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Haunted Courthouses, Jails and Libraries, and the Famous Haunted House Case

By Lynn Published: October 30, 2009

Let's have some fun!  Below is a sampling of haunted courthouses, haunted jails and even haunted libraries.  Some of the ghostly apparitions were caught on security cameras or web cams!  

Haunted Courthouses

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Thousands of cases thrown out

By Brant Published: October 30, 2009

But this time it's not because of a technicality. A Pennsylvania judge has been sending children to jail on first-time misdemeanor offenses in order to provide financial support to the for-profit prison company that paid him millions under the table. Can you imagine losing two years of your childhood at the age of twelve for taking your mom's car on a joyride that injured nobody? It's a real crime.

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Health Care Financing Reform: (53) The Long-Term Solution to the Problem of Cost

By Wilson Huhn Published: October 30, 2009

     There are three problems that we face as a nation: lack of universal access to medical care, poor quality medical care for many people, and the high cost of medical care.  The last problem is the most intractable.  I propose a solution below. 

     First, we are the only industrialized country that does not have universal health care.  Millions of Americans are going untreated for chronic medical conditions because they lack health insurance. 

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How Harvard Caused the Financial Crisis

By Stefan Published: October 29, 2009

Interesting article over at MSN Money.  Here's a taste:

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Health Care Financing Reform: (52) The New House Bill - H.R. 3962

By Wilson Huhn Published: October 29, 2009

     Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and the House leadership have agreed upon a bill that they will bring to the floor of the House for consideration.  Below the fold are links to the text and summaries of the bill, as well as a list of fourteen reforms that would be immediately implemented if it were to become law.

     The new bill is called the Affordable Health Care for America Act.  The text of the bill is available here, a four-page summary here, and a ten page summary here.  As expected, the bill includes a "public option" that would allow the government to sell health insurance to citizens after negotiating prices with doctors and hospitals.

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Health Care Financing Reform: (51) Closing the Donut Hole

By Wilson Huhn Published: October 29, 2009

     Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced last week that the legislation proposed in the House will close the "donut hole" (the coverage gap) in Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage.  Details below.

     The "donut hole" requires persons on Medicare to pay a substantial portion of the cost for the prescription drugs.  In an article for About.com, Michael Bihari, M.D., describes how the "donut hole" works for 2009:

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Health Care Financing Reform: (50) CBO Estimates Little Impact from Abolishing Antitrust Exemption for Private Health Insurers

By Wilson Huhn Published: October 29, 2009

     Across the United States there are relatively few health insurers offering coverage in any particular geographic market.  Following Justice Department guidelines, over 94 percent of U.S. markets for health insurance are "highly concentrated."   In some states, there are only one or two insurers offering health insurance coverage.  Despite this level of market concentration, however, the Congressional Budget Office has concluded that abolishing the antitrust exemption for health insurers would have little impact on either the federal budget or the cost of health care.

       Both the American Medical Association and the advocacy group Health Care for America Now! have issued reports (available here and here) describing the high level of concentration in the health insurance industry within almost every geographic market in the United States.  Only a handful of health insurers - and sometimes only one insurer - operate within any particular metropolitan area, region, or sometimes even within an entire state.  In this article by Emily Berry published in AmedNews it is suggested that the market concentration occurs because existing insurers erect barriers to entry within particular markets.

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Celebrating the Life of Professor Malina Coleman

By Diana Published: October 28, 2009

Akron Law will hold a special celebration on Wednesday, Nov. 4 in honor of the life of Professor Malina Coleman who passed away on Oct. 25. The celebration will be held at Quaker Square Inn at The University of Akron in Ballrooms B and C from 4:30 - 7:30 p.m. Professor Coleman had been a professor at Akron Law since 1989. More details about the celebration are available here.

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Health Care Financing Reform: (49) A Summary of Where We Are and Where We Are Heading

By Wilson Huhn Published: October 28, 2009

     There is an excellent article by Ricardo Alonso-Zalvidar in today's Chicago Tribune describing the current political status of health care reform.  The journalist quotes Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) as saying that there is "a sense of inevitability ... that yes, we're going to pass health care reform."  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi are deciding what to include in the legislation that they will bring to the floor of their respective chambers.  This posting summarizes the topics where there is broad agreement and the issues that are still being hashed out.

