director of ICAN. What struck me in that moment was how ordinary people can do extraordinary things. I was looking at friends of mine with whom I’ve been working on disarmament issues for the past 18 years, who aren’t heads of states or archbishops or world leaders. They’re ordinary citizens raising awareness and pushing states to action. Setsuko was once a girl buried in the rubble of her destroyed school. Now she’s delivering a Nobel Peace Prize lecture. What an amazing journey.

DM: I love that. “Ordinary people doing extraordinary things.” Let’s fast-forward: you help win a Nobel, you’re doing your other Clinic work on killer robots and incendiary weapons, and you also have a job in the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch. Yet in March 2018, you launch the Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative, or the ACCPI, because clearly you didn’t have enough on your plate. Can you take us back to when the ACCPI was still in the planning stages? What were the goals of setting up the Initiative?

BD: The motivation came from my years of work in civilian protection. I began considering the human rights and humanitarian impacts of armed conflict right when I graduated from HLS in 2001. My fellowship with Human Rights Watch just happened to start the day after 9/11. Six months later, I was in Afghanistan researching cluster munition use, getting my first hands-on exposure. That led to many other field missions, and eventually, I got involved in treaty negotiations.

With the ACCPI, I wanted to enhance advocacy and support NGOs working to reduce the civilian effects of armed conflict. But also I felt that it was important to have it here at HLS. I wanted to provide an opportunity for students to get involved and continue this work after graduation. I’ve always been doing this kind of work at the Clinic, but formalizing it gives it greater influence.

DM: What were the resources in this area while you were a student? The ACCPI didn’t exist. You had to go out and start it. What were discussions like then and how have they changed?

BD: Opportunities were more diffuse; you had to seek out the conversations. I have always been interested in armed conflict, and originally I thought I was going to be a history professor. Then, I had the opportunity to embed with peacekeepers in Bosnia as a journalist between undergrad and law school, which was very influential. At law school, most of my international law and humanitarian law professors were visitors, but now we have permanent faculty that address these issues. There was the Harvard Human Rights Journal and the International Law Journal, which I worked on. But there wasn’t any hands-on experience available like we have now with our clinical and pro bono programs. Luckily, we had a strong human rights community on campus, and I received an HRP summer fellowship to work with Article 19 after my 1L year. Things have changed since then for the better.

DM: As a clinical student, I’m incredibly excited about the ACCPI’s work; there’s really a broad focus on affecting change. We’re now in the second academic year of the Initiative. How are you hoping to galvanize students and accomplish your own advocacy goals?

BD: The ACCPI is really centered on students, on developing the next generation of leaders in this field. We’re laying the foundation for what I call the three pillars of the Initiative. So, first we have advocacy through our ongoing clinic work. That’s not necessarily new but we’ve expanded our focus areas, including environment and armed conflict or cultural heritage and armed conflict. Second, we’ve built a resource database for students interested in pursuing careers in the field. We’ve also had alumni come to campus to do advising. This past spring, we hosted Matt Wells ’09, who is Senior Crisis Advisor with Amnesty International, and Chris Rogers ’09, a Senior Program Officer with Open Society’s Human Rights Initiative. Third, we’re promoting innovation. We’re bringing practitioners to campus to raise awareness but also to do the actual brainstorming and work of disarmament. This includes Setsuko’s visit and the ACCPI’s launch in 2018, when we invited leaders in the field to HLS to meet, strategize, and collaborate around issues we’re facing as a community.

DM: What are your long-term thoughts while directing this Initiative? What’s the vision going forward?

BD: One immediate goal is to develop an alumni mentorship program, which we plan to pilot this fall thanks to Nicolette Waldman ’13, an alum of the Clinic and the Satter Fellowship, who spent last spring as an ACCPI Senior Clinical Fellow. Long term, we hope to create a formal track at HLS and the Clinic for students interested in these issues. We’re providing trainings and resources for students and shaping a more concrete path for them to follow. Off campus, we’re working on framing the humanitarian disarmament issue and increasing collaboration among different organizations in the field. We’ve held workshops for diplomats in Geneva, published reports and pamphlets, and served a convening function for NGOs. We hope to continue those activities and engage students as we go.

DM: So there are things happening here in Cambridge and in Geneva and all over the world, really, a bit of everything.

BD: Yes, a bit of everything. And we respond to real world events. I’m heading to Vienna next week for negotiations on a new political declaration of reducing the effects of explosive weapons — rockets and bombs — when they’re used in civilian areas. I also have a clinical team working on that.

DM: How do you keep it all going?

BD: Adrenaline. And I’m energized by both colleagues and by students like yourself who come in with great enthusiasm who want to immerse themselves in the issues and will go on to make the world a better place.

Harvard Law School’s ‘outstanding’ housing rights advocacy work honored by Boston Bar Association

Lisa Owens (City Life/Vida Urbana), Zoe Kronin (Greater Boston Legal Services), Maureen McDonagh (Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School), and Eloise Lawrence (Harvard Legal Aid Bureau) accept the 2019 John G. Brooks Legal Services Award on behalf of their organizations. Photo courtesy of the Boston Bar Association.

By Grace Yuh

In September, two Harvard Law School clinics and their community partner organizations were recognized by the Boston Bar Association (BBA) for their collaborative efforts to fight housing displacement in greater Boston.

WilmerHale Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School (LSC), Harvard Legal Aid Bureau (HLAB), Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS), and City Life/Vida Urbana, received the BBA’s John G. Brooks Legal Services Award for a “creative, combined strategy of community organizing and legal defense to advocate with and for tenants and homeowners across the city.” The award, presented annually by the BBA, recognizes “professional legal services attorneys for their outstanding work on behalf of indigent clients in greater Boston.” This was the first time since its establishment that the award was received by a collective of four groups.

“These four organizations represent the very best in collaboration and commitment to finding solutions for Boston’s housing crisis,” said incoming BBA President Christine Netski, managing partner at Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen. “Their innovative partnership is an excellent model for others looking to bring lawyers and community organizers together to create positive change.”

The cost of housing in greater Boston has increased significantly over the past 10 years. As more and more properties are becoming increasingly expensive, middle- and low- income individuals and families have fewer options to secure housing.

Eloise Lawrence, a community lawyering Clinical Instructor and Lecturer on Law at HLAB, provided insight into how the evolution of the Boston Housing crisis makes it a persistent legal issue, noting how widespread gentrification and foreclosure in the greater Boston area continues to displace community members.

“The real crisis in the aftermath of the foreclosure crisis was when a lot of speculators and investors came into communities that had been devastated. They took advantage of the fact that the prices of the homes had decreased dramatically and they started buying them up, which set off yet another speculative frenzy.” she said.

Maureen McDonagh, LSC Managing Attorney and Lecturer on Law at the Housing Law Clinic, also elaborated on why this issue is more relevant than ever to the legal community.

“Over the years we’ve seen cuts to legal services. That means there are even fewer attorneys representing folks in housing courts.” said McDonagh. “For unrepresented people, finding representation is virtually impossible. To find an apartment that is affordable, safe, clean is near impossible. People who are being evicted are finding themselves more and more homeless and this includes families. That’s why I think the BBA has concentrated more on [this issue].”

Lawrence noted that the collaborative nature between the four organizations developed in part through the work of the late David Grossman, Clinical Professor, who worked at LSC before becoming the Faculty Director at HLAB. Grossman brought students from LSC and HLAB into the anti-foreclosure movement that GBLS and City Life/Vida Urbana were already participating in. Since then, the partnership between all four organizations has expanded and grown. A hallmark of the partnership between these four organizations, the Sword and Shield method relies on the concerted and joint effort of local and legal communities; and focuses on empowering and encouraging individuals to stand up for their rights.

“The Shield is legal defense and the Sword is public protest and public pressure.” explained Steve Meacham, Organizing Coordinator at City Life/Vida Urbana. “There are procedures of the law that we can take advantage of and … legal proceedings allow the public pressure to then really work.”

City Life/Vida Urbana, whose primary mission is fighting against forced displacement, represents the “sword” through work such as organizing tenant associations and doing eviction blockades. HLS students and attorneys from LSC and GBLS complete the “shield” of the Sword and Shield method by providing legal services and advice. This can range from partial to full representation in court, with the City Life/Vida Urbana meetings in both Jamaica Plain and East Boston providing a space in which law students and attorneys can meet with individuals or client unions looking for legal aid. Additionally, GBLS, LSC, and HLAB participate in the “Lawyer for the Day” program, in conjunction with the BBA and Volunteer Lawyers Project.

“We go to housing court to help people who are being evicted that day, who don’t have a lawyer. We pick up cases right there.” said McDonagh on the program, which has assisted more than 18,000 individuals since 1999.

Outside of the direct services that the four organizations provide, they also convene for monthly Sword and Shield meetings that provide a space for lawyers and organizers to discuss and reflect on issues regarding partnership and individual work. Lawrence explained how these meetings are a good opportunity for organizers and lawyers to connect beyond shared clients.

“I think there’s huge synergy that happens when organizers and lawyers work together. I view it as part of my job to teach law students, especially those that have never worked with organizers before, to understand where the role of lawyer and organizer overlap and where they are distinct. I think that [to be] a good lawyer or an organizer, you need to be an empathetic human, you need to listen and learn. It sounds simple but it often gets overlooked in legal education.” she said.

Additionally, Meacham emphasized the strengths of community lawyering in a movement like the anti-foreclosure movement, where it is important to empower the collective of those in need of help.

“It’s been a privilege to work with all of them.” Meacham said, “In addition to being on the right side of cases about tenants, they are very skilled community lawyers, which is why they’re here taking short consultations. They understand that they’re representing collectively the movement … in terms of their practice outside of the client-attorney relationship, they’re practicing community lawyering so they’re looking at cases that will help a movement.” he said.

