Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Roundtable Discussion: Iran and the Right to Nuclear Energy

On Thursday 01 November at 5pm, the Society will hold its first roundtable discussion of this academic year in Taylor C28. The chosen topic is Iran and the Right to Nuclear Energy. The discussion will be moderated by Paula Herm and Ahmed Hassanein.

Details of the society's programme for the coming weeks and months will follow soon.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Prospects of Law

A law degree can lead to many different careers and job possibilities. These include traditional law areas such as litigation, advising and perhaps even teaching the law. In the US, however, it seems that law graduates have an additional option open to them; that of entering the race to become President of the United States. The New York Times has an interesting article on the legal backgrounds of both sides of the current contenders for the upcoming US presidency. The article describes how the three Democratic candidates - Hillary R. Clinton, Barrack Obama and John Edwards - are all law graduates and that the three Republican candidates - Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mitt Romney, and Fred Thomson - hold similar law degrees. In fact, Sen. John McCain is the only serious contender not holding a law degree. All of the six lawyers have, bar Romney, to some extent, used their law degrees either in private practice or as prosecutors. In addition, Obama and Clinton have utilized their degrees in academia. The article speculates in what ways the candidates respective careers are likely to influence a potential presidency. For what it is worth, the two Republican candidates have spend most of their time as prosecutors whereas the three Democrats have all gone to private practice. Although the fact that six out of the seven serious contenders for the US presidency are all lawyers by education says nothing of the quality of their legal skills nor chances of becoming a successful president, it is indicative of the multiple options available to the law graduate who plays his or her cards well.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Nobel Peace Prize Goes to Vice-President Gore

Former Vice-President Al Gore today won the Nobel Peace Prize for his movie An Inconvenient Truth. Gore’s movie, from 2006, is based on talks and slide shows that Gore toured extensively with after loosing the presidential election to George W. Bush in 2000. It describes the scientific data on, and portrays the effects of, global warming in an easy-to-understand manner. Earlier this year, Gore won an Academy Award for best documentary feature for his movie. Gore has won popular accolades for the film, although it has, at the same time, been criticized for portraying the science behind global warming as overly simplistic, and for exaggerating the facts and evidence. Gore shares this year’s prize with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – a UN body set up to assess the scientific evidence in relation to human-induced climate change.

The Nobel Committee cites Gore’s and the IPCC’s “efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change,” as well as their endeavours to “lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change,” as reasons for the award. The Committee further notes that “[I]ndications of changes in the earth's future climate must be treated with the utmost seriousness, and with the precautionary principle uppermost in our minds” and that climate changes “may induce large-scale migration and lead to greater competition for the earth's resources. Such changes will place particularly heavy burdens on the world's most vulnerable countries. There may be increased danger of violent conflicts and wars, within and between states.”

While the Committee is certainly right in that the effects of climate change, such as drought, flooding, and ensuing restrain on natural resources may indeed leave to conflicts, the choice of Gore as award winner is likely to be received with criticism. This, no doubt, will come from conservative circles in the US where opposition international binding targets aimed at cutting emission of CO2 gasses remains a prominent cause. In addition, the Committee is likely to be charged with choosing the winners for political rather than substantive reasons. Such criticism has persisted since the prize has been awarded to the likes of Yassar Arafat (1994), the UN (2001), Jimmy Carter (2002), and Mohamed ElBaradei (2005). Other winners include Nelson Mandela and Frederik de Klerk, Mother Theresa, and Henry Kissinger. Some of the criticism is arguably correct as Gore’s movie has, in some instances, been shown to twist the facts. In this light, the awarding of the prize to IPCC alongside Gore seems perhaps more apt. However, one reason behind awarding this year’s prize to Gore and the IPCC is to be found in the strong emphasis on the precautionary principle, which is prevalent in European policy and law-making when it comes to environmental regulation whereas the principle plays a minor role in the US. At the same time, little doubt can persist as to the effect that Gore has had on highlighting the significance and the importance of global warming. In times when even skeptical environmentalists concede that global warming is a problem, the fight against global warming deserves all the attention it can get. If the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Al Gore and the IPCC can contribute to this, it is a much welcomed event.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Friday, October 05, 2007

Da Vinci and Art Theft in Scotland

As some of you might have heard already, the Leonardo da Vinci painting Madonna of the Yarnwinder was recovered yesterday by the Dumfries and Galloway Police after it was stolen from Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfriesshire four years ago.

The press has already written extensively about the recovery (see The Times and BBC) but nevertheless it warrants a bit of attention from the Legal Research Society. This is mainly down to our own Derek Fincham, who this morning appeared on the BBC radio programme Good Morning Scotland to give an interview on the significance of the recovery as well as to the general problem of art theft. Derek makes a number of good points, in particular with regard to the vulnerable situation of arts and antiquities stored in Scotland’s many country estates. Listen for yourself here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/player/nol/newsid_7020000/newsid_7029600/7029610.stm?bw=bb&mp=wm&news=1.

As a little side note, it is worth mentioning that four persons were arrested in connection with the recovery; two of which were lawyers.

Read more about the recovery on Derek’s own blog on http://illicit-cultural-property.blogspot.com/