     Almost everyone agrees that the health insurance system must be changed in the following respects:

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Health Care Financing Reform: (48) SGR - Why Physicians Are Facing a 20% Pay Cut from Medicare

By Wilson Huhn Published: October 27, 2009

     If Congress does nothing, physicians will experience a 20% reduction in the reimbursements that they receive from Medicare.  The cause of this reduction is a federal law that establishes the "Sustainable Growth Rate" formula for changes in Medicare payments.

     The SGR formula is established by law and is used to calculate annual changes to the rates that doctors may charge Medicare for services.  Instead of simply allowing the reimbursement rate to increase in line with inflation, adjustments are made on the basis of the average of several factors, including changes in national worker productivity and changes in the Gross Domestic Product. 

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Akron Law to Host Leading Tax Authority on Nov. 5

By Diana Published: October 26, 2009

The University of Akron School of Law will host a lecture by leading tax authority Rick Grafmeyer, a 1982 graduate of Akron Law on Thursday, Nov. 5 at 5 p.m. in Room 152. The event is free and open to the public.

Grafmeyer is currently a partner with Capitol Tax Partners, Washington D.C.'s largest independent consulting firm specializing in tax legislative and regulatory matters. He served as chief tax advisor to Sen. John McCain during the 2008 Presidential election. From 1998 to 2000, he was deputy chief of staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) and was responsible for major simplification study (three volumes), and separate studies on Tax Code penalty and disclosure provisions and tax-exempt organizations issued by JCT.

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Health Care Financing Reform: (47) Harry Reid to Push Public Option with Opt-Out for States

By Wilson Huhn Published: October 26, 2009

     At 3:15 today Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced that the bill he will send to the floor of the Senate will include both the "public option" as contained in the Senate HELP Committee bill and the "co-ops" proposed in the Senate Finance Committee bill.  The bill will also give individual states the power to opt out of the public option.  He is sending the bill to the CBO for scoring.

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Supreme Court 2009-2010 Term: (1) Salazar v. Buono - Cross on Public Land

By Wilson Huhn Published: October 26, 2009

     On October 7 the Supreme Court heard oral argument in the case of Salazar v. Buono, which involves the constitutionality of a cross that had been erected on public land.  More below.

     The Mojave National Preserve in California is a vast federal park, roughly fifty miles square, located in eastern California.  In 1934 a World War I veteran erected a large cross as a war memorial on a cliff in the Preserve.  In 1994 the land was transferred from the Bureau of Land Management to the National Park Service, and the Park Service has continued to maintain the cross.  

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H1N1 Has Gone Viral! President Declares National Emergency, CDC Data

By Wilson Huhn Published: October 25, 2009

     Below the fold are a link to a story about the President declaring the H1N1 epidemic to be a national emergency, and links to reports from the Centers for Disease Control about the epidemic.

     Fox News reports that President Obama has declared the H1N1 viral epidemic to be a national emergency, which should facilitate the ability of hospitals and clinics to handle the expected surge in admissions.

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Health Care Financing Reform: (46) Commonwealth Fund Comparison of Bills and New Website

By Wilson Huhn Published: October 25, 2009

     Health care financing reform legislation has been approved by five separate congressional committees - three in the House and two in the Senate.  Next week the President and leaders in Congress are likely to merge the various proposals into one bill that will go forward in the House and the Senate.  The Commonwealth Fund has released a report comparing the bills that are pending in Congress, and from which the ultimate bill will be forged.  In this post I summarize the principal findings contained in this report.  In addition, I invite you to visit a website I have created with information and links to other sources regarding health care financing reform.

     According to the Commonwealth Fund, there are eleven areas where the various health care bills are in broad agreement, and five areas where there are substantial differences among the bills.  In each case the quoted language is from the report, and the remainder constitutes my own words summarizing the report:  

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Health Care Financing Reform: (45) Commonwealth Fund Report Comparing the Three Bills in Congress

By Wilson Huhn Published: October 24, 2009

     Yesterday the Commonwealth Fund released a report comparing the three health care financing reform bills that are pending in Congress.  I will summarize its findings tomorrow.

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Health Care Financing Reform: (44) CMS Report on H.R. 3200 - Projected Costs

By Wilson Huhn Published: October 23, 2009

     The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services has released a report regarding how the bill pending in the House of Representatives - H.R. 3200 - will affect the total cost of health care over the next ten years.  The report contains bad news for Democrats - but it isn't good news for Republicans or for any American.