McDonagh also emphasized the nature of the collaboration between the four organizations and their relationship with the greater Boston community. “We are honored to be recognized for our efforts but the people who are the real heroes are the ordinary individuals standing up for their rights.” she said.

GBLS Executive Director Jacquelynne J. Bowman says receiving the Brooks Legal Services Award is a wonderful recognition of what impactful, collaborative advocacy can really look like.

“Greater Boston Legal Services is greatly honored to have been chosen by the Boston Bar Association as a co-recipient of the 2019 John G. Brooks Legal Services Award”, she said.  “This is a testament to the impactful advocacy efforts of our Housing Unit advocates and partners at the Harvard Legal Assistance Bureau, WilmerHale Legal Services Center, and City Life/Vida Urbana to help low-income families avoid or delay their displacement from increasingly unaffordable neighborhoods.”

Lawrence echoed this sentiment, noting the implications for how the legal community might best approach large-scale socio-economic issues in the future.

“It’s a recognition … that effective advocacy happens when people work together, especially when lawyers and non-lawyers work together.” Lawrence said. “When you’re dealing with complex problems like lack of affordable housing and the displacement of people from their homes, lawyers are never going to do this alone. The recognition from the legal community, which the BBA [represents], shows a more complex understanding of how problems are going to be addressed and that’s wonderful.”

 

 

Clinic Celebrates First Year of the ACCPI

Waldman gives a talk for students on her involvement in an Amnesty International investigation into torture and executions in Syrian prisons.

Via Human Rights @ Harvard Law

By Nicolette Waldman

The Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative (ACCPI) recently completed its first full year, and it was a banner one. Launched in March 2018, the initiative has worked both on campus and around the world to advance its goal of reducing the harm caused by war.

The ACCPI brings together students, practitioners, and academics to advocate for civilian protection, cultivate the next generation of leaders, and promote innovation in the field. It is a collaborative endeavor, led by disarmament and international humanitarian law expert Bonnie Docherty. Clinic alum Lan Mei JD ’17 and I have worked closely with Docherty to lay the foundations for the ACCPI’s ongoing success. The initiative has also received invaluable support from faculty and staff across the Human Rights Program and partnered with numerous nongovernmental organizations, such as Human Rights Watch and PAX.

Over the past school year, the team behind the ACCPI achieved a great deal. We led clinical projects on armed conflict and civilian protection; brought experts to campus for trainings, panels, and individual presentations; connected students to these and other practitioners; and created a database of potential host organizations for students. Beyond Harvard, we were especially active in the area of “humanitarian disarmament,” which seeks to prevent and remediate the human suffering inflicted by arms. We played a leadership role in coordinating cross-campaign collaboration and raising awareness of the approach.

An overview of the ACCPI’s activities from September 2018-August 2019, other than clinical projects, is provided below. In the coming months and years, the ACCPI plans to develop a track for Harvard Law students who want to pursue careers in the field and to consolidate the school’s position as center of excellence on civilian protection in armed conflict. Civilians affected by war have far too few advocates, and we aim to do all we can to address this gap.

Stay tuned this fall for updates on new events, trainings, student resources and programs, and publications!

Harvard Law School Events

Organized or co-sponsored the following presentations and panel discussions:

“Humanization of Arms Control: Paving the Way for a World Free of Nuclear Weapons,” October 17, 2018

“Universal Jurisdiction: Help or Hindrance in the Prosecution of War Criminals?” October 25, 2018

“International Law Commission’s Draft Articles on Crimes against Humanity,” January 2019

“Sustainable Justice: Lessons from Twenty Years of Domestic War Crimes Prosecutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” February 4, 2019

“The Destruction of Culture: The War against Culture and the Battle to Save It,” February 20, 2019

“The Human Impact of Nuclear Weapons,” March 7, 2019

“Hell on Earth: Uncovering Atrocities in Syria’s Prisons,” March 27, 2019

“Investigating Myanmar’s Atrocity Crimes: Human Rights Work Amid Conflict and Crisis,” April 5, 2019

Student Resources

Offered “Fieldcraft: Conducting Research on Armed Conflict and Mass Atrocities,” a two-part workshop by former Amnesty International researcher Nicolette Waldman, March 11 and April 1, 2019

Organized advising sessions with alumni Lillian Langford JD ’13, Chris Rogers JD ’09, and Matt Wells JD ’09, all of whom work in the area of armed conflict and civilian protection

Created a database of relevant organizations that could host interns or post-graduate fellows

Started to build a network of alumni working in the field

Humanitarian Disarmament: Publications, Events, and Messaging

Launched humanitariandisarmament.org website, October 2018

Published Humanitarian Disarmament: The Way Ahead, a summary of the ACCPI’s inaugural conference, October 2018

Hosted a strategy session for civil society leaders, New York, October 2018

Wrote and collected 18 civil society organization co-sponsors for a statement on humanitarian disarmament delivered at the UN General Assembly’s First Committee on Disarmament and International Security, October 2018

Co-organized, with PAX, “Humanitarian Disarmament at the CCW: Examining Incendiary Weapons and Landmines through a Humanitarian Lens,” a side event at the Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Conventional Weapons, Geneva, November 20, 2018

Co-organized, with the Geneva Disarmament Platform, a workshop for diplomats on humanitarian disarmament, Geneva, August 15, 2019

Published Humanitarian Disarmament, a brochure to introduce diplomats, campaigners, and others to the overarching concept, individual arms issues, and key resources, August 15, 2019

FLPC Releases Report Calling for Greater Nutrition Education in the Medical Field

Via CHLPI Blog

Source: Food Law and Policy Clinic

The Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) released a new report today identifying policy approaches to increase nutrition competency of U.S-trained physicians. Doctoring Our Diets: Policy Tools to Include Nutrition in U.S. Medical Training highlights the current lack of education on diet-related diseases and nutrition that doctors receive over the course of their medical careers. The report illustrates the impact of this knowledge-gap on healthcare costs and patient health, and provides a number of recommendations for federal, state, and non-governmental policymakers to tackle this issue.

Diet is the most significant risk factor for disability and premature death in the United States, and diet-related diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes affect an unprecedented number of Americans. Patients turn to doctors for advice on how to avoid or mitigate these and other health risks arising from poor diet and nutrition. Yet, unbeknownst to patients, many doctors are no more equipped to provide this advice than patients themselves: an average medical student spends less than one percent of total classroom hours learning about food and nutrition, and seventy-three percent of physicians reported that they received no or minimal instruction on nutrition during their medical training. This gap in medical education not only represents a violation of the public trust but a missed opportunity to invest in better population health.

To bridge this divide, Doctoring Our Diet calls for relevant policymakers to take action, recommending specific policy solutions applicable at each stage of medical education. For example, policymakers can condition non-grant funding on the inclusion of nutrition education in medical school programs and residency programs, offer performance-based incentives to medical schools and residency programs that provide a baseline amount of nutrition education, and amend accreditation standards to require baseline competency in nutrition. For each recommendation, the report features a brief feasibility analysis, addressing the benefits and potential challenges associated with implementation.

As one example of the types of policies recommended in Doctoring Our Diet, the report shines a special spotlight on the government’s failure to use existing Medicare funding of GME programs to leverage nutrition education for doctors. Medicare is the single largest contributor of graduate medical education (GME) in the United States, providing $16 billion in 2015. At the same time, Medicare spending accounts for nearly 15 percent of all federal spending. As the prevalence of preventable, but costly, diet-related diseases continues to rise, so too will this percentage: over the next 10 years, Medicare spending is expected to increase from $630 billion to a projected $1.3 trillion—or more than 18% of the federal budget. Doctoring Our Diet explains that requiring Medicare-funded GME programs to educate physicians on nutrition is a logical and necessary approach to mitigating diet-related diseases and saving healthcare costs in the long-term.

This report is a product of FLPC’s ongoing involvement with the Nutrition Education Working Group (NEWG), a group of leaders in nutrition science, education and policy from FLPC, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard Medical School, and the Gaples Institute for Integrative Cardiology. FLPC has collaborated with NEWG to raise awareness about the lack of nutrition education provided in medical training, presenting the issue to policymakers, writing comments to the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), and working with various medical boards to add nutrition-focused questions to exams. This initiative represents the latest effort in FLPC’s ongoing commitment to policy development at the intersection of food and health.

The Latest Reports on Betsy DeVos Scamming For-Profit College Students

Via The Project on Predatory Student Lending

TT and Corinthian Borrowers Continue to Fight for Relief as the Department of Education Skirts the Law Every Step of the Way

At the end of last week, there was a great deal of news from the U.S. Department of Education — reinforcing that it skirts the law and epitomizes corruption — and much of it flew under the radar.

 

Automatic Closed School Discharge for 7,000 ITT Borrowers

Betsy DeVos announced that the Department finally began to process automatic closed school discharges for certain borrowers who were cheated by ITT Tech and were enrolled when the company shut down. The Department estimated it would cancel $95 million in loans to ITT students.

The announcement followed demands from elected officials like Senator Dick Durbin, Senator Elizabeth Warren and other senate democrats for the Department to follow the law and process these discharges. 

The Department has fought against discharging bogus student loans from ITT Tech for years. Ultimately, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and the Department were mandated to process these automatic closed school discharges after a successful lawsuit brought by students (Bauer v. DeVos) ended the illegal delay of the 2016 borrower defense rule, and elected officials like Senator Dick Durbin demanded it.

While this is good news for these select students, many more are still waiting for justice. And the Department of Education continues to go out of its way to prevent them from getting it.

