Announcement: FCIL-SIS (Informal) Book Discussion Group at AALL Annual Meeting

By Dan Wade

disarray_0The FCIL-SIS Book Discussion Group will meet at the Annual Meeting on Monday between 12:15 and 2:00p.m. We are gathering at the AALL Annual Meeting Registration Desk at 12:15p.m.

The book under discussion this year is A World in Disarray, by Richard Haass (New York: Penguin, 2017). Haass has been President of the Council of Foreign Relations since 2003. After graduating from Oberlin and receiving his M.Phil and D.Phil from Oxford, Haass worked for the Department of State and the Department of Defense. Between 2001 and 2003 he served the George W. Bush Administration by assuming the dual role of Director of Policy Planning at the State Department, where he became a close adviser to Secretary of State Colin Powell, and United States Special Envoy for Northern Ireland, for which he received the Department of State’s Distinguished Service Award. The book under discussion is Haass’ twelfth book, and it very much follows the line of thinking set out in probably his best known work, The Reluctant Sheriff,  in which he writes, “what will prove crucial is the ability of the United States to persuade others to adopt and abide by its preferences—and the will and ability of the United States to act as sheriff, to mobilize itself and others to insist on them when resistance emerges.” (p.44). In the present book he mellows some and invokes the principle of sovereign obligation, where a state works towards meeting the interests of other states. In the final chapter he addresses the issue of our country in disarray. (No, it is not about Donald Trump’s foreign policy.) Here he calls for more military spending. You can imagine how that analysis sits with this Connecticut Yankee and ordained minister (emeritus) of a historic peace church, e.g., Friends and Mennonites. The book does have value. I thought the discussion of R2P and United States debt were two of the high points.

I believe our group will be smaller this year, and if you are interested in foreign policy, world order, and international relations, please feel free to join us, even if you haven’t read the book. I will reserve a couple of extra places at the lunch table.

You’re Invited to Join the FCIL-SIS Publicity Committee!

The FCIL-SIS Publicity Committee invites you to join us for our meeting in Austin this weekend!  We will meet during the FCIL-SIS Standing Committees Joint Meeting on Sunday, July 16, at 6:15pm–6:45pm in Hilton Room 402.

We’d love to hear your ideas for blog posts, social media, conference publicity, and anything else you have to offer!  If you’re interested in blogging or in working on one or more of our other publicity initiatives, come by and find out more!

We’ll see you there!

yes-join-us

Join The Electronic Resources IG at #AALL17

thing

By Jim Hart

We would like to invite you to our annual FCIL-SIS Electronic Resources Interest Group (ERIG) Meeting, which will be held at 7:45 – 8:45 a.m. on Sunday, July 16th, at Austin Convention Center Level 3, Room 8B.

The Electronic Resources IG provides information and support to librarians on online resources of foreign, comparative and international law research. Although most of the group’s work benefits FCIL librarians, this meeting is open to both those who are and those who are not FCIL members. Everyone is welcome! At the meeting, we will review what the group has done in the past year, gather your ideas about interesting projects for the future, and introduce you to the new Chair.

Please join us for a great networking opportunity and to catch up with old friends!

Cuban Law and Legal Research: A Snapshot During the Deshielo (Congelado?) – Monday, July 17, 2017, 9:45 a.m., Austin Convention Center, Room 18AB

By Julienne Grant

IMG_9721 (003)“The history of the United States and Cuba encompass[es] revolution and conflict, struggle and sacrifice, retribution and now reconciliation. It is time now for us to leave the past behind. It is time for us to look forward to the future together.”

-President Barack Obama, March 22, 2016, Havana, Cuba

 

“Therefore, effective immediately, I am canceling the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba.” 

-President Donald J. Trump, June 16, 2017, Miami, Florida

 

“Again, the United States Government resorts to coercive methods of the past, adopting measures to intensify the blockade, in force since February 1962, which not only causes damage and deprivation to the Cuban people and constitutes an undeniable obstacle to the development of our economy, but also affects the sovereignty and interests of other countries, inciting international rejection.” (Julienne E. Grant, translation)

-Declaration of the Revolutionary Government, June 16, 2017, Havana, Cuba

 

When I drafted a proposal last fall for an AALL program on Cuba, I envisioned a continuation of the dramatic deshielo (thaw) of relations between the U.S. and Cuba. Specifically, I assumed there would be a progression of the rapprochement that former President Obama alluded to in his speech in Havana on March 22, 2016.  What I didn’t foresee while crafting the program were the most recent proclamations by President Trump and the Cuban government.  Trump’s June 16th announcement in Miami that backtracks some of the previous administration’s initiatives has halted the thaw a bit. As such, this program is perhaps more appropriately a snapshot during the deshielo congelado (frozen thaw). However U.S.-Cuba relations can now be characterized, though, Cuba is on the cusp of dramatic changes, and it’s a hot topic.