     I have posted the CMS report to a new website I am creating that will contain information on health care financing reform.  As of now, the CMS report is the only study there, but I will be adding more in the days to come and creating links to other sites.

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Matthew Shephard Hate Crimes Prevention Act Enacted by Congress - Some Constitutional Considerations

By Wilson Huhn Published: October 23, 2009

     Yesterday Congress enacted the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act as part of the National Defense Reauthorization Act for 2010.  This law makes it a federal offense to assault people because of their race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.  However, because of constitutional considerations, crimes based on the victim's race, color, religion, and national origin are treated differently than crimes committed because of the victim's gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.  The law also contains provisions preserving the prerogative of state governments to punish these crimes, and other provisions protecting freedom of speech.

     Sections 4701 to 4714 of the Defense Reauthorization Act contain the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which will add a new section to Chapter 13 of the federal criminal code.  This new law will be codified at 18 U.S.C. Section 249, and the codified version of the criminal law will simply be called "Hate Crime Acts."

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What are the states doing about health care reform?

By Lynn Published: October 22, 2009

Here is a look at some health care reform initiatives at the state level.

1.   National Governors Issue Brief Highlights State Employee Health Management Initiatives

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Is It Really That Hard to Distinguish Legitimate Research From Insider Trading?

By Stefan Published: October 22, 2009

Some commentators are fretting that the recent blockbuster insider trading case involving Galleon Management (nice summary here) is going to chill market-enhancing research.  For example, Prof. Bainbridge argues that:

Under Dirks v. SEC, 463 U.S. 646 (1983), we know that:

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Health Care Financing Reform: (43) CBO Estimate on Savings from Tort Reform

By Wilson Huhn Published: October 22, 2009

     Earlier this month the Congressional Budget Office released a study estimating that the enactment of federal tort reform legislation would lower the cost of medical care in the United States by one-half of one percent.  That report is described below.

     On October 9 Douglas Elmendorf, Director of the CBO, wrote a letter to Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) in response to Senator Hatch's question about the effect that "tort reform" would have on the cost of medical care in the United States.  Elmendorf estimates that if Congress enacted broad tort reform legislation that capped the amount of money that plaintiffs could recover from doctors and hospitals, provided shorter statutes of limitation, deducted health insurance, life insurance, auto insurance, and workers compensation payments from medical malpractice awards, and replaced joint and several liability with a fair-share rule, it could result in savings of as much as one-half of one percent of all the money that is spent on health care - savings of approximately $11 billion annually.

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Health Care Financing Reform: (42) The House Bill's Public Option - Negotiated Rates or the "5% Solution"

By Wilson Huhn Published: October 21, 2009

     Brian Beuter of Talking Points Memo reported last night that after receiving an encouraging preliminary report from the Congressional Budget Office, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is moving ahead on H.R. 3200, the "America's Affodable Health Choices Act."  This post contains information about the House bill.

     On October 14 three committees of the House of Representatives reported out an amended versions of H.R. 3200, called "America's Affordable Health Choices Act."  Here is a link to the full text of the bill as adopted by the House Ways and Means Committee on July 14; here is a very brief summary of the bill from the Congressional Research Service; and here is more detailed summary, dated July 14, 2009, from the House Ways and Means Committee. 

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Health Care Financing Reform: (41) Shame on Me - 40% Increase in Death Rate Among the Uninsured

By Wilson Huhn Published: October 21, 2009

     Mea culpa.  In a recent posting I stated that the only factor we should care about in considering reform of the system of paying for health insurance is cost.  I overlooked one minor detail - the suffering among the uninsured in America.  Last month the American Journal for Public Health published a study showing that 45,000 Americans die annually from lack of health insurance.  According to an article by Ben Frumin of TPM, over the weekend Senator John Kyl (R-AZ) expressed doubt about the accuracy of that finding.  In this posting I discuss the study and its implications for health care financing reform.

     The research study examining the link between death rates and health insurance coverage is authored by Doctors Andre Wilper, Steffie Woolhandler, Karen Lasser, Danny McCormick, David Bor, and David Himmelstein.  It may be viewed here, and here are links to articles about the study in Harvard Science and Physicians for a National Health Program.  

