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Friday, September 30, 2011

Massachusetts Court Dismisses Rubin v. Government of Iran v. Boston MFA and Harvard

A Massachusetts federal court has ruled that the Museum of Fine Arts and Harvard University will not lose their collection of ancient Persian objects to eight plaintiffs injured in a 1997 terrorist bombing. The United States District Court, District of Massachusetts, issued a five page opinion on September 15, 2011 denying the plaintiffs’ efforts to gain control over the artifacts to satisfy their multi-million dollar court judgment against the government of Iran.

Jenny Rubin and several other Americans were injured in Jerusalem after Hamas carried out three bombings. Because the terrorist group received backing from Iran, the eight plaintiffs sued the government of Iran in federal district court in Washington, DC, winning a $71.5 million default award after the Iranian government failed to show up to court. Since then, the plaintiffs have sought to recover that judgment.

The government of Iran would not be expected to pay the court award, so the plaintiffs searched for local Iranian assets to seize. One place they looked was Boston/Cambridge, Massachusetts, where museums housed artifacts excavated from ancient Iran. The plaintiffs initiated a court action--known as an attachment--against the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Harvard, the Harvard University Art Museums, the Busch-Reisinger Museum, the Fogg Art Museum, the Sackler Museum, the Semitic Museums, and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. But the judge dismissed the plaintiffs’ case in his recent court order.

District Court Judge George O’Toole ruled that the plaintiffs could pursue their attachment action under the federal Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002 so long as they could prove, under Massachusetts state law, that Iran owned the artifacts in the museums. But the plaintiffs could not supply this proof. Judge O’Toole wrote: “In the present case, the plaintiffs have not shown that the ‘goods, effects, or credits’ at issue here are property ‘of the defendant’ Iran." He added that “[d]espite extensive discovery, the plaintiffs are unable to sustain their burden of showing that any particular item held by the Museums is the property of Iran . . . . It is not enough simply to show that antiquities held by the Museums originated from sites within Iran.”

The court highlighted that the plaintiffs failed to prove that an Iranian cultural patrimony law declared ownership of the artifacts. Judge O’Toole wrote: “For example, the so-called ‘1930 Law’ [the plaintiffs’] cite does not automatically vest ownership of excavated antiquities in the government of Iran. In the first place, the 1930 Law does not on its face purport to vest ownership of excavated antiquities in the government. Moreover, the 1930 Law clearly contemplates that antiquities may be owned by private persons. . . . Additionally, other courts have concluded that the 1930 Law permits private ownership and is inconsistent with automatic government ownership of all antiquities originating from Iran.”

The court struck down the plaintiffs’ further argument that an Iranian civil law, Article 26 of its 1928 Civil Code, makes the artifacts government property. The opinion declared that [t]he plaintiffs have not shown that any of the antiquities now held by the Museums were at the time of removal from Iran ‘Government property . . . in use for the service of the public or the profit of the state.’ The necessary conclusion cannot be drawn simply from the fact that the items are the products of archeological explorations that were conducted in Iran . . . .”

The court also rejected the plaintiffs’ claim that antiquities from Persepolis were the property of the Iranian government. The court ruled that “[t]he plaintiffs’ specific argument that items taken from the ruins of the ancient city of Persepolis cannot be privately owned is also not persuasive. The legal argument relies heavily on Article 26 which . . . does not support a generalized conclusion that excavated items necessarily belonged to the government of Iran. The plaintiffs point to texts suggesting that foreign excavators unlawfully took items from Persepolis. Even if that is true as an historical matter, it does not get the plaintiffs where they need to go. As a general matter, establishing that a particular item was unlawfully exported or removed from Iran is not equivalent to showing that it now should be regarded as property of Iran subject to levy and execution. And as a particular matter, the plaintiffs simply are unable to establish that any item in the possession of the Museums, whether from Persepolis or elsewhere, is rightly considered to be the property of Iran.”

The case in the Massachusetts district court is now at an end.  Any appeal would be filed in the First Circuit federal court.

Contact information may be found at http://www.culturalheritagelawyer.com/.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

That Touch Of Mink (1962) Directed by Delbert Mann

I could laugh at the old-fashioned attitudes towards women and homosexuality that pervade That Touch Of Mink. I could point at the fact that the picture's main obsession is sex and how to get it and how naive that seems now. But then I could tell you about what I read was happening today: the pop star Rihanna taking her clothes off in a field for her new video and how interested we are in that. Or how I read a Tweet today by RuPaul that declared "Homosexuality is found in over 450 species. Homophobia is found in only one". Or could I point out to you that as I write this, American Amanda Knox is being tried for murder in Italy and during the trial has been compared to a witch (you know, the medieval variety) with multiple personalities. So in 2011, I can attest that we have really moved on from the old fashioned sentiments of That Touch Of Mink and will view That Touch Of Mink's mild homophobia and sexism is so beneath us as to be disdainful.

In reality, the kind of film that That Touch Of Mink represents is being made regularly in 2011(with he same attitudes) and will appear at a cine-plex  near you very soon. The modern version will invariably star Jennifer Aniston as an approaching-middle-aged-woman, unmarried and looking for the incredibly wealthy and suave Mr Right (erm, Ralph Fiennes perhaps?) Sounds like a regular idea for a movie, yes? It's just that That Touch Of Mink stars Cary Grant and Doris Day, and is a star vehicle for actors who are effortless. No complications or depth in analysis needed here.

Grant retired a few years after That Touch Of Mink and Day didn't make so many more films after this either.  They are easy on the eye and ear. Professional. Mann directs like the TV journeyman he really was. This film is in many ways pointless but I still laughed out loud at a couple of gags. Doris Day really is the Queen of soft focus and Cary Grant still is the best looking man to grace a cinema screen. Light nonsense with a touch of class.

It's all about sex. Unbelievably so, the whole point of That Touch of Mink is the yearning to have sex and the social obstacles on the path to the bunk. Isn't it annoying when the woman wants to be married first? Isn't it funny that men get nervous too, about the first time (even Cary Grant it appears). I guess it might have been back in 1962. Now it's just silly. What could be a film about class and about the power that money brings, a satire of sorts, is finally only a comedy about the extent to which these people have to go to get some. Sex.

From the perspective of Wednesday, the 28th of September 2011 it is refreshing to remember that obsession with getting laid is not something new, something rotten poisoning the minds of us internet-housed cyborgs. We have been sex-crazy forever. At least for the last 150-something years, if Foucault is to be consulted.

That Touch of Mink is a little sinister still. It suggests that rather than being about love, hetero relationships are a transaction – money-for-your-eggs kind of thing. The most terrifying thing of all is that when the film ends with a little baby being pushed in a pram – the happy result of Doris and Cary finally making it to bed – I smile contently. Yuck.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

English riots - appropriate sentences

A short comment on sentencing the rioters, published on Halsbury's Law Exchange 

Sentencing rioters will take place against a backdrop of public anger and media outrage. In any such instance it is important that the rule of law applies and the court is not swayed simply by the unpopularity of the offender or offenders before it. 

That said, two factors come into play as part of the application of the law. First, it is a normal part of the sentencing process to weigh aggravating and mitigating factors. In the case of the rioters, taking advantage of the police being overstretched will not tell in an offender's favour, though it might be a mitigating factor if one could argue that an offender was normally a law abiding person who acted spontaneously, rather than a career criminal. 

Secondly, deterrence is a legitimate sentencing objective, and discouraging the public from starting civil unrest or taking advantage of it for criminal purposes is a factor not present in ordinary theft cases. On that basis, rather than the more crude goal of retribution, longer sentences for rioters can arguably be justified. (Not that retribution is wholly irrelevant to sentencing.)