Please join Dr. Marisol Florén-Romero (Florida International University), Teresa Miguel-Stearns (Yale), and me (Loyola University Chicago) as we first explore this enigmatic jurisdiction from a law librarian’s perspective. Our program will include a brief overview of the somewhat unwieldly nomenclature of Cuban law, as well as a short assessment of English-language sources that can provide insight into Cuba’s legal landscape. In addition, Teresa will offer a quick summary of her experience purchasing legal materials in Havana last year.  Accompanying the program is a useful 26-page handout that will be available for download.

Our featured speaker, however, is Professor Jorge R. Piñon, whose talk is titled “Cuba Business Scenarios:  Challenges and Opportunities,” certainly a timely topic in what is an extremely fluid political and economic environment.   Professor Piñon is the Interim Director of The University of Texas at Austin, Center for International Energy & Environmental Policy, and the Director of its Latin America & Caribbean Energy Program.

Professor Piñon is also recognized as an expert on Cuba’s energy sector, as well as on the island’s future economic transitional challenges and opportunities.  He is an advisor and a member of the Cuba Task Force at The Brookings Institution and co-author of “Cuba’s Energy Future: Strategic Approaches to Cooperation,” Brookings Institution Press, 2010.

Hope to see you on Monday for what is sure to be a lively, engaging, and enlightening hour!

 

The Social Responsibilities Special Interest Section Carbon Offset Project: Making a Difference in Global Climate Change

By Erin Gow

As the AALL 2017 conference approaches and you mark your calendars for all the great FCIL related sessions and events taking place in Austin this year, why not take a moment to consider contributing to the Social Responsibilities Special Interest Section Carbon Offset Project? This is a great opportunity to come together with librarians from other sections across AALL to make an international difference.

Climate change is a truly global issue, with international laws and treaties addressing a range of environmental issues that must be tackled beyond the borders of any single nation. This year the SR-SIS is providing an opportunity for everyone to make a difference to the international crisis of climate change by making a donation of just $6 to offset the carbon impact of travelling to the 2017 AALL conference. In addition to making a difference by offsetting carbon emissions, this year’s project also has a direct impact on the lives of people in Uganda, by providing cook stoves that are safer and cleaner than the toxic fires many families currently have to rely on to cook their meals. Visit www.aallnet.org/sections/sr/projects/Travel-Offset-Project.html to find out more about the project and to make a donation.

SR-SIS

Introducing…Michael McArthur as the July 2017 FCIL Librarian of the Month

1. Where did you grow up? 

I spent my childhood among the beautiful vistas of Southern Utah, not far from Zion National Park.

2. Why did you select law librarianship as a career? 

I didn’t know it was an actual job until I had started at law school. My career path was set the instant I realized I could work in a library and teach.

3. When did you develop an interest in foreign, comparative, and international law? 

I have always been interested in all things foreign. It often feels like each reference question related to FCIL rekindles that curiosity.

4. Who is your current employer? How long have you worked there? 

I began my career at the University of Michigan Law Library and have been in Ann Arbor for 4 1/2 years.

5. Do you speak any foreign languages? 

Japanese. I was an exchange student to Japan in high school but came back feeling like I couldn’t speak a word. I promised myself I wouldn’t be satisfied with mediocre language skills so I took every opportunity available to go back and learn it properly. I ended up spending over 4 years living there and ultimately graduated with a major in Japanese.

6. What is your most significant professional achievement? 

I really feel like I am still just starting out and haven’t done anything noteworthy. That being the case, I have really enjoyed working on the IFLP Advisory Board under Marci Hoffman. Presenting at AALL last year in Chicago on Japanese primary law in English was also something to remember.

7. What is your biggest food weakness? 

Tex-Mex.

8. What song makes you want to get up and sing/dance? 

Oddly enough, in college I was in a show choir, so some of the songs we performed hold a soft spot for me. The reality is I enjoy singing along with just about anything that ends up on the radio.