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The AIG Bonus Debacle

By Tracy Published: October 20, 2009

AIG has been in the news for over a year now for its fiasco involving the payment of bonuses to employees from government-loaned bailout funds.  Just last week, AIG was back in the news, seeking to pay additional bonuses.  The "pay czar," Ken Fienberg (the former head of the 9/11 compensation fund) is also trying to find ways to stop AIG's payments -- with no success.  It appears AIG has found a huge loophole: bonuses paid pursuant to contracts entered into prior to fall 2009 (the date of the bailout legislation) are exempt from limitation.  Thus, lawmakers are once again searching for ways to recoup the money.  In a recent essay, I suggest that the law of restitution provides several options for seeking the return of unjust gains.  To read it, go to http://lawreview.wustl.edu/slip-opinions/bailouts-bonuses-and-the-return-of-unjust-gains/

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Health Care Financing Reform: (40) Coverage for Young Adults

By Wilson Huhn Published: October 20, 2009

     One of the most difficult problems in reforming how we pay for medical care is determining how young adults should be covered. 

     At the insistence of the health insurance industry, all of the laws pending before Congress include an "individual mandate," which means that everyone will be required to have health insurance.  The individual mandate will have a disproportionate impact upon young adults.  Young adults make up a large percentage of the uninsured in this country.  Children are usually covered under their parents' health insurance so long as they are full-time students.  However, under the current system when they graduate from high school or college they face a number of obstacles to obtaining coverage, and for this reason any law requiring them to purchase health insurance must contain provisions to address those obstacles.

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Obama Administration Discourages Prosecution in "Medical Marijuana" Cases

By Wilson Huhn Published: October 19, 2009

     The AP is reporting that the Justice Department is sending guidelines to federal prosecutors today advising them not to prosecute the sale of marijuana where such sales are in compliance with state laws.  This news has interesting implications under the Constitution.

    Four years ago the Supreme Court decided Gonzales v. Raich, a hard-fought case over the principle of federalism and the power of Congress under the Commerce Clause.  The issue in that case was whether Congress had the power under the Commerce Clause to enforce the federal Controlled Substances Act against growers and sellers of marijuana in situations where state law made such use lawful - where the states had enacted laws allowing the medicinal use of marijuana.  In a split decision the Supreme Court ruled that the federal law was constitutional and that the state "compassionate use" laws were therefore unconstitutional because they had been preempted by Congress.

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Health Care Financing Reform: (39) Liberals and Conservatives - A Pox on You Both!

By Wilson Huhn Published: October 19, 2009

     I am fed up with the posturing of both liberals and conservatives on the issue of health care reform.  We need solutions, and the demonizing and finger-pointing just gets in the way of real reform.

     Our common problem is that health care is about twice as expensive in the United States as in other countries, and is growing ever more expensive.  Americans spend over $2.4 trillion per year on health care.  That amounts to over $7,000 per person, or 16.7% of our gross domestic product.  The rate of growth in the cost of health care is substantially higher than increases in individual income or GDP; accordingly health care will take a higher and higher percentage of our personal and national resources.  At current rates within 50 years we will be spending more on health care than we earn.

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Louisiana Justice of the Peace Violates the Constitution - and His Reasoning Strikes a Familiar Chord

By Wilson Huhn Published: October 18, 2009

     This much is obvious.  Keith Bardwell, an elected Justice of the Peace in Louisiana, violated the Constitution when he refused to marry an interracial couple.  People have not paid too much attention to the reason that he refuses to marry people of different races.  That reasoning is instructive.

     Keith Bardwell is Justice of the Peace for the 8th Ward of the Tangipahoa Parish in southeastern Louisiana.  Bardwell made national news when he refused to marry an interracial couple, Beth Humphrey and Terence McKay.  Here is a report from CNN on this matter and an AP report posted at ABC. 

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Response to a Question about the Commerce Clause

By Wilson Huhn Published: October 17, 2009

     Yesterday Dave, a frequent commenter, in response to a column by my colleague Lynn Lenart, challenged the constitutionality of the Environmental Protection Act.  Specifically, he argued that Congress lacks the authority under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution to regulate air and water pollution that occurs entirely within the state of Ohio.  I disagree.

     Dave writes:

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The Public's Right to Know

By Lynn Published: October 16, 2009

The Public's Right to Know: or how polluted is Summit County?

'Every American has the right to know the chemicals to which they may be exposed in their daily living. Right-to-know laws provide information about possible chemical exposures.'   Source: U.S. EPA

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Health Care Financing Reform: (38) AHIP Strategy - In a Box

By Wilson Huhn Published: October 16, 2009

     The health insurance lobbying arm AHIP takes a pretty reasonable position with respect to reforming how we pay for health care.  However, the concessions that the industry has already made may harm its ability to oppose the reform bills being considered by Congress. 

