I am not sure it is the right place to post it. Mods, move as you wish. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/23/b...en=45639b242bae8fd2&ex=1188014400&oref=slogin With long blond hair reaching his shoulders and dozens of cloth bracelets peeking out from under his sleeves, Mark E. Mendel hardly conjures up the image of a typical lawyer. Skip to next paragraph Ken Cedeno/Bloomberg News John K. Veroneau is a deputy U.S. trade representative. But then there is nothing run-of-the-mill about the case that Mr. Mendel, a Texan who was born and raised in Southern California, has been waging against his own government before the World Trade Organization, the body in Geneva that sets the ground rules for global trade. It is a clash that at once challenges Washington’s effort to prohibit online gambling while simultaneously testing the ability of the W.T.O. to enforce its own standards. The dispute stretches back to 2003, when Mr. Mendel first persuaded officials in Antigua and Barbuda, a tiny nation in the Caribbean with a population of around 70,000, to instigate a trade complaint against the United States, claiming its ban against Americans gambling over the Internet violated Antigua and Barbuda’s rights as a member of the W.T.O. Antigua is best known to Americans for its pristine beaches and tourist attractions like historic English Harbor. But the dozens of online casinos based there are vital to the island’s economy, serving as its second-largest employer. More than a few people in Washington initially dismissed as absurd the idea that the trade organization could claim jurisdiction over something as basic as a country’s own policies toward gambling. Various states and the federal government, after all, have been deeply engaged for decades in where and when to allow the operation of casinos, Indian gambling halls, racetracks, lotteries and the like. But a W.T.O. panel ruled against the United States in 2004, and its appellate body upheld that decision one year later. In March, the organization upheld that ruling for a second time and declared Washington out of compliance with its rules. That has placed the United States in a quandary, said John H. Jackson, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center who specializes in international trade law. Complying with the W.T.O. ruling, Professor Jackson said, would require Congress and the Bush administration either to reverse course and permit Americans to place bets online legally with offshore casinos or, equally unlikely, impose an across-the-board ban on all forms of Internet gambling — including the online purchase of lottery tickets, participation in Web-based pro sports fantasy leagues and off-track wagering on horse racing. But not complying with the decision presents big problems of its own for Washington. That’s because Mr. Mendel, who is claiming $3.4 billion in damages on behalf of Antigua, has asked the trade organization to grant a rare form of compensation if the American government refuses to accept the ruling: permission for Antiguans to violate intellectual property laws by allowing them to distribute copies of American music, movie and software products, among others. For the W.T.O. itself, the decision is equally fraught with peril. It cannot back down because that would undermine its credibility with the rest of the world. But if it actually carries out the penalties, it risks a political backlash in the United States, the most powerful force for free-flowing global trade and the W.T.O.’s biggest backer. “Think of this from the W.T.O.’s point of view,” said Charles R. Nesson, a professor at Harvard Law School. “They’re this fledgling organization dominated by a huge monster in the United States. People there must be scared out of their wits at the prospects of enforcing a ruling that would instantly galvanize public opinion in the United States against the W.T.O.” In April 2005, the trade body gave the United States one year to comply with its ruling, but that deadline passed with little more than a statement from Washington that it had reviewed its laws and decided it has been in compliance all along. The case is now before an arbitration body charged with assessing damages. “The stakes here are enormous,” Professor Nesson said. If anything, the Bush administration raised those stakes in May when it announced it was removing gambling services from existing trade agreements. John K. Veroneau, a deputy trade representative, said that the federal government was only “clarifying our view” that it had never meant to include online gambling in any free trade agreements. “It is truly untenable to think that we would knowingly bargain away something that has been illegal for decade upon decade in this country,” Mr. Veroneau said, adding that Washington is not defying the W.T.O. but simply pursuing its case through all legal channels ---------------- continued..