  • Approximately 45,000 students were attending ITT Tech when it closed in September 2016, and were left with massive debt and no diploma. Approximately 16,000 ITT students have already individually applied for and been granted closed school discharges. The Department’s announcement covers about 7,000 additional borrowers.
  • By the end of 2018, more than 19,000 former ITT students had applied for borrower defense, and because of the Department’s inaction, their bogus debts are still hanging over their heads. Secretary DeVos needs to follow the law and cancel the debts of all ITT students once and for all
  • Just three weeks ago, Secretary DeVos published a new borrower defense rulegutting protections for student borrowers and eliminating the automatic closed school discharge provision. This rule would leave students without this safety net if their school abruptly closes.

 

Illegal Collection on more than 16,000 Corinthian Borrowers

At the same time, Secretary DeVos admitted in a court filing that the Department of Education continued to collect from thousands of former Corinthian Colleges students in direct violation of a federal court order.

According to new numbers revealed by the filing, thousands of students were hurt by DeVos’ illegal actions.

  • The filing was made in a class action lawsuit by Corinthian Colleges students represented by the Project and HERA, Calvillo Manriquez v. DeVos.
  • Last year in this case, the federal court ordered Secretary DeVos to stop collecting the loans of thousands of students who were defrauded by Corinthian Colleges. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
  • Instead, the Department demanded incorrect loan payment from 16,034 Of those students, 3,289 borrowers made one or more loan payments because of these demands, which they were not actually supposed to pay. The Department has harmed the credit of 847 non-defaulted borrowers. The Department subjected 1,808 borrowers to involuntary debt collection by garnishing their wages or taking their tax refunds or benefits.

This is part of a pattern by Betsy DeVos and the Department of Education. They callously strip away basic student protections and illegally collect on student loans, all while blaming the courts, blaming servicers, and blaming the students themselves. The court will address these revelations by the Department at a status hearing on October 7.

Click here for the Project’s statement on this news.

Student Voices: Their Perspectives on How Schools Are and Should Be

Via MassAdvocates

By Trauma Learning Policy Initiative

As we welcome students back for the start of a new school year, many of us are embarking on or continuing the work of creating trauma-sensitive, safe and supportive learning environments for all students.

We recently completed this report from eight “Listening and Learning Sessions” with 73 secondary students in urban public schools.  We asked students What do you need in order to do well in school? What could your school do differently to help you do well? and How should your schools be assessed?  We hope you will find it as eye opening as we did, and draw inspiration from it for connecting with students throughout this school year.

We presented this report to the MA Safe and Supportive Schools Commission so that student voices can inform the Commission’s annual recommendations to the legislature. We hope it can foster an increased student voice in education reform.

The importance of safety, connection and belonging are increasingly acknowledged as important foundations for academic and social emotional success at school. Yet we rarely ask students themselves what their experience of school is, what works and doesn’t work for them, or what schools might do differently to support their learning and growth.

Below we share a few samples of thoughts shared by students in the listening sessions.  To read the full report including more from the students, please click here.

What students need in order to do well: relationships with teachers

“When [teachers are] really energetic, like my English teacher for example. She’s the happiest person I know. It’s like I love it because if I’m having a bad day, it’s like her energy just comes and picks me up. It’s just like, ‘Oh,’ because I love English. That’s my favorite subject, favorite class, and favorite teacher.”

Supports students find helpful:

“Imagine I take a test and I fail the test. Then we move on, but the grade that I got on the test, it shows me that I don’t know that topic, but now we move on. It starts a snowball effect. If I just keep failing or if whatever I’m learning is based on what was on that test, then I won’t succeed anymore. I feel like kids that didn’t do as well on that test should get it all and the teacher works with them so they can catch up and not have a shaky base to learning.”

How students want schools to be assessed:

“I think having a Social Grade for the school would help. By that I mean looking at the different factors that play into the social atmosphere of the school, whether that’s…teacher-student ratios, the amount of support that is offered students, whether that means counselors, specific types of classes and other things like that. [So for a parent asking] ‘where should I send my student? This school has really high test scores…and ha[s] high graduation rates, but they don’t really support students or they historically have not supported students who have mental health issues…oh, I probably don’t want to send my child there because I know that this is something that they struggle with or they are dealing with now and the school probably wouldn’t be a good fit for them outside of academics.”

TLPI is grateful to the students who shared their expertise by participating in the listening sessions.  We hope this report informs and advances schools’ efforts to better address the full range of students’ needs.

Intern Spotlight: Kayla

Via Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program

What does the day-to-day look like for a social work intern at HIRC? Well, it could look like many different things. At HIRC, we work with a diverse population of clients. Our work consists of providing both emotional support and case management support based on a case-by-case basis. Depending on a client’s needs, a general workday could consist of facilitating cognitive behavioral therapy focused interventions during an office or home visit, supporting attorneys during client interviews that may consist of discussing emotionally heavy topics, or accompanying clients to their local clinic to help them apply for health insurance. Each day can look different depending on the clients’ needs and goals for the day.

There are many highlights and some challenges in doing this work. I enjoyed being immersed in the different cultures and backgrounds of our clients. Social work interns get the chance to build a different kind of relationship with clients through home visits and consistent communication. Another highlight is the relationship that is formed between attorneys, law students and social work interns. This experience is one-of-a-kind as the social work interns and the legal clinic create a team atmosphere where each person supports and learns from one another.

Two challenges that comes to mind include the locations that some of the clients live in and adapting certain clinical interventions for the specific population being worked with in a way that is relevant and helpful for clients. Some clients live very far from Cambridge and this can make it more difficult in terms of providing consistent emotional support and trying to schedule home or office visits. Another challenge I was faced with was learning how to provide emotional support in a way that is validating and supportive to a population that is going through difficult circumstances, which can bring up valid fears and concerns. As an intern, it is important to take the time to check in with attorneys about current laws that could affect a client’s well-being, as well as to be aware of any current policy changes that may be relevant to the case to better understand how to support any needs that may arise.

Lastly, an important part of the social work intern role at HIRC is the intersection of law and social work. The intersection of law and social work is one of the most intriguing aspects of this work. As a social work intern, you are considered to be apart of the legal team, which means that you work with attorneys and law students on mutual cases together. Therefore, in addition to supporting clients’ needs, you also check in and coordinate with attorneys in regards to any important topics that may have come up during individual social work visits that may help the legal team build their client’s case. As a team we learn from one another and support each other with recommendations within our area of expertise. Social work interns learn about current laws and policies that may or may not affect the clients we work with in regards to accessing resources and general mental health, and attorneys and law students learn tips in regards to social work skills, such as positive communication tools, and sharing empathy when interviewing and meeting with clients who may come in with a history of trauma. It is a unique dynamic that is not common among many field placements.

A large takeaway that I will bring with me from this internship is how diverse the role of a social worker can be. Before working at HIRC, the intersection of social work and law was something that never crossed my mind. This experience made me realize that social workers can play an important role in various settings, not just in common settings such as a school or a clinic.

This post was written by former HIRC social work intern Kayla Peña. Kayla is currently pursuing a Masters in Social Work (MSW) at Simmons College.

OCP Welcome Communications Coordinator Grace Yuh

 

Grace Yuh joined the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs as the Communications and Administrative Coordinator in September 2019. Yuh received her B.A. in Political Science from Tufts University this May.

Yuh spent three years as the executive features editor for The Tufts Daily, an independent student-run newspaper. She wrote over 20 feature-length articles about Tufts alumni and student groups committed to addressing gun violence, disability rights, and body positivity, among other issues. She also served as a communications and development intern at BUILD Boston where she developed content for social media and led recruitment campaigns. A member of the Asian American Journalist Association and the Tisch College of Civic Life Honos Civicus Society, Yuh has advocated and led efforts to promote fair coverage of communities of color and diversity in media organizations.

In addition to many other responsibilities, Grace will be writing stories for OCP’s blog and publishing stories that your clinics and SPOs generate.

Student Practice Organizations Panel 2019

Students attend 2019 SPO Panel

Student Practice Organizations often provide 1Ls with their first opportunity to gain practical legal experience at HLS. Each SPO is typically led by a student board consisting of 2L and 3L students and is supervised by a licensed attorney. Across the 11 SPOs currently active at HLS, a variety of focus areas including housing, immigration, and prison law are represented. Students participating in SPOs do not receive academic credit, however, their hours can count towards the 50-hour pro bono graduation requirement.

The SPO Panel, held earlier this week, provides an opportunity for students to hear directly from the students boards and members of SPOs. During the 2019 SPO Panel, representatives from all 11 SPOs spoke on focus areas, levels of commitment, attorney supervision and particularly emphasized the communities formed in each individual SPO through the work that they do.

“Community is one of our main priorities. It was a game changer for me. I met some of my closest friends, it reminded me why I decided to come to law school.” said Emma Broches, co-president of HLS Advocates for Human Rights, on her experience with SPOs.

President of Harvard Defenders Martina Tiku also noted how SPOs encourage members to interact with other students and individuals in the field who are committed to and passionate about the work that they do, reflecting the sentiments of several other panel participants.  “You get a chance to talk to people who are passionate about their work.” she said.

For students interested in joining an SPO, the organizations hold information sessions and open houses are coming up. All SPOs require some form of registration or sign-up, with several requiring separate applications. While all SPOs accept students in the fall, some  accept members during the spring term. Information session, open house, and registration/application deadline dates can be found on the  Opportunities for Student Practice Matrix.

Resources:

SPO Skills Matrix

SPO Sign-Ups

SPO Student Reflections

Human Rights Program’s 2018-2019 Annual Report

Via HRP 

Source: HRP Blog 

We are delighted to present HRP’s 2018-2019 Annual Report. The report showcases the global reach and impact of the Human Rights Program in its 35th year. Previews have already run on the Harvard Law School website: profiles of Paras Shah JD ’19Jenny B. Domino LLM ’18, and Anna Khalfaoui LLM ’17. In addition to celebrating these former students and fellows, the annual report explores how members of HRP contributed to a convention on crimes against humanity, innovated in clinical pedagogy, and advocated for LGBT rights. We thank all of the students, partners, and alumni who made last year so strong and look forward to engaging with our community and working on the most pressing issues in 2019-2020.