     AHIP is an acronym for America's Health Insurance Plans, which is the trade association for private health insurance companies.  On October 11 Karen Ignagni, President and CEO head of AHIP, released this memo critical of the Baucus bill which was recently approved by the Senate Finance Committee.  In addition to making a number of arguments against the bill, the memo sets forth an ambitious and forward-thinking set of reforms, including the following:

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"Spin Versus Fraud" and Other Spin

By Stefan Published: October 15, 2009

Imagine you are invested in a hedge fund around the time the credit crisis was beginning to rear its head.  You get on a call with one of the hedge fund managers and are told that he is "very comfortable with exactly where we are" and "there's no basis for thinking this is one big disaster."  When asked about redemptions by other investors, the hedge fund manager reports that there were "just a 'couple of million' dollars of redemptions requested by investors in June."  In another conversation, the hedge fund manager assures you that he himself is putting more of his own money in the fund.

It turns out, however, that three days before the conference call the hedge fund manager e-mailed a colleague to say: "The entire subprime market is toast," . . . "[t]here is simply no way for us to make money -- ever." He had also written that "if an internal report prepared by a colleague is 'ANYWHERE CLOSE to accurate, I think we should close the funds now.'"  Furthermore, it turns out that rather than investors asking for merely a couple of million dollars back, one investor had informed the fund that "it wished to withdraw its entire $57 million investment."  The fund manager later admits that "he pulled the couple of million dollars amount 'out of thin air.'"  Finally, the manager was taking millions of dollars of his own money out of the fund while claiming to be adding to his investment.

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Health Care Financing Reform: (37) Harry Reid's Next Step

By Wilson Huhn Published: October 15, 2009

     Now that the Baucus bill has passed the Finance Committee, what's next?  Harry Reid has some tough decisions to make.

     Harry Reid (D-NV), Majority Leader of the Senate, will attempt to meld the provisions of the Baucus bill and the Kennedy bill, the two bills that have been approved respectively by the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.  Brian Beutler of Talking Points Memo reports that Reid met Wednesday with Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) (Chair of the Finance Committee), Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), representative of the HELP Committee, and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel to begin working out a compromise between the two bills. 

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Does President Barack Obama Deserve the Nobel Peace Prize?

By Wilson Huhn Published: October 15, 2009

     In my opinion, yes. He stopped the practice of torture, and he has vowed to withdraw from Iraq. More generally, he has restored the Rule of Law in the United States.

     The Constitution, treaties, and statutes of the United States clearly prohibit torture, which is defined by law as the intentional infliction of serious physical or mental pain or suffering. Despite the opinions offered by John Yoo, Jay Bybee, and Stephen Bradbury of the Bush Justice Department, there was never any doubt that the "enhanced interrogation techniques" that were carried out by the Bush administration constituted torture. "Waterboarding" is the slow drowning of prisoners. The "cold cell" involves hosing naked prisoners with 40 degree water in a cell kept at a temperature of 50 degrees. "Stress positions" means that we shackled prisoners in a standing position for more than seven days at a time. If you have been inclined to believe that these methods of interrogation are not torture, then I invite you to undergo, or to watch your loved ones undergo, these techniques, and then tell me whether or not you believe that they inflict serious pain or suffering. It has been more than 300 years - since the Salem witch trials - since we allowed lawful authorities to engage in this kind of behavior. Obama put a stop to the torture of prisoners and for that reason alone he deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.

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Health Care Financing Reform: (36) Baucus Bill Passes Finance Committee / The CBO Estimate

By Wilson Huhn Published: October 14, 2009

     Yesterday, by a vote of 14-9, the Senate Finance Committee passed the Baucus bill, the America's Healthy Future Act.  This posting discusses the political line-up behind the bill and the CBO estimate regarding the cost of the bill to the federal government.

THE VOTE

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Akron Law and Vestige, LTD. To Present Electronic Evidence Certificate Program

By Diana Published: October 13, 2009

The University of Akron School of Law and Vestige presents the Electronic Evidence Certificate Program.  Learn to advise clients using electronic evidence to accurately document and prove maximum damages in civil cases, investigate without interviewing personnel, find facts without relying upon human recall, document events without incurring outside counsel fees, and lead outside counsel and client to claims and defenses faster and more economically.  Participants will receive an Electronic Evidence Certificate demonstrating competency in the legal and technical knowledge and skill sets necessary to advise clients.

