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.

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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

 

Report from Chicago: Americans Take to the Streets for Human Rights

By Julienne Grant

20170121_101055I’m writing this not only because I’m inspired, but also so our FCIL colleagues abroad can get a first – hand account of what Americans accomplished on Saturday.  This morning I set out for what I expected to be a local march in Chicago, perhaps 20,000 people rallying for women’s rights.  What I encountered instead, was a massive turnout of over 250,000 citizens – of every age, race, sexual orientation, and religion – taking to the streets for a demonstration of unity.  There were babies in strollers, Muslims, transgender people, Jews, senior citizens, African-Americans, teachers, suburbanites and urbanites, immigrants, artists, and men and women from every neighborhood, every collar county, and even some contiguous states.  These were citizens who were angry and wanted to be heard.

The messages they carried were compelling and forceful – some humorous, some even poetic.  There were signs in French, Spanish, English, and Arabic.  There were large signs and small ones – some visually stunning, while others were simple, in handwritten scrawl.  All, however, were powerful –  clear, thoughtful, and direct. Some content cannot be repeated here, but I mention these as a representation of what was on people’s minds: “women’s rights are human rights,” “we are the noisy majority,” “hope not hate,” “the most important word in a democracy is we,” “men of quality don’t fear equality,” and, possibly my personal favorite, “it takes a village to raze a village idiot.” This was not just about women;  it was broader than that. It was about human rights, and it was about the fear of a new government that doesn’t recognize them (i.e., that just doesn’t get it).

This gathering20170121_110721 of some quarter of a million vocal people, however, was amazingly peaceful and polite, and for just a few hours in a city that is marred by violence, there was kindness and compassion. There was a bond between strangers, and it felt hopeful and good. Even the oft-maligned Chicago cops who were there to maintain order were digging it; there was no profiling and no use of force.  Above our heads in the clogged downtown streets, the el trains slowed down; the drivers pumped their fists, and the passengers waved and nodded their approval.  It was empowering and energizing, and it was an outlet for all who felt marginalized and unheard.

My phone was pinging with texts and pictures from everywhere in the country–from a cousin who was marching in Boston, from a friend at a rally in a small town in Oregon, and word spread through the crowd about Washington, Denver, New York, and Los Angeles; millions of Americans were out in droves. There was strength in numbers, and for anyone abroad who thinks Americans are complacent, this should prove them wrong.  I’m encouraged, I’m proud, and I’m hopeful.

Know a Good Candidate for FCIL-SIS Vice Chair/Chair Elect?

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The Foreign, Comparative, and International Law Special Interest Section (FCIL-SIS) of AALL is still seeking nominations for Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect and Secretary/Treasurer.

The position of Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect requires a three-year commitment, as Vice-Chair/Chair-Elect, Chair, and Immediate Past Chair, and will be expected to attend the AALL annual meeting the first two years.  The position of Secretary/Treasurer requires a two-year commitment, and the holder of this office is expected to attend the AALL Annual Meeting both years.  More information is available in the FCIL-SIS Bylaws.

Please be sure to first confirm the interest of anyone you would like to recommend for either position! Self-nominations are also welcome.

Nominations are due by Thursday, December 15, 2016. 

If you have any questions or wish to submit a nomination, please contact:

Dan Donahue, Chair, FCIL-SIS Nominating Committee

Gabriela Femenia, Member, FCIL-SIS Nominating Committee

Deborah Schander, Member, FCIL-SIS Nominating Committee

George Tsiakos, Member, FCIL-SIS Nominating Committee

Martinique’s Grand Library and “Josephine Beheaded”

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By: Julienne Grant

Happy New Year! I spent part of my holiday break cruising around the eastern part of the Caribbean.  Starting in San Juan, we stopped at five ports of call—Sint Maarten/Saint Martin, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Dominica, Martinique, and Saint Thomas.  I’m in the process of writing an article on the legal systems of these islands, so I won’t dive into that material so much here. What I will do, however, is share a little about one of the more unusual public libraries I have seen—the Schœlcher library in Martinique. (Keep in mind as you read this, that I’m currently living in a city with a public library that has sculptures of green owls perched on top of it.)

Martinique is a French overseas department and territory (département et territoire d’outre-mer) and has a population of somewhere around 386,000.  Its capital, Fort-de-France, is a captivating seaside community that has a European vibe, with a Caribbean beat.  Although the French flag flies here, and the euro is king, it is the sounds of Creole and reggae that flood the city streets.

On the rue de la Liberté, across the road from a decapitated statue of Empress Josephine (more on this below), sits Fort-de-France’s crown jewel, its public library.  The building itself is an elaborate and exotic structure with a Byzantine-style cupola.  Designed by French architect Pierre-Henri Picq in 1884, the building was first erected in Paris, and then dismantled and shipped for re-assembly in Martinique. That this glorious building still stands is a testimony to the genius of its designer, as the island is prone to earthquakes and hurricanes.