You can view our annual report in several different modes: a flipbook version, a color PDF, and a black-and-white PDF.

Read the introduction below, which highlights the words of the Human Rights Program and International Human Rights Clinic Co-Directors:


The Human Rights Program: Reflecting on 35 Years

Founded by Professor Emeritus Henry Steiner in 1984 as a center for human rights scholarship, Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program (HRP) enters its 35th year in 2019. Concurrently, the International Human Rights Clinic celebrates its 15th anniversary. HRP was founded as a place of reflection and engagement and a forum that brings academics and advocates together. Since 1984, HRP has only deepened its commitment to this endeavor. With this past year marking the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the United Nations General Assembly, it is a particularly opportune time to take stock of human rights at Harvard Law School (HLS) and how the Program’s impact has reverberated beyond the university.

“The Universal Declaration set forth a vision of liberty and equality and social solidarity that has never been fully achieved; it continues to inspire people around the world as we strive to fulfill its mission,” said Gerald L. Neuman JD ’80, Co-Director of HRP and the J. Sinclair Armstrong Professor of International, Foreign, and Comparative Law at HLS. “The Program has always been about critical involvement with human rights. In a time when human rights face extreme challenges globally, that means thinking more deeply about what changes are needed and  how we can contribute to the system, scholarship, and the world.”

Today, HRP comprises the Academic Program and the Clinic, which together bridge theory with practice and engage with pressing human rights issues around the world. As a center for critical thinking, the Academic Program organizes conferences and other events; publishes working papers and books; offers summer and post-graduate fellowships to launch students in human rights careers; and draws human rights advocates and academics from across the globe as part of the Visiting Fellows Program.

Over the past decade and a half, the Clinic has engaged more than 1,000 students in an analytical and reflective approach to human rights lawyering. While devoting itself to the training of future practitioners, the Clinic has promoted and protected human rights through scores of projects around the world. This work includes pushing for global equity in the realm of gender and sexuality, litigating landmark accountability cases, and helping to negotiate treaties that ban nuclear weapons and cluster munitions.

“The formal founding of the International Human Rights Clinic 15 years ago is really consequential; it recognizes the diversity of ways that people can contribute to the human rights movement,” said Susan H. Farbstein JD ’04, Co-Director of the Clinic and Clinical Professor of Law. While not all clinical students pursue careers in human rights, they often cite their clinical education as influential and formative. For many, clinics are the one place at HLS where they have the opportunity to engage in real-world preparation and see their efforts make an impact. “We’re training students in critical approaches to human rights practice, emphasizing cross-cultural sensitivity and how to be guided by the clients and communities we serve. We hope this leads to better, more effective human rights advocacy,” Farbstein said.

This year, HRP recognizes the anniversary of the Program, the Clinic, and the UDHR with both celebration and humility. After decades of training students and building a network of HRP fellows and partners, it is inspiring to step back and glimpse the network that we’ve built. “It’s not about one particular year but about the cumulative impact,” said Tyler R. Giannini, Co- Director of HRP and the Clinic and Clinical Professor of Law. “When we see the success of our students, alumni, partners, and fellows, it’s a testament to the power of this community.”

Facebook, Google Face Multi-State Antitrust Regulations

Via WBUR 

With Meghna Chakrabarti

Denis Charlet/AFP/Getty Images

A coalition of state attorneys general launch antitrust probes into Facebook and Google. They tell us why.

Guests

Phil Weiser, attorney general from Colorado. Served in the Obama Administration as a deputy assistant attorney general in the U.S. Department of Justice. Served in President Clinton’s Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. (@pweiser)

James Tierney, founding director of StateAG.org, an educational resource on the office of state attorney general. Lecturer in law at Harvard Law School. Attorney General of Maine from 1980 to 1990.

Tim Wu, professor of law, science and technology at Columbia Law School. Author of “The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age.” Former senior adviser to the Federal Trade Commission for consumer protection and competitions issues that affect the internet and mobile markets. (@superwuster)

Stephen Houck, special counsel at Offit Kurman Attorneys at Law. Chief of the Antitrust Bureau at the New York State Attorney General’s Office from 1995 to 1999. Lead trial counsel for the 20 state plaintiffs in the government lawsuit against Microsoft. He’s on retainer with Google for general advisement about antitrust issues.

From The Reading List

Statement From Google

Google’s services create choice for consumers, and spur innovation in the U.S.

Kent Walker, SVP, Global Affairs

Google’s services help people, create more choice, and support thousands of jobs and small businesses across the United States. Google is one of America’s top spenders on research and development, making investments that spur innovation: Things that were science fiction a few years ago are now free for everyone—translating any language instantaneously, learning about objects by pointing your phone, getting an answer to pretty much any question you might have.

At the same time, it’s of course right that governments should have oversight to ensure that all successful companies, including ours, are complying with the law. The Department of Justice, for example, has announced that it’s starting a review of online platforms.

We have answered many questions on these issues over many years, in the United States as well as overseas, across many aspects of our business, so this is not new for us. The DOJ has asked us to provide information about these past investigations, and we expect state attorneys general will ask similar questions. We have always worked constructively with regulators and we will continue to do so.

We look forward to showing how we are investing in innovation, providing services that people want, and engaging in robust and fair competition.

Facebook did not respond to requests for an interview or statement.

New York Times: “New Google and Facebook Inquiries Show Big Tech Scrutiny Is Rare Bipartisan Act” — “There is a major force uniting America’s fiercely partisan politicians: big technology companies. Democrats and Republicans at the federal and state levels are coming together to scrutinize the power of the Silicon Valley giants and, potentially, to rein them in.

Get highlights, extras and notes from the hosts sent to your inbox each week with On Point’s newsletter. Subscribe here.

“Letitia James, the Democratic attorney general of New York, announced on Friday that attorneys general in eight states — four Democrats and four Republicans — and the District of Columbia had begun an antitrust investigation of Facebook.

“Next up for state regulators is Google. A similarly bipartisan group led by eight attorneys general is set to announce on Monday a separate but comparable investigation. The search giant is expected to be the focus of the inquiry, according to two people familiar with the plan, who spoke on the condition of anonymity before the official announcement. Attorney General Ken Paxton of Texas, a Republican, is taking a leading role in the Google investigation, the people said.

“The state inquiries coincide with bipartisan scrutiny of the tech giants in Washington, by House and Senate committees, the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission. Federal officials are examining the practices of Amazon and Apple as well as those of Facebook and Google.”

Washington Post: “Facebook, Google face off against a formidable new foe: State attorneys general” — “The nation’s state attorneys general have tangled with mortgage lenders, tobacco giants and the makers of addictive drugs. Now, they’re setting their sights on another target: Big Tech.

“Following years of federal inaction, the state watchdogs are initiating sweeping antitrust investigations against Silicon Valley’s largest companies, probing whether they undermine rivals and harm consumers. Their latest salvo arrives Monday, when more than 40 attorneys general are expected to announce their plan to investigate Google, delivering a rare rebuke of the search-and-advertising giant — and its efforts to maintain that dominance — from the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The states seek to probe allegations that the tech industry stifles start-ups, delivers pricier or worse service for Web users, and siphons too much personal information, enriching their record-breaking revenue at the cost of consumer privacy.”

Bloomberg: “FTC Chief Says He’s Willing to Break Up Big Tech Companies” — “The head of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission said he’s prepared to break up major technology platforms if necessary by undoing their past mergers as his agency investigates whether companies including Facebook Inc. are harming competition.

“FTC Chairman Joe Simons, who is leading a broad review of the technology sector, said in an interview Tuesday that breaking up a company is challenging, but could be the right remedy to rein in dominant companies and restore competition.

“‘If you have to, you do it,; Simons said about breaking up tech companies. ‘It’s not ideal because it’s very messy. But if you have to you have to.’ “

New York Times: “How Each Big Tech Company May Be Targeted by Regulators” — “Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google have been the envy of corporate America, admired for their size, influence and remarkable growth.

“Now that success is attracting a different kind of spotlight. In Washington, Brussels and beyond, regulators and lawmakers are investigating whether the four technology companies have used their size and wealth to quash competition and expand their dominance.

“The four firms are lumped together so often that they have become known as Big Tech. Their business models differ, as do the antitrust arguments against them. But those grievances have one thing in common: fear that too much power is in the hands of too few companies.

“The attorney general of New York, Letitia James, said Friday that the attorneys general in eight states — she and three other Democrats, plus four Republicans — and the District of Columbia had begun an antitrust investigation of Facebook.”

Allison Pohle produced this show for broadcast.

This program aired on September 10, 2019.

Brighter Bites to participate in industry-first Nonprofit Food Recovery Accelerator

Via The Produce News

By: Rich Dachman

ReFED announced the cohort of 10 organizations that will participate in its Nonprofit Food Recovery Accelerator, which aims to catalyze ideas and inspire actions that lead to a doubling of healthy food available to the 40 million Americans facing food insecurity.

“Brighter Bites is grateful to ReFED for this incredible, game-changing opportunity to magnify our work converting food waste into a public health opportunity,” said Rich Dachman, chief executive officer at Brighter Bites. “We are excited to work alongside the nine other exceptional organizations comprising this cohort, as well as the accelerator’s world-class Expert Network. Our participation in this program will bolster Brighter Bites’ efforts to source more produce for families in a sustainable manner, all while combatting food insecurity and teaching healthier choices to the families we serve.”