Cost:  $450 per person (early bird registration received before Nov. 9), $500 per person (registration received after Nov. 9).  Cost includes 12 CLE hours (one hour ethics, one hour professionalism and .5 substance abuse).  Lunch and Breakfast provided for both days.

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Health Care Financing Reform: (35) AHIP Reports on Health Insurance Costs

By Wilson Huhn Published: October 13, 2009

     In 2008 America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the industry association for private health insurance companies, issued a report on the causes of rising health care costs and confirming that the cost of health insurance has been increasing and is expected to continue to increase at a rate about double the cost of inflation.  On Sunday it issued another report stating that the enactment of the Baucus bill will make the situation even worse.  Both reports are described below.

     AHIP had previously released this report, prepared by Price Waterhouse and entitled "The Factors Feuling Rising Health Care Costs," analyzing the reasons for the increase in premiums for private health insurance.  This report indicated that the cost of health insurance rose 6.1% in 2007, down from 13.9% in 2002.  The report found that approximately half of the increase in health care insurance premiums was attributable to general inflation; about a quarter due to increases in provider costs; and about a quarter due to increased utilization, that is, increased use of medical services. 

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The President's Gay Rights Speech

By Wilson Huhn Published: October 12, 2009

     On Saturday evening President Obama delivered a major address on gay rights.  The principal points he made are set forth below.

     President Obama spoke before the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights advocacy group, on Saturday evening.  Here is a link to the text of the speech.  The principal points that he made are summarized below.

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More on the Constitution and Famous Trials

By Lynn Published: October 9, 2009

Exploring Constitutional Law is a wonderful site created by Doug Linder, a professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Law School.  'This site explores some of the great issues and controversies that surround our Nation's founding document.'  'It was created for use by those interested in understanding our nation's most important document.'  Articles address such issues as the right to die, the death penalty, right to bear arms, right of privacy, equal protection issues and First Amendment topics.  The articles link to opinions of related cases and other useful websites.

 Famous Trials  is also created by Doug Linder.  'The Web's most visited and most comprehensive collection of essays, images, maps, primary documents, links, and other materials pertaining to over fifty of the most famous trials of all time, from Socrates to Simpson.'  Mutiny on the Bounty (1792), Amistad Trials (1839), Mountain Meadows Massacre Trial (1875), Earp O.K. Corral (1881), Black Sox Trial (1921), Hauptmann (Lindbergh) Trial (1935), Charles Manson Trial (1970), Chamberlain 'dingo' Trial (1982), O.J. Simpson (1995), Clinton Impeachment (1990) and Moussaoui (9/11) Trial (2006) are just a few of the trials covered. 

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Emailing About Whether We've Learned Anything From the Financial Crisis

By Stefan Published: October 8, 2009

An email exchange played out on my desktop that I thought readers might find interesting.  It started with Kristina Melomed (a former student of mine and a JD and MTax Candidate here at the University of Akron) passing on the following:

"Please find attached a chart showing the top 5 banks holding the largest percentage of credit default swaps, measured in outstanding notional amounts, as reported by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.  I was pretty excited to learn that the OCC releases reports on credit default swaps."

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Health Care Financing Reform: (34) The Wyden Amendment and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

By Wilson Huhn Published: October 8, 2009

     Ron Wyden (D-OR) offered an amendment to the Baucus bill that would have made it possible for all Americans to purchase health insurance through the Exchange.  The amendment was ruled out-of-order by Senate Finance Committe Chair Max Baucus (D-MT).  Presented below are arguments for and against the amendment - both from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

     As readers of this blog are aware, Senator Ron Wyden has for years championed legislation that would create a single, national marketplace, regulated by the federal government, through which all Americans could purchase health insurance.  Insurance policies would have to meet certain standards as to coverage (for example, they would have to cover preexisting conditions and pay for preventive care), and would have to offer consumers information in sufficient detail and in a standardized format so as to permit comparisons as to price and quality of the coverage of the various plans.  Here is Senator Wyden's description of his proposal:

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The Constitutionality of Obama's "Czars"

By Wilson Huhn Published: October 7, 2009

     Joe Markman of the Los Angeles Times reports today that five constitutional experts appeared yesterday before the Constitution subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee and expressed their opinions regarding the constitutionality of President Obama's "czars" - officials who advise the President and coordinate policy among different agencies and departments of the federal government.  The experts agreed that the practice was constitutional so long as these officials operated in an advisory capacity only and exercised no legal authority.