9. What ability or skill do you most wish you had (that you don’t have already)? 

I know it has been mentioned before, but the ability to travel anywhere instantaneously. Maybe not so much to explore as to live somewhere fascinating and be able to commute to work effortlessly.

10. Aside from the basic necessities, what is one thing you do not go a day without? 

I don’t really have any daily routines, so now I am wondering what it would be if I could choose. I will defer to the obvious I guess. I have a wonderful little family I adore and wouldn’t be able to function without them.

11. Anything else you would like to share with us? 

Thank you for including me in the FCIL spotlight. I really appreciate the profession we share. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you need anything.

Cuba 101: It’s Complicated

Cuba - La Revolucion es invencible sign

By: Julienne E. Grant

I spent the week of May 21 in Cuba. Right now, the U.S. government forbids its citizens to visit Cuba as tourists per se, but we can travel there within the scope of 12 permitted categories. I joined an organized tour that included some fascinating “person-to-person” exchanges, as well as the opportunity to stay for a few nights in a casa particular (private home, like a B & B) in Cienfuegos. Our group also made side trips to Santa Clara, Trinidad, and Hemingway’s house, Finca Vigía.

Before embarking on this adventure, I had spent a great deal of time reading about Cuba, but I truly did not know what to expect on the ground.  I knew that I was in for a wild ride, however, when the power went out twice while waiting for my luggage at the Havana airport.  I learned quickly that Cuba is a complicated place, and it’s a complicated destination to visit. None of the challenges, however, bothered me too much; I just had to make some adjustments, stay alert, and be flexible. Here are some of my initial observations:

RS15Cuba_275.jpgThe Economy:  There seem to be three economies operating in Cuba. First, there is a thriving black market.  I think you can get about anything you want through it, if you have the right amount of money. Secondly, there is a flourishing tourism economy, as evidenced by the recent influx of high-end retailers like Gucci.  Tourists actually use a different currency (CUCs—pronounced “kooks”) than locals who spend money with the Cuban peso. The government runs much of the tourism industry through a military unit (Gaviota), and interesting that the most affluent Havana neighborhood I saw is purportedly filled with high-ranking military.  The third economy is the actual domestic one that involves everyday Cubans.  This economy is not in great shape, and there is evidence of it everywhere.  Buildings are crumbling, there is both urban and rural poverty, and there are shortages of basic consumer goods, including food.

El Bloqueo:  We repeatedly heard from Cubans that the U.S. Embargo is responsible for their struggling economy, and it is, for a good part. The Embargo has certainly been punishing on the Cuban people, and I think it needs to be lifted.  The Embargo, however, is not the only root of Cuba’s problems.

Cuba - Chevy imageTransportation:  Riding around Havana in an almendrón (vintage car) is a blast, but the almendrones are primarily for tourists. The transportation infrastructure overall is in terrible condition, as buses are packed and limited in number, and trains apparently haven’t been upgraded much since the 1959 Revolution. We actually saw a lot of people hitchhiking and simply standing on roadsides with money clutched in their hands as an offer for a ride.  There is definitely a kind of makeshift ride-sharing system in place, but again, you have to have money to use it.  Just as an aside, our tour bus was exceptionally nice.

Political Imagery:  I knew that Fidel Castro shunned statues of himself, and I didn’t see any of him, although his image is certainly not absent from the landscape. I didn’t see any images of Raúl, but I did see some of Hugo Chávez, including an almost life-size painting at the iconic Hotel Nacional.  (That hotel, incidentally, which is full of tourists and sometimes fab celebs, is owned and operated by the Cuban government.)

The legacy and image of Che Guevara actually seems to be ingrained most solidly in the Cuban psyche.  Images of Che are everywhere—on walls, clothes, jewelry, and in stone.  We went to Che’s mausoleum in Santa Clara, which was impressive in terms of size and aesthetics.

Other popular images in Cuba are those of José Martí and Camilo Cienfuegos.  Cienfuegos was a revolutionary in Fidel’s inner circle who presumably died when a flight he was on disappeared in October 1959.  Both Che and Camilo died young during the early years of the Revolution (before things got really bad economically during the “Special Period” in the 1990s); this may explain at least part of their continued appeal.

Education:  Universal healthcare and education are probably the Revolution’s greatest achievements.  Education is compulsory through the 9th grade, and books and uniforms are all provided by the government.  Parents take the education requirement very seriously, and they get their kids to school.  Revolutionary principles are emphasized, but schools now focus on English-language training, instead of Russian. According to UNESCO, Cuba has a literacy rate of almost 100 percent, and it showed.