The library itself is named after French abolitionist Victor Schœlcher, who drafted the 1848 decree that abolished slavery in the French colonies. Schœlcher donated his own private library in 1883 to the General Council of Martinique for the purpose of creating a public library.  One of the library’s mandates is to preserve heritage materials related to the island.

Being duly impressed with the exterior of the building, I decided to check out the interior space.   Although my French is poor, the reference librarian on duty spoke wonderful English and was kind enough to provide an impromptu tour of the place.

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Although the interior is showing signs of wear (including a few cracks resulting from earthquakes), it is still quite grand. The domed ceiling is exquisite, and there is a striking portrait of Victor Schœlcher hanging in the atrium. The collection is impressive and covers everything from literature to law, including the most current Dalloz French codes. (As an overseas region of France, French national law applies in Martinique, but can be modified to address situations specific to the island.) What really impressed me, however, was how busy the library was.  This is not simply a relic from an earlier time; it’s a working and modern library that is being heavily used.

Finally, a word about the decapitated statue of Empress Josephine across the street. Joséphine de Beauharnais, Napoleon I’s first wife, was born and raised in Martinique.  Although she may be the island’s most famous citizen, she is also probably the most despised.  Her family owned slaves, and she was purportedly instrumental in convincing Napoleon to reinstate slavery in the French colonies in 1802.  The marble statue was mysteriously beheaded in 1991 and was later splattered with red paint around Josephine’s delicate neckline.  The gory headless statue still stands, overlooking the lovely La Savane park. For an interesting read on the statue, see the Prologue (“Josephine Beheaded”) to Cultural Conundrums: Gender, Race, Nation, and the Making of Caribbean Cultural Politics (University of Michigan Press, 2006).

Two Views of Runnymede: Magna Carta at the Library of Congress and the British Library

By: Gabriela Femenia 

As has been widely noted, 2015 is the 800th anniversaryLOC Magna Carta of Magna Carta, the revolutionary charter between King John I and his barons often cited as the foundation of basic Anglo-American concepts of protected liberties, rule of law, and good government.  There have been many events planned to commemorate its importance this year, and I was fortunate enough to be able to see two of the best: the traveling Lincoln Cathedral manuscript and related exhibit at the Library of Congress in December, and the magnificent display of multiple manuscripts at the British Library last month.

Magna Carta: Muse and Mentor, at the Library of Congress November 2014 – January 2015, was a ten-week exhibit sponsored by the Federalist Society, and therefore strongly focused on tracing the arc between Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights. In addition to displays explaining Magna Carta’s history and featuring one of the four surviving original copies, parts of the exhibit specifically connected Magna Carta to our constitutional rights to due process, trial by jury, and habeas corpus.  A very interesting additional section on Magna Carta in popular culture demonstrated how this medieval document of limited impact in its own century has nonetheless managed to resonate deeply and broadly in the popular imagination in more recent times.

BL Magna Carta

Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy, at the British Library until September 1, 2015, was naturally much larger in scope, as many more manuscripts and objects were available for display within the United Kingdom than could travel to the U.S.  Among the highlights, the exhibit features all four surviving 1215 manuscripts, copies of the 1225 reissue, one of Thomas Jefferson’s two drafts of the Declaration of Independence, and, delightfully, a map of William Penn’s Pennsylvania detailed enough for me to identify approximately where my house is. In addition to the richness of the collection, the exhibit featured wonderfully-executed video and multimedia enhancements to assist the visitor in following Magna Carta’s evolution from its critical reissue under Henry III, through its role in the growth of the common law on both sides of the Atlantic, and down to the modern development of international human rights law.

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Even if you can’t make it to London, much of this additional content is available at the British Library’s website, asare high-quality images of most of the items, making it possible to experience some of the outstanding curation and to glean fun ideas for your FCIL reference and teaching activities.  If this really piques your interest in Magna Carta and its contributions to the development of both the common law and international law, you may even consider signing up for the University of London’s upcoming MOOC, Freedom and Protest:Magna Carta and its Legacies, beginning June 15.

DipLawMatic Dialogues Seeks Contributors!

DipLawMatic Dialogues seeks contributors!  We are currently in need of book reviewers, film reviewers, columnists, and one-time contributors to submit content relevant to the mission of the FCIL-SIS and of the blog.  If you have an idea, please contact us at aall.fcil.blog@gmail.com or fill out the contact form on the Contributors page.  If you don’t have an idea yet, but would like to contribute, feel free to contact us and we will help you to develop a topic!

We are also looking for volunteers to blog from and about this year’s AALL Annual Meeting in San Antonio, as well as ALA, SLA, various chapter annual meetings, and any other upcoming relevant conferences.  Please contact us if you are interested in covering these events!

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