More than 125 candidates applied for the accelerator. The selected cohort range from long-standing food recovery organizations with hundreds of employees servicing thousands of donors, to newly formed innovative organizations that leverage concepts from the sharing economy and apply them to food rescue. What unites them is the desire to work together on a shared mission — to become operationally sustainable and deliver more impact at scale in a dignified and convenient way.

“The accelerator’s nationwide open call for applications confirmed ReFED’s hypothesis that this type of program will provide value in the form of helping food recovery organizations overcome some of the biggest barriers to increasing the amount of nutritious food they can deliver in a dignified manner,” said Alexandria Coari, director of capital and innovation at ReFED. “Some of these barriers include funding models dependent on grants versus earned revenue, a reliance on volunteers instead of paid staff, underutilization of technology solutions, and a lack of collaboration and best practice sharing across the sector. These are just a few of the topics we’ll tackle throughout the accelerator.” The accelerator’s one-of-a-kind, highly customized curriculum will combine a virtual classroom with in-person ReFED Learning Labs that focus on co-creating earned revenue models and technology-enabled solutions using human-centered design.

“Growing awareness about the scale of senseless food waste in this country has catalyzed existing organizations to innovate their paradigms and inspired energetic entrepreneurs to launch creative new models that use this surplus food as a resource,” said Emily Broad Leib, assistant clinical professor of law and director of the Harvard Law School Food Law & Policy Clinic. “As an Expert Network member, it has been incredible to see the response to ReFED’s Nonprofit Food Recovery Accelerator, which will build the needed network and resources for these innovators. I am excited about the announcement of the 2019 cohort, and cannot wait to see them take the next steps to address this major societal issue of our era.”

In addition to Brighter Bites, the other members of the cohort for the first-ever Nonprofit Food Recovery Accelerator are 412 Food Rescue (Pittsburgh), Boston Area Gleaners (Waltham, MA), Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona (Nogales, AZ), Eat Greater Des Moines (Des Moines, IA), Philabundance (Philadelphia), Plentiful (New York City), Replate (Berkeley, CA), Rescuing Leftover Cuisine (New York City), and Seeds That Feed (Fayetteville, AR).

Each participating organization will receive $30,000, plus an additional $100,000 will be awarded to a selected winner at the end of the accelerator. In addition, organizations will have access to a world-class group of food business and technology executives, capital providers and subject matter experts who make up the accelerator’s Expert Network, which includes Afresh, Albertsons, Aramark, Baldor Specialty Foods, Blue Apron, Bon Appetit Management Co., CalRecycle, Center for EcoTechnology, Chick-fil-a, Cisco, Claneil Foundation, ClimateWorks Foundation, Closed Loop Partners, Compass, DoorDash, Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, EPA, Fast Forward, FDA, Feeding America, Fink Family Foundation, Food Donation Connection, Food for Soul, FoodMaven, General Mills, GoodR, Harvard Law School Food Law & Policy Clinic, HelloFresh, Imperfect Produce, Nestle, Next Course LLC, Ovio, Pisces Foundation, Posner Foundation, Rabobank, Sodexo, Spoiler Alert, Starbucks, Taylor Farms, The Ajana Foundation, The Kroger Co. Zero Hunger | Zero Waste Foundation, The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, The Wonderful Company, Tyson Foods, USDA, Village Capital, Wells Fargo, Whole Foods Market and World Wildlife Fund.

Guatemalan Woman’s Asylum Bid Revived Over New Dangers

Via Law360 

By: Kaitlyn Burton

A Guatemalan woman has another shot at asylum after the First Circuit said Friday that the Board of Immigration Appeals must asses her evidence that the Latin American country has become more dangerous for members of a Mayan activist organization she is a part of.

A three-judge panel ruled that the BIA erred in denying Marta Perez-Tino’s bid to reopen her immigration case, saying that her evidence of new dangers for the members of Organizacion Maya K’iche’, or OMK, in Guatemala could excuse her tardy filing, which came more than seven years after the board denied her previous asylum bid.

“It appears that, as Perez-Tino contends, the BIA mistakenly ‘assumed that, because Ms. Perez-Tino voluntarily associated herself with OMK, that condition was a personal circumstance and could not support her motion to reopen,’” the panel said.

An immigration judge denied Perez-Tino’s asylum application in April 2009, and in October 2010, the BIA rejected her appeal of that decision. She then filed a bid in February 2018 to reopen her immigration case, but the BIA denied her request last August, saying that it was too late since she had not proved that circumstances in her country had changed.

However, the First Circuit also said that the BIA was wrong to have rejected another argument from Perez-Tino that the expected deportation of former paramilitary commander Juan Samayoa, whom she alleges tortured and murdered her relatives, from the U.S. to Guatemala would put her in added danger.

The BIA had found that Perez-Tino failed to adequately explain why she did not mention Samayoa’s attacks during her earlier immigration hearing in 2009. But the circuit court said that Perez-Tino had clearly explained that she did not mention him because he had not been arrested until 2017, eight years after her hearing.

“We fail to see why this explanation does not ‘adequately explain’ Perez-Tino’s decision to refer to Samayoa for the first time in her 2018 motion to reopen,” the panel said, noting that Perez-Tino had also provided the BIA with multiple affidavits from friends and family attesting to her claims.

However, the panel did not disagree with the BIA rejecting Perez-Tino’s argument that the shifting political landscape in Guatemala amounted to changed country conditions.

“Perez-Tino develops no argument that the BIA’s determination that there had not been a ‘material change in circumstances’ with respect to this aspect of her attempted showing to the contrary was unsupported by substantial evidence,” the panel said.

A representative for the U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment. A representative for Perez-Tino did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Perez-Tino is represented by Nancy J. Kelly, John Willshire Carrera and Maggie Morgan of the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic at Greater Boston Legal Services.

The government is represented by Jacob A. Bashyrov of the Justice Department’s Office of Immigration Litigation.

The case is Perez-Tino v. Barr, case number 18-1860, before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

Disability Rights Advocate and LSC Alum Haben Girma on making her way in the world with help from her guide dog

Via the WilmerHale Legal Services Center 

From left to right: Senior Clinical Instructor Julie McCormack, Haben Girma ’13, and Clinical Instructor Dana Montalto at LSC’s 40th Anniversary Event. Credit: Tony Rinaldo

My guide dog crossed the street, then jerked to a halt. “Mylo, forward.” My left hand held the leather harness that wrapped around his shoulders. “Forward,” I repeated. The harness shifted, and I knew he was peering back at me. Some barrier, unseen and unheard by me, blocked our passage.

Cars created little earthquakes in the street on our left. Behind us ran the road we just crossed. I made the decision: “Mylo, right.” He turned and headed down the sidewalk. I directed him around the block to bypass whatever had stood in our way.

My dog never knows where I’m going. He has his theories, of course. You went to this cafe yesterday, so clearly you’re going there again, right? Or he’ll veer toward an open door. Seriously, Haben, we need to step in here for a sniff.

People assume guide dogs lead blind people, and once upon a time, I thought so, too. My senior year of high school, I fretted about navigating college as a Deafblind student. Perhaps I would get a guide dog to ferry me wherever I needed to go. A companion would give me the confidence I needed.

“You want to depend on a dog for confidence?” a blind friend asked over instant messenger.

“It sounds funny when you put it that way,” I typed.

“If a blind person doesn’t have confidence, then the dog and person both end up lost. Don’t depend on a dog for confidence. Build up your own.”

So instead of training alongside a service animal at guide dog school, I spent my pre-college summer honing my blindness skills at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. I learned nonvisual techniques for crossing busy streets with a white cane, baking banana cream pie, even using electric saws.

I tapped my way through college with confidence. My self-assurance didn’t come from the cane but from my hard-earned orientation and mobility skills. How could I have thought that would be different with a four-legged guide?

Still, confident as I was, something felt missing from my life. My heart ached for a travel partner whose eyes and ears would share more of the world I navigated.

Maxine the Seeing Eye dog joined me for my last year at Lewis & Clark College and all three at Harvard Law. We glided around obstacles so much more smoothly than when I traveled with a cane — imagine switching from a bicycle to a Tesla.

I learned to read her body language, and together we strode with six legs. Her big, brown eyes and pointy ears opened new dimensions for me. Having a German shepherd at my side even curtailed the sexual harassment I faced. For nine years, she stood by my side.

In 2018, Maxine died of cancer. I missed her intensely, and the loss still pains me. I also knew I could not, would not, go back to life with only a cane. I was without my partner of nearly a decade, but I was not without direction.

The school that trained Maxine matched me with another dog. That summer, I joined Mylo for three weeks at the school’s campus in New Jersey. We lurched over curbs and crashed into chairs, but in each new experience, through gentle corrections and an abundance of praise, our teamwork improved.

Now, we wander as one. In the year we’ve spent together, we’ve traveled to 12 states and four countries. One morning during a trip to Park City, Utah, for a friend’s wedding, I woke to Mylo bounding onto my hotel bed, ready to start the day. After a few strokes of his puppy-soft ears and some tugging of his toy whale, we left our room.

Mylo beelined for the elevator, and then, reading the Braille labels, I pressed the button for the main level. The doors opened, and I directed Mylo across the lobby toward the front doors. “Right.” He turned down a hallway. “Right.” He turned into a room that felt empty. “Sorry, not this one. Mylo, left.” I gestured for him to go back to the hall. “Right.” He turned into the next room.

The delightful aroma of food and coffee at last wafted over from the far wall. “Here it is! Forward.” After I ordered my hard-earned breakfast, another wedding guest approached us.

“Haben, hi! It’s Michael. Who brought you here?”

I passed the credit to Mylo; constantly confronting ableism is tiring work. But someday the world will recognize that a Deafblind person charts her own path through the unknown. For now, I know it — and so does Mylo. He takes his lead from me.