One other aspect that the rioters give rise to is the cost and other resources associated with a large increase in offenders.  It will be tempting for more lenient sentences to be passed, and a greater proportion to be non-custodial, simply on the basis that the country is struggling to accommodate prisoners as it is.  Of course in theory this should have no impact.  One wonders if it will be the same in practice.  

Monday, September 26, 2011

ACCG Files Notice of Appeal in Baltimore Coin Case

After having its case dismissed in August, the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild filed a notice of appeal on September 21, 2011 in the US Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit. http://dockets.justia.com/docket/circuit-courts/ca4/11-2012/
A federal district court last month dismissed the ACCG's lawsuit, which challenged protective American import restrictions placed on Chinese and Cypriot ancient coins. The court ruled that the ACCG failed to make out a sufficient case. The ACCG started the test case when the organization brought 23 ancient coins to Baltimore on a transatlantic flight. See the blog entry of August 9, 2011 for further background commenting on the court's dismissal of the case.

Contact information may be found at www.culturalheritagelawyer.com. DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this web site/email/blog/feed/podcast is general information only, not legal advice, and not guaranteed to be current, correct, or complete. No attorney-client relationship is formed, and no express or implied warranty is given. Links or references to outside sources are not endorsements. This site may be considered attorney advertising by some jurisdictions. The attorney is licensed in NH. The attorney is not certified by the TX Board of Legal Specialization, nor certified by NY regulators as a so-called "specialist" or "expert." Do not send confidential communications through this web site or email.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Simplicity 2369 - Reprise

Here's the dress I finished yesterday.

The pattern is one of those reliable ones where the pictures on the pattern envelope are what you get.  No fuss, no muss.  Consequently, there's not too much to say about it!

I made this before.  This time I used the shorter skirt and longer sleeves.

I used one of those soft rayon knits; you know - the ones that stretch longer and eventually pill and look like crap.  But before then, they are soft and luscious, and supremely comfortable to wear.  This is, consequently, a dress for only one season, or with luck two.

I love the print.

There is a CB seam, but it's pretty much invisible.

My pattern review is here.

Raiders Of The Lost Ark (1981) Directed by Steven Spielberg

There was only one way to get me to sit through Raiders Of The Lost Ark again, if I could watch it with a child who has never seen it before. Sure enough, the scenario took place this weekend and  she declared it one of her favorite films. Watching movies with a child is very rewarding. They bring me to see things in a new or at least refreshed light. I was quite uncomfortable with the violence the film contains, but the child was very curious to see someone's face 'melting off', and the numerous skeletons and the snakes. She took it all as pure entertainment and went to sleep without nightmares (the only thing that was making her sick was the thought of the chocolate she'd been eating while watching the film). 

When I first saw Raiders Of The Lost Ark I was thrilled too. I think I started from the second film and was thus very impressed by the ape brain soup. It's funny how many Spielberg films left an impression on the Young-me. And how many of his movies infuriate me now. Jurassic Park was the one I went to see in a theater in 1993 – and thought it was amazing.
I must have been a less opinionated person then and more able to enjoy what life throws my way. It is an ability I struggle to connect with these days. For example, I hate James Bond. I don't have the sense of humor or the senselessness for it. I think too much, I get offended. The same goes for Indiana Jones. It's best I don't begin my analysis, because somehow I survived through the film without the Adult-me's perspective.

To get back to my safety area, I am about to curl myself on the sofa and watch a Woody Allen classic. It's going to be one that I definitely know all the lines for. Sorry Indy, don't expect to see me in your class with my eye lids batting for your attention.

Nick :
When Ingmar Bergman died a few years ago (2007),  I remember having an argument with a friend about who was more important and who would be remembered longer: Bergman or Steven Spielberg?  I think the right question might have been: should cinema make us dream and create an  escape from our daily existence, or should cinema make us reflect on the harsh realities of the human condition? Of course cinema functions as much more than just these opposites (as does the individual cinema of both Bergman and Spielberg) and ultimately any such arguments are futile. For the record, I was definitely in the Spielberg camp. I think Spielberg will live longer in people's memory (as if that matters). And furthermore, I personally prefer Spielberg's films. This says more about me than either film maker.

I've watched Raiders Of The Lost Ark countless times, it's a flawed movie for sure. But the action (which is of the roller-coaster variety) is exhausting in its excitement. There is a strong sense of humor, a Bacall-Bogart type of chemistry between the principles (Harrison Ford & Karen Allen) and at times, it's extremely violent. It also reveals Spielberg's on-screen loathing of the Nazis, a theme he would come back to in subsequent pictures. George Lucas co-produced the movie and there is always a sense here that this is two movie nerds (albeit rich ones) paying homage to an era they grew up in and the first movies they ever saw. That is key, as Raiders Of The Lost Ark displays an energy from Spielberg that he's shown since but rarely bettered. As Raiders of The Lost Ark celebrates 30 years of existence, much of what we know of as the generic action movie stems from here, but Raiders... offers so much more.

Harrison Ford gives one of his better, less resentful performances, he actually seems quite animated here. Ford's an actor who you feel expects to be in a better caliber of picture, something deeper (Bergman perhaps?) But people love him as Indiana Jones/Han Solo (or that type of wise cracking hero), so he's accepted his lot and slept through many of these type of roles, reluctantly giving the public what they want. In Raiders...he's still enthusiastic. Spielberg meanwhile continues to carve out an unpredictable filmography (with varying results). Raiders Of The Lost Ark still finds Spielberg at a time when he was more in the role of mass entertainer. For me Raiders Of the Lost Ark still shines bright as edgy, knowing entertainment and represents an early marker of greatness from one of cinema's masters.

Trying not to post just for the sake of posting

The Sewing Lawyer does not think that she should start this post by apologizing for the fact that her last post was TWO weeks ago, do you?  

In the interim, there was sewing of panties.  Which shall not be shown on this blog.  I have my pride.

The bra also got finished, although I haven't yet sewn the tiny little ribbon bow on the centre front so maybe it's not quite finished.

Thanks very much to all of you who left such informative comments on sizing, and more practically, on what the heck to do with the too-long ends of the underwires.  I had never heard of Plasti Dip before but it looks like a very interesting product.  I was not too thrilled at the idea of forking over $25.00 for a gigantic amount of the stuff when I only needed a tiny bit, so I was a little bit relieved to find out that my local hardware store had stopped carrying it.  I defaulted to plan B, Liana's suggestion:  epoxy.  It worked.

Having a nice new bra that fits well has made me realize that all the rest of them are pretty dowdy.  I am now quite motivated to make more.  Today, quite fortuitously, Kwik Sew 2101 came into my possession.  So there are lots of choices for patterns, and the stash seems to contain more possibilities too.

I made a knit dress.  No pictures yet, however.  I'll do a quick post tomorrow.

I have been musing about my next project.  I think it's time for something a little more complicated i.e. a lined jacket.  I like sewing for fall and winter!  (It's a good thing, since we have a good 8-9 months of somewhat-cold to very-cold weather here.)

I've had the fabric pictured to the right for a couple of years.  It's wool blended with something - maybe acetate?  The square motifs that look like script (but which I hope don't actually say anything) are woven in. This summer I bought enough red lamb leather for another jacket.  They are the same colour!

Dress and jacket, coming up ... sometime.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Khouli +3 Case Update: Search Warrant Affidavit Describes HSI Investigation

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) petitioned for a warrant on July 12, 2011 to search Salem Alshdaifat’s home-based business and seize “antique coins and[/]or other antiquities or any other works of art or cultural antiquities of Greek, Roman, Mesopotamian, Islamic, European, Egyptian origin . . .” HSI also requested business records, correspondence, photos of merchandise, bank records, import records, and the like located at the home.

An HSI special agent applied to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan for the warrant to search the home. That is the location where it is reported that Alshdaifat runs the ancient coins business called Holyland Numismatics. The affidavit, now unsealed, reveals further details about the antiquities smuggling investigation into Alshdaifat and three other co-defendants--Mousa Khouli, Ayman Ramadan, and Joseph A. Lewis, II.