As far as higher ed, there seems to be an unfortunate phenomenon occurring in terms of financial compensation for professionals with degrees.  In general, Cubans can seemingly make more money in the tourism industry—as guides, innkeepers, restauranteurs, and taxi drivers, so there is not much of a financial incentive to attend university, even though it’s free.  Our Cuban tour guide had an engineering degree, and so did the señora running my casa particular.

 

Cuba - Dance

The Arts:  Explosive and powerful.  These are the best words to describe the arts in Cuba.  Music is everywhere—in the streets, restaurants, clubs, and bars—covering all genres.  I was completely enamoured with the music and purchased a number of CDs.  The dancing was also fabulous—athletic, creative, and edgy.  We saw a modern dance troupe’s rehearsal and talked to the performers afterwards, as well as their Swiss manager (yes, un suizo). These young people are top-notch artists, akin to those in the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater here.  The visual arts are also stunning, and there are lots of wonderful galleries—particularly in Old Havana and Trinidad—as well as the impressive Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes.  It is remarkable to me how terrific these artists are, given some very challenging conditions, including run-down equipment and practice space, limited or no A/C, and a lack of access to art supplies.

 

Rum:  Lots of it, Havana Club.  It was good, and so were the mojitos.  For an interesting overview of the legal battles over the Havana Club brand name, see “The Rum War” (60 Minutes, Jan. 1, 2017).

Cuba - Havana Club botles.jpg

 

El Béisbol:   Baseball is HUGE in Cuba, and there are stadiums everywhere. Apparently some MLB games are now being shown on Cuban TV, although days after their actual completion, and without the participation of Cuban players who defected.  Videos of MLB games are available, however, loaded on various media and sold undergroud.  Telling Cubans I was a Chicagoan, and a fan of Los Cachorros (Cubs), resulted in a lot of smiles and nods.

Wi-Fi:  Wi-Fi is provided by the state-run telecommunications provider, ETESCA.  We had it available in the Hotel Nacional, but otherwise had to locate Wi-Fi “hotspots.”  It costs about $2 U.S. an hour to use Wi-Fi at these places (note that the average Cuban earns the equivalent of about $20-$30 U.S. per month).   University students are granted a monthly allotment of Wi-Fi megabytes, but access is highly restricted in terms of content.  (For an interesting read on how the student access works, plus some student commentary, see “Facebook ‘a la Cubana,’ la alternativa de los universitarios” (CUBANET, June 6, 2017)). Wi-Fi is supposedly now available in some private residences, but overall the island is not cyber friendly.

Cuba - PanfiloPánfilo:  Almost everyone in Cuba is familiar with comedian Luís Silva and his popular Pánfilo character portrayed on the weekly TV program, Vivir del Cuento (roughly, Live by your Wits).   Pánfilo is a retired man who valiantly and humorously faces the challenges of daily life in Cuba, ranging from product shortages to the confusion of the infamous ration books. (Cubans are each provided with a small ration of food staples each month.) Before President Obama visited Cuba last year, he and Silva as Pánfilo taped a mock phone conversation between the two that was hilarious.  The President also made a cameo appearance on Vivir del Cuento that was a big hit with Cubans. In any event, the quirky Pánfilo provides an outlet for Cubans to vent about their daily frustrations with the regime through humor, and frankly I was surprised to see this type of programming on state-run TV.

Conclusion:  The Revolution is still very much alive, but seems to be fading into the past.  Raúl Castro turned 86 on June 3, and I think he and his inner circle are out of touch with what’s happening on the street. Cubans (or perhaps Cuban-Americans) on our Havana-Miami flight applauded when we took off (and again when we landed), and apparently this rather blatant display of dissatisfaction is not uncommon on the Havana-Miami routes. My overall impression, however, is that Cubans themselves are worn down, but are remarkably resilient, and are still incredibly proud of being Cuban.  Time will certainly tell.  Perhaps the long-term legacy of the Cuban Revolution will be its achievements in education and healthcare, but whether there will be a musical called “Castro” down the road is questionable…How does the son of an immigrant Spaniard born on a Caribbean island grow up to spark a revolution?….“The world’s gonna know your name.  What’s your name, man?.” (Where is Lin-Manuel Miranda when you need him?).

Cuba - Jose Marti quote on wall