 

Human Rights Program Summer 2019 Highlights

Via HRP

Human rights work doesn’t stop for the summer. HRP staff, however, do take a moment to pause and regroup, taking the necessary time to recharge and plan before their project and teaching work picks up full steam in the Fall. Staff spent the summer on mountains, at the opera, and at the beach. We also developed new classes focused on women’s leadership and taught human rights and populism in Berlin.

Read on to see what we’ve all been up to this summer!


Following the release of Clinical Instructor Thomas Becker’s IHRC report “Femicide and Impunity in Bolivia” last year, the Bolivian government implemented a ten point emergency plan this summer to tackle the high rate of femicides in the country. In other news, after two months of climbing, Becker summited Mount Everest. With temperatures reaching as low as -40 degrees on the mountain, he thinks he is finally prepared for winter in Cambridge. Following Everest, Thomas’s work led him to a slightly warmer destination, the Sahara, where he spent several weeks meeting with human rights activists, women’s groups, and social movement leaders in refugee camps in Algeria.

Anna Crowe accomplished an intra-Cambridge move in July and submitted a book chapter on a disarmament topic to be published later this year.

Bonnie Docherty spoke at the International Symposium for Peace in Hiroshima on the advantages of the humanitarian approach to nuclear disarmament and why Japan can and should join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (check out a transcript of her remarks here!) She also had meetings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki with civil society advocates, student activists, and doctors who have treated the hibakusha who survived the atomic bombings. On her recent work trip to Geneva for killer robots meetings at the UN, she carved out a weekend for mountains and marmots. She visited the alpine peaks of Chamonix and met some furry friends in the hills above Montreux. Hiking buddy Elizabeth Minor of Article 36, longtime Clinic partner, even brought her tote bag from ACCPI’s humanitarian disarmament conference.

Susan Farbstein developed new teaching modules on women’s leadership to pilot in the advanced Human Rights Careers Workshop this fall. She was lucky to work with one of the Clinic’s alumni, Salomé Gómez Upegui LLM ’18, as well as current SJD student Regina Larrea Maccise, to review and curate materials and build the sessions. She’s excited to see how the 3Ls will respond to what they’ve put together. She also spent a lot of time with her family, swimming, hiking, riding bikes, flying kites, building sand castles, and eating fried fish and ice cream across New England (and in Canada!).

After being on sabbatical Spring semester, Tyler Giannini went to Berlin to conduct a human rights simulation with Yee Htun. He also had the opportunity to visit members of the extended HRP family in the Netherlands and got to learn about their work at the ICC (Juan Calderson-Meza, former clinical fellow) and innovative work on business and human rights (Fola Adeleke, former clinical fellow; Deval Desai LLM ’08, SJD ’18, former research fellow; and Amelia Evans LLM ’11, former clinical instructor). With his family, Giannini also visited his roots in Ireland and in Lucca, northern Italy, for the first time, where they met long-lost cousins they never knew existed. 

Clinical Instructor Yee Htun completed a book chapter on populism in Thailand and Myanmar for an edited collection to be out next year from Cambridge University Press. She also taught a module entitled “Human Rights Under a Military Dictatorship: A Case Study on Myanmar/Burma” at the Lucerne Academy on Human Rights Implementation as well as presented at “Gender Matters: A Summer Workshop for Educators” organized by the Asia Center, the Center for African Studies, the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, the Global Health Education and Learning Incubator, and the Religious Literacy Project of Harvard University.  In personal news, Htun is feeling a little lighter after donating 14 inches of her locks to Wigs for Kids.

Beatrice Lindstrom joined HRP as a Clinical Instructor at the end of August. Her summer was busy moving from New York and closing out nine years with the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH). She worked on responding to a deteriorating human rights situation in Haiti, including preparing a request for precautionary measures from the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights for victims displaced by a brutal massacre in La Saline. She also published a chapter in the book Emerging Threats to Human Rights that came out in July. Before the move, Lindstrom got to spend some time with family on a lake in Maine.

Gerald Neuman presented his work on populism and human rights at the Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin in June, during a two-week stay at that social science research institute. While in Berlin he found something he has wanted for years at the Pergamon Museum – a working facsimile of a Babylonian cylinder seal. He will not be using it, however, for HRP correspondence.

New Clinical Instructor Aminta Ossom moved here from Geneva, finishing up her work with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and joined the Clinic. Before she left, she had the opportunity to cross off some items from her Geneva bucket list, including spending a day on a “funky jazz and blues boat” at the Montreux Jazz Festival in July and enjoyed a sunrise concert from the aubes musicales (“musical dawns”) concert series on the shores of Lake Geneva before work, which is a Geneva summer tradition. 


We hope you all had relaxing and productive summers! We look forward to picking up threads of old projects and meeting some new faces this year.

DeVos tightens rules for forgiving student loans

Via Politico

By: Michael Stratford

Source: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Friday finalized rules that make it more difficult for federal student loan borrowers to cancel their debt on the grounds that their college defrauded them, scaling back an Obama-era policy aimed at abuses by for-profit colleges.

The rules, which the Trump administration weighed for more than a year, set a more stringent standard for when the Education Department will wipe out the debt of borrowers who claim they were misled or deceived by their respective colleges.

The overhaul of the rules — called “borrower defense to repayment” — is a response to conservative criticism that the current federal standards, set by the Obama administration, are too lenient and expensive for taxpayers. The Obama-era rules were written following the collapse of for-profit college company Corinthian Colleges in 2015, when tens of thousands of former students flooded the Education Department with requests for loan forgiveness.

DeVos previously said those standards allowed students to raise their hands and receive “free money” from the government. For-profit colleges have also long criticized the rules as unfair.

In an announcement about the new rules, DeVos said on Friday that fraud in higher education “will not be tolerated” by the Trump administration. The rules, she said, include “carefully crafted reforms that hold colleges and universities accountable and treat students and taxpayers fairly.”

The tighter standards will reduce the amount of loan forgiveness provided to students by more than $500 million each year compared to the amount under the current Obama-era policies, the department estimated. The entire package of regulations — which also curtails loan discharges for students whose schools suddenly close — is projected to save taxpayers more than $11 billion over the next decade.

The final policy, which takes effect July 1, 2020, sets a more stringent standard for loan forgiveness than exists under the Obama-era policy. But it’s not as restrictive as the one DeVos initially proposed last year.

The initial Trump administration plan would have required borrowers to prove that their college intentionally misled them in order for them to have their loans forgiven. It considered forcing student loan borrowers to wait until they had defaulted on their debt before allowing them to file a fraud claim, an obstacle that would have threatened borrowers’ credit history and could have jeopardized security clearances for military servicemembers.

“We made substantive changes to our proposed rule based” on public input, DeVos said.

But those changes did not go far enough for consumer advocates and Democrats, who said Friday that the Trump administration was gutting important protections for students defrauded by their college.

“This rule is another Trump-DeVos giveaway to their for-profit college cronies at the expense of defrauded student borrowers,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate.

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), chairman of the House education committee, said that “the Trump administration is sending an alarming message: Schools can cheat [their] student borrowers and still reap the rewards of federal student aid.”

Harvard Law School’s Project on Predatory Student Lending — whose successful lawsuit last year forced DeVos to implement the Obama-era rules — vowed on Friday to bring a new legal challenge “in the coming days” to stop the latest regulations from taking effect.

“If Betsy DeVos won’t do her job and stand up for students, then we will fill that void,” the organization’s legal director, Eileen Connor, said in a statement. “That is why we will be filing a suit challenge these harmful new regulations that give a green light to for-profit colleges to continue scamming students.”

The new rules narrow the type of misconduct by colleges that could trigger loan forgiveness and also require that borrowers provide more extensive documentation about the financial harm they faced. Borrowers will also have to file their claims within three years of leaving school.

In addition, the final rule allows colleges to resume using mandatory arbitration agreements in their enrollment agreements with students, reversing an Obama-era ban on the practice, which was common at for-profit schools.

DeVos first proposed a rewrite of the “borrower defense” rules more than a year ago. Since then, she’s been forced to implement the Obama administration’s version of the rules after a federal court last fall struck down the Trump administration’s efforts to delay them.

The Trump administration separately is facing criticism and a proposed class-action lawsuit over the backlog of existing “borrower defense” claims, which now exceeds 170,000 applications. The Education Department hasn’t approved or denied any claims in more than a year.

Paras Shah ’19, fostering inclusion and creativity in human rights

Via Harvard Law Today

By: Elaine McArdle

Source: Harvard Law Today

Paras Shah’s approach to human rights centers on inclusion. In his four terms with the International Human Rights Clinic, Shah has encouraged an international coalition to ban killer robots to integrate diverse perspectives into its campaign, and collaborated with grassroots activists to counter hate speech and de-escalate ethnic and religious ultra-national rhetoric in Myanmar. As a student in the Advanced Skills Training in Strategic Human Rights Advocacy seminar, Shah and two other classmates also designed and led a workshop to increase student leadership, promote self-care, and build bridges between the Clinic and other programs at the Law School.

“I was born legally blind and grew up in the U.S., where the law has always played an important role in making sure I have equal opportunities like everyone else,” said Shah, who was previously the John Gardner Fellow at Human Rights Watch, where he focused on the rights of refugees with disabilities. “I want to use the law to create that kind of opportunity for other people.”

“Heed the Call: A Moral and Legal Imperative to Ban Killer Robots,” co-published by Human Rights Watch, is one of the most complex reports the Clinic has written, said Bonnie Docherty, associate director of Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection and lecturer on law in the IHRC. Shah was “an integral part of the team helping to build the case for why we need the ban.” His work was so outstanding during his first trip to Geneva, Switzerland that the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots invited Shah to return.