It should be noted that a search warrant affidavit is a narrative that a law enforcement official or prosecutor supplies to a judge. It is meant to demonstrate the probable cause to believe that an object or thing is at a specified location and that it is probable evidence of a crime. Information contained in a search warrant affidavit may or may not be admitted as evidence at a trial. That is why an affidavit should not be read to form a conclusion of criminal guilt. Only a jury can decide whether there has been a violation of law, basing its decision only on legally admissible evidence.

In the present case, the federal agent’s affidavit called attention to several observations and actions of interest. For instance, the search warrant petition was filed following a review of Alshdaifat’s Yahoo! email account. Also reported were Alshdaifat’s alleged sale of ancient Egyptian artifacts in 2009 and his alleged importation of ancient coins in Detroit in 2010.

Writing in the July 2011 affidavit, the HSI special agent explained that a March 29, 2010 search warrant probe of “Alshdaifat’s e-mail records . . . confirm[] that he uses e-mail to communicate with sellers, purchasers, dealers and transporters of cultural property including stolen and/or smuggled cultural property.” A January 2009 email exchange was described where Alshdaifat allegedly offered a hoard of coins “[u]ncleaned at $4.5 each.” The email continued: “[T]he hoard came from Egypt and [is] now in Dubai[.] I asked my partner to ship directly from Dubai to you. [T]his hoard came from Banha, I think we bought coins that we sold you befor[e] from Banha, it is very big Roman city. [Y]ou can wire the funds to my bank account.”

The partner referred to is Ayman Ramadan of Nafertiti Eastern Sculptures Trading in Dubai (NEST). Alshdaifat referred to NEST as his Dubai office, and that “Ramadan ships antiquities from the UAE to Alshdaifat’s customers on Alshdaifsat’s behalf,” declared the affidavit.

A second email dated February 22, 2010 from Alshdaifat reportedly said:
“[F]or a hoard from Egypt this is real[l]y a[]lot :) , you got a small group[], we usually don[‘]t see them at all in Egypt, I was told today that they found in the same spot while they are making the hole bigger another group[] around 800 coins, they are still working in the area, I hope it will[] be bigger than what I think. [N]ext week I will get those 800 tog[e]ther with the 2000 coins. [I]t is much easy to sell uncleaned, I notice[e] that they already tried to clean some, but I told them to stop[.]”

The HSI investigating agent, without supplying specific details, added that Alshdaifat’s email account allegedly showed that he “has offered customers hoards of coins taken directly from Petra, Jordan and from Kyrene, Libya.”

Perhaps most directly related to the current federal indictment, the affidavit described allegations that Alshdaifat in May 2009 “offered a New York dealer a set of ancient Egyptian funerary boats and limestone figures for $40,000.” The New York dealer found a customer interested in purchasing these antiquities . . . and resold them to the customer for a higher price. Ramadan shipped the ancient boats and limestone figures to the New York dealer via mail from the UAE.” The shipping label said “antiques.”

On December 20, 2010, Alshdaifat carried coins through the Detroit Metropolitan Airport on his way back from Amman, Jordan, according to the affidavit. Customs reportedly seized the coins because Alshdaifat presented inconsistent sets of invoices during two separate airport inspections. The first invoice presented was from NEST to Holyland Numismatics for Byzantine gold coins and Byzantine gold tremissis coins totaling $234,875. The invoice stated that they originated from Syria, according to the affidavit. Alshdaifat then reportedly offered a second set of invoices listing Byzantine gold coins and Roman-Egyptian billion tetradrachms. When Alshdaifat returned later with two mail packages of similar coins in an attempt to convince federal authorities to release the detained coins, customs officials seized these packages too because they were without entry paperwork, declared the affidavit.

Federal agents staked out Alshdaifat’s home in June 2011. After seeing a “for sale” sign posted, two HSI agents posed as potential buyers of the house and entered the home with a real estate agent. Alshdaifat was at the residence at the time. The agents reportedly observed pictures of coins on Alshdaifat’s computer and as well as books about ancient coins and artifacts.

Based on this information, federal authorities applied for a search warrant of Alshdaifat’s Michigan home. That search warrant preceded the eventual multiple count indictment against Alshdaifat and the three named co-defendants on charges related to antiquities trafficking.

Photo courtesy of ICE.

Contact information may be found at www.culturalheritagelawyer.com.

The delight of everyone

I have been published in the current issue of the New Law Journal, on Lord Denning's most perfectly crafted judgment.  It can be found online in the NLJ blog under The delight of everyone

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Rumble Fish (1983) Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

One of the most embarrassing things can be the older uncle who thinks he's the cool guy and still down with the kids. Getting older and clinging to youth. I often wonder if I appear like that to people. I am firmly in middle age now (45 years old). I have adult responsibilities. Yet, I have the same burning desire and enthusiasm for my favorite interests as I did when I was a teenager. Have I simply not grown up? Am I clinging to youth? I mention all this as it seems in 1983 Francis Ford Coppola made two films about street gangs that tried to appeal directly to a youthful audience. Did he feel in the early 1980's that he was no longer the young guy changing the movie industry from within (along with a whole bunch of other New Hollywood people)? Was he simply just shot after the Apocalypse Now! adventure and the flop musical One From The HeartThe Outsiders was the straighter of the two films, Rumble Fish the elegiac and one must add, more pretentious offering. Whatever the results, Coppola at least managed to introduce a roll call of new acting talent in both films that would keep movie theater's full for years to come.

As with the The Outsiders, Rumble Fish is based on S.E. Hinton's novel (she also co-scripted the movie with Coppola). This is where Rumble Fish struggles most. Frankly, the script is embarrassing. It's as if Coppola thinks it's OK if his characters spew out angst ridden cliche after cliche. This kind of dialogue may have worked in the 1950's (and especially in a Nicholas Ray movie) but by 1983 it makes Coppola look like that out of touch uncle I was talking about. But that's not all there is. You could say that the rot set in right here for Coppola as a film maker. What did he have to prove after the first two The Godfather's, Apocalypse Now! and The Conversation? Rumble Fish offers enough evidence that Coppola was actually embarking on his most experimental (if inconsistent work). Few movies from any era look as stunning as Rumble Fish. You can just ignore the terrible dialogue and bathe in the iconic imagery. You also have to factor in Mickey Rourke.

What makes Rumble Fish so fascinating now is how it captures Rourke at the height of his coolness. And he dominates Rumble Fish. Whilst everyone over acts or struggles with the material Rourke brings a calmness to proceedings, mumbling a la Brando, moody but gorgeous. Coppola nails the iconic Rourke here, on screen, in this movie. Dennis Hopper adds some Frank Booth like intensity, otherwise it's a parade of future stars and Tom Waits ( Matt Dillon, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Nichols Cage etc). Police drummer Stewart Copeland adds futuristic menace to the stunning visuals with his percussion heavy soundtrack. Rumble Fish shows Coppola trying to deal with his own mythology, growing old and trying something different. It's an uneven affair, but when it clicks, Rumble Fish can still take the breath away.

Yet another film about men – the angry, young and frustrated types, who simply channel their aggression into physical fights, their emotions into booze and drugs and their desire into sex. The bunch so loved by cinema, the guys that owned the last century; that's who Coppola decided to portray. He always portrays this group anyway, just think of The Godfather or Apocalypse Now. Men.

Rumble fish. Of course it's a simile. But I remember as a child watching one of these fish in its fishbowl at a neighbor's home. The girl did not have a mother and that already made me feel sorry for her. Then she had the lonely fish, which had to remain alone, because it would kill any other fish immediately. Luckily, the girl's father bought her potato chips and cereal with sugar. Those were things I was never allowed to have in my house. I had a fish tank though, with frogs even.

