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The case of an injured thumb

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This term the Supreme Court will rule on important subjects from racial preferences to restrictions on political speech, but its most momentous case, to be argued Tuesday, concerns the prosecution of a Pennsylvania woman who caused a chemical burn on a romantic rival’s thumb. The issue is: Can Congress’ powers, which supposedly are limited because they are enumerated, be indefinitely enlarged into a sweeping police power by the process of implementing a treaty?

Carol Bond, an immigrant from Barbados, who worked for a chemical manufacturer, is contesting a six-year prison sentence imposed because, when she discovered that her best friend was pregnant from an affair with Bond’s husband, she became distraught, perhaps deranged, and contaminated her friend’s car and mailbox with toxic chemicals. Federal prosecutors, who seem prone to excess, turned this local crime into a federal offense — a violation of legislation Congress passed to implement the 1993 Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction.

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