     The Constitution provides that, with the advice and consent of the Senate, the President has the power to  nominate certain officers of the United States.  Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the Constitution (the "Appointment Clause") provides in part that the President:

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Health Care Financing Reform: (33) OECD Study on Why the U.S. Spends So Much More Per Capita on Health Care

By Wilson Huhn Published: October 7, 2009

     We Americans spend more than 16% of our Gross Domestic Product on health care, a figure that is far higher than in other industrialized countries.  The cost of medical care is rising much faster than the increase in GDP and several times faster than increases in personal income.  The cost of medical care has more than doubled in the past decade, making health insurance unaffordable for more and more Americans every day.  The rapidly rising cost of medical care is the reason that Congress is seeking to reform the system of paying for health care.  The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development recently released a study addressing "Why does the United States spend so much more than other countries?"  This report is summarized below.

     The report makes several points:

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Health Care Financing Reform: (32) Report on Preventable Deaths

By Wilson Huhn Published: October 6, 2009

     In a 2008 study of preventable deaths in 19 industrialized nations, the United States ranks last.

     Ceci Connally of the Washington Post reported today that

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Lie Detectors in the Courtroom

By Diana Published: October 6, 2009

Cutting-edge technology has renewed the search for a better lie detector. Some show promise, but they have yet to be tested in court. Read more in this ABA Journal article featuring Akron Law Professor Jane Campbell Moriarty.

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"Supreme Court Week" on C-SPAN

By Lynn Published: October 2, 2009

From C-SPAN's  website:

'Beginning Sunday October 4 at 9:00 p.m. and continuing through that entire week--each night at 9:00 p.m. -- C-SPAN will present groundbreaking and unique programs on the Supreme Court. Featuring an original documentary production "The Supreme Court: Home to America's Highest Court" as well as an unprecedented collection of original interviews with 9 of the living current and former Supreme Court Justices, Supreme Court week will offer viewers a rare window into the Supreme Court and those that serve there.'

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Health Care Financing Reform: (31) Senate Finance Committee Approves Limited Public Option

By Wilson Huhn Published: October 2, 2009

     The Senate Finance Committee narrowly approved a publicly-supported health insurance plan yesterday.  The plan would be open to individuals who are not on Medicaid and who earn between 133% and 200% of the Federal Poverty Level.  More below.

     Ryan Grim of the Huffington Post reports that by a vote of 12-11 the Senate Finance Committee approved an amendment proposed by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) that would create a "federally funded, non-Medicaid state plan which combines the innovation and quality of private sector competition with the purchasing power of the states."  This health insurance, which the amendment calls a "Basic Health Plan," would be available to families who are not eligible for Medicaid but who earn less than double the federal poverty level.  Using 2009 federal poverty guidelines, persons eligible to purchase coverage under the plan would include individuals whose annual income is between $14,400 and $21,660; for a family of four, gross family income would have to be between $29,326 and $44,100 to qualify.  The full eligibility requirements are as follows:

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The Constitutional Rights of Corporations and the Federalization of Corporate Law

By Stefan Published: October 1, 2009

Here are links to two blog posts you may find interesting:  The Volokh Conspiracy on Constitutional Rights and Corporations, and The Race to the Bottom on the Federal Takeover of Delaware Corporate Law.  Enjoy!

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Health Care Financing Reform: (30) Abortion Funding

By Wilson Huhn Published: October 1, 2009

    At the Senate Finance Committee hearing on Wednesday Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) proposed amendments to the Baucus bill further restricting the use of federal funds for abortions.  The amendments were defeated by votes of 10-13, largely along party lines - one Democrat (Senator Conrad) voted for the amendments, and one Republican (Senator Snowe) voted against them.  The issue is a difficult one.  More below.

     Under the Constitution, women have a right to terminate a pregnancy in its early stages, but the government does not have a duty under the Constitution to pay for an abortion.  Many voters have moral or religious objections to abortion and as a result federal law (and the laws of many states) prohibit the use of government funds to pay for abortions except where the life of the woman is threatened or where the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.  Medicare and Medicaid are subject to these limitations on abortion funding.

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