“Paras showed an intuitive understanding of and ability to articulate complicated issues,” said Docherty. “It was not just this, but his engagement with campaigners from all over the world, his enthusiasm for the work, his sense of humor, and his commitment to making the world a better place that made such an impression.”

Over J-term 2019, Shah and a team of three other students traveled with Yee Htun, lecturer on law and clinical instructor in the IHRC, to Myanmar and Thailand and met with religious leaders, women’s groups, and LGBTQ+ activists to test a workshop they had developed related to countering hate speech. “Paras rose to every challenge we faced. He was a sounding board and reliable interlocutor for new ideas,” said Htun. “He has the rare ability to think outside the box.”

In addition to his clinical work, Shah recently published an article in the Harvard Human Rights Journal about the use of deadly force against people with disabilities; he also writes for the prestigious national security blog Lawfare.

“The Clinic has been the most important thing I’ve done in law school,” said Shah. He said it sharpened his research skills, and taught him to consider the audience he wanted to reach and message he wanted to convey. “Although I frame an issue differently when briefing a diplomat in Geneva who is likely bound by instructions from her capital than when I discuss an idea with a grassroots activist who might have to later explain it to hundreds of other people in a specific local context, I always strive to understand their perspective and find common ground.”

For Shah, the Clinic was also a home and community. “The classmates I met became my close friends and the instructors became my mentors. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to contribute to issues I care about and make a small impact on people’s lives.”

Shah is going to be an associate at O’Melveny & Myers in Washington, D.C.

This profile is a preview of the 2018-2019 Human Rights Program Annual Report.

Elena Kagan offers new law students advice – and a shot of confidence

Via The Harvard Gazette

By Liz Mineo

Source: The Harvard Gazette

Elena Kagan was “petrified” when a Law School professor called on her on her first day of class. She blew her first exams, which situated her in “the bottom third of the class.”

And then, in her second semester at Harvard Law School, things started to change.

“When I first came here in 1983, I was very excited and very nervous,” Kagan, J.D. ’86, told a room packed with more than 500 students in Wasserstein Hall, with another 300 seated in an overflow room. “I hadn’t a clue of why I was here really, and I hadn’t the faintest idea of where it would lead to. I went to Law School to keep my options open and because I couldn’t think of anything else. Notwithstanding that I went to Law School for all the wrong reasons, when I got to Law School, I loved it. I really loved it.”

With refreshing candor and good humor, the Supreme Court associate justice shared anecdotes about her early days as a 1L in a conversation with former HLS Dean Martha Minow, the 300th Anniversary University Professor at Harvard, during an orientation program Thursday morning at HLS. Despite her rocky start, Kagan would eventually graduate magna cum laude, taking a first major step toward a seat on the bench of the nation’s highest court.

Dean John F. Manning was pleased to have Kagan talk to the new class, as he knew from experience that it would help them feel more relaxed and confident about themselves as their first semester was about to begin. Kagan, who was named HLS’s first female dean in 2003, has taken part in the orientation program for the past few years.

“I’m delighted that Justice Kagan returned again to Harvard Law School to teach our students and reconnect with our community,” said Manning, who attended HLS at the same time as Kagan. “She is not only a brilliant lawyer and jurist, but also a generous and funny teacher, colleague, and friend.”

Kagan spoke at length about her life as a law student and her journey to the high court. She offered advice on how to have a fulfilling legal career, but she also reminded students of the responsibility and privilege that comes with being a lawyer.

Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow and Justice Elena Kagan share a laugh.
Source: The Harvard Gazette

Studying and practicing law in a country where no one is above the law gives attorneys a sense of mission and purpose, said Kagan. “You really get to do stuff that matters to people,” she said. “To live in a rule-of-law country is an incredible thing, and that has to be guarded very carefully, and you’re now part of that enterprise.”

Drawing lessons from her own experience, Kagan advised students to be open to serendipity and be willing to take risks. During her six years at the helm of HLS, Kagan saw many students planning their careers, including summer internships, in advance. It is a good idea to have plans, Kagan said, but students should be willing to abandon them to pursue something fun and exciting, which could lead to new passions and commitments.

Becoming a judge, said Kagan, was “mostly accidental.” After graduating from Harvard, Kagan clerked for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and then went to work at a law firm in Washington, D.C. In 1991, she became a professor at the University of Chicago Law School; she moved from there to a position as associate counsel to the president in the White House. She arrived at Harvard in 1999 as a law professor.

Kagan had expected to someday become president of a university, but her life path changed when she got a call in 2009 from President Barack Obama asking her to serve as U.S. Solicitor General. A year later Obama nominated her to the Supreme Court.

When Minow asked Kagan which title she prefers, Kagan quipped, “I like ‘Justice,’ myself.”

As for her work as a Supreme Court Justice, Kagan said she enjoys reading cases, writing decisions, and thinking about the law, but she also relishes working with the other justices and following the rituals that are part of the institution. She said she misses both the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who taught her how to hunt, and Justice Anthony Kennedy, who retired in 2018.

After listening to Kagan’s talk, first-year law students Nicole Franklin and Alison Roberts felt a mix of relief and gratitude.

“I love how she kind of helped me feel OK as I’m thinking about what it’s going to mean for me to be a lawyer,” said Franklin.

Roberts shared the sentiment.

“You come into a talk like this expecting to see someone who is such an intellectual titan and so far above your level,” said Roberts. “And yet I found it incredibly reassuring to hear how she struggled to get her footing here and she kind of followed what felt right at the time, not necessarily having a plan. For someone who is so accomplished, to be able to reassure students who are about to start is a testament to her as a teacher and as a person.”

Beyond education and litigation: the social work program at HIRC

Via HIRC

By: Mariana Ferreira

Before interning at the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic (HIRC) my understanding of social work was limited to the definitions I had picked up from psychology textbooks. I knew that social work entailed providing people with emotional support. Beyond that, I vaguely understood what kind of work ‘social services’ encompassed. In my mind, social work was like the icing on the cake: important, but not necessarily a defining feature of the dessert. That changed when I interpreted a client meeting together with HIRC’s social worker, Liala Buoniconti. I realized that social work is not the icing at all, but a much more critical ingredient in this metaphorical legal clinic cake.

HIRC clinical social worker Liala Buoniconti

I remember the meeting was particularly difficult because the legal team needed the client, Julia*, to recount deeply traumatic abuse she suffered in her past. It became clear that Julia was struggling to answer some questions posed by her legal team. This was, in part, because she did not understand their context and, in part, because the questions were about painful things that she wished never to remember. Liala drew on her social work expertise in the meeting to make Julia feel more comfortable answering questions and to make the legal team more comfortable asking them. When Julia did not understand a question, Liala’s culturally sensitive lens allowed her to rephrase questions in a way that was relevant to where and when Julia grew up. Liala also took the time to slow down the pace of the interview to acknowledge why it is so common to have trouble accessing memories when the subject is traumatic. Julia then appeared more at ease, knowing that difficulties with memory are not only typical for trauma survivors, but actually a coping mechanism that many use to deal with the associated emotions. Without Liala in the meeting, Julia would not have been able to share as much as she did about her story with us, and she might have run the risk of becoming re-traumatized.

When certain questions sent Julia into a painful memory, Liala noticed that Julia was dissociating. In an effort to help Julia regain a sense of control, Liala would employ sensory and breathing techniques to help ground Julia in the present. Grounding is a technique used in the social work field, aimed at trying to help someone focus on their present safety, rather than re-living the emotional intensity of their trauma. After the interview, Liala sat with Julia to provide critical emotional support, and to keep her in the present: safe and far away from the people and the place that brought her so much suffering. It was after this meeting that I began to understand how integral social workers are to HIRC’s mission. From addressing the mental health of attorneys, students, and clients to facilitating the logistics of legal objectives, social workers complete the HIRC team.

Together, the legal and social work teams strive to promote justice and better lives for immigrants. Liala shared the following quote with me from Judith Herman, a specialist in the psychiatry of trauma who wrote the groundbreaking work Trauma and Recovery, “Trauma robs the victim of a sense of power and control; the guiding principle of recovery is to restore power and control.” I believe this quote represents the goal of the social work program at HIRC. In addition to Liala, there is a team of social work interns who are completing their fieldwork at HIRC while pursuing their Masters of Social Work degrees. As attorneys work to build clients’ legal case, the social work team attends to their emotional and resource needs in order to facilitate their full participation in their own lives and in the legal process.

When working one-on-one with clients, social workers foster healing relationships that give clients someone to trust. Sometimes, social workers create this relationship by providing emotional support for those struggling with the toll of their immigration case. Other times, social workers connect people to community resources such as food banks or therapists. They also explain mail that people may not understand, find affordable furniture for their homes, accompany them on public transportation so they know how to reach our office, and help them with other everyday life tasks that many people may take for granted.

The social work team also teaches clinic attorneys and students how to be trauma-sensitive. Liala co-teaches the class Trauma, Refugees and Asylum Law, guest speaks at the clinic training and Immigration and Refugee Advocacy Seminar, and conducts trauma-sensitivity orientations for the Harvard Immigration Project. She provides advice to students and attorneys on dealing with cultural differences and with survivors of trauma.

I have learned a lot from Liala during my three months at HIRC. I have come to realize that she is one of the most essential members of the clinic. She creates a safe and supportive environment for everyone at HIRC, including clients, law students, and attorneys, to cope with the intense emotional experience of working on asylum cases. Without the social work team, HIRC could not accomplish all it does today for immigrants. The inclusion of the social work program embodies what the clinic is all about: serving the immigrant community in hopes of improving their lives and their access to justice.

*Julia’s name was changed to respect client confidentiality.

 

FLPC Welcomes New Team Member Emma Scott

Via CHLPI Blog 

The Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) welcomes Emma Scott to the team as a Clinical Instructor!

