Important Case Reaches Supreme Court

Grind for March 11th, 2019
“Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.” – William Shakespeare.

Far From Over

The Headline

Supreme Court determines: World Bank and other international organizations can be sued

The Grind

The Supreme Court last week determined that international financial institutions can be sued in cases when foreign investments go awry.

The 7-1 ruling, which contradicts a decades-old assumption that such institutions are immune from lawsuits, comes amid the case Jam v. International Finance Corporation (IFC).

The Details

The IFC is a Washington, DC-based organization affiliated with World Bank that primary focuses on funding private sector projects in developing countries.

Among those projects is a power plant in Gujarat, India. As a condition of its $450 million loan, the IFC required local builders to follow an environmental action plan to protect surrounding resources.

As outlined in Jam, the environmental action plan was not followed and the power plant caused air and water pollution that forced fisherman and farmers to relocate.

The lawsuit, filed in 2015, forced judges to determine whether it was possible to sue the IFC.

In his majority opinion, Supreme Court Justice John Roberts determined the IFC has the same level of immunity from lawsuits enjoyed by foreign governments as outlined in the International Organization Immunity Act.

However, foreign governments are subject to lawsuits in cases when the plaintiff’s claim is related to the government’s financial activity as outlined in the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA).

The decision is expected to facilitate more lawsuits and the final outcome of the case has the potential to change the standard of accountability for international development projects. Such accountability could make international financial organizations think twice about funding projects that come with environmental risks.

According to research conducted by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, more than three million people have been physically or economically displaced by World Bank-funded projects during the past decade.

The Jam suit will now return to a federal circuit court in Washington, DC, where judges will decide whether the IFC’s activities in India fall within the parameters of the FSIA’s exceptions.


The Headline

Civil War-era fortifications discovered beneath Alcatraz Prison

The Grind

Archaeologists this week discovered evidence of a Civil War-era military base buried beneath Alcatraz Prison.

The fortifications – including fully preserved buildings, tunnels, and ammunition magazines – were discovered using radar and terrestrial scans.

“These remains are so well preserved, and so close to the surface,” says archaeologist Timothy de Smet, whose report on the findings was published last week in Near Surface Geophysics.

“They weren’t erased from the island – they’re right beneath your feet.”

The Background

Alcatraz Island AKA “The Rock” was first claimed by the US military in the 1840’s and was later used as a military prison during the Civil War.

The famous “escape-proof” prison on the island was constructed in 1910.

Over the years, the facility was used to contain some of the worst criminals in US history including:

— Al Capone

— George “Machine Gun” Kelly

— Robert Franklin Stroud (the “Birdman of Alcatraz”)

— Bumpy Johnson

— Arthur R. “Doc” Barker.

— Whitey Bulger

Alcatraz Prison closed in March 1963 and was later reopened as a tourist attraction under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service.

Did you know… Airports that are at higher altitudes require a longer airstrip due to lower air density.