Amici Curiae: The Stock Exchange Merger, Tipster Texting, and Blaming Berlusconi Edition

Boehner Weighs in on Birthers

Three years after being elected President, rumours that Barack Obama was not born in the United States are still floating about. That seems to be the state of things after House Speaker, Republican John Boehner’s comments over the weekend on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that, although he believes Obama was born in the United States, it isn’t his job to tell Americans what to think.

For a Wikipedia summary of the Birther Movement, click here. Although its most ardent supporters are generally those on the far right of the American political spectrum, as Mr. Boehner’s comments reflect, it has nonetheless proven a difficult issue for many Republican politicians to tip-toe around. This reality was hammered home during last year’s Congressional elections with the Ken Buck saga.

Momentarily setting aside the validity Boehner implicitly attaches to the rumours by suggesting those who believe them should not be told they are wrong, such a position seems ardently inconsistent with anything the politician has done. It would be difficult to imagine Speaker Boehner suggesting that, while he believes Americans face a debt crisis, it is not his place to tell the American people what to think. That’s okay though – politicians are supposed to listen, analyze, and pass judgment; it’s called governing. What isn’t okay is portraying the tenants of a conspiracy theory smear campaign as but one voice in an equal debate. Like the United States’ debt, Obama’s eligibility to serve as President is a fact that those who oppose it need to acknowledge.

What is most saddening about the pervasiveness of the Birther Movement is what it says about the exclusionary state of certain elements of American politics. As it is intrinsically tied to portrayals of Obama as un-American, such as those which accuse him of being a secret Muslim, it shows that a modern nativism is alive and well in certain American circles. Faced with the possibility of stoking the flames and harnessing this ignorance on the campaign trail last year, John McCain was willing to speak the truth. John Boehner should take note.

Canadian Lawyer at NY Sued Law Firm for Sex Discrimination

Jaime Laskis, a 34-year-old Canadian from Dalhousie Law School, has commenced a lawsuit against the New York office of Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, for sex discrimination under New York States Human Rights Law and New York City Human Rights Law .

Click here for her statement of claim filed in the District Court of New York.

Laskis was a former associate at the New York office of Osler and was terminated in 2009. She alleges that a senior partner at the firm told her that she “need more than just a pretty face” and that she “wasn’t helping herself coming to work looking well put together.” Laskis also alleged that the individual made negative comments about her to a partner in another firm to interfere with her job search.

This is the second time in recent years that a Canadian woman has launched lawsuit suit against prestigious law firms claiming gender-based discrimination.

Potential Toronto Stock Exchange Merger

It was announced last week that the Toronto Stock Exchange had reached an agreement to merge with its London counterpart. The merger would create the world’s biggest stock exchange, with more than 6,000 companies traded and would be jointly headquartered in Toronto and London.

There is disagreement amongst business and political officials as to what the result of the merger might be, and whether such an agreement would benefit Canada. As such, the government has announced it will review the potential merger before giving its required assent. The potential merger comes after the LSE’s failed attempt to merge with the NASDAQ in 2007.

The Conservative government has had to deal with a number of highly publicized takeover and merger attempts recently. In November of 2010 Industry Minister Tony Clement rejected BHP Billiton’s bid for a hostile takeover of the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan. The minister is also currently reviewing a bid by Petrochina to acquire a fifty percent stake in Encana.

Berlusconi Trial

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been indicted on charges of paying to have sex with a minor and abuse of office. After a series of allegations spanning a number of years, Berlusconi has been accused of paying an underage girl (“Ruby Rubacuori”) for sex and then using his political power to cover it up. If convicted, he could face up to 15 years in prison.

The scandal has resulted in protests in support of the charges by centre-left and left political opposition, particularly amongst women. For his part, Berlusconi claims that although he is “disgusted” by the “accusations … without proof,” he is unconcerned. His position as Prime Minister will not be affected as ongoing legal proceedings against a candidate do not prevent him or her from holding office. And while this is not the first scandal Berlusconi has faced, he continues to receive broad political support from the right and centre-right in Italy.

Text Messages as “Tipsters”

A 21-year old man Steven Pieper pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for the death of his former girlfriend Jenni-Lyn Watson in Syracuse, NY.

After the killing, Pieper tried to cover up the killing by sending a message from Watson’s phone to a friend of hers.  Although her phone was never recovered, the investigators reviewed calls and text messages that were made on the phone.

The use of “GTG” in the text messages tripped up Pieper, as this was an abbreviation that was frequently used by Pieper but not Watson. “GTG” is the acronym for “got to go.”

Pieper confessed that he killed Watson at her parent’s home on November 19th, 2010 by strangling her to death and dumped her body at a nearby park. The prosecutor said Pieper did not have a plan to murder Watson.

Abusive Text Messaging Turned into Murder

While as the previous brief demonstrates, a text message may become useful in fighting crime, a message could balloon into a vicious knife attack. Recently, a man stabbed his neighbour over an auto-corrected text message which spelt “mutter” into “nutter.”

The 33-year old Neil Brook sent a text message to his neighbour Witkowski and called him a “mutter,” which is a slang term for a “wannabe streetwise teenager.” However, the predictive text on his phone changed the word to “nutter,” meaning “crazy person.”

Witkowski got offended and exchanged abusive text messages. Finally, Witkowski went to Brook’s apartment and attacked Brook with a knife. Brook counter-attacked and stabbed Witkowski 104 times. Witkowski died en route to hospital.

Brook has been convicted of manslaughter and will be sentenced on April 1.

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