Emma joined the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic in August 2019 as a Clinical Instructor. Her work currently focuses on FPLC’s Sustainable and Equitable Food Production Initiative and the Clinic’s ongoing projects in the Mississippi Delta.

Prior to joining FLPC, Emma served as a Justice Catalyst Fellow at California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation in the Labor and Civil Rights Litigation Unit. At CRLAF, Emma’s practice focused on group representation of immigrant workers in employment and labor litigation, with an emphasis on farmworkers and the H-2A visa program.  Emma got to know FLPC as an HLS student through the Food Law and Policy Seminar, attending FLPC sponsored conferences, and serving as a Research Assistant to Prof. Emily Broad Leib.  Emma received her B.S. in Social Sciences, with a concentration in Cross-Cultural Studies and International Development, from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, in 2010. She graduated from Harvard Law School, cum laude, in 2016. She then served as a law clerk to the Hon. John A. Mendez of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California from September 2016 to August 2018, assuming the position and responsibilities of Senior Law Clerk in her second year.  She is a licensed member of the California Bar.

Setting the Stage for Humanitarian Disarmament Season

Via Human Rights@Harvard Law

By: Jillian Rafferty JD ‘20

The disarmament season in Geneva begins in earnest this month with diplomatic meetings on killer robots, the arms trade, and cluster munitions. To provide a frame for these discussions, Harvard Law School’s Armed Conflict and Civilian Protection Initiative (ACCPI) and the Geneva Disarmament Platform (GDP) recently organized a humanitarian disarmament workshop for diplomats.

The event, which was held last week, aimed to raise awareness and increase understanding of humanitarian disarmament. This approach to governing weapons seeks to reduce arms-inflicted human and environmental harm through the establishment and implementation of norms. Representatives from about two dozen national missions in Geneva participated.

At the workshop, the ACCPI and PAX released a jointly published brochure that examines this cross-cutting approach to disarmament and introduces key arms-related issues to which it has been applied. A new tool for diplomats and campaigners, the brochure also provides a definition of humanitarian disarmament, a timeline, list of key players, and selected resources.

The workshop opened with an examination of the history, definition, and characteristics of humanitarian disarmament, distinguishing this people-centered approach from more traditional, security-focused framings of disarmament. The first session also addressed the effectiveness of humanitarian disarmament and ways in which diplomats can use it to advance their disarmament agendas. Maricela Muñoz, from the Permanent Mission of Costa Rica, guided the discussion with:

  • John Borrie, UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR);
  • Bonnie Docherty, ACCPI; and,
  • Wen Zhou, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Setting aside their national positions, participants then engaged in a simulation. In small groups, diplomats reviewed the security-focused disarmament language of mock statements and discussed how to reframe rhetoric and positions in humanitarian terms.

Other presenters discussed the inclusive nature of humanitarian disarmament, emphasizing the importance of partnerships among governments, international organizations, and civil society. The speakers highlighted the need for open communication and close collaboration across these sectors. Moderated by GDP’s Richard Lennane, the panel included:

  • Austrian Ambassador Thomas Hajnoczi;
  • Beatrice Fihn, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN); and,
  • Hector Guerra, International Campaign to Ban Landmines-Cluster Munition Coalition (ICBL-CMC).

The workshop set the stage for the Geneva meetings on three disarmament issues that are frequently framed as humanitarian. This week, states parties to the Convention on Conventional Weapons discussed options for dealing with lethal autonomous weapons systems. Also known as killer robots, these systems raise serious humanitarian, moral, and accountability concerns because they would select and engage targets without meaningful human control.

Next week, countries party to the Arms Trade Treaty will hold their fifth annual conference. The theme this year is gender and gender-based violence (GBV), and the conference president will seek agreement on recommendations for states parties to improve gender diversity, understand and address the gendered impact of the arms trade, and improve implementation of the GBV risk assessment mandate by the treaty.

Finally, during the first week of September, states parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions will convene for their annual meeting. This treaty exemplifies humanitarian disarmament’s combination of prohibitions on the production, stockpiling, transfer, and use of problematic weapons and obligations to remediate the harm caused by past use.

 

Here’s how we solve the planet’s food waste problem

Via Grist

By: Maddie Stone

Celebrity chef Ainsley Harriott at the launch of the campaign “Love Food, Hate Waste,” which found that the UK is throwing away a third of all food bought in the country. Source: David Parry, PA Images via Getty Images

Earlier this month, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a dire report highlighting the enormous environmental impact of agriculture. But the report also pointed to a clear way for us to feed more mouths without causing more planetary destruction: We can stop wasting food.

Globally, we humans squander up to a third of the food we produce, according to the U.N. We leave it to rot in fields and refrigerators. We cull it because it’s too ugly to sell. We stack it in overflowing supermarket displays where some is inevitably squashed. All of this uneaten food required energy to produce; if food waste were its own country, it would have the third highest carbon footprint on Earth—right behind China and the U.S. and just ahead of India. That’s a harsh reality in a world where 821 million people don’t have enough to eat.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. We can streamline the supply chain to reduce spoiled and lost food, and we can change the way we eat at home. Already, simple technologies like better storage bags, are making a big difference, and wonkier solutions like national policies that standardize food labels are in the works.

To eat or not to eat

In wealthier countries, the biggest food-waste culprit is easier to pinpoint: It’s us.

In the U.S., individuals throw away some 27 million tons of food a year, amounting to 43 percent of all food waste nationwide. In the UK, household waste accounts for 70 percent of losses beyond the farm.

Trashing food happens for many reasons: We buy too much. We don’t use it in time. We forget to eat the leftovers. To Liz Goodwin, director of Food Loss and Waste at the World Resources Institute, it all boils down to the fact that food is now a throwaway item. “We know we can get more, so it doesn’t really matter,” she said.

Raising awareness that food waste does matter can work. The UK’s “Love Food Hate Waste” initiative, which Goodwin described as “the single best-evaluated campaign there is,” led to a 20 percent reduction in household food waste between 2007 and 2012, she said.

Somewhat surprisingly, meal kits can also help reduce waste. A recent study by Miller’s team in Michigan showed that meals prepared from Blue Apron recipes resulted in one-third less carbon emissions on average than the same meals prepared from grocery store ingredients. The difference was largely due to the fact that the kit portioned ingredients very carefully, resulting in less wasted food — which more than compensated for the climate impact of all the extra packaging.

“We have this great understanding of plastic and packaging waste as major environmental impacts, but for whatever reason we don’t have that same idea associated with food,” Miller said.

Standardizing date labels could also make a difference. They became common in the 1970s as a marker of food quality, but many of us today wrongly assume that once the “sell by” date has passed, the food’s spoiled. In fact, these dates are often a manufacturer’s arbitrary estimate of when the food will taste most fresh — and different states have different standards. The result is we throw out loads of food that’s still fine to eat, according to Emily Broad Leib, director of the Harvard Law School Food and Policy Clinic.

Read more.

As Satter Fellow, Anna Khalfaoui L.L.M. ’17 assisted in trial of Congolese militia leaders

Via Human Rights@Harvard Law

By: Elaine McArdle

Between 2010 and 2014 in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), rebels from the Nduma Defence of Congo (NDC) militia murdered, raped, and looted hundreds of civilians and forced children to become soldiers. In November 2018, the trial for war crimes and crimes against humanity against NDC’s militia leader Ntabo Ntaberi, who goes by the war name “Sheka,” commenced before the Operational Military Court of North Kivu.

As a 2018-2019 Satter Fellow in Human Rights, Anna Khalfaoui LL.M. ’17 spent the year in the DRC working with the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) to assist survivors and their lawyers through the trial, acting as a liaison in support of the justice system.

“After nine years, to finally have a trial that looks at these incidents is so important,” said Khalfaoui, a British-trained French attorney who chose Harvard Law School for its human rights training. “Being part of the team supporting survivors who’ve waited so long to tell their stories is an incredible learning opportunity.”

Khalfaoui also assisted survivors and their lawyers in the historic trial of militia leader Marcel Habarugira Rangira. With the support of a coalition of local and international actors, including ABA ROLI, Habarugira was convicted in February 2019 of the war crimes of rape and of conscription, enlistment and use of children as soldiers. The conviction for conscripting and using child soldiers was notably the first such conviction in the DRC.

These cases are very challenging, Khalfaoui noted, explaining that there is tremendous pressure on survivors to recant their stories. Diverse actors, from the military justice and local organizations, to NGOs like ABA ROLI and the UN peacekeeping forces in the DRC have worked together to make these trials possible. They are nevertheless expensive, often lengthy, and incredibly complex. Given the instability and insecurity in Eastern DRC, these trials face critical challenges from the lack of an effective investigative and prosecutorial strategy to difficulties providing protection for the survivors and witnesses.

Still, Khalfaoui is determined to continue working on these important issues. “I think it’s become clearer as I work on this trial that I’m more and more interested in doing direct legal work with people who are affected by human rights violations,” she said. During her fellowship, Khalfaoui is also supporting ABA ROLI’s early warning system for preventing atrocities, which allows people to alert security forces when there are signs of impending violence against civilian populations. The system, which is also being used in response to an Ebola breakout, is being expanded to new zones in Eastern DRC and to include conflict prevention activities to reduce community conflict.

After the fellowship, Khalfaoui plans to continue working on international human rights and international humanitarian law litigation.

The Satter Human Rights Fellowship is designed to support and promote human rights defense in response to mass atrocities. The fellowship is made possible by a generous gift from Muneer A. Satter J.D./M.B.A.’87. This profile is a preview of the 2018-2019 Human Rights Program Annual Report, which will be available soon on the HRP blog. You can also read this post on the HLS Today website.

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