Back to Rumble Fish, sort of. Mickey Rourke is obviously the reason Jamie Hince looks the way he does.

That's what we figured out. Too bad I am not in my biggest The Kills fan-phase, because had I seen this movie then, I would have loved it. The look, the photography and the pretentious air would have been just fine. Now I got angry and frustrated, but I'm not a young man, so what the hell can I do?

Heritage Protection Laws in Uganda

The 16th annual triennial meeting of ICOM’s conservation committee took place in Lisbon, Portugal this week. Many outstanding papers were presented.

I was privileged to moderate the Legal Issues in Conservation Working Group session. One paper of interest dealt with cultural heritage laws in Uganda. Frederick Nsibambi of Cross-Cultural Foundation of Uganda spoke of the laws covering the protection of heritage, commenting that a 1967 statute simply fined a person $1 for a violation. More about his organization’s projects can be found at crossculturalfoundation.or.ug.

Contact information may be found at www.culturalheritagelawyer.com. DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this web site/email/blog/feed/podcast is general information only, not legal advice, and not guaranteed to be current, correct, or complete. No attorney-client relationship is formed, and no express or implied warranty is given. Links or references to outside sources are not endorsements. This site may be considered attorney advertising by some jurisdictions. The attorney is licensed in NH. The attorney is not certified by the TX Board of Legal Specialization, nor certified by NY regulators as a so-called "specialist" or "expert." Do not send confidential communications through this web site or email.

Monday, September 19, 2011

No freedom of speech

Published in Criminal Law & Justice Weekly, Vol 175, September 10, 2011, p 527

When discussing religion and the law in this journal and elsewhere, I have consistently argued for free speech and for a complete separation of church and state. The counterpoint that others have expressed is that religion has been subordinated to other rights such as gender and sexual orientation.

I would maintain that the approach I have advocated is equally applicable to defending religion. I have been asked for some examples in support of that proposition. One obvious one concerns the sad tale of Harry Hammond’s street protest in Bournemouth in October 2001. It also provides a classic illustration of freedom of speech in the context of religion.

Continue reading here

Lust for Life (1956) Directed by Vincente Minnelli

Lust For Life is a 1950s movie about an artist, or a genius, as they would have definitely branded Vincent van Gogh then. In 1956 Western culture was at a crossroads: youth culture was rearing its unreliable head threatening with rock and roll, questioning the old ways on all levels of society, yet, the portrayal of an artist was still drenched in the masculine cult of the genius (with a long romantic history to back it up). Lust For Life portrayed a rebel of his own time, but the portrayal was not drawing similarities between now and then – the plight of the social misfits – it saw van Gogh almost as if through the eyes of a child.

Also, the film treated its subject, van Gogh, as a child-like innocent creature. As if the artist was never quite aware of his talent, his persona, or anything much around him (except of course when he painted). Life just happened as a chain of events, and their arbitrary connections seemed to throw van Gogh further into insanity. It is too bad that the film's emphasis on events of his life overshadow any imagining of what the artist might have been feeling or going through in his mind. A distance between the main character and the audience thus never goes away, which is always disappointing in movies.

I have rushed excitedly to a few big museums in the world just to catch a glimpse of a "genuine van Gogh" – I love his vision, yet I know very little about the man. Of course I heard about the ear cutting and the mental illness, and the interesting fact that he was never successful and now there's nothing we cannot buy with his painting printed on it. I remember the first time I had a chance in Chicago in 1999 to go see a van Gogh and how sophisticated I thought I was – the others were going to Sealife while I went to see art. Mostly though, my love for van Gogh comes from post cards and the stuff that was written on the other side of the pictures. There's never enough time to stare at a painting in a museum.

Twenty years since the release of Nevermind, Nirvana's mainstream grunge breakthrough album, the tortured, anguished short life of band leader Kurt Cobain comes back into focus. The consummate, non-commercial artist as young man, bringing cultured sounds to the masses. Of course, ultimately Cobain could have done without the attention and the success. He paid the heaviest price for being at the center of a media shit storm. As article after article about the Grunge explosion starts to celebrate 20 years of the quiet/loud dynamic and the rehabilitation of the plaid shirt, am I the only one having a nightmares at the prospect of a Cameron Crowe documentary celebrating 20 years of Pearl Jam? That's a bottom barrel team up if  ever I heard of one. Artist Vincent van Gogh wasn't afforded any real attention or fame during his short lifetime. Van Gogh is possibly the quintessential tortured artist, a front runner for Cobain. Eddie Vedder's got a lot to learn before being 4REAL.

There is a stiffness and quaintness to Minnelli's van Gogh bio-pic which is redolent of the times. This is its major flaw. Otherwise, Lust For Life is top quality and a genuinely strange picture posing as a Hollywood star vehicle. There is no real attempt in the film to come to terms with van Gogh's mental problems, which eventually cost him his life. Instead, we get lots of shots of Kirk Douglas (as van Gogh) looking anguished, lost and in pain. This is truly strange cinema. It's as if Minnelli gave Douglas a simple instruction: "Emote!" and left Douglas to get on with it. But the opulence of the direction (everything is in, ahem, broad strokes), the use of color, the sets and production values, all suggest money. Anthony Quinn brings energy to the picture with his portrayal of rebellious painter Gauguin.

Still, despite its shallowness and almost embarrassment with its subjects mental condition, Lust For Life is top draw. Douglas is brilliant, overacting at every turn, it's fun to watch. Minnelli knows how to use color and design: many of the shots do correlate with van Gogh's paintings. Minnelli is a master director, responsible for some of the all time greats movies, Meet Me in St. Louis, The Bad And The Beautiful, An American In Paris (in fact, a Martin Scorsese wet dream?) Lust For Life finds all participants on top form and is a classy picture, which deserves rehabilitation.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Lombardi Aguilar Attorney To Speak at New York State Bar Association Panel Discussion

Lombardi Aguilar Attorney To Speak at New York State Bar Association Panel Discussion

Attorney Alvaro Aguilar will be a speaker at a panel discussion on trust & estate laws to be held before members of the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) International Section

Lombardi Aguilar Group (http://www.laglex.com/) partner Alvaro Aguilar-Alfu will be a speaker at a panel discussion during the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) International Section seasonal meeting. The theme of this seasonal meeting is "Latin America as an Engine for Economic Recovery and Growth." Mr. Aguilar is also Co-Chair of the meeting local steering committee comprised of lawyers from the Central and South American cities of Panama City, Bogota, Buenos Aires, Santiago, São Paolo, and San Jose. The meeting will be held from September 21-24, 2011, in Panama City, Panama, and a pre-meeting of the NYSBA Costa Rica Chapter will be held on on September 19.

Mr. Aguilar will be a panelist of the session on "Trusts and Estates – Regulation of Offshore Accounts and Trusts in the US and Latin America" on Thursday, September 23, from 2:40 p.m. to 3:55 p.m. Other experts in the panel will be Glenn G. Fox and Michael W. Galligan (both of New York City, U.S.), Mary Fernandez (Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic), Cristina Sánchez-Urtiz (Mexico City, México) and Diego Fissore (Buenos Aires, Argentina). Lombardi is a graduate of Universidad Santa Maria la Antigua (LLB) and Washington College of Law / The American University (LLM).

To register for the 2011 Seasonal Meeting of the International Section, visit the New York State Bar Association Website at: http://www.nysba.org/PanamaMeeting2011

About the New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) International Section

NYSBA http://www.nysba.org/ilp is the organisation of lawyers in the State of New York, and with more than 76,000 members, it is the largest voluntary bar organisation in the United States.
The NYSBA International Section is one of the most active sections of the Association, with over 2,000 members throughout the United States and in many foreign countries and with chapter chairs in numerous cities worldwide. Members are primarily professionals practising law at major international law firms or corporations with a global reach.
NYSBA International provides its members the opportunity to keep up to date and influence issues and events that affect their clients and their practice. Each year NYSBA International hosts its Seasonal Meeting in a different city outside of the United States to provide American and foreign colleagues the opportunity to meet, network and expand their international practices.

About Lombardi Aguilar Group
Lombardi Aguilar Group is a partnership of consultants created as an alternative for clients worldwide who seek fast, innovative and effective solutions to their legal problems. The firm currently provides services to individual and corporate clients in Panama as well in the Americas, Europe and Asia. Its partners maintain a commitment with professional ethics and social responsibility by participating in the board of directors of groups such as the Panama Bar Association, the Alliance Francaise, the German and the American Chambers of Commerce (AMCHAM) of Panama, and the Association of Chinese-Panamanian Professionals (APROCHIPA).

The firm centers its law practice in private client services and asset protection (Private Interest Foundations, Trusts), business structures (Offshore Corporations), tax planning, real estate and e-commerce. It also advices in areas of Law such as Corporate, Commercial, Intellectual Property, Maritime, Tax, Environmental and Immigration Law as well as related litigation.

For more information, contact +507 340-6447, e-mail info (at) laglex.com, or see: Lombardi Aguilar Group http://www.laglawyers.com/

Keywords: panama, latin america, new york, tax, offshore, Trust, trustee, estate, Real Estate, Property, corporation, foundation

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Khouli +3 Update: Salem Alshdaifat’s Coin Inventory Returned

Salem Alshdaifat’s attorney sent two letters on August 17, 2011 to complain that coins seized from his client were not properly cared for by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and to request an inspection of the items after an initial effort to examine the coins resulted in objections from federal officials. Alshdaifat’s lawyer asserted that his client possessed documentation to prove bona fide ownership of the property. The court treated the correspondence as a motion for return of property.

A federal district court in Michigan issued an order on September 6 that recognized the issue as moot. That is because the US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and Alshdaifat’s attorney reportedly reached an agreement to return the inventory. The terms of that agreement are unknown.

Meanwhile, highlights of the letters written by Alshdaifat's legal counsel reveal the following:

• “[T]he agents took the entirety of Mr. Alshdaifat's business inventory and related documentation . . . .”

• “Mr. Aishdaifat operates an ancient coins business from his home in Orchard Lake, Michigan. He has been in the business of trading ancient coins ever since he left his home country of Jordan more than ten years ago. He has been a student of numismatics his entire life. On July 13, 2011, federal agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") raided his home and seized his entire inventory of ancient coins, estimated at over 7,000 coins, and other property.”

• “ICE and CBP had decided to transfer custody to the ICE case agent in Brooklyn, New York all of the seized property from the four seizures of Mr. Alshdaifat's property that occurred in the Detroit area. These include: (1) the December 20, 2010 seizure of ancient coins at the Detroit Metro Airport; (2) the December 2010 seizure of two mail packages that were voluntarily brought by Mr. Alshdaifat to ICE offices in Detroit and [an agent]; (3) the February 2011 seizure of a Federal Express package for export to Singapore; and (4) the July 13, 2011 seizure of thousands of coins and other property from Mr. Alshdaifat's . . . home.” (For information related to most of these seizures, see the September 23, 2011 blog entry here).

• Additionally, through his attorney, Alshdaifat advised federal officials to store groups of coins “in open containers, not in closed plastic bags.” “The coins,” he said, “should also be stored in a dry environment, preferably with a dehumidifier.” He further recommended that authorities “[s]eparate the "diseased" coins from the rest. These coins can be identified by the green powdery substance on the surface of the coins. . . . The diseased coins should be handled with gloves, and when doing so agents should avoid exposure in closed areas with little air circulation.” Alshdaifat also advised that “[t]he silver and gold coins should be kept in individual coin holders” and that coins found in acid baths “needed to be washed in hot, running water and dried individually.” Finally, he requested that “[t]hose coins with soil incrustation should be separated from others with similar incrustation. Because soil taken from different places consists of various different minerals and it would be impossible to know if incrusted coins came from the same soil, those coins that are incrusted should simply be separated to avoid any chemical reaction from the interaction of different soil minerals.”

Contact information may be found at www.culturalheritagelawyer.com. DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this web site/email/blog/feed/podcast is general information only, not legal advice, and not guaranteed to be current, correct, or complete. No attorney-client relationship is formed, and no express or implied warranty is given. Links or references to outside sources are not endorsements. This site may be considered attorney advertising by some jurisdictions. The attorney is licensed in NH. The attorney is not certified by the TX Board of Legal Specialization, nor certified by NY regulators as a so-called "specialist" or "expert." Do not send confidential communications through this web site or email.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Front Page (1974) Directed by Billy Wilder

Familiarity breeds contempt. This isn't just my view, you could also level that charge at Billy Wilder with his remaking of The Front Page. This is late Wilder, taking his hands off the production mantle and just opting to co-write (with regular writing partner I.A.L Diamond) and to direct. It's a clinical yet still stylish film. You feel Wilder is here because he's got nothing better to do. Wilder and Diamond inject some cynicism, black humor and crudeness into the script, which you expect. What interests me most about The Front Page is the remake angle. This was the third time this story graced the silver screen.

I can't claim to have seen the original film version from 1931 but the not so much later retelling, going under the name His Girl Friday from 1941, is cinema gold. Howard Hawkes' 1940s remake with Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell has all the smarts and swing that Wilder's remake is lacking. Worse for me (and Astrid I feel) is that we actually watched His Girl Friday quite recently. The Front Page is an almost scene for scene remake, with some characters changing gender being the only real difference. Few films would compare favorably with His Girl Friday, so a flat, going through the motions version didn't really stand a chance.

Walter Matthau and Jack Lemon offer quality to Wilder's picture (when do they ever let you down?) as the wise and cynical newspaper men who know how to squeeze a story. Sad to say the casting of Susan Sarandon, in an early role, only highlights one of the films shortcomings. So much script time is handed over to periphery characters, which eats into the screen time and the acidic chemistry Matthau and Lemon bring to the picture. Wilder ultimately makes an OK picture. With a little more focus on the central duo, and a more elegiacal touch, Wilder could have bought in a picture with the emotional pull of his late masterpiece The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes. Instead, The Front Page feels like it was just a job for Wilder.

The Front Page marks a change in the way I watch a movie: I sat knitting through the whole thing and thought to myself 'this way I can last through any boring film'. That was the point. The Front Page was a bore – especially if you had seen the previous version not so long ago and this one appeared to be an overly-faithful remake with way too little Susan Sarandon in it. Yet, through the new-found knitting, I was able to emphasize in my mind the act of sitting in a chair and really concentrating on being this woman who knits while enjoying the evening's entertainment. I could feel the calming effects of doing something repetitive with my hands and I enjoyed the sense that women have sat in comfy chairs in dimly lit rooms knitting for centuries.

From another perspective it could be asked, why is it that women who are sitting down taking a break, often have to appear to be doing something even still? Is the knitting a sign of being a dutiful wife, not wasting any precious moments? It seems like I am talking about an image from a couple centuries back... But in my case in 2011, is knitting a sign of restlessness and inability to concentrate when I used to be just fine watching a film from beginning to end with my hands in my lap? Maybe.

One solution to my frustration and lack of concentration would be to watch better movies. Recently our choices have been unlucky. The Front Page in itself is not a bad film, although I have no idea why it needed to be remade in 1974 (for the third time), still not that many decades after the original came out.
Right now I dream of going to see a film in the theater for a change. It would be luxurious. And if my hands would be occupied with anything they would be diving into a bag of candy.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


One of the anxious-making things about sewing a bra is that you can't try it on until it's finished.  So they say.  But there was no way The Sewing Lawyer was going a centimetre farther along in the construction process without having at least a pretty good idea whether hers was going to take pride of place in the undies drawer, or languish, finished but unworn, in a dusty pile on the sewing room floor.

This morning the front was done, more or less, and the back was at the point of paralysis where I needed to know (a) how big around it should be and (b) how long the elastic straps should be.  I managed to get it whacked together in an approximate sort of way, but definitely unpickable, so I could try it on.

I'm using one of Beverley Johnson's patterns - "Amanda" of the "Pin-up Girls" line.  This pattern uses a foam cup and is pretty similar to some RTW bras I wear.  The website says it has dramatic push up effect but that remains to be seen.  I also bought the "Sharon" which is a front closing partial-band "demi-cup" style.  It's going to be the next one I make.

Let me introduce you to Amanda, finished enough so that I could verify its wearability, and make some informed decisions about band and strap length.

The foam cups are covered with a very stretchy and thin tricot from stash.  The front band, straps and back are made from a firmer lycra-and-something, also stash.  I used one of the bra findings kits from Bra-Makers Supply.  It has plush elastic for the top and bottom bands, strap elastic, hooks and sliders, underwire channeling, and some little decorative bits.

When I was at the store, Beverley turned her practised gaze to my upper half and guessed, correctly, that a 36 cup would be right.  She checked the 34 too (what I thought would be my size) and indeed they were noticeably too skimpy.

I did not purchase underwires, thinking I could repurpose some wires from old RTW.  Wrong! Do you know what?  34 wires just won't go around a 36 cup.  The curvature is definitely not the same.  So I bought size 36 wires from Fabricland, but they are too long for this cup, and stick out about 1cm.  I am going to have to cut them off and attempt to  file/cover/treat them in some way so the ends are not razor sharp.

The straps are sewn fabric in front, and attach to an adjustable elastic strap in back.  The strap elastic is continued on the upper scooped edge of the back.  Here, I've just sewn it on any-which-way to check fit, and verify that the hook and eye bits will attach properly.  However, the picture shows the general idea.

Below you can see the inner construction.  Washable Wonder-tape is an essential tool in attaching the stretchy fabric to the cup.  The instructions are very clear and good for this process.   The band/bridge piece is stabilized with a very non-stretchy layer (the pattern does not suggest this but I intuited that the piece should be as stable as possible and my fabric had, I thought, too much stretch).  The sticking-out ends will be resolved, some time soon I hope.

Sewing a bra is a little tricky but not as intimidating as it may look.

However, the sizing thing is really confusing.  All my life I've worn a 34B bra and here I was confronted with a 36 cup.  Not only that, but the band size and the cup size can be mixed and matched.  I measured myself according to the instructions in the Amanda pattern, the Sharon pattern, and for RTW as described in Beverley's book which I also purchased.

Amanda puts me at 36.  In actual RTW I am a 34B.  The book and the Sharon instructions put me at 32B (??!!).  I know these are just numbers, but for heaven's sake!!

Anyway, there is an error in the pattern.  The instructions say to trace the band size according to the cup (36) but with its length based on the under-bust ribcage measurement.  They say:  "If you measure 75cm (34"), trace the 75/34 line on the pattern size.  If you measure 78cm (35"), trace the 80/36."

Okey dokey.  I measured myself:  72.5cm around my ribcage.   And checked my tape measure which conveniently has both metric and imperial measurements printed on it.  72.5cm is 28.5".  I stared at the pattern and the instructions, and then back at my tape measure.

So here's the problem.  The numbers in the instructions are wrong in every way.  75cm is not 34", it's 29.5".  34" corresponds to 86.5cm.  And these numbers don't match what is printed on the pattern pieces.  The pattern piece for size 36 has lines on it which are labelled 70/28", 75/30", 80/32" and 85/34".   These number combinations somewhat closer to real metric/imperial equivalents but they are still off by enough to make your bra fit badly.  Which number to choose?  Accurate metric?  Accurate imperial?  Measuring the pattern pieces does not help because the bra has negative ease and  the band length will be extended by the hook and eye pieces, in some hard-to-verify amount.

To make a long story short, I initially cut the band pieces on the 85/34" line, based on the theory that I could make too-long pieces shorter.  Then in construction, I compared the in-progress bra to a RTW bra and got all over-confident and cut the bands down 2 sizes.  Then later in construction, I realized the band was sure to be too short, and added a little extender piece at CB on the right side (to which the shorter hook bit will be attached).  I figure the extender piece adds back almost as much as I cut out in the over-confident part of this story, and based on my almost-done fitting, I have to take most of it off again.  But not all of it, so I still don't know what size I should have cut.

Next time (there will be one; I have another set of the foam cups) I should ignore the numbers and re-trace the pattern piece based on the length I actually needed for this one.

There is a similar dithery story that goes with trying to figure out how long the elastic strap extensions need to be.  I won't bore you with the details.  However, the principle which is guiding me in relation to both band size and strap length is that the bra will not get snugger as time goes on, all other things being equal.  Therefore, I should determine lengths based on what feels reasonably snug but comfortable now, with everything positioned so I can tighten it up in future, if needed.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ayman Ramadan and Nafertiti Eastern Sculptures Trading

Readers will recall that the US Justice Department issued a press release in July 2011 announcing the unsealing of a multiple count indictment charging four men charged with antiquities smuggling and money laundering. Ayman Mohammad Ramadan was one of the men indicted. (Note: an indictment is not a finding of guilt.) He is currently a fugitive.

The US Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of New York, summarized the alleged facts of the case in this way: “[F]rom October 2008 through November 2009, [Joseph] Lewis [of Virginia] purchased a Greco-Roman style Egyptian sarcophagus, a nesting set of three Egyptian sarcophagi, a set of Egyptian funerary boats and Egyptian limestone figures from [Moussa “Morris” Khouli, who earlier acquired those items from [antiquities dealer Salem] Alshdaifat and [antiquities dealer Ayman] Ramadan. Each of these antiquities was exported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and smuggled into the United States using a variety of illegal methods intended to avoid detection and scrutiny by U.S. Customs & Border Protection (“Customs”).”

Ayman Ramadan is described by US Customs in a July 2011 press release as “a Jordanian antiquities dealer and operator of Nafertiti Eastern Sculptures Trading . . . . Ramadan was shipping goods to Windsor Antiques, a New York City gallery that showcased antiquities from around the world."

There is information to suggest that Ayman Ramadan may go by the name of Ayman Libzo. A Facebook profile bearing the name Ayman Libzo describes this named individual as the owner and president of Nafertiti Sculptures Trading L.L.C. It also lists Dubai as the place where this individual lives.

Paul Barford, in his blog on Portable Antiquity Collecting and Heritage Issues, referenced Nafertiti Sculptures Trading in a 2010 entry. Commenting on a sale of artifacts by Salem Alshdaifat, Barford posted the following on September 4, 2010 to show what was reportedly advertised online by Alshdaifat, an apparent business associate of Ramadan and a co-defendant. The information suggests a business connection with Ayman Ramadan’s company, Nafertiti Eastern Sculptures Trading.

"10 Ancient Egyptian Blue Faience Ushabti C.600 BC. Size around 3 inches high .(7 - 8cm long) Rare items in great looking blue Faience (paist clay and glazed) Mummyform ushabti (servant for the next life) . perfect condition for the type, a real rare chance to get them in this condetion, Guaranteed Authenticity. this lot will be shipped from our office in Dubai Nefertiti Eastern Sculptures Trading Co P.O Box: 111301 Bar Dubai, Dubai. United Arab Emirates. Price US$ 1,300.00" (Errors in the original.)

A recent search on the government of Dubai’s web site reveals no current trade names or active trade licenses for Nafertiti Eastern Sculptures Trading or any variation of that name. There are also no companies listed that are associated with the names Ayman Ramadan or Ayman Libzo.

(As a side note, it is of interest that the government of Dubai maintains a relevant trade name category called “Authentic Antiques, Artefacts & Artworks Trading," classified by Activity Code 513969. Many art and antiques dealers, however, seem to place themselves in the “Novelties Trading” or “Gifts Trading” company category as a matter of course.)

There is also no listing in the UAE yellow pages or the Dubai commercial directory for Ayman Ramadan, Ayman Libzo, or any reasonable variation in spelling of Nafertiti Eastern Sculptures Trading.

There is information on a web page, nevertheless, that an “Ayman Libzo for Ancient Antiquity” existed. What remains of the now inactive and sparsely archived web page, copyrighted 2008, is a ‘browse catalog” link, a generic Dubai business location, and a Dubai-based cell phone number. The catalog link is inaccessible. The other information listed on the web page states that the company is part of the Trocadero network, which is a fine arts and antiques online selling platform. The Ayman Libzo for Ancient Antiquity web site once bore the web address of www.trocadero.com/aylibzo/, as suggested by archived internet records.

There apparently was also an online store bearing the name “Ayman Libzo for Ancient Antiquity” at one time. It was likely located on eBay.es, the Spanish eBay. That page does not exist today and is not archived. It was referenced, however, in an eBay “arqueologia y falsificaciones” (archaeology and forgery) discussion group during a 2008 conversation about Egyptian artifacts.

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement asks that anyone with information on the whereabouts of Ayman Ramadan contact the Tip Line at 866-DHS-2-ICE.

Contact information may be found at http://www.blogger.com/www.culturalheritagelawyer.com. DISCLAIMER: The information provided on this web site/email/blog/feed/podcast is general information only, not legal advice, and not guaranteed to be current, correct, or complete. No attorney-client relationship is formed, and no express or implied warranty is given. Links or references to outside sources are not endorsements. This site may be considered attorney advertising by some jurisdictions. The attorney is licensed in NH. The attorney is not certified by the TX Board of Legal Specialization, nor certified by NY regulators as a so-called "specialist" or "expert." Do not send confidential communications through this web site or email.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Court on Camera

Published on Halsbury's Law Exchange here.

The ban on filming in courts is to be overturned in part, according to an announcement by Justice Secretary Ken Clarke. (Mr Clarke is also Lord Chancellor, though in the modern watered-down version of that office he does not call himself Lord Clarke and does not sit in the House of Lords. The resultant incongruity should be a lesson to those who attempt constitutional reform in haste, or even at leisure.)

At present filming is only allowed in the Supreme Court. Under the new measures broadcasting will initially be confined to the Court of Appeal, with the Crown Court to follow. The changes will require modification of the relevant statutory provisions, namely s 41 of the Criminal Justice Act 1925 and s 9 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981.

Filming of the Crown Court will be restricted to judges’ summary remarks, with victims, witnesses, offenders and jurors excluded (who do not feature in the Court of Appeal anyway).

I have long been in favour of allowing television in court, for the simple but compelling reason that justice has to be seen to be done. It is one of the cornerstones of English justice that any member of the public can attend court and observe proceedings, subject to only a few narrow exceptions where the interests of justice require the public’s exclusion (sex abuse or child cases being the obvious examples, though the family courts have become more open of late, to some controversy in both directions). There is no difference in principle between sitting in the public gallery watching proceedings and watching them on television. If one is a fundamental right then it is an uphill battle to justify the prohibition of the other.

On the UK Human Rights Blog Adam Wagner observes:

The success of Supreme Court Live has made it difficult to argue that Court of Appeal hearings, which are similar in that they do not generally involve live witness evidence, should not also be broadcast. Given that there are many more hearings than in the Supreme Court, which tends to hear 1 or at most 2 cases at a time, it is to be hoped that the Ministry of Justice will consider allowing hearings to be watched after the event as is the case on the Parliament Live TV website.

I would respectfully agree. I am no technical expert but it does not seem to me that with modern technology it ought to be overly expensive or otherwise difficult for hearings to be recorded and archived, and indeed to be made available online free of charge thereafter.

Of more substance are the concerns which Mr Wagner has about criminal trials:

There are other arguments against broadcasting criminal trials which I have dealt with in a previous post. They are, in summary,

1. Televised justice leads to soundbites and sensationalism, and edited highlights of a case lose the subtlety of legal argument

2. Television fosters disrespect for the court

3. Cameras pervert the trial process as juries become star struck and lawyers grandstand

4. Victims and witnesses are intimidated and can be less safe as a result

These are serious points deserving of a much greater response, but my initial thoughts are as follows:

1. This is true, but no more so than any other form of case reporting. Extracts from written judgments are often taken out of context, and reports of witness or other aspects of court proceedings are often written in a sensationalist fashion. If there was a central record of the full proceedings on an accessible website then anyone concerned about a news report could watch the whole proceedings and decide for themselves.

2. Potentially, but not certainly, if editors behave themselves and there is a full-length unadorned archive version for anyone serious about forming an opinion. Moreover, once again there is no real difference from other forms of media reporting of courts and proceedings.

3. This is a proper concern. OJ Simpson is the obvious example of television perverting a trial, but as the Fatty Arbuckle scandal shows, “yellow journalism” has been perverting court proceedings for as long as there has been such a thing as the media (even if the right result was eventually reached in Arbuckle’s case).

More recently, the tabloids were sharply brought to book for their antics with the initial suspect in the Joanna Yeates murder, as I have written about for a forthcoming issue of Criminal Law & Justice Weekly. But there is no question that judges will have a serious task in trying to ensure that neither lawyers nor jurors are influenced by the fact of the proceedings being broadcast on television, especially in high profile cases.

4. This is also a proper concern, hence Mr Clarke’s announcement that filming in the Crown Court will be restricted, at least initially, to judges’ summary remarks. If it is made clear that witnesses will not be broadcast, or perhaps not without anonymisation by pixellation and voice-altering, then the concerns should mostly be met.

With the caveat that each of the four issues will require further consideration, I remain of the view that none of them are insurmountable and that the principle of open justice should prevail. Mr Clarke’s announcement is therefore an important step in the right direction.

Amazing Fit Dress - Simplicity 2648

Simplicity has this line of patterns called "Amazing Fit".  They seem to be a collection of good basic designs whose main distinguishing feature is that they include multiple versions of each piece for (above the waist) different cup sizes and (below the waist) for a "slim", average or "curvy" fit.  I'd been meaning to buy #2648 since my friend and enabler G started raving about it as a great pattern.  When G makes a recommendation, The Sewing Lawyer listens.  (Not just for sewing patterns either. Snap major household appliance decisions have been made based on G's seal of approval.)

So it is entirely predictable that Simplicity 2648 did indeed turn into a very nice dress that fits rather well.  The only drama relates to how long it took me to get around to actually sewing this up.  I cut it out along with the grey summer suit on June 12, for heaven's sake.  

It's not that I'm having a bad hair day. Rather, the headless photos turned out sharper so are better pictures of the dress.  Which is what you are really interested in anyway.

This is the last of the true summer sewing for The Sewing Lawyer.  Maybe there will be one or two warm days in September suitable for wearing such a sunny summery dress.

Oh all right.  More sewing details.

The dress is made from a somewhat substantial cotton/lycra woven.  I hope it won't be too warm to wear, but its relative stiffness means it'll never cling.

There are princess seams in front and darts in back.  And there's a waist seam.  But you can't see any of them in this busy print.

I cut the B cut bodice and the "curvy" bottom.  The entire difference between the average and curvy bottom is that the curvy back has 4 waist darts and the average only two.  There is an extra .5" at the hip in the curvy fit.

I've had the belt I'm wearing for (conservatively) 25 years, and it wasn't new when I got it.  I haven't worn it in years but would wear it lots now, if it hadn't shrunk in my closet.  I'm going to clone it in a bigger size.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Funny Lady (1975) Directed by Herbert Ross

New York New York (by Scorsese) is one of my favorite movies because it tells the story of a creative couple in the period setting of musicals, big bands and elaborate hair-dos. I got a little excited then, in the first five minutes of watching Funny Lady, realizing that it might be a related film about similar subject matter. Unfortunately, despite being a 1970's film, it turned out to be a rather conservative and cheesy effort. It dealt out some promising strands of plot and lines, then taking things to nowhere interesting.

Barbra Streisand plays a successful musical star and a recording artist in the 1930's New York. She just has bad luck with men, who appear to only be interested in (her) money. Left by one of these gold diggers (Omar Sharif), she forms a working relationship with another (James Caan) and eventually, the relationship becomes more than a working one – it becomes a dysfunctional marriage. I have no clue why though, as there is obviously never infatuation, love, sex or any kind of chemistry between the two. The guy needs the rich lady to further his career. That's all.

The mid-1970s was a time of active feminist voices everywhere. It was a time when Hollywood produced some subversive cinema, even questioning the portrayal of women only as props and property. Erica Jong had a hit with her novel Fear of Flying already in 1973. In this context, Funny Lady is a poor and stuck-up movie offering a rusty vehicle to its superstar Streisand. Seeing her in almost anything else would have been more interesting than this.

Herbert Ross is somehow related to the naming of our blog. He directed Play It Again Sam, the Woody Allen movie that quotes from the Bogart/Bacall picture The Big Sleep where we picked our blog name. Unfortunately, Ross would have a rather unremarkable career post PIAS. Funny Lady shows the director as  a yes-man to the stars, a safe pair of hands to guide the superstar vehicle: in this case, the whims and ego of Barbra Streisand. Streisand really was/is the last actress (save Lisa Minelli?) who could pull off the old-style Hollywood musical.

Funny Lady starts with promise. Although Astrid really didn't pick up on the period detail, it's one of Funny Lady's pluses for me and the movie evokes the 1930's depression era with fervor. There is also a chance that the movie will develop along the lines of Scorsese's amazing old-style musical homage New York, New York and inhabit the landscape of songwriter (James Caan) and muse (Streisand). It's sad to report that Funny Lady shies away from this at every opportunity. Instead it treads musical convention in every way with a series of uninspiring musical numbers that relate neither to plot nor charachter. It becomes very clear that this is all about Streisand and that amazing voice of hers.

Funny Lady is the sequel to Funny Girl (which I recall from my misspent youth) and does tell the real- life story of Fanny Brice (original Ziegfeld Follies girl). The first film has a certain zest, this sequel is a mess. But still, there are moments when Streisand's voice and presence carry the film and you'd hope that some substance would be given to her relationship with Caan (playing songwriter and producer Billy Rose). Caan seems to be reprising his role of Sonny in The Godfather, which considering Funny Lady is a lighthearted musical comedy, suggests he was slightly miscast. Streisand is good here but is let down by poor direction, a patchy script, flat directing and – worst for a musical – unmemorable songs. Lightweight in every sense.

OOO RAH Wallet

As promised,  here it is.  A green lamb-leather folding wallet.  It measures 6" x 4.25" (approximately).

I considered doing the topstitching to complete it, but after eyeing the thickness in the middle of one side (10 or maybe more layers of inner cotton, 2 layers of padded snap tab, and outer leather layer, doubled because turned in on itself) I decided discretion truly is the better part of valor, finger pressed the edges as much as I could, and called it done.

Debbie suggests using quilting cotton for all layers, and cutting the pattern from three fat quarters.  The Sewing Lawyer has heard this term "fat quarters" before, but not being a quilter, isn't 100% sure what they are and wasn't about to go out and buy fabric for this little item, since there is a fabric supply to last several lifetimes within reach at home.

And the stash came through.  This cunning print, miracle of miracles, coordinated perfectly with the green leather.


Yes, those are chickens.

The wallet has many many pockets for the numerous credit, debit, library and other cards a person seems to need these days.  In addition, there are pockets under the pockets on either side, and a deep pocket opening at the top, which is the full size of the wallet.

The lower right slot has a vinyl insert for your most used ID.

It has a zipper coin pouch at the back.

It's bigger than my last wallet effort.  Maybe surprisingly, they both hold the same stuff.  It's nice to have alternatives, don't you think?

I've stuffed it here, to illustrate.  A person could go shopping.

Good Job, Debbie!  (Click on this link to buy the pattern.)


First, an apology for not posting much in the past few weeks. It's a source of continual amazement to see that people do continue to visit this blog daily, and that the number of followers here continues to rise even in my absence.  Almost 300!!!

During her absence in the real world, The Sewing Lawyer seems to have been busy.  Although there isn't much production.  Actually, if I am honest, there hasn't been any.  The Sewing Lawyer's sewing room has mostly been dark and neglected.  Too bad the cleaning fairies didn't take advantage of the opportunity to get in there and do some serious organizing.

Really the machine has only been running in connection with a little project which is (sort of) for someone else.  If you hang about on sewing sites, you will have come across Debbie Cook of Stitches & Seams.  Recently she's turned her considerable talents to producing a pattern and I volunteered to help test it.  She kept up her end of the arrangement admirably by sending me the pattern (PDF) and then e-mailing updates on its development in real time.  I'm not so sure I've performed adequately as a tester as the item is languishing, almost finished, in the messy sewing room.  I did send Debbie feedback on the pattern as I went, anticipating that this might happen, but I'm still hanging my head in shame, and hoping I'm not too deeply entrenched in Debbie's bad books.

On the positive side, the pattern (which is for a wallet) is for sale in her Etsy store where I seriously hope it is selling like hotcakes.  It's very professionally-done, IMHO.

On the negative side, The Sewing Lawyer (as usual) has made things difficult for herself by choosing to make the wallet out of leather. My machine is struggling through the layers in places even though the innards are cut out of the intended material - quilting-weight cotton.  I think I see some difficult hand-sewing in my near future since there is no way I am attempting to topstitch this baby by machine.

Perhaps in my far-distant future, I see a sewing machine that can power through layers of leather without faltering and skipping stitches.

Pictures to come (I promise) this very weekend.  Which is a long weekend in Canada!  Yay!

Other things to know, which have something to do with sewing.

While doing laundry today, the evidence clearly indicated it was time for new undies.  Not only does The Sewing Lawyer have a guilt-inducing pile of bra patterns with all needed materials sitting on the cutting table, the stash contains all the stuff for making panties, including a TNT pattern (before you ask, it's cloned from a pair purchased in the far distant past, then tweaked through several home-factory panty-making sessions over the years).  My version looks (sort of) like Jan Bones "smoothie" panties.  But it has a lower rise.

If you are inclined to make your own underthings, not only are there commercial patterns out there (this one from Jalie, for example), there are several for download on the www.   I first saw the "cheeky panties" pattern on Burdastyle, but today Google turned up this site which has a link for the graded version as well as the original instructions by Burdastyle member EmilyKate.  This pattern intrigues me but having traced it out and compared it with the TNT, my strong suspicion is that it's best reserved for teenagers or those with figures like teenagers.  In short, the TNT looks more like a TeNT.  I console myself with the thought that the back piece has to be big because it wraps mostly around to the front.

If I blog about making undies, the posts may very well not be illustrated, if you know what I mean.

Finally, I got an iPad for my birthday last month.  Being new to Apple (I'm a confirmed PC user) it's taking me some time to get comfortable with and understand how I ought to be using this intriguing little machine.  Please help!  What are your best recommendations for apps and content?  How do you use your iPad in the sewing room?