Weekly Retweet Roundup

Here are some summaries of articles I retweeted this week that I thought were pretty interesting, along with a few of my own thoughts on them. This might turn into a weekly post if I can keep up with it.

Tweet Post Logo“The Russians Are Coming” | via Foreign Policy

The author spews out 10 reasons why we shouldn’t believe Vladamir Putin’s promise to President Obama that he is not going to invade the Ukraine. Most of the reasons seem to revolve around the author’s belief that the Obama Administration is at fault, i.e., Putin revels in embarrassing the administration, the foreign policy circles in the United States have publicly stated either that Russia is not violating international law (this is an argument I strongly disagree with; Russia’s actions are a flagrant violation of international law and the laws of war – a full blog post on that is coming soon), and the U.S. government continues to sit and watch Russia’s incursion on Crimea unfold.

However, the author does not shy away from Russia’s responsibility for its untrustworthiness. He notes that Russia has consistently lied about what is going on in Crimea, as well as its own involvement in other international crises, such as the war raging in Syria.

Ax These Terms From Your Legal Writing | via ABA Journal

Did you know that courts in both England and the United States have addressed the question of whether the term “and/or” is a word? Well, they have, according to this article. And they have unanimously answered in the negative.  The Illinois Appellate Court went so far as to describe “and/or” as a “freakish fad” that is “an accuracy-destroying symbol.” So, in other words, it’s too vague for legal writing.

Other words that courts have either declared vague or at least open to several specific interpretations include “herein,” “deem,” “provided that,” “said,” and “same.”

Go figure.

 Is the Contraception Mandate Doomed? | via Slate

As you may know, Hobby Lobby filed a religious freedom claim asserting that it should not be required to provide health care coverage for specific contraceptives under the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Hobby Lobby is not refusing to provide for contraceptives altogether, but rather, is refusing to pay for specific contraceptives that its owners believe can cause abortions. This article explains how the case arose, and what exactly happened during the oral arguments presented before the Supreme Court of the United States earlier this week. It’s a fascinating read, and the author cuts through the legalese so that you can really grasp what the case is truly about.

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Mr. Affleck goes to Washington

ImageForeign Policy broke the story earlier this week that actor/director/Mr. Jennifer Garner/honorary-Ivy-Leaguer Ben Affleck is scheduled to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the Congo on Wednesday.

And while young staffers and interns are positively brimming with excitement, not everyone is thrilled that Affleck is going to be walking the hallowed halls of the Senate office buildings.

He’s part of the worldly-actor trio (which includes George Clooney and Matt Damon) who have garnered (pun intended) a great deal of attention for humanitarian issues. Critics think that celebrities advocating on the Hill are a mere distraction and a ploy for politicians to stroke their own egos by summoning Hollywood’s biggest and best.

There are two major factors that critics are pointing to when dismissing Affleck’s legitimacy as an expert witness on the Congo. 1) He’s an actor, and 2) he directed a movie – Argo – that misrepresented the role that foreign governments played in helping six American diplomats escape from Iran unharmed during the hostage crisis.

First of all, just because you’re an actor doesn’t mean you’re an uneducated dimwit. Affleck may not have graduated from college, but he’s been publicly discussing issues related to the Congo for years. He even co-founded the Eastern Congo Initiative, an American non-profit that tackles humanitarian issues in the Congo, back in 2010. The ECI not only advocates on behalf of people from that region, but also supplies grants to local organizations to help victims of sexual violence, to help provide children with healthcare, and to facilitate peace amongst communities.

Second of all, Argo wasn’t a documentary. It was a scripted movie, and Affleck didn’t even write the script. While it was wrong for him to not at least draw attention to the fact that certain key facts were changed for the sake of storytelling, it’s not a reason to discredit him from talking about a foreign policy issue ever again.

Affleck’s creation and support of ECI doesn’t make him the leading expert on the Congo by any means. There are scholars and practitioners who’ve been studying this conflict day in and day out for several years. And those experts will be testifying before the Committee, too. They can call out Affleck if he says something wrong or stupid. The Committee isn’t just going to take what Affleck says and blindly follow his policy suggestions. His testimony, along with the other expert witnesses’ testimonies, will be taken into consideration.  Continue reading