Robert Bork, controversial legal scholar, Supreme Court nominee, and judge, has died

Robert Bork, an influential conservative legal presence in American history for many decades, has died.

Bork, a former Marine, segued from an attorney in private practice to a professor at Yale Law School. Some of his notable students were Bill and Hillary Clinton, Robert Reich, Anita Hill, and Gov. Jerry Brown.

Bork made first headlines on October, 20, 1973. Richard Nixon, embroiled in the Watergate scandal, demanded that Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox be fired, triggering the Saturday Night Massacre. Both U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus resigned rather than carry out this order. Bork then immediately became Acting Attorney General and complied with Nixon's order, which was found to be illegal in a lawsuit filed in November by Ralph Nader.

Fourteen years later, President Ronald Reagan nominated Bork (who by then was a Judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.) for a seat on the Supreme Court. The pushback from Senate Democrats was fierce in light of Bork's support for the South's wish to impose poll taxes and for rolling back key aspects of civil rights. His nomination was rejected and Judge Anthony Kennedy won unanimous approval.

Bork then resigned from the Court of Appeals, accepting a position as senior fellow at the conservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research.

He was back in the news for endorsing Governor Mitt Romney for President on August 2, 2011 for the second time (he had also endorsed Romney on December 15, 2007).

Mr. Bork, who was 85, died of heart complications.

Solar Eclipse Today (Only Visible in Australia)

The only total solar eclipse of 2012 will begin around 3:35pm EST today, November 13, and it will last all of two whole minutes, so try not to blink. Unfortunately, it will only be visible live from certain areas of Queensland, Australia and some empty parts of the Pacific Ocean. The good news is that you can watch the solar eclipse live online via streaming sites, including Cairns Eclipse 2012 on USTREAM, which will begin streaming around 2:00 pm.

More resources on eclipses are available here from the AADL, and don't miss one of the newest additions to our collection, the Orion Starblast 4.5 Astro Reflector Dobsonian Telescope, which checks out for two weeks at a time.

Tour the New Ann Arbor Justice Center Saturday, April 16th

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You've watched it going up, now tour the new Justice Center at a public open house, Saturday, April 16, 10:00 a.m. ~ 12 noon. The Police Services and 15th District Court will be polished up, guided tours available and there will even be light refreshments.

Plenty of speakers including Police Chief Barnett Jones (who's great with the kids BTW.) The Justice Center is located at 301 E. Huron Street, the corner of 5th and Huron.

Let's Hear it for the Boys

On July 21st, 1959 the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of Grove Press, the publisher of now-classic works such as D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover, William S. Burroughs' Naked Lunch and my personal favorite, Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer. At that time in history, books considered obscene due to graphic sexual content or language were often forbidden from being published in the United States and other parts of the world. It took years of struggles and trials for books such as those above to be granted protection under the constitutional right of freedom of speech.

Look for a book soon to be added to our collection, 1959:The Year Everything Changed by author Fred Kaplan (also columnist for Slate), that discusses the trial of Lady Chatterley's Lover in more detail. And today - celebrate Lawrence, Burroughs and Miller!

"Hope" in Dispute - Copyright vs. Fair Use

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Street artist Shepard Fairey who created the famous Hope image of Barack Obama sued The Associated Press, claiming his use of an AP photo in creating the poster did not violate copyright law, because he has dramatically changed the nature of the image and therefore, is protected under the so-called "Fair Use" provisions.

The AP said it is owed credit and compensation for the artist's rendition of the original photo taken by Mannie Garcia who was on assignment for the AP at the National Press Club. (Read the whole story).

Just today, Mannie Garcia discussed on NPR his own legal battle with the AP, claiming the photo was taken while he was working as a freelance photojournalist.

Maybe reading Elizabeth T. Russell’s Art Law Conversations : a surprisingly readable guide for visual artists (2005) might help clear up the muddle? But I doubt it.

BTW...signed originals of both the Hope poster and the Garcia photo have been acquired by the National Portrait Gallery, Washington D.C.

Plants In The News

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So when you bring the green indoors this winter the plants may say "thank you".

Maybe you heard about Midori the blogging houseplant. Midori lives in Donburi Cafe in Kamakura Japan.

Just as plants are finding a voice in Japan the government of Switzerland has placed a ban on the humiliation of plants.

Read about the botanical interface that makes plant blogging possible and check out a product that will help you listen to your own plant.

Interested in this topic, check out these books: Plantwatching: how plants remember, tell time, form partnerships, and more / Malcolm Wilkins and Natural affairs: a botanist looks at the attachments between plants and people / Peter Bernhardt

Noteworthy October Biopics @ a Theater Near You

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Based on the biography of Georgiana (Spencer), Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman, The Duchess is the story of an extraordinary woman who rose to fame by staying true to her passion in a world of protocol, gossip, and social rules - and paid the price. (The New York Times review)

Flash of Genius is adapted from a 1993 New Yorker article by John Seabrook, about a lone crusader doing battle with the big bad establishments - in this case, Ford and Chrysler.

In 1967, Dr. Robert W. Kearns, an electrical engineer and college professor invented and patented the intermittent windshield wiper, only to watch Ford steal the idea two year later for its redesigned Mustang. Read an early review from the Traverse City Film Festival's sneak preview of this Oscar-worthy film, starring Greg Kinnear.

Government Reports in Real Time

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Today provides us with two newsworthy examples of how much has changed in the world of "government documents". The Attorney General of the United States released the long-awaited Investigation into the Removal of Nine U.S. Attorneys in 2006 and the full report was instantly available online. The draft of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 was also posted immediately this morning. Most media like the New York Times will embed a link to the report in their articles. Media or your favorite search engine are usually a safer bet than the government's own web search, us.gov which can lag by a day or more.

True Crime Meets Autobiography

True Crime meets autobiography in The Butterfly Garden, a striking and capturing book about a boy's experiences living as the son of one of America's Most Wanted. Chip St. Clair was always told not to open the trunk in his father's bed room, but one day he did and his life was never the same again. What he found in the trunk was false documents as well as possible trophies from children his father had murdered in the past... several baby teeth, phony birth certificates, forged credit card and student loan paperwork and family photographs with cryptic messages written on the back. Chip's entire life--his name, even his date of birth--had been a lie, and the man he called 'Dad' was an impostor, an escaped child killer who had been on the run for over two decades. The stunning revelation would send one of America's Most Wanted to justice and another on a quest for his true identity.

"With chilling detail and a riveting, lyrical narrative, The Butterfly Garden reveals St. Clair's struggle to piece together his haunted past before it consumes him and shares his inspiring metamorphosis from victim to victim's advocate. The Butterfly Garden is a timeless triumph, a reminder that hope can be the most powerful of all emotions, freeing us to soar despite the past and